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John J. McGilvra Papers

Overview of the Collection

Creator
McGilvra, John J. (John Jay), 1827-1903
Title
John J. McGilvra Papers
Quantity
3.62 cubic ft., (9 boxes and 1 oversize volume)
8 microfilm reels  :  positive  ;  35 mm.
Collection Number
4806-001 (accession)
Summary
Seattle pioneer, lawyer, businessman, and politician.
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all users.

Additional Reference Guides

This finding aid can also be viewed on the University of Washington website.

Languages
English


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

John Jay McGilvra was born in Livingston County, New York, in 1827 and moved with his family to Illinois in 1844. After teaching school for several years, he began reading law, was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1853, and entered private practice in Chicago. In 1861, McGilvra was appointed U.S. attorney for Washington Territory, a post he held until 1865, when he returned to private pratice and politics. McGilvra was elected to the territorial legislature in 1866 as a Republican. The most notable accomplishment of his single term was the passage of enabling legislation for a wagon road over Snoqualmie Pass, the first trans-Cascade connection between eastern and western Washington. Following the Northern Pacific Railway's announcement in 1873 that Tacoma would be its West Coast terminus, he joined with other prominent Seattleites in organizing the Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad Company. Even after the failure of his railroad venture, McGilvra lobbied and litigated against the Northern Pacific and remained one of its most vocal critics.

McGilvra, one of the first attorneys in Seattle, spent most of his career in private practice but served a short time as city attorney. In addition to practicing law (he would eventually earn the title of "Judge" as a tribute to his longevity), McGilvra speculated in real estate. He and his wife, Elizabeth, purchased a large tract of land bordering Lake Washington, becoming the first white settlers in what is now the Madison Park neighborhood in Seattle. He built what became Madison Street to link his property with downtown Seattle and organized the Madison Street Cable Railway Company. McGilvra was also an advocate of municipal improvement and civic reform in Seattle, remaining active in civic affairs even after his retirement in 1893. He was a primary backer of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and promoted the concept of bringing Cedar River water to Seattle. He and other community leaders established a Municipal League in 1894, although it was soon disbanded. Oliver McGilvra, known to his family as Max, followed his father into the legal profession. McGilvra's elder daughter, Caroline, married his former law partner, Thomas Burke. John McGilvra died in 1903.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The John J. McGilvra Papers document the career of the lawyer, elected official, businessman, and civic activist.

The general correspondence is arranged chronologically and spans the years 1861-1907. The contents relate to both personal and business topics. Letters from the early 1860s discuss matters arising from McGilvra's duties as U.S. attorney. They include the investigation of suspected embezzlement by the customs collector in Port Townsend, Washington, settlement of land claims, and enforcement of the Indian Intercourse Act. Letters from the 1870s and 1880s address McGilvra's legal battles with the Northern Pacific Railroad as well as his general legal business. Much of the correspondence from the 1890s until his death in 1903 deals with civic matters, including the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Cedar River water line, and Republican politics. Major correspondents include Caroline McGilvra Burke, George Goss, and Oliver McGilvra. The outgoing letters are in the form of five letterpress books, 1873 to 1890, from McGilvra's law practice. They include correspondence from McGilvra and Burke (1875-1876); McGilvra and Blaine (1885-1889); and McGilvra, Blaine, and DeVries (1889-1890), law partnerships McGilvra formed during the course of his career. They constitute a daily record of economic conditions, legal practice, and politics in the Puget Sound region.

Court papers, largely legal briefs and notes, are grouped by subject, with the balance being catagorized as miscellaneous. The materials in this series represent the full range of McGilvra's law practice and include materials from his years practicing in Illinois. Legal documents include various contracts, article of incorporation, and affidavits. Also included are his reports as U.S. attorney for Washington Territory. The speeches and writings date largely from the 1870s and beyond and are grouped by topic, including the Lake Washington Ship Canal, Republican politics and Seattle municipal affairs, and the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. The series includes notes as well as complete speeches and writings.

The collection also contains several subgroups representing the papers of the McGilvra estate and several family members. There are also small subgroups containing the correspondence of McGilvra and Baxter, another of his law partnerships, and law partner Elbert F. Blaine. Blaine has been called the "father of the Seattle park system." Included in the Blaine subgroup is the 1903 report from the Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Mass., to Blaine (in his capacity as chairman of the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners) outlining a comprehensive parks plan for the city.

