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TABLE OF CONTENTS


Overview

Biographical History

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Organization of the Collection

Restrictions

Index Terms

Related Material

Administrative Information

Description of Series

Correspondence, 1835-1849, 1852-1860, 1864-1865, 1887,

Literary production, 1886, 1905, undated,

Printed material, 1859-1892,

Commission of George W. Smyth, 1835,

Scrapbooks and scrapbook materials, 1892, undated,

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

John H. Reagan Collection:

An Inventory of the John H. Reagan Collection at the Texas State Archives, 1835-1892, 1905, undated, bulk 1835-1887



Overview

Creator: Reagan, John H. (John Henninger), 1818-1905
Title: John H. Reagan collection
Dates: 1835-1892, 1905, undated
Dates: bulk 1835-1887
Abstract: The collection documents the political life of John Henninger Reagan, including his positions as a congressman, senator, representative, and member of the Indian Affairs, Post Office Expenditures, and Democratic Convention committees; and his work as Postmaster General of the Confederacy and as chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission. Records consist of correspondence, memoirs, pamphlets, scrapbooks, manuscripts, and an officially sealed copy of the commission of George W. Smyth. The items in the collection date from 1835 to 1892, 1905 and undated, with the bulk of the material dating from 1835 to 1887. A significant portion of the collection is correspondence, which spans the years 1835 to 1887, with several gap years (1850-1851, 1861-1863, 1885-1886, 1888-1905).
Quantity: 1.75 cubic ft.
Language: These materials are written in English.
Repository: Texas State Archives

Biographical History

John Henninger Reagan was born in Sevier County, Tennessee on October 8, 1818, the first child of Timothy H. Reagan and Elizabeth Lusk. Reagan received his early education at Nancy Academy in Sevierville, at Boyd's Creek Academy, and Maysville Seminary. To support his education, he took various positions as a hired-out farmhand, a salesman, a bookkeeper, and an overseer. Once he completed his education, he pursued positions and prospective positions in Decatur, Alabama, Tuscumbia, Alabama, Memphis, Tennessee, Natchez, Mississippi and Alexandria, Louisiana. In 1839, Reagan joined with the Texas forces engaged in the expulsion of Cherokees from Texas. In the spring and summer of 1840, Reagan was appointed deputy surveyor for parts of the Nacogdoches and Houston land districts. He received his first election into public office as the captain of a company of militia and justice of the peace for his precinct in 1841. He married his first wife, Martha Music, during the same year, though she passed away just two years later.

In the fall of 1844 Reagan moved to Kaufman County, Texas and in 1846, he started his first law practice with a temporary license to practice law in the district and inferior courts. He was later elected as the lieutenant-colonel of Henderson County's battalion of militia as well as the county's probate judge. In 1847, Reagan was elected as a member of the state legislature from the district of Nacogdoches. In 1848, Reagan passed his final law exam and received a full license to practice law in the district and inferior courts of Texas. Shortly after, he received his license to practice law in the Texas Supreme Court as well as the inferior and supreme courts of the United States.

In 1849, Reagan was defeated in his race to become a United States senator. Before the election, a series of land disputes in an area known as Peters Colony led many constituents to seek reparations for fraudulent claims. Despite the constituents' demands, Reagan refused to make false promises concerning returned funds that he would have been unable to fulfill. Although this led to his narrow loss in the election, he later provided legal assistance that helped resolve the dispute surrounding Peters Colony. In the summer of 1851, Reagan became a citizen of Palestine, Texas, where he lived for the majority of the remainder of his life. In 1852, he married his second wife, Edwina Moss Nelms.

Reagan submitted his resignation from judgeship of the Ninth Judicial District (served from 1852) and took his first seat in Congress in December 1857 where he was a member of both the Indian Affairs and Post Office Expenditures committees. He delivered a speech against both Northern and Southern factionalism and strongly supported a united nation. With tensions flaring over Southern secession, Reagan resigned from Congress in January of 1861 and returned to Texas where he served as a delegate to the Secession Convention assembled in Austin. Although he supported the Union, Reagan felt that the constitution had been violated by the disruption of states' rights connected with the abolition of slavery. In the formation of the Confederate cabinet, Reagan was offered - and accepted - the position of Postmaster General. To aid and be a part of the building and establishing of the Confederacy, Reagan moved to Richmond with his family. On June 1, 1861, he was authorized to take over the postal services of the Confederacy, and not only worked to maintain an effective mail service throughout the Civil War, but also managed to revise the mail routes in such a way as to reduce costs, and make the postal service self-sustaining. At the time, such a radical revision of the mail routes had only been accomplished twice before by Postmaster Generals Benjamin Franklin and John McLean.

