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William F. Vermilion Papers
MSS 0417  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Creator: Vermilion, William F.
    Title: William F. Vermilion Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1853 - 1900
    Extent: 5.00 linear feet (9 archive boxes and 11 oversize folders)
    Abstract: Papers of William F. Vermilion, physician, lawyer, Iowa state senator, and Civil War captain (1862-1865) of Company F, 36th Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry. Materials related to Vermilion's military career include correspondence with his wife, company morning reports (May 1864-August 1865), company administrative documents, and several diaries. Evidence of his numerous law partnerships includes business correspondence, legal documents, account books, land deeds, receipts, and canceled checks. The collection contains family memorabilia, photographs and ephemera. The William F. Vermilion Papers are arranged in five series: 1) PERSONAL MATERIALS, 2) CIVIL WAR MATERIALS, 3) POLITICAL MATERIALS, 4) BUSINESS MATERIALS, and 5) MICROFILM OF THE CIVIL WAR CORRESPONDENCE.
    Repository: University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
    La Jolla, California 92093-0175
    Collection number: MSS 0417
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English


    Collection is open for research.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Preferred Citation

    William F. Vermilion Papers, MSS 0417. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.


    William F. Vermilion was born in Mercer County, Kentucky, in October 1830. His obituary article in THE DAILY CITIZEN stated that he studied medicine at Rush Medical College and built a large practice in Iconium, Iowa. In 1859, he married Mary A.C. Kemper.
    Vermilion served as a captain in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was commissioned on October 4, 1862, to command Company "F" of the 36th Infantry Regiment of Iowa Volunteers and continued that assignment until his discharge on August 24, 1865. Between December 12, 1863, and April 21, 1864, Vermilion was absent from his unit while recruiting soldiers in Centerville, Iowa. He was promoted to the rank of major on May 11, 1865, shortly before the end of the war.
    After the Civil War, Vermilion was elected state senator (1869-1872) from Appanoose County to the Thirteenth General Assembly of Iowa, which met in Des Moines.
    Vermilion's career in business and law began before the Civil War with his appointment as Appanoose County notary public in 1861. THE DAILY CITIZEN's account of his life relates that he read law and was admitted to the bar after the war and later formed a partnership with Captain Fee, a former member of his regiment. He was admitted to the U.S. Circuit Court, District of Iowa, on May 15, 1877. Vermilion formed the law practice of Vermilion and Harris (1871-1876) with Judge Amos Harris and, later, Vermilion and Haynes (1876-1880) with Col. E.C. Haynes. In 1880, W.F. Vermilion's brother, Reason R. Vermilion, joined the firm. Vermilion, Haynes and Vermilion became Vermilion and Vermilion in 1884 when Haynes left the firm. Later, R.R. Vermilion moved to Wichita, Kansas, as a partner in Harris, Harris and Vermilion, while W.F. Vermilion entered into practice with his son, Charles W. Vermilion. In 1894, Vermilion and Vermilion became Vermilion, Vermilion and Valentine.
    W.F. Vermilion's law practice included matters of contracts, collections, estates, litigation and property transaction. During the 1870s and 1880s, he served as the local attorney for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad in issues of right of way, contracts and litigation growing out of the building of railroads.
    Vermilion was actively involved in land acquisition and speculation and often secured titles through tax delinquency sales. In 1870, he became a partner in D.G. Campbell, a private banking business. During the 1880s, he invested in real estate in Wichita, Kansas, probably in association with his brother, R.R. Vermilion, president of the Rock Island Town Company (1890). Although he primarily invested in land, Vermilion also speculated in the commodities market.
    Vermilion's wife, Mary, died on January 3, 1883. Their son, C.W. "Willie" Vermilion, graduated from De Pauw University in 1885, studied law, joined his father's law practice, and held the position of Appanoose County Attorney in 1895. W.F. Vermilion's second wife was Kate B. Day.
    William F. Vermilion died on December 28, 1894.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Accession Processed in 1996
    The William F. Vermilion Papers document the personal and professional life of a nineteenth century physician, Civil War company commander, Iowa state senator (1869-1873), and lawyer. Of particular significance is an abundant correspondence (approximately 725 leaves) between Vermilion and his wife during the Civil War (1862-1865). Also included are administrative records of Company F, 36th Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry. Notably absent from the collection is any documentation of Vermilion's activity as a physician, other than anecdotal references in his correspondence and newspaper accounts.
    The PERSONAL MATERIALS series is arranged in four subseries: A) Family Correspondence, B) Land Deeds, C) Legal Documents and D) Memorabilia and Ephemera. In the "Family Correspondence," the majority of the letters between 1853 and 1860 are from Mary Kemper to friends and relate many of the hardships of frontier life. Correspondence between Mary Vermilion and W.F. Vermilion dominates the 1870-1874 file. Mary remained in Centerville, Iowa, with their son Willie while William served a four-year term as a state senator in Des Moines. The 1883-1886 correspondence contains letters from Willie to his father, W.F. Vermilion, written from De Pauw University. Correspondence written during the Civil War (1862-1865) between William and Mary Vermilion and relatives is located in the CIVIL WAR MATERIALS series.
    The "Land Deeds" subseries contains deeds that were bought or sold by W.F. Vermilion relating to his personal business investments. In the early 1890s, William and Kate Vermilion conveyed numerous holdings into the name of Charles W. Vermilion for a nominal fee.
