Austin History Center

Hamner Family Papers

An Inventory of the Collection

Collection Summary

Creator: Hamner family
Title: Hamner Family Papers
Dates: 1827-2007
Dates (Bulk): 1928-1977
Abstract: Photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, financial and property records, scrapbooks and genealogical information that document four generations of the Hamner family from 1827 to 2007.
Accession number: AR.2008.007
Quantity: 1.46 linear feet (4 document boxes, 1 oversized box, and 9 photo albums)
Location: Archives Stacks, Artifacts, Travis County Room, Rare Format Storage
Language: English
Repository: Austin History Center, Austin Public Library,
810 Guadalupe, PO Box 2287, Austin, TX 78768

Biographical Note

The Hamner family was a prominent Austin family with a rich and complex history, which began with the marriage of Robert T. Smith (1789-1840) and Harriet Wright (1793-1851) on November 27, 1814. Both the Smiths and Wrights were from Mount Sterling, Kentucky, and the Wright Family included portrait artist, Thomas Jefferson Wright (1798-1846). Robert and Harriet had nine children, Lydia Ann Smith (1815-1854), William Halley smith (1817-1889), Elizabeth Smith (1819-1881), Mary Smith (1822-1848), Susanna Smith (1823-1858), Eleanor Smith (1825-1870), John Lyle Smith (1828-1898), Sarah Smith (1830-1832), and Robert T. Smith (1834-1918). The family came to Texas when Benjamin Franklin Wright (1800-1867) moved to Walker County in 1835, followed shortly by his nephew, John Lyle Smith. Benjamin Franklin Wright died in Walker County in 1867. John Lyle Smith served in the Confederate Army, and after moving to Texas, and began corresponding with Sarah Katherine Murray (1838-1923) of Huntsville, Texas.

John Lyle Smith and Sarah Murray were married on May 7, 1857 and continued to reside in Huntsville, Texas. The couple had eight children, Robert F. Smith (1858-1931), Mary Elizabeth Smith (1861-1954), George Lyle Smith (1863-1966), Lee Wright Smith (1866-1877), Emma Smith (1868-1952), Harriet Smith (1870-1958), A.U. (Urbin) Smith (1875-1947), and Rosa Susan Smith (Sue Smith) (1878-1958). The Smith family was highly educated. John Lyle and Sarah Smith were both able to read and write well and corresponded, both with each other early in their relationship and with their children throughout their lives. Sarah Smith ran a boarding house in Huntsville for young women attending the Sam Houston Institute, which later became the Sam Houston State Teachers College (SHSTC).

Many of the Smith children held esteemed positions in their communities as well. Robert F. Smith was a Professor of Mathematics at Texas A & M University, A.U. Smith was also a professor, and George Lyle Smith served as a reverend in Waurika, Oklahoma. Sue Smith attended the Sam Houston Institute and later taught at a small country school. Harriet Smith taught Geography and Social Studies at the Sam Houston State Teachers College (1911-1941). In 1943, she also participated in a Sherwood Eddy American Seminar, which was part of a movement of international evangelism and took her to Eastern Europe at the end of World War II.

The Hamner family came to Austin after Edwin D. Hamner (1878-1965) married the youngest Smith child, Sue Smith, on June 20, 1900. Edwin D. Hamner's family was originally from Galveston, where his father, Edward D. Hamner worked as a dentist. Edwin D. Hamner served in Galveston as a reverend and also worked as a free-lance writer for the Galveston News, Dallas News, and Houston Chronicle. Edwin and Sue Hamner came to Austin on July 4, 1919, where Edwin worked for the International Revenue Department and preached for various churches in neighboring communities. Edwin and Sue had six children, Lucile Hamner, Edward Hamner (1904-1957), J. Lyle Hamner, David Hamner, Paul Hamner, and Robert S. Hamner (1910-1993).

