Woodson Research Center, Rice University

Guide to the Walter W. and Ella F. Fondren Papers, 1838-1973 MS 390

Title: Walter W. and Ella F. Fondren Papers, 1838-1973
Dates: 1838-1973
Abstract: The Fondren Papers provide a record of the Fondren family's acquisition and dispersal of money in Houston and across Texas during the first three-quarters of this century and offers additional information on the financial workings of several well-known institutions and corporations. Formats include correspondence and financial documents.
Identification: MS 390
Quantity: 7.75 linear ft.(14 boxes)
Repository: Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas

Biographical Note

Walter W. Fondren was born in 1877 in Tennessee, the son of a farmer, who moved the family to Arkansas in 1883. Orphaned at the age of nine or ten, W. W. Fondren began working on farms in Arkansas and Texas. Then in 1897 he worked as a helper on a drilling rig at Corsicana, Texas, developing rapidly and becoming an independent driller during the first decade of this century. While he was working at Corsicana, he met and married Ella F. Cochrum.

Born at Hazel, Kentucky, Ella Cochrum was in her mid teens when her father died, making it necessary for her to quit school to care for her sister and five brothers. She and Walter Fondren were married on Valentine's Day, 1904 in Corsicana, and soon thereafter moved to Houston, where a son and two daughters were born to them and where they lived for the remainder of their lives.

Mr. Fondren was elected a director of the Humble Oil Company, then controlled mostly by Ross. S. Sterling, in 1912. In 1917 the Humble Oil and Refining Company was formed, and Walter Fondren was elected vice president. He assumed responsibility for drilling on the Gulf coast when Humble was affiliated with Jersey Standard in 1919. When W. S. Farish was elected Jersey director (1933), while retaining the Humble presidency, W. W. Fondren retired. After several years of heart trouble, he died suddenly early in 1939.

The Fondren's interest in aiding worthy institutions led to the establishment of the Fondren Foundation in 1948 to manage the resources of an estate valued at over thirty-three million dollars at the time of Mr. Fondren's death. Prominent among the recipients of this generosity have been St. Paul's Methodist Church, Methodist Hospital, Methodist Homes for Older People and the YMCA, all in Houston and Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Mrs. Fondren's concern with health care and the training of nurses led her to charter the Texas Association of Hospital Auxiliaries in 1943. Over the years she also provided money for scholarships and awards for nursing students. At the time of her death in 1982, Ella F. Fondren had devoted much of this century to local philanthropy.

Scope and Contents

Walter W. Fondren performed a conspicuous part in the development of the petroleum industry in Texas. The considerable wealth generated by his success in this field was later, through the agency of Ella F. Fondren and the Fondren Foundation, made available to several civic, religious, and educational organizations, predominately in Texas. The Fondren Papers, occupying approximately 7.75 cubic feet, provide a record of the Fondrens's acquisition and dispersal of money during the first three-quarters of this century and offers additional information on the financial workings of several well-known institutions and corporations.

The Fondren Papers comprise fourteen Hollinger boxes that include passbooks, ledgers, and other financial records. Books in a tin deed box (ca. 1890-1910) labeled with W. W. Fondren's card were reboxed but the box was retained. Constituted almost completely by correspondence and documents concerning financial matters, the collection is arranged in a single alphabet, the papers in each folder being further arranged in chronological order.


Access Restrictions

This material is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the Fondren Papers must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.

The original instructions regarding the use of the Fondren Papers was governed by an Agreement dated February 23, 1984, which remained in force until February 24, 1999 and required researchers to sign the "Fondren Collection Agreement" form.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Fondren, Ella F., 1880-1982
Subjects (Organizations)
Fondren Library.
Houston YMCA (Houston, Tex.).
Humble Oil and Refining Company (Incorporated in Tex.).
Methodist Hospital (Houston, Tex.).
Rice University.
Southern Methodist University.
St. Paul's Methodist Church (Houston, Tex.).
Academic libraries--Texas
Education, Higher--Texas
Methodist universities and colleges
Petroleum industry and trade
Real property--Texas
Universities and colleges
Young Men's Christian associations
Houston (Tex.)--History.

Related Material

Fondren Family Collection, MS 340, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Walter W. and Ella F. Fondren Papers, 1838-1973, MS 390, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University

Acquisition Information

The Fondren Papers were given by Doris Ledwidge Fondren, the Fondren's daughter-in-law, on October 13, 1983. A second lot of papers was given by Mrs. W. W. Fondren III on December 15, 1988, and integrated into the papers processed in 1986.

Processing Information

Processed by Tony Narkin 1986, 1988-89.

