Indians of North America; Geology; Languages; Discovery and exploration; Land speculation; Politics and government; Fur trade
United States; Wayne County, MI, USA; Michigan, USA; United States
Documentary Artifacts; Collection
A0003 Abert Family Letters Inventory of Abert Family Letters A0003 EAD by Jaime Bourassa using ArchivesSpace Missouri Historical Society Library and Research Center 2016 225 S. Skinker Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63105 firstname.lastname@example.org URL: This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2018-09-27 06:25:11 -0500 . English Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Missouri Historical Society Library and Research Center
Abert Family Letters
Featherstonhaugh, George William, 1780-1866
Fitzpatrick, Thomas, 1799-1854
0.02 Cubic Feet
Processed by Katy Smith, July 2001.
Purchased through the Bixby Book and Manuscript Fund from Walter A. Benjamin, New York, September 10, 1951.
John James Abert (1791-1863), at the time of the letters, was the Chief of the United States Topographical Engineers, a position he held from 1828 to 1861. Born in Maryland in 1791, Abert entered West Point on January 18, 1808. After graduating in 1811, he refused a commission, and instead practiced law. Abert served as a private soldier during the War of 1812. In 1814, the Army reappointed him as a major in the Topographical Engineers where he took command of a series of surveys along the Atlantic Coast. Ten years later, his rank was raised to Lieutenant Colonel, and in 1828, he was promoted to Colonel and Chief of the Topographical Engineers. Abert held the position until 1861, when he retired due to ill health. During the 1830s, Abert was also involved in the moving of the Native Americans to reservations under the Indian Removal Bill of 1830, and he acted as Commissioner and Agent to the Creek and Wyandotte Indians in 1833-34. Abert died January 27, 1863 in Washington, D.C.
James William Abert (1820-1897), son of John James Abert, also served with the Topographical Engineers. Like his father, he attended West Point, and, after graduating in 1842, was assigned to the Fifth United States Infantry. In 1843 he was transferred to the Topographical Engineers. James Abert sketched for Fremont on the first part of his 1845 expedition, and, later, Fremont gave command of the Canadian River mission to Lts. Abert and Peck. While on the mission, Abert kept written accounts, drew maps, and made sketches and watercolors of the Native Americans, Bent's Fort, and the native flora and fauna. In 1846, Abert and Peck surveyed New Mexico and again kept journals of the regional characteristics and peoples. Abert also taught drawing at West Point, was a business man in Cincinnati, served as examiner of patents in Washington, D.C., and was a professor of English Literature at the University of Missouri. He died at his home in Newport, Kentucky, on August 10, 1897.
George William Featherstonhaugh (1780-1866) was the first United States appointed geologist. Born in London in 1780, he emigrated to America in 1807 and settled in Duanesburg, New York. He moved to Philadelphia in 1831 where he published the Monthly American Journal of Geology and Natural History and made surveys along the Atlantic coast. In 1834, the U.S. government appointed him as the official U. S. geologist, and authorized him to make a geological report of Missouri and Arkansas, and later other regions. In 1838, Great Britain commissioned him to survey and define the boundary between Maine and Canada. In 1845 he was appointed consul for the British government at Havre, France, where he died in 1866.
Thomas Fitzpatrick (1799-1854), mountain man trapper, fur trader, guide, and scout; acted as guide on the 1845 Fremont expedition, and accompanied Abert and Peck on the Canadian River Mission. Known as "Broken Hand" due to the loss of two fingers during a gun battle, Fitzpatrick was appointed an Indian Agent in 1845 due to his mountain man knowledge and experience. As such, he was instrumental in a number of peace treaties. He worked under John Abert as topographical engineer.
Scope and Contents
The letters consist of thirteen letters, eleven written by George W. Featherstonhaugh to Col. John J. Abert and two written by Thomas Fitzpatrick to Lt. James W. Abert. The letters relate to geological findings, land explorations, and dealings with Native Americans. The letters written by George W. Featherstonhaugh from various locales (such as Detroit, Green Bay, Prairie du Chien, North Carolina, and Quebec) for the most part detail his explorations; geological reports; descriptions of flora, fauna, and the people encountered; and difficulties with terrain and conditions. The letters written by Thomas Fitzpatrick from St. Louis detail his findings on Native American languages, political news, and gossip.
The letters are arranged chronologically in two folders.
Formerly known as the John J. Abert Papers.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research use.
Conditions Governing Use
For permission to publish, quote from, or reproduce material in this collection, please contact the Archives Reference Desk at email@example.com . Material in this collection is in the public domain.
Physical and Technical Requirements
There are no physical or technical restrictions.
