Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Caton Family Papers, 1849-1886

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, September 2009

Summary Information
Title: Caton family papers
Creator: Caton, William Edward, 1846-1905 and Caton, Albert Robert, 1857-1935
Inclusive dates: 1849-1886
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
This collection contains letters from brothers William Edward Caton and Albert Robert Caton to their family in Illinois as they travel and work in Iowa, the Dakota Territory, and Colorado. This collection offers insight into daily life and the economic growth of the Western frontier.
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:

1987. M-2356.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Caton Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized into three series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Financial and Legal Papers
  • Series III: Genealogical Material.

The series are ordered chronologically with undated items filed at the end.


William Edward Caton (1846-1905) was born to William Penn Caton and Elizabeth Steele in Illinois. After completing his education at Grinnell College in the early 1860's, William Caton married Marion E. Shaw and began farming in Henry and Adair Counties, Iowa. In winter, he supplemented his income by running a small writing school. By 1872, he had decided to leave farming and, during the next 14 years, pursued a variety of endeavors. He worked as superintendent of public instruction in Adair County, as editor of the Adair County Register, as a salesman of safes for Diebold and Norris, and, following a move to the Dakota Territory, as a grain dealer and Indian trader with his partner C.W. Beggs. He also briefly served as the superintendent of public instruction for the entire Dakota Territory.

Albert Robert Caton (1857-1935), William Edward Caton's younger brother, began his career as a general commission merchant in Chicago before moving to Colorado for work in mining. He married Alice E. Scott in 1887.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Caton family papers consist of 112 letters, 5 financial and legal papers, and 1 item with genealogical content.

In a series of letters to their parents and sister, William Edward (Ed) and Albert Robert (Bob) Caton describe efforts to establish themselves economically in Chicago, Iowa, the Dakota Territory, and Colorado. The letters from Edward describe his business activities in Iowa and the Dakota Territory, and discuss in detail his speculation in land sales and leasing.

Bob Caton, whose letters cover the years 1876-1882, writes of his time in the Dakota Territory, and later describes working as a miner and living in Colorado. His letters contain more details on living conditions and daily activities than his brother's business-oriented correspondence does.

The Financial and Legal Papers series holds five items: William P. Canton's Cook County mortgage from 1849, a building receipt enclosing a two cent bank check stamp, and three records of loans. The Miscellaneous Papers series holds an index card with information on W.P. Caton, copied from the Will County Pioneers' Register.

Subject Terms

    • Chicago (Ill.)
    • Colorado.
    • Dakota Territory--Economic conditions.
    • Education--Iowa.
    • Farmers--Iowa .
    • Frontier and pioneer life--Dakota Territory.
    • Iowa--Economic conditions.
    • Miners--Colorado.
    Genre Terms:
    • Financial records.
    • Legal documents.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folder   1
     March 18, 1862-February 3, 1870
    Box   1 Folder   2
     February 24, 1870-June 18, 1870
    Box   1 Folder   3
     August 5, 1870-June 19, 1871
    Box   1 Folder   4
     July 9, 1871-May 18, 1872
    Box   1 Folder   5
     May 20, 1872-November 17, 1874
    Box   1 Folder   6
     December 2, 1874-March 20, 1876
    Box   1 Folder   7
     April 10, 1876-Janurary 20, 1879
    Box   1 Folder   8
     January 26, 1879
    Box   1 Folder   9
     December 1, 1880-April 5, 1886
    Financial and Legal Papers [series]
    Box   1 Folder   10
     December 22, 1849-January 21, 1870
    Miscellaneous Papers [series]
    Box   1 Folder   11