Detailed Description of the Collection


Series I: Alphabetical files

Box Folder
1 1 A: miscellaneous correspondence, 1931-1967
2 Abstracts of title, 1899-1909
3 Abstracts of title, 1910-1911
4 Abstracts of title, 1911-1919
5 Abstracts of title, 1928-1931
Box Folder
2 1 Abstracts of title, 1932-1933
2 Abstracts of title, 1933-1936
3 Abstracts of title, 1949
4 Abstracts of title, 1949
5 Allday, Edwin: correspondence, deeds, titles, 1956-1963
Box Folder
3 1 B: miscellaneous correspondence, deeds, titles, stock certificates, accounts, 1903-1965
2 Barrett, C. E.: land titles, deeds, 1901-1908
3 Baytown Hardware Company: correspondence, accounts, 1948-1956
4 Brahman cattle inquiries: correspondence, 1945-1965
5 C: miscellaneous correspondence, 1913-1972
6 Christian Rural Overseas Program [CROP]: correspondence, brochure, photos, 1957-1959
7 Commerce Street [2301-2307] property, Houston, Texas: correspondence, titles, notes, 1930-1972
8 Curiosities [n. d.]
Box Folder
4 1 D: miscellaneous correspondence, deeds, titles, stock certificates, 1910-1965
2 Davis Hill Oil Company: correspondence, maps, 1935-1953
3 E: miscellaneous correspondence, 1930-1946
4 Edwards Family land deal: titles, legal testimony, correspondence, 1887-1929
5 F: miscellaneous correspondence, deeds, titles, 1930-1962
6 Farm accounts and correspondence, 1940-1965
7 Fondren, A. L.: correspondence, accounts, notes, 1926-1936
8 Fondren, E. F.: will, 1939-1956
9 Fondren, W. W.: will and estate, 1925-1942
10 Fondren Foundation: correspondence, charters, 1955-1967
11 Fondren Lectures, Southern Methodist University: correspondence, 1927-1931
12 Fondren Oil Company: correspondence, accounts, 1907-1940
Box Folder
5 1 Fondren Scholarship Fund, Southern Methodist University: correspondence, 1927-1948
2 Fondren Trust [no. 1]: correspondence, charters, 1928-1944
3 Forest Park Cemetery: correspondence, deeds, plans, photos, 1939-1961
4 G: miscellaneous correspondence, deeds, titles, 1918-1969
5 General Hospital Board, Methodist Hospitals: correspondence, 1931-1942
6 Gibraltar Savings and Building Association, Houston, Texas: correspondence, 1931-1938
7 Green's Bayou, Harris County, Texas property: county survey deeds, titles, 1838-1904
8 Gulf Coast Gross Production Reports, 1923, 1927
9 Gulf Oil Corporation: correspondence, 1943-1968
10 H: miscellaneous correspondence, deeds, titles, 1919-1971
Box Folder
6 1 Harris County, Texas. Grand Jury report, (November term, 1927): 1928
Box Folder
5 11 Hammett Oil Company: correspondence, 1924-1928
Box Folder
6 2 Harris County Flood Control District: correspondence, maps, 1958-1963
3 Houston District Board of Missions and Church Extension: correspondence, 1937-1938
4 Houston Lighting and Power Company: correspondence, maps, deeds, 1939-1962
5 Hubbard, Ida Cochrum and Mary Ida: Humble Oil Stocks: correspondence, accounts, 1939-1964
6 Humble Field: titles, deeds, 1902-1966
7 Humble Oil and Refining Company: correspondence, deeds, 1914-1971
8 Humble Oil and Refining Company: Report on the Power Supply for the East Texas Field, 1931
9 Humble Oil and Refining Company: Valuation … as of charts January 5, 1939:
Box Folder
7 1 Humble Oil and Refining Company: Valuation … as of narrative and exhibits January 5, 1939:
2 I: miscellaneous correspondence, 1939, 1961
3 Income tax reports, 1922-1940
4 Jackson, J. C.: correspondence, titles, deeds, 1943, 1948
5 Joint Educational Commission, Methodist Schools: correspondence, 1933-1937
6 Jones, Jesse H.: correspondence bond, 1923, 1931
7 K: miscellaneous correspondence, 1930-1962
8 L: miscellaneous correspondence, 1922-1964
9 Lynd, J. H.: correspondence, 1936-1938
10 M: miscellaneous correspondence, titles, deeds, 1906-1971
Box Folder
8 1 Methodist Brotherhood: correspondence, 1937-1962
2 Methodist Conferences: correspondence, 1934-1938
3 Methodist Home, Waco, Texas: correspondence, 1943-1966
4 Methodist Homes for Older People, Houston, Texas: correspondence, maps, easement, deeds, 1962-1964
5 Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas: deeds, titles, statements, correspondence, 1926-1969
