Albert and Ethel Herzstein Library, San Jacinto Museum of History

Adele Briscoe Looscan Collection

Mary Jane Harris Briscoe Papers, Manuscript Collection: MC056

Collection Summary

Creator: Briscoe, Mary Jane Harris, 1819-1903
Title: Mary Jane Harris Briscoe papers
Dates: 1828-1903
Dates: (Bulk: 1849-1891)
Abstract: Correspondence, creative works, journals, financial documents, printed materials, scrapbooks, legal documents and notes and memoranda record the life of Mary Jane Harris Briscoe.
Identification: MC056
OCLC Record No.: 50150081
Quantity: 9 boxes (3.2 linear ft.)
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Albert and Ethel Herzstein Library, San Jacinto Museum of History, La Porte, Texas

Creator Sketch

Mary Jane Harris Briscoe was born at Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, on August 17, 1819, one of four children of John Richardson and Jane Birdsall Harris. When John R. Harris left Missouri for Texas in 1824, Jane Harris and her children returned to New York. After the death of Harris in 1829 in New Orleans, Jane waited until 1833 when her eldest son was mature to travel to Texas and claim her inheritance. Mary Jane remained in New York and attended finishing school until allowed to proceed to Texas. She joined her family in Harrisburg in the fall of 1836 and soon became known as the "Belle of Buffalo Bayou." On her eighteenth birthday she married Andrew Briscoe. The couple lived in Houston where their son Parmenas was born and later moved to Harrisburg where they had another four children. Of their five children, four lived to adulthood: Parmenas (1839-1906), Andrew Birdsall (1841-1912), Jessie Wade (1845-1920), and Adele Lubbock (1848-1935).

On October 4, 1849, Andrew died of yellow fever in New Orleans leaving his widow and children without a means of support. Mary Jane and her children moved to her father-in-law's plantation near Port Gibson, Claiborne County, Mississippi, and remained there until after General Parmenas' death. In 1852 she returned to Texas settling first in Anderson and later in Galveston and Harrisburg. In 1874 she moved to Houston to live with her son, Parmenas.

On July 18, 1881, as a widow of a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, she received a donation grant of 1,280 acres. She was a charter member of the Ladies' Reading Club, the first woman's club in Houston, and served as the treasurer until her death. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas was organized at the Briscoe home in 1891 where the local chapter continued to meet. She served as vice president of the DRT until 1897. Active in the Texas Veterans Association, Briscoe was held in high esteem by many of the veterans. Mary Jane founded Sheltering Arms, a home for needy women in Houston, and served as the first president. She wrote sketches and reminiscences and was a charter member of the Texas State Historical Association, of which she was elected an honorary life member in 1897. Briscoe became an invalid after suffering a fall in 1899 and died in Houston on March 8, 1903. She was buried in Glenwood Cemetery.


Organized into nine series: Correspondence, Journals, Financial, Legal, Estate of Mary Jane Briscoe, Printed Materials, Creative Works, Notes and Memoranda, and Scrapbooks; arrangement is alphabetical, chronological, and by subject.


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

Briscoe, Andrew, 1810-1849
Briscoe, Annie Payne
Briscoe, Emily
Briscoe, Mary Jane Harris, 1819-1903--Archives
Harris, DeWitt Clinton, 1814-1861
Harris, Lewis Birdsall, 1816-1893
Looscan, Adele Briscoe, 1848-1935
Lubbock, Francis Richard, 1815-1905
Phelps, Carrie
Zavala, Lorenzo de, 1788-1836
Briscoe family
Harris family
Ladies Reading Club (Houston, Tex.)
Texas Veterans Association
Land tenure--Texas
Harris County (Tex.)--History
Spirit communications

Archivist's Note

All other papers from the Adele Briscoe Looscan Collection are related to Mary Jane Harris Briscoe. All photographs are located in the Adele Briscoe Looscan Papers.

Administrative Information


[Identification of Item], Mary Jane Harris Briscoe Papers, MC056, San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas.


Mr. and Mrs. George A. Hill, Jr., Houston Public Library, Annie Hume, 1939-1940.

Processing Information

Processed by Sandra Eileen Yates, 2002.


"Briscoe, Mary Jane Harris." The Handbook of Texas Online.

