Benjamin Franklin Dowell papers , 1847-1882

Overview of the Collection

Dowell, B. F. (Benjamin Franklin)
Benjamin Franklin Dowell papers
1847-1882 (inclusive)
4.5 linear feet, (3 containers, 5 volumes)
Collection Number
Ax 031
Benjamin Franklin Dowell, a native of Virginia, came west on the overland trail in 1850. He practiced law in Jacksonville, Oregon and in Washington, D.C. Dowell, with the assistance of his wife and others, owned the Oregon Sentinel newspaper in Jacksonville. The Benjamin Franklin Dowell Papers includes memorandum books, diaries, scrapbooks, and correspondence between Dowell and his wife from Jacksonville and Washington, D.C.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

An attorney in Jacksonville, Oregon, Dowell was a native of Virginia, born in 1826. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in law in 1847. Dowell came overland to California in 1850, but migrated to Oregon almost immediately. With little legal business in Oregon, Dowell taught school and then ran a pack train from various points to the gold region of southern Oregon and northern California in the 1850s. He resumed practicing law after his pack train was captured by a group of Native Americans.

Dowell practiced law in Jacksonville, and specialized in pressing "Indian depredation" and military expense claims for Oregonians who had suffered genuine or fancied losses. Many of these claims were against the Federal government, so Dowell spent much of his time in Washington D.C., being shunted from one treasury official to another. Similar to most attorneys of the time, he had political ambitions. To gain a political career, Dowell purchased the Oregon Sentinel (Jacksonville) in 1864. Through his wife and a series of eight editors he ran the paper remotely for fourteen years. His political ambitions were never realized, and he remained a claims agent and attorney. Dowell died in 1897.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Benjamin Franklin Dowell Papers include correspondence, diaries, and newspaper clippings. Except for a few loose letters and documents, the Dowell papers are imbedded in scrapbooks into which he and his wife pasted correspondence, printed pieces, and clippings. Most of the letters are either by Dowell or his wife, and represent an exchange of information and instruction, as well as gossip, between Jacksonville and Washington, D.C.

The small volumes of scrapbooks, memorandum books, and diaries are stored in boxes. The larger volumes are stored individually in phase boxes.

Detailed access to the letters is provided by a calendar of incoming letters, in the form of typed cards located in the Manuscripts Card Catalog. The date, sender's name, and brief content description of each letter is given.

Fragments of the Dowell papers exist in other libraries, notably the Huntington Library in San Marino, California; the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, California; and the Oregon Historical Society Library in Portland, Oregon.

A thesis by Franklin D. Mahar, "Benjamin Franklin Dowell" (M.A., History, University of Oregon, 1964) is based on the Dowell papers.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Lawyers--Oregon--Jacksonville

Geographical Names

  • Oregon--Claims vs. United States

Form or Genre Terms

  • Correspondence