6 Montrose Blvd. [3410], Houston, Texas: correspondence, deeds, accounts, clippings, 1911-1965
7 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas: correspondence, 1926-1932
8 N: miscellaneous correspondence, 1926-1958
9 National Bank of Commerce, Houston, Texas: correspondence, 1926-1943
Box Folder
9 1 O: miscellaneous correspondence, 1913-1957
2 Oil Companies, minor, 1902-1943
3 Oklahoma tax records, 1922-1939
4 P: miscellaneous correspondence, 1903-1973
5 Pano Tech Exploration Corporation: correspondence, 1955-1967
6 Patents and correspondence concerning W. W. Fondren inventions, 1918-1927
7 Q: miscellaneous correspondence, 1938
8 R: miscellaneous correspondence, titles, deeds, 1906-1971
9 Rice Institute, Houston, Texas: athletic tickets, correspondence, 1926-1951
Box Folder
10 1 Rice Institute, Houston, Texas: Fondren Library: correspondence, plans, 1946-1949
2 River Oaks Country Club, Houston, Texas: correspondence, 1927-1937
3 S: miscellaneous correspondence, deeds, bonds, stock certificates, 1906-1972
4 Saint Paul's Methodist Church, Houston, Texas: correspondence, accounts, 1922-1968
5 San Jacinto Trust Company, Houston, Texas: correspondence, 1929-1940
6 Scarritt College for Christian Workers, Nashville, Tennessee: correspondence, 1942-1950
7 Seaboard Life Insurance Company, Houston, Texas: correspondence, 1925-1931
8 Smith, A. Frank, Bishop: correspondence, accounts, 1931-1937
9 Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas: correspondence, deeds, titles, accounts, 1919-1970
Box Folder
11 1 Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas: Fondren Library: correspondence, deeds, titles, 1935-1970
2 Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas: Fondren Science Building: deeds, titles, correspondence, 1946-1953
3 Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas: Kirby Fig Farm, Algoa, Texas: correspondence, 1926-1937
4 Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas: correspondence, 1926-1952
5 Sparkman, Lizzie and F. L.: deeds, titles, correspondence, 1912-1939
6 Standard Oil Company: correspondence, 1920-1923
7 State Building and Loan Association: deeds, titles, accounts, correspondence, 1923-1936
8 Sterett, Camp: correspondence, 1921-1934
9 T: miscellaneous correspondence, deeds, titles, 1909-1973
Box Folder
12 1 Tabb's Bay Oil Company, Houston, Texas: correspondence, 1938-1958
2 Tax receipts (State, county, city): 1907-1939
3 Texaco: correspondence, 1921-1972
4 Texas A & M College: correspondence, deeds, titles, 1951-1955
5 Texas Hotel Supply Company, Houston, Texas: correspondence, stock certificates, 1928-1933
6 Texas Methodist Foundation: correspondence, 1937-1938
7 Tidewater Oil Company, Houston, Texas: correspondence, 1923-1938
8 Trammell, A., H. L. and W. B.: deeds, correspondence, 1921-1937
9 U: miscellaneous correspondence, 1924-1938
10 University of Houston: correspondence, 1954-1967
11 V: miscellaneous correspondence, 1923-1971
12 W: miscellaneous correspondence, volt meter disc, deed, 1925-1964
13 Westmoreland Ave. [401], Houston, Texas: construction contract, builder's account, views, 1905
14 YMCA, Houston, Texas: correspondence, photos, accounts, 1921-1943
13 Unfoldered items


Series II: Bank books and ledgers

13 Bank Book: The National Bank of Commerce, Houston, Texas [W. W. Fondren], 1918-1939
Bank Book (record of payments): The Union National Bank, Houston, Texas [W. W. Fondren], 1913-1923
Cash Book [W. W. Fondren], 1925
Cash Book, 1926-28
Journal [W. W. Fondren], 1929-1938
S. E. Ledger [W. W. Fondren] 1917-1922
S. [E.] Ledger [ "Mr. Fondren's Personal Income"], 1919-1920
S. E. Ledger: W. W. Fondren, San Jacinto Trust Co. Account [1927-1928]
Post binder: W. W. Fondren Income beginning 1923
Post binder: "Inactive Ledger" [W. W. Fondren Estate and Ella F. Fondren], 1939-1971
Standard Columnar Book [W. W. Fondren], 1929-1932
14 Post binder: [miscellaneous accounts], 1918-1936
Post binder: "The Journal and Ledger Accounts of the Fondren Foundation," 1948-1969