After a year as Postmaster General, Reagan submitted his resignation, with the intention of joining the military. However, due to his success in managing the post office and postal service, his resignation was met with protestations, and he withdrew his letter of resignation. His position as Postmaster General gave him a significant role in the war, as the Confederate government met with many difficulties in sending and receiving foreign mail. Various creative and roundabout routes had to be used to cross the Mississippi. The Post Office Department also managed and controlled the telegraph system, and in order to help in the conduct of the war, Reagan had a field telegraph with a five-mile radius made for - albeit unsuccessful - use on the battlefield.

During his time in the Confederate cabinet, Reagan often found his opinions to be in lone opposition to the other cabinet members and the president. One of the first points of difference related to the enlistment of slaves into the military service of the Confederacy. Although enlistment would mean liberation for the slaves and the loss of property value for the slaveowners, Reagan thought that enlistment would be strategically advantageous for the Confederacy during the war. Several other instances of disagreement concerned strategies of warfare, such as with the defense of Vicksburg and Port Hudson.

At the end of the war, Reagan was imprisoned in Fort Warren, Massachusetts for several months before returning to his home in Palestine. His second wife died during the war, and Reagan married his third wife, Molly Ford Taylor, on May 31, 1865. He returned to political life and, beginning in 1866, he served on multiple committees for the Democratic Convention. Reagan returned to Congress in 1875 where he once again became a member of the House Committee on Post Office Expenditures. He continued to serve as a congressman until his resignation from office in 1887 in order to serve as chairman on the newly-formed Texas Railroad Commission at the request of Texas Governor James Stephen Hogg. In 1903 Reagan retired to private life on his Fort Houston farm. He began to write his memoirs which were ultimately published in 1905 as Memoirs, With Special Reference to Secession and the Civil War. He died later that year and is buried in East Hill Cemetery in Palestine, Texas.

(Sources include: Proctor, Ben H., "John Henninger Reagan, " Handbook of Texas Online, accessed on July 1, 2014; and the records themselves.)

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection documents the political life of John Henninger Reagan, including his positions as a congressman, senator, representative, and member of the Indian Affairs, Post Office Expenditures, and Democratic Convention committees; and his work as Postmaster General of the Confederacy and as chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission. Records consist of correspondence, pamphlets, scrapbooks, memoirs, fragmentary literary efforts and speeches. One of the scrapbooks is a copy of the Pictorial History of Texas by Homer S. Thrall with newspaper clippings pasted inside. Dates of the collection are 1835-1892, 1905 and undated, with the bulk of the material dating from 1835 to 1887. Correspondence spans the years 1835 to 1887, with several gap years (1850-1851, 1861-1863, 1885-1886, 1888-1905). The materials largely cover Texas history, but due to Reagan's involvement in the Confederate cabinet during the Civil War, his records also describe pertinent aspects of Southern history as well. Some of the topics covered in the collection include U.S. and Confederate postal operations, Southern secession, slavery in Texas, suffrage, and sundry Civil War and Reconstruction issues. Early correspondence documents land disputes in Peter's Colony, which Reagan helped to resolve.

The collection first and foremost documents Reagan's political life. Throughout his political career, John H. Reagan accumulated a great deal of personal correspondence (incoming and outgoing), that touch on topics such as the conscription of slaves, the abolition of slavery, African American suffrage, and commerce. A significant portion of the later correspondence refers to the several legislative motions and affairs that Reagan supported and advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Some examples of these exchanges include discussions of state rights, the Force Bill, Tariff Bill, and Inter-State Commerce Bill. Correspondents include Montgomery Blair, Benjamin Frankling Butler, Ulric Dahlgren, Jefferson Davis, William Maxwell Evarts, Andrew Jackson Hamilton, James Pinckney Henderson, Thomas Jonathan Jackson, Joseph E. Johnston, Robert E. Lee, William Henry Seward, Nathaniel Smith, Alexander Hamilton Stephens, James Ewell Brown Stuart, and Joseph Wheeler.

There are several gaps in the correspondence, with the years of 1850 to 1851, 1861 to 1863, and 1885 to 1886 being entirely absent, and the years of 1870 to 1875 showing scant records. In particular, the absence of correspondence during the years of the Civil War (1861-1865) and during Reagan's time with the Texas Railroad Commission (1887-1903) should be noted.

