The Tip of the Iceberg

During NIGR week in July in Washington, DC, we went on an evening field trip to the DAR Library. For no good reason (other than there are too many places to go), I had only been there once before. It is beautiful! I looked forward to returning to …

During NIGR week in July in Washington, DC, we went on an evening field trip to the DAR Library.  For no good reason (other than there are too many places to go),  I had only been there once before.  It is beautiful!  I looked forward to returning to its open stacks, particularly the rich geographical resources organized by state, and within that, by county.  As on my previous visit last December, I made a beeline to resources on distant states of interest – like New Hampshire, Texas, Arkansas, and Alabama.

In the Travis County, Texas, section, I ran across the Austin Genealogical Society Quarterly, shelved with periodic index volumes.  I stood in the aisle and pulled the index volumes out one by one looking for the name Walling, our grandmother’s maiden name.   One index had a Walling entry pointing to an issue dated 1974, Vol. XV, No. 3, pp. 93-94.

Bingo!  as I say to myself very quietly in such moments….after all, I’m in the stacks.

The Walling mentioned in the 1974 article was indeed one of ours — namely, George Washington Walling, Sr., father of Cora Walling, about whose marriages I’ve previously written (Part I and The Conclusion For Now.)

George, along with about twenty of his neighbors, signed a petition that was presented to a Travis County judge in 1884, requesting the organization of a school to be known as the Spicewood School Community.  The building itself was erected in 1883, measured 20 x 32 feet, and was located on Burnet Road seven miles from Austin, “sheltered from cold northers and also open to summer breezes.”

The petition included a list of children, ranging in age from six to 15, who would attend the school.  Four of Cora’s younger siblings are listed: Thos. B, 15, Mary Ella, 13, Richard B., 11, and Louise, 8.

The unnamed author of the article aptly pointed out the significance of the petition – “a composite picture of Spicewood Community families in 1884” —  and in a non-census year, to boot!  It’s what Elizabeth Shown Mills calls a FAN club  —  friends, associates, and neighbors.  Researching those individuals can shed much light on the lives of one’s direct ancestors.

All in all, it was a very nice find.  So why did I call this post “The Tip of the Iceberg”?   Because the article, titled “Spicewood School Community 1884,” cited as ITS source the Walling Papers 2-23/1008 at the Texas State Archives.

Walling Papers?  There are papers?  Be still, my beating heart!

Although a search of the Texas State Library and Archives online catalog and the website itself did not turn up a collection titled “Walling,” I dialed the reference telephone number and said, “at least some time in 1974, there was a collection called the Walling Papers.”  The librarian wasn’t very familiar with manuscript collections but it wasn’t long before I heard back from another person who was.  It wasn’t much longer before I was provided with a copying estimate. And when I hadn’t responded to an email that had somehow hit my spam folder, I got a follow-up telephone call because they remembered how interested I was (to put it mildly.)  And now the packet of 316 pages, copies of the Walling Papers 2-23/1008, has arrived.

Here is a summary of what it includes, besides a copy of the actual petition that was transcribed in the Austin Genealogical Society Quarterly  — and what I’ll be highlighting here in the next few months:

  • Narratives (circa 1913) written by George Washington Walling (1828-1916) on a variety of topics including his childhood in Monmouth County, New Jersey, his Civil War service, as well as essays on “the care of the orchard”,  the importance of birds to farmers, and classical education
  • Extensive (!) genealogical notes and correspondence maintained by his son, Thomas B. Walling (1868-1959); known as “Uncle Tom”, he really was our grandmother’s uncle
  • Correspondence, dated 1905-1910, between George and Tom – each describing their travels to both east and west coasts
  • A feature article about “Uncle Tom” that includes extensive biographical information and a picture
  • A very sentimental letter dated 1912 from George Washington Walling, Jr., to his brother and business partner Tom, written on Hotel Astor (NY) stationary
  • And, saving the best for last – George Washington Walling, Sr.’s memorandum book, kept during his Civil War service covering at least some portions of 1864 and 1865!  Mind you, it’s hard to read but I’ll pull out what I can.

Here’s a picture of our great great grandfather, George Washington Walling, Sr.  You could get to know him pretty well.


My thanks to the staff of the Texas State Library and Archives!  I regret that I did not catch a single individual’s name but I am very impressed on all levels with TSLA service. In my “other” life, I work for the University of Maryland Archives and Manuscripts Department, so I know whereof I speak.  I also know how challenging and labor-intensive it is to describe vast holdings so that they can be easily found.  Yes, I love online catalogs, but a knowledgeable, professional,  efficient, and fairly compensated staff is the best finding aid available.

And to my fellow genealogical researchers — never give up hope!  A manuscript collection with your surname might be around the very next corner.

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