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Charles Francis Clarke Papers

Identifier: MSS-88-BC

Scope and Content

The first letters in this collection, from Charles Francis Clarke to his father, describe his journey to the United States from England and all that he encountered here, including his difficulties. They also note his travels within the United States and to Mexico. His letters document assorted details of the fur trade, and the gold rush (the draw of which led to the end of Clarke's fur trading and the departure of his partner with Clarke's earnings from this business). His letters reflect the political situations of the time, including criticisms of General Taylor as a slave holder and the acquisition of Territories by the United States. Subsequent letters document Clarke's marriage to Mary, the births of their children, and the death of one child. This era also includes reports of the Mormons in Utah "having thrown off the yoke of Uncle Sam's government at Salt Lake and established a government of their own." Letters written prior to the beginning of the Civil War note unrest and conflict over slavery, as well as Clarke's own position on slavery as a "great evil and national stain." Later letters discuss the nature of the Civil War. A letter from 1861 erroneously predicts that with regard to the Civil War, "No one here has the least doubt how it will end... The impression here is that the North, after spending immense sums of money and losing many valuable lives, will be obliged to acknowledge the independence of the Southern Confederacy." Global concerns are also reflected as Clarke writes to his family in England about news of "mutiny and massacres in India" in 1857.

After Clarke's death in 1862, Mary took on correspondence with Clarke's family in England. These letters reflect less of the surrounding political context, and more family-related details, the difficulties of widowhood, descriptions of pioneer life in Kansas Territory.

Miller based her book on the letters housed in this collection and considers them most useful to researchers of the American West and pioneer women. Furthermore, she notes that "most of Mary's letters help to document the gradual transformation of Kansas from pioneer conditions to settled state." The Clarkes' correspondence "also treats most of the major conflicts that disrupted so many lives in mid-nineteenth century America: the War with Mexico, the Plains Indian Wars, the Mormon War, and the devastating Civil War.


  • 1847-1914 (bulk 1848-1971)


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

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


According to the author who published many of Clarke's letters, "Frank and Mary Clarke were among the tens of thousands of European immigrants who flocked to the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century to look for a better life." Charles Francis Clark, of Suffolk, England, immigrated to the United States in 1847, driven by wanderlust. As Darlis Miller explains, "Clarke abandoned England at a time when Europe was being inundated with promotional literature that touted western America as a land of golden opportunity where the industrious were assured prosperity." He settled in Wisconsin, first, but his life and businesses took him to various parts of the country (including New Mexico, Utah, Missouri, and Kansas), prior to his death in Tennessee while taking part in a Union campaign in the Civil War in 1862. During his lifetime, Clarke worked as a clerk at Jefferson Barracks, a fur trader, as an enlisted army man with the first regiment of U.S. Dragoons at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, as a civilian clerk in the Quartermaster's department, and as Assistant Adjutant General to Brigadier general James W. Denver. He married Mary McGowan, Irish immigrant, who was later faced with the task of solely supporting a family of five sons. She did so by resorting to means common to women at the time, such as renting out property and taking in boarders as well as by operating a ferry. Mary died in 1900 at age 70.


1 box (.38 cu. ft.)


This collection consists of correspondence and other papers pertaining to Charles Francis Clarke, British immigrant-turned-pioneer on the Western frontier. Most correspondence in this collection pertains to Clarke, his wife Mary, and his parents in England. This correspondence details pioneer life and newsworthy events of the early- and mid-1800s from the perspective of an immigrant family and enlisted man.

Microfilm Edition

A portion of the Charles Francis Clarke Papers is available on microfilm at: Zim CT275.C55 A4x. University of New Mexico Library, 1955.

Related Archival Material

Charles A. Brown Papers. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico University Libraries. Daniel Henry Rucker Papers. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico University Libraries. Joseph K. F. Mansfield Report Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico.

Relevant Secondary Sources

  • Miller, Darlis, ed., Above a Common Soldier: Frank and Mary Clarke in the American West and Civil War, 1847-1872. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997.
Finding Aid of the Charles Francis Clarke Papers, 1847-1914 (bulk 1848-1971)
Processed by K. Stocker
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Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 88 BC::Charles Francis Clarke Papers)//EN" "nmu1mss88bc.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