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Robert Hancock Hunter


A Guide to the Robert Hancock Hunter Collection
1834-1955
Collection 118

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Descriptive Summary

Creators:                  
Robert Hancock Hunter, William P. Burke

Title:                         
Robert Hancock Hunter Collection

Dates:                       
1834-1955

Abstract:                   
The papers of Texas Revolutionary veteran Robert Hancock Hunter span four generations of the Hunter-Burke family. R. H. Hunter (1813-1901) was a one of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred” settlers and served as a soldier throughout the Texas Revolution. Of note in this collection is his 1884 handwritten memoir. Hunter’s daughter, Mary Martha, married William Burke and this collection also contains family papers collected and preserved by R.  H. Hunter’s grandson, W. P. Burke, and great-grandson, Robert J. (Bob) Burke.

Identification:           
Collection 118

Extent:                     
2 boxes, 1 map case folder (1 linear foot)

Language:                 
English

Repository:               
The Wittliff Collections, Texas State University
 

Biographical Sketches

Robert Hancock Hunter (1813-1901)

Robert Hancock Hunter was born on May 1, 1813, in Circleville, Ohio, the fourth of the fourteen children of Mary Martha (neé Harbert) and Dr. Johnson Calhoun Hunter. The family moved to Texas in March 1822. Johnson Hunter had eleven children, including Robert Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, William, and Thaddeus Warsaw Hunter. Robert H. Hunter is best known for his memoir, The Narrative of Robert H. Hunter, 1813-1902, which recounts his military service during the Texas Revolution.  The memoir also recounts how Dr. Johnson C. Hunter traded with the Veramendi family of San Antonio, Texas, in the early 1820s and moved his family to Texas to become one of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred” colonists. The memoir describes the family’s arrival at Galveston and settlement on the Texas coast near present day Harris and Fort Bend counties.

Hunter’s military service began with his participation in the Grass Fight and the Siege of Bexar in 1835. In the spring of 1836, he joined James R. Perry’s command in a futile attempt to to William B. Travis’s command at the Alamo. Hunter’s group then joined General Houston’s army during the retreat from Gonzales to Harrisburg. Ordered to guard the baggage at Harrisburg during the Battle of San Jacinto, Hunter afterwards reclaimed a bit of glory by helping guard the captured Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

Following the Revolution, Hunter left the military to return to farming and stock-raising in Fort Bend County. In 1841 he married Samirah M. Beard. The Hunters had seven children. In 1850 he and his family moved to Victoria where he wrote his memoir. The original manuscript of the Narrative is in the Texas State Library and Archives in Austin, Texas.

In 1880, Robert moved to Flatonia, Texas, where he lived until his death in 1901.

William Burke (1835-1927)

Robert H. Hunter’s daughter, Mary Martha (1842-1903), married William Burke in 1865. William’s parents, James Burke (1797-1873) and Martha Ogden Burke (1805-1897), migrated to Texas in 1845 from Arkansas and settled in Fayette County in 1850, where they farmed. One of eleven children, William was born in Arkansas around 1835. He fought in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. After the war, he resumed farming in Fayette County, Texas, where he died in 1927.

William Pinkney Burke (1867-1951)

William Pinkney “Pink” Burke was the grandson Robert H. Hunter. Born on July 13, 1867, in Flatonia, Texas, W.P. Burke was the second child of Mary Martha and William Burke. He had two brothers, Robert J. and Edward M.

Raised on his father’s farm in Fayette County, Texas, W.P. Burke worked for some period around 1890 in Hallettsville, Texas. He lived in Ellendale, Louisiana, before his marriage to Rosa Eells Jackson (1874-1954) of Assumption, Louisiana, on February 14, 1900. (Based on notations in these papers, Rosa’s nickname may have been “Binnie.”). The W.P. Burkes lived in Louisiana, where all their children were born, until at least 1908. Those children were: Robert J. (b. 1902), Ringold Dudley (1903-1934), Dorothy (1905-1989), and Valerie (1907-1994). Valerie was born at Rebecca Plantation, just north of Houma, Louisiana.

Around 1915, the Burkes moved to San Antonio, Texas, where W.P. worked as a custodian for the United States Army’s Eighth Corps Area. His career ended in the mid-1930s when he became disabled. He died in San Antonio in 1951 of coronary thrombosis and is buried in the city’s San Fernando Cemetery #3. 