Looscan, Adele Lubbock Briscoe. A Brief Sketch of the Life and Characteristics of Mrs. Mary Jane Briscoe : Showing the Estimation In Which She Was Held by Her Friends and the Public Generally. Houston: A.C. Gray, 1905.


Correspondence, 1828-1903 (Bulk: 1836-1899)
Quantity: 4 boxes (1.6 linear ft.)

Correspondence received from friends, family, and businesses documents the life of Mary Jane Harris Briscoe. Long-time correspondents include Francis R. Lubbock (46), her servant Carrie Phelps (13), and friend Jessie Wade (11). Substantial correspondence from family members demonstrates the pivotal position Briscoe held within her immediate and extended family. A 1835 letter from DeWitt Clinton Harris discusses his role in the Anahuac Disturbance. Except for letters from Emily Briscoe (37), significant correspondence with her Briscoe in-laws ended with her return to Texas 3 years after Andrew's death. Letters from her son Andrew Birdsall Briscoe (62) and his wife Annie Payne Briscoe (47) record their lives as they establish a ranch, raise children, and later deal with Annie's prolonged illness. A lifelong correspondence with brother Lewis Birdsall Harris (1832-1890) deals with family, travel, and business in New York, Texas, and California. Correspondence from other members of her extensive family concerns genealogical investigations, family affairs, and financial matters. Correspondence sent includes letters to James Briscoe, the executor of her husband's will. Of particular interest are 5 spirit letters (undated) written most likely during a series of seances. Respondents during the seance include General Parmenas Briscoe and Andrew Briscoe, and discuss the Battle of San Jacinto and life after death. Letters shared with Briscoe comprise third party correspondence. Of interest are 2 letters to Nina from Lou discussing Nina's flight from her husband, Stanley, and his reactions.
Correspondence: Received
box folder
131 1 Charles P. Babcock, 1876 September 27-December 27
2 Thomas Carothers, 1851-1861, undated
3 Thomas S. Cook, 1864-1866
4 Leland J. Cox, 1852-1853
5 William R. Devoe, 1864-1865
6 David Harrison, 1837-1855
7 Leonly B. Harrison, 1855-1881
8 Jane Ingersoll, 1834-1836, undated
9 Mary Jones, 1892 January 21-April 8, undated
10 Adele Lubbock, 1850-1853, undated
11 F. R. Lubbock, 1852-1863
12 F. R. Lubbock, 1867-1900, undated
13 A. O. Lynn, 1878-1880
14 Carrie Phelps, 1887-1889, undated
15 E. Scurry, 1885-1888
16 B. A. Shephard & Burke, 1852-1853
17 A. Sproull, 1867-1880, undated
18 Jessie Wade, 1843-1848, undated
19 Bertha E. Willis, 1898-1899
20 General: A-D, 1835-1899, undated
21 General: E-H, 1833-1899
22 General: K-N, 1832-1902, undated
23 General: O-S, 1834-1900, undated
24 General: T-W, 1834-1901, undated
25 Unknown, 1855-1877, undated
box folder
132 1 Family: M. Birdsall, 1880-1888
2 Family: Andrew B. Briscoe, 1861-1881
3 Family: Andrew B. Briscoe, 1884-1899, undated
4 Family: Annie Briscoe, 1878-1886
5 Family: Annie Briscoe, 1886-1895
6 Family: Carrie Briscoe, 1884-1890, undated
7 Family: Elizabeth Z. Briscoe, 1840-1845
8 Family: Emily Briscoe, 1838-1886
9 Family: Emily Briscoe, 1888-1889, undated
10 Family: James M. Briscoe, 1849-1851
11 Family: James W. Briscoe, 1849-1851
12 Family: Mary Payne "Mamie" Briscoe, 1883-1899, undated
13 Family: Parmenas Briscoe, 1854-1895
14 Family: Phillip A. Briscoe, 1851-1853
15 Family: Robert P. Briscoe, 1851-1853
16 Family: Sophie Briscoe, 1852, undated
17 Family: William P. Briscoe, 1850-1853
18 Family: Lorenzo H. Chamberlain, 1880 February 25-May 2
19 Family: Mary E. Flynn, 1874-1879
20 Family: DeWitt Clinton Harris, 1832-1853, undated
21 Family: Caroline Harris, 1836-1839
box folder
133 1 Family: Jane Harris, 1849-1855
2 Family: John B. Harris, 1849-1852
3 Family: Lewis B. Harris, 1832-1867
4 Family: Lewis B. Harris, 1867-1887
5 Family: Lewis B. Harris, 1887-1890, undated
6 Family: Minnie Harris, 1884-1896
7 Family: Jessie Wade Briscoe Howe, 1869-1900, undated
8 Family: Milton Howe, 1898-1899
9 Family: Annie and Mary Columbia "Lummie" Hume, 1886-1895
10 Family: S. B. Logan, 1851-1868
11 Family: Adele Briscoe Looscan, 1876-1888
12 Family: Adele Briscoe Looscan, 1888-1900, undated
13 Family: Michael Looscan, 1881-1888
14 Family: Helen and Ella Montgomery, 1876-1887
15 Family: Clara Shaifer, 1850-1853, undated
16 Family: Helen F. Story, 1899, undated
17 Family: Mildred Thatcher, 1878-1888, undated
18 Family: S. M. Thatcher, 1878-1888
19 Family: Eliza Van Tuyl, 1828-1856
box folder
134 1 Family: General: B, 1835-1887, undated
2 Family: General: G-T, 1834-1897, undated: circa 1837-1849
3 Family: Unknown, 1873-1887, undated
4 Invitations, 1838-1900, undated
Correspondence: Sent,
box folder
134 5 James M. Briscoe, 1849-1851
6 General, 1837-1890, undated
box folder
134 7 Spirit Letters, undated
8 Third Party, 1849-1888, undated
Correspondence: Envelopes
box folder
134 9 Birdsall family, 1884-1888, undated
10 Andrew B. Briscoe, 1884-1890, undated
11 Annie Briscoe, 1881-1890, undated
12 Emily Briscoe, 1884-1888, undated
13 Briscoe family, 1883-1890, undated
14 Lewis B. Harris, 1885-1890, undated
15 Harris family, 1884-1889
16 Howe family, 1887-1900
17 Looscan family, 1884-1888, undated
18 F. R. Lubbock, 1881-1902, undated
19 Thatcher family, 1883-1885, undated
20 General, 1840-1885, undated
21 General, 1886-1889
22 General, 1892-1903
23 General, undated

