Back to Finding Aids
Washington State University Libraries
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Pullman, WA 99164-5610 USA
(509) 335-6691
Inquiries

[ Descriptive Inventory ] [ Index ]

Cage 55
Lucullus Virgil McWhorter
Papers, 1848-1945

Shortly before his death in 1944, Lucullus V. McWhorter requested that his unfinished Nez Perce history manuscripts (called the "Field History") be edited and completed by competent specialists at the State College of Washington. By 1945, Virgil McWhorter had delivered the bulk of his father's archive of personal papers, manuscripts, and printed material to the State College. A completely reliable provenance for the archive cannot be established subsequent to Lucullus McWhorter's death in 1944, chiefly because much of the donated material was not initially placed in an archival repository. Nelson Ault completed the first collection inventory in 1959. Ault's guide is the basis for the present finding aid. Between 1987-1997, José Vargas and other staff in Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections rearranged and sorted parts of the collection. They made changes in the descriptive inventory and did some preservation of brittle materials. Final revisions to Ault's guide were done from August 1997 through February 1998 by Lisa Kliger, working under the supervision of Manuscripts Librarian Robert N. Matuozzi. These changes include implementing the present plan of arrangement, establishing chronological sequences within series and subseries, re-numbering folders and boxes, and undertaking a comprehensive revision of the index and the descriptive inventory. In 2003 one item, a revision of Chapter 31 of McWhorter's The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia from 1768 to 1795, was donated to MASC by Lucy Linn McKie.

Number of containers: 51
Linear feet of shelf space: 26

BIOGRAPHY

Lucullus Virgil McWhorter was born on the upper waters of the Monongahela River in Harrison County Virginia (later West Virginia) on January 29, 1860. He was one of twelve children born to the Reverend John Minion McWhorter and Rosetta Marple McWhorter, both native Virginians. McWhorter's youthful orientation to life on the land mirrored his rejection of formal education. Summarizing his formal schooling in a biographical questionnaire, McWhorter observed that he did "Four months annual winter terms [roughly the 3rd grade] of indifferent instruction, during years of minority only." He was a voracious if highly focused reader then and throughout his life. His interest in regional history, folklore, and archaeology originated with youthful forays into the woods and countryside of West Virginia where he hunted for archaeological remains of Indians and early settlers. McWhorter's critical study of 19th century American history and his romantic appreciation of nature combined to form his view that the American Indian was the true "aboriginal American." In the course of his life he became an ardent ally and supporter of various Indian tribes, strongly sympathizing with their resentment over the often bad treatment meted out to them by early white settlers and later by the military, "Indian grafters," and the Federal bureaucracy. In his teens his father took him into the family livestock business (breeding devon cattle) in Berlin, West Virginia. Acting on the impulse for adventure and to see Indians first-hand, McWhorter set out on a lark in 1881 to trek through the coastal regions of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Eventually, he saw his first Indians in Oklahoma, where he nearly encountered Chief Joseph and the exiled Nez Perces.

In 1883 he returned to cattle ranching in Berlin, West Virginia, and married Ardelia Adaline Swisher on March 17th of that year. She and McWhorter had three children: Ovid Tullius (b. 1884); Iris Oresta (b. 1886); and Virgil Oneco (b. 1888). Their marriage was tragically cut short when Ardelia died in December of 1893. During the 1890s McWhorter actively maintained his interest in archaeology and Indian affairs while he continued his work as a cattle rancher. On June 22, 1895, he married C. Annie Bowman. For the next two years the McWhorter family lived in Upshur County, West Virginia, before moving to Darke County, Ohio, in 1897. McWhorter's dream of settling near Native Americans never wavered. After selling off what he could of disposable property, he and his family left Ohio, moving to the Yakima River Valley in Washington State in 1903. It was there that his involvement with Indian history and culture matured and continued throughout the remainder of his life.

In Washington State McWhorter continued ranching and building his archive of material relating to the conflicts between the Federal government and the Nez Perce and Yakama tribes. (On June 9, 1909, McWhorter became an adopted member of the Yakama Nation. His Indian moniker "Big Foot" attested to the high esteem and affection in which he was held by his Indian friends and associates.) At the same time, he gathered material relating to Indian culture and the legal status of various tribes after the conclusion of the Indian wars in the 1870s. In 1914 McWhorter met author Cristal McLeod, or Mourning Dove, a Colville (Washington) woman of mixed Indian-white descent who had worked up a draft of a semi-autobiographical novel called Co-ge-we-a, The Half Blood: A Depiction of the Great Montana Cattle Range. In a collaborative effort, McWhorter and McLeod devoted much time and expense on finally getting Cogewea published in 1927. Prior to this, McWhorter had completed work on a historical manuscript dealing with the settlement of the western region of Virginia. This title, The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia from 1768 to 1795, was published in 1915. In 1917 his research on the Yakima uprising of 1855 resulted in the publication of The Tragedy of the Wahk-Shum: Prelude to the Yakima Indian War, 1855-1856. McWhorter also worked to advance and secure Indian rights locally and nationally during this time, but the Washington years were especially important in terms of his labors as an amateur historian, linguist, and anthropologist (he was a member of various historical organizations, including the Washington State Historical Society).

