Albert and Ethel Herzstein Library, San Jacinto Museum of History

House-McDowall Family Papers

Manuscript Collection: MC123

Collection Summary

Creator: House family
Title: House-McDowall family papers
Dates: 1838-1949
Dates: (Bulk: 1860-1890)
Abstract: Correspondence, financial and legal documents, scrapbooks and albums, printed materials, creative works and photographs document the House and McDowall families of Houston and Bastrop, Texas, from 1838 to 1949.
Identification: MC123
Quantity: .1 linear ft.
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Albert and Ethel Herzstein Library, San Jacinto Museum of History, La Porte, Texas

Creator Sketch

Thomas William House, early Houston businessman, banker and mayor, was born on March 4, 1814. He immigrated to Houston from England in 1838 and by 1853 had become one of Houston's most successful merchants and dry goods dealers. House married Mary Elizabeth Shearn and together they had eight children including Edward Mandell House, who was an advisor to Woodrow Wilson, and T.W. House, Jr., who in 1869 married Ruth Nicholson of Bastrop County. Together they had six children including Edith, Ellen and T. W. the third. Edith House, a native Houstonian, was one of the founders of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Ellen House married Walter L. Howze, parents of Mrs. Roy Needham.

Mary Ann, or Mollie, Nicholson was born in 1843. She married William McDowall in 1868, and they had one daughter, Ruth, born in 1869. William Nicholson, Mary Ann's brother born in 1838, was killed during the Civil War in 1864. Mary Ann returned to Bastrop in 1869 following the death of her husband, and after 1897 moved to Houston. She is noted as the first president of the Houston YWCA and taught music in Bastrop and Houston for many years. Mary Ann McDowall died in December 1931 at the age of 89. The donor of this collection, Mrs. Roy Needham, is a niece of Mary Ann Nicholson McDowall.

Scope and Content Note

Correspondence, financial and legal documents, scrapbooks and albums, printed materials, creative works and photographs document the House and McDowall families from 1838 to 1949, who were prominent in Bastrop County, Texas. Correspondence consists of two letters and two envelopes. One letter dated in 1863 related information regarding the Civil War and was sent from William Nicholson to his aunt Mrs. M. A. Crocheron in Bastrop, Texas. A letter from Robert Weaver in Milford, Michigan, to his sister Mrs. Tipple in New York, touches on the climate in general, the high prices, scarcity of money and general dissatisfaction of the residents of the community. Of interest is an envelope postmarked 1861 which contains a satirical cartoon on Abraham Lincoln.

The financial document is a single receipt for the sale of a Negro boy who belonged to Mary Ann Nicholson, executed by H. M. Lester, administrator of the estate of Joseph R. Launer, to H. Brockburn, in 1862. Legal documents are comprised of educational documents and a marriage license. Educational documents include an 1885 University of Texas diploma issued to Ruth McDowall and a 1904 certification of completion of a teacher's course by Mrs. M. A. McDowall. A marriage license issued in 1868 to William McDowall and Mary Ann Nicholson in Bastrop County, Texas, is also included.

Four albums in this collection are a scrapbook dating from 1910 to 1945 regarding the James Nicholson families, a 1931 birthday autograph book, and two photo albums containing photographs of family and relatives of William McDowall.

The printed materials series contains cards, memorial and funeral notices and an invitation to the wedding of Ruth Winfred McDowall and Richard D. Sanders in 1896. A single postcard titled "General Sam Houston's First Residence on Caroline Street" and a calling card for Mrs. T. W. House are included. Memorial and funeral notices date from 1880 to 1897 concerning the deaths of T. W. House, James Nicholson and Mrs. Ruth McDowall Sanders.

Creative works are a typescript journal written by Mary Ann Nicholson McDowall chronicling the years 1843 to 1929, and a genealogical work circa 1945 which traces both the T. W. House family from 1814 and the McDowall family.

The photographs series consists of family portraits of the McDowall family: an 1869 card photograph of Mary McDowall and her daughter Ruth, William McDowall, his mother Mrs. McDowall, and James Nicholson, father of Mrs. Mary McDowall. Also included are photographs of General Lee circa 1862, Sam Houston and the Bastrop Military Academy.


Organized into seven series: Correspondence, Financial, Legal, Scrapbook and Albums, Printed Materials, Creative Works, Photographs; arrangement is chronological.


Restrictions on Access


Terms Governing Use

Open for research by appointment.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to the San Jacinto Museum of History. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Library Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Jacinto Museum of History as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Index Terms

Crocheron, Mary Ann Tipple.
Houston, Sam, 1793-1863--Photographs
Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870--Photographs
Lincoln, Abraham, 1806-1965--Caricatures and cartoons
McDowall, Mary Ann Nicholson, 1843-1931
Sanders, Ruth Winfred McDowall, 1869-1897
Nicholson, James, d. ca. 1885
Nicholson, William, 1838-1864
Sanders, Richard D.
Weaver, Robert
Tipple, Elizabeth Weaver, b. 1820
House family
McDowall family
Bastrop Military Institute (Bastrop, Tex.)--Photographs
Bastrop (Tex.)
Houston (Tex.)

Archivist's Note

A large collection of Texas currency as well as other items were donated by Mrs. Roy Needham and are included in the San Jacinto Museum's artifact collections.

Administrative Information


[Identification of Item], House-McDowall Family Papers, MC123, San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas.


Gift of Mrs. Roy Needham, June 1950, Nov. 1951, May 1952, Oct. 1954.

Processing Information

Processed by Lisa M. Lomas, 2011.


"House, Thomas William."The Handbook of Texas Online

McDowall, Mollie. Memoirs of Mollie McDowall (Mary Ann Nicholson) 1843-1931. Austin, Tex.: National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Texas, c1978.



box folder
160 1 William Nicholson, Robert Weaver 1838, 1863
2 Envelopes 1861, 1863


box folder
160 3 Receipt 1862 July 29


box folder
160 4 Educational documents 1885, 1904
5 Marriage License 1868 May 14

Scrapbook and Albums

box folder
160 6 Scrapbook, autograph book, photo album 1910-1949

Printed Materials

box folder
160 7 Cards: Postcard, Calling card 1898, undated
8 Memorial and Funeral Notices 1880-1897
9 Wedding Invitation 1896 October 15

Creative Works

box folder
160 10 Genealogy circa 1945
11 Memoir 1929


box folder
160 12 General Lee; Mary McDowall and Ruth; Sam Houston; Bastrop Military Academy; William McDowall; J. Nicholson; and Mrs. McDowall 1862, 1869, undated