Montana State University in Bozeman Montana State University - Home Montana State University Library - Home

Collection 1407 - Lester S. Willson Family Papers, 1861-1922

Creator: Willson, Lester S. (Lester Sebastian), 1839-1919

Provenance Note: Family papers, military documents, and photographs created or collected by members of the Lester S. Willson family of Bozeman, Montana, were donated to Special Collections in 1968 by Merrill G. Burlingame. Additional materials were donated by Burlingame in 1974. The papers incorporate those originally recorded under accession number 846.

Historical Note: Lester S. Willson was born in Canton, New York on June 15, 1839. His parents, Ambrose and Julia Willson had at least two other sons, Davis and George. Lester enlisted as a private in the 60th New York Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War and spent the early months guarding the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Maryland. By 1865 Willson had gained the rank of colonel of his regiment, and at the war's end he was breveted a brigadier general. He administered the Soldier's Home in Albany, New York following the war and in 1867 moved to Montana Territory to join his brother Davis in the mercantile business at Bozeman. Willson entered into a partnership with Tuller and Rich at Bozeman, eventually replacing both men to become a sole proprietor. He also served in the state legislature and with the state militia. He married in 1869 Emma D. Weeks and the couple had three children; George (who died as an infant), Lester Eugene, and Fred Fielding. Both Fred and Eugene attended Bozeman schools, and Fred eventually became a prominent local architect. Eugene died in 1893 at the age of 14. Lester S. Wilson continued to operate his business until his death on January 26, 1919.

Content Description Note: The Lester S. Willson family papers consist of letters written by Lester and Davis Willson during the Civil War while both men were with the army; letters written by Lester and Davis during their first years in Bozeman; letters written by Eugene and Fred from Bozeman to their parents who were away; Civil War military documents pertaining to the 60th New York Volunteer Infantry and Lester S. Willson; student papers of Fred and Eugene; scrapbook materials and newspaper clippings; photographs of the Willsons, the Tuller and Rich Cash Store, and the Willson home in Bozeman. The papers have been arranged in five series.

Contents

Series 1 Correspondence, 1861-1922
Series 2 Civil War military documents, 1863-1865
Series 3 School papers, 1890-1893
Series 4 Scrapbook material, 1893-1911
Series 5 Photographs, 1865-1910

Series 1: Correspondence, 1861-1922

Letters written by Lester S. Willson, Davis Willson, Lester Eugene Willson, Fred Fielding Willson, and other family members and friends. Letters pertain to the Civil War, early Bozeman, Montana, condolences on the 1919 death of Lester S. Willson, and other family news. The letters have been chronologically arranged and individually listed.

Box 1
Folder 1. Letters, 1861-1866
    Lester S. Willson (Camp Wheeler, Ogdensburgh) to Davis Willson, Sept. 26, 1861
    Lester S. Willson (Baltimore, Maryland) to parents, Nov. 10, 1861
    Lester S. Willson (Camp Preston King) to family) February 19, 1862
    Davis Willson (on march) to parents, January 26, 1865
    Lester S. Willson (Albany, New York) to mother, December 26, 1866
Folder 2. Letters, 1867-1879
    Davis Willson (Bozeman, Montana Territory) to "folks at home" May 29, 1867
    Lester S. Willson (Bozeman, Montana Territory) to Mary A. Cory, June 12, 1867
    P.J. Moran (Albany, New York) to Lester S. Willson, January 9, 1868
    Lester S. Willson (Bozeman, Montana Territory) to Mary A. Cory, May 10, 1868
    Lester S. Willson (Bozeman, Montana Territory) to Mary A. Cory, September 18, 1868
    Description of headstone for Mary Blackmore, July 19, 1872
    Blanche Blackmore, (Salisbury, England) to Emma Willson, August 18, 1872
    Mrs. Hampton (Bedford, England) to Emma Willson, November 6, 1872
    Lester S. Wilson, (Bozeman, Montana Terr.) to Mary A. Cory, Feb. 19, 1879
Folder 3. Letters, 1886-1890
    Grandmother Willson (Greene, Maine) to Fred and L. Eugene Willson, August 1, 1886
    Fred W. Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Emma Willson, October 25, 1887
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Emma Willson, October 25, 1887
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Emma Willson, November 3, 1887
    Fred W. Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Emma Willson, November 3, 1887
    Fred W. Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Emma Willson, February 11, 1888
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Emma Willson, December 9, 1888
    Fred W. Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Emma Willson, December 9, 1888
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Uncle Gus, November 15, 1890
Folder 4. Letters, 1891
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Uncle Gus, January 20, 1891
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Lester S. Willson and Emma Willson, February 1, 1891
    Fred F. Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Lester S. and Emma Willson, February 2, 1891
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Lester S. and Emma Willson, February 8, 1891
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Lester S. and Emma Willson, February 9, 1891
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Lester S. and Emma Willson, March 4, 1891
    Fred F. Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Lester s. and Emma Willson, March 9, 1891
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Lester s. and Emma Willson, March 16, 1891
    Fred F. Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Lester S. and Emma Willson, March 23, 1891
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Uncle Gus, April 4, 1891
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to Mr. Johnson, April 7, 1891
Folder 5. Letters, 1892-1918
    L. Eugene Willson (Bozeman, Montana) to S. R. Raymond, October 26, 1892
    Col. M. Rich (Bozeman, Montana) to Lester S. and Emma Willson, March 24, 1894
    May Travis (Twin Bridges, Montana) to Emma Willson, April 15, 1894
    [unknown] (Revenue Mill, Montana) to George Willson, July 13, 1895
    Jim Gertirdge (Salmon City, Idaho) to Lester S. Willson, July 25, 1895
    [unknown] (Revenue Mill, Montana) to Mr. Lowman, July 28, 1895
    "Sis" (Revenue Mill, Montana) to George Willson, November 19, 1895
    Robert H. Chapman (Camp near Choteau, Montana) to Emma Willson, September 4, 1897
    Invitation to wedding of Helen Fisher and Fred F. Willson, October 15, 1897
    May Travis Shaw (Lansing, Michigan) to Emma Willson, January 14, 1917
    Robert M. Donaldson (Boise, Idaho) to Lester S. and Emma Willson, February 23, 1917
    "Stella" (Pocatello, Idaho) to Emma Willson, December 19, 1918
    Robert M. Donaldson (Boise, Idaho) to Lester S. and Emma Willson, December 21, 1918
Folder 6. Letters, 1919
    J.R. Russell (Butte, Montana) to Emma Willson, January 27, 1919
    Wilbur F. Sanders (Pasadena, California) to Fred F. Willson, January 28, 1919
    John S. Axtill (Columbia Falls, Montana) to Emma Willson, January 29, 1919
    W.W. Wylie (Pasadena, California) to Emma Willson, January 30, 1919
    R.O. Wilson (Bozeman, Montana) to Emma Willson, January 31, 1919
    Alfred Myers (Hardin, Montana) to Emma Willson, February 1, 1919
    Daniel H. Tuttle (St. Louis, Missouri) to Emma Willson, February 5, 1919
    Sarepta Sanders (Long Beach, California) to Emma Willson, February 15, 1919
    May Travis Shaw (Lansing, Michigan) to Emma Willson, February 16, 1919
    One lot telegrams, all to Emma Willson, January-February, 1919
    Robert M. Donaldson (Boise, Idaho) to Emma Willson, May 27, 1919
    Adaline Terry (Lynn, Massachusetts) to Emma Willson, December 30, 1919
Folder 7. Letters, 1920-1922
    Wilbur F. Sanders (Butte, Montana) to Emma Willson, ca. 1920
    R. P. Calvin (Chicago, Illinois) to Emma Willson, November 14, 1920
    Adelaine Aldrich (Oakland, California) to Emma Willson, May 12, 1921
    Alfred Atkinson (Bozeman, Montana) to Fred F. Willson, June 4, 1922
    miscellaneous envelopes

