Thurston Family Papers, 1838-1887  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Thurston, Samuel Royal, 1816-1851
Thurston Family Papers
1838-1887 (inclusive)
.6 cubic feet, (1 document case, 1 reel of microfilm)
Collection Number
Mss 379
Papers concerning Samuel Thurston, his wife Elizabeth, and the early settlement of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Materials include correspondence, business papers, diary extracts, speeches, publications, and writings.
Oregon Historical Society, Davies Family Research Library
Davies Family Research Library
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Samuel Royal Thurston, first Oregon delegate to Congress, was born April 15, 1816 in Monmouth, Maine. Thurston graduated from Bowdoin College in 1832 and was admitted to the Maine bar in 1844. During 1847, Thurston and his wife Elizabeth (married in 1845) traveled overland to Oregon City, where he began a law office. Shortly after moving to Washington County in 1848, he was elected to the Provisional Legislature and on June 6, 1849 was selected as the first Oregon Territorial Delegate to Congress. The major accomplishment during his term as delegate was the passage of the Oregon donation land law. While returning to Oregon after his first term, he died at sea off Acapulco, Mexico, April 9, 1851. Originally buried in Acapulco, the territorial legislature appropriated $1,500 to reinter Thurston's remains in Oregon soil.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Correspondence (1844-1852), including letters from and to Thurston's constituents, as well as personal letters (1849- 1851) from Thurston to his wife during his term as Oregon's delegate to Congress. Subjects include the Oregon donation land law, Dr. John McLoughlin's land claims, establishment of the Oregon Statesman, Oregon Baptist Education Society, growth of Portland, and political affairs in Oregon.

Correspondents include John Adair, Jesse Applegate, Wilson Blain, William P. Bryant, Asahel Bush, Anson Dart, William H. Gray, Lafayette Grover, William Harkness, David Hill, Hezekiah Johnson, William King, Hall J. Kelley, Joseph Lane, Asa L. Lovejoy, James W. Nesmith, Samuel Parker, Josiah L. Parrish, William B. Preston, Nicholas Shrum, Henry H. Spalding, J. Q. Thornton, and others.

Typescript diary (November 21, 1849-August 28, 1850) documents Thurston's activities as Oregon delegate to Congress and a handscript copy of journal (1849) describes Thurston's voyage from Portland to the Carribbean. Legal documents include contracts, deeds, and papers regarding the death and estate of Thurston. Additional manuscript materials include handscript copies of Thruston's public addresses and printed documents related to important issues postage reform, road improvement, and the Oregon Land Bill. Typescript biography (1879) of Samuel Royal Thurston was written by the former Mrs. Thurston -- Mrs. W. H. Odell.

Microfilm includes 30 letters from Samuel Thurston to his wife Elizabeth; and a number of speeches of Thurston given in the U.S. Congress.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library prior to any use of reproductions. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use of reproductions may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright holders.

Preferred Citation

Thurston Family Papers, Mss 379, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Thurston Family PapersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Samuel Thurston - business and estate papers
Miscellaenous papers, including deeds, loan agreements, payments on account, speeches, appropriations for territories.
Commission as notary public for Cumberland County, Maine
1843 October 17
Contract by Secretary of Navy and Arnold Harris entitled "an act for the building and equipping of 4 mail steamers"
1847 November 16
Agreement with A. W. Stockwell and Henry Russel concerning the press for the Oregon Statesman
Independent order of odd fellows, Magenenu encampment, No. 4, Washington D.C. resolution of condolence for the death of S. R. Thurston
1851 June 4
Inventory of the effects of the Honorable S. R. Thurston, who died at sea on board the USM Steamship California at 2 A.M.
1951, April 9
An act to provide means to return Honorable S. R. Thurston's body to Oregon. 3 pp., typescript
1852 December 21
Incoming Correspondence
From Nathaniel Albertson. Re: Action of the House on the donation land bill. Washington, 2 pp.
1851 February 28
From John Adair (4). Dr. White and Lancaster City founding. Building in Astoria. Purchase of lot in Astoria. Salary of district collector. Opposition to land bill. Postmaster position in Astoria.
1850 Feb. 15, Dec. 6, Dec. 24; 1852 Aug. 7
From Jesse Applegate. Oregon land bill. Defense of the southern frontier. Colonel Loring. Yoncalla, 4 pp. [first pages missing]
To Mrs. Thurston from Sarah E. Bartlett. Personal matters. Sent in care of Samuel R. Thurston. 3 pp.
