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Riggin/Pettyjohn Family Papers: Finding Aid
mssHM 27960-27963, mssHM 63287-63326  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Cataloger's Notes
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Riggin/Pettyjohn Family Papers
    Dates (inclusive): 1841-1874
    Collection Number: mssHM 27960-27963, mssHM 63287-63326
    Extent: 114 items.
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2129
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection chiefly contains correspondence of the Pettyjohn family and correspondence between tavern owner James C. Riggin in Yuba County, California, and his wife, Rebeca Jane Pettyjohn. The letters tell of the journey to California along the Oregon Trail, and discuss, in detail, Fort Kearny; Fort Laramie; Fort Des Moines and Keokuk, Iowa; and Sacramento and Yuba County, California. The letters also describe life in a California gold mining town including gold discoveries, prices of supplies, and rumors of murders in the area.
    Language: English.


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

    Administrative Information

    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]. Riggin/Pettyjohn Family Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    The collection is made up of material from three separate acquisitions. Several of the items were purchased from Rebecca P. Tait in February 4, 1965; the rest of the collection was the gift of Robert A. Lewellen in October 2000 and September 2001.

    Cataloger's Notes

    1. The collection contains several items that were previously located in the California File (HM 27960-HM 27963).
    2. Although James C. Riggin spells his wife’s name the more traditional way, Rebecca with two “c”’s, her name is listed as Rebeca with once “c” because that is how she signs her own name.

    Biographical Note

    James C. Riggin and Rebeca Jane Pettyjohn were married in March 1849. James, along with some friends and relatives, left Missouri for California in May 1850; his wife Rebeca and their infant daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, remained at home. Riggin briefly attempted mining but eventually ended up running a tavern and boarding house in the gold camp Oregon House in Yuba County. By the time he left California to return to Missouri in the fall of 1851, he had enough money saved up to build a new house for his wife and child. Riggin, who later became Sheriff of Andrew County, Missouri, died in 1858. Rebeca’s brothers, William, Washington, and Columbus Pettyjohn also came to California to mine gold.

    Scope and Content

    The collection contains 43 pieces of correspondence, one half of which is letters between James C. Riggin and his wife, Rebeca Jane Riggin. His letters give great detail regarding his journey to California along the Oregon Trail, including the physical conditions, hardships, and fellow emigrants he encountered along the way. He often advises his family against making the journey; he says that it is not worth the trouble. His letters also discuss his life in a gold mining camp, including gold discoveries near him, prices for supplies, and rumors of murders taking place in the area. The other half of the correspondence consists of letters written by or to members of the Pettyjohn family, including Rebeca Riggin’s parents, Nide and Elizabeth Pettyjohn, and her three brothers, William, Washington, and Columbus Pettyjohn. Some of the locations discussed in the letters are: Andrew County, Missouri; Fort Kearny; Fort Laramie; Keokuk, and Fort Des Moines, Iowa; and Sacramento, Lewiston, Red Bluff, San Jose, and Oregon House, California. HM 27960 and HM 63308 are written on pictorial lettersheets, “A View of the Elephant,” published by Cooke & Le Count, and “View of Coloma, the Place Where the First Gold was Discovered,” published by Forrest & Borden. One letter discusses Fort Des Moines, Iowa (James C. Lourey letter to James C. Riggin, 1849 March 11, HM 63288).
    The collection also includes 67 pieces of ephemera including one account book, bills, receipts, and canceled checks.


    The collection is arranged chronologically and contains 43 pieces of correspondence. The rest of the collection consists of ephemera.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Frontier and pioneer life -- California.
    Gold mines and mining -- California -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
    Overland journeys to the Pacific.
    California -- Gold discoveries.
    Fort Des Moines (Iowa) -- Description and travel.
    Fort Kearny (Neb.) -- Description and travel.
    Fort Laramie (Wyo.) -- Description and travel.
    Keokuk (Iowa) -- Description and travel.
    Sacramento (Calif.) -- Description and travel.
    Yuba County (Calif.) -- Description and travel.


    Letters (correspondence) -- West (U.S.) -- 19th century.
    Pictorial lettersheets.
    Family papers -- West (U.S.) -- 19th century.

    Additional Contributors

    Pettyjohn family.
    Riggin family.
    Riggin, James C.
    Riggin, Rebecca Jane Pettyjohn.