The Secret Room Most Planoites Don’t Know Exists

Tucked deep in the basement of the Genealogy Center of Haggard Library, Cheryl Smith, senior public services librarian, has spent 18 years sorting through thousands of newspaper clippings, books, photos, journals and family collections pertaining to Plano and Collin County’s history.

Genealogy is much more than determining one’s family lineage. In the Plano Public Library’s genealogy archives, it gets a little more interesting than this. Mayoral documents from the 1800s indicate the Plano mayor had different obligations from mayors of today. He issued fines for drinking, cussing and even being a “lady of the night.”  Now that’s a little different from learning your great-great-great grandfather was related to George Washington’s third cousin.

Visitors may be familiar with countless rows of historical documents in the main area of the Genealogy Center, but behind lock and key in an adjoining room are coveted tidbits of history that reveal Plano’s past. Some of the keepsakes are from individuals, but many are from the collections of Plano’s earliest families.

Vintage Plano Senior High School sweater and cap with other memorabilia // photos Jennifer Shertzer
Vintage Plano Senior High School sweater and cap with other memorabilia // photos Jennifer Shertzer

“We love to receive people’s photographs, diaries — anything on Plano and Collin County,” Cheryl boasted about the prized collections.

The first major contribution was from the Frances Bates Wells Collection; however,  many others have stepped up since to part with aging documents handed down through some of Plano’s oldest families. Steve Christie donated many artifacts from his family, longtime residents of Plano. The Gladys Harrington Collection of storied scrapbooks was given to the library. The Erline Mayes family turned over bills, tax statements and receipts from its old restaurant in Downtown Plano.

The Haggard Family History book from the 1930s is archived here as well. Copies of Shirley Schell’s notes from helping author “Plano, Texas The Early Years” in the 1980s are on file.

It is not only documents, though. Delicate items such as a piece of original wallpaper from the Saigling house in Haggard Park (now the ArtCentre of Plano) can be found next to a vintage football letter jacket and patches from PISD graduates.  That’s just a fraction of what can be found in this temperature- and humidity-controlled room.

Cheryl Smith and the archive room
Cheryl Smith and the archive room

“People don’t realize it’s there,” Cheryl said about the room’s collections.

The Genealogy Center of Haggard Library is located at 2501 Coit Road. The archive room may not be open to visitors, but the public can still access many items it possesses through the internet. Cheryl, along with other staff members and volunteers, have chronicled more than 30 thousand archives online.

John Brooks, a local expert on Plano history, has helped identify many of the photographs.

Many of the three Plano senior high schools’ yearbooks from over the years are online, and all but two missing editions are housed in the archive room. Yearbooks from some additional PISD schools, along with the former University of Plano, are also available.

The Genealogy Center’s current major project is sorting through archives of Plano Fire Department pictures, newspaper articles and memorabilia. Notes in ledgers are being transcribed from sometimes faded writing.

Lizzie Matthews Carpenter's 1876 diary
Lizzie Matthews Carpenter’s 1876 diary

The oldest items in the library come from the Lizzie Carpenter journals, dating back to the 1870s. Cheryl’s favorite find in the archives is an autograph book from Zora Naugle Robison when she attended the Plano Institute, a local school before Plano had its own public school system. The tattered pages of the autograph book, donated by a relative, show the eloquent handwriting of the day. People came from across the area to attend this Plano school.

Plano Public Library is able to archive photos, journals, yearbooks and scrapbooks, but has also accepted other larger items such as paintings. Anyone interested in donating should contact the Genealogy Center at 972.769.4240.

“We have turned down some items, so we try to avoid accepting items we can’t use. We love local histories,” said Cheryl.

Genealogy Center >


The Genealogy Center at Haggard Library 
2501 Coit Rd.
Plano, TX 75075

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1 Comment

  • It would be so rewarding if these important relics of Plano’s past could be on display in a more public space. A rotating exhibit inside an historic house sounds ideal, doesn’t it?

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