Creator: Willson, Davis

Provenance Note: The Davis Willson papers were donated to Special Collections by Mrs. Robert Adams of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in July 1973. The papers were created or collected by Davis Willson during his lifetime in Bozeman, Montana. Upon his death in 1915 the items went to his son, Frank G. Willson of Massachusetts. His daughter, Martha Davis Adams had final possession before donating them to Special Collections.

Historical Note: Davis Willson (1841-1915) was a Presbyterian minister, newspaperman, merchant, land office agent, and early Montana pioneer. He came to the territory in 1866 from Canton, New York and became one of the first residents of the town of Bozeman. He wrote a series of articles for the Montana Post at Virginia City during the 1860s and 1870s describing Indian and mining activities in the area. After serving as register of the U.S. Land office at Bozeman he prepared for the ministry and was ordained in 1889. Willson organized churches at Hamilton and Springhill, Montana.

Content Description Note: The Willson papers consist of his diary kept during his journey to Montana in 1866 and newspaper clippings from the Montana Post and other publications that were primarily written by Willson. The diary describes a trip from Canton, NY, to the Penwell Ranch in the Gallatin Valley, May 7 - Sept. 6, 1866. The party brought trade goods for the settlements in Montana. The men included Charles V. Rich, Charles C, Frank Rich, Perry Jones, Perry Earl, Frank, L.W. Tuller, Haldeman, Whoren (or Whorner). Wagon trains traveled with included Phillips and Freelands, Creightons, Kirkenkdolphs, Whitneys. Train captains mentioned were Charles V. Rich and John Freeland. People mentioned were Barton and Hustad (scalped on the Bozeman Trail mentioned in July 29), A.T. Huickley, Jennie Sanderson, J.H. Nuly, Charlie Caldwell, Rutan, Phillips, Oscar Penwell. There is a good description of the approach to the Gallatin Valley. The newspaper clipping topics include Indian activities, descriptions of Bozeman and the upper Yellowstone valley, Montana politics, and national politics during Reconstruction. The papers also include a handwritten letter from S.P. Moore, Acting Surgeon General, Confederate States Army, dated Richmond, Virginia, August 5, 1861, to General Robert E. Lee requesting quinine.


Box 1
1. Diary, May 7-September 6, 1866
2. Diary transcription.
3. Clippings: Funeral Oration, April 3, 1896 (Avant Courier), for Charles V. Rich; Advertisement for Willson's opening of an office as U.S. Land & Mining Attorney; "Some history-leading up to staking our tent in Bozeman. Taken from the diary of Rev. Davis Willson" Republican Courier March 19, 1912; "Opportunities today are unsurpassed says pioneer..." Bozeman Courier Aug. 13, 1913; Obituaries.
4. Clippings: Newspaper columns written 1867-69 (with related clippings probably by another reporter). Indian problems in Montana which related to Bozeman.
5. Clippings: Newspaper columns written 1867-74 about Bozeman & the upper Yellowstone (Emigrant Gulch). Includes Avant Courier for 1872.
6. Clippings: Political problems after the Civil War...impeachment of Pres. Andrew Johnson.
7. Clippings: Mr. & Mrs. Lester S. Willson. "Things I saw Yesterday" by A.K. Yerkes. Politics in Montana Territory.
8. Military letter, S.P. Moore, C.S.A., August 5, 1861.
9. Printed ephemera.

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Updated: 3/5/09