Charles E. Flandrau letters (1853-1888, bulk 1853-1857)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Meg Hixon, April 2012
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Charles E. Flandrau letters
Creator: Henderson, Frances M.
Inclusive dates: 1853-1888
Bulk dates: 1853-1857
Extent: 9 items
This collection contains 7 letters that Charles Eugene Flandrau wrote to Frances M. Henderson, a friend in Whitesboro, New York, after moving to Minnesota in 1853, as well as 2 newspaper clippings regarding Flandrau's work as an agent for the Sioux tribe and as a Minnesota Supreme Court justice. In his letters, Flandrau reported on his judicial career and described his life on the frontier, such as social customs and interactions with Native Americans.
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

1984. M-2181.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation

Charles E. Flandrau Letters, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically, with newspaper clippings placed at the end.


Charles Eugene Flandrau was born in New York City on July 15, 1828, the son of Thomas H. Flandrau, who had practiced law with Aaron Burr, and Elizabeth Macomb. Flandrau grew up in New York City and Washington, D. C., and spent three years at sea between the ages of 13 and 16. He joined his father's law firm in Whitesboro, New York, around 1849, and became a full partner after being admitted to the bar in January 1851. In 1853, Flandrau moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he practiced law with Horace R. Bigelow and served as an agent for the company that established the town of Traverse des Sioux (near present-day St. Peter), where he lived in 1854. Flandrau held several political offices, serving as the United States agent for the Sioux in Minnesota (1856-1857) and as a justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court (1857-1864). He also served as the captain of a volunteer militia unit sent to suppress the Sioux Uprising in 1862. Flandrau later moved to Nevada, where he resumed his legal career; he returned to the Twin Cities area in 1867. He married Isabella Ramsay Dinsmore (1800-1867) in 1859; they had two daughters, Martha Macomb and Sarah Gibson. He and his second wife, Rebecca Blair Riddle (b.1839), had 2 sons: Charles Macomb (b. 1872) and William Blair McClure (b. 1876). Charles Eugene Flandrau died in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 9, 1903.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection (9 items) contains 7 letters that Charles Eugene Flandrau wrote to Frances M. Henderson, a friend in Whitesboro, New York, after moving to Minnesota in 1853, as well as 2 newspaper clippings regarding Flandrau's work as an agent for the Sioux tribe and as a Minnesota Supreme Court justice.

Flandrau wrote 6 letters between November 18, 1853, and November 16, 1857, providing numerous details about his life in the Minnesota Territory. He wrote from Saint Paul on November 18, 1853 (16 pages), and February 4, 1854 (8 pages), discussing his journey west, the scenery, and his impressions of Minnesota residents. He also described lead and coal mines in northwestern Illinois. Flandrau encountered Native Americans during his travels and after his arrival in Minnesota, and he commented on the region's social customs, such as the influence of French settlers and the "aristocracy" of European and Native American mixed-race families (February 4, 1854).

Flandrau wrote 3 letters from Traverse des Sioux, Minnesota (near Saint Peter), between April 1854 and April 1855, focusing on his life and travels in the wilderness and on population growth throughout the state and within the town. He also described Native American customs and discussed the local court system. In one of these letters, he enclosed "the first flower of Spring" (April 18, 1855). Flandrau wrote again from Stillwater, Minnesota, about his judicial career (November 16, 1857, 4 pages). In his final letter, he reflected on his life and on his relationship with Frances (July 5, 1888, 7 pages). Two newspaper clippings relate to Flandrau's experiences as an agent to the Sioux Indians ([April 22, 1857]) and to his appointment as an associate judge for the Minnesota Supreme Court ([1867]).

Subject Terms

  • Coal mines and mining--Illinois.
  • Driftless Area--Description and travel.
  • Great Lakes Region (North America)--Description and travel.
  • Indians of North America--Minnesota--Social life and customs.
  • Internal migrants--United States.
  • Lawyers--Minnesota.
  • Lead mines and mining--Illinois.
  • Minnesota. Court System.
  • Minnesota--Description and travel.
  • Minnesota--History.
  • Minnesota. Supreme Court.
  • Saint Paul (Minn.)--Social life and customs.
  • Saint Peter (Minn.)--Social life and customs.
  • Santee Indians--Government relations.
  • Stillwater (Minn.)
  • Traverse (Minn.)--Social life and customs.
  • Whitesboro (N.Y.)
  • Winnebago Indians.
  • Flandrau, Charles E. (Charles Eugene), 1828-1903.
Genre Terms:
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Flowers (plants)
  • Letters (correspondence)

Contents List

Container / Location Title
Box   50, Small Collections  
Charles E. Flandrau letters [series]
Folders   1-4  
 November 18, 1853-July 5, 1888

Additional Descriptive Data

Related Materials

The Clements Library has two additional items by Charles Eugene Flandrau:


Stevens, Hiram Fairchild. History of the Bench and Bar of Minnesota. Volume 2. Minneapolis and St. Paul: Legal Publishing and Engraving Company, 1904.