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Johnson Family Letters

A description of the item at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 26 May 2010

Biographical History

Little is known of the writers beyond what can be gleaned from the collection. Hiram A. Johnson was the son of Charles and Rachel Johnson. Hiram left home in St. Lawrence County, New York and went to Oregon, traveling first to Oregon City and then to Santiam City. His letters mention numerous "brothers and sisters" but it is unclear whether they were all actual siblings or were perhaps cousins or in-laws; names include Abel, Lucy, Warren, Elihu, Harriet and others. In the last letter he mentions George, Warren and Charles, who appear to be his sons.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Johnson Family Letters consists of four letters, three from Hiram Johnson and one from his son Charles.

The earliest, dated February 16, 1847 from Pittsfield, Illinois, is from Hiram A. Johnson to his parents, Charles and Rachel Johnson in St. Lawrence County, New York. The letter is annotated in another hand in pencil as follows: "This is the last letter that Brother Hiram wrote before he started for Oregon from Illinois." The letter reads, in part, "I am fixing to move to Oregon in the Spring and I do not anticipate any danger from the indians...mother do not be uneasy about me you shall hear from me often." Later, he says "I will write to you again when I get to St. Joseph, Mosourie [sic] that is the last settlement on the road."

Of the remaining letters, two are from Hiram to his brother and sister; one is dated from Oregon City a few months later, and the other from Santiam City. In the latter Hiram mentions the flood of men passing through Oregon en route to newly discovered gold mines in what is now British Columbia.

The last letter is from Hiram's son John Charles Johnson to his grandmother Rachel Johnson, and reads in part:

Dear grandma though I have never Seen you yet I have heard my father talk So much about you I thought I would write you a few lines to let you See how well I can write and to let you know that I would like to see you first rate I am now twelve years old yet I cannot write very well this being a new Country I have not had a very good chance to go to school. But I am determined to improve every opportunity and get the best education I can.

Arrangement of the Collection



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Subject Headings


Johnson family.
Johnson, Hiram A.


Northwest, Pacific -- History.
Northwest, Pacific -- History.
Travelers -- 19th century.


British Columbia -- Gold discoveries.
Oregon -- Description and travel.
Oregon City (Or.) -- History.
Santiam City (Or.) -- History.

Genres and Forms


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Johnson Family Letters,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Carson Buck, 1969.

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