The Abert Family Letters were digitized by Jaime Bourassa in January 2016. The images may be viewed online by clicking the links beside each item in the inventory.
Abert Family Letters, Missouri Historical Society Archives, St. Louis.
Fur trade -- United States
Geology -- United States
Indians of North America
Indians of North America -- Languages
Land speculation -- United States
United States -- Discovery and exploration
United States -- Politics and government
Abert, J. W. (James William), 1820-1897
Abert, John James, 1788-1863
Mather, W. W. (William Williams), 1804-1859
Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, Detroit, to Col. Abert [John James Abert]. Details his start to Fort Gratiot on the way to Green Bay, the financing of the expedition (requests that funds be sent to Prairie du Chien), and difficulties with his assistant, Mr. Mather [W.W. Mather]. A0003-00003 1835 Aug 2 1 1 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, Detroit, to Col. Abert [John James Abert], August 2, 1835 Incomplete letter [of G.W. Featherstonhaugh], Green Bay, to Col. Abert. Details the weather, the geography and geology of the area, fossils, and the purchase of a canoe and the hiring of voyagers to man it. A0003-00004 1835 Aug 18 1 1 Incomplete letter [of G.W. Featherstonhaugh], Green Bay, to Col. Abert [John James Abert], August 18, 1835 Letter [of G.W. Featherstonhaugh], Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, to Col. Abert. Discusses the weather, geography and geology of the area, and his relationship with Mr. Mather. A0003-00005 1835 Sept 1 1 1 Letter [of G.W. Featherstonhaugh], Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, to Col. Abert, September 1, 1835 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, Fort Snelling, to Col. Abert. Details his preparations for the "most difficult part of my enterprise," a visit to the Terre Bleu River and the Coteau du Prairie. A0003-00006 1835 Sept 13 1 1 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, Fort Snelling, to Col. Abert [John James Abert], September 13, 1835 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, "Steam boat on the Mississippi," to Col. Abert. Details his hazardous prairie trip to Fort Armstrong, where he dined with Kearney. A0003-00007 1835 Nov 5 1 1 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, "Steam boat on the Mississippi," to Col. Abert [John James Abert], November 5, 1835 Letter [of G.W. Featherstonhaugh] to Col. Abert. Shares his future address, and states that the U.S. Mining Company has paid a second dividend. A0003-00008 1836 Nov 13 1 2 Letter of [G.W. Featherstonhaugh] to Col. Abert [John James Abert], November 13, 1836 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, Galena, to Col. Abert. Discusses a proposal by himself and Taylor to examine the territory of Wisconsin, his opinion on Nicollet and the writing of his travels, and land speculation along the Mississippi. A0003-00009 1837 May 19 1 2 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, Galena, to Col. Abert [John James Abert], May 19, 1837 Incomplete letter [of G.W. Featherstonhaugh], Decatur, NC, to Col. Abert. Describes his travels and geological findings in the Eastern and Southern United States. A0003-00010 1837 July 19 1 2 Incomplete letter [of G.W. Featherstonhaugh], Decatur, NC, to Col. Abert [John James Abert], July 19, 1837 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, "Mountains of Burke County, N.C.," to Col. Abert. Describes the countryside and the people. A0003-00011 1837 Sept 24 1 2 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, "Mountains of Burke County, N.C.", to Col. Abert [John James Abert], September 24, 1837 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, Quebec, to Col. Abert. Discusses the changes in Quebec since he last visited thirty-one years previously and gossip, including libel, against him. A0003-00012 1838 Sept 16 1 2 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, Quebec, to Col. Abert [John James Abert], September 16, 1838 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, New York, to Col. Abert. Regarding current legal and political matters. A0003-00013 1838 Dec 12 1 2 Letter signed G.W. Featherstonhaugh, New York, to Col. Abert [John James Abert], December 12, 1838 Letter signed Thomas Fitzpatrick, St. Louis, to Lieut. J.W. Abbert [James William Abert]. Details his opinions regarding the origins of Indian languages and the custom of cannibalism. A0003-00014 1846 Feb 5 1 2 Letter signed Thomas Fitzpatrick, St. Louis, to Lieut. J.W. Abbert [James William Abert], February 5, 1846 Letter signed Thomas Fitzpatrick, St. Louis, to Lieut. J.W. Abert. Discusses his return from the democratic convention to nominate the next district representative candidate, the increased immigration to Oregon and California, and his reluctance to accept guide positions until the Congress makes a decision regarding Oregon, among other local politics. A0003-00015 1846 May 12 1 2 Letter signed Thomas Fitzpatrick, St. Louis, to Lieut. J.W. Abert, May 12, 1846