The collection is open to the public.
M. L. (Marc La Riviere) Stangroom was born in 1832 in England. After attending school in Switzerland, he relocated back to England where he worked for the North Staffordshire Railway. Following a brief stay in India, Stangroom immigrated to the United States, landing initially in New York. Stangroom then traveled to California and Nevada where he engaged in mining speculation and railroad surveying. In 1888, at the request of railroad magnate Pierre Cornwall, Stangroom moved to Bellingham, Washington to assist in building the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia railway. In 1901 he was appointed State Supervising Engineer in Seattle. Stangroom died in 1913 at the age of 81.
The M. L. (Marc La Riviere) Stangroom papers document the early career and activities of an engineer for the Bellingham Bay & British Columbia Railroad. The collection spans the years 1855-2005, with the bulk of the material ranging from 1855-1968. Stangroom's personal papers include a resume and fifteen-page report regarding the construction of the Bellingham Bay & British Columbia railroad (for which he served as engineer).
The bulk of the collection comprises letters from Stangroom to his mother and siblings regarding his travels and experiences in the western United States. In a letter dated 1855, Stangroom writes of his plan to go to the United States from India to enjoy better business prospects. Subsequent correspondence documents Stangroom’s experiences in California and the Sierra-Nevada region circa 1855-1873. His letters include reference to the Chinese quarter of Sacramento, the Placerville mining community, and the adverse road and weather conditions he encountered during his travels. Stangroom describes his experiences prospecting for gold in the Sierra Nevadas, life in the mining town of Michigan Bluff in Placer County, California, and the mining processes of the 1850s and 1860s. He writes of a town destroyed by fire in 1856, and also of interactions between white settlers and Native Americans. A June 1858 letter describes how Californians are driven “stark raving mad” by the lure of gold in British Columbia, with hundreds of men leaving daily for the Fraser River. Later letters from 1865 and 1866 refer to Stangroom’s work for the Western Pacific Railroad, and to surveying a line between Sacramento and Stockton.
Stangroom’s letters provide rich description of western landscapes including California redwood forests and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The correspondence reveals aspects of his personal and family life, including his courtship and eventual marriage to Emily Stewart in December 1856 in Sulphur Springs, California. An 1857 letter reflects the isolation of many miners and California settlers: when Emily Stangroom falls ill, there is no physician nearby to attend her.
The collection also contains condolence letters to Stangroom’s daughter Zoe Stangroom Kindall, written after the death of her husband, and newspaper clippings documenting M. L. Stangroom’s achievements. Other documents include an affidavit from Mabel Stangroom Egan affirming her relationship to her sister, Zoe Stangroom.
M.L. (Marc La Riviere) Stangroom Papers, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Heritage Resources, Western Washington University, Bellingham WA 98225-9123.
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
Folder 1/2 contains information about Stangroom’s leadership in building a railroad line to connect Bellingham Bay with the Canadian Pacific Railway, as well as creating and operating two saw mills, and supplying the towns of Old and New Whatcom with water from Lake Whatcom.
|1/1||undated, circa 1901|
Newspaper Clippings re M.L. Stangroom
Mabel Stangroom affidavit for Zoe Stangroom Kindall 1940
Condolence Letter on the death of Joseph W. Kindall