John Wesley Longyear Papers  1837-1875
Summary Information
Title: John Wesley Longyear Papers
Creator: Longyear, John Wesley, 1820-1875.
Inclusive dates: 1837-1875
Extent: 2 linear feet
Extent: 2 oversize folders
Republican congressman and U.S. district judge from Lansing, Michigan. Correspondence, business and legal papers, manuscript addresses, photographs, and miscellaneous items; include material concerning Michigan politics and his Civil War activities as a member of Congress; journal, 1871 containing a few brief entries on business matters.
Call number: Aa 2; Ac; 851729
Language: The materials are in English.
Repository: Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
Home Page:
Finding aid author: Finding aid prepared by: Michigan Historical Collections staff

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The papers were donated in 1941 and 1942 by Longyear's granddaughter Helen S. Paul (donor no. 1264).

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright has not been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Preferred Citation:

item, folder title, box no., John Wesley Longyear Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


John Wesley Longyear, lawyer, U.S. congressman, and judge, was born in 1820 in Shandaken, New York. After being educated at seminaries in Amenia and Lima, New York, Longyear taught school and studied law. In April 1844, he moved to Mason, Michigan in Ingham County where he continued to teach school and study law. He was admitted to the bar in 1846. When the state capitol was moved to nearby Lansing in 1847, Longyear moved there and formed a law partnership with his brother Ephraim Longyear. He was married in June 1849 to Harriet M. Munroe.

In 1862, Longyear was elected as a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan's third district, composed of Calhoun, Eaton, Ingham, Jackson, and Washtenaw counties. He was reelected in 1864 and served on the Committee on Common Expenditures and as chairman of the controversial extension of U.S. land grants to the Amboy, Hillsdale, Lansing, and Traverse Bay Railroad. The ensuing controversy may have cost Longyear his seat in Congress.

Longyear was a delegate to the 1866 Loyalist Convention in Philadelphia, a convention called to influence public opinion against the Johnson Reconstruction policy. He also served as a member of the Michigan Constitutional convention in 1867.

In 1870, Longyear was appointed U.S. district court judge for the eastern district of Michigan. He moved to Detroit the following year and developed a national reputation for expertise in bankruptcy and admiralty law. He died suddenly in March 1875.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The papers of John Wesley Longyear spans the period from 1837 to 1875. The bulk of the collection covers two periods of Longyear's life: his two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1863-1866) and his service as U.S. district court judge (1870-1875).

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.

    • Amboy, Lansing and Traverse Bay Railroad Company.
    • Business records.
    • Copper mines and mining--Michigan--Upper Peninsula.
    • Homestead law--Michigan.
    • Jackson, Lansing and Saginaw Railroad Company.
    • Judges--Michigan--Lansing.
    • Lansing (Mich.)
    • Longyear, John Wesley, 1820-1875.
    • Manistee (Mich.)
    • Michigan Female College (Lansing, Mich.)
    • Michigan--Politics and government--1837-1950.
    • Michigan--Politics and government--1845-1860.
    • Michigan--Politics and government--1861-1865.
    • Michigan--Politics and government--1866-1876.
    • Muskegon (Mich.)
    • Newaygo County (Mich.)
    • Railroads--Michigan.
    • Republican Party (Mich.)
    • United States. Congress. House.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States Military Academy.
    • United States--Politics and government--1845-1861.
    • United States--Politics and government--1861-1865.
    • United States--Politics and government--1865-1877.
    • Upper Peninsula (Mich.)
    • Women--Education--United States.
    Subjects - Visual Material:
    • Dwellings.
    • Longyear, John Wesley, 1820-1875.
    • Bagley, John Judson, 1832-1881.
    • Beaman, F. C. (Fernando C.), 1814-1882.
    • Blair, Austin, 1818-1894.
    • Cooley, Thomas McIntyre, 1824-1898.
    • Cutcheon, Sullivan M., 1843-1900.
    • Duffield, D. Bethune (Divie Bethune), 1821-1891.
    • Ferry, Thomas White, 1827-1896.
    • Howard, William Alanson, 1813-1880.
    • Longyear, Ephraim, 1827-1889.
    • McKinney, John, 1803-1870.
    • Mayhew, Ira, 1814-1894.
    • Newberry, John Stoughton, 1826-1887.
    • Olds, Schuyler Seager.
    • Turner, James, 1820-1869.
    • Withey, Solomon L., 1820-1886.
    • Diaries.
    • Photographs.
    • Prints.
    Contents List
    Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]