His literary and autobiographical papers provide insight into his opinions regarding Southern secession, difficulties and challenges faced by the Confederate cabinet, and postwar Reconstruction, in addition to describing his time in political office. His memoirs cover specific incidents of the Civil War, such as the Hampton Roads Peace Conference, and reference several campaigns and battles, such as the Vicksburg Campaign and the Battle of Port Hudson. Most importantly, his memoirs outline his work as Postmaster General of the Confederacy and as chairman of the Railroad Commission where the gaps in the correspondence relating to these positions do not. As his memoirs cover the details of his political career and the various positions he had held, they reference several committees and groups, such as the Committee on Commerce, the Committee on the Pacific Railroad, and the Democratic Party State Convention.

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Organization of the Collection

The materials have been organized into five series and two subseries:
Correspondence, 1835-1849, 1852-1860, 1864-1865, 1887, 0.6 cubic ft.
Literary production, 1886, 1905, undated, 0.32 cubic ft.
  • Memoirs, 1905, 0.3 cubic ft.
  • Manuscripts, 1886, undated, fractional
Printed material, 1859-1892, fractional
Commission of George W. Smyth, 1835, fractional
Scrapbooks and scrapbook materials, 1892, undated, 0.75 cubic ft.

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Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.

Restrictions on Use

Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).

Under the Copyright Law of 1976 as amended in 1998, unpublished manuscripts are protected at a minimum through December 31, 2002, or 70 years after the author's death. Researchers are responsible for complying with the Copyright Law.

Technical Requirements

None.

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Index Terms

The terms listed here were used to catalog the records. The terms can be used to find similar or related records.
Personal Names:
Blair, Montgomery, 1813-1883.
Butler, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin), 1818-1893.
Dahlgren, Ulric, 1842-1864.
Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889.
Evarts, William Maxwell, 1818-1901.
Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, 1815-1875.
Henderson, James Pinckney, 1808-1858.
Jackson, Stonewall, 1824-1863.
Johnston, Joseph E. (Joseph Eggleston), 1807-1891.
Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870.
Seward, William Henry, 1801-1872.
Smith, Nathaniel, -1843.
Stephens, Alexander H. (Alexander Hamilton), 1812-1883.
Stuart, Jeb, 1833-1864.
Wheeler, Joseph, 1836-1906.
Corporate Names:
United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Pacific Railroad (1863-1873)--History.
United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce--History.
Democratic Party (Tex.). State Convention.
Hampton Roads Peace Conference (1865).
Subjects:
Postal service--Confederate States of America.
African Americans--Suffrage--Texas--History.
Land grants--Texas--History--19th century.
Railroads--Texas.
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877).
Slavery--Texas.
Liberty--Texas.
State rights--History.
Places:
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877).
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Prisoners and prisons.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Postal service.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Campaigns & battles.
Angelina County (Tex.)--History.
Fort Warren (Mass.)--History.
Henderson County (Tex.)--History.
Kaufman County (Tex.)--History.
Palestine (Tex.)--History.
Peters Colony (Tex.)--History.
Sevier County (Tenn.)--History.
Sevierville (Tenn.)--History.
Texas--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
Texas--History--Republic, 1836-1846.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
Document Types:
Clippings (information artifacts)--Texas--1892.
Correspondence--Texas--1835-1887.
Scrapbooks--Texas--1862, undated.
Memoirs--Texas--1905.

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Related Material

The following materials are offered as possible sources of further information on the agencies and subjects covered by the records. The listing is not exhaustive.

Texas State Archives
John H. Reagan Letters, 1864-1869, 19 items [There is no finding aid for these unprocessed records. Call number is 2-23/1079.]
John H. Reagan Memoirs, 1 item [There is no finding aid for these unprocessed records. Call number is 2-23/1009.]
John H. Reagan Papers, 1846-1904, 12.5 inches [There is no finding aid for these unprocessed records. Call numbers are 2-23/19 thru 21.]
John H. Reagan Will, 1902, 1 item [There is no finding aid for these unprocessed records. Call number is 2-22/711.]
Texas Railroad Commission records, 1836-1867, 1873-1885, 1890-2006, bulk 1891-1996, 228.05 cubic ft., 398 microfilm rolls, 119 microfiche, processed, 89.15 cubic ft., 6 microfilm rolls, unprocessed

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

(Identify the item and cite the series), John H. Reagan collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Accession Information

Accession numbers: 1910/004, 1962/032

The bulk of the collection materials were acquired through purchase from Molly Ford Reagan, John H. Reagan's wife, in February 1911. The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill in favor of the appropriation of funds for the acquisition of the collection. Mrs. Reagan signed the rights over to the state and the collection was transferred to the Texas State Archives. A further gift that came to be included in this part of the John H. Reagan collection was made to the Archives by Mrs. Mae Reagan Mathes, his granddaughter, in October 1962. While the 1962 accession papers include an itemized list of materials, only the Pictorial History of Texas item came to be included in this part of the collection.

