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Jefferson Martenet Correspondence: Finding Aid
mssMartenet correspondence  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing: Subjects
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Jefferson Martenet Correspondence
    Dates (inclusive): 1837-1892
    Collection Number: mssMartenet correspondence
    Creator: Martenet, Jefferson.
    Extent: 357 pieces in 2 boxes
    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 the correspondence of Jefferson Martenet (1828-1906), who left Baltimore, Maryland, in 1852 during the California Gold Rush and became a resident of Northern California. The correspondence is chiefly to his family in Baltimore discussing life, business ventures, and hardships in California, politics, and the American Civil War. The correspondence includes 365 letters, dating from 1837-1892.
    Language: English, with occasional words in Spanish.


    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]. Jefferson Martenet Correspondence, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Most of the collection was purchased from Argonaut Book Shop in June of 1954. Eleven letters to his mother from 1853-1861 were purchased on January 26, 1958 from Dawson’s Book shop.

    Biographical Note

    Jefferson Martenet (1828-1906) was born on July 24, 1828 in Baltimore, Maryland. He left Baltimore on September 16, 1852, for Northern California with plans to get rich quick off the California Gold Rush and return home within a few months. He arrived via steamer to San Francisco on October 30, 1852, but spent six months recovering from a sickness in San Francisco until April 1853. He then went to mine in Harbaugh camp near Jackson, California, for ten months until February 1854. He spent less than a month in Jackson, where he worked as a cook and returned to San Francisco by May 1854.
    Martenet remained in San Francisco the rest of his life (at least until 1892) trying to accumulate enough wealth to live comfortably back in Baltimore. He first worked as a cook in San Francisco before opening up a book stand in 1855. In May of 1857, he sold his stand and was hired by Epes Ellery and Agustus Doyle as a clerk for the Antiquarian Bookstore at least until 1859. During these years he joined the “Know Nothing” political party and joined a San Francisco volunteer police force in June of 1856, better known as the Vigilance Committee of ’56.
    During the U.S. Civil War Martenet supported the Democrats and the South. He also made his only visit back to Baltimore, made another futile attempt to strike it rich in mining, and married Louise Wiegel. The couple had at least three children, Kate, Jefferson, and Morris.
    From 1866 to 1870, Martenet was associated with Dr. T.W. Brotherton, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, in the publication of the Pacific Churchman, official newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese in California. In April 1868, Martenet was elected treasurer of the Churchman publication until it was discontinued in November 1869.
    By the autumn of 1868 Martenet was engaged in a collection agency business. Martenet also wrote poetry, spun yarn, played the guitar and piano, and sang. Martenet died in 1906 in Mill Valley, California.

    Biography/Organization History

    Family tree of Jefferson Martenet
    Elders: Catherine Martenet Richardson, June 10, 1796-1870 (“Aunt Kitty,” Jefferson Martenet’s mother, had 5 sons and 2 daughters, maiden name Johannes); Jonas Martenet, 1796- 1836 (JM’s father, married CMR in 1825); Aunt Anna (JMW’s mom, Kitty’s sister and Martin’s Wife); Uncle William Martin (married to Aunt Anna aka Willie and Billy); Fred Johannes (Kitty’s brother) and wife Susan; Mother Wiegel (JM’s mother in law); Aunt Caroline, John Johannes and family, John Smith and family, Mrs. Gould (neighbor of CMR), Mrs. Harris (Vienie’s mother), Uncle Robert, Mr. Lehman (C.M.R’s male-friend), grandmother Lehman.
    Peers: Jefferson Martenet, 1828-1906; Louise Wiegel (JM’s wife); Jefferson M. Wampler, c. 1828-1863 (JM’s cousin, aka Morris Wampler, son of Aunt Anna); William Martenet, 1826 - ? (JM’s oldest brother, aka Billy, Willie, and Pump?); either Annie or Kate was Bill Martenet’s wife; Virginia Martenet (JM’s sister who died young); George Martenet, 1830 - ? (JM’s brother) and his wife Marja; Simon J. Martenet, 1832 - 1892 (JM’s brother, a.k.a. Punks and Punkins); Philie (Simon’s wife, aka Pinky or Pinks?); Jinny (JM’s much younger sister?), Morris Martenet, 1835 - ? (JM’s youngest brother, aka Budd and Lieben Bruden Hans); Kate Wampler (JMW’s wife, aka Kate Badness?); Lavinia Harris (JM’s fiancé, aka “Vienie” and “L”); George Harris (Vienie’s brother, Mrs. Harris’s son); Kate Gould (JM’s previous girlfriend); Augustus Doyle (friend of JM, aka Gus); Fanny (George’s sister in law); JM had 2 sisters (Susan who reached adulthood and Virginia who died young); William Lefferman (CMR’s ex-lover); Robert and Anna Martin (or Mavin?) were son and daughter of Aunt Anna; Susana, Annet, Emma and Charles were children of Fred and Susan Johannes; Mollie West was a young girl who Jefferson Martenet was interested in courting in 1857 and 1858.
    Children of: Jefferson Martenet and Louise had Kate, Jeff, Morris and possibly also Dan, Henry, and Lee; William Martenet and spouse had Lina; George Martenet and Marja had Oscar, Sarah P “Millie” and two other daughters; Simon Martenet and Phillie had Jefferson, Simon, Jacob and 3 others; Jefferson Morris Wampler and Kate had James, Thomas, Kate R, Anna V, Julia, and another daughter; Morris Martenet and “Mattie” had Thomas.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains the correspondence of Jefferson Martenet (1828-1906), who left Baltimore, Maryland, in 1852 during the California Gold Rush and became a resident of Northern California. The correspondence is chiefly to his family in Baltimore discussing life, business ventures, and hardships in California, politics, and the American Civil War. The correspondence includes 365 letters, dating from 1837-1892.
    Box 1 has 37 folders with correspondence dating from 1837-1859. Letters 1-46 are mostly between Jefferson Martenet in Baltimore, Maryland, and his cousin Jefferson Morris Wampler. The letters between Martenet and Wampler deal with the topics of surveying after Texas Independence and the Mexican American War, courting, and family relations. Letters 47-192 are mostly between Jefferson Martenet in Calif. and his mother Catherine Margaretta Richardson in Baltimore. There also a small number of letters to and from his siblings. During the 1850s, Martenet began to write mostly to his mother about his hardships in California with mining and his opinions on the slavery question nationwide. Martenet comments about many major incidents and people before the U.S. Civil War including: “Bleeding Kansas,” John Brown’s Raid, the Know Nothing Party, and the Knights of the Golden Circle. He and his mother, in particular, comment on are Millard Fillmore and Baltimore Mayor Thomas Swann. Martenet also made many off-hand remarks regarding race during the 1850s, especially African Americans, Chinese Americans, Indians, and Mexicans with his regular use of Spanish.
    Box 2 has 17 folders, dating from 1860 to 1892. With the exception of occasional letters to his siblings, the overwhelming majority of the letters in Box 2 are between Jefferson Martenet in San Francisco, California, and his mother in Baltimore. The first half of the letters in this box discuss the hardships of living in Baltimore during the U.S. Civil War and Jefferson Martenet’s political opinions of politicians and military generals including: “Black” or “Radical” Republicans, Abraham Lincoln, John C. Breckinridge and Joseph Lane, Martin F. Conway, the Battle of Bull Run, General Robert E. Lee, and the election of Ulysses S. Grant. The second half focuses less so on politics and more on Jefferson Martenet’s business ventures, involvement with an Episcopalian church, and family relations.


