Scope and Content
Title: Wells, Van Dyke,and Lee Papers
Collection Number: mssWVL 1-1562
Wells, Van Dyke,and Lee
1,568 items in 21 boxes and 1 oversize volume
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.Manuscripts Department
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2191
Abstract: Collected incoming correspondence to
the Los Angeles law firm of Wells, Van Dyke, and Lee, which existed from
Language of Material: The records are in English.
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[Identification of item], Wells, Van Dyke, and Lee Papers, The Huntington
Library, San Marino, California.
Purchased from The Lloyd Osendorf Collection of Lincolniana at Bonhams and
Butterfield auction, November 23, 2004.
The Los Angeles-based law firm of Wells, Van Dyke, and Lee existed as such from 1885
to 1889, and consisted of Guilford Wiley Wells, Walter Van Dyke, and Bradner Wells
Lee. It was preceded by Brunson, Wells, and Lee (1883-1885) and succeeded by Wells,
Guthrie, and Lee (1889-1890).
Guilford Wiley Wells was born in Conseus Center, New
York, on February 14, 1840. He attended Genesee Wesleyan Seminary and College in
Lima, New York, until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he volunteered for the
First New York Dragoons. Wells was wounded in combat several times, most seriously
in February 1865, as a result of which he was discharged from the army and left with
a permanently disabled left arm. Following the war, Wells attended law school at
Columbia College in Washington, D.C., graduating in 1867. In 1869 he began
practicing law in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and President Grant appointed him
United States District Attorney for northern Mississippi in 1870. While in
Mississippi, Wells helped secure the first decision against the Ku Klux Klan
rendered in the southern states and was elected United States Congressman for the
Second Mississippi District in 1876. In 1877 Wells was appointed consul general to
Shanghai, China, a post he resigned in 1878 (he also refused appointment as consul
to Hong Kong). Wells and his wife, Katy C. Fox, had traveled through California on
their way to Shanghai and decided to settle in Los Angeles permanently in 1879. In
Los Angeles, Wells was a partner in a succession of successful law firms, including
Brunson and Wells; Wells, Van Dyke, and Lee (1883-1885); Wells, Guthrie, and Lee
(1889-1890); Wells, Monroe, and Lee (1890-1893); Wells and Lee (1893-1896); and
Wells, Works, and Lee (1896). He also served as Special Attorney for Mission
Indians. Wells retired from practicing law in 1896. He died in Santa Monica,
California, on March 21, 1909.
Walter Van Dyke was born in Tyre, New York, on
October 3, 1823. In 1846 he traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to study law, and was
admitted to the Ohio bar in 1848. In 1849 Van Dyke joined the California Gold Rush,
arriving in San Francisco in 1850. He spent some time as a gold prospector before
being elected District Attorney of Klamath County in 1851 and District Attorney of
Humboldt County in 1854, the same year he married Rowena Cooper (their son, Edwin C.
Van Dyke, became a noted entomologist). Van Dyke also served in the California State
Senate from 1862-1863, and as a strong supporter of Abraham Lincoln became known as
the “Father of the Union Party in California.” He practiced law in San Francisco
from 1863-1864, and in Los Angeles with the firm of Wells, Van Dyke, and Lee from
1885-1889. In 1874 he was elected United States Attorney for California (he was
re-elected in 1894), and he served as Justice of the Supreme Court of California
from 1898 until December 1903. Van Dyke died in 1905.
Bradner Wells Lee, a nephew of
Guilford Wiley Wells, was born in East Groveland, New York, on May 4, 1850. He
studied law at Wells’ law office in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and was admitted to
the bar of the United States District Court for northern Mississippi in 1871. In the
same year he was also made Assistant District Attorney for northern Mississippi, a
post he held until 1879. Lee married Helena Farrar in Philadelphia in 1883, and then
traveled to Los Angeles and joined his uncle’s law firm of Brunson, Wells, and Lee
(1883-1885). He also worked with the firm’s various successors, including Wells, Van
Dyke, and Lee (1885-1889); Wells, Guthrie, and Lee (1889-1890); Wells, Monroe, and
Lee (1890-1893); Wells and Lee (1893-1896); Wells, Works, and Lee (1896); and Works
and Lee (1896-1908). Lee served as attorney and executor for the estate of E.J.
