Skip to main content

James Gillespie Hamilton Papers

Identifier: MSS-407-SC

Scope and Content

This collection consists of one typed manuscript which includes a preface regarding family history and genealogy for the Hamilton-Bernard family, as well as letters written from James Gillespie Hamilton to his wife, Cornelia Bernard, during a journey from Missouri to California from 1856 to 1857. The letters are copied and typed by his granddaughter, Katherine Jones Moore.

The motives for Hamilton's trip are unclear, though the duration of his eighteen-month stay in California seems to have hinged on the sale of cattle, thus alluding to a business motive. The sixteen letters copied here reveal descriptions of the places along the way in Hamilton's travels in New Mexico and California with regard to population, housing style, food, and crops. Hamilton's description of individuals by ethnicity reveals the stereotypes and prejudices, characteristic of the Southwest during the era. In particular, he frequently acknowledged fear of the Native American populations he encountered, as well as mistrust of the Mexican-American population.

Like other collections of letters between traveling pioneer men and their home-bound wives, the value of this collection may lie in what it reveals about pioneer life and marriage under such conditions. Hamilton's letters are wrought with guilt over leaving his wife temporarily to attend to their four children by herself. They are also rife with his promises to never do so again upon his return. Though his wife's letters are not present in the collection, their tone is alluded to through Hamilton's references to her "blues" and difficulties, and through his encouragement for her to leave the house to visit friends and relatives. In spite of his absence, Hamilton's authority in the household is still apparent with regard to matters such as the baptism of his baby, when to wean an infant he has not seen for months, advice regarding the harvest of crops at home, authorization to make household purchases of stoves and a sausage grinder, and orders to young sons to obey their mother and "act like men."


  • 1857 August 26-1858 April 15

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The 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.


1 Folder


This collection is comprised of the typed transcription of a series of letters written by James Gillespie Hamilton to his wife, Cornelia Bernard Hamilton during an overland trip from Westport, Missouri to California; August 26, 1857-April 15, 1858. Letters are copied and typed by his granddaughter, Katherine Jones Moore, and prefaced with a brief family history.

Related Material

Charles Frances Clarke Papers. Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico.
Finding Aid of the James Gillespie Hamilton Papers, 1857 August 26-1858 April 15
Processed by K. Stocker
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 407 SC::James Gillespie Hamilton Papers)//EN" "nmu1mss407sc.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