    Arranged in 2 boxes in chronological order in 37 folders by year.
    • American Party - Box 1 (15-16), (18-19). Box 2 (1).
    • Bank failures - Box 1 (16).
    • Breckinridge, John C. (John Cabell), 1821-1875 - Box 2 (1).
    • Bull Run, 1st Battle of, Va., 1861 - Box 2 (2).
    • Bunsby, Jack - Box 1 (16).
    • Chinese - California Box 1 (15). Box 2 (1), (7), (9), (10), (11).
    • Conway, M. F. (Martin Franklin), 1827-1882 - Box 2 (1), (2), (10).
    • Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874 - Box 1 (17).
    • Gold mines and mining – California - Box 1 (13-14), (16-19). Box 2 (2), (4).
    • Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson), 1822-1885 - Box 2 (9-10).
    • Harper’s Ferry (W. Va.) – History – John Brown’s Raid, 1859 - Box 1 (20).
    • Knights of the Golden Circle - Box 1 (20).
    • Indians of North America – California - Box 1 (18-19) - Box 2 (2), (11).
    • Lane, Joseph, 1801-1881 - Box 2 (1).
    • Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870 - Box 2 (9).
    • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 - Box 2 (1-2), (4), (6).
    • Lind, Jenny 1820-1887 - Box 1 (11).
    • Martenet, Simon J. - Box 1 (8), (11), and (13-20). Box 2 (1- 4), (6-11), (15-16).
    • Mercer, Margaret, 1792-1846 - Box 1 (1), (6), (9). Box 2 (8-9).
    • Race relations - Box 1 (10-11), (15), (18-19). Box 2 (1), (7-9), (11).
    • Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- ) - Box 1 (20). Box 2 (1-2), (9).
    • Richardson, Catherine M. - Box 1 (1), (6), (11), and (13-20). Box 2 (1-11), (17).
    • Swann, Thomas, 1805-1883 - Box 1 (19).
    • United States – History – Civil War, 1861-1865 – Causes - Box 1 (15-20).

    Indexing Terms

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


    Breckinridge, John C. (John Cabell), 1821-1875.
    Conway, M. F. (Martin Franklin), 1827-1882.
    Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874.
    Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson), 1822-1885.
    Lane, Joseph, 1801-1881.
    Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870.
    Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
    Lind, Jenny, 1820-1887.
    Martenet, Jefferson -- Correspondence.
    Mercer, Margaret, 1792-1846.
    Swann, Thomas, 1805-1883.
    American Party.
    Knights of the Golden Circle.
    Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )
    Bank failures.
    Bull Run, 1st Battle of, Va., 1861.
    Chinese -- California.
    Gold mines and mining -- California.
    Indians of North America -- California.
    Race relations.
    Harpers Ferry (W. Va.) -- History -- John Brown's Raid, 1859.
    San Francisco (Calif.) -- Description and travel.
    San Francisco (Calif.) -- Social life and customs -- 19th century.
    San Francisco (Calif.) -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
    United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Causes.


    Letters (correspondence) -- United States -- 19th century.

    Additional Contributors

    Martenet, Simon J.
    Richardson, Catherine M.