Skip to main content

James Josiah Webb Correspondence

Identifier: MSS -232 -SC

Scope and Content

The Webb correspondence consists of ten hand-written letters, written between 1852 and 1864. Seven of the letters were written to Webb at his home in New Haven, Connecticut by business and political acquaintances. Included are two letters to Samuel Ellison, secretary, translator, and interpreter for Governors William Carr Lane, David Meriwether, and Abraham Rencher, concerning the gubernatorial elections of 1857. There is one letter from Reuben Frank Green, Santa Fe hotel operator, concerning business paperwork. Three letters were written by Webb's ward, Jose M. Hernandez, who was working as a translator on the Fort Defiance Navajo Reservation. The Hernandez letters discuss salary arrangements and are dated to the spring of 1858 when Hernandez might have been only fifteen years old. The most recent letter in the collection was sent by Captain W.R. Shoemaker to Webb in 1864; the contents of this letter are unclear due to the poor condition of the letter itself. The three additional items consist of a blank voucher for work done for the Secretary's Office (1852), a letter from the fourth New Mexico Territorial Governor, Abraham Rencher (1857-1861) to William Medill (1858), Territorial Comptroller, and a letter between Comptroller Medill and a bank in New Haven, Connecticut (1858) concerning payment on a check.


  • 1852-1864


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.


James Josiah Webb, freighter and New Mexico business pioneer, was born in Warren, Connecticut, in 1818. In his early life, Webb managed general stores in New Jersey, Georgia (1841), and St. Louis (1843). In 1844, Webb took a shipment of goods to Santa Fe, New Mexico from St. Louis in what was to be his first of eighteen trips along the Santa Fe Trail. When he arrived in Santa Fe, Webb set up a store with some credit he received for shipping the initial load of goods. With this venture, Webb began almost twenty years of retail service in Santa Fe.

Webb ran his Santa Fe mercantile businesses with partners. He established his first stores with George P. Doan of St. Louis and soon after with William S. Messervy, of Salem, Massachusetts. In 1853, Webb joined forces with John M. Kingsbury and together they established the firm of Webb and Kingsbury, an outfit that was reported to be the largest and best known trading firm in Santa Fe. As the business grew, Webb lived and worked primarily in New Haven, Connecticut, ordering and shipping goods to Kingsbury, who remained in Santa Fe to run the daily operations of the business. Webb also had business contacts with the military, including with Captain William R. Shoemaker at Fort Union, New Mexico.

Webb was well-connected into the social and political life of New Mexico, despite his frequent and lengthy absences from the state. He was elected to the New Mexico Territorial Legislature in 1856, and maintained friendships with Samuel Ellison, a well-positioned political figure who served as secretary, translator, and interpreter for three territorial governors. Webb was reported to be charitable as well. He took in a six year old Mexican child named Jose M. Hernandez in 1849, caring for him until 1860. The letters from Hernandez in the collection discuss Hernandez's employment as a translator for the Indian Agent at Fort Defiance, Arizona.

Webb's business arrangements with Kingsbury ended in 1861. Webb remained in Connecticut for the remainder of his life, serving in the Connecticut Senate in 1863. He died in Hamden, Connecticut in 1889. His recollections about the Santa Fe trade were published posthumously under the title, Adventures in the Santa Fe Trade, 1844-1847 (Glendale, Calif. : A. H. Clark Co., 1931).


1 Folder


The James J. Webb Correspondence consists of ten hand-written letters discussing business practices and salaries related to Webb's trading business and politics in New Mexico.

Relevant Secondary Sources

Weber article is based on the ten letters in this collection and contains reprints and context for the two letters by Samuel Ellison (items 2 and 4).
  • Elder, Jane Lenz. "Homesick on the Road to Santa Fe: James J. Webb's Private Diary, 1856," New Mexico Historical Review. 72(2):141-152.
  • Elder, Jane Lenz and David J. Weber, eds. Trading in Santa Fe: John M. Kingsbury's Correspondence with James Josiah Webb, 1853-1861.Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press.
  • Webb, James Josiah, Adventures in the Santa Fe Trade, 1844-1847.Glendale, Calif. : A. H. Clark Co., 1931.
  • Weber, David J., ed. "Samuel Ellison on the Election of 1857," New Mexico Historical Review. 44(3):215-221.
Finding Aid of the James Josiah Webb Correspondence, 1852-1864
Edited Full Draft
Processed by Tad McIlwraith
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 232 SC::James Josiah Webb Correspondence)//EN" "nmu1mss232sc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131