Edwin and Sue's youngest son, Robert S. Hamner, attended Austin High School from 1926-1929, where he possibly met his future wife, Emma Ruth Randerson (1911-1977). Robert graduated from the University of Texas Business School in 1934, and he and Emma Ruth were married on June 13, 1936. Robert and Emma Ruth then moved from Austin, and from 1942 to 1943, Robert Hamner worked with the Federal Works Agency Public Roads Administration (PRA) during the construction of the Alaska Highway. He and Emma Ruth then moved from Seattle, Washington to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada while Robert lived for briefly at a Public Roads Camp at in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. After the completion of the Alaska Highway project (1943), Robert and Emma Ruth made their way back to Seattle, travelled across the United States and settled in Chicago, Illinois (1943). In 1944, Robert joined the United States Naval Reserve.

Robert and Emma Ruth were active members of the church wherever they lived. Robert Hamner was a member of many Christian organizations, including the World's Christian Endeavor Union (1943) and the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) (1944), and both he and Emma Ruth were members of the Texas Christian Endeavor Union (1943). In addition, they were heads of the Christian Youth Fellowship (CYF) at the University Christian Church in Seattle before moving to Edmonton. After finally returning to Austin, Robert and Emma Ruth adopted Jean Hamner (1947- ), and later, Jack Hamner (1951-1972). Jean and Jack Hamner grew up in Austin, and Jack attended Austin High School. Jack Hamner died in 1972 at the age of 21, from unknown causes. Emma Ruth Hamner died in 1977, and on October 18, 1978, Robert was remarried to Mildred. He died in 1993.

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, newspaper clippings, financial and property records, (1827-2007; 481 items) created and maintained by members of the Hamner family describe the life, activities, and complex genealogical networks of this family. Although Lucille Hill, a niece of Robert and Emma Ruth Hamner, donated these papers to the Austin History Center, there is no evidence to suggest that she is the creator of any of the material. In addition to histories about the family, this collection contains many items related to World War II (WWII), which can be found in both Hamner scrapbooks (1942-1944; 2 items) and in the Harriet Frances Smith subseries, "Colorado-European Letters, written summer July 1934, Sherwood Eddy Party" [ca. 1934] (37 items), which document Harriet France's travels as a Christian Missionary through Europe in the summer of 1934.

The collection has been divided into four subgroups, Genealogical Information, Hamner Family, Smith Family, and Wright Family, although the Smith's and Wrights are members of the Hamner's extended family. The subgroup Genealogical Information consists of genealogical research gathered by family members across subgroups and so is located at the beginning of the collection. These materials describe the complex genealogical relationships among the Hamner, Smith, and Wright families over 4 generations (1827-1994) through correspondence between various family members, printed genealogical material collected by Jean Hamner, and handwritten notes and family trees.

The bulk of the material spans from 1928-1977 for all three subgroups; however, most well documented are the Hamners (1850-2006; 232 items), specifically Robert and Emma Ruth Hamner (1929-1977; 112 items). Items of note from this series are two scrapbooks, which describe Robert Hamner's time working on the construction of the Alaska Highway, and the travels he and Emma Ruth took during that time from Texas to Seattle, Washington, to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and back again through the United States where they settled in Chicago, Illinois (1942-1944). The majority of the documentation in these scrapbooks consists of clippings, photographs, and ephemera. Least well represented is correspondence. Of note, however, is a letter removed from a dead Japanese soldier during World War II by a friend of the Hamners on Attu Island, Alaska.

The J. Lyle and Sarah Smith Family series (1834-2007; 24 items) contains some of the earliest correspondence in the Hamner family papers; yet, the bulk of the items in the Smith subgroup, cover the life of Harriet Frances Smith (1894-1959; 72 items). The printed materials in this series (1958-1959; 2 items) reveal that in her retirement, Harriet Frances Smith set out to record her family’s history. This group contains two scrapbooks, "Our Mother's Album" (1850-1897, 1933, 1993, undated), and one belonging to Harriet Frances Smith [ca. 1921-1944]. Most well represented in "Our Mother's Album" are correspondence between J. Lyle and Sarah Katherine Murray Smith—both before and after their marriage—photos of the old Smith home in Mount Sterling, KY, and biographical sketches of J. Lyle and Sarah Smith, as well as J. Lyle's parents, Robert T. and Harriet Wright Smith. Harriet Frances' scrapbook contains correspondence, photographs, clippings, creative works, and printed material. Best documented is the period 1936-1944, and her retirement from Sam Houston State Teacher's College (SHSTC) in 1941, where she taught geography and social studies (1911-1941).

