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News Release — February 27, 2012



The Still Water Foundation has generously awarded the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University a $100,000 challenge grant to support the purchase of a 13,000-volume library owned by New Mexico Historian MARC SIMMONS—an acquisition that will double the size of the current Southwestern Writers Collection library.

Simmons’ library has been appraised at $310,750, and the potential $200,000 from the Still Water grant will go a long way in meeting the overall fundraising objective. We hope to raise a further $150,000 to catalog the books and materials and develop an online resource to provide access to the broadest public.

The award is a one-to-one challenge, meaning every gift made to the Wittliff designated for the Simmons library purchase will be matched dollar for dollar up to $100,000. The challenge must be met by December 2012.

We hope doubling the impact of your contribution will inspire you to participate in this one-time challenge and help the Wittliff Collections secure the Simmons Library. Use the online donation form to make your gift today or contact Beverly Fondren Scott at 512.245.9058, or for more information.


Marc Simmons, the author of some 45 books and a weekly newspaper column on history that’s appeared for thirty years, is New Mexico’s best-known historian. The Wittliff Collections became interested in Simmons several years ago because his archive includes not only his own material on the Southwest, but also documentation of close friendships with a number of prominent southwestern writers, including Tony Hillerman, Elmer Kelton, Edward Abbey, John Nichols, and artists such as José Cisneros.

Simmons generously began donating his papers to the Wittliff several years ago and last year an agreement was signed with him to purchase his library—possibly the finest personal library of Southwestern literature and history in existence. The acquisition will strengthen the Collections’ foundation while substantially enhancing research opportunities. There is remarkably little overlap between the collections, as Simmons’ is broader, both in subject areas and in being more Southwestern-oriented, whereas the Wittliff’s is more contemporary and Texas-centered.

Not only will the acquisition double the Wittliff’s Southwestern Writers Collection holdings, but a library such as this will significantly enhance the Wittliff’s secondary source research material, making it a worthy complement to the primary source materials already acquired. As another example of its importance to the Wittliff

Collections, Cormac McCarthy—whose archives are held by the Wittliff—relied on nine specific books for his research in writing the classic novel, Blood Meridian. Marc Simmons has all of them.

Many of the subjects come straight out of J. Frank Dobie’s Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest: the Santa Fe Trail, Indian culture, Spanish Colonial presence, women pioneers, medicine, forts, guns, wildlife, horses, fiction, art, mountain men, stagecoaches, freighting, cowboy songs, and nature. Simmons was also a great friend of Jack Schaefer, the author of Shane, and Schaefer gave him dozens of signed copies of foreign editions of his books in everything from Thai to Egyptian.

Simmons also has many incredible individual collections within his library. He has, for example, a large Kit Carson collection and a George Custer photography album with early images and tintypes. Along two rows of shelves in his library are some 70 books, just on the Apache Indians. There are also many exceedingly rare books, and about 400 Spanish-language books on the American Southwest that were originally published in Mexico and Spain.

Marc Simmons’ writing, lectures, and research focus on the Indian and Hispanic heritages of New Mexico. His specialty is Spanish Colonial history and for his work in that area the King of Spain knighted him. He is also recognized as an authority on the Santa Fe Trail and is past president of the Santa Fe Trail Association.

Dr. Simmons received his higher education at the University of Texas, University of New Mexico, and University of Guanajuato (Mexico). He is a member of the Western Writers of America and the Writer's Guild. He is a former Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship to carry out a study of Hispanic agriculture in New Mexico.

In 1963, while still a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, Simmons built his first adobe home for $137 south of Santa Fe. Since then he’s gradually expanded his holdings from one leased acre to 240 acres. The land was once home to the San Marcos Indians, a heritage Simmons cherishes as he was essentially “adopted” by a Pueblo Indian group as a young boy, and spent several summers living with the Indians.

Over the years Simmons has built several other adobe buildings, one of which has vigas from the 1700s that he rescued from a historic home being demolished in Santa Fe. What most people find unusual is that he lives without electricity or running water—Simmons likes to live in the same deep rhythms as the people in previous centuries he writes about. He is a farrier and an expert mule packer, and has taken several horseback journeys across the Southwest to get a firsthand look at the land he’s writing about.

Simmons is selling his library for the purpose of raising funds to ensure the permanent preservation and conservation of his land near Santa Fe for future generations to appreciate.