NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A collection of Rusk Family letters was introduced to the public Monday at Stephen F. Austin State University's East Texas Research Center. Among the noted guests was former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
The collection was highly sought after by other universities and private collectors, but the family saw fit to keep it in East Texas.
Hutchison got the invitation to the public opening of the Rusk Family Letters she immediately said …
"I'm going," Hutchison said.
Thomas J. Rusk, the first senator of Texas, was a law partner of Hutchison's great, great grandfather.
"Thomas Rusk was so special, and he had such a part in Texas history as Secretary of War, but also a respected member of the United States Senate," Hutchison said.
In the 1830s to 1840s the statesman wrote at least sixty letters to his brother, David Rusk, the first sheriff of Texas.
SFA recently purchased them, along with about 1000 other documents.
Linda Rusk donated another 600 items. Her husband's family passed the fragile papers down from one generation to the next. Today, she has a sense of relief.
"I was always afraid something was going to happen to them," Linda Rusk said. "I had half of them stored at the bank and half of them stored at my house. And you never know."
Rusk's nephew, Keith Rusk, is just pleased the papers survived his childhood curiosity.
"Actually we spent our time on the floor in the boy's room at the house, and we looked at the papers," Keith Rusk said.
Now the East Texas Research Center protects the collection from a harmful environment.
"It's remarkable they survived," said Kyle Ainsworth, the Special Collections librarian. The letters are in pristine shape."
Historians say the letters will actually rewrite history.
"There will be changing perceptions, for example, about how we view the Indian frontier and our relations with the Comanches," said Scott Sosebee, the director of the East Texas Historical Association.
Historians statewide are excited over the collection and are already making plans to travel to SFA.
The Rusk Collection will be available for research by February 1. Over time the letters and documents will be scanned so they can be viewed online.