The earliest records in the Hamner family papers are those of the Wright subgroup (1836-1902, undated; 93 items), and contain B.F. Wright’s receipts for land, taxes and other purchases in Walker County Texas. The history of Texas is documented in these records from the earliest receipts inscribed with ‘The Republic of Texas’ to the Confederate tax receipts issued during the Civil War. A single item of correspondence from 1853, contains a lively land dispute between Wright and A.M. Millan. The scrapbook "Family Portraits from Mount Sterling, KY" (1882, 1891; 1 item) contains photographs of portraits painted by Thomas Jefferson Wright of various family members along with biographical sketches of some of the family members. The Wright legal documents of heirship (1902, undated; 2 items) illuminate the relationship between B.F. Wright and his sister, Harriet Wright Smith’s, children.


The collection is organized into four series:
I. Genealogical Information
II. Hamner family
III. Smith family
IV. Wright family


Restrictions on Access

Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use

Many of the scrapbooks need preservation work and are very fragile. Use may be restricted.

Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Hamner, Edward, 1904-1957.
Hamner, Edwin D, 1878-1965.
Hamner, Emma Ruth, 1911-1977.
Hamner, Jack, 1951-1972.
Hamner, Jean, 1947-.
Hamner, Mildred, 1912-.
Hamner, Robert S., 1910-1993.
Randerson, Emma Ruth, 1911-1977.
Smith, J. Lyle, 1828-1898.
Smith, Harriett Frances, 1870-1958.
Smith, Harriett Wright, 1793-1851.
Smith, Henry I.
Smith, Mary Lyle.
Smith, Rev. G. Lyle, 1863-1956.
Smith, Robert F., 1858-1931.
Smith, Rosa Susan, 1878-1958.
Smith, Sarah Murray, 1838-1923.
Wright, Benjamin Franklin, 1800-1867.
Wright, Thomas Jefferson, 1798-1846.
Austin High School (Austin, Tex.).
Daughters of the American Revolution.
Hyde Park Christian Church.
Parent Teacher Association.
Scottish Rite (Masonic order).
University of Texas at Austin. Business School.
Alaska Highway.
Austin (Tex.).
Berlin (Germany).
Boston (Mass.).
Edmonton (Alta.).
Geneva (Switzerland).
Huntsville (Tex.).
London (England).
Moscow (Russia).
Mount Sterling (Ky.).
Nacogdoches County (Tex.).
Seattle (Wash.).
Travis County (Tex.).
Whitehorse (Yukon).
Worcester (Mass.).
Walker County (Tex.).
Chicago (Ill.).
Confederate States of America. Army
Germany--History--Night of the Long Knives, 1934
Texas--History--Republic, 1836-1846
Sherwood Eddy American Seminar, 1934
World War II
World War (1939-1945)
Document Types:
Creative works.
Donation receipts.
Financial documents.
Legal documents.
Memorial items.
Photo albums.

Separated Material

General Collection

  • Yearbooks (4)

AF Subject

  • Hyde Park Christian Church postcard transferred to AF Postcards


  • Duplicate materials
  • Newspaper clippings (preservation copies made)
  • Empty photo frames
  • Bibles (2)
  • Lockets (2)
  • Pin
  • Robert Hamner dog tag
  • Papa's Wife
  • A Child's Garden of Verses
  • The New Century Spelling Book

Administrative Information

Custodial History

Donated by Lucille Hill.

Preferred Citation

Hamner Family Papers (AR.2008.07). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.