The McGilvra collection also includes two 4-reel sets of positive microfilm which contain McGilvra's general correspondence and outgoing letters. The microfilm targets misidentify a few dates. The terminal date for reel 1 should be May 29, not June 2, and the starting date for reel 4 should be 1896 rather than 1895.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The creator's literary rights were not transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Personal PapersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
1/1
1861-1862
1/2-4
1863
1/5
1864
1/6
1866
1/7
1868-1870
1/8
1871-1872
1/9-13
1873
1/14
1874
1/15
1875
1/16
1876
1/17
1877
1/18
1878
1/19
1879
1/20
1880
1/21
1881
1/22
1882
1/23
1884
1/23-25
1885
1/26-27
1886
1/28-30
1887
1/31-34
1888
1/35-38
1889
1/39-40
1890
1/41-42
1891
1/43-44
1892
1/44
1892
1/45
1893
1/46
1894
1/47-50
1895
1/51-54
1896
2/1
1897
2/2-4
1898
2/5-9
1899
2/10-11
1900
2/12-13
1901
2/14-17
1902
2/18-19
1903
2/20
1906-1907
2/21-23
No Dates
n.d.
2/24
Unidentified
n.d.
Outgoing Letters - Letterpress Books
Box
2
Volume 1
Jun. 1873-Aug. 1878
2
Volume 2
Nov. 1875-Dec. 1879
2
Volume 3
Jan. 1880-Nov. 1882
3
Volume 4
Apr. 1883-Aug. 1885
3
Volume 5
Sept. 1887-Dec. 1890
Court Papers
Box/Folder
4/1
Cook County, Illinois Practice
1853-1860
4/2
Re: Daniel Bagley
4/3
Re: Dexter Horton and Company
4/4
Re: Northern Pacific Railroad Company
4/5
Re: City of Seattle
4/6
Re: Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad Company
4/7
Re: University of Washington Lands
4/8
Re: Henry Yesler
4/9
General
4/10
Court Papers Involving Northern Pacific Railroad Company
4/11-14
[Missing]
4/15
Miscellaneous Papers
5/1-5/8
Miscellaneous Briefs (A-V)
6/1
Miscellaneous Briefs (W-S)
6/2-3
Miscellaneous Briefs (unnamed)
6/4
Re: Wills
Legal Documents
Box/Folder
6/5
Affidavits
Articles of Incorporation, Constitutions, By-laws, etc.(copies)
Box/Folder
6/6
Lake Washington and Seattle Coal Road Company
1867
6/6
Meigs Lumber and Ship Building Company
6/6
Seattle and Lake Washington Waterway Company
1893?
6/6
Seattle Real Estate Board
6/6
Seattle Traction Company
6/6
Municipal League of Seattle
1896
Box/Folder
6/7
Contracts
6/8
Contracts (Agreements)
6/9
Book Inventories
1861, 1890
6/10
Licenses, etc. re: Trading with Indians
1873, 1875
6/11
Notice of Estray
1884
6/12
Seattle Ordinances
6/13
Report: Trespass on Public Lands by Logging Companies
1864
6/14-15
Reports as U.S. District Attorney
1861-1865
6/16
Specifications for Construction
1859-1903
6/17
Surety Bonds
1875-1890
6/18
Miscellaneous
Financial Records
ca. 1870-1900
Box/Folder
6/19
Miscellaneous re: Seattle Municipal Finances
6/20
Miscellaneous Receipts
6/21-22
Miscellaneous
Speeches and Writings
Box/Folder
7/1
Re: Alaska Boundary Dispute
1898-1899
7/2-3
Re: Lake Washington Canal
ca.1895-1903
7/4
Re: Legislative Bills
ca.1870-1900
7/5
Re: Madison Street Cable Railway Company
ca.1865-1900
7/6-7
Re: Northern Pacific Railroad Company
1876-1877
7/8
Re: Republican Party
ca.1870-1903
7/9-10
Re: Seattle Municipal Affairs and Politics
ca.1870-1903
7/11
Re: Politics - General
ca. 1870-1903
7/12
Re: Washington Pioneer Society
7/13
Re: People
7/14
Miscellaneous: (Genealogical Tree for Jacob Wiebens)
7/15
"Territorial Expansions" and "Immigration and Kindred Topics"
7/16
Miscellaneous

