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Ayers family plantation history collection

Identifier: MS 0635
Finding aid note: Stored off-site at the Library Service Center. Please request this material via or call 713-348-2586.

Scope and Contents

This collection includes biographical information about individuals in the Ayers, Brown, McCarty, Martin, Diller, Boettner, Crump, Raynor, Ball, Freytag and Bergeson, families, among others. The bulk of the collection involves people and events ranging from the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century.

The collection of photographs, letters, business records, war memorabilia, vintage fashion wardrobe, costumes, books, oral history interview, and objects of art serve to document the life and times of the Ayers family and allied families. Photo-journals, scrapbooks, real estate and legal documents, maps, as well as wardrobe items created by, for, and about the allied families cover their personal and professional lives. The kinship networks cover a geographic range from the U.S. Mid-Atlantic states to the Midwest, and into the Deep South of the 19th and early 20th century. Venturing from family careers in banking, medicine, and textiles, a branch of the family migrated South and pursued commerce and professions including Southern agriculture, church ministries, and academia. This branch of the Ayers, Brown, and Martin families moved from Illinois to Mississippi just before the U.S. officially entered World War I. The collection includes material from the kinship network of the allied families as family members moved within the New Jersey/New York region, the Midwest, the American Great Plains and the Deep South from the 19th century into the 1960s. Well-preserved original materials, as well as copies, serve as evidence of a narrative and material history of the allied families’ land, houses, commercial businesses, professions, personal possessions, travels, and holdings, as well as information about various sources of income and assets. Business and personal records document the transfers and the chain of possession of both assets and material collections as they were inherited and inventoried in successive generations. References and materials related to the artistic, literary, and philanthropic work of family members are cross-referenced to other collections.

An 1889 wedding quilt in a crazy-quilt pattern of silk ribbons, velvet, and other textile materials is well preserved, along with the names and faces of each young woman (friends of the bride) who contributed the material and labor.

Several Ayers family members served in The Great War/World War I, and the collection contains photographic, telegraphic, textile, and other documentation of the military service, including documentation of experiences in training, domestic and foreign assignments, medals, uniforms, repatriation and return to civilian life.

Due to a family interest in photography and photographic equipment, the Ayers collection contains a chronological sampling of various types of photography (tin type, negative and positive, sepia toned, black and white, color, slides, and various types and sizes of prints, many numbered, indexed and/or with the identifying tags or labels from exhibits. The photography is the work product of several family members. Aspects of commercial agriculture are detailed in the records of the Ayers family short-lived venture into Southern plantation ownership. The documentation of their management, losses, real estate holdings, labor and leasing practices, capital investments, environmental and natural disaster conditions, transportation and commerce is provided in some detail.

Records from careers in academia, civil engineering, medicine, the Presbyterian ministry, banking, transportation, art history and philanthropy are interspersed throughout the collection. College and university material including yearbooks, notebooks, academic papers, and photography from several institutions in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi - primarily in the first half of the 20th century - are included. Flooding along the Mississippi River basin is documented and commented upon. Diaries, sermons, tape recordings, an oral history interview, calendars, legal documents, receipts, and letters connect various people to their inventories of ration books, vintage cigar boxes, recipes, magazines, wedding and funeral items, political affiliations, sermons, and academic report cards through the decades. Travels (in war, for business, for medical rehabilitation, leisure, and scouting) ranging from the World War I era through the 1950s are well documented by private photography and letters, as well as commercial postcards, marked maps, brochures, and receipts. Skeleton keys, inventories of furnishings, scripts and playbills, costumes, a bust, art exhibit brochures, souvenirs and published literature mark the artistic output of the family members, as well as consumer taste. The oral history interview extends through the Vietnam War era and the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, as experienced in Mississippi by the interviewee.


  • Creation: 1850 - 2015

Conditions Governing Access

This material is open for research.

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.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish from this material must be facilitated through the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.

Biographical / Historical

The Ayers, Brown, McCarty, Martin, Diller, Boettner, Crump, Raynor, Ball, Freytag, and Bergeson, and families, from the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century. Branches of the allied families moved from the mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey westward to Illinois, Ohio, and Iowa, with some Ayers and McCarty families relocating permanently in Mississippi and Texas. Prompted by an interest in Southern agriculture, a Southern migration included the ownership and operation of two post-Reconstruction plantations, located in Mississippi and Louisiana.


65 Linear Feet (62 boxes)

1.19 Gigabytes (Tiff images and a PDF summary document of clothing items in the Ayers Family collection (identifier # MS0635aip_001).)

Language of Materials



This collection includes biographical information about individuals in the Ayers, Brown, McCarty, Martin, Diller, Boettner, Crump, Raynor, Ball, Freytag, and Bergeson, and families, among others. The bulk of the collection involves the life and careers of this kinship network, and their commerce, ministries, and artistic work product, and events ranging from the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century. Some documentary history of the Jitney Jungle grocery chain is included.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated by Ann Martin of the Ayers family, in 2015.

Guide to the Ayers family plantation history collection, circa 1850-2015
Pat Bell and Amanda Focke
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