Little biographical information is available on Margaret Bannard. Presumably she was a young woman in 1903 when she solicited the letters that constitute this collection. She lived in Eugene, Oregon, in 1903 and presented her inquiries for stories on early Oregon pioneer life as part of a research project. She may have collected these stories for course work at the University of Oregon, or for a heritage organization (such as Pioneer Women’s clubs), or for other reasons.
The Bannard letters consists of four, long letters written to Margaret Bannard between January and December 1903. Bannard herself had written to these individuals soliciting pioneer stories and information on the social life of Oregon during the period when eastern Americans settled in the region. Bannard received letters from Mrs. J.A. Newell, J.W. Miller, an unidentified person, and George Himes. Together these letters offer unique insights into how residents of Oregon remembered events and people from the 1840s and 1850s.
Each of the letter writers emphasized how significant community was to the first U.S. residents to settle in Oregon. They mention some of the obstacles associated with overland travel and homesteading – such as destitution, epidemics, and attacks from local, Indian residents. They also noted how diverse Oregon communities were – they encompassed migrants from every state in the Union. Descriptions like these remind modern readers that nineteenth-century Americans saw themselves as quite distinct from Americans who lived in other states. And overland migration broke down some of these parochial barriers. The communities they established were generous and supportive according to the letter writers. Himes lauded the social leveling that migration brought about. Miller surmised that overland travel made these migrants generous, noble, and grand not just immediately after their journey but for the rest of their lives.
While the letters have much in common, each offers its own unique memories of life in Oregon. Newell described many hardships. When discussing the variety of migrants to Oregon, she also mentioned the presence of freed slaves (who entered before the migration of African Americans to the territory was outlawed). Miller (who migrated in 1851) commented on the changes he lived through, in particular, the transformation of the Oregon wilderness into fruit fields. Finally, Himes was acutely concerned with class in his letter to Bannard. He noted that the social equality shared by early residents quickly broke down and class difference emerged through access to consumer products and property.
Intriguing, individual details such as these are fleeting; perhaps, they are most useful to researchers when compared to other pioneer reminiscences and early American documents produced in Oregon. Researchers might consult some of the following collections also housed at the University of Oregon: the Laura Judy Biography of Carole Buffum (CB B864), the Arvazena A. Cooper Collection (CB C784), or the Jackson County Papers (Bx 067).
Available in microfilm as part of: Women's lives. Series 3, American women missionaries and pioneers collection (MICROFILM BV3703 .W66 2006, reel 80); Primary Source Microfilm, 12 Lunar Dr., Woodbridge, Conn. 06525.
Property rights reside with Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections & University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.
Archival material may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws and other regulations.
Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g. a cause of action for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Oregon assumes no responsibility.
If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.
[Identification of item], Margaret Bannard Collection of Oregon Pioneer Letters, CB B226, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.
|1||1||The Social Life of Oregon Pioneers, as described in reminiscent letters (Jan 14 and 20, 1903)||January 14 and 20, 1903|
|1||2||The Social Life of Oregon Pioneers, as described in reminiscent letters (Jan 20, 1903 continued)||January 20, 1903|
|1||3||The Social Life of Oregon Pioneers, as described in reminiscent letters (Dec 23, 1903)||December 23, 1903|