Others

In addition to material from William and W.P. Burke, the Burke Family papers contain material from W.P.’s: grandfather James, brother Robert J., brother Edward M., and son Robert J. (“Bob”) Burke. There is also material from Bob Burke’s family. Bob Burke married Edith Perkins (b. 1903) and had two children: William E. (b. 1931) and Virginia (1933-1995).

Other names that appear in the Burke Family papers include: Lewis Beard (a Hunter in-law), Joysina Walker (William’s sister-in-law), Jonathan Burke, cousins B. W. Cooke and Mamie Richardson.

Scope and Content Notes

The papers of Texas Revolutionary veteran Robert Hancock Hunter actually span four generations of the Hunter-Burke family. R.H. Hunter (1813-1901) was a one of Stephen F.Austin’s “Old Three Hundred” settlers and served as a soldier throughout the Texas Revolution.His daughter Mary Martha married William Burke and this collection contains papers collected and preserved by R.H. Hunter’s grandson, W.P. Burke, and great-grandson, Robert J. (Bob) Burke. The collection was purchased at auction in 2010.

This collection contains multiple versions of R.H. Hunter’s memoir, published in 1936 as The Narrative of Robert Hancock Hunter, 1813-1902. (Note: The original manuscript of the Narrative is in the Texas State Archives. The Briscoe Center for American History has a Hunter diary. Another diary by Hunter, concerning local weather in Flatonia Texas for the years 1884-1895, is in the Baylor University Library). In addition, there are papers relating to other Hunter family business and of four generations of the Burke family.

The papers are divided into four series: The Narrative of Robert Hancock Hunter; Hunter Family Papers; Burke Family Papers; and Oversize Material. The period covered is from 1834 to roughly the mid-twentieth century, with the bulk of the material from the late nineteenth century through the 1930s. The majority of the material consists of the correspondence and business papers of the Hunter and Burke families in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Series I: The Narrative of Robert Hancock Hunter, 1813-1902
Boxes 1 and 3

There are four versions of Hunter’s narrative. Three were penned by Robert Hancock Hunter (The Narrative of Robert Hancock Hunter, 1813-1902), and one by his brother, Thomas J. Hunter. Of note is the stenograph pad with an unpublished, 1884 handwritten version of R. H.  Hunter’s memoir. Material found in this version absent from the memoir’s published version includes: Hunter’s education; cholera; how a Mexican Catholic’s reading of the Bible led to a career as a type-setter for printer Gail Borden; farm work (well-digging, brick-making; yoke mending); fights with Indians; and an incident of drunkenness. 

Series II: The Hunter Family Papers, 1846-1936, and undated
Box 1

The Hunter Family Papers are arranged in six subseries: Correspondence Relating to the Hunter Family History; Other Correspondence; Business and Legal Material; Pension Application of R.H. Hunter; Photographs; and Printed Material.

The bulk of the correspondence contains letters that relate to the family’s history. In several letters to his brothers and to Andrew Jackson Sowell, R.H. Hunter continues to discuss the particulars of his memoirs, almost to the end of his life. Other letters from Hunter to Sowell discuss a fight with Indians at Richmond, Texas and Dr. Johnson Hunter. There are two letters from Texas General Land Agent T.L. Wren discussing military service in the Texas Revolution. One letter comments on Hunter’s tale of how he obtained the rifle he used during his military service.

Other Correspondence includes a letter written by Dr. Johnson C. Hunter, dated 1846 and

describing the hardships of life in the Republic of Texas. Other letters in this group discuss life and events during the Civil War.

Business and Legal Documents cover fifty years of business and legal transactions of the Hunter family. The papers include store ledgers, land deeds, and contracts. There are several land tax receipts and an 1855 receipt for the purchase of oxen.     

Pension Application of R. H. Hunter includes a list of his service dates and commands in support of his application for a pension for service in the Texas Revolutionary Army. This matter supplements the information about his service in the Narrative and various letters. One of the supporting documents is in the Oversized Folder. 

Photographs include three images – two of the four Hunter brothers (R.H., T.J., William., and T.W.) posed together and with their families. R.H. is presumed to be among the Veterans of the Texas Revolution reunion who were photographed as a group at their reunion in Belton, Texas, around 1883. 

