The past is inhabited by people, not faceless groups or impersonal trends. Stories are told through human activity. I discovered the magic and meaning of stories as a history teacher and the singular privilege of working at a Texas state archive filled with personal letters written by ordinary folks. Their voices add authenticity and richness to the historical record. Please join me as we look at history through the words of those who lived it, one document at a time.
The Texas General Land Office Archives
What is Historify?
According to the Collins Dictionary, Historify means “to tell the history of something.” Scratch the surface of a historical source and one might discover all sorts of interesting things. A casual reference in a personal letter can lead to us to a deeper understanding of the author’s time, place, and purpose in history.
Each month I’ll introduce a different Texas archive, library, or museum and highlight a document from its collection.
The History page focuses on the repository, a document from its collection (with transcript), downloadable for your convenience.
The Story page provides background information about the document.
A cursory glance at the photograph of the author, T.C. Neel, offers little insight into the fire-breathing secessionist we know him to be. Neel came to Texas in the mid-1850s from Georgia with his wife, Willia (whom I’ll highlight later), a daughter, and eighty enslaved persons, who worked Neel’s burgeoning plantation located near Waxahachie in Ellis County. College educated, Neel quickly became a member of both the Texas House and Senate and eventually was elected to represent Ellis county at the Texas Secessionist Convention, convening in Austin, in January, 1861, where its members voted overwhelmingly to secede from the United