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Margaret Bannard collection of Oregon pioneer letters

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: CB B226

Scope and Contents note

The Bannard letters consists of four, long letters written to Margaret Bannard between January and December 1903. Bannard herself had written to these individuals soliciting pioneer stories and information on the social life of Oregon during the period when eastern Americans settled in the region. Bannard received letters from Mrs. J.A. Newell, J.W. Miller, an unidentified person, and George Himes. Together these letters offer unique insights into how residents of Oregon remembered events and people from the 1840s and 1850s.

Each of the letter writers emphasized how significant community was to the first U.S. residents to settle in Oregon. They mention some of the obstacles associated with overland travel and homesteading – such as destitution, epidemics, and attacks from local, Indian residents. They also noted how diverse Oregon communities were – they encompassed migrants from every state in the Union. Descriptions like these remind modern readers that nineteenth-century Americans saw themselves as quite distinct from Americans who lived in other states. And overland migration broke down some of these parochial barriers. The communities they established were generous and supportive according to the letter writers. Himes lauded the social leveling that migration brought about. Miller surmised that overland travel made these migrants generous, noble, and grand not just immediately after their journey but for the rest of their lives.

While the letters have much in common, each offers its own unique memories of life in Oregon. Newell described many hardships. When discussing the variety of migrants to Oregon, she also mentioned the presence of freed slaves (who entered before the migration of African Americans to the territory was outlawed). Miller (who migrated in 1851) commented on the changes he lived through, in particular, the transformation of the Oregon wilderness into fruit fields. Finally, Himes was acutely concerned with class in his letter to Bannard. He noted that the social equality shared by early residents quickly broke down and class difference emerged through access to consumer products and property.

Intriguing, individual details such as these are fleeting; perhaps, they are most useful to researchers when compared to other pioneer reminiscences and early American documents produced in Oregon. Researchers might consult some of the following collections also housed at the University of Oregon: the Laura Judy Biography of Carole Buffum (CB B864), the Arvazena A. Cooper Collection (CB C784), or the Jackson County Papers (Bx 067).


  • 1903


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Little biographical information is available on Margaret Bannard. Presumably she was a young woman in 1903 when she solicited the letters that constitute this collection. She lived in Eugene, Oregon, in 1903 and presented her inquiries for stories on early Oregon pioneer life as part of a research project. She may have collected these stories for course work at the University of Oregon, or for a heritage organization (such as Pioneer Women’s clubs), or for other reasons.


0.25 linear feet (1 container)

Language of Materials



Collection consists of the reminiscences of some of the first migrants from the United States to Oregon territory.

Existence and Location of Copies note

Available in microfilm as part of: Women's lives. Series 3, American women missionaries and pioneers collection (MICROFILM BV3703 .W66 2006, reel 80); Primary Source Microfilm, 12 Lunar Dr., Woodbridge, Conn. 06525.

Processing Information note

Collection processed by David Young Paz Mendez and Veta Schlimgen, completed 2006.

Guide to the Margaret Bannard Collection of Oregon pioneer letters
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by processing staff
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA