A Guide to the Oscar Waldo Williams Papers, 1894-1943
Lawyer, surveyor, historian, and county judge Oscar Waldo Williams (1853-1946), originally from Kentucky, grew up in Carthage, Illinois, and attended school at Christian University in Canton, Missouri, and Bethany College in West Virginia. He earned a law degree from Harvard University in 1876.
Due to his contraction of tuberculosis, Williams moved to Dallas, Texas, in 1877 for its dry climate. He initially worked as a surveyor of public lands, including counties and cities in West Texas as well as the land that became the city of Lubbock. Additionally, Williams unsuccessfully prospected for silver in New Mexico in 1880. He accepted the position of deputy county surveyor for Pecos County in 1884 and moved his family to Fort Stockton. Two years later, he became a surveyor and land agent for the University of Texas. In that same year, 1886, he won the election for Pecos County judge, holding the position until 1888, when he lost his seat due to his support of Prohibition. However, he regained his judgeship in 1892, serving for eight more years.
Following his time as county judge, Williams began a law practice in Fort Stockton and acquired large amounts of land in Pecos County. In 1901, he went on a survey trip to Big Bend with the Texas State Mineral Survey from the University of Texas. They conducted a field study of the animals, plant life, and minerals in the region; Williams himself discovered two new species of ants.
Williams, deeply interested in history, began to write historical narratives, publishing the article “Route of Cabeza de Vaca in Texas” in the Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association in 1899. Along with writing his reminiscences, Brief Story of My Life, he published several pamphlets, such as The Big Snow of 1878 in 1933 and Muddy Wilson and the Buffalo Stampede in 1938. Williams married Sallie Wheat in 1881; they had several children including Waldo, Clayton, and J. C. He died in 1946 and is buried near Fort Stockton.
Source: Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. “Williams, Oscar Waldo,” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/WW/fwi32.html (accessed August 4, 2010).
Correspondence, printed material, newspaper clippings, and typescripts comprise the Oscar Waldo Williams Papers, 1894-1943, and document Williams’ activities as an amateur historian and his relationship with his children. Transcripts of letters and documents, spanning from 1894 to 1943, compose the bulk of the papers. These transcripts consist mainly of correspondence to his children. Additionally, the collection contains original letters written by Williams and sent to his son J. C., who worked for a Texas export company in various exotic locales, such as China, France, and Puerto Rico. The topics of the letters range from daily events to Williams’ historical writing and research. The printed material and newspaper clippings, all written by Williams, include copies of “Route of Cabeza de Vaca in Texas,” Brief Story of My Life, and In Old Mexico as well as various editorials and letters to the editor.
The collection is open for research use.
Oscar Waldo Williams Papers, 1894-1943, 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