Printed Material contains: a poem of unknown provenance, a handwritten list of Texas Navy Commodores, a note about an item in the Atlanta Constitution newspaper, and an invitation to the San Jacinto Monument dedication in 1900.

Series III: The Burke Family Papers, 1834-1955, and undated,
Box 2 and oversize

The Burke Family Papers span 1834-1955 and is arranged in in five subseries: Correspondence; Business and Legal Materials; W.P. Burke Pension Material; Genealogy; and Photographs.

Correspondence is divided into three sections: William P. Burke; William Burke; and R.J. Burke and Others. The William P. Burke correspondence spans 1890-1935 and contains letters to and from W.P. Burke. An 1890 letter to his father reveals that W.P. worked in Hallettsville, Tx., at an unspecified job. Another letter reveals that W.P. Burke was a Mason. Several letters written to W.P. on the letterhead of a Flatonia, Texas, back to W.P. provide information about E.M. Burke’s occupation. A 1935 letter to W.P. from his son Robert J. (Bob) describes Bob’s life working in the Civilian Conservation Corps forestry camp in Ellsinore, Missouri.

The William Burke Correspondence spans 1890-1918, and his correspondence consists of letters to and from his brothers and cousins, most containing family news. And finally, the R.J. Burke and Others Correspondence span 1921-1929 and include two telegrams in 1929 to Bob Burke regarding a ring and a 1921 letter of unknown authorship to “Bob and Thelma” with relationship advice. Bob Burke was listed as divorced on the 1930 U.S. Census, so the reference to Thelma in the 1921 letter may be to his first wife. 

Business and Legal Material is divided into four sections: W.P. Burke; William Burke; James Burke; and Other Business Records. The Business and Legal material of W.P. Burke spans 1897-1955 and includes deeds and letters relating to a company called the Flatonia Oil Prospect. During World War I, W.P. Burke and his spouse conveyed or leased land to that company. A few years later, the land was re-conveyed to the Burkes. Correspondence indicates that W.P. Burke sought an explanation for the company’s failure to fulfill its contractual obligations.      

William Burke’s Business and Legal material spans 1845-1892 and contains tax receipts, accounts ledgers, and a school tuition receipt during the period 1845 to 1890. There is also a summons from an 1892 lawsuit against William by a Fayette County, Texas, bank. 

James Burke was W.P. Burke’s grandfather, and his business and legal materials span 1834-1865. It contains the collection’s oldest item - an 1834 letter to James Burke from planter Benjamin Ogden [possibly a relative of James’ wife] trying to secure a loan. County tax receipts show that James Burke had property in Union County Arkansas in the 1840s. A receipt for Confederate money and an 1865 receipt for 72 pounds of bacon provide some information about commercial transactions in Confederate Texas.

This collection also contains a few other business records between 1910-1922.

Material relating to the Pension application of W.P. Burke spans 1931-1936. W. P. Burke applied for a pension from the federal government based on his employment as a custodian for the U.S. Army 8th Corps Area in San Antonio.  The documents include letters in support of his application from his doctor and a business acquaintance.

Burke-Hunter Families Genealogy Materials dates from circa 1900. In November 1900, R. H. Hunter wrote a Hunter family genealogy for his grandson W.P. Burke and his wife “Binnie,” probably nickname for Rosa Jackson Burke, who had just married W.P. There are also genealogies are for the families of Dr. Johnson Hunter, Jonathan Hunter, and Paul Pressler Burke.  

The Burke photographs contain portraits and group photographs of W.P. Burke’s parents, his brothers and their wives, his children, and his grandchildren. There are several unidentified portraits and group photographs. Most of the photographs date from the first half of the twentieth century. 

Printed Material spans 1903-1955 and includes several wedding invitations for Burke-affiliated couples who married in Texas and Louisiana before World War I. Also included is an invitation to W. Lee O’Daniel’s 1939 inauguration as governor of Texas.   

Series IV: Oversize Material, 1935 and undated
Map Case Drawer 23

Oversized items include photographs, a certificate, and a broadsheet. Many of these are a part of earlier series but are housed here due to size.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open for research

Preferred Citation

Robert Hancock Hunter Collection (SWWC 118), The Wittliff Collections, Texas State University

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 2010

Processing Information

Processed by Ann Landeros and Michael Naumann, 2015

Container List: See PDF for complete inventory