Acquisition Information

Donor #:DO/2008/022

Donation Date: 2008

Processing Information

Final Processing and Finding Aid By: Stephanie Bordy, Margaret Pevoto, Blair Smith/2008 November

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Genealogical Information, 1957-1958, 1993-1994, undated

Box Folder
1 1 Hamner family genealogy, 1957-1958, 1993, undated
2 Smith family histories, undated
3 Printed material, 1994, undated
4 Family trees, undated
5 Handwritten notes, undated

II. Hamner Family, 1850-2006

Edwin D. Hamner and Sue Smith, 1888, undated
Box Folder
1 6 Correspondence, 1888, undated
6 Printed material, undated
Robert and Emma Ruth Hamner, 1929-1977
Location PhotoAlbum
Travis County Room 132 Emma Ruth Hamner's Photo Album, 1929-1936
Box Folder
1 7 Photographs, circa 1932-1977, undated
Location PhotoAlbum
Travis County Room 137 Robert and Emma Ruth Hamner Scrapbook, circa 1942-1943
139 Robert and Emma Ruth Hamner Scrapbook, circa 1943-1944
Box Folder
1 8 Personal effects, 1944
9 Robert Hamner correspondence, 1958, 1966
10 Financial documentation, 1958, undated
11-12 Emma Ruth Hamner memorial items, 1928, 1977-1978
13 Printed material, 1934-1977
14 Masonic/Scottish Rite papers, 1961, 1980
Location BoxItem
Artifacts 94/001 Robert Smith Hamner's Masonic Apron and certificate, 1961
Other family members, 1956-1957
Box Folder
1 15 Edward Hamner, 1956-1957
Box Folder
2 1 Robert S. and Mildred Hamner, 1978-1993
2 Paul and Alma Hamner, 1993
3 Leslie and Julie Hamner, 1992
4 Jean Hamner, circa 1970-2000
5 Jack Hamner, 1971-1972, undated
6 Sybil Hamner, undated
7 David P. Hamner, 2004
8 Lucille Hamner, 1951-1978, undated
Unidentified photographs, printed materials and creative works, 1850-2006
Box Folder
2 9 Photographs, 1850-1984
10 Photographs with inscriptions, 1868-2006
Location PhotoAlbum
Travis County Room 131-133 Photo Albums, 1939-1955
Box Folder
2 11 Printed material and creative works, 1953, undated

III. Smith Family, 1834-1959, 1967, 1993, 2007

J. Lyle and Sarah Smith family, 1834-2007
Location PhotoAlbum
Travis County Room 135 "Our Mother's Album" scrapbook, 1850-1897, 1933, 1993, undated
138 Lyle Smith Family Scrapbook, 1932-1945
Box Folder
3 1 Correspondence, 1858-1883
2 J. Lyle Smith portrait, 1834, 1967, 2007
3 Creative works, circa 1950
Harriet Frances Smith, 1894-1959
Location PhotoAlbum
Travis County Room 136 Harriet Frances Smith scrapbook, 1921-1944
Box Folder
3 8 "Colorado-European Letters, written summer July 1934, Sherwood Eddy Party", circa 1934
9 Textual materials, 1859-1922, 1955-1959, undated
9 Photographs, circa 1950, 1956
Other family members, 1834-2007
Box Folder
3 4 Robert F. Smith correspondence, 1874, 1922, 1924, undated
5 Rev. G. Lyle Smith, 1940, 1956, undated
6 Lucile Smith Cole, undated
7 Nena Smith, 1970 November 3
Walker County Gasser, 1912, 1920, undated
Box Folder
3 10 Textual materials, 1912, 1920, undated
10 Photographs, undated
Unidentified correspondence and photographs, 1857-1900, undated
Box Folder
3 11 Correspondence, 1857-1900, undated
Location BoxItem
Rare Format Storage 7/23 Daguerreotype, portrait of unidentified man, undated
7/24 Ambrotype, unidentified woman lying in state, undated
Box Folder
3 12 Creative works, undated

IV. Wright Family, 1836-1902, undated

Box Folder
4 1 Correspondence, 1853
Location PhotoAlbum
Travis County Room 134 "Family Portraits from Mount Sterling, KY" scrapbook, 1882, 1891
Box Folder
4 2-3 Financial records, 1836-1866, undated
4 Legal documents, 1838, 1902, undated