University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the Washington Swisher Rector Papers, 1837, 1860-1906

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Rector, Washington Swisher, 1845-1918
Title: Rector, Washington Swisher, papers
Dates: 1837, 1860-1906
Accession No.: 85-012, 89-086, 2004-061
Extent: 1 ft., 6 in.
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Note

Descended from German immigrant John Jacob Rector, Washington Swisher Rector (1845-1918) grew up in Rhea County, Tennessee, after his parents Jesse and Sarah (Stout) Rector moved from Rectortown, Virginia. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, sixteen-year-old Rector signed on with Company E of the Twenty-sixth Tennessee Infantry in the Confederate Army. Union forces captured Rector in 1864 and released him at the end of the war. He completed a bachelor’s degree in science at Sequatchie College in Bledsoe County, Tennessee, in 1870. Around this time, several members of the Rector family moved from Tennessee to Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas in order to escape poor economic conditions.

Washington Swisher Rector moved to Texas, working as a schoolteacher in several counties before settling in the Fort Worth area in 1872. He married former pupil Myra Melinda Selvidge (b. 1859) in 1878, and they had fourteen children, including cowboy photographer Ray Rector. The family moved to Indian Gap in Hamilton County before settling in the newly developed Fisher County, lured by the promise of cheap land. Rector built the family’s still-standing home by hand. He held a number of positions in the county government, including land surveyor and county and district clerk (1884-1894). Additionally, he operated the first dairy farm in the county (1872-1917). An active citizen in the county, Rector served as a member of the Immigration Society and helped organize the Rotan Masonic Lodge.

In 1917, the Rectors and eight of their children moved to California, where Rector died a year later.


Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Rector, Washington Swisher," (accessed August 23, 2010).

King, Larry. Rector Records: Ancestors and Descendants of John Jacob Rector and Elizabeth Fischbach: 1714 immigrants from Trupbach, Germany to Germanna, Virginia. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986.

Scope and Contents

The Washington Swisher Rector Papers, 1837, 1860-1906, document the activities of Rector and his wife Myra as well as the Rector, Selvidge, and Stout family members in Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee. The collection primarily consists of 650 letters written by Rector during his service in the Confederate Army, as a student at Sequatchie College in Tennessee, as a teacher and dairy farmer in Texas, and as Fisher County clerk. Letters to Rector during the Civil War from relatives, friends, and fellow Confederate soldiers describe camp life in Tennessee and Kentucky, recounting the election of officers, "conscripting raids," and other events. Post-Civil War correspondence discusses courtships, marriages and weddings, births, illnesses and deaths, religion, education, farming, ranching, business ventures, prices of goods, land purchases, and migration to the West. The Ku Klux Klan and the Prohibition movement in Texas are also mentioned.

The Rector family photograph album contains pictures of family and friends. Broadsides and printed material pertain to freemasonry, school funding, textbook purchasing, and related topics Additional items in the collection include a Rector family deed; receipts and other financial records; school subscription lists; an early plat map of Fisher County; and essays, poems, and speeches by Rector. Furthermore, the collection contains an annotated index to the papers, typed excerpts of selected letters, and full transcripts of numerous letters, literary productions, and other materials within the collection.


Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Rector, Washington Swisher, 1845-1918 -- Archives
Rector, Myra Selvidge, b. 1859
Rector family
Selvidge family
Stout family
Subjects (Organizations)
Confederate States of America. Army. Tennessee Infantry Regiment, 26th.
Sequatchie College (Bledsoe County, Tenn.)
Farms and farming -- Texas.
Teachers and teaching -- Texas.
Texas -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
Benton County (Ark.) -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
Tennessee -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Prisoners and prisons.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Washington Swisher Rector Papers, 1837, 1860-1906, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Processing Information

This collection contains unprocessed materials.

Detailed Description of the Papers



2M231 Annotated index to papers, 1860-1906
2M232 Transcripts, excerpts, and envelope checklists
2M233 Letters, 1874-1893 and undated
Deeds, receipts, school subscription lists, plat map, printed material, 1837-1867-1893, and undated
Literary productions: Essays, poems, and speech by W.S. Rector, 1869 and undated
2.325/V34 Oversize documents: Letters, 1871, 1874
3Y523 Rector family photograph album