Journals, 1870-1894
Quantity: 1 box (.4 linear ft.)

A series of journals (1870-1894) records the daily life of Mary Jane Harris Briscoe including observations on the weather and people encountered. Several journals held previous functions. In the journal dated 1885-1886, the first 30 pages contain a surveyor's instruction manual and the back page has the title of "Concord Purchases". The journal dated 1889-1891 begins as an account book ranging from 1855 to 1885 and the financial information is in the front of the journal dated 1891. Of interest is a journal kept from 1870-1873 that records trips to California (1870) and Woodstock, Ontario (1873) and includes pressed flowers and plants among its pages.
box folder
135 1 Trip to California and Woodstock, Ontario, 1870-1873
2 Trip to California and Woodstock, Ontario: Bouquet, 1870-1873
3 Trip to California and Woodstock, Ontario: Pressed Flowers, 1870-1873
4 Annual Journal, 1885-1886
5 Tablet, 1838-1839
6 Tablet, 1888 January 17-November 8
7 Tablet, 1888 May 12-June 24
8 Sheets of Paper, 1888
9 Tablets, 1888
10 Annual Journal, 1889-1890
11 Tablet, 1889-1891
12 Annual Journal, 1891 April 4-7
13 Memorandum Books, 1893-1894

Financial, 1837-1901 (Bulk: 1881-1883)
Quantity: 1 box (.4 linear ft.)

