Archive Page 2

Austin Friends of Folk Art Collection

The Travis County Archives is pleased to announce a partnership between Travis County and the Austin Friends of Folk Art, to store AFFA’s collection of artifacts, photographs, materials and objects at the Travis County Archives. We look forward to making these items available to the public through exhibits and displays throughout county buildings.

Burnished pot from Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, Priscilla Murr New Mexican Collection, Travis County Archives

Burnished pot from Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, Priscilla Murr New Mexican Collection, Travis County Archives

Polychrome clay tree of life candelabra with owls from Izucar de Matamoros, Mexico, Jean Mikeska collection, Travis County Archives

Polychrome clay tree of life candelabra with owls from Izucar de Matamoros, Mexico, Jean Mikeska collection, Travis County Archives


Media Services photograph collection

From the 1980s until the 2000s, Travis County Media Services, a division of Travis County Records Management and Communication Resources, photographed a variety of subjects, including the work and activities of Travis County elected officials and employees, county parks and natural areas, and local elections. The Travis County Archives recently added photographs, negatives and slides from the Media Services Department to its photographs collection.

Hamilton Pool, 1993

Hamilton Pool, 1993

Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire and Commissioners Bruce Todd and Pam Reed at the opening of the Southwest Parkway, 1987

Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire and Commissioners Bruce Todd and Pam Reed at the opening of Southwest Parkway, 1987

Instructions for using a punchcard voting machine, undated

Instructions for using a punchcard voting machine, undated


The Travis County Seal

Transparent TC Logo

The Travis County seal was designed by County Treasurer Johnny Crow and adopted in 1975. A document called “The Legend of the Official Travis County Flag and Seal” details the history of the seal:

An act of the 64th Legislature of the State of Texas in 1975 amending article 2344, enabled the counties of Texas to optionally allow an official seal to be designed depicting imagery indigenous to their respective counties.

Such a seal for Travis County was designed and submitted to Judge Mike Renfro (1971-1986) by Johnny Crow (1959-1986), County Treasurer of Travis County.

The Judge liked the design and brought the same before the Commissioner’s Court for their consideration and possible adoption.

The seal’s overall design is original, but the symmetry and dignity of the famous State seal remains; it uniquely preserves the oak and pecan tree wreath as it encircles the Texas Lone Star (which is as it should be since county government is an arm of the State). Travis County government was created out of the Mina District of the Texas Republic in 1839, thus the date is portrayed so prominently.

Things in the seal that are indigenous to Travis County are fairly obvious in silhouette form, viz: The State Capitol building, the University of Texas tower, the City of Austin skyline and two vapor trailing Bergstrom AFB jets. Other pertinent forms depicted, yet somewhat less indigenous are a hill country white-tailed deer bounding over a native cactus, a farmer plowing on the rolling east plains, a sailboat sailing on highland lakes…and lastly the perennial justice scales as they symbolize the Travis County and District Court systems.

In summary, the seal is intended to categorically symbolize through imagery the governmental, educational, industrial, military, farming, ranching and recreational factors that predominantly represent the life and economy of the citizenry of Travis County.

The seal was officially adopted and is recorded in the court minutes of June 16, 1975, volume 16 page 371. The following were the presiding officials of the adoption order:

Judge Mike Renfro

Commissioner David Samuelson, Pct. 1

Commissioner Bob Honts, Pct. 2

Commissioners Johnny Vidouris, Pct. 3

Commissioner Richard Moya, Pct. 4


One of the most noticeable aspects of the Travis County seal is 1839 date. Because Travis County was formally established by an act of the Republic of Texas Congress on January 25, 1840, the 1839 date is a curious detail.


It may be that the date came from the very first entry in the first volume of Commissioners Court minutes, which is dated February 15, 1839. This entry records a proclamation by Chief Justice James W. Smith that divided the county into four militia beats. Closer examination, however, shows that the 1839 date was likely written in error.


The next entries in the Commissioners Court minutes, which assign Justices of the Peace to patrol the militia beats, date from March, 1840. More importantly, James W. Smith was not elected by the Republic of Texas Senate as Chief Justice of Travis County until January 30, 1840, five days after Travis County was established. In fact, James W. Smith did not move to Austin until the fall of 1839. All of these clues indicate that the date should have been February 1840 rather than 1839.

That is not to say, however, that Travis County did not exist in 1839, at least in theory and in name. An election return from October 1839 records the election of a first lieutenant to patrol a militia beat in Travis County. According to this document, the name “Travis County” was already in use by some of the area’s early residents. According to the journals of the Republic of Texas House of Representatives, the name for Travis County was officially proposed and carried on December 16, 1839 (names that did not carry included Campbell, Lamar, and Wharton). So, although Travis County was not formally established until 1840, discussions about the formation of the county were well underway in 1839.

Extension Service Reports from the 1950s

The Archives recently uncovered 3 partial reports from Travis County Extension agents to the Commissioners Court, dating from the 1950s. These items would have been great additions to Travis County History Day 2014, the theme of which was 100 Years of Extension Services in Travis County. Click the links to view the reports, which include photographs of various home economics, 4-H, and agriculture activities from the time period.

Elmo Cook Report, 1950

Agriculture Report, 1953

Opal Washington Report, 1953


Preservation work of the Travis County District Clerk

In 2008, District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza launched an important project to identify District Court case files of historical significance and to preserve them in their original form for future use and reference. With the assistance of an archivist, and in collaboration with several notable judges, lawyers, and the District Attorney, case files dating from as early as the 1890s through the present were identified and preserved.

Two cases of particular note include case no. 51,394, R.S. Sterling v. Miriam A. Ferguson, et al., 1932, and case no. 74,945, Heman Marion Sweatt v. Theophilus Shickel Painter, et al., 1946. The District Clerk’s Office has provided for the preservation of both of these cases, and they have also been digitized and made available online.

For more about the Sterling v. Ferguson case, please read the Texas Bar Journal’s article on the topic. Click here to view the digitized case.

For more about the Sweatt v. Painter case, please visit the Handbook of Texas entry. Click here to view the digitized case.

To read more about the District Clerk’s preservation work, please visit Ms. Rodriguez-Mendoza will be retiring at the end of 2014, having served in that office since 1991. Her dedication to the preservation of important Travis County records and history is very much appreciated and will long be remembered.

Sweatt Painter Statement of Facts cover

Travis County History Day 2014

Many thanks to everyone who came out and celebrated our 7th annual History Day and 100 years of Extension Services in Travis County! A big thank you also goes out to everyone who helped make History Day such a successful event: our committee; special speaker Dr. Doug Steele, Director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service; County Judge and emcee Samuel T. Biscoe; the student performers; the area families who contributed their artifacts, photos and stories; and finally, our sponsors – the Travis County Archives, the Austin Bar Association, the Austin History Center, the Travis County Historical Commission, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.


Travis County History Day 2014

2014 TCHD Flyer

Flickr Photos

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