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Texas A&M University, Libraries, Cushing Memorial Library & Archives Pleasant, Alclair Mays
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William Harrison Mays Papers

  • US TxAM-C C000003
  • Collection
  • 1866-1982

This collection contains a variety of documents related to William Harrison Mays, an African American cowboy living in Corpus Christi, TX during the late 19th and early 20th century, and his family. The collection consists of tax receipts, promissory notes, land deeds, and receipts for lumber and building loan payments, photographs, and correspondences from which the researcher is able to track the development of a family over the course of three generations.

Of particular interest is a letter written by W. H. Mays' grandson, Roby Williams, dated September 12, 1982, in which he claims that his grandfather, "was a gun toten cow puncher with the Kings and Kennedys who used to ride over the border and steal Mexican's cattle and bring them back to Kings ranch and brand them KR. Grandpa knew he was living such a hard and risky life, he knew he was subject to being killed on some of these adventures and cattle drives up to Abilene, Kansas, so he didn't buy anything in his name. If he was arrested for cattle rustling, they couldn't take his property." One of the deeds dated 1872 may dispute this claim as it conveys to "Harrison Mays, Colored" a property in Corpus Christi for the sum of twenty-five gold dollars. However, all the tax receipts thereafter for the property are made out to a Clarissa Sinclair (also known as Alice Sinclair, William Harrison Mays' wife).

Other items of interest include a photograph, circa 1865, of two African-American men each standing with a leg up on a wooden box with a large bag marked "$1,000." The handwritten caption on the back reads: "Uncle Willie Cox on left. Just after a win in a cock's fight. Bag contains $1,000.00 in gold. San Luis Portisi, Mexico."

Mays, William Harrison