Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
McLain Brothers Correspondence, 1857-1865

Finding aid created by
Barbara DeWolfe, April 2007

Summary Information
Title: McLain brothers correspondence
Creator: McLain, Samuel and McLain, Charles
Inclusive dates: 1857-1865
Extent: 11 items
Charles and Samuel McLain traveled west in the 1850s to find gold. Their letters reflect the hardships they encountered.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

2001. M-4170.6.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

McLain Brothers Correspondence, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.


Samuel and Charles McLain migrated west in the 1850s to find their fortunes prospecting for gold. Their father, James McLain, was a Pennsylvanian who had settled with his wife in Mountsville, Ohio, where they raised a family of six sons and three daughters. In 1852, Sam, then 24 years old, left the family homestead for Oregon, and settled in Philomath, where he lived for the rest of his life. Considered to be an early pioneer, he helped to blaze the trails that opened up the Yaquima Bay country. In 1857, Charles McLain followed his brother west, traveling to various places, including Nebraska and California, in his search for gold. He eventually made his way to Oregon in 1865 to join his brother.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The McLain correspondence contains ten letters and one newspaper clipping, an obituary and remembrance of Samuel McLain (1828-1910). Samuel wrote four of the letters in which he described his feelings about the war, religious camp meetings, and the hardships of life and prospecting in the West.

Charles McLain wrote five letters, one with a note from Sam on the back, mainly to family members in Ohio. Like Sam, Charles discusses the war and describes the perils of life in the West. In his letter of March 5, 1865, he advised his father and his brother John against moving west, especially since they were doing so well raising tobacco. Charles dates his letters from many different cities, including Leavenworth City, Kansas, Elkhorn City, Nebraska, and Ophirville, California.

The first letter in the collection, dated March 6, 1862, is from cousin Nancy Miller to John McLain, Sam and Charles' brother who lived in Ohio.

Subject Terms

    • Gold miners--California.
    • Gold miners--Oregon.
    • Gold miners--Colorado.
    • Indians of North America--West (U.S.)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • West (U.S.)--Description and travel--1860-1880.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   5, Small Collections  
    McLain Brothers correspondence,  1857-1865 [series]