WILLIAM OLIVER COLLINS AND FAMILY PAPERS
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
This collection centers around letters written by William Oliver Collins, his wife, Catharine Wever, and their son, Caspar Wever, during the 1860s. Correspondence contains accounts of travel between Ohio and Fort Laramie, daily life at the fort, military orders and reports. Because the original correspondence is extremely fragile researchers are requested to use the photocopies.
The collection also contains research conducted by Agnes Wright Spring on the Collins family. Her research contains correspondence, notes, newspaper clippings and manuscripts.
This series contains handwritten correspondence of William Oliver Collins, Catharine Wever Collins and Caspar Wever Collins. Much of William's correspondence is written to military leaders and contains inspection reports, letters of introduction, and general conditions at various forts. In Catharine's correspondence to her daughter, Josie, she describes her arrival at Fort Laramie, life at the fort, general news and her trip back to Ohio in 1864. Caspar wrote to his mother and uncle describing his travels west with his father from 1862-1863. A few of the letters contain sketches drawn by Caspar. Also included are letters written by Caspar as a soldier and letters and orders written concerning his death.
This series contains photocopies of the original correspondence. The copies should be used for research.
Research conducted by Agnes Wright Spring on the Collins family is contained in this series. Spring wrote more than 20 books and 600 feature and fiction articles on the Rocky Mountain West including Caspar Collins: The Life and Exploits of an Indian fighter of the Sixties. Her research includes letters from John C. Friend who served with Caspar in the Eleventh Ohio Cavalry, newspaper clippings, transcripts of correspondence, copies of maps, notes, and manuscripts.
The oversize items in this series include William Oliver Collins' appointment to the 6th Regiment Ohio Cavalry, a handwritten history of the Eleventh Ohio Cavalry and a certificate of Caspar's commission as First Lieutenant.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research.
All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.
William Oliver Collins was born in Sommer, Connecticut, in August 1809. He was a graduate of Amherst and the Cincinnati Law School. He relocated to Hillsboro, Ohio in 1833 and began practicing law. He married Catherine Wever in 1843 and had three children, Caspar Wever, Mary and Josephine (Josie). Mary died in childhood at the age of eight.
Collins was a prosecuting attorney, served as president of the Hillsboro and Cincinnati Railroad Company and was elected an Ohio State Senator. When the Civil War broke out he resigned his seat in the Senate to form a volunteer regiment. On June 3, 1862 the unit was ordered west to Fort Laramie, Dakota Territory to protect emigrants from the East, the United States mail and the telegraph line.
Collins permitted his son, Caspar, just seventeen, to accompany him. Along the way, Caspar recorded the new sights in drawings and letters. He also made maps of most of the forts his father commanded. Collins proved to be a popular commander of the Ohio Cavalry troops. Camp Collins (later known as Fort Collins) located near Laporte (Colorado) was named in his honor.
Colonel Collins and Caspar returned to Ohio in 1863 to recruit more soldiers. During this trip, Caspar enlisted and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in Company G of the newly reorganized 11th Ohio Regiment. Both father and son returned west to Fort Laramie. Mrs. Collins joined her husband and son at Fort Laramie in November 1863 and remained there until August 1864. Colonel Collins completed his service, was discharged on April 1, 1865 and returned to Ohio.
Caspar was assigned responsibility for four isolated stations in the Dakota Territory. In July 1865, Caspar and a small detachment travelled to Fort Laramie to obtain new horses. Caspar remained at the Fort after he sent his men back to Sweetwater station (near Independence Rock, Wyoming). On July 20, Caspar set out from Fort Laramie to Platte Bridge Station (now Casper, Wyoming) as part of an escort to deliver the mail. They arrived on July 25.
There is much controversy about what happened next but most accounts agree that on July 26, 1865 Caspar was ordered to provide an escort for a military wagon train, which was camped about 25 miles west of the Station under the command of Sergeant Amos Custard. Several groups of Indians had been observed, and there was concern for the wagon train's safety. Caspar and 25 cavalry toops set out from Platte Bridge Station in the early morning. They were soon attacked by an estimated 2,000 warriors and forced back to the fort. During the retreat, Collins and four of his men were killed. Most of the remaining men were wounded. This action is known as the Platte Bridge fight. Later the same day, Indian forces attacked and overwhelmed Sergeant Custard's wagon train as it approached Platte Bridge Station. Three soldiers managed to escape. However the remaining nineteen men in Custard's detachment were all killed. This fight is known as the Battle of Red Buttes.
Caspar's body was found the next day and was buried at Platte Bridge Station. In March of 1866, his remains were escorted to Fort Laramie and later that year to Hillsboro, Ohio for burial.
The post at Platte Bridge Station was renamed Fort Casper (a misspelling), in honor of Lieutenant Collins. Years later a town developed near the Fort and took the name of Casper (Wyoming).
William lived in Hillsboro, Ohio until his death in 1880. His widow, Catharine, died in 1911 at the age of 93.
2 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
1 oversize folder
Language of Materials
Other Finding Aids
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchase, Fred Rosenstock, 1963. Gift, Agnes Wright Spring, 1946.
Map: The Territory Guarded Chiefly by Ohio Troops, 1862-1865 originally cataloged seperately as CG4261.P25 1864 .W85.
PROCESSED AND ENCODED BY:
Merrie Jo Schroeder
REVISED AND ENCODED BY:
February 2009, September 2010
- Collins, Caspar Wever, 1844-1865 -- Correspondence.
- Collins, Catharine Wever -- Correspondence.
- Collins, William Oliver, 1809-1880 -- Correspondence.
- Fort Laramie (Wyo. : Fort) -- History Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Frontier and pioneer life -- Wyoming. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Letters (correspondence). Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Research (document genres). Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Spring, Agnes Wright, 1894- -- Research.
- WILLIAM OLIVER COLLINS AND FAMILY PAPERS
- Revised September 2010
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository
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Denver CO 80204 United States