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Biswell Family Papers

Identifier: MUSDP B1

Scope and Contents

Approximately 130 documents from the Biswell family of Randolph and Linn Counties in Missouri. It includes letters, financial documents, and military papers from the early 1800s, and newspapers containing family obituaries. Of particular interest are the letters written by brothers Jonathan and Norvell Biswell on their way to, and while in, the California gold fields, 1850-1852. Of the six series, the Gold Rush letters, Series 1, are the most frequently used as they convey the story of a local Missouri family seeking fortune during the California Gold Rush. The other materials provide insight into the rest of the family's history.


  • 1795-1912


Notes on Use of Collection

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Biographical Note

Missourians and brothers Jonathan Huff Biswell and Norvell Biswell headed to California during the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. The Biswell family were farmers in Randolph and Linn Counties. Jonathan sought his fortune in the gold fields with modest success and eventually returned to Missouri.


0.4 linear feet

Language of Materials



This collection is organized into six series.

  1. "Gold Rush" Letters, 1850-1851
  2. General Family Correspondence, 1804-1874
  3. Jeremiah Biswell's Military Records, 1801-1808
  4. Financial Records, 1795-1858
  5. Miscellaneous Documents, approximately 1900
  6. Newspapers, 1859, 1881, 1883, 1903

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was part of a gift to the E.M. Violette Museum in the will of Susie Lee Clark (1887-1948). She was a native of Brookfield, Missouri, the daughter of James W. and Bettie Leah (Biswell) Clark and the granddaughter of Jonathan Huff Biswell (1830-1903), who was the young man who wrote most of the collection's "Gold Rush" letters. Susie Lee Clark was a teacher in the Brookfield public schools as well as a piano teacher who gave private lessons in her home. Miss Clark attended summer sessions at Northeast Missouri State Teachers College (now Truman State University) during the 1920s and was awarded the Bachelor of Science in Education and life teaching certificate in 1931. Her bequest also included her piano, parlor organ and other artifacts, as well as a collection of late 19th century sheet music (see MUSDP C1).

Existence and Location of Copies

The Biswell gold rush letters have been digitized and are available to view in our digital library.

Separated Materials

The Susie Lee Clark bequest also included her piano, parlor organ and other three-dimensional artifacts, as well as a collection of late 19th century sheet music. Materials are part of MUSDP C1.

Biswell family papers, 1795-1912
Finding aid prepared by Elaine Doak.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Truman State University, Pickler Memorial Library, Special Collections Manuscripts Repository