1851 February 25
From E. H. Bellinger. Donation land bill. Removal of postmaster in Salem.
1850 May 25
From Wilson Blain (7). [6. One may be missing.] Politics. Governor Lane. Oregon Statesman. McLoughlin's land claims.
1849 October 23 - 1850 September 20.
From William P. Bryant. Reasons for resignation as Chief Justice of Oregon Territory. Originals and typescripts [except for January 6, 1851, letter]
1850 August 17 - 1851 February 10
From Peter H. Burnett. Relates his part in formation of the state government of California. San Jose, 4 pp.
1850 August 7
From Asahel Bush (6). Political matters and matters relating to establishment of the Statesman. Oregon City.
1850 November 19 - 1851 January 17
From J. A. Cornwall. Personal matters. 3 pp.
1849 November 20.
From William H. Gray. (2) McLoughlin Oregon City claim. Photostat, 7 pp.; Politics, photocopy, 4 pp.
1850, undated and August 25
From R. C. Geer. Oregon City, 3 pp. [preservation copy and original]
1850 April 15.
From Anson Dart. New York, 1 p.
1850 August 6
From William H. Daridge. Pacific Mail Steamship Company. New York, 1 p.
1850 June 14
To "Miss McLench, now Mrs. Thurston," from Josephine M. Dyar, Phillips, 3 pp.
1850, March
From Mitchel P. Gilliam, Marion City, 2 pp., preservation copy and original.
1850 September 20
From J.S. Griffin. Mrs. Thurston's health. Governor Lane. Mail delay. Tualatin Plains, 4 pp.
1849 December 22
From Lafayette Grover. Intention to come to Oregon. Philadelphia, 4 pp.
1850 December 14
From William C. Hall. Brunswick, Me., 3 pp. Migration to California. Childhood memories.
1851, January 1.
From William B. Harkness, Salem, 2 pp.
1850 September 23
From W. J. Herren, Salem, 3 pp.
1850 November 10th
From James C. Holman. Petition for Customs house and port of entry at Bakers Bay. San Francisco, 2 pp.
1850 May 31
From W. H. Hubbard. Requesting Thurston's autograph. Norwich University, 1 p.
1851 June 17
From Hezekiah Johnson. (2) No local government. Soldiers deserting. Thornton employed by McLoughlin. Oregon Baptist Education Society. Oregon City.
1850, February 21, June 13.
From William M. King. Politics. Oregon City, 1 p.
1851 January 2.
From David Hill. Legislative news. High water carries away storehouse at Oregon City. Monthly mail service between Portland and Columbia [Hillsboro]. Scarcity of needed articles. [Part of letter dated January 6, 1850.] Photostat, 3 pp.
1849 December 13
Hall J. Kelley.
11 items. Re: Kelley's treatment by Dr. McLoughlin. His petition for aid from U.S. government. Three Rivers, Mass.
1850 April - 1851 February
From James M. Moore. Election results. Election of Levi A. Rice as Indian agent; mentions political attitudes and parties in Oregon. Locofocos. Linn City, 4 pp.
1850 June 18
From William V. [Leet]. Asking for information about Oregon. Washington, Pa., 2 pp.
1851 January 22.
From Alonzo Leland. Encouragement of teachers coming to Oregon. Surveying fees. Survey of railroad to Yamhill. Need more women in Oregon. Portland, 4 pp.
1850 December 21
From Joseph Lane. Steamboats for Columbia and Willamette rivers. Land grants. Oregon City, 2 pp.
1850 January 27
From David T. Lenox. First person to bring a company with wagons to the Dalles. Gold falsehoods. Washington County, 3 pp., photostat. [original in postal collection]
1850 October 7
From A. L. Lovejoy [4 items; 3 originals, 1 photocopy]. One item is part of a letter referring to McLoughlin's citizenship and his right to vote.
1849 November 19-1850 December 1
From D. H. Lownsdale (2). Channel on the south side of the Columbia, San Francisco, 7 pp. Undated letter fragment, 4 pp.
1850 March 20, undated
From Mailler and Lord. Inquiries concerning articles of merchandise needed in Oregon. Sending bark Frances and Louisa and the Golden Age to the Columbia River. [Forwarded with note to W. M. King.] New York, 1 p.