Contents | Special Collections

Series 2: Civil War military documents, 1863-1865

Muster rolls, property returns, and blank forms prepared or collected by Lester S. Willson in his various officer appointments within the 60th New York Volunteer Infantry. Included are the resolutions of the "Moral and Anti-Swearing Society" formed by an officer's mess of the 60th regiment in 1865. Most of the muster rolls are large and have been removed to separate storage.

Box 1 (cont.)
8. Military documents, 1863-1865

Contents | Special Collections

Series 3: School papers, 1890-1893

Report cards, tests, and student essays created by L. Eugene Willson and Fred Willson. The essays by Eugene are on a number of topics and describe life in Bozeman and Gallatin County during the 1890s.

Box 1 (cont.)
9. Fred and Eugene Willson report cards and tests
10. Eugene Willson student essays.

Contents | Special Collections

Series 4: Scrapbook material, 1893-1911

Newspaper clippings and other memorabilia pertaining to the Willson family. Clippings include obituary notices for Lester, Emma, and Eugene Willson. Other documents are: memorial resolutions of GAR for Lester Willson, 1919; funeral guest list for Lester S. Willson, 1919; organ recital program, 1910; L. Eugene Willson account book, 1893.

Box 1 (cont.)
11. Newspaper clippings
12. Miscellaneous material

Contents | Special Collections

Series 5: Photographs, 1865-1910

Portraits of Lester S. Willson, L. Eugene Willson, Fred F. Willson, Willson family, and Lt. George Tyler, 2nd U.S. Cavalry. Building views including the Tuller & Rich Cash Store, Bozeman, 1866, and the Willson home, also in Bozeman. Images marked with (*) have negatives available.

Box 1 Cont.
13. Photographs #1-7
    #1. Lester S. Willson, 1865*
    #2. Lester Eugene Willson, ca. 1880
    #3. Fred F. Willson, ca. 1890s*
    #4. Lester Eugene Willson, ca. 1893
    #5. Willson family, outdoors by tent, ca. 1880s
    #6. Lt. George L. Tyler, ca. 1880s*
    #7. Tour bus, Washington, D.C., ca. 1910
14. Photographs 8-13
    #8. Tuller & Rich Cash Store, Bozeman, 1866*
    #9. "First residence of Gen'l L.S. Willson and Family, Bozeman...." (printed engraving; two copies)
    #10. Wilson home, interior, ca. 1890, hallway
    #11. Wilson home, interior, ca. 1890, dining room
    #12. Wilson home, interior, ca. 1890, dining room
    #13. Wilson home, interior, ca. 1890, stairway
15. Negatives

Contents | Special Collections

Updated: 3/16/09