Processing Information

Collection minimally processed by State Archives staff in the 1960s

Further processing, DACS-compliant finding aid, and XML markup completed by Jace Furches and Amy Vo, students from the University of Texas at Austin, School of Information, fall 2013

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Detailed Description of the Collection

 

Correspondence, 1835-1849, 1852-1860, 1864-1865, 1887,
0.6 cubic ft.

Correspondence represents the bulk of the collection and dates 1835-1849, 1852-1860, 1864, and 1887. The letters begin with correspondence from Reagan in his position as a state legislator and address a number of land ownership concerns, including fraudulent land claims, bills outlining land boundaries, and land title disputes. Several letters concern the resolution of problems being experienced in Peters Colony during the early 1850s. Around this time period, the letters start to discuss the Democratic Convention and several are addressed to the governor of Texas. Reagan retired from his position as a judge in 1856 and several letters reference this as well as his transition into Congress. At this point, correspondence begins to reference post office matters, the Committee on Indian Affairs, and constituent concerns. There is a gap during the Civil War years, but the correspondence continues in 1865 with a letter from Reagan addressed to President Andrew Johnson while Reagan was held in solitary confinement at Fort Warren. Additional letters address Reagan's open letter to the people of Texas, in which he attempts to reconcile the differences between the South and North and hasten the process of restoration. After Reagan returns to political life, the correspondence shifts from matters concerning the Civil War and begins to focus predominantly on Texas political concerns during Reconstruction, particularly those pertaining to commerce. Several documents discuss the appropriation of funds for the construction of a channel in Galveston, while others refer to postal and railway matters. Though interstate commerce and railroads become more of the focus near the end of the series, letters from Reagan's period with the Texas Railroad Commission are not present. Included in Correspondence are two typed copies of letters from the James H. Starr Papers of the University of Texas Library. The first of these letters pertains to Reagan's appointment to the special position of running the agency of the Post Office Department West of the Mississippi. The second letter similarly pertains to the creation of the separate Post Office Department, but particularly relates to the financial matters that such a separation entails, the instantiation of which is the establishment of a bureau of the Treasury Department for the Trans-Mississippi District.
Arrangement
Materials are arranged chronologically.
Preferred Citation
(Identify the item), Correspondence, John H. Reagan collection. Archives and Information Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Box
1910/004-1 Correspondence, 1835-1849
Correspondence, 1852
Correspondence, 1853
Correspondence, 1854-1855
Correspondence, 1856-1857
Correspondence, 1858
Correspondence, 1859-1860
Correspondence, 1864
[typed copies]
Correspondence, 1865
Correspondence, 1866
Correspondence, 1867-1868
Correspondence, 1869
Correspondence, 1870-1875
Correspondence, 1876
Correspondence, 1877-1879
Correspondence, 1880-1882
Correspondence, 1883
Correspondence, 1884
[1 of 3 folders]
Box
1910/004-2 Correspondence, 1884
[2 of 3 folders]
Correspondence, 1884
[3 of 3 folders]
Correspondence, 1887

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Literary production, 1886, 1905, undated,
0.32 cubic ft.