Account books, bank drafts, statements of account / receipts, and treasurer's reports to the Ladies' Reading Club reveal a woman managing her own financial affairs. Included in the daily account books is one devoted to the savings account of her servant, Carrie Phelps. Also of interest are two account books, possibly of sharecroppers, labeled "Outstanding accounts to Nov. 30", undated, with one devoted to colored debtors and one to white debtors. The bulk of the financial documents concern the building of Briscoe's house with her son Parmenas at 620 Crawford Street in Houston, Texas, and include estimates from contractors and lists of materials. Of particular interest are receipts related to the death of Andrew Briscoe including one for $78 for a walnut, lead-lined casket on October 4, 1849; 2 steamboat tickets on October 7 and 18 from and then returning to New Orleans, and one for $150 in 1851 for a marble tomb erected in memory of Andrew Briscoe.
box folder
136 1 Account Books, 1837-1839
2 Account Books, 1849-1853
3 Account Books, 1861
4 Account Books, 1881-1889
5 Account Books, 1893, undated
6 Account Books, 1899-1901
7 Account Books: Carrie Phelps, 1884-1886
8 Account Books, undated
9 Account Books, undated
10 Account Books: Slate Notebook and Pencil, undated
11 Accounts: Fragments, 1873, undated
12 Banking: Drafts, 1870-1889
13 Estimates: House Construction, 1882-1883, undated
14 Statements of Account / Receipts: A. Bering & Bros., 1883
15 Statements of Account / Receipts: R. Cotter & Co., 1880-1881
16 Statements of Account / Receipts: A. Cramer, 1880-1881
17 Statements of Account / Receipts: W. L. Foley, 1880 December 13, undated
18 Statements of Account / Receipts: Thomas R. Franklin, 1877-1880, undated
19 Statements of Account / Receipts: E. V. Henderson, 1881 February 6
20 Statements of Account / Receipts: A. M. Kleiber, 1880-1881
21 Statements of Account / Receipts: W. J. Lettegast & Bros., 1881, undated
22 Statements of Account / Receipts: R. W. McLin, 1879-1880
23 Statements of Account / Receipts: B. A. Shepherd & Burke, 1852-1853
24 Statements of Account / Receipts: A. L. Steele, 1883
25 Statements of Account / Receipts: M. Stubenrauch, 1880-1881
26 Statements of Account / Receipts: S. Taliafero, 1875-1881
27 Statements of Account / Receipts: Texas Lamp & Oil Co., 1880-1881
28 Statements of Account / Receipts: General A-W, 1849-1894
29 Statements of Account / Receipts: Third Party, 1878, 1884
30 Treasurer's Report: Ladies Reading Club, 1888-1897, undated

Legal, 1853-1903
Quantity: 31 items

Report cards of Parmenas, Andrew Birdsall, and Jessie Wade Briscoe from Anderson, Texas, 5 drafts of Mary Jane Briscoe's will, leases, and court costs from Briscoe's suit against A. W. and Virginia Scoble in 1876 briefly record Mary Jane Briscoe's legal affairs.
box folder
137 1 Report Cards: Parmenas, Andrew Birdsall, Jessie, 1853-1855
2 Wills, 1891-1902, undated
3 General, 1869-1899

Estate of Mary Jane Briscoe, 1903
Quantity: 53 items

Receipts related to Briscoe's last illness and funeral expenses, legal documents, written memorials, and floral tribute cards demonstrate the high regard held for Mary Jane Briscoe. Of interest is the memorial by the legislative committee appointed to view the San Jacinto Battlefield. Hearing of her death while on the battlefield, they picked wild violets and sent them to be placed upon her bier. A map included in the legal documents delineates the boundaries between her properties and those of Virginia Scoble in Harrisburg.
box folder
137 4 Financial and Legal Documents, 1903
5 Memorials, 1903
6 Ephemera: Floral Tribute Cards: Clubs, 1903 March 11
7 Ephemera: Floral Tribute Cards: People, 1903 March 11

Printed Materials, 1835-1903 (Bulk: 1882-1895)
Quantity: 1 box (.2 linear ft.)

Calling cards, memorials and funeral notices, price lists, circulars, programs, and materials from the Alamo Monument Association, the Daughters of the Revolution, and the Texas Veterans Association record the interests and activities of Mary Jane Briscoe. Calling cards (21) from her early days as the "Belle of Buffalo Bayou" include 2 from Sam Houston. A catalog from the Memorial Card Company displaying funeral stationery with epigrams in English and German demonstrates the role of mourning in 19th century life. Also of interest are circulars from the Meadville Female Seminary, Meadville, Pennsylvania (1835) and the Houston Light Guard (1878). Election ballots from August 1861 contain the name of Briscoe's friend, F. R. Lubbock.
Printed Materials
box folder
137 8 Alamo Monument Association, 1889, undated
9 Business Cards, undated
10 Calling Cards, undated [pre-1838]
11 Calling Cards, undated [late 1800s]
12 Catalogue: Memorial Card Co., 1886
13 Daughters of the Revolution, 1892, undated
14 Ephemera: Chinese characters written on red paper, circa 1870
15 Memorials & Funeral Notices, 1867-1888
16 Price Lists, 1882-1889, undated
17 General, 1835-1884, undated
Printed Materials: Texas Veterans Association
box folder
137 18 Annual Meetings Materials, 1886-1902, undated
19 Certificates of Membership, 1873-1903
20 Circulars, 1896-1903
21 Pamphlets: "Annual Address to the Texas Veteran's Association at It's 13th Annual Reunion in Dallas" John Henry Brown, 1886 April 21
22 Pamphlets: "Proceedings of the Texas Veterans Association at Their Twenty-second Annual Reunion", 1895 April 21