Purely by chance, a fateful meeting with prominent Nez Perce War veteran Yellow Wolf in October of 1907 helped McWhorter in his future investigation of the 1877 Nez Perce War and the Nez Perces generally. (Yellow Wolf needed temporary boarding for his horse, and McWhorter courteously obliged!) In the course of compiling material for this posthumously published "Field History" McWhorter worked diligently to acquire and appraise primary and secondary sources. He recorded first-hand Indian oral testimony, maintained an extensive correspondence, and made direct assessments of battle-sites in an effort to establish an accurate and comprehensive account of the 1877 conflict between the Nez Perces and the Federal government. Significantly, his research also included interviews with survivors from the armies of generals Howard, Sturgis, Gibbon, and Miles. McWhorter's historical efforts had the signal value of providing a fresh version of those events based on primary source materials; his books supplemented, supported, or contradicted previously published accounts and interpretations of the same events. Working with Yellow Wolf, and by utilizing the extensive mass of material (including photographs) he had gathered during years of research, McWhorter published Yellow Wolf: His Own Story in 1940. After his death in 1944, Mrs. Ruth Bordin and Professor Herman Deutsch edited and completed McWhorter's larger account of the 1877 Nez Perce War. The manuscript material known as the "Field History" was first published as Hear Me, My Chiefs! in 1952. Lucullus Virgil McWhorter died at the age of 84 in Prosser (North Yakima), Washington, on October 10, 1944. He reflected on his dual role as an advocate and amateur historian of the American Indian in a June 2, 1941 letter to former State College of Washington President E.O. Holland. On being notified that officials at the College had voted to confer on him a Certificate of Merit for his contributions to agriculture and rural life, McWhorter observed that he possessed "No scholastic attainments whatever. My trail just that of a wild, rough and ready field delver. My activities in the Indian domain has [sic] not elevated me in the estimation of the local populace in general."




ARRANGEMENT AND DESCRIPTION


The Lucullus V. McWhorter Papers chiefly document his research and study of Pacific Northwest Native American history and culture (including MSS, photographs, and printed material), Indian-government relations from his early years until his death in 1944, the Nez Perce War of 1877, the Yakima Indian War of 1855-1858, regional tribal conflicts, and West Virginia history. Portions of his correspondence shed light on his important relationships with author Mourning Dove and Nez Perce War veteran Yellow Wolf. The collection includes material on McWhorter's ongoing involvement in Indian affairs, chiefly from around the turn of the century until his death in 1944. An important part of the archive is the manuscript material relating to Indian history, tales, folklore, legends, customs, and languages. Some of this narrative material is transcribed (and translated) oral history testimony. The collection contains additional miscellaneous documents relating to McWhorter's involvement in the local (Yakima County) Humane Society. His personal and business correspondence deals with miscellaneous subjects. The bulk of the Native American material relates to the Nez Perces and the Yakamas at a significant transitional period in their history. McWhorter's varied if sometimes confusing documentation of the 1877 Nez Perce War and of Pacific Northwest Indian cultural practices constitutes a significant body of primary source material. His published work is considered essential to understanding Nez Perce history. Most of McWhorter's personal papers were removed by Virgil McWhorter prior to depositing his father's archive at the State College.

Span dates: 1848-1945. Primary dates: 1886-1944.

The documents in the collection are arranged chronologically into nine series organized around subjects or material formats, with some overlapping in and among series. The original state of McWhorter's papers is lost. The present organization probably maintains a semblance of the original arrangement, reflecting the fact that this was McWhorter's "working" archive. Many folders exhibit a mixture of items and subjects. No hard and fast rule governed placement of documents into series. The amount of material on a given subject or the format and/or the subject indicated where files might appropriately fit into the present classification. A notable exception to this scheme is the availability of material on Indian names and vocabulary in series 2, 3, and 6 (below). Manuscript and historical research material is also scattered throughout the collection. The descriptive inventory is not completely indexed. The essential documents and subjects are described, but some items are not noted in the finding aid. In folder titles, information in brackets is supplied; capitalization of folder titles has been regularized. An * following entries indicates the availability of related photographic material in a separate historical photograph collection. To find out more about this collection, click here for the link to Historical Photographs. This photographic material is not in this manuscript collection. Only those entries followed by an * indicate related photographic material. A list of books and other printed material owned by McWhorter is available through the WSU Libraries' online catalog by doing an "author" search on "McWhorter Collection." Some of these exhibit McWhorter's annotations.

