A Guide to the Lena Dancy Ledbetter Papers, 1830-1950
Lena Dancy Ledbetter (1850-1936), civic leader, housewife, and amateur composer, was born to John Winfield Scott Dancy and Lucy Ann Nowlin in La Grange, Texas. John Winfield Scott Dancy, an attorney and politician, owned a plantation outside of La Grange. Lena Dancy Ledbetter lived near La Grange during the Civil War, meeting many historical figures, including Sam Houston, Robert E. Lee, General John Bankhead Magruder, and Francis R. Lubbock. At 14, Lena Dancy, interested in weaving, spun and wove a day dress completely by hand.
In the latter half of the 1860s she was sent to school at the Carnatz Institute in New Orleans. Upon graduation in 1870, she married James Peacock Ledbetter, an attorney from Round Top, Texas. They had five daughters and two sons together. In 1888, they moved to Coleman, Texas, to start a ranch and Lena became involved in social and religious activities. Active in the Episcopal Church, Lena was the secretary of the Ladies’ Cemetery Association and a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
In addition to her activities in the community, Lena was an avid singer and composer, who organized a home orchestra, a ladies’ orchestra, and a music club of thirty members, which was expanded into a federated club focused on literature, art, music, and child study. Interested in history, Lena Dancy donated many of her possessions and her papers to various museums and archives, such as the Texas Memorial Museum, the Barker Texas History Center, and the Daughters of the American Revolution museum. Lena Dancy Ledbetter died in 1936.
Cook, Gertrude Harris. “Memoirs of a Texas Plantation Belle,” The Dallas Morning News, March 22, 1931.
Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. “Dancy, John Winfield Scott,“ http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/DD/fda7.html (accessed June 23, 2010).
Correspondence, clippings, printed materials, postcards, books, and photographs comprise the Lena Dancy Ledbetter Papers, 1830-1950, which pertain to Ledbetter’s reminiscences and activities as a member of many community associations and an amateur composer. Her papers provide significant details about Civil War life on the Texas home front, especially regarding the creation of textiles. Notably, her papers include a book of patterns for weaving counterpanes (bed coverings) on the loom, 1862-1865. In addition to her reminiscences, the papers document Ledbetter’s activities as a society leader in Coleman, Texas, in the late 19th century. The photographs in the papers depict members of Ledbetter’s family and other notable historical figures, such as John Winfield Scott Dancy, Peyton Wade Nowlin, and Guy M. Bryan. In addition, the papers include a photograph of a hickory chair sat on by Sam Houston and photographic postcards showing La Grange, Austin, and San Antonio.
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Lena Dancy Ledbetter Papers, 1830-1950, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s "History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light" project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers