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Railroads in Native America: Manuscript Collections

In 2022, the organizers of the Railroads in Native America Symposium asked Brigham Young University to help create a bibliography of books, manuscripts, and other resources that could be useful for researchers, students, and others interested in attending

Letters, Diaries, and other Primary Source Materials Related to Railroads in Native America

Note: On the record of each item below, on the upper right corner, there is an "Aeon Request" button that you can use to set up an appointment to come use these items in our Special Collections Reading Room.

  • Dalton Family Diaries, MSS SC 837, includes references to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe in Idaho. Entries from 5/27/1855 - 5/10/1857 note that on Wednesday, September 12th, 1856, Shoshone Indians reported that Oregon soldiers had "ravished their squaws, shot four Indians, hung one, and stole thirty of their horses." Other events include camping with Bannock Indians and baptizing them.
  • The Arthur V. Watkins Papers, MSS 146, include references to Cherokee, Klamath, and Navajo nations, primarily in Arizona during the mid-20th Century. For example, under September 10th 1946, "Report on the Navajo" details on table 4 of the economic chapter that 3 Navajo worked in the railroad industry in 1943.
  • Kit Carson Papers, Vault MSS 513, includes mention of the Apache and Ute between 1854 and 1867. A letter dated May 18, 1854 notes: "Sir I am requested to by Mr Pedro Lion Lujan to inform you that the Yutahs Indians that he has seen and been with are very friendly and say that they will not join the Apaches." A full description of this collection is located here.
  • The George A. and Elizabeth B. Custer Collection, Vault MSS 364, includes numerous references to Native American communities across the American West, from Kansas to Utah. For example, a letter dated July 30th, 1870 noted: "Five of the troops are still farther west along the line of the railroad, while "A" troop is in the southern part of Kansas near Fort Scott protecting the builders of a railroad. I with six companies expect to go to Leavenworth for the winter. Two companies will be stationed at Fort Harper [sic], two at Fort Hays, one at Fort Lyon. This is based on the supposition that the Indians will not require us to make a winter campaign." A file-level description of this collection is located here.
  • The John W. Hess autobiography, MSS SC 2635, describe his experience with Shoshone in Wyoming in September 1887. He noted: "The object of this mission was to carry a lot of presents to chief Washakie, who was camped on the East side of the Wind River Range of Mountains, now in the State of Wyoming. The presents consisted of five hundred pounds of dried fruit, one bale of blankets, shirts and underwear, and a silk handerkerchief, in great numbers and varieties."
  • The Clarence Reckmeyer Correspondence, MSS SC 19, includes references to Pawnee in Nebraska, December 1867, specifically that "In December 1867 Frank and Luther North were camped at Fort Kearny, Nebraska when a delegation of Union Pacific officials including President Sidney Dillon, Oaks Ames, Thomas C. Durant and others arrived and were taken out on a buffalo hunt."
  • Oral history Interviews with Edward and Virginia Smith. MSS 6706, mentions their perceptions of the Navajo who worked on the railroads in Arizona in the 1940s, unfortunately highly colored by their own biases. 
  • The Union Pacific Company Utah and Wyoming Surveys, MSS 4181, are an invaluable source for understanding the ways that railroads cut across and around Native American nations and communities.
  • Thomas B. Marquis papers, MSS SC 2660, discusses a Major Baker who failed to properly defend railroad construction against Sioux in Wyoming in the 1870s. Also includes details about Custer and Little Bighorn.
  • Henry Schnautz letters, MSS 6288. includes a newspaper clipping from the Ruidoso News in New Mexico from 1957 entitled 'Ruidoso Writer Interviews Big Mouth, Last Living Apache Scout." Also includes letters dicussing Schnautz' art, his life on an Apache reservation, and Eve Ball's work.
  • The Wilkinson, Cragun & Barker records and Indian Claims Commission Files, MSS 2291
  • The National Council of American Indians records, MSS 1704
  • The S. Lyman Tyler papers, UA 614
  • The Arthur Watkins Papers, MSS 146
  • The Eve Ball papers, MSS 3096