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LeConte Family Papers, 1857-1949
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content
  • Partial List of Correspondents

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: LeConte family papers
    Date (inclusive): 1857-1949
    Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 452 BANC FILM 2199
    Extent: Number of containers: 3 boxes, 2 cartons, 1 oversize volume, 3 oversize folders, 3 card file boxes 11 digital objects (17 images)
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: Correspondence, diaries, lecture notes and miscellaneous papers of various members of the LeConte family: Joseph, Joseph Nisbet and Caroline Eaton. Relate mainly to California Sierra trips, 1871-1946, and to activities with the Sierra Club. Some geological and engineering notes included.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft 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], LeConte Family Papers, BANC MSS C-B 452 BANC FILM 2199, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Alternate Forms Available

    Digital reproductions of selected items are available.

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • Pictures from the collection of the LeConte family, early Berkeley, and Sierra views, have been transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library. Some albums have been added to the Sierra Club photograph albums (BANC PIC 1971.031), others to the old Picture Drawer miscellany (BANC PIC 1905.05329, .05337-05463, and .05564-.05672). 83 items were added to the Portrait Files of The Bancroft Library.
    • Printed items have been cataloged separately also.

    Scope and Content

    These papers, spanning two generations of the prominent University family, have come from various sources. The diaries and papers of Joseph Nisbet LeConte were the gift of Miss Helen M. LeConte, March 1, 1951. A few photostats of early documents relating to the Le Conte family genealogy with some Confederate items were given by Miss Caroline LeConte, 1937 and 1938. Ten notebooks of Joseph LeConte were the gift of Francis P. Farquhar, May 3, 1959.
    The collection, consisting mainly of correspondence and notebooks, contains papers of Joseph LeConte, geologist and beloved teacher of the University of California; his daughter, Caroline Eaton; and his son, Joseph Nisbet, engineer and University teacher, and a few items from other members of the family.
    Joseph LeConte, born in Liberty County, Georgia, graduated from Franklin College in 1841. He later went to the New York College of physicians and surgeons, finishing his medical work in 1845. He married Caroline Elizabeth Nisbet in 1847 and practiced medicine in Macon, Georgia. Dissatisfied, he went to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1850 and studied sciences. He then taught in Georgia until 1856. He obtained the chair of geology in 1857 at the college of South Carolina until 1862 when it closed due to the Civil War. Though not actively involved in the war, he remained in the south and resumed teaching in 1866 until 1867. He and his brother John both applied for positions at the University of California in 1866 and moved to California in 1869, where Joseph LeConte taught geology to undergraduates until 1896. A great lover of camping, he made summer trips to the Sierras, particularly to Yosemite and King's River Canyon. He died in 1901 of a heart attack while on a Sierra Club camping trip to the Yosemite.
    There were four children -Sarah (Sallie), 1850-1915; Emma, died ca. 1932; Caroline Eaton, 1864-1949; Joseph Nisbet, 1870-1950. Sallie married Robert Means Davis and had one child, Isabel. Emma married Farish Furman, had two daughters, Kate, born in 1872, and Bess, born in 1874. Both Sallie and Emma resided mostly in the southern states. Caroline never married. She spent part of her life in California and lived in Europe for great periods of time.
    Joseph Nisbet grew up in Oakland and Berkeley, went to the University of California, won a scholarship to Cornell University for one year. Here he deepened his knowledge of electrical engineering and obtained his master's degree in 1892. He returned to the University of California where he accepted a teaching position and gradually built up an engineering department. He married Helen Marion Gompertz, had two children, Helen Malcom, born in 1904, and Joseph, born in 1908. His wife Helen died in 1924. Five years later he took as his second wife, Adelaide Elizabeth Graham, a longtime friend of the family. His son Joseph married Dorothy Emma Teager in 1934 and had a son, Joseph, in 1940.
    Joseph Nisbet LeConte was also an avid mountaineer and continued the family traditions of the Sierra trips. He was active in the Sierra Club, maintaining his interest even when he could no longer climb.
    His love of the mountains is shown by the correspondence of Joseph LeConte, Joseph Nisbet and Helen (Gompertz) LeConte and by the notebooks in which Joseph, Caroline and Joseph Nisbet kept records of summer trips, over the years from 1871 until 1943, with great emphasis on the Yosemite and its surroundings, and King's River Canyon.
    Joseph LeConte's knowledge of geology illuminated his letters and notebooks in observations on mountain formation. His interest in things philosophical is manifest in jottings and notes scattered throughout the notebooks.
    Joseph Nisbet LeConte's notebooks record readings -azimuth, altitudes, temperature -of mountain areas on summer trips. There are also many notebooks containing lecture notes from University of California days as an undergraduate through his year at Cornell and for a course given in Kinematics. He also kept records of snow depths from 1897 to 1949.

    Partial List of Correspondents

    Cooke, Josiah Parson, 1827-1894

    see Dana, James Dwight
    Dana, James Dwight, 1815-1895
    Letter to Josiah Parson Cooke, Oct. 10, 1870. With letter from Cooke to Joseph LeConte concerning a specimen of micah. (Box 1)
    Gompertz, Helen Marion

    see LeConte, Helen Marion (Gompertz)
    Graham, Adelaide Elizabeth

    see LeConte, Adelaide Elizabeth (Graham)
    James, William, 1842-1910
    1 letter, Feb. 4, 1899 (Box 3)
    LeConte, Adelaide Elizabeth (Graham)
    20 letters, 1928-1929. Written under her maiden name, prior to marriage in 1929. (Box 3)
    LeConte, Caroline Eaton, 1863-1945
    3 letters, 1900-1924 (Box 2)
    LeConte, Caroline Elizabeth (Nisbet), ca. 1828-1915
    3 letters, 1903-1904, written to Joseph LeConte on wedding anniversary and birthday after his death. Also letter, no addressee, Mar. 29, 1914, and copy of poem, God is near, July 1915. (Box 1)
    LeConte, Helen Malcom, 1904-
    4 letters, 1913-1914, to her parents. (Box 3)
    LeConte, Helen Marion (Gompertz), 1865-1924
    38 letters, 1892-1924, to Joseph Nisbet LeConte. Mainly written before her marriage. Also 7 letters, 1892-1915, written to family. 1892 letters relate to Yosemite trip before her marriage. 1914 letter about European trip. (Box 3)
    LeConte, John Lawrence, 1825-1883
    1 letter, May 27, 1858 [to Agassiz] (Box 2)

    1 letter, Nov. 13, 1882 to Dr. R. E. Rogers (Box 2)
    LeConte, Joseph, 1823-1901
    15 letters, 1870-1900. Mainly to his wife. 1870 letters relate to Yosemite trip, with mention of John Muir. 1900 letters relate to King's River Valley. One letter, Oct. 15, 1888, refers to his book Evolution and its relation to religious thought. (Box 1)
    LeConte, Joseph, b. 1908
    1 letter, summer 1934. (Box 3)
    LeConte, Joseph Nisbet, 1870-1950
    33 letters, 1876-1949. Mainly letters to members of the family, relating to trips to King's River Canyon, Yosemite and Mount Rainier. Mention of Prof. Davidson, the Colbys and the Parsons. (Box 3)
    Muir, John, 1838-1914
    4 letters, 1871-1874. Observations on the geological formation and flora of Yosemite. The 1874 item is a transcript only. (Box 1)
    Thurston, Robert Henry, 1839-1903
    1 letter, Feb. 17, 1902 (Box 3)