Butler Family Letters
Family Letters is a collection of 70 original letters written by some
of the pioneers who settled in Polk County, Oregon to found Western Oregon
University. This collection was donated to the Archives in 1993 by Dr.
Lawrence Butler of Atchison, Kansas. Some of these letters had been transcribed
in 1976 and were published locally under the title Letters from Polk County,
Oregon to Monmouth, Illinois 1853-1863 (available at Hamersly Library).
The letters were written by members of the Peter and Rachel
Butler family, and their friends and relations who left Monmouth, Illinois
in 1853 to cross the Oregon Trail and settle in Polk County, Oregon. There,
they joined friends--all of whom belonged to the Disciples of Christ church--
who had left Illinois earlier in 1850 and 1852 for the purpose of establishing
a town and a university in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Addressed to their
relatives back home, the letters are an invaluable primary resource for
understanding the challenges of daily life faced by Oregon's early pioneers.
The letters describe farming and agriculture; cost of living; deaths,
births and sicknesses; mining discoveries; conflicts with Native Americans;
national politics; and how much the pioneers missed their relatives in