1850 December 2
From M. M. McCarver. Proposed military reserves. Emigration. Oregon City, 3 pp.
1850 November 10
From J. W. Nesmith. Approves part of land bill that relates to Oregon City claim. Dr. McLoughlin. Portland, 2 pp.
1850 September 4
From Samuel Parker (2). Party make-up of Oregon legislature. Trouble with J.Q. Thornton. Oregon City.
1850, September 10 and December 16
From J. L. Parrish. Asking information about Oregon. Mansfield, Ohio, 2 pp.
1850 February 12
From J. L. Parrish. Growth of Portland. Duties and experiences as Indian agent. Portland, 4 pp.
1850 July 15
From T. P. Powers (2). Gold discovery. Food prices. Growth of Astoria. Land bill. Astoria and Clatsop Plains.
1850 August 3 and December 7
From William H. Safford. Asking for information about Oregon. Chillicoth, Ohio, 3 pp.
1850 December 16
From A. S. Sawyer. Oregon City, 3 pp.
1849 Nov 19
From Wesley Shannon (14). Land Bill. Personal matters.
1850 March 10-December 12, undated
To Mrs. Thurston from Lizzie Sherburne. Phillips, 4 pp.
1850 March 18
From Benjamin Simpson (6). Business conditions in Oregon. Exodus to gold mines.
1850 March 28-December 19
From James R. Snowden, telegram, 1 p.
1849, January 4
From H.H. Spalding. Appointed postmaster. Postal statistics. Execution of Indians for Whitman Massacre. Kalapooyah, 4 pp.
1850 August 10
Letter fragment (pp. 8-11) from unknown sender
From Alfred J. Stone (5). Politics. Defeat by John Appleton.
1844 August 27, 1850 February 5-1851 February 8.
From John Switzler. Asking for establishment of post office on south side of Columbia. Name of residents of that locality. Fort Vancouver, 3 pp.
1850 September 22.
From Nicholas Shrum. Land bill, Cayuse War. Marion County, 2 pp.
1850 December 12
From Elam Young. Whitman Indian trial, Dr. McLoughlin's defense, Catholics in Pacific Northwest, Party politics in Oregon. Tualatin Plains, 3 pp.
1850 July 24
From J. Q. Thornton. Photostat.
1850 October 21.
From J. Q. Thornton. Oregon City, 4 pp.
15 October 1849
From Jason Wheeler. Testimony relative to his treatment by S. R. Thurston. Oregon City, 1 p.
1849 April 2
From C. M. Walker. Concerning military services of Robert Bird. Chehalem, 3 pp.
1851 January 22
From Asa Walker. Letter enclosing a letter to the electors of Oregon for the Oregon Spectator. Bangor, Me., 8 pp.
1851 January 1
From A. Van Dusen (2). Appointment to vacant post office position. Vessels entering Astoria port. Adair & Co. lots purchased by Thurston.
1850 September 4 and December 8.
To Mrs. Thurston from Nathan K. Hall, Postmaster General. Receipt of mail belonging to S. R. Thurston, deceased. 3 pp.
1851 November 6
From Thomas Upham. Admission of California to Union. Railroad. Brunswich, Maine, 3 pp.
1850 April 11.
From J. Q. Thornton. McLoughlin's land claim.
Outgoing correspondence
1838, 1849-1851
To "Madame"
1850 May 26
To W. M. Meredith, Secretary of Treasury. Concerning alleged violation of the laws of U.S. by a British vessel. Washington, 2 pp.
1850 January 14
To unknown recipient, 4 pp.
1850 November 18
To J. Butterfield re: Land bill. Washington, 1 p.
1851, March 5
To William B. Preston, Secretary of Navy. Concerning mail contracts. Copy, Washington, 3 pp.
1849, December 24
To Indiana Delegation. re: Land bill. Washington, D.C., 1 p.
1851 February 28
To Hall, J. Kelley. Asking information on Kelley's treatment by Dr. McLoughlin and HBC. 1 p.
1850 November 22
To "My Dear Sir," 4 pp
1850 June 7
To "Sir," 4 pp.
1851 July 28
To Samuel Parker and Wesley Shannon. Comments on decision of Judge Pratt. Interpretation of various sections of Organic Bill. Washington, D.C., 13 pp. [last page missing?]
1850, August 31
Outgoing correspondence to Elizabeth Thurston (41)
Journey to Washington, D.C. Politics. Finances. Personal matters.