Literary production includes Reagan's memoirs and select manuscripts dating 1886, 1905 and undated. The memoirs form the majority of this series, consisting of a duplicate copy of the original work, with editor corrections and additions. The autobiographical work is primarily focused on Reagan's political experiences during and after the Civil War. It details the motivations behind his political ideologies and his interactions with other members in the U.S. House of Representatives, in Congress, and in the Confederate cabinet. The memoirs also address postal and railway issues related to Reagan's positions as Postmaster General of the Confederacy, chairman of the Railroad Commission, member of the Committee on Commerce, and member of the Post Office Expenditures Committee. There are five assorted manuscripts that cover a range of topics including the fifty cent dollar and coinage concerns, the abolition of slavery, the Democratic Congressional Convention, and the Democratic Party.
Organization
Materials are organized into two subseries:
Memoirs, 1905, 0.3 cubic ft.
Manuscripts, 1886, undated, 0.02 cubic ft.
Preferred Citation
(Identify the item and cite the subseries), Literary production, John H. Reagan collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Memoirs, 1905,
0.3 cubic ft.
The memoirs consist of a duplicate, typewritten copy of the original work as it was in 1905, with editor corrections and additions. The memoirs consist of 20 chapters, and appendices A through I, with appendices E and F missing or edited out. The memoirs pertain to Reagan's life insofar as the events are related to matters of a political or governmental nature. During the war years, they make mention of Confederate cabinet meetings and discussions, the Hampton Roads Conference, Reagan's management of the post office and postal service, and several Civil War campaigns, such as those of 1864 and 1865. The difficulties of the South are detailed in the immediate aftermath of the war, and upon his return to political office, the memoirs close with a summary of the bills and laws that he was involved in passing.
Arrangement
Materials are arranged in chapter sequence according to the original order.
Preferred Citation
(Identify the item), Memoirs, Literary production, John H. Reagan collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Box
1910/004-2 Memoirs, Chapters 1-4, 1905
Memoirs, Chapters 5-7, 1905
Memoirs, Chapters 8-9, 1905
Memoirs, Chapters 10-13, 1905
Memoirs, Chapters 14-16, 1905
Memoirs, Chapters 17-18, 1905
Memoirs, Chapters 19-20, Appendix A, B, 1905
Memoirs, Appendix C, D, G, H, I, 1905
Manuscripts, 1886, undated,
fractional
Manuscripts include essays, a speech, and opinion pieces of a political nature. Two of the manuscripts relate to currency: one of them is an essay on the fifty-cent dollar, and the other refers to the economic consequences of the demonetization of silver dollars, as it was passed by Congress in 1873. The speech in this subseries appears to either be a copy or a draft of a speech given at the Democratic Congressional Convention of 1886. The other two manuscripts present Reagan's thoughts on the joint resolution to abolish slavery, and the contemporaneous activities of the Democratic Party.
Arrangement
Materials are arranged in mostly chronological order, with undated material coming at the end of the subseries.
Preferred Citation
(Identify the item), Manuscripts, Literary production, John H. Reagan collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Box
1910/004-2 Literary efforts, 1886, undated
Unsigned note, undated

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Printed material, 1859-1892,
fractional

Printed material includes a collection of political pamphlets ranging in date from 1859 to 1892. Subjects of potential interest include several reports of the Postmaster General throughout the 1860s, a U.S. House of Representatives Minority Report addressing the repeal of slave laws (which appears to have a note in Reagan's hand on it, dated April 12, 1859), one of Reagan's speeches concerning the silver dollar, and several speeches by other political figures and congressmen.
Arrangement
Materials are arranged mainly in chronological order.
Preferred Citation
(Identify the item), Printed material, John H. Reagan collection. Archives and Information Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Box
1910/004-2 Pamphlets, 1859-1892 [3 folders]

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Commission of George W. Smyth, 1835,
fractional

Commission of George W. Smyth, dated 1835, is an officially stamped and sealed copy of the original "Translation of the Commission of the Citizen G.W. Smyth for the Issuing Titles in the Department of Nacogdoches," and is from the James H. Starr Papers, held by Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. G.W. Smyth was appointed special commissioner by the governor of Coahuila and Texas in 1835 to issue titles to the inhabitants of Nacogdoches. The inclusion of this commission in this collection may be related to Reagan's time as deputy surveyor for parts of the Nacogdoches and Houston land districts in 1840.
Arrangement
Series consists of a single document.
Preferred Citation
(Identify the item), Commission of George W. Smyth, John H. Reagan collection. Archives and Information Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Box
1910/004-2 George W. Smyth commission, 1835

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Scrapbooks and scrapbook materials, 1892, undated,
0.75 cubic ft.

Scrapbooks contains three scrapbooks, one dating 1892, while the other two are undated. The scrapbooks consist mainly of newspaper clippings referencing Reagan's judgeship and time in Congress. Additional materials pasted in the books include pamphlets of political speeches, as well as obituaries, funeral notices, a few letters, poems and political announcements.
Arrangement
Materials are arranged according to size.
Preferred Citation
(Identify the item), Scrapbooks and scrapbook materials, John H. Reagan collection. Archives and Information Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Box
1910/004-3 Scrapbook, clippings, undated
Scrapbook, clippings, 1892
Box
1910/004-4 Pictorial History of Texas by Homer S. Thrall, with clippings, undated

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