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Benjamin Davis Wilson Collection
mssWN 1-2419  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administration Information
  • Biographical note
  • Scope and Content
  • Related materials in the Huntington Library
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Benjamin Davis Wilson Collection
    Dates: 1836-1941
    Bulk Dates: 1847-1894
    Collection Number: mssWN 1-2419
    Creator: Wilson, Benjamin Davis, 1811-1878
    Extent: 2,394 items in 41 boxes.
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: Collected business and personal correspondence relating to Southern California landowner Benjamin Davis Wilson (1811-1878) and his family. The collection also includes account books, diaries (kept by Wilson's wife Margaret and their daughters Annie and Ruth), and assorted ephemera. The Shorb and Patton families are also heavily represented in the correspondence.
    Language of Material: The records are in English.

    Administration Information


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Benjamin Davis Wilson collection, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Purchased from Mrs. C.J. McClung in November 1933 (WN 1-1138).
    Gift of Anne W. Patton in 1959 (WN 1139-1926).
    Gift of David and Peter W. Patton, August 5, 1971 (WN 1127-2292; 2412-2419).
    Gift of Mrs. James W. Totten, April 19, 1971 (WN 2293-2303).
    Gift of Anne Totten, October 26, 1972 (WN 2304-2403).
    Gift of Doyce Nunis, August 21, 1974 (assorted items).

    Biographical note

    Benjamin Davis Wilson (1811-1878), a native of Tennessee, was a pioneer California rancher and businessman who came to Southern California from New Mexico in 1841 as a member of the Rowland-Workman party. He purchased the Jurupa Rancho (Riverside, Calif.) in 1843. In 1851-52 Wilson was elected the second mayor of Los Angeles, in 1852 he served as U.S. Indian Agent under Superintendent Edward F. Beale, and in 1855-57 and 1869-72 he served as state senator. He purchased Rancho de Cuati and adjacent land to develop his Lake Vineyard Ranch (part of present-day San Marino) and with John S. Griffin purchased Rancho San Pascual (which later became the city of Pasadena). Wilson planted vineyards and citrus groves and became active in business circles.
    In 1844, Benjamin D. Wilson married Ramona Yorba, daughter of Bernardo Yorba, a well-known land owner during the Mexican period. Their daughter, Maria de Jesus Wilson, known as Sue, married James DeBarth Shorb (1842-1896). They also had a son, John B. Wilson, who later committed suicide. After Ramona's death, Wilson married Margaret S. Hereford (d. 1898) in 1853. Margaret had a son, Edward Sublette Hereford, also called “Judge,” from her first marriage. Together Wilson and Margaret had two daughters, Anne (d. 1931) and Ruth (d. 1928), who married George S. Patton, Sr. (1856-1927). Ruth and George’s son was General George S. Patton (1885-1945). They also had a daughter, Anne W. Patton (1887-1971). The Pattons and Wilsons were also related to the Banning family through George Patton Sr.’s half-sister Anne Smith, who married Hancock Banning, the son of Phineas Banning.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of letters, manuscripts, documents and maps related to the life and business affairs of Benjamin Davis Wilson. Subject matter includes business and social life in California (1850-90), Indian affairs in Southern California (1852-56), the wine industry, the Santa Fe trade, the estate settlement of Solomon Sublette, and the early history of Pasadena, San Marino, and Wilmington, California.
    There is also a great deal of personal correspondence from Wilson’s wife Margaret S. Hereford Hereford Wilson, his daughters Maria de Jesus Wilson Shorb, Ruth Wilson Patton, and Annie Wilson, his son John B. Wilson, Ruth’s husband George S. Patton, Sr., and many of Margaret’s Hereford relatives. Also included are diaries kept by Margaret, Ruth, and Annie Wilson. Other individuals represented in the collection include Phineas Banning, Edward Fitzgerald Beale, Joseph Lancaster Brent, Cave Johnson Couts, Stephen Clark Foster, John Charles Frémont, John S. Griffin, William McKendree Gwin, Benjamin Hayes, Henry Edwards Huntington, George S. Patton, Jr., and Jonathan Trumbull Warner.


    The collection is arranged chronologically in 41 boxes. This includes 33 boxes of correspondence, manuscripts, and business records; 2 boxes of account records; 3 boxes of account books, letterbooks, school exercise books, and diaries; and 3 boxes of miscellaneous documents and ephemera. There are also four rolled maps and a deerskin trunk. Addenda series received after the acquisition of the original papers in 1933 have been integrated into the collection, with the exception of the Patton Papers (also called Wilson Addenda II), which have been cataloged as a separate collection.

    Related materials in the Huntington Library

    Indexing Terms

    Personal Names

    Banning, Phineas, 1830-1885.
    Beale, Edward Fitzgerald, 1822-1893.
    Brent, Joseph Lancaster, 1826-1905.
    Couts, Cave Johnson, 1821-1874.
    Foster, Stephen Clark, 1820-1898.
    Fremont, John Charles, 1813-1890.
    Griffin, John S. (John Strother), 1816-1898.
    Gwin, William McKendree, 1805-1885.
    Hayes, Benjamin, 1815-1877.
    Huntington, Henry Edwards, 1850-1927.
    Patton, George S. (George Smith), 1856-1927.
    Patton, George S. (George Smith), 1885-1945.
    Warner, Jonathan Trumbull.
    Wilson, Benjamin Davis, 1811-1878.


    Businessmen--Southern California--Correspondence.
    Domestic relations--California.
    Indians of North America--California, Southern.
    Land tenure--California--Los Angeles County.
    Politicians--California--Los Angeles.
    Ranches--California, Southern.
    Wine industry--California, Southern.

    Geographic Areas

    California, Southern--History--19th century--Sources.
    California, Southern--History--20th century--Sources.
    California, Southern--Social life and customs--19th century--Sources.
    California, Southern--Social life and customs--20th century--Sources..
    Pasadena (Calif.)--History--19th century--Sources.
    Pasadena (Calif.)--History--20th century--Sources.
    San Marino (Calif.)--History--19th century--Sources.
    San Marino (Calif.)--History--20th century--Sources.
    Wilmington (Calif.)--History--19th century--Sources.
    Wilmington (Calif.)--History--20th century--Sources.


    Account books -- California -- 19th century.
    Diaries -- California -- 19th century.
    Ephemera -- California -- 19th century.
    Letters (correspondence) -- California -- 19th century.
    Receipts -- California -- 19th century.