Emmett Shelton Johnson Family Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Thomas Jefferson Johnson (1805-1868) and his wife Catherine Hyde (1810-1883) arrived in Texas in 1844. Originally from Norfolk, Virginia, Jefferson attended school at Augusta College, Kentucky and then taught in Jefferson City, Missouri where he met Catherine Hyde. After moving to Texas, Jefferson taught in several places before founding the Johnson Institute in 1852 on Bear Creek sixteen miles southwest of Austin in Hays County.
The Johnson Institute was originally intended as a boys' school, but became coeducational when girls starting applying in large numbers. It offered courses from the first grade through college levels with students graduating with the equivalent of a B.A. degree. Jefferson's wife and four of his children taught at the institute including Lizzie (Elizabeth E.J. Williams ). Lizzie would later be known as the Cattle Queen of Texas due to her success in the cattle business. When Jefferson died unexpectedly in 1868, his son Benjamin F. Johnson ran the Institute until it closed in 1872. The site was purchased by Walter Prescott Webb in 1942 who later leased it to Rodney Kidd. Kidd, the director of the University Interscholastic League, established a camp for boys called the Friday Mountain Ranch. The Friday Mountain Camp was operated by Kidd and his family until 1984. The International Society of Divine Love later bought the property. The Society altered the property to the extent that the Texas Historical Commission voted in 1992 to revoke its 1964 Recorded Texas Historic Landmark designation. Emmett Shelton attempted to purchase the site in the late 1980s to restore the property. He only wanted to purchase the Institute, its surrounding buildings, and the cemetery where Thomas Jefferson Johnson and Catherine Hyde Johnson were buried. The owners, wanting to sell the entire tract, sold the property to a religious organization.
Jefferson and Catherine Hyde had six children, John Hyde, Elizabeth (Lizzie), Emily Catherine (Emma), William, Benjamin, and Annie. Some of the children rose to prominence in their communities. John Hyde served in the Civil War, rising to the rank of general in the Confederate army. Upon returning, he worked as a clerk in the State Legislature. Lizzie, perhaps the most infamous Johnson, pursued many interests. Besides teaching at the Johnson Institute, she worked as a bookkeeper for prominent cattlemen. In addition, she wrote magazine and newspaper articles, which she sold to Frank Leslie Magazine. It was with those savings that she made her mark in the cattle business. In 1871, she registered her mark and brand in Travis County. Later she and her husband, Hezekiah G. Williams, traveled the Chisholm Trail together, although they ran their businesses separately. Widely considered the first woman to ride up the Chisholm Trail with her own cattle under her own brand, she was known to be a shrewd business woman. Following the death of her husband in 1914, she lived out the remainder of her life as a recluse. She died a wealthy woman in 1924 with the total value of her estate estimated at close to a quarter of a million dollars. She and her husband are buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
The Shelton family links its lineage to the Johnsons through Emily Catherine (Emma) Johnson (1843-1922) who married William Henry Greer (1845-1935). Greer served in the Confederate Army under Terry's Texas Rangers. The couple had six children: Annie Lucille, Ophelia Kate, Willie Idela, Henry Crawford, Thomas Johnson, Melvin Glen and Charles Hyde. Willie Idela (1877-1963) married John Elbert Shelton (1871-1928). After passing the Texas Bar exam without formal education, John E. practiced law. He served as county attorney and district attorney for Travis County. The couple had six sons: John E., Polk, Emmett, Edgar, Earl, and Harold. Following in their father's footsteps, both Polk and Emmett became attorneys. While maintaining a successful law practice in Austin, Emmett developed an interest in the history of West Austin and began purchasing property in the area. He went on to found the community of West Lake Hills in 1953 and over the next two decades, amassed nearly 4,000 acres. He was also a storyteller and published author. Emmett Shelton died in Austin in 2000.
Adapted from The Handbook of Texas Online:
Copelin, Laylan. "Shelton shaped West Lake Hills; Lawyer, author and Austin historian also developed neighborhoods." Austin American-Statesman. 1 March 2000.
Correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, legal records, printed material, maps, and notes document the activities of the Johnson and Shelton families. Divided into two series, the Johnson Family and Camp Friday Mountain, the collection spans the years 1853-1992.
The Johnson Family series (1853-1894, 1909, 1922-1936, 1947-1953, 1968-1991, undated) includes correspondence, genealogical material, legal records, and newspaper clippings. Correspondence (1859-1894, undated) makes up a large portion with the majority being letters between Johnson family members during and after the Civil War (1861-1865). Most of the letters are transcribed copies between John Hyde and his sisters Emma and Lizzie, and deal mostly with his schooling at Soule University and his military experience in the Civil War. Some of the letters go into detail about life at the Johnson Institute and include subjects such as boarders and the weather. Documents highlighting the life of Lizzie Johnson are also part of this series. There is correspondence related to requests for information about her and Travis County probate documents which include an inventory of her estate. Two publications detail Lizzie's life and exploits on the cattle trail--an article published in Southwestern Historical Quarterly in January, 1947, Lizzie E. Johnson; A Cattle Queen of Texas by Emily Jones Shelton and a children's book, Lizzie: Queen of the Cattle Trail by Ann Fears Crawford.
The Camp Friday Mountain series (1953, 1970, 1984-1992, undated) contains correspondence, printed material, and maps. Most of the correspondence is between William Osborn (a former camper and counselor at Camp Friday Mountain) and Emmett Shelton regarding Osborn's personal research into the site and his search for missing Johnson family material, originally donated to the Southwestern University library in Georgetown. Later correspondence between the two men document Shelton's attempt to purchase the site with Osborn acting as Shelton's legal representative. The oversized material (1987-1990, undated) includes photocopied survey maps and an aerial of Camp Friday Mountain. There is also a copy of a drawing for the renovation of the Johnson House, which is situated on the site.
Restrictions on Use
Publication of manuscript items and photographs regarding the Johnson Institute and Camp Friday Mountain is prohibited without the permission of William S. Osborn of Austin, Texas. This restriction shall expire January 1, 2042.
Material was donated by Emmett Shelton, Sr.
Emmett Shelton Johnson Family Papers (AR.1992.036). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1955/022
Donation Date: 11/5/92
Initial Inventory and Preliminary Processing By Eric Travis 11/1992. Final Processing and Finding Aid By Wendy Thompson 3/2013. Revisions by Susan Rittereiser 3/2013.
Other Finding Aid
Detailed Description of the Collection