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(Mss. 1498, 1503, 1555, 1776)







Luana Henderson


Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections

Special Collections, Hill Memorial Library

Louisiana State University Libraries

Baton Rouge, Louisiana






Contents of Inventory



Biographical/Historical Note                                                                            

Scope and Content Note                                                                                             

Index Terms                                                                                                                       

Container List                                                  







Size.                6 linear ft., 1v.                         



locations.        Louisiana, West (U.S.), Chicago, New York, London



dates.              1839-1912, 1958


Bulk dates.     1860-1889


Languages.     English, Spanish.


Summary.       Correspondence, financial and legal papers relating to the wholesale trade in hides and the mining of gold, silver and copper.


Arrangement. Chronological order.


Access.           No restrictions.


Copyright.       Physical rights are retained by the LSU Libraries. Copyright of the original materials is retained by descendants of the creators of the materials in accordance with U.S. copyright law.


Citation.          W. Frank Witherell Papers, Mss. 1498, 1503, 1555, 1776, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.



Designations. W:129-135, OS:W, F:19



Biographical/Historical Note


W. Frank Witherell, a businessman and entrepreneur, was a native of New York. He attended the Clinton Liberal Institute, Clinton, N. Y. (Jan.1860 to Jan.1861) and the United States Military Academy at West Point, N. Y., (July 1861- June 1865).  After the Civil War he became a wholesaler of hides and leather in association with his uncle, W. H. H. Witherell, a New Orleans commission merchant and dealer.  He was also involved in mining in Arizona, California and Colorado, and served as mining superintendent of the Arivaca Milling, Mining & Commercial Company.



Scope and Content Note


Note: Collection is arranged in chronological order.


Correspondence comprises the majority of this collection, relating primarily to W. Frank Witherell's business enterprises, particularly his mining ventures in the West and his involvement in the wholesale trade of hides and leather.


Early papers (1839-1848) consist of promissory notes to W. H. H. Witherell and Catherine W. Witherell (1839), a reference to the purchase of two slaves by W. H. H. Witherell (Natchez, Miss. 24th 1850), and comments on a lawsuit between Catherine M. Bisland and Josephus Hewitt regarding a property dispute in Natchez, Miss. (June 5, 1848). 


Papers of 1860-1865 reflect W. Frank Witherell’s observations and experiences while attending Clinton Liberal Institute and West Point.  He offers insight into the attitudes of West Point cadets towards the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (May 4, 1865).  Other papers of this time period include accounts, bank notes, receipts, and a court settlement proposed by W. H. H. Witherell in the suit of Garvin, Bell and Co. vs. William West (Dec. 22, 1864).  W. H. H. Witherell writes to W. F. Witherell about the business prospects in post-war New Orleans (June 17, 1865), and mentions the presence of yellow fever in the city.  Witherell’s business papers after 1865 consist of correspondence, legal documents and financial records relating mostly to in the wholesale market of hides and wool and to his mining interests in the western territories.  Letters also include references to a slow down in trade due to an epidemic (Jan. 3, 1868), the acquisition of Audubon Plantation and renovations on the house (May 1868), a legal ruling upholding the confiscation of the steamer "T. D. Hine" (March 12, 1869), and a request to rent land in the proximity of Magnolia Plantation, Plaquemine Parish, La., Nov. 15, 1869).


1870-1875 papers include correspondence and legal documents related to Witherell’s mining ventures in Colorado, and reflect his deteriorating financial situation.  They pertain to a property transfer in St. Louis, Mo., stock transactions, and difficulties in securing financial backing for the St. Lawrence Mining Co.  Letters from J. P. Arey, a business associate, report on the cost of provisions, back pay owed to laborers, and winter weather obstructing travel to the mine. Also documented are legal actions taken against Witherell by his creditors, the State of Louisiana, and the confiscation of his property.  Documents include petitions, court judgments, and notification of property seizures.  Several letters also show attempts made by attorney, A. C. Story, to raise funds for Audubon Plantation, its disputed sale, and legal claims made against it.  Story also advises Witherell on bankruptcy and the seizure of his property in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., for back taxes.


1876 material contains correspondence, accounts, shipping records, invoices, bills of lading, bank drafts, and receipts pertaining to the wholesale trade in hides, fur and wool.  Correspondence discusses types of hides, transactions, orders, quality of the merchandise, and possible trade with England.


