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William Winlock Miller collection

Call Number: WA MSS S-1172

Scope and Contents

The William Winlock Miller Collection consists primarily of the papers of William Winlock Miller (d. 1876), but also includes papers from other Pacific Northwest pioneers, including Governor Isaac I. Stevens, and Elwood Evans. The collection supplements material in the William Winlock Miller Papers, Western Americana Manuscript S-119. Additional manuscripts about the history of the Pacific Northwest, collected by the Miller family and given to Yale, are described in A Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Collection of Western Americana, compiled by Mary C. Withington.

Miller began his career as a teacher in Illinois. From there he moved to Oregon Territory in 1849, on account of his health. After a period of teaching, he took over the accounts of M. T. Simmons, a storekeeper in Tum Water and one of the first settlers in what later became Washington Territory. Miller took his first government position in 1851, as the first Surveyor and Inspector of Revenue for the Port of Nisqually. He had many dealings with the Hudson Bay Company, and with W. F. Tolmie, head of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company. Miller was a friend and supporter of Isaac I. Stevens, the first Governor of Washington Territory, and later administered Stevens' estate. Miller held many official positions during his life, including Quarter Master General of the Washington Territory Militia during the Indian hostilities, 1857-61; Director and Commissioner for Olympia of the North Pacific Railroad Company, 1857; Notary Public in the District Court, 1857, 1861; Treasurer for the Territory Fund for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Soldiers, 1862; and Mayor of Olympia, 1872. In 1861 he was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Washington Territory, a position for which his supporters had been recommending him to President Buchanan since 1857. Miller's private business affairs included a partnership in a sawmill, 1853, business as a cattle-broker, 1862-63; and shareholdings in a woolen factory, 1864. He was also a Master Mason of Olympia Lodge No. 1.

This collection gives much information about the organization and development of Washington Territory, with particular emphasis on political affairs and the administration of local government units. The collection is divided into three series: W. W. Miller, I. I. Stevens and Special Files.

The W. W. Miller series is divided into two subseries: Correspondence and Papers. Correspondence consists mainly of letters received by Miller from friends and business associates, many of whom he knew in both capacities. This section also includes a number of letters written by Miller, most of which are his own retained file copies. The letters discuss personal affairs, contain requests for help in acquiring positions, and discussions of the political affairs in the Territory. Notable correspondents include Governor Isaac I. Stevens and his family, Obadiah B. McFadden, Territorial Supreme Court Judge and W. W. Miller's father-in-law, and several of the Territorial Governors and officials. Of particular interest is a letter from Stevens' widow describing the Governor's death in battle (September 12, 1862); Miller's letter to George Gibbs about the purchase of Alaska (September 2, 1867); and correspondence with Robert Miller (November 14, 1858) about Joseph Winlock, Miller's cousin, who was killed by the Indians. (See also Series III, for Winlock W. Miller, Jr.'s compilation of pioneer reminiscences on the same subject.)

The Papers subseries includes letters of appointment, some of which are Presidential, accounts and business papers connected with Miller's official positions, agreements pertaining to his private business affairs, and numerous receipts. A large proportion of the material in this section are financial papers.

The I. I. Stevens series contains material relating to Isaac Ingalls Stevens (1818-62), who became the first Governor of the newly separated Washington Territory in 1853, and was also appointed director of the survey of a northern route for a Pacific Railroad. In 1856, during Indian hostilities, he proclaimed martial law in Pierce and Thurston counties, as a result of which he was later arrested for contempt of court. For further biographical information, see "The Life of Isaac Ingalls Stevens" by his son, Hazard Stevens (1900). The series is divided into two subseries: Correspondence and Writings. The letters in the Correspondence subseries are principally those received by Stevens, and are mainly concerned with political matters. The most notable correspondent is W. W. Miller. The Writings section contains an article and notes, some resolutions about the Indian war and communications in Washington Territory, and a draft of Stevens' will.

Special Files contains papers--including correspondence and manuscripts--of persons other than W. W. Miller and I. I. Stevens, relating to the activities of Miller and Stevens, as well as to the Washington Territory and the early history of the Pacific Northwest. The series is divided into three subseries: Correspondence, Writings, and Subjects.

The Correspondence subseries contains correspondence among many of Washington Territory's well known pioneers, including Elwood Evans, who took part in Governor Stevens' Northern Pacific Railroad exploration and survey and was Secretary of Washington Territory; T. F. McElroy, founder of Olympia's first newspaper; O. B. McFadden; Mrs. Mary M. Miller, Miller's widow; Winlock W. Miller, Sr., Miller's son, and W. F. Tolmie. There is a large section consisting of the correspondence of Henry G. Struve, also a Secretary of Washington Territory, mainly letters from Struve to his wife, who appears to have been a friend of Mrs. Miller's. Of particular interest is a note from Abraham Lincoln recommending W. W. Miller to the Post Master General (February 23, 1864) published in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, (ed.) Roy P. Basler, 1953.

The Writings section contains addresses, articles, notes and poems by several writers. Of particular interest are the writings of Elwood Evans which pertain to the history of Northwest America and to the Indians; poems by Francis Henry about pioneers in Washington; and writings by Winlock W. Miller, Jr., Miller's grandson, about W. W. Miller and Joseph Winlock.

The Subjects section contains a variety of materials, including biographical and historical information, mainly in the form of newspaper clippings, and various financial papers, legal documents, and photographs. Of particular interest are those documents relating to land sales by Edmund Sylvester, the "founder" of Olympia, on whose original land claim the city was built; documents relating to the formation of the Puget Sound Steamship Company, and a notebook and papers relating to a secret society, the U.F.F.U.

For further material pertaining to Elwood Evans, O. B. McFadden, Isaac I. Stevens, W. F. Tolmie, William W. Miller and Winlock W. Miller, Jr., see the index to A Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Collection of Western Americana, compiled by Mary C. Withington.

A complete chronological list of all the correspondence in the Collection is shelved in the office of the curator of the Western Americana Collection.


  • 1845-1958


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The William Winlock Miller Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Winlock William Miller (Y1984), 1953.

Associated Materials

William Winlock Miller Papers. WA MSS S-119


4.25 Linear Feet (11 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection consists primarily of the papers of W. W. Miller, but it also includes the correspondence and writings of many northwestern pioneers. The papers document the organization and development of Washington Territory, and in particular, political affairs and local governement administration. Along with Miller's personal, business, and government papers, there are letters to Gov. Isaac Stevens and his writings.
There are also photographs and financial, legal, and biographical material on northwestern pioneers.
Guide to the William Winlock Miller Collection
Under Revision
by Joy Pitman
February 1971
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.