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Guide to the Faxon Dean Atherton Papers, 1831-1932, Vault MS 5
Vault MS 5  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Existence and Location of Copies
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Separated Materials
  • Related Collections
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Arrangement
  • Biography
  • Scope and Contents

  • Title: Faxon Dean Atherton Papers
    Collection Identifier: Vault MS 5
    Date (inclusive): 1831-1932
    Creator: Atherton, Faxon Dean, 1815-1877
    Extent: 9 boxes and 2 oversize boxes (4.5 linear feet)
    Repository: California Historical Society
    678 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA, 94105
    URL: http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/
    Physical Location: Collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English and Spanish.


    Collection is open for research.

    Existence and Location of Copies

    Atherton's California diary was published by the California Historical Society in 1964 as The California diary of Faxon Dean Atherton, 1836-1839, edited by Doyce B. Nunis, Jr. A copy of this book is available in the library (Kemble F856.1.A40).

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The North Baker Research Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Library Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The North Baker Research Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Faxon Dean Atherton Papers. MS 5 (Vault), The California Historical Society, North Baker Research Library.

    Separated Materials

    Two maps of Bolsa de San Cayetano Ranch in Monterey County, dated June 1881, have been transferred to the Map Collection.

    Related Collections

    Related materials may be found in the Faxon Dean Atherton family papers, MS 4129.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    The collection was donated by Edward Engle Eyre and Dean Atherton Eyre in 1964.


    The collection is arranged in chronological order and divided into two series: Business and personal papers, 1831-1876, and Estate and genealogical papers, 1877-1932. Folder titles and scope and content notes have been supplied to facilitate access.


    A native of Dedham, Massachusetts, Atherton first came to the Pacific coast around 1834 to work for a ship chandlery firm in Valparaiso, Chile. He settled in Valparaiso in 1840 and became a successful merchant dealing in hides and tallow, foodstuffs, and other commodities. Eventually he became one of the wealthiest men on the Pacific coast.
    From 1836 to 1838, Atherton worked as a clerk for Alpheus B. Thompson, a merchant engaged in the hides and tallow trade on the California coast. During this period, Atherton penned his California diary and formed friendships with many prominent Californians, including Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo and Thomas O. Larkin (with whom he was to be associated in several real estate and commercial ventures). Around 1860, Atherton returned to California to settle permanently, liquidating his assets in Valparaiso and reinvesting his money in the new state. Atherton's real estate purchases included Valparaiso Park in San Mateo County; the land now forms much of present-day Atherton. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the Lick Trust and played an instrumental role in the construction of a railroad to Hayward.
    Atherton married Dominga Goñi, daughter of a prominent Chileno family. They had seven children, among them George H. B. Atherton, who later married Gertrude Franklin Horn, one of California's most important authors.

    Scope and Contents

    The collection comprises business records and correspondence documenting Atherton's mercantile relationships and activities in Boston, California, Hawaii, and Valparaiso; correspondence, deeds, and other documents relating to Atherton's real estate investments in California, including Las Milpitas Ranch and Bolsa de San Cayetano Ranch in Monterey County, San Lorenzo Ranch in Alameda County, Los Putos Ranch in Solano County, and Valparaiso Park in San Mateo County; and legal documents and other papers concerning Atherton's estate after his death. Proclamations and correspondence in English and Spanish (1845-1848) document escalating tensions between the United States and Mexico in California in the 1840s, culminating in the Mexican War. The collection also contains Atherton's diary for the years 1836 to 1839, which he kept while he lived in California, as well as business letters and receipts created by Atherton's sons, George H. B. Atherton and Faxon D. Atherton, Jr., and letters concerning the Atherton family genealogy.
    Correspondents include Thomas O. Larkin, José Castro, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Alpheus B. Thompson, Nathan Spear, George Henry Bowen (Atherton's friend and business partner in Valparaiso), and Alexander B. Grogan (Atherton's California business agent and executor of his estate).

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Atherton, Faxon Dean, 1815-1877--Estate.
    Atherton, Faxon Dean, Jr.
    Atherton, George H. B.
    Bowen, George Henry
    Castro, José , 1810-1860
    Grogan, Alexander B.
    Larkin, Thomas Oliver, 1802-1858
    Spear, Nathan
    Thompson, Alpheus B.
    Vallejo, Mariano Guadalupe, 1808-1890
    Coats of arms.
    Hides and skins--California.
    Land surveys.
    Letter books.
    Mexican War, 1846-1848.
    Real estate investment--California.
    San Lorenzo Ranch (Alameda Co., Calif.)
    Valparaiso Park (San Mateo Co., Calif.)