Guide to the Chalcraft-Pickering Family Papers

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Chalcraft, Edwin L.
Title: Chalcraft-Pickering Family Papers
Dates: 1821-1954 ( inclusive )
Quantity: 3 containers. (2 linear feet of shelf space.) (220 items.)
Collection Number: Cage 560
Summary: The papers of Edwin Chalcraft consist primarily of diaries and an autobiography, Memory's Storehouse, co-authored by Alice Chalcraft. The papers of William Pickering, Governor of Washington Territory and father of Alice Chalcraft, are chiefly correspondence and legal documents.
Repository: Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections.
Contact Information: Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Terrell Library 5610
Pullman WA
Telephone: 509-335-6691
Languages: Collection materials are in English 
Sponsor: Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical Note

Edwin L. Chalcraft

Edwin L. Chalcraft was born on November 13, 1855, on his father's farm near Albion, Illinois, where he lived until his marriage to Alice Pickering on October 13, 1880. The following summer, Edwin, a teacher in the Albion Public School and a county surveyor, and Alice also a school teacher, accepted the invitation of her brother William to visit him in "Squak Valley" (now Issaquah), thirteen miles east of Seattle.

Originally they had planned to stay only for a short visit; but in the spring of 1883 Edwin met Mr. Charles M. Anderson, a recent graduate of the engineering department of the Territorial University. Anderson and Chalcraft subsequently formed a partnership and opened an office in civil engineering. Meanwhile in Squak Valley the residents learned that Alice had taught school and persuaded her to instruct the very first "Squak Valley" school.

In the summer of 1886, however, the city of Tacoma succeeded in securing the rail terminal for the Northern Pacific Railroad. The ensuing depression in Seattle caused the Anderson-Chalcraft firm to suffer along with other businesses. Then Chalcraft learned of an opportunity to enter the Government Service as Superintendent of the Chehalis Indian Reservation and Boarding School, seventy-five miles southwest of Seattle. Chalcraft had agreed to stay at Chehalis for one year, but worked there until 1889 when he became superintendent of the Puyallup Agency near Tacoma. At Puyallup Chalcraft battled to protect the Indians from the greedy designs of white land grabbers and from the less savory temptations of white civilization.

In 1894 the Agency sent Chalcraft and Alice to superintend the Indian Training school at Chemawa, near Salem, Oregon. Edwin and Alice found Chemawa to be a most congenial place to live and work; but when the Democrats swept into office Chalcraft found through personal experience that political sympathies often outweighed considerations of merit in placing and replacing people in federal jobs. In 1895 the Indian Agency dismissed Chalcraft, without apparent reason other than his Republican political affiliation. Thus Edwin and Alice returned to Seattle, where Edwin resumed his surveying activities. During the years between 1895 and 1900 Edwin surveyed, and managed a grocery store and a shingle mill at Mt. Vernon. But in 1900 Republicans under the leadership of William B. McKinley returned to office and among the people they brought with them were the Chalcrafts. The Agency reinstated Chalcraft then sent him to the Shoshone Reservation in Wyoming. Within a few months the Commissioner appointed Chalcraft to be Supervisor of Indian Schools. In this capacity Edwin was responsible for inspecting the operations of the Indian Schools in their entirety and for evaluating and if necessary correcting any charges of maladministration or wrongdoing.

In 1904, after having traveled throughout the country in discharging his responsibilities, Chalcraft requested and received reassignment to the Salem Indian Training School at Chemawa, Oregon, the place he and Alice liked so well and from which he had been so rudely removed in 1895. Edwin and Alice and their two children lived and worked happily at Chemawa until 1911, when an assistant managed to persuade the Indian Commissioner to remove Chalcraft on the basis of several charges that Edwin was able to prove groundless. Though Chalcraft was able to exonerate himself of these charges, the Agency Commissioner nevertheless transferred him to the James Male Academy in Oklahoma. Chalcraft spent two rather hot and unpleasant years at James Male Academy, but nevertheless admired the abilities of the Indian students there.

In 1914, however, Chalcraft succeeded in getting a transfer to the Siletz Agency in western Oregon. At Siletz Chalcraft pursued the normal duties of Superintendent, teaching, organizing fairs and bands, basketball, baseball and football teams, combatting the evil influence of liquor and generally endeavoring to impart to the Indian students the practical abilities with which to integrate themselves with white society. In 1925, as the time for his retirement approached, Chalcraft reccommended to the Indian Commissioner that the Siletz Agency be abolished and its remaining functions integrated with the Chemawa Agency. In Chalcraft's view, the Agency at Siletz had accomplished its purpose of giving the Indians the practical skills to cope with the white world. The Indian Commissioner complied with Chalcraft's request, and on his birthday, November 13, 1925, Chalcraft and his wife Alice, who had come to Chehalis to stay for a year, retired after forty-one years of service. He and his wife returned to live at their home at 923 Cherry Street in Seattle. Their son, a newspaperman, and their daughter also lived in Seattle.

