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Special Collections

Manuscript Collections

California History

In 1841, John Wolfskill arrived in the Davis area on horseback, laden with fruit seeds and driving 96 head of cattle--the first American to settle in Solano County. Years later, his daughter willed over 100 acres of land to the University of California for research purposes. The Wolfskill papers and, indeed, most collections in this subject category, chronicle the details of rural family, community, and business life in early California, and the growth and development of the University Farm.

Three collections of papers provide additional perspectives on the early California lifestyle. The Pierce Family papers contain letters and documents relating to the efforts of George W. Pierce to locate the University Farm in the Davis area from over 70 other sites being considered. Nearly 100 diaries owned by George Pierce, his wife, Eunice, and his son, George, were left to the Department. The Lindley Family papers contain correspondence and a variety of memorabilia relating to social life of early Californians, and the Hackett papers record the perspectives of a descendent of an early pioneer Woodland area farm family who eventually donated ranch lands to the University of California.

The richness of community life is depicted in two large photograph collections and several manuscript collections. The Eastman's Originals Collection contains over 12,000 images of historical scenes, including logging, agricultural, and mining activities, as well as local social events and street scenes. The Westgate collection contains photographs of Yolo County and early Davisville life, including prominent individuals, early business establishments, and local architecture. Manuscript collections providing clues to the social and legal structure of early California communities include the Davis Land Records collection, containing deeds of trust and property titles relating to land ownership, and the Plant papers, containing court records and legal activities in Yolo County.

The papers of Turrentine Jackson offer a broader view of the development of the West, with an emphasis on California. Diaries, journals, maps, photographs, and other records forming the basis for Jackson's extensive research are contained in this collection, along with notes, typescripts, and manuscript drafts for his many books and articles. Early foreign investments in the Western territories and the development of the wagon and rail roads facilitating the western movement are of particular interest in this collection. Materials relating to the real estate development and land speculation accompanying the opening of the West can be found in the California Promotional Collection, an extensive collection of colorful brochures and pamphlets extolling the virtues of individual counties.

Collections in this category comprise over 100 linear feet and date from 1850 to the present. Most of the materials are in English. For related materials, see collections under the heading of Agriculture and Animal Science.