University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the Richard Fenner Burges Papers, 1897-1940

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Burges, Richard Fenner, 1873-1945
Title: Richard Fenner Burges Papers
Dates: 1897-1940
Abstract: Correspondence, financial papers, printed materials, maps, and photographs comprise the Richard Burges Papers, 1897-1940, documenting Burges’ career as a lawyer, soldier, politician, and conservationist.
Accession No.: 45-22
Extent: 4 ft., 7 in.
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Note

Lawyer, soldier, politician, and conservationist Richard Fenner Burges (1873-1945), the son of Bettie Rust and William H. Burges, was born in Seguin, Texas. He attended Texas A&M University for one year and was admitted to the bar in 1894 after reading law in the offices of his father in El Paso and J. D. Guinn in New Braunfels. In 1898, he married Ethel Petrie Shelton, with whom he had a daughter. Burges served as El Paso city attorney and wrote the charter for the establishment of commission city government in El Paso (1907). A year later, he represented Texas at President Theodore Roosevelt's conference of governors and served as a member of the Texas House in the Thirty-third and Thirty-fourth legislatures (1913–15). In 1917, Burges commanded a battalion in the battle of the Argonne and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for distinguished service. Later, Burges was special counsel for the Texas-Rio Grande Compact Commission and from 1935 to 1940 was a special attorney for the United States Department of Justice.

A leader in water conservation in both Texas ad New Mexico, Burges was associate counsel in the Chamizal dispute with Mexico (1910-1911), president of the International Irrigation Congress (1915-1916), counsel for the El Paso County Water Improvement District, and attorney for Texas in negotiations with New Mexico over the division of Pecos River waters. Burges was also president of the Texas Forestry Association (1921-1923), belonged to the American Forestry Association, was a board member of the El Paso Public Library, the Texas State Historical Association, and the Texas History and Library Commission.

Source: “Burges, Richard Fenner.” Handbook of Texas Online. Published by the Texas State Historical Association. Accessed October 10, 2011.

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, financial papers, printed materials, maps, and photographs comprise the Richard Burges Papers, 1897-1940, documenting Burges’ career as a lawyer, soldier, politician, and conservationist. The collection consists primarily of correspondence, the bulk of which was carried on with business and political acquaintances. Business correspondence shed light on Burges’ political and military activities, as Burges maintained contact with many former soldiers and helped in their readjustment to civilian life after the First World War, and reflects both business and legal transactions. Correspondence related to familial matters chronicle Burges’ relationship with aunts, cousins, and his daughter, Jane. Project correspondence contains information related to the Banco elimination project of the Rio Grande River and the Carlsbad Caverns highway project. Financial material concern stocks and campaign contributions. Maps and photographs provide information about military activities and water conservation.



The papers are arranged into 13 series:
  • I. Business and personal correspondence, 1897-1940, undated
  • II. Project correspondence, 1923-1930, undated
  • III. Family correspondence, 1901-1919, undated
  • IV. Sam Houston letters, 1835-1837
  • V. Appointments and association memberships, 1913-1933, undated
  • VI. El Paso, Texas materials, 1900-1930, undated
  • VII. Financial materials, undated
  • VIII. Legal papers, 1913-1920, undated
  • IX. Literary productions, undated
  • X. Political materials, 1906-1938, undated
  • XI. Printed material, 1898-1939, undated
  • XII. World War I material, 1917-1926, undated
  • XIII. Maps, undated and unidentified


Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Burges, Richard Fenner, 1873-1945 -- Archives.
Bailey, Joseph Weldon, 1863-1929.
Burges, William Henry, 1867-
Dennis, William Cullen, 1878-
Hudspeth, Claude Benton, 1877-1941.
Mills, Anson, b. 1834.
Nagle, James C., 1865-
Rogan, Octavia F.
Sheppard, Morris, 1875-
Slayden, James L. (James Luther), 1853-1924.
Smith, William Robert, 1863-1924.
Taylor, T. U. (Thomas Ulvan), 1858-1941.
West, Elizabeth Howard, 1873-
Winkler, Ernest William, 1875-
Wolters, Jacob F., 1871-1935.
Subjects (Organizations)
Democratic Party (Tex.) -- History -- 20th century.
El Paso Chamber of Commerce (Tex.)
University of Texas at El Paso -- History.
University of Texas at Austin -- History.
Conservation of natural resources -- Texas.
Forests and forestry.
Irrigation -- Texas.
Military training camps -- Texas -- Photographs.
National parks and reserves -- United States.
Reclamation of land -- Texas.
Reservoirs -- Texas.
Women -- Education.
World War, 1914-1918.
Legislators -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
Politics, Practical -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
Political campaigns -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
United States -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
Texas -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
El Paso (Tex.) -- History -- 20th century.
Rio Grande.
Elephant Butte Reservoir (N.M.)
Mexico -- Boundaries -- United States.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park (N.M.)
El Chamizal (Mexico and Tex.)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Richard Fenner Burges Papers, 1897-1940, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Processing Information

Processed by Julia M. Payne, July 1982. Subsequent revisions made by Evan Usler, October 2011.

Detailed Description of the Papers


Business and personal correspondence:

2B79 1897-1907, undated
2B80 1908-1911
2B81 1911-1913
2B82 1913-1915
2B83 1915-1916
2B84 1917-1919
2B85 1920-1922
2B86 1923-1928
2B87 1929-1940, undated


Project correspondence:

2B88 Banco elimination project, 1923-1930, undated
Carlesbad Caverns highway project, 1927


Family correspondence:

2B88 Undated
January-July 1918
August-December 1918


Sam Houston letters (hand copied by Burges):

November 22, 1835
December 2, 1837


Appointments and association memberships:

2B89 1913-1933, undated


El Paso, Texas materials:

2B89 Historical notes, undated
Printed material, 1900-1930, undated


Financial material:

2B89 undated


Legal papers:

2B89 1913-1920, undated


Literary Productions:

2B89 undated


Political materials:

2B89 Chamizal arbitration report, undated
Essays and letters to the editors, undated
Printed material, 1906-1938, undated


Printed material:

2B89 1898-1939, undated


World War I material:

2B89 Accounts of battles, 1926, undated
Casualty lists, November 5-December 16, 1918
Company “A”, 141st Infantry, menus and rosters, 1917-1919
Company “B”, 1st Texas Infantry, menus and rosters, 1917
Correspondence, 1917-1919, undated
Military records, 1917-1918, undated
Requisitions for supplies, 1917-1918, undated

2B89 Maps, undated and unidentified