One of the suttlers’ tents I stopped by to check out period-correct wares was “Squire Boone’s” establishment, and my eyes were immediately drawn to a display of volume 3 of the Draper Manuscripts. Squire Boone had just acquired the last few copies still available, the only one issued in a new printing in recent years and was selling them for a price I couldn’t resist. This volume covers the Revolution and early Federal periods, just what I need for my American Patriot Series.
In case you didn’t know, the Draper Manuscripts are the holy grail of 18th and early 19th century frontier research, and full volumes can be expensive and hard to find. The alternative is to go to the Wisconsin Historical Society, where they’re held, or to a library that has them in microfilm form. Here’s a basic rundown on this amazing research goldmine.
Lyman Copeland Draper was born September 4, 1815 in Lockport, New York, and died August 26, 1891. He lived much of his life in Madison, Wisconsin, where he became a librarian and historian, serving as the first corresponding secretary for the state’s Historical Society from 1854 to 1886 and as superintendent of public instruction from 1858 to 1860.
Intending to document the Indian Wars in Ohio territory and write a series of biographies of the settlers, Draper traveled extensively throughout the region to develop a better sense of it. In all, he published 10 volumes of historical notes for the Wisconsin Historical Society and also a volume on the Battle of King’s Mountain (1780) that featured many of the settlers he corresponded with.
The Draper Manuscript Collection
|Daniel Boone by Chester Harding, 1820|
The collection contains voluminous military records, including Revolutionary War pension applicant information; descriptions of actions in the West during the Revolution; the War of 1812; Native American conflicts; and western exploration, such as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Original documents of the Revolutionary period comprise only a small part, however. The works and papers of a number of notable early Americans are also included, among them Joseph Brant, Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark, John Donelson, James Robertson, and Simon Kenton.
|Joseph Brant by Gilbert Stuart, 1786|
All in all, this amazing collection is an invaluable resource for writer like me who focus on the early American frontier. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to own a little piece of it!
Is there a historical period, event, or person you’re particularly drawn to? Or do you own something related to a particular period in history that has a special meaning for you? If so, please share with our readers!
~~~J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is also an author, editor, and publisher. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 INDYFAB Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, releases April 1, 2017. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year.