The selection of letters, postcards, and ephemera that comprise this collection present a detailed and intimate look at a 1900s East Texas family. The materials were donated to the Archives by Mark Walters, who is the grandson of Lizzie and Tom Whiteside.
Elizabeth Brooks Whiteside (October 2, 1881-April 5, 1962) born in Cathy’s Creek, Murray County, Tennessee she was named Elizabeth Finely Brooks and Thomas Clayton Whiteside (September 12, 1878 - March 17, 1959) born in Swann Creek, Hickman County, Tennessee named himself Thomas Clayton Whiteside. The two met in 1897 in Tennessee when the former was 16 years old, and Tom was 19. Tom began sending Lizzie letters 3 years later. The two were married on December 22, 1900, at Lizzie’s family home and soon after they moved to Texas.
In Tennessee Tom Whiteside made a living as a teacher and found it difficult to get a teaching position in Texas. As such, He and Lizzie (with their first child, James Edward) moved back to Tennessee. While living in Nashville Tom continued his education. Eventually, Tom moved back to Texas, leaving his growing family behind with relatives, until he could secure a job. In July of 1909, Tom got a job teaching at Abilene Christian College, based off of a recommendation from his elder brother Rob Whiteside. Tom and his family, consisting of Lizzie and 4 children thus far (Edward 1903, Mary Frances 1906, Thomas Luther 1907, and Rachel Ellen 1910) lived in Abilene, Texas until Tom accepted a job teaching penmanship at Tyler Commercial College in 1910. Tom worked at the College until 1924 and during that time he and his family grew, experienced loss, and began to settle down in Tyler, Texas.
Between the years 1910-1918 Lizzie Whiteside would give birth to three more children (a baby girl stillborn 1914, Sam Brooks 1915, and Phillip 1918). In the year 1919, Tom and a gentlemen named Mr. Niblack bought 250 acres of land in east Tyler. That following year Tom bought out Mr. Niblack’s share of the land and moved his family onto the acreage in 1920. The family invested in turning the land into a sustainable farm while simultaneously Tom taught penmanship in town at the college. He would board in a room in town during the week and then travel home in his 490 Chevrolet to visit his family on the weekends.
The family farm was a great source of supplemental income. The Whiteside family purchased Jersey dairy cows, pigs, chickens, and farmed the land. On Wednesdays and Saturdays Tom would take dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and pork to sell in town. Lizzie would also sew and cook for other families, as well as prepare the dairy products such as butter and cream by hand. The production on the farm saw the family through the depression. In 1921 the family experienced another loss. Their third oldest child, Thomas Luther passed away from appendicitis when he was 14 years old. In April of 1923, Lizzie gave birth to the youngest of the Whiteside children, Elizabeth.
In 1935, Highway 271 was constructed bisecting the Whiteside farm. This project was completed even though Tom Whiteside’s property was not for sale. During World War II Tom and Lizzie’s youngest son, Phillip, was already enlisted in the Marines and was sent to Guadalcanal. Phillip survived the war and return home later. The land above Highway 271 was leased out and Camp Fannin was built there. Lizzie and Tom bought the three-bedroom from their eldest son, Edward and moved to the southside of the farm where they spent the rest of their lives.