J. Nielson Barry Papers, 1932-1937  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Barry, J. Nielson, 1870-1961
J. Nielson Barry Papers
1932-1937 (inclusive)
0.1 linear feet
Collection Number
Mss 277 (collection)
J. Neilson Barry was a researcher and prolific early writer of Pacific Northwest History. This collection contains correspondence that Barry kept during his research about the Lewis and Clark expedition from 1932-1937, with particular attention to the maps of expedition member John Colter.
University of Montana, Mansfield Library, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library
University of Montana
32 Campus Dr. #9936
Missoula, MT
Telephone: 406-243-2053
Fax: 406-243-4067
Access Restrictions

Researchers must use collection in accordance with the policies of Archives and Special Collections, the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, and The University of Montana--Missoula.

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

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

J. Neilson Barry was a researcher and prolific early writer of Pacific Northwest History. Barry was born in 1870, but little is known about his early life. Barry was a trained Episcopal priest, but he retired early to dedicate himself to historical research. Through the twenties and forties, he wrote more than fifty articles and research briefs for Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming historical quarterlies. He is thought to have contributed more articles to the Oregon Historical Quarterly than any other writer.

Sometime in the mid-thirties, Barry became fascinated with John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He pursued, in particular, John Colter's Route on the 1814 Lewis and Clark map. Until his death in 1961, Barry studied early maps of Western states and engaged in a correspondence of hundreds of letters with researchers who shared his interest in Colter history. Barry was also a member of an organization called The Trailseekers Council Incorporated. In 1957, Barry donated his collection of historic material to the Boise Junior College. He died in 1961.

John Colter was born in Virginia in 1774. He was an accomplished outdoorsman, as well as an expert hunter, and this led him to be recruited for the Lewis and Clark expedition. When the expedition came to an end he received permission to stay in the Rocky Mountains with some fur trappers who had joined the expedition. He was the first non-native to discover natural hot springs, however very few people actually believed his discovery was legitimate. John Colter died of jaundice sometime in November of 1813

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This collection contains correspondence that Barry kept during his research about the Lewis and Clark expedition from 1932-1937, while he was a member the Trailseekers Council. The council aimed to recreate old West trails with as much accuracy as possible. The correspondence in this collection deals with his attempts to find an accurate recreation of the trail used by the Lewis and Clark expedition. The correspondence was with a variety of forestry officials, two in particular, George Weisel (the man who donated the collection) and Elers Koch (from whom Weisel received the correspondence).

Barry's correspondence contains a wealth of information concerning the Lewis and Clark expedition, including maps and theories about mistakes made during the journey. To construct his theories, Barry used many of expedition member John Colter's notes and maps, which were in the possession of the Forestry Service. He also gathered information from miners and people from the Nez Perce Indian tribe who were familiar with the area.

This collection also contains correspondence from 1952 in the form of a letter to Professor Eleanor Dougherty and a letter to President J. J. Donovan, both of the College of Great Falls, Montana. In these letters Barry steps away from Colter's map-making efforts and instead analyzes the work of Clark in light of later mapping discoveries.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Researchers are responsible for using in accordance with 17 U.S.C. and any other applicable statutes. Copyright not transferred to The University of Montana.

Preferred Citation

[Name of document or photograph number], J. Nielson Barry Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, The University of Montana--Missoula.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Correspondence from 1932-1937, gift of George Weisel, 1969; Correspondence from 1952, anonymous gift, date unknown.

Processing Note

The actions of the original processors are unknown. In 2000, the collection was reprocessed. The title of the 1932-1937 collection was changed from The John Colter Collection to The J. Neilson Barry Papers and combined with the 1952 J. Neilson Barry collection.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 Correspondence discussing John Colter's maps of the Lewis and Clark expeditions 1932-1937
2 Correspondence comparing Clark's mapping of the Lewis and Clark expeditions with later discoveries 1952

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Explorers--West (U.S.)
  • Trails--West (U.S.)

Personal Names

  • Clark, William, 1770-1838
  • Colter, John, d. ca. 1775-1813
  • Donovan, James Joseph, 1909- Correspondence
  • Dougherty, Eleanor, 1884-1971 Correspondence
  • Koch, Elers, 1880-1954 Correspondence
  • Weisel, George Ferdinand, 1915- Correspondence

Corporate Names

  • Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806)
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806)--Maps