Creative Works 1846-1902
Quantity: 2 boxes (.6 linear ft.)

Collected works, manuscripts, notes, and recipes illuminate the intellectually active and curious life of Mary Jane Briscoe. Of particular interest in the collected works is an exercise book (1871-1875) from the Young Ladies Boarding & Day School at the corner of Crawford and McKinney streets in Houston, Texas, and a school notebook, possibly belonging to Annie Belle Harris. Manuscripts include studies of history, literature, and biography. The bulk are lectures about various literary figures, such as Francis Bacon and Walter Scott, written for the Ladies Reading Club. Other manuscripts include a lengthy history of Harris County, and biographical sketches of Andrew Briscoe and Lorenzo de Zavala. A rough draft of a play about the Texas Revolution with W. B. Travis as one of the characters demonstrates Briscoe's interest in writing and history. Briscoe dictated an 1899 recollection entitled "Houston in Its First Year." Briscoe's notes document her historical research and other interests and correlate with her manuscripts. Genealogy notes contain printed materials (2) and brief memoranda (3) giving insight into Mary Jane Briscoe's genealogical research. There are 6 recipes.
Creative Works: Collected
box folder
138 1 Notebook of Annie Belle Harris, 1871-1875
2 "Trip From New Orleans to Galveston, 1846" by F. Roemer, 1846
3 "Trip Up Buffalo Bayou" by F. Roemer, undated
4 Mary Saunders, 1901-1902
5 Poetry, 1891-1897, undated
6 Prose, 1884 April 21
Creative Works: Manuscripts
box folder
138 7 American Revolution, undated
8 Battle of San Jacinto, undated
9 Biographical Sketch of Andrew Briscoe, undated
10 Biography of Benjamin R. Milam, undated
11 Dauphine of 1418, undated
12 Francis Bacon, undated
13 History of Harris County, 1885
14 Houston In Its First Year, 1899
15 Hotel des Invalides, undated
16 In Memorium to Mrs. Jane Gray, undated
17 John Trumbull, undated
18 Biography of Lorenzo de Zavala, undated
19 "Old Age Comes Creeping...", undated
20 Play, undated
21 Religious Persecution, undated
22 Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, undated
23 Sir Walter Scott, undated
24 Travels in Texas, undated
25 Tribute to Prof. Jacob Ennis, 1889 January 12
Creative Works: Notes
box folder
139 1 Andrew Versalius, undated
2 Book Reviews, circa 1890
3 Botany, 1885
4 Extracts from Herodotus, undated
5 Genealogy, 1881-1892, undated
6 Pyramid of Cholula, undated
7 Texas History, undated
8 General, 1849-1881, undated
Creative Works: Recipes
box folder
139 9 Recipes, undated
10 Recipes Notebook, undated

Notes and Memoranda, 1870-1889
Quantity: 10 items

Notes and memoranda include a list with names of people Mary Jane Briscoe met at the 1887 Texas Veterans Association annual meeting, a shopping list, and notes written on envelopes.
box folder
139 11 Lists, 1883-1889, undated
12 Envelopes, 1870, undated

Scrapbooks, undated
Quantity: 2 items

Two scrapbooks record the thoughts and interests of the creator of the scrapbook. One contains primarily newspaper clippings from the late 19th century. The other is inscribed "To Miss Jessie A. Brown by her friend Mrs. Briscoe" and contains clippings, copied works, and a pencil drawing.
range shelf
14 3 Scrapbook, undated
3 Scrapbook: Jessie A. Brown, undated