    Correspondence measures one-and-a-third linear feet and comprises the bulk of the collection. This series begins with a letter of Frank E. Robson written in 1946 and containing biographical information about Longyear. Except for this, the correspondence covers the years 1846 to 1875 and consists primarily of letters from constituents, family members, and Republican political figures. Important correspondents include John Judson Bagley, Fernando C. Beaman, Thomas McIntyre Cooley, Sullivan M. Cutcheon, Divie Bethune Duffield, Thomas W. Ferry, William Alanson Howard, Ephraim Longyear, John McKinney, Irs Mayhew, John Stoughton Newberry, Schuyler Seager Olds, and Solomon Withey.

    Box   1  
    Letter of Frank E. Robson to James Turner containing a biographical sketch of Longyear  1946
    Box   1  
    Letters from Ephraim Longyear in California
    Box   1  
    Box   1  
     1863 (2 folders)
    Box   1  
     1864 (18 folders)
    Box   1  
     1865 (13 folders)
    Box   1  
     1866 (20 folders)
    Box   1  
     1867 (7 folders)
    Box   1  
    Box   1  
    Box   2  
     1870 (8 folders)
    Box   2  
     1871 (10 folders)
    Box   2  
     1872 (9 folders)
    Box   2  
     1873 (9 folders)
    Box   2  
     1874 (7 folders)
    Congressional Papers [series]

    The Congressional Papers series includes speeches, bills, and applications for recommendations to West Point. Papers relating to the Amboy, Hillsdale, Lansing, and Traverse Bay Railroad controversy are especially rich.

    Box   2  
    Speech  1864
    Box   2  
    Speech  1866
    Box   2  
    Applications for recommendations to West Point  1864-1866
    Box   2  
    Box   2  
    Bills relating to Amboy, Lansing, and Traverse Bay Railroad  1866
    Judicial Papers [series]
    Box   2  
    Papers relating to judgeship in 10th circuit  1858
    Box   2  
    Judicial opinions to  September 1872
    Financial Papers [series]
    Box   2  
    Canceled checks and stubs
    Box   2  
    Tax receipts for land in Gratiot County  1863-1870
    Box   2  
    Farm matters
    Box   2  
    Settlement of estate  1875
    Box   2  
    Life insurance papers  1875
    Printed [series]
    Box   2  
     1863-1866 (2 folders)
    Box   2  
    William Pitt Fessendon memorial booklet  1869
    Other Materials [series]
    Box   2  
    Diary,  1872

    (sketchy; eighteen scattered entries, most of which are less than four words)

    Box   2  

    (include essays of his brother Ephraim Longyear)

