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Benjamin Franklin Dowell papers

Identifier: Ax 031

Scope and Contents note

The Benjamin Franklin Dowell Papers include correspondence, diaries, and newspaper clippings. Except for a few loose letters and documents, the Dowell papers are imbedded in scrapbooks into which he and his wife pasted correspondence, printed pieces, and clippings. Most of the letters are either by Dowell or his wife, and represent an exchange of information and instruction, as well as gossip, between Jacksonville and Washington, D.C.

The small volumes of scrapbooks, memorandum books, and diaries are stored in boxes. The larger volumes are stored individually in phase boxes.

Detailed access to the letters is provided by a calendar of incoming letters, in the form of typed cards located in the Manuscripts Card Catalog. The date, sender’s name, and brief content description of each letter is given.

Fragments of the Dowell papers exist in other libraries, notably the Huntington Library in San Marino, California; the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, California; and the Oregon Historical Society Library in Portland, Oregon.

A thesis by Franklin D. Mahar, "Benjamin Franklin Dowell" (M.A., History, University of Oregon, 1964) is based on the Dowell papers.


  • 1847-1882


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

An attorney in Jacksonville, Oregon, Dowell was a native of Virginia, born in 1826. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in law in 1847. Dowell came overland to California in 1850, but migrated to Oregon almost immediately. With little legal business in Oregon, Dowell taught school and then ran a pack train from various points to the gold region of southern Oregon and northern California in the 1850s. He resumed practicing law after his pack train was captured by a group of Native Americans.

Dowell practiced law in Jacksonville, and specialized in pressing “Indian depredation” and military expense claims for Oregonians who had suffered genuine or fancied losses. Many of these claims were against the Federal government, so Dowell spent much of his time in Washington D.C., being shunted from one treasury official to another. Similar to most attorneys of the time, he had political ambitions. To gain a political career, Dowell purchased the Oregon Sentinel (Jacksonville) in 1864. Through his wife and a series of eight editors he ran the paper remotely for fourteen years. His political ambitions were never realized, and he remained a claims agent and attorney. Dowell died in 1897.


4.5 linear feet (3 containers, 5 volumes)

Language of Materials



Benjamin Franklin Dowell, a native of Virginia, came west on the overland trail in 1850. He practiced law in Jacksonville, Oregon and in Washington, D.C. Dowell, with the assistance of his wife and others, owned the Oregon Sentinel newspaper in Jacksonville. The Benjamin Franklin Dowell Papers includes memorandum books, diaries, scrapbooks, and correspondence between Dowell and his wife from Jacksonville and Washington, D.C.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into one series: Scrapbooks, Diaries and Correspondence.

Related Archival Materials note

Fragments of the Dowell papers exist in other libraries, notably the Huntington Library in San Marino, California; the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, California; and the Oregon Historical Society Library in Portland, Oregon.

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Benjamin Franklin Dowell papers
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Finding aid prepared by Vida Germano
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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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