Edward Myers Egan, who passed away in May 2012, was a descendant of Dr. Bartholomew Egan, a figure of historic interest in Louisiana. The Egan Collection includes letters and documents from Dr. Bartholomew Egan and other members of the Egan family that provide valuable information to researchers interested in the history of the Baptist denomination in Louisiana, Confederate medical history and daily life in 19th century rural north Louisiana.
According to NSU Archivist Mary Linn Wernet, the Egan Collection documents Dr. Bartholomew Egan’s life from the time before he emigrated from Dublin, Ireland, to Virginia, where he received medical training, was a prominent educator and converted to the Baptist faith. After moving to Mount Lebanon, in 1847, he was instrumental in founding the Louisiana Baptist Convention and Mount Lebanon University, the first university in north Louisiana. Dr. Bartholomew Egan served as surgeon general and head of the state laboratory under the Confederate government of Louisiana.
“After Dr. Egan received a land grant to settle in Bienville Parish, he established Mount Lebanon as a Baptist college for men,” Wernet said. “We have letters from Ireland and as he moved from there to Virginia and Louisiana. We have official and family letters from Mount Lebanon days and into the Civil War when he was surgeon general.”
Dr. Bartholomew Egan’s granddaughter, Miss Lavinia Egan, who was born during the Civil War and died during World War II, is credited with gathering and preserving many of the letters and documents that make up the collection, Wernet said.
“Lavinia moved to Shreveport and was an advocate for women’s rights and a historian who maintained the collection,” Wernet explained.
“The papers have been researched by historians not only interested in Bartholomew’s life but also in Mount Lebanon as the first school of its kind in the area and because of the medical research that took place there. It was a place where they conducted pharmaceutical research and developed compounds to treat the wounded during the Civil War, so there are professors of pharmacy interested in information on the school’s medical practices.”
The Cammie G. Henry Research Center is housed on the third floor of NSU’s Watson Library and contains Louisiana books, rare books, archival materials, NSU Archives, microfilm, maps, newspapers and oral history tapes. Most collections focus on Louisiana history with documents ranging in date from the founding of Natchitoches in 1714 to the present. The Egan collection has already been utilized in three thesis documents by graduate students.
The Egan family established a relationship with the Northwestern State Archives in the late 1960s when they became aware that the university maintained archived documents specifically related to Louisiana history. At that time, a portion of the Egan papers was entrusted to former archivist Katherine Bridges to be microfilmed. Edward Egan established a monetary trust for the Archives in the 1970s and through the years provided financial support to the Cammie G. Henry Research Center by funding shelves and materials needed to preserve documents.
“The Egan family did not have a particular connection to Northwestern, but they felt it important that we are able to preserve not just their collection, but all the collections, letters, documents and maps for future scholars,” said Abbie Landry, director of Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library. “As strong an archive as this is, this type of donation makes it even stronger.”