    Box   2  
    Deeds and land grants
    Box   2  
    Family photos
    Box   2  
    Box   2  
    Land grants, maps, certificates, and deeds
    Box   2  
    Newspaper clippings
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Selective Index to Correspondents and Subjects
    Bagley, John Judson, 1832-1881.
    • Letter, Feb. 20, 1870, inviting Longyear to meet the lawyers and prominent citizens of Detroit at Bagley's home
    Beaman, F. C. (Fernando C.), 1814-1882.
    • Letter, Jan. 31, 1871, to Longyear concerning salaries of federal judges.
    Blair, Austin, 1818-1894.
    • Letter to Longyear, Jan. 14, 1864, concerning an appointment to be made; letters, Jan. 12 and 20, 1864, concerning the sentence of Allen G. Maxson of Leoni, a deserter; letter, May 16, 1871, concerning the remission of a convict's fine.
    Civil War.
    • Civil War letters, many from soldiers requesting discharge, transfer, promotion, etc. while Longyear was in Congress.
    Cooley, Thomas McIntyre, 1824-1898.
    • Letter to Longyear, March 14, 1864, recommending a prospective army paymaster; letters, Feb. 13, March 12, 13, 16, 31, 1865; April 5, 1865, concerning an appointment and political affairs; letters, June 21, 1866; March 28, 1872, concerning the naturalization of Prof. Robert Harbison.
    Copper Mines and Mining
    • Letter, May 18, 1866, of William A. Howard of Washington, concerning the proposed duty on copper and its effect on the mining industry of northern Michigan.
    Cutcheon, Sullivan M., 1843-1900.
    • Correspondence, 1864-1867, with Sullivan M. Cutcheon political matters.
    Duffield, D. Bethune (Divie Bethune), 1821-1891.
    • Letters of Divie B. and H.M. Duffield, 1871, concerning a legal case; also letter, Apr. 3, 1871, concerning a meeting of the Detroit bar on the occasion of the death of Jacob M. Howard.
    Ferry, Thomas White, 1827-1896.
    • Letters, 1866, 1871, of T.W. Ferry to Longyear concerning appropriations by Congress for harbors at Muskegon and Manistee and salary increase for federal judges.
    Homestead Act.
    • Letter, Dec. 26, 1864, of E.L. Gray to J.W. Longyear concerning homestead act and its effect on the settlement of northern Michigan. (Newaygo).
    Howard, William Alanson, 1813-1880.
    • Letter, May 18, 1866, concerning the proposed duty on copper and its effect on the mining industry of northern Michigan; Aug. 24, 1866.
    Jackson, Lansing and Saginaw Railroad.
    • Correspondence during 1866 from persons interested in the Congressional bill for extension of the land grant to the Amboy, Lansing and Traverse Bay Railroad.
    Longyear, Ephraim, 1827-1889.
    • Scattered letters of Ephraim Longyear to his brother, John W. Longyear.
    McKinney, John, 1803-1870.
    • Letter, Jan. 16, 1865, of A.R. Burr, to Longyear, concerning the bond and sureties of John McKinney, late state treasurer.
    Manistee, Mich.
    • Letter, May 9, 1866, of Thomas W. Ferry to Longyear concerning appropriations by Congress for harbors at Muskegon and Manistee.
    Mayhew, Ira, 1814-1894.
    • Letter, July 15, 1866 of Ira Mayhew, Albion, concerning the extension of the land grant to the Amboy, Lansing and Traverse Bay Railroad.
    Michigan Female Seminary, Kalamazoo.
    • Letters to Miss A. C. Rogers, Lansing, to Longyear on Jan. 19, 1864, May 30 1866, June 19, 1866, Dec. 17, 1866, concerning the granting to land to female colleges and the future of female education: Carrie Edgerton, Lansing Jan. 8, 1864, to Longyear asking for a contribution for the purchase of portraits of Mrs. Rogers, founder of the Michigan Female Seminary.
    Mines and mineral resources.
    • Letters, May 18, 1866 of William A. Howard to John W. Longyear, Washington, concerning proposed study on copper and its effect on the mining industry of northern Michigan.
    Muskegon, Mich.
    • Letter, May 9, 1866, of Thomas W. Ferry to Longyear, concerning appropriations by Congress for harbors at Muskegon and Manistee.
    Newaygo County, Mich.
    • Letter, Dec. 26, 1864, of E.L. Gray to J.W. Longyear, concerning homestead act and its effect on the settlement of northern Michigan. (Newaygo).
    Newberry, John Stoughton, 1826-1887.
    • Letter, May 4, 1870, to Longyear concerning a legal case.
    Olds, Schuyler Seager
    • Petition and recommendations of Schuyler S. Olds for West Point, July 5, 1866; letter of Schuyler S. Olds, Lansing, Feb. 26, 1870 to Longyear concerning a legal case; letters, Jan. 6 and Dec. 12, 1872, concerning an appointment for Olds.
    Republican Party.
    • Political correspondence during his terms in Congress (1863-1867), concerning the Republican party, national and state politics, etc.
    Turner, James, 1820-1869.
    • Letter, Feb. 12, 1864, of James Turner, Lansing, to Longyear offering land in Lansing on Grand River Road for sale.
    Upper Peninsula (Mich.)
    • Papers concerning the development of the resources of the Upper Peninsula, May 18, 1866, December 26, 1864, August 24, 1866.
    Withey, Solomon L., 1820-1886.
    • Letters, 1870-1874, of Solomon Withey to Longyear concerning judicial matters, 1870-1874.
    Woman--Education--United States
    • Papers concerning the education of women, January 19, 1864, May 30, June 19, and December 17, 1866.