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J. W. Gunnison Papers: Finding Aid
mssHM 17033-17096, mssHM 42622-42638, mssHM 46985-46988, mssFAC 706  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Materials in the Huntington Library
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: J. W. Gunnison Papers
    Dates (inclusive): 1832-1926
    Bulk dates: 1832-1896
    Collection Number: mssHM 17033-17096, mssHM 42622-42638, mssHM 46985-46988, mssFAC 706
    Creator: Gunnison, J. W. (John Williams), 1812-1853.
    Extent: 83 pieces in 4 boxes + 2 volumes
    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 contains journals of United States Army topographical engineer J. W. Gunnison (1812-1853), kept on expeditions between 1840-1853, including one with descriptions of life among the Mormons in Utah; correspondence during the American Civil War period from family in the South; and letters, sketchbooks, and journals of nephew Charles Andrew Gunnison (1861-1897) in Europe and Japan in the 1880s.
    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]. J. W. Gunnison Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Purchased from Genevieve D. O'Neill, 1952; purchased from Alma Gunnison, March 23, 1954; Mrs. Doris C. Newman, September 18, 1979; and gift of Barbara G. Anderson, June 27, 1991.

    Alternative Form of Materials Available

    Visit the Huntington Digital Library   to view digitized sketchbooks HM 17038 (volumes 1 and 2) from this collection.

    Related Materials in the Huntington Library

    Biographical Note

    John Williams Gunnison (1812-1853), the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Williams Gunnison, was born in Goshen, New Hampshire, in 1812. He attended Hopkinton Academy in New Hampshire, then taught school before he entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1833. Gunnison graduated from West Point in 1837, second in his class of 50. During the winter of 1837-1838, Lt. Gunnison served as an ordnance officer in the Seminole War in Florida, and in the spring of 1838 he aided in the transfer of the Cherokees to Indian Territory. He then returned to the Florida War, having been transferred to the Corps of Topographical Engineers. From 1840 to 1849 Gunnison was engaged in survey work in Georgia and in the Wisconsin-Michigan Lake region. While in Georgia, he married Martha A. Delony in 1841.
    Gunnison had been appointed a first lieutenant in 1846, and was next assigned to accompany Captain Howard Stansbury’s expedition in 1849-1850 to map and survey the Great Salt Lake. While in Salt Lake, Gunnison wrote a book about the Mormons, The Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints, in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, which was published in 1852. From 1851 to 1853, he was in Washington, D.C., supervising the publication of the Stansbury Expedition report, after which he engaged in further survey work of the Northwestern Lakes.
    Gunnison was promoted to Captain in 1853 and was chosen to lead a Government survey for a Central Pacific Railroad route. The expedition completed a reconnaissance through the mountains of Colorado and Utah, and reached the valley of the Sevier River in Utah in October 1853. On October 26, 1853, Gunnison and several members of his party, including the artist Richard Kern, were ambushed by Pah Vant Indians near Sevier Lake and were killed.


    Mumy, Nolie. John Williams Gunnison. Denver: Artcraft Press, 1955.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of letters, manuscripts (including 9 journals and 2 sketch books) and photographs arranged in three separate series. The first series concerns J. W. Gunnison himself: his journal kept in Florida and Georgia in 1840, letters from Wisconsin Territory (1841), the Stansbury Expedition (1849-1850) with descriptions of life among the Mormons, the expedition Gunnison led from St. Louis to Utah (1853), and the official communications relating to his death. The second group contains letters written during the Civil War period from his wife’s family in the South. The third group consists of letters, sketchbooks, and journals of his nephew, Charles Andrew Gunnison (1861-1897), who traveled in Europe and Japan with San Francisco businessman Timothy Hopkins, adopted son of Mrs. Mark Hopkins.
    Some interesting or important items include: Martha Delony Gunnison’s letter to Alice Mary Boothe and Mary Boothe (1854, Feb. 19) contains a copy of a letter by Brigham Young giving his account of the death of J. W. Gunnison. The letter by Mrs. William Gaston Delony to Maria Osborne Delony (1865, July 4) gives an account of life in Georgia just after the Civil War. Also, in Box 2 is a genealogical tree of the Gunnison-Briard families (c.1862-1892) (HM 42638). This family record includes photographs and is very old (the last page has writing dated 1666. Later pages with photographs and clippings have been inserted. There are also three daguerreotype and ambrotype photographs in their cases. Also includes a facsimile of Booth, Andrew G. Notes on Biography of Capt. John W. Gunnison ... 1860 (FAC 706).


    Arranged in the following order:
    • Box 1: Correspondence and manuscripts (1832-1896, 1926)
    • Box 2: Genealogical Tree, Photographs in cases, Clippings, Typewritten Transcripts of Correspondence in Box 1
    • Box 3: Charles Andrew Gunnison. Journals, 1881-1894
    • Box 4: Charles Andrew Gunnison. Volumes of Poetry, Sketches, Scrapbook, Autograph Album, etc.
    • Two loose volumes: Gunnison, Charles Andrew. Sketchbooks

    Indexing Terms

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


    Gunnison, Charles A., 1861-1897.
    Gunnison, J. W. (John Williams), 1812-1853.
    Hopkins, Timothy, 1859-1937.
    Stansbury, Howard.
    United States. Army. Corps of Topographical Engineers.
    Mormons -- Utah -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
    Wisconsin -- Surveys.
    Europe -- Description and travel.
    Florida -- Description and travel.
    Florida -- Surveys.
    Georgia -- Description and travel.
    Georgia -- Surveys.
    Japan -- Description and travel.
    Salt Lake City (Utah) -- Description and travel.
    Salt Lake City (Utah) -- Surveys.
    United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.
    Utah -- Description and travel.
    Utah -- Surveys.
    West (U.S.) -- Description and travel.
    West (U.S.) -- Surveys.
    Wisconsin -- Description and travel.


    Journals (accounts) -- United States.
    Letters (correspondence) -- United States.
    Sketchbooks -- United States.

    Additional Contributors

    Gunnison, Charles A., 1861-1897.