McGilvra, John Jay, Estate PapersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Correspondence
Box/Folder
7/17
Miscellaneous
1923
7/18
To: Lowman, J.D.
1923-1924
7/19-24
To: McGilvra, Mrs. Elizabeth M. From: McGilvra, O.C.
1904-1926
8/1
To: McGilvra, Mrs. E.M. From: McGilvra Estate
1913-1922
8/2
To: McGilvra, Mrs. E.M. From: Miscellaneous
1910-1923
8/3
To: McGilvra, O.C. From: A. H. Reid & Co.
1922-1923
8/4
To: McGilvra, O.C. From: Seattle Title Trust Co.
1922-1924
8/5
To: McGilvra, O.C. From: Miscellaneous
1919-1928
8/6
To: Burke, Mrs. C.E. From: McGilvra Estate
1912-1926
8/7
To: A.H. Reid & Co. From: Miscellaneous
1922-1923
8/8
To: Seattle Title Trust Co. From: Miscellaneous
1919-1923
8/9
To: Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands From: McGilvra Estate
1920-1927
8/10
To: Wright, G.E. From: McGilvra Estate
n.d., 1920-1922
8/11
To: Miscellaneous From: McGilvra Estate
1916-1930
Box/Folder
8/12
Agreements
8/13
Assignments
8/14
Certificates
8/15-16
Contracts
8/17
Indentures
8/18
Legal Papers
8/19
Memoranda
8/20
Notes - Financial
8/21
Powers of Attorney
8/22
Real Estate Contracts
8/23
Real Estate - Price Lists
8/24
Receipts
8/25-26
Reports
8/27
Statements
8/28
Wills
9/1-3
Financial - Miscellaneous
9/4
McGilvra Family Documents
9/5
McGilvra, O.C. - Miscellaneous
volume:oversize
10
Journal
1903-1916

McGilvra, Elizabeth M.Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Incoming Correspondence
Box/Folder
9/6
Canadian Bank of Commerce
1918-1920
9/7
Jones, Juliet E. (Hills)
n.d., 1904, 1907
9/8
Lyon, L.K.
n.d.
9/9
Moyer, Carrie, E.
1918, 1920, n.d.
9/10
Miscellaneous (A-Z)
1903-1920
Box/Folder
9/11
Outgoing Correspondence
1920
9/12
Deed, Contract
9/13-14
Financial Records
9/15
Notes - Financial
9/16
Receipts
9/17
Statements
9/18
Tax Notices
9/19
Wills
9/20
Miscellany

McGilvra, EthelReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
9/21
Incoming Correspondence - Letter from K.B. Scott
1890-1894, 1917, 1926, n.d.

McGilvra, Oliver C.Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
9/22
Incoming Correspondence
1900-1910
9/23-24
Outgoing Correspondence
1844-1926, n.d.

McGilvra, Lillian L.Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
9/25
Incoming Correspondence
1915
9/26
Autograph Book
9/26
Notebook

McGilvra and Baxter, AttorneysReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
9/27
Incoming Correspondence
1873-1875

Blaine, Elbert F.Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
General Correspondence
Box/Folder
9/28
Edmiston, J.K
1893
9/28
Hale, H.C.
1888
9/28
Kreisher, Philip H.
1886
9/28
Magers, J.E
1888
9/28
Montgomery, Alex
1888
9/28
Nicolai Brother Co.
1888
9/28
Olmsted Brothers (Report to Park Commissioners)
1905
9/28
Seavey, Abbie J.
1888
9/28
U.S. Pension Agency
1888

MicrofilmReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Reel
1
Letterpress Copybooks, vol. 1-3 complete
1873-1882
1
Letterpress Copybooks, vol. 4, pp. 1-110 (Apr. 16, 1883 - May 29, 1884)
1883-1884
2
Letterpress Copybooks, vol. 4, pp. 111-end (Jun. 2, 1884 - Sept. 5 1887)
1884-1887
2
Letterpress Copybooks, vol. 5, pp. 1-441 (Sept. 9, 1887 - Sept. 21, 1889)
1887-1889
3
Letterpress Copybooks, vol. 5, pp. 442-end (Oct. 5, 1889 - Aug. 21, 1890)
1889-1890
3
General Correspondence (Jul. 8, 1861 - Dec. 16, 1895)
1861-1895
4
General Correspondence (1896 - 1903)
1896-1903
4
General Correspondence, Undated and Unidentitied