1877-1879 papers contain some papers on the hide, fur and wool trade, but deal more with Witherell's mining ventures.  Papers relate to price of stocks, sale of shares, attracting potential investors, and requests for payment by his creditors.  Additionally, some correspondents seems to question ethical conduct with an inquiry into Witherell's unnecessary use funds regarding the Pelican Mining Co. (May 1, 1879), and an accusation the he mislead investors about the profitability of the Gadson Purchase Mine (Aug. 8, 1879).  Others suggest that J. P. Arey is an unscrupulous character (Aug. 23, Sept. 21, 1877) and question Mr. Cobbs' honesty in the use of company money (Nov. 5, 1878), both men were associates of W. F. Witherell. Financial papers include invoices and money drafts for the Arivaca Milling, Mining and Commercial Co., and statements of accounts [some in Spanish], accompanied by correspondence related to the Ruisena Mining Co.  Legal documents contain an agreement for the sale of "Napoleon Lode" and "Silver Wing Lode" situated on the Snake River (n.d.); power of attorney of L. H. Thomas regarding I. J. L. Rathbone’s financial investment in Arivaca Milling, Mining, and Commercial Co. (Jan. 1, 1879); and a Bill of Complaint filed by Peter L. Kimberly against his business partner, Charles D. Arms, accusing him of fraud in regard to several mines in Arizona, but in particular the Grand Central Mining Co.  Kimberley also claims that stock was purchased in the names of W. F. Witherell and John. P. Airy [Arey] with misappropriated funds.  Letters not related to Witherell’s business enterprises, but worthy of note describe the Crystal Palace, Westminster Abby, and St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England (Aug. 13, 1878) and the National Guard in St. Louis, Mo., with a references made to the "Socialists arming and becoming bolder" and a possible confrontation in the city (June 6., 1878).   Also, entries in a plantation journal record weather conditions, daily work activities, and sugarcane production for Magnolia Plantation. (1877-1880).


1880-1886 papers continue with Witherell’s mining ventures.  Reports on mines include location, quality of ore, future productivity, proximity to railroads, and detailed description interior of mines; diagrams accompany some reports.  Mining correspondence pertains to the price by refining ore, the preparation of gold and silver ore for processing, description and function of chemical processes, mining equipment and machinery.  Financial and legal documents contain assay certificates, invoices from smelting companies, contracts, deeds, and a draft of “Provision of Articles” for the organization of the St. Louis, Kirkwood, and Kansas City Railway Co.  Papers also reflect Witherell’s diverse business interests.  In a letter to the Board of Directors of the Inter-State Telephone and Telegraph Co. Witherell proposes the organization for a subsidiary to establish a system of telephone exchanges west of the Mississippi River. Subsequent correspondence and documents include list of applicable patents (Oct. 8, 1883), unsigned contract assigning the use of patents to Inter-State Telephone and Telegraph Co., drafts of contracts pertaining to the Metropolitan Telephone Co. of Chicago, Ill. (Sept. 6, 1884), and attempts to raise capital for a telephone franchise (Oct. 26, 1884).  Other correspondence reflects Witherell’s interest in acquiring residential property, acreage, and open range in the West and Louisiana.  Descriptions submitted to his inquiries on available property include the southernmost region of the Atchafalya Basin (Aug. 13, 1884).  Among the correspondents is Charles Gayarre, who depicts the topography of Iberville Parish, near the Lafourche and Mississippi rivers and comments on the potential profitability of logging and sugar cane farming in the area (Jan. 11, 1885).  He also mentions that Union soldiers obstructed the road through this area during the Civil War (Jan. 11, 1885) and he reports on the New Orleans World Exposition (Feb. 2, 1885). 


1887-1912 material consists of personal papers concerning family matters, health, and social activities; records of the C & C Electric Co. containing proposals and correspondence regarding machinery specifications (1890); shipping records (1912); and printed material. Printed material is primarily miscellaneous advertisements and newspaper clippings.  There are also two letters discussing the sale of used books (Aug. 19, 22, 1958).


Undated papers include both personal and business correspondence, reports on mines, diagrams related to mines, and miscellaneous financial records. The majority of printed and graphic material is undated and consists of miscellaneous advertising cards, handbills, flyers, informational booklets, business cards, and newspaper clippings.







Advertising – United States

Arivaca Milling, Mining and Commercial Co.

Atchafalaya Basin -- Description and travel

Audubon Plantation (La.)

C & C Electric Co.

Commerce – England

Copper mines and mining

Crystal Palace (London, England)

Exhibition buildings – England

Gadson Purchase Mine (Ariz.)

Gayarre, Charles

Gold mines and mining – Arizona

Gold mines and mining – California

Gold mines and mining – Colorado

Gold ores – West (U.S.)

Grand Central Mining Co.

Hides and skins

Iberville Parish (La.) – Description and travel

Iberville Parish (La.) – History – Civil War, 1861-1865

Inter-State Telephone and Telegraph Co

Historic buildings—England -- London.

London (England) --

Napoleon Lode (Ariz.)

New Orleans World Exposition (1885)

Pelican Mining Co.

Ruisena Mining Co. (Ariz.)

Saint Louis (Mo) – History – 19th century

Silver mines and mining

Silver ores -- West (U.S.)

Silver Wing Lode (Ariz.)

Socialists – United States – Missouri

St. Lawrence Mining Co.

St. Louis, Kirkwood, and Kansas City Railway Co.

Sugar growing -- Louisiana

United States – National Guard

Westminster Abby – History – 19th  century

Wholesale trade -- Louisiana – New Orleans






Stack location



 Date range























1875: Jan.-July




1875: Aug.-Dec.





1876: Jan.-April

















1880-1881: May





1881: June-1883













1890-1912, 1958













1860-1896, n.d.




Plantation journal, 1887-1880