Texas Archival Resources Online



Biographical Note

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Arrangement of the Collection


Index Terms

Related Material

Administrative Information

Description of Series

Correspondence (1913-1936, and undated)

Research (1896-1935, and undated)

Southern Methodist University

Elijah L. Shettles papers on the founding of Southern Methodist University, 1896-1936:

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Shettles, E. L. (Elijah LeRoy), 1852-1940
Title: Elijah L. Shettles papers on the founding of Southern Methodist University
Dates: 1896-1936
Dates (Bulk): 1909-1934
Abstract: These materials were collected by Elijah Leroy Shettles (1852-1940), a Methodist minister, while he researched the founding of Southern Methodist University. Shettles believed that Nathan Powell, a Methodist minister and teacher, was the originator of the idea to move Southwestern University to the Dallas or Fort Worth area. He also credits Powell with presenting the idea to the Conference of 1909, securing the land on which SMU now stands, and convincing the Conference to form a commission to consider movement of the university. The collection contains Shettles's correspondence and research regarding the founding of SMU. The majority of the material is correspondence, both Shettles's and Powell's, but three newspaper articles and minutes from the Board of Trustees meeting in 1910 are also included.
Accession No: SMU 1991.0014
Quantity: 1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Language: Material is in English
Repository Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

Elijah Leroy Shettles (1852-1940), Methodist minister, magazine editor, publisher, and bibliographer was born in 1852 in the Flatwoods country of Mississippi near Pontotoc, the son of Abner and Caroline (Browning) Shettles. His maternal grandfather, the family patriarch, was a Baptist minister and had a lifelong influence on Shettles. During his eighty-eight years Shettles worked as a teacher, a farm-implement salesman, a law student, a pressman for a newspaper, a freight agent, a public weigher, a coal supplier, a gambler, a saloonkeeper, an insurance solicitor, a preacher, a church administrator, an editor, a book collector and dealer, and a representative of several university and public libraries. He was also a chaplain of the Texas Senate, a publisher of books, and a humanitarian.

From 1881 to 1891 he traveled the Southwest as a hard-drinking, cheating, itinerate gambler, who frequently stopped long enough in a town to operate a gambling hall and saloon: most of these years he spent in Texas. Shettles responded to a revival preacher on April 27, 1891 and soon after felt a calling to the Methodist ministry. Shettles's ministerial career, all of it in Texas, spanned over thirty years. Always a devoted bibliophile, he revealed much of his secular reading in his early sermons. He became an accomplished preacher and in 1908 became assistant editor of the Texas Methodist Historical Quarterly. Shettles married Mrs. Elizabeth Letts, a widow, on December 11, 1894. They had no children but raised several foster children. Shettles retired in 1921 and moved to Austin, where he devoted himself to book collecting. He made significant contributions to the development of the libraries at Rice Institute, Sam Houston State Teachers College, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Texas. SMU received Shettles's collection of Wesleyana, and the University of Texas and the Texas State Library received his personal papers.

In the 1930s Shettles wrote his autobiography, which was published in several forms. Part of it appeared as articles in the Southwestern Advocate, and some of it was published in the Pontotoc (Mississippi) Progress. It appeared as a book, Recollections of a Long Life, in 1973. Shettles also published articles in the Arkansas Methodist, as well as several books, including William S. Red's The Texas Colonists and Religion (1924) and Don Bigger's Our Sacred Monkeys (1933). Shettles died on May 30, 1940 in Austin and was buried there.

Source: Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. McDonald, Archie P., http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/SS/fsh29.html (accessed August 28, 2009).

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection contains one small box (4 folders). The bulk of the collection is correspondence pertaining to the founding of Southern Methodist University. The letters in the collection were assembled by E.L. Shettles in an effort to prove that Nathan Powell was responsible for the founding of SMU.

