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Osterhout Family Papers

Identifier: MS 0355
Finding aid note: Stored offsite at the Library Service Center and require 24-hour notice for retrieval. Please contact the Woodson Research Center at 713-348-2586 or for more information.

Scope and Contents

The Osterhout Family Papers detail the lives of John Patterson Osterhout and his family in Texas and in Central America during the latter half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. This collection primarily consists of the correspondence, professional records and personal effects of the Osterhout family.

The first series follows the personal life and professional career of John Osterhout from his schooldays and teaching career in Pennsylvania to his death in Belton, Texas in 1903. With respect to his personal correspondence, the collection holds many of the letters that John sent as well as those that he received; thus, it is increasingly easy to explore the day to day affairs and concerns of the man. Outside of the social value of these papers, John Osterhout's records hold a great deal of information on a variety of subjects such as the American Civil War, legal issues, state and national politics, Indian raids, slavery and the Texas Revolution.

The second series contains Paul Osterhout's personal and professional records. They chronicle his life from his academic career at Baylor College and the Jefferson Medical College in Pennsylvania, through his stay in Central America and his return to Texas. Paul's letters from school provide a good look at life in a boarding school and an out-of-town university. The records, especially the correspondence, from Nicaragua, Colombia and Panama detail a number of topics from running a plantation, to being an American in a foreign country, to combating yellow fever, to lengthy descriptions of the political changes and turmoil that Nicaragua and Colombia endured in the later 1800's and early 1900's.

Since the records of John and Paul Osterhout make up the bulk of the papers, they have been placed in their own series. The third series is dedicated to the other members of the Osterhout family and general family materials. The letters of Gertrude and Ora Osterhout, as well as Gertrude's journal, provide information on the daily affairs of the all female boarding school, Baylor Female College. The letters of Junia (Roberts) Osterhout generally are either to or from her siblings in other states. Jeremiah's correspondence is solely from his stay with his brother Paul in Nicaragua and sheds some more light on the political affairs of the country in 1894. The Wade family papers, which were added to the Osterhout family papers when Ora married into the Wade family, are dated from the 1860's and give more evidence on the American Civil War.

The Osterhout's were active Baptists and with their collection came a number of printed materials concerning the Baptist religion in Texas in the later half of the nineteenth century. Also included in this series are letters of standing for various individuals that moved to new Baptist communities. These letters give testimony to the good standing of the persons within their old church community.

The last series is made up of a number of architectural plans for houses that were designed by P. Herbert. It is assumed that they may be some of the homes that the Osterhouts resided in; however, as there is no information about these plans, it is difficult to be sure for whom these homes were designed. A few of the houses have their complete plans including the front and side exteriors, the various floors, the roofs and the foundation plans. Other houses are only partially complete.


  • Creation: 1836 - 1941
  • Creation: Majority of material found within


Access Restrictions

This material is open for research. Some items have been digitized and are available online at:

Conditions Governing Access

Stored offsite at the Library Service Center and require 24-hour notice for retrieval. Please contact the Woodson Research Center at 713-348-2586 or for more information.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the Osterhout Family - Papers must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.

Biographical Notes

The Osterhout Family Collection begins with John Patterson Osterhout (1826-1903). John was born in Pennsylvania and completed his education as a lawyer while carrying out a teaching career in that state. In 1851, John moved to Bellville, Texas in Austin County. At first, he continued to be a teacher but, in the years up until his death, John held a number of different positions - lawyer, collecting agent, newspaper editor and owner, officer in the Confederate Army, railroad company president, judge, postmaster, rancher and a store owner. As well as these varied occupations, John was prominent in the Baptist church and Masonic communities and, later in his life, he was involved in state politics. In 1859(?), he made a brief return to Pennsylvania to marry Junia Roberts.

Junia (Roberts) Osterhout was born in Pennsylvania where she met and married John and came back to Texas with him in 1859(?). She was the mother of six children - Paul, Gertrude, John Jeremiah, Ora, Junia and another child that died in infancy - and helped raise them in Bellville and Belton, Texas. Junia died in 1897.

Paul Osterhout (1859-1944), the first child, was born and raised in Bellville and Belton, Texas. He graduated from Baylor College in Texas and Jefferson Medical College in Pennsylvania. After holding several odd jobs following graduation, Paul moved to Central America in 1888 where he began his professional career. He and his wife, May, lived in Nicaragua, Colombia and Panama where Paul tried his hand variously as a doctor, pharmacist, banana and rubber plantation owner and political consul. In the later stages of his career, Paul and May moved back to Texas and resided in San Antonio.

As for the rest of the family, Gertrude Osterhout, the second child, went to Baylor Female College where she had much success academically. She later went on to become a faculty member at Baylor University. John Jeremiah, who went by the name Jeremiah or Jere, moved to Central America to look for work and lived with his brother Paul. He later held a job as a postal clerk on the Santa Fe railroad. Ora Osterhout attended Baylor University and later married into the Wade Family. It is from Ora that this collection came to Rice University. The youngest Osterhout, Junia, had a career as a school teacher.


4 Linear Feet (9 boxes, 7 map folders)

Language of Materials



Correspondence, drawings, maps, scrapbooks, pamphlets, newspapers, and other papers, of John Patterson Osterhout (1826-1903), relating to his early life in Pennsylvania, early impressions of Texas, work as a judge, service in the Confederate Army, and leader of the Republican Party in Texas, and of his son, Paul Osterhout (1859-1944), relating to his studies at Baylor University and University of Pennsylvania Dept. of Medicine, activities fighting yellow fever during the digging of the Panama Canal, and his career as a physician, planter, and consul in Colombia, Nicaragua, and Panama. Includes material concerning military service during the Texas Republic, Baptists in antebellum Texas, and other Osterhout family members.

Acquisition Information

A majority of the papers were purchased by Rice University from Mrs. Ora Osterhout Wade in 1958 and a second group of records arrived in October 1962. The collection register of John P. Osterhout was added to the collection in October 1965 as a gift from Herbert Herrick Fletcher. And in November 1992, Harry Yeager donated the book History of the Roberts Family to add to the collection.

Related Material

See also The Bellville Countryman (also known as The Texas Countryman), John P. Osterhout's newspaper, for more information on Texas in the 1860's. These newspapers are in the Fondren Library at Rice University in microfilm and in their original form at the Woodson Research Center (Call Number AN2.H4 T4).

For further research into the Osterhout family history, contact the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.

See also the collection of Austin College, Sherman, Texas.

General note

Portions of this collection are available online at

Guide to the Osterhout Family Papers, 1836-1941
David Sharron
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas Repository

Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston Texas 77005 USA