James H. Wilbur Special Collection

The James H. Wilbur Papers in the Archives and Special Collections include the original travel journal he kept on the journey to the Oregon Territory and correspondence and legal and accounting papers from Wilbur’s time at the Yakama Indian Agency. James H. Wilbur (1811-1887), was an educator, preacher and Superintendent of Instruction for the Yakama Indian Agency. The journal, which is also published, provides a firsthand account of the difficulties of travel during the 1800’s. The papers from his agency days include accounts of tribal disputes and a trip he made to Washington, D.C. to deal with agency matters.

Wilbur’s journal, written from September 27, 1846 to Jan. 25, 1848, tells of his family’s journey from New York around Cape Horn to the Oregon Institute and the onset of his Methodist mission work in Oregon Territory.

The Indian Agent Files series is organized into three subseries: A. Appointment certificates, B. Correspondence, and C. Accounting. Within each subseries, materials are grouped by subject and/or chronology.

Subseries A contains certificates appointing Wilbur as Indian Agent at Yakama Agency in the Washington Territory. The certificates are signed by Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, and James Garfield. There are five certificates ranging from 1864-1881.

Subseries B contains correspondence letters, telegrams, and handwritten copies of correspondence between Wilbur and a variety of individuals through the course of his career as an Indian agent, including superiors in Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior and his own clerk at Yakama, J.H. Fairchild. Subjects of note include: correspondence with Father Louis Napoleon St. Onge in the late 1860’s; Wilbur’s temporary displacement as agent by Lieutenant James Smith in 1869-1870; the arrival and maintenance of the Paiutes, and the agency inspection of William Pollock. These documents range from 1863-1884.

Subseries C contains statements and depositions taken at hearings regarding Wilbur’s temporary displacement as agent by Lieutenant James Smith in 1869-1870 and the agency inspection of William Pollock, among other issues.

Subseries D is organized by subject. Folders in this subseries contain accounting paperwork generated in the course of Wilbur’s duties as Indian Agent, including ledger pages, receipts and vouchers for purchases and payments, as well as official communications between the Agent and the Department of the Treasury regarding the disposal of government bonds. These documents range from 1850-1887.

The Legal Papers, ranging from 1850-1886, contain official and unofficial documents pertaining to Wilbur’s personal real estate holdings and those he oversaw on behalf of the Office of Indian Affairs and the Methodist Episcopal Conference. Also included are legal papers and correspondence relating to court disputes over real estate properties. They also contain receipts, vouchers, and correspondence pertaining to Wilbur’s administration of the estates of Calvin C. Reed and Susan M. Waters. Of note is the will of Susan Waters, written in letter format some six months before her death in 1869.