1849 August 16-1851 March 11
Diary - transcript of extract
Trip from Portland to Jamaica
1849 Aug. 2 - Nov. 4
Publications - "Letter of the Delegate from Oregon to the Members of the House of Representatives in Behalf of his Constituents, Touching the Oregon Land Bill."
1st session, 31st Congress, 10 pp., 2 typescript copies, 1 printed.
Publications - "Diary of Samuel Royal Thurston"
"A book containing a faithful record of my several efforts in behalf of Oregon, from and after the 21st day of November AD 1849. . . ." Typescript, 63 pp.
1849 November-1850 August
circa 1850-1851
"On the proposition to admit California as a state into the union. Delivered in the House of Representatives."
1850 March 25
"To the Electors and People of the Territory of Oregon," an explanation of activities as congressional delgate for Oregon. Printed, 16 p.
1850 November 15
" defence of his constituents and of his course touching the Oregon land bill, delivered in the House of Representatives of the U.S." Printed.
1850 December 26
Speech delivered in the House of Representatives on the postage reform. Printed.
1851 January 16
Address delivered to the freshman class of Dartmouth College, 15 pp.
1840 July 4
History of Oregon Territory, 7 pp.
Address to "Fellow citizens," 7 pp.
Notes on political and government service
circa 1845-1851
Includes: Copy of bills relating to post offices and post roads of Oregon, passed at the 29th Congress, 2nd session. Senate document presented by Thurston at 2nd session, 30th Congress concerning instructions to send war vessels to coast of Oregon, Mexican War, Oregon Indians, Oregon boundary settlement, Cayuse War, proposals of Thompson and Moore for steam vessels in Oregon. Mentions President Polk, R. J. Walker, Ap C. Jones, W. L. Marcy, George Abernethy, Whitman Massacre.
circa 1848
Writings (essays, etc.)
circa 1840-1851
Elizabeth Thurston
Biography of Samuel Thurston - by Miss W. H. [Thurston] Odell
Typescript, 23 pp. For Hubert Howe Bancroft. Original at Bancroft Library.
[See also correspondence with Samuel Thurston, as some letters addressed to Mrs. Thurston are filed there.]
Letter to Mrs. Thurston from P. Martha Hoyt, re: death of Thurston. [Note on back from William Roberts.]
1851 May 7
Elizabeth Thurston Blundina - deed
Warranty deed from John Adair and Mary Ann Adair to George Henry Thurston and Elizabeth Blandina Thurston.
1867 January 25
Elizabeth Thurston O'Dell - correspondence
1887, undated
To Mrs. Thurston from Sarah E. Bartlett. Personal matters. Norway, 4 pp.
1850 January 6
To Mrs. Odell from [unknown sender], Calcutta, India.
To Mrs. Thurston from Maggie C. Kendrick, re: Christian schools. 6 pp.[first page missing]
Elizabeth Thurston O'Dell - essays, speech
circa 1840-1850
Essay, 3 pp., signed "E. F. McLench [afterwards Mrs. S. R. Thurston.]"
Address in behalf of the Linn County Sanitary Aid Society, 7 pp.
Mss Microfilm 379
Microfilmed papers
Microfilmed by Central Washington State College from originals in the possession of Frederic F. Wolfer, 1972; acquired by the Oregon Historical Society, 1973.
Biography of Samuel Thurston
Letters to the U.S. Navy Dept.
1848 April 5, April 12
Letter to the electors of the Oregon Territory
1850 October 15
30 letters from Samuel Thurston to his wife Elizabeth
Speech before the House of Representatives on the proposition to admit California into the Union
1850 March 25
Speech on the defense of Samuel Thurston's course on the Oregon land bill
1850 Dec. 26
Speech on postage reform
1851 Jan. 16
Report on roads in Oregon
1850 May 24
Act to bring Samuel Thurston's remains from Mexico to Oregon
1852 Jan. 16
Indentures and memoranda

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Legislators--Oregon
  • Pioneers--Oregon
  • Priorities of claims and liens--Oregon
  • Personal Names :
  • McLoughlin, John, 1784-1857
  • Thurston, Elizabeth--Archives
  • Thurston, Samuel Royal, 1816-1851--Archives
  • Family Names :
  • Thurston family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Oregon Territory--Politics and government
  • Oregon--Politics and government
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Diaries
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Speeches
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • O'Dell, Elizabeth Thurston (creator)