The Pathfinder's Club Records, 1890-2001
An Inventory to the Collection
Established in 1890, the Pathfinder's Club is the oldest women's literary club in Austin, and one of the five oldest in the State of Texas. After over one hundred years it is still active today and has provided an outlet for women in Austin to discuss and write about historical and literary topics.
The club's administration is presided over by its President, with first, second, and third Vice-Presidents, Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, and Club Reporter. The membership has been limited to 25-30 women, but this membership has historically been quite loyal. A list of women who were members for over twenty years includes:
In 1897, the Pathfinder's Club was one of the twenty-one charter members of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs (TFWC), formed in Waco on May 13-14. The goal of the TFWC is to advance and encourage women in literary and civic work. The Pathfinder's maintain a strong allegiance with this organization, and over the years they have participated in TFWC conventions and competitions by sending delegates and serving as chair members of TFWC committees. As due-paying members of the TFWC, the Pathfinders have also contributed to the construction, furnishing, and maintenance of the TFWC's State Headquarters in Austin.
In its original constitution, the Pathfinders define their objective as "the pursuit of study as a means of intellectual, cultural, and general improvement." They have remained true to this goal, and their course of study is outlined in the club yearbook -- published annually since 1897. The topics vary, but have included aspects of history, travel, literature, and art.
Over the history of the Pathfinder's Club, the fellowship at the meetings has played an important role in its success and longevity. Of particular note are the Christmas parties held by Mrs. Morgan T. Smith for over thirty-five years. Short stories, readings, contests, and the exchange of gifts were highly anticipated events. Mrs. Smith was honored for her dedication to the club on March 3, 1955, when she was crowned "Queen for the Day." Tributes such as these are common among the Pathfinders, and the last meeting of the year is set aside as a special "Friendship Day."
Another outlet that has developed for the Pathfinders is that of civic works. Since 1928 their club slogan, as printed in the yearbooks, reads; "give the world the best you have and the best will come back to you." The Pathfinders have contributed greatly to the community through various donations to relief and civic causes, contributions to scholarships, donations of books to libraries, and through other acts of charity. During both World Wars, members of the Pathfinder's supported the Red Cross, wrapped bandages for Army hospitals, entertained soldiers, and sold war bonds.
The records of the Pathfinders span one hundred years and not only give an insight into their own history and evolving membership, but they also give a unique insight into the changes that have occurred in Austin and elsewhere over the past century.
Minute Books, Correspondence, Creative Works, Printed Material, Scrapbooks and Photographs document the work, organizational history, and membership of the Pathfinder's Club (1890-2001), an Austin women's literary society. The first sub-group within the records is that of the Pathfinder's Club itself. About half of the records comprise the scrapbook material (1890-2000), collected and maintained by the Pathfinder's club historians. Loose items that were in the scrapbooks were filed as "material removed from scrapbooks." Five scrapbooks (1890-1950; 1950-1965; 1965-1977; 1977-1988; 1970, 1988-2000) include newspaper clippings about the club and members' families, yearbooks, and creative works. Seventeen minute books (1890-1996) document the organizational history and evolving membership of the Pathfinder's Club. The correspondence is divided into three sub-series; the membership committee, 1946-[1985-1987], the Office of the President 1923-1946; and Mrs. Morgan T. Smith, 1955. The correspondence received by Mrs. Smith are in reference to "Mrs. Morgan T. Smith Day", March 3. 1955.
The work of the club, to promote and encourage literary and cultural studies, is illuminated in a series of short stories, poetry and essays (24 items) often with a Christmas theme. The organizational history of the club is detailed in essays (6 items), most notably, The History of the Pathfinder's Club, 1890-1972 by Mrs. C.T. Gray, The History of the Pathfinder's Club, 1972-1990 by Mrs. Ervin Prouse, and Pathfinder's Club, 1890-1990, Some Names and Numbers by Mrs. Benjamin D. Meritt.
Another sub-group within the collection is the records of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, of which the Pathfinder's Club was a charter member. The records comprise printed material collected by Pathfinder's delegates to various conventions. Included in the printed material are convention programs for National, 1928, State , 1937-1947, and District, 1936-1968 level conferences. Also included is a yearbook of the TFWC (1935) and a publication of the TFWC, The Texas Club Woman.