    In the "Legal Documents" subseries are three personal documents, including a pre-nuptial agreement between William and Kate, a power of attorney assigned to Reason R. Vermilion and a lease for Vermilion's farm, Woodside.
    The "Memorabilia and Ephemera" subseries comprises numerous collected items including calling cards, event programs, newspaper clippings, railroad passes, and photographs (a tintype of C. W. Vermilion as a boy and a carte-de-visite of a namesake child). Of interest is W.F. Vermilion's Free Mason's certificate.
    The CIVIL WAR MATERIALS are arranged in three subseries: A) Correspondence, B) Company Administrative Documents and C) Miscellaneous Materials. The "Correspondence" subseries, the largest subseries in the collection, chiefly comprises letters exchanged between Mary and William Vermilion from the time of his commission in the Union Army in 1862 to his discharge in August 1865. Also included are letters from W.R. and Mathew Kemper (Mary's brothers and Union soldiers), Jane Vermilion (William's sister), other relatives, and friends. The correspondence is arranged chronologically.
    Letters from William exceed the letters from Mary in the exchange. Almost all of William's letters indicate his location and reflect his movements with the 36th Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry, which was deployed near the Mississippi River in Arkansas. Locales include Helena, Clarendon, De Valls Bluff, Little Rock, and St. Charles. Vermilion's company was part of the force that threatened the Confederate position at Vicksburg. Vermilion participated in the Yazoo Pass Expedition (March 23, 1863), but missed the action at Pine Bluff (May 12,1864) that decimated his company and led to the capture of Will Kemper.
    W.F. Vermilion's letters describe many of the day to day events in camp and military actions, provide news of the condition of individual soldiers in his command, discuss attitudes toward national and local politics, and observe health conditions. Because of his medical background, Vermilion felt himself well suited to analyze the causes of his company's maladies. Indeed, he asserted to Mary (November 19, 1862) that "sickness is worse than fighting." Much of the content of the correspondence, on both sides, involves the loneliness and melancholy of separation and the small talk of a marriage, including Vermilion's advice and instruction to Mary on how to conduct her affairs and manage their property.
    As company commander, Vermilion was responsible for maintaining his part of the "regimental history," which involved making duplicates of documents he submitted to headquarters. The "Company Administrative Documents" subseries includes manuscript orders, inventories of the effects of deceased soldiers, lists of clothing, quarterly returns of clothing, camp and garrison equipage, returns of ordnance and ordnance stores, and surgeon's certificates of disability. The bound volume of company morning reports provides detailed information on Company F's location, strength, composition of ranks, and noteworthy daily occurences. The muster roll contains the names of individual volunteers, where they enlisted, their rank, and when they were last paid.
    In the "Miscellaneous Materials" subseries are certificates documenting Vermilion's commission, promotion and discharge from the Union Army. Also included are two small diaries that he kept. Finally, the subseries contains a tintype, studio portrait of Captain Vermilion in uniform.
    The bulk of the POLITICAL MATERIALS series comprises letters (1869-1871) to Senator Vermilion from various constituents and political opportunists.
    The BUSINESS MATERIALS series is arranged in six subseries: A) Account Books, B) Business Correspondence and Documents, C) Cancelled Checks, D) Certificates, E) Land Deeds, and F) Miscellaneous Materials. The "Accounts Books" subseries contains a pocket-size account book (1884-1889), probably in the handwriting of W.F. Vermilion, for the firm of Walker and Vermilion, which records checks and account balances with Campbell and Company, Bankers. The other account book, written in pencil and possibly in the handwriting of George Bratt, lists expenses.
    The "Business Correspondence and Documents" subseries, arranged chronologically, contains records of the various legal partnerships which W.F. Vermilion engaged in over his career. The correspondence usually involves letters from clients requesting services, often the collection of a debt or enforcement of a contract. In addition to correspondence are wills, lists of cases, insurance policies, receipts of payments, and tax accounts.
    The "Cancelled Checks" subseries comprise checks arranged by author and reflects the different partnerships in which W.F. Vermilion was involved.
    The "Certificates" subseries documents the notary public offices held by Vermilion and his brother, R.R. Vermilion. Also contained is evidence of Vermilion's certification to practice law in the U.S. District Court.
    The "Land Deeds" subseries, arranged chronologically, contains deeds that are not assigned to W.F. Vermilion. The PERSONAL MATERIALS series holds evidence of his personal business in land ownership.
    Finally, in the "Miscellaneous Materials" subseries are business ephemera, promotional brochures, notes, tax receipts, and documents associated with Vermilion's work for the Chicago and South Western Railroad Company.
    Two users copies--Library and Interlibrary Loan--of the microfilm of the Civil War Correspondence.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Vermilion, William F. -- Archives
    Iowa. -- General Assembly. -- House of Representatives -- Biography
    United States. -- Army. -- Iowa Infantry Regiment, 36th (1861-1865)
    United States. -- Army -- Officers -- Correspondence
    Legislators -- Iowa -- Biography
    Lawyers -- United States -- Biography
    Physicians -- United States -- Biography
    Iowa -- Militia
    Iowa -- History
    Iowa -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
    Vermilion, William F. -- Archives
    Vermilion, Mary A. C. Kemper -- Correspondence
    United States. -- Army. -- Iowa Infantry Regiment, 36th 1861-1865)
    United States. -- Army -- Officers -- Correspondence
    Iowa -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865


    Vermilion, Mary A. C. Kemper, -- correspondent
    Vermilion, Willie, -- correspondent
    Vermilion, Mary A. C. Kemper