Borthwick and Saunders Family papers, 1859-1948  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Borthwick (Family : 1859-1948 : Or.)Saunders (Family : 1887-1920 : Or.)
Borthwick and Saunders Family papers
1859-1948 (inclusive)
13.75 linear feet, (25 containers)
Collection Number
Ax 016
Alexander E. Borthwick was a Civil War veteran, railroad engineer and government servant who came to Portland in 1869. His son, William L. Borthwick, was a civil engineer and a Klansman. The collection includes correspondence, diaries, ledgers, photographs of the Borthwick family as wells as diaries and correspondence of the Saunders family who were related by marriage to William L. Borthwick.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives.
UO Libraries--SPC, 1299
University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 541-346-3068
Fax: 541-346-3485
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public.

Collection must be used in Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room.

Additional Reference Guides

Paper finding aid with additional information is available in Special Collections & University Archives.

Funding for production of this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Borthwick family papers includes diaries, letters, and business papers of Alexander E. Borthwick. His diaries and letters cover all the activities of his life.

In addition there are forty volumes of miscellaneous ledgers, cash books, journals, and copybooks relating to his various enterprises. Also included are the letters (1902-1948) of his son, William L. Borthwick, an engineer and Klansman. William Borthwick was married to Ruth Millard, stepdaughter of Alban G. Saunders of Redlands, California, and the letters and diaries of the Saunders family (1887-1920) are included in the collection.

The Borthwick photographs consist of a dozen family portraits and two albums: a portrait collection dated 1874 (tintypes and albums) and a snapshot album of Western mines c. 1910.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Alexander E. Borthwick was born Feb. 22, 1835 in in Schoharie County, New York, to William and Maria (Bushnell) Borthwick. He enlisted Nov. 16, 1861, in the Civil War in Company B, Fourth New York Artillery, and served until discharged on account of disability, August 28, 1862. On Oct. 1, 1863, having recovered his health, he reenlisted at Saratoga Springs, New York, in Company C, Second New York Veteran Cavalry, serving until Nov. 27, 1865, when he was honorably mustered out at Albany, New York. He took part in the Red River and Mobile campaigns and in several important raids in which he displayed the qualities of a true soldier. He was twice wounded, first at Marksville, Louisiana, and again at McLeod Mills, Mississippi, on the Davidson raid.

Following the war Borthwick attended school, first at Ft. Edward Institute, Ft. Edward, N.Y. then at Eastman's Business College, from which he graduated. In 1867 he went west. He assisted in building the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railways and was present on that historic occasion at Promontory Point, Utah, May 9, 1869, when the last spike was driven connecting with bands of steel from New York and San Francisco. In May 1869 he went to Nevada, worked in various mining camps, and then migrated to Canyon City, Ore., thence to The Dalles and Portland.

In Portland he worked for three months as a school teacher and for a short time as stationery salesman. He was then employed by the Oregon and California Railroad on a survey crew. In 1870 he did survey work for the Willamette Valley Railroad, and on the Northern Pacific Railroad out of Kalama, Wash. Terr. In April 1871 he was appointed county clerk, Multnomah County, Ore., a position he held for three years, during which time he was married to Alice Case of Salem, Ore. In 1874 he was elected assistant clerk of the House, Oregon State Legislature. In 1875 he left Oregon, clerked for a time in Walla Walla, took an agency for a sewing machine company out of Walla Walla, and worked in various mines in eastern Oregon, notably the Virtue Gold Mine, near Baker.

In 1876 he returned to Portland and resumed duties as a county clerk, serving to July 1882. In 1883 he established himself in Portland as a real estate agent and sold land and homes in the Portland area. In 1896 he was appointed superintendent of the Multnomah County Poor Farm, a position he resigned in 1899 when he moved to Spokane, Wash. From 1899 to 1905 he dealt in mining properties in Idaho, eastern Washington, and Nevada, traveling frequently to inspect mine properties as far south as Goldfield, Nev. In 1905 he returned to Portland and picked up his real estate business, continuing in it until his death. Borthwick was an active member of the G.A.R., attended the theater frequently, and was active in the social life of whatever community he was in.

William L. Borthwick (1881- ), son of Alexander E., attended the University of California, 1902-1906, and became a civil engineer. From 1915 to 1918 he was employed in river and harbor work by the U.S. Army Engineers on the Columbia River and along the north Pacific Coast. He was later an employee of the Bureau of Construction, Portland. He was active in politics, and joined the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. William L. Borthwick was married to Ruth Millard, stepdaughter of Alban G. Saunders of Redlands, California.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

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 and 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.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Borthwick and Saunders Family papers, Ax 016, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

PapersReturn to Top

10.0 linear feet

Photographs (PH177)Return to Top

1.25 linear feet
Borthwick family
Container(s) Description
Mining Album
Family Portraits

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Civil engineers--Oregon
  • Frontier and pioneer life--Oregon
  • Mines and Mineral Resources
  • Mines and mineral resources--West (U.S.)--Photographs
  • Mining districts--Oregon.
  • Photographs
  • Pioneers--Oregon
  • Pioneers--Oregon--Portland
  • Railroad engineering--Oregon
  • Railroad engineering--West (U.S.)
  • Railroad engineers--Oregon
  • Personal Names :
  • Borthwick, Alexander Elijah, 1845-1917
  • Borthwick, Alexander Elijah, 1845-1917--Correspondence
  • Borthwick, Alexander Elijah, 1845-1917--Diaries
  • Borthwick, William L.--Correspondence
  • Corporate Names :
  • Ku Klux Klan (1915- )--Oregon.
  • Family Names :
  • Borthwick family
  • Borthwick family--Photographs
  • Saunders family--Correspondence
  • Saunders family--Diaries
  • Geographical Names :
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Financial records
  • Photograph albums
  • Portraits
  • Tintypes