William Pickering

William Pickering, Governor of Washington Territory from 1862 to 1866, was the grandfather of Alice Chalcraft. He was born March 15, 1797, in a small village in Yorkshire, in the North of England. He emigrated to North America in the 1820s, finally acquiring property and involving himself in various businesses in the area of Albion, Illinois, by the late 1820s. In the 1840s he was elected to the Illinois State Legislature, and in the later 1850s he attached himself to the political cause of Abraham Lincoln, who eventually was to appointed Pickering as Governor of Washington Territory. Pickering lived with his son Richard at Albion in later years. He died at Albion in 1873.

Known as the "wartime governor" of Washington, Pickering has reputation of an effective administrator and politician, although the affairs of the Territory were of a quite modest scale at the time.

Content Description

The papers of Edwin L. Chalcraft, more correctly described as the Chalcraft/Pickering Family papers, are comprised chiefly of the diaries of Edwin Chalcraft, long-time Indian Service employee, and documents, chiefly letters, associated with his father-in-law William Pickering, Territorial Governor of Washington in the 1860s.

Use of the Collection

Restrictions on Access :  

This collection is open for research use.

Preferred Citation :  

[Item Description]. Cage 560, Chalcraft-Pickering Family Papers . Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

The papers are maintained by the Libraries as one collection, although justification for division into separate Chalcraft and Pickering collections could easily be articulated.

The central sequence of the Chalcraft papers is a lengthy series of diaries, recording many Indian Service matters, as well as personal observations and concerns. The majority of the William Pickering documents are from the 1820s and 1830s, chiefly correspondence to his family in England short after his emigration to North America. Some miscellaneous business papers of Richard Pickering are also included.

The papers are arranged in Chalcraft and Pickering sequences. Related materials are drawn together within each sequence. The diaries and correspondence have been arranged in chronological order.

Acquisition Information :  

The Edwin L. Chalcraft papers, more properly called the Chalcraft/ Pickering Family papers, were acquired by the Washington State University Libraries in 1986 (MS86-54) from Florian Shasky, a dealer in out-of-print books and manuscript materials.

Separated Materials :  

Photographs associated with the papers have been separated into a distinct collection, largely because of the special curatorial problems those material pose. This collection at WSU MASC is titled PC 82

Four printed books were with in the papers when they were received. One includes notes added by Chalcraft; it has been retained with the papers. The other three are simply books once owned by Chalcraft. These three were transferred to the general collection of the WSU Libraries; they are:

Robert W. Fraser, Moriah, Sketches of the Sacred Rites of Israel. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1848 (?). Descriptions of the sacred rites of Israel and analysis of their purpose.

D.H. Mahan, An Elementary Course of Civil Engineering, For The Use of Cadets of the United States Military Academy. New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1846. Civil engineering fundamentals for cadets.

E.S. Parker, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1870. Reports from the various Indian reservations of the condition of the Indians therein.

Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series 1: Edwin Chalcraft papers
1 1 Address Book and Postcards, 1921
5 items.
1 2 Alaska Transportation and Fishing Company Stock, 1911
7 items.
1 3 Maps and drawings (Chehalis & Puyallup Reservations; area in Seattle), 1869-1891
5 items.
1 4 Chalcraft Correspondence, 1878-1886
8 items.
1 5 E.P Chalcraft (Son of Edwin L.)'s Press Cards (and other identity cards). Includes small dictionary, 1947-1959, undated
32 items.
1 6 Family Tree and History of the Richard Chalcraft and Richard Pickering Families, 1939
1 7 Memory's Storehouse, by Edwin L. Chalcraft. A personal memoir of Edwin and Alice Chalcraft and their families' experiences, 1942
1 8 Oriole Gold Mining Company Stock, 1909
26 items.
1 9 Regulations of the Indian Department, with annotations by Chalcraft. Note: Trasferred to book collections, June, 2004., 1884
Diaries of Edwin Chalcraft
2 10 1879-1885
4 volumes.
2 11 1886-1889
3 volumes.
2 12 1890-1893
3 volumes.
2 13 1894-1900
3 volumes.
2 14 1901-1903
3 volumes.
2 15 1904-1912
3 volumes.
2 16 1913-1915
3 volumes.

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Series 2: William Pickering, and family, papers
3 17 William Pickering diary, 1821-1826
1 volume.
3 18 Richard Pickering business papers, 1861-1888
43 items.
Pickering family, chiefly William Pickering, papers
3 19 1820-1829
5 items.
3 20 1820-1824
7 items.
3 21 1826-1829
21 items.
3 22 1830-1839
6 items.
3 23 1840-1859
10 items.
3 24 1860-1869
20 items.
3 25 1870-1899
13 items.

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This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Personal Names :
  • Chalcraft, Alice
  • Chalcraft, Edwin, 1855- --Archives  ( creator)
  • Pickering, William T., 1798-1873
  • Corporate Names :
  • Chehalis Indians--Education--History -- Sources
  • Geographical Names :
  • Washington (State)--History
  • Subject Terms :
  • Indians of North America--Education--History--Sources
    • Titles within the Collection :
    • Memory's Storehouse

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