William and Isabella Kirkman Collection, 1853-2004  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Kirkman, William, 1832-1893Kirkman, Isabella Potts, d. 1931
William and Isabella Kirkman Collection
1853-2004 (inclusive)
1853-1905 (bulk)
1.8 linear feet, (3 boxes)
Collection Number
Correspondence, financial records, journal, and scrapbook of a prominent and wealthy immigrant family in Walla Walla, Washington
Whitman College and Northwest Archives
Whitman College and Northwest Archives
Penrose Library, Room 130
345 Boyer Avenue
Walla Walla, WA
Telephone: 509-527-5922
Fax: 509-526-4785
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

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

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

William Kirkman was born in Bury, England on December 7, 1832 to a Scotch-Irish factory foreman. He immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts in 1852 and moved to California in 1853. Between 1853 and 1862, he lived in Australia, the Sandwich Islands, and British Columbia. In 1862, he returned to California, but soon migrated northeast, as he began supplying cattle for miners in Boise, Idaho and Walla Walla, Washington.

In San Francisco, California on February 2, 1867, he married Isabella Potts, a native of Balla Bay, Ireland who had emigrated to live with her sister. They moved to Idaho City, Idaho to pursue economic ventures in the cattle business. After enduring the difficult winter of 1868-1869 and heavy economic and personal losses, including the death of their son George, they returned briefly to San Francisco.

In 1870, William and Isabella Kirkman moved to Walla Walla, Washington and built a small house on Colville St. The Kirkman House preserved today as a museum was built around 1873. William Kirkman and John Dooley partnered as cattle ranchers and enjoyed great economic success. In 1890, Kirkman bought out Dooley's interest in the business and founded the Walla Walla Dressed Meat Company. He also became involved in wheat farming, operating two farms near Dry Creek.

William and Isabella Kirkman were active in the Walla Walla community. William Kirkman served on the City Council, the School Board, and the Whitman College Board of Trustees. He was also a founding member and president of the Walla Walla Club and served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1892. The Kirkmans had four children who survived into adulthood: William H. Kirkman, Fanny A. Kirkman, (Mrs. Allen G. Reynolds), Myrtle B. Kirkman, and Leslie G. Kirkman.

William Kirkman died in Stevens Point, WI in 1893. Isabella Kirkman died near Belfast, Ireland in 1931.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection contains of a wide variety of documents. The correspondence file contains William Kirkman's letters to his family written in the 1850s and 1860s. Isabella Kirkman's 1867 scrapbook contains clippings of poems and newspaper articles. Invitations received by the family in the 1870s and 1880s provide evidence of their social engagements. A travel journal kept by William Kirkman describes his family's 1892 European tour. Genealogists will be especially interested in the clipping file, the family record in the family Bible, and an unpublished booklet entitled "The Kirkmans of Walla Walla" by Patrick Peebles. A small collection of financial records, land records, and materials from the 1892 Republican National Convention complete the collection.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Researchers are responsible for using in accordance with 17 U.S.C. Copyright not transferred to Whitman College.

Preferred Citation

William and Isabella Kirkman Collection, Whitman College and Northwest Archives.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1/1 Biographical Sketch of William Kirkman undated
1/2 Clippings 1892-1953
1/3 Correspondence 1853-1900
1/4 Financial Records 1873-1897
1/5 Invitations 1875-1888
1/6 "The Kirkmans of Walla Walla" by Patrick Peebles 2004
1/7 Land Records 1884-1905
1/8 Last Will and Testament of William Kirkman 1893
1/9 Republican National Convention Ephemera 1892
1/10 Travel Journal 1892
2 Family Bible 1867
3 Scrapbook 1867

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • British Americans -- Washington (State) -- Walla Walla
  • Immigrants -- Washington (State) -- Walla Walla
  • Ranchers -- Washington (State) -- Walla Walla
  • Rich people -- Washington (State) -- Walla Walla
  • Personal Names :
  • Kirkman, Isabella Potts, d. 1931 -- Archives
  • Kirkman, William, 1832-1893 -- Archives
  • Geographical Names :
  • Walla Walla (Wash.) -- History