Correspondents include:

Rev. John R. Allen

Dorothy Amann

John Atkinson

Rev. J. Sam Barcus

L. S. Barton

Rev. B. R. Bolton

H. A. Boaz

W. D. Bradfield

Wallace M. Crutchfield

George W. Davis

W. C. Everett

Rev. Glenn Flinn

G.G. Gray

Rev. John W. Goodwin

Paul Hardin, Jr.

Bishop Hurst

C.M. Harless

J. Kilgore

Rev. J. T. McClure

Dr. J. O. McReynolds

F. L. McNeny

Mrs. Margaret McKennon

J. L. Massey

J. M. Moore

Edwin D. Mouzon

Robert Gibbs Mood

W. C. Martin

Rev. A. D. Porter

Nathan Powell

Frank Reedy

T. F. Sessions

E. W. Solomon

S. M. Sewell

S. W. Thomas

D. W. Wesley

W. Erskine Williams

Dr. G. W. Wiebusch

V. M. West

Rev. A. A. Wagnon

The first series, Correspondence (1913-1936, undated), contains Shettles's personal correspondence. The majority of the letters were produced while Shettles was writing his autobiography in the 1930s. They concern the events leading up to the decision to move Southwestern University to either Dallas or Fort Worth. There are also a few letters between Shettles and the SMU bursar, Frank Reedy, regarding money owed. The series is arranged in chronological order.

The second series, Research (1896-1935, undated), is composed of the materials Shettles gathered while researching the founding of SMU. Although Shettles collected the materials in the 1930s, much of the series originated between 1909 and 1911. Shettles received the bulk of this material from Nathan Powell. The majority of it is correspondence from those most closely associated with the project to move Southwestern University from Georgetown to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Also included is correspondence between Powell and Hann & Kendall, Inc., a real estate firm, related to the purchase of land in Dallas. There are also three newspaper articles, as well as extracts from the minutes from the Board of Trustees at Southwestern University, 1910. The series is organized in chronological order.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 2 series:
Series 1: Correspondence (1913-1936, and undated)
Series 2: Research (1896-1935, and undated)

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Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Sensitive Material Statement:

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications for which DeGolyer Library assumes no responsibility.

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Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Shettles, E. L. (Elijah LeRoy), 1852-1940
Powell, Nathan
Southern Methodist University--History
Universities and colleges--Texas--Dallas--History

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Related Materials

For additional material pertaining to Elijah L. Shettles, see:

The recollections of a long life (1935 edition) by Rev. E.L. Shettles (Bridwell Library Methodist Reference - BY 1542 .S53 1935)

The recollections of a long life (1973 edition) by Rev. E.L. Shettles (DeGolyer Library, Texana Collection - F391 .S5)

Reminiscences of an old man, 1935-1936 (SMU 2006.0028)

For additional material related to the founding of SMU, see:

Southern Methodist University origins and history collection (SMU 2006.0378)

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Elijah L. Shettles papers on the founding of Southern Methodist University, Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information


Processing Information

Initially processed June 1991. Records were re-arranged and paper clips removed in September 2009.

Finding aid written by

Allison Osborn, 2009.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2009.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

Correspondence (1913-1936, and undated)
2 folders

This series contains correspondence between E. L. Shettles and members of the Methodist community. It includes Shettles's requests for information regarding the events leading up to the formation of Southern Methodist University and his correspondents' replies.
Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence, February 1913-January 1934
2 Correspondence, February 1934-February 1936, and undated
3 Fragments

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Research (1896-1935, and undated)
1 folder

This series contains correspondence written mostly between 1909 and 1911 concerning the debate to move Southwestern University to Dallas or Ft. Worth. There is also one letter from 1896 and a few letters from 1912-1935. Minutes from the Southwestern Board of Trustees and 3 newspaper articles related to the formation of SMU are also included.
Box Folder
1 4 Research
Includes correspondence, 1896-May 1935, and undated, minutes from the Southwestern Board of Trustees, June 10, 1910, and 3 newspaper articles.

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