Material for the last two, much smaller, series, printed material (1997-1998) and photographs (2001) are derived from a later donation.
The records of the Pathfinder's Club include five scrapbooks (1890-1988) which are housed in the oversize collection. The scrapbooks were in poor condition, and loose items were removed from each. These items are located in the file boxes and are represented in the inventory as "Material removed from scrapbooks." There is a folder of such material for each scrapbook. Among these folders and in the scrapbooks, there remains significant records of the Pathfinder's Club.
Scrapbook I, 1890-1950
Correspondence, Printed Material, and Creative Works document the first sixty years of the Pathfinder's Club. The original constitution and yearbooks (1900-1904; 1907-1932) give insight into the club's administration, membership, and course of study. Other items of interest are the newspaper clippings and information about the club's 50th anniversary in which Minnie Dill, a charter member, was honored.
Scrapbook II, 1950-1965
Correspondence, Printed Material, and Creative Works highlight the Pathfinder's from 1950-1965. Yearbooks (1953-1957; 1959-1965) outline the club's activities and course of study. There are numerous newspaper clippings documenting the Christmas parties held by Mrs. Morgan T. Smith for over 35 years. Pathfinders pay tribute to members who have passed away; Mrs. Sidney Thomas (1950), Mrs. Ellen Armistead Graves (1950), Miss Pauline Trueblood (1950), and Mrs. J. Gregg Hill (1961).
Scrapbook III, 1965-1977
Correspondence, Printed Material, and Creative Works give insight into the Pathfinder's Club from 1965-1977. Included is a collection of personal histories collected by Mrs. Louis O. Shudde, club historian in 1972. Members represented are; Mrs. L.B. Ezell, Mrs. Thomas Lemon, Mrs J.D. Freeman, Mrs. George H. Wells, Mrs. C.T. Gray, and Mrs. Ervin J. Prouse -- all members for over twenty years. Printed material includes Yearbooks (1965-1977), a series of newspaper clippings that document the Club's 75th anniversary, and convention programs from the TFWC. Pathfinders pay tribute to member Mrs. William B. Shoe (1969).
Scrapbook IV, 1977-1988
Correspondence and Printed Material of the Pathfinder's Club from 1977-1988. Included is documentation of the Club's loan of their gavel -- carved in 1933 by Peter Mansbendel -- to the University of Texas Institute of Texas Culture at San Antonio (1977). Printed Material includes yearbooks (1977-1986) and newspaper clippings about Mrs. C.T. Gray's 100th birthday. Tributes include those to Mrs. L.M. Waite (1959), Mrs. J. Gregg Hill (1961), Mrs, W.E. McCaleb (1971), Mrs. George H. Wells (1979), Miss Eula Ezell (1984), Mrs. J.0. Garrett (1984), Mrs. Ralph A. Bickler (1986).
Scrapbook V, 1970, 1988-2000
Correspondence, Printed Material, Creative Works and Photographs from 1970, 1988-2000. Material includes articles, obituaries and tributes of noted members such as Willard Marian Nitsche, great grandaughter of Susana Dickinson, "Lady of the Alamo", archealogist, Lucy Shoe Merritt and Jane Smoot, long-time Austinite and owner of the Smoot Family Home, also known as Flower Hill. Events such as the club's centennial celebration are also covered.
Restrictions on Access
Restrictions on Use
The Pathfinder's Club Records (AR.1994.084). Austin, TX: Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.
Donor #: DO/1994/043.
Donation Date: 1994-05-05, 2001-06-21.
Arranged by Jake Baxter and Katharine Salzmann, 1994-12-05. Additional processing and finding aid revisions by Susan Rittereiser, 2012
Additional materials were donated to the Austin History Center, 2001/06/21 which consist of post-1990 minutes, a scrapbook, yearbooks, copies of magazine articles, a newsletter, photographs, clippings, brochures, and other documents. These items were incorporated into the present finding aid.
Other Finding Aids
Original project description written by archives students.
Detailed Description of the Records