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Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library Brings Texas History to Life

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In 2015, the state of Texas fired the Daughters of the Republic of Texas as Alamo caretakers. This historic women’s group fought back and won the right to keep something they believe to be sacred. They were accorded the right to curate a collection of manuscripts, various pieces of art, 38,000 photographs, and a number of maps that were highly valued by Texas historians. To house the stunning collection, they have now established the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library.

After maintaining the archives in storage for approximately a year, their library is now settled into its new San Antonio home, coming at a time when the city is highlighting its history for its 300th anniversary. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, located at the Presidio Gallery in downtown San Antonio, includes everything from historic architectural blueprints, to family documents, to a map of the Austin colony, which was hand-drawn by Stephen F. Austin himself.

“It brings San Antonio back to what it used to be, what it used to look like, how it used to feel, almost what it used to smell like, there’s so much personality,” Barbara Stevens explained to the Texas Tribune. The organization’s president went on to say, “When you look at the archives, it tells the story of early Texas, which is our mission and goal in life as the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.” To become a member of the organization, women must prove they had Texas ancestors dating back to pre-annexation by the U.S. in 1845. Since the organization’s founding in 1891, it has developed into a 7,000-member-strong, 106-chapter group throughout Texas and across the country.

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Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library Brings Texas History to Life

Photo: Facebook/KETK NBC

The state granted the Daughters of the Republic of Texas custodianship of the Alamo in 1905. Before that time, the Alamo was decaying and in need of care. The organization encouraged and promoted the rescue of the site.

George P. Bush, Texas Land Commissioner, took away their role as caretaker in 2011. Their removal followed in the wake of an investigation by the state attorney general’s office that found the Daughters’ had misused funds and neglected the mission’s maintenance, a report which the Daughters called “outrageously inaccurate.” Bush’s agency was given custodianship. Following the investigation and subsequent change of hands, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas sued the state for rights to ownership of the archive. The Daughters had their day in court and won.

The new Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, located in the Presidio Gallery of the Bexar County Archives Building, was negotiated in partnership with Texas A&M University at San Antonio and Bexar County. The building, currently home to university and county archives, now also holds the Daughters’ collection. It’s the Daughters’ hope that San Antonio’s tricentennial celebration will bring new light and interest to this collection. It includes a signed copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence which once belonged to Samuel Maverick, as well as paintings done by Theodore Gentilz (a San Antonio artist known for his works involving Mexican San Antonians in the 1800s). The Daughters believe the collection, including these rare artworks, the architectural papers, and letters between lovers and family members, paints a clear picture of the cultural fabric of San Antonio, bringing Texas history to life.