Benjamin Davis Wilson Collection

Finding aid prepared by Katrina Denman.
Manuscripts Department
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2203
Fax: (626) 449-5720
© 2011
The Huntington Library. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Benjamin Davis Wilson Collection
Dates: 1836-1941
Bulk Dates: 1847-1894
Collection Number: Consult repository.
Creator: Wilson, Benjamin Davis, 1811-1878
Extent: 2,394 items
Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Manuscripts Department
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2203
Fax: (626) 449-5720
Abstract: Collected business and personal correspondence relating to southern California landowner Benjamin Davis Wilson 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


Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, please go to following web site .

Publication Rights

In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

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).


Benjamin Davis Wilson (1811-1878), a native of Tennessee, was a pioneer California rancher and businessman who came to 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; 2 boxes of account records; 3 boxes of account books, letterbooks, school exercise books, and diaries; and 3 boxes of miscellaneous manuscripts 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.
A detailed container list is available through the Manuscripts Department.

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.

Collection Contents

Box  1

Correspondence and business records. 1836-1848.

Box  2

Correspondence and business records. 1849, Jan.-July.

Box  3

Correspondence and business records. 1849, Aug.-Dec.

Box  4

Correspondence and business records. 1850, Jan.-June.

Box  5

Correspondence and business records. 1850, July-Dec.

Box  6

Correspondence and business records. 1851.

Box  7

Correspondence and business records. 1852-1853, Dec.

Box  8

Correspondence and business records. 1853, Oct.-1855.

Box  9

Correspondence and business records. 1856, Jan.-June.

Box  10

Correspondence and business records. 1856, July-Dec.

Box  11

Correspondence and business records. 1857.

Box  12

Correspondence and business records. 1858.

Box  13

Correspondence and business records. 1859-1862.

Box  14

Correspondence and business records. 1863.

Box  15

Correspondence and business records. 1864-1865, June.

Box  16

Correspondence and business records. 1865, July -1866.

Box  17

Correspondence and business records. 1867-1868.

Box  18

Correspondence and business records. 1869, Jan.-Nov.

Box  19

Correspondence and business records. 1870-1871, Apr.

Box  20

Correspondence and business records. 1871, May-1872, Jan.

Box  21

Correspondence and business records. 1872, Feb.-Nov.

Box  22

Correspondence and business records. 1872, Dec.-1873.

Box  23

Correspondence and business records. 1874-1875.

Box  24

Correspondence and business records. 1876-1877.

Box  25

Correspondence and business records. 1878-1879.

Box  26

Correspondence and business records. 1880-1881, July.

Box  27

Correspondence and business records. 1881, Oct.-1882.

Box  28

Correspondence and business records. 1883-1884, Sep.

Box  29

Correspondence and business records. 1884, Oct.-1885, May.

Box  30

Correspondence and business records. 1885, June-Dec.

Box  31

Correspondence and business records. 1886-1887.

Box  32

Correspondence and business records. 1888-1893.

Box  33

Correspondence, business records, and miscellaneous. 1894-1941 and undated.

Box  34

Business accounts. 1850-1889.

Box  35

Personal and household accounts. 1850-1889.

Box  36

Invoice and account books. 1850-1873.

Box  37

Lake Vineyard Ranch notebooks. 1873-1884.

Box  38

Diaries, letterbook, and school notebooks. 1863-after 1887.

Box  39

Newspaper clippings, invitations, cards, etc. c.1850s-1880s.

Box  40

Miscellaneous and ephemera. c.1850s-1870s.

Box  41

Rolled maps and plans (and oversize). 1853-1900.


Rolled plans and maps. 4 items. c.1892-1903.


Deerskin trunk. 1 item.