SUMMARY OF SERIES

Series 1, Manuscripts, 1902-1944, consists of fully developed manuscript draft versions of McWhorter's major published works, including Yellow Wolf, His Own Story; Hear Me, My Chiefs!; The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia; The Continued Crime Against the Yakimas; and Life of Jesse Hughes. Historical and Traditional.

Series 2, Historical Research Material, 1848-1945, nd, chiefly correspondence, transcriptions, printed items, notes, material excerpted from various sources, MS addenda and draft fragments (holograph and typescript), first-hand personal narratives, and other material accumulated by McWhorter in the course of doing research for his published writings, his "field work," and his collateral historical studies, including Indian languages. Series 2 is divided into subseries 2.1, 1877 Nez Perce War & Nez Perces; 2.2, Yakima Indian War (1855-1858) & Yakamas; 2.3, Tribal Wars; and 2.4, West Virginia History & Miscellaneous.

Series 3, Personal and Business Correspondence, 1886-1945, nd, consists of miscellaneous documents dealing with publishing and book sales, local and community affairs, friends and family, association activities, and commemorative events. Some of these letters relate to McWhorter's efforts to obtain data on the 1877 Nez Perce War and miscellaneous Indian subjects. Other material includes occasional writings, original postal covers, desiderata lists, memorabilia, research questionnaires, and a small amount of biographical material.

Series 4, Indian Affairs, 1891-1944, nd, consists of miscellaneous correspondence and documentation relating to McWhorter's varied efforts on behalf of Indians, particularly in terms of land and water rights. Series 4 is divided into subseries 4.1, Nez Perces; 4.2, Yakamas; and 4.3, General.

Series 5, Humane Society, 1911-1944, documents McWhorter's involvement with animal welfare, chiefly in Yakima, Washington. Includes correspondence and printed items.

Series 6, Indian Narratives, 1903-1935, nd, chiefly original (English) and transcribed and/or translated oral history accounts of stories, legends, tales, traditions, customs, cultural practices, genealogies, military events, and related contextual material, including correspondence. Some literary material is included. Series 6 also includes draft versions of Mourning Dove's legends and tales.

Series 7, Mourning Dove Correspondence, 1914-1935, nd, chiefly consists of correspondence, printed items, and fragments relating to Cogewea, publishing issues, and her association with McWhorter.

Series 8, Newspaper Articles, 1863-1944, nd, consists of clippings from local and regional newspapers on miscellaneous subjects, chiefly American Indian affairs and historical stories, Humane Society news, contemporary events, and local news and association involvements. A few exhibit McWhorter's annotations. Some newspaper items left in other series.

Series 9, Maps, Documents & Drawings, 1877-1944, nd, chiefly consists of miscellaneous subjects relating to the Nez Perces and the Yakamas, Field History research, West Virginia history, and drafts of material used in published works. Includes specific depictions of individuals, scenes, and events from Indian legends and tales, representations of military engagements and battlefields, and material relating to ethnography, geography, war commemoratives, and Indian reservations. Subseries 9.1 is Oversize Maps, Documents & Drawings.

McWhorter Papers Series Arrangement

Series 1: Manuscripts
Box 1

Series 2: Historical Research Material
Boxes 2-19
2.1 1877 Nez Perce War & Nez Perces
2.2 Yakima Indian War (1855-1858) & Yakamas
2.3 Tribal Wars
2.4 West Virginia History & Miscellaneous

Series 3: Personal and Business Correspondence
Boxes 19-33

Series 4: Indian Affairs
Boxes 34-41

4.1 Nez Perces
4.2 Yakamas
4.3 General

Series 5: Humane Society
Boxes 41-43

Series 6: Indian Narratives
Boxes 43-46

Series 7: Mourning Dove Correspondence
Box 46

Series 8: Newspaper Articles
Boxes 47-50

Series 9: Maps, Documents & Drawings
Box 51
9.1 Oversize Maps, Documents & Drawings
Folders 544-571(In oversize drawer designated "Cage 55")


Abbreviations used in the inventory:
c approximately, about
cl, cls clipping, clippings
cop, cops copy, copies
corr, corrs correspondence, correspondent(s)
dup, dups duplicate, duplicates
exp explain, explanation, explanatory
frag, frags fragment, fragments
HMMC Hear Me, My Chiefs!
ident identity, identify, identifying
let, lets letter, letters
McW Lucullus V. McWhorter
nd no date(s) given
np no publisher given
ns no source(s) given
op opposite
p, pp page, pages
re about, concerning
YW Yellow Wolf: His Own Story

[ Descriptive Inventory ] [ Index ]