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Eleanor Woods Lavelle Papers

Identifier: AC-573

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains a set of letters written from Tom Woods to Lottye Fewell while he was in the Army during World War I, and several photograph albums from the Woods and Henderson families.

The letters number approximately 76, and were written from March 21, 1918, to October 24, 1919. Tom was initially stationed at the Travis training camp in Houston, Texas. He wrote of army discipline, his boredom at camp, his desire to go home and see his loved ones again, and his competing desire to see the war in France. In May, his company was transferred to Camp Upton on Long Island, New York, in preparation for being shipped to France. The company remained there until early June.

Tom wrote one letter from on board ship to France. The date on this letter was censored, but he wrote his first letter from France on June 17. For a time, his unit was away from the front lines, but his letters indicate that by late July, he had seen action. His letter from August 2 notes that "One gets so use to the noise and fuss that he hardly notices it. When the firing is extra heavy you keep on the look out then," while a letter from August 10 mentions that one of the men in his unit had gone to the hospital to be treated for shell shock.

On September 2, Tom wrote, "I see and hear more of the war every day and can say it is much more pleasant to have these shells break some distance away than for them to be only a few yards. I had heard how big trees were cut down but did not believe it until I saw it done. It is very true and not hard to explain. When one of the big ones come by you can almost see them they make so much noise. When they break near a man all you can find is a foot or an arm and you bury that like it was all of him."

During this time, the 5th Division fought in battles at Alsace, Lorraine, Saint Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. Tom wrote on November 18 that he was at the French town of Sedan on Armistice Day (November 11). This letter also contains his most detailed descriptions of his actions during the war.

After the war, Tom's division remained in Europe until July 1919. He stayed primarily at Aspelt, Luxembourg, but also did some traveling to Belgium and Germany. During these months, he wrote often of his overwhelming desire to be home, and of his experiences meeting Europeans.

The final letters in this set were written by Tom upon his return to the United States. He was honorably discharged from the Army in August, and returned to Waco, Texas. He continued writing frequent letters to Lottye until their marriage on October 26, 1919.

Intermixed with Tom's letters to Lottye are four letters written to her from other people, and one letter that she wrote to Tom in September 1917.

The collection also contains two photograph albums. The first photograph album is a baby book for Ryan Woods Henderson. It includes handwritten details of his growth and development, and photographs of his very early childhood. The second album is also a family album of the Hendersons. Most photographs depict Ryan, but other family members are also included.

Two memorial books are included in the collection. The first is a memorial book for Tom Woods, who passed away in 1958. The second is a memorial book for Lottye Woods, who passed away in 1982.

Finally, the collection holds a framed diploma from The Institute for Certifying Secretaries, granting Eleanor Lavelle the degree of Certified Professional Secretary. This degree was awarded in 1954.


  • Creation: 1916-1982


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Restrictions

The original letters are in fragile condition and must be handled with care. Except for exceptional circumstances, researchers will be asked to use the transcribed letters instead of the originals. Images of the original letters may be viewed online.


The Tyrrell Historical Library holds copyright. The researcher must secure permission to publish. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to the Tyrrell Historical Library. The researcher assumes full responsibility for complying with copyright, literary property rights, and libel laws.

Biographical Note

Thomas Jefferson Woods was born in Hico, Texas, on June 1, 1891, to Andrew Johnson Woods and Susan Ella [Anderson] Woods. His father had moved to Texas from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, sometime between 1877 and 1889. Andrew and Susan were married on March 15, 1889, and their first child, a daughter, was born on December 30, 1889.

When the United States entered World War I, Tom Woods was employed in the automobile business at Central Motor Company in Waco, Texas. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at Hamilton, Texas, on September 19, 1917, after the United States had entered World War I. He joined the 5th Division as a member of Ambulance Company Number 30, in the 5th Sanitary Train. His company reached France sometime in June 1918, and saw action at Alsace, Lorraine, Saint Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. Tom wrote that on Armistice Day, he was at the French town of Sedan. He remained in Europe for approximately the next nine months as part of the Army of Occupation. The 5th Division was based in Belgium and Luxembourg, and Tom appeared to be stationed most frequently in Aspelt, Luxembourg. In mid-July 1919, Tom landed again in the United States. He was officially discharged on August 9, 1919.

While in the Army, Tom wrote frequently to his sweetheart, Lottye Marie Fewell. Lottye was born in Iredell, Texas, on June 26, 1898. She had an older sister, Grace, a younger brother, Willard, and a younger sister, Lucille. Tom met Grace first, but later met Lottye, and the two began courting. After his return from Europe, Tom and Lottye were married on October 26, 1919.

By 1930, Tom and Lottye had moved to Port Arthur, Texas. He continued to work in the automotive industry. Their only child, Eleanor, was born on August 20, 1923, in Waco, Texas.

Tom died on November 26, 1958, and was buried at Greenlawn Cemetery in Port Arthur. Lottye died on March 4, 1982, and is also buried at Greenlawn Cemetery

Eleanor married Lewis Elmer Henderson, and their son, Ryan Woods Henderson, was born on October 29, 1943. Tragically, Ryan died at age 6, on March 22, 1950. Eleanor and Lewis later separated. Eleanor went on to marry Johnnie Lavelle. She became a Certified Professional Secretary in 1954, and worked for many years as a legal secretary, and as a Senate Secretary for Texas Senator Carl Parker. She died on October 7, 2008.


2 Cubic Feet (2 cubic feet in three boxes)


Eleanor Woods Lavelle was the daughter of Tom and Lottye Woods. Tom fought in World War I, and Eleanor collected and transcribed the approximately 76 letters he sent to Lottye during the war. The collection also contains family photograph albums and memorial books.

Organization of Collection

This collection is organized into 4 boxes. The letters are arranged chronologically.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Michael Getz, 2012.


No further accruals are expected.

Processing Information

Processed by Tyrrell Historical Library staff, 2013 February.

Finding aid revised and encoded by Tyrrell Historical Library staff, 2013 February..

Finding Aid for the Eleanor Woods Lavelle Papers, 1916-1982
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Tyrrell Historical Library Archives Repository