“Lucky” Baldwin and also as general counsel for the Murphy Oil Company. He declined
an appointment as Superior Judge of Los Angeles County in 1905, and continued to
practice law alone and later with two of his sons. Lee served as president of the
California Bar Association from 1919-1920, and was also active in the California
Republican Party. He died on April 28, 1925.
Scope and Content
The collection primarily consists of incoming correspondence to the Wells, Van Dyke,
and Lee law firm from their various clients and legal colleagues. The content of the
cases represented is mainly civil, most heavily focused on divorces, estate
settlements, and patents, as well as some correspondence on Mission Indian land
cases, suits against railroads, water rights, and mining disputes. There are also a
variety of advertisements from publishers, typewriter merchants, and other business
connections, as well as a very few outgoing letters from Wells, Van Dyke, and Lee
and limited personal correspondence. In addition to facts regarding specific cases,
the letters provide an overview of general social issues, law fees and practices,
property laws, patent laws, the status of women, child custody laws, divorce laws,
and prevailing views of divorce in 1880s California.
Some interesting or notable items include:
- Correspondence from Frederic Hall, James Johnston, John McCallum,
H.H. Markham, and J.D.C. Atkins regarding Mission Indians land rights.
- Letters from
Henry M. Burr (WVL 218) and D.H. Wittemore and W.H. Sears (WVL 1369) on the moral
implications of divorce.
- A letter from Van Ness and Roche (WVL 1392) regarding E.J.
Baldwin’s claims against the Southern Pacific Railroad for negligence.
correspondents represented in the collection include:
- Baldwin, Elias J. “Lucky,”
1828-1909. Prominent California businessman. Owned much of the land surrounding the
present cities of Arcadia and Monrovia, California. Founded the Santa Anita
Racetrack in Arcadia.
- Bull, Alpheus, 1816-1890. Co-founder of the Bank of
California, the Pacific Insurance Company, and the Firemans Fund Insurance Company.
- Cobb, Moses G, b.1820. Organized the Boston Light Artillery (1853-1858) and led
Cobb’s Battery during the Civil War. Prominent attorney in San Francisco.
A.K. (Alejandro K.), b. 1847. Consul General of Mexico at San Francisco.
John Alonzo. Noted theologian and author of A Select Bibliography of Ecclesiastical
- Hitchcock, Henry, 1829-1902. Co-founder of the American Bar
Association. Partner in law firm of Hitchcock, Madill, and Finkelnburg.
Henry Harrison, 1840-1923. U.S. Representative from California, 1885-1887; Governor
of California, 1891-1895.
- McIntire, William Cranch, 1841-? Prominent patent lawyer
in Washington, D.C.
- Porter, James David, 1828-1912. United States Assistant
Secretary of State under President Grover Cleveland and Secretary of State Thomas F.
Bayard, 1885-1887. Governor of Tennessee, 1875-1879.
- Sickels and Hickcox. Law firm.
Consisted of D.K. Sickels, a prominent land attorney, and J.H. Hickcox, who went
into the practice law after leaving his position at the General Land Office.
B.F. (Benjamin Franklin), 1860-1914. Tennessee lawyer who purchased bottling rights
to Coca-Cola in 1899. Known as a “Cole pioneer;” founded the Coca-Cola Bottling
- Unruh, Hiram A. Nephew of E.J. Baldwin’s first wife Sarah Ann Unruh
(Baldwin and Sarah divorced in 1862). Baldwin’s ranch manager and business agent;
executor of Baldwin’s estate. Served on Arcadia City Council from 1904-1912.
Dyke, William M. Son of Walter Van Dyke. Attended the University of California,
Berkeley. Served as Clerk of the U.S. Circuit Court, Southern District of
California, in the 1880s.
The collection is arranged alphabetically by author. Items with an unknown
creator are located at the beginning of the collection.
Baldwin, Elias Jackson,
Coney, A.K. (Alejandro
Porter, James D. (James
Van Dyke, Walter,
Wells, G. Wiley
(Guilford Wiley), 1840-1909.
Wells, Van Dyke, and
Custody of children -- United States
Divorce -- Costs
Divorce -- Law and legislation --
Indians -- Land tenure.
Lawyers -- Fees -- United States
Mining claims -- United States
Patent laws and legislation – United
States -- Cases
Probate laws and practice --
Railroads -- California
Water rights -- California
Women -- California
California -- History --
Los Angeles (Calif.) --
Letters (correspondence) -- California
-- 19th century.