Finding Aid to the Fremont Family Collection MS.217

Finding aid prepared by Holly Rose Larson
Autry National Center, Autry Library
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA, 90027
(323) 667-2000 ext. 349
2012 August 28

Title: Fremont Family Collection
Identifier/Call Number: MS.217
Contributing Institution: Autry National Center, Autry Library
Language of Material: English
Physical Description: 3.6 Linear feet (3 boxes)
Date (inclusive): 1836-1960
Language: English, French, German, Latin.
Abstract: John Charles Fremont (1813-1890) was an American military officer during the Civil War, explorer of the Western United States, United States presidential candidate and an opponent of slavery. Fremont’s wife, Jessie Benton Fremont (1824-1902) was an American writer and daughter of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Their firstborn daughter Elizabeth (Lily) Benton Fremont (1842-1919) participated in the groundbreaking ceremony of the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles in 1912. This collection of papers was compiled from donations from Elizabeth B. Fremont, as well as Southwest Museum curatorial and library staff, with documents spanning from 1836-1919. Materials include correspondence, etchings, certificates, manuscripts, maps, and newspaper clippings by and about members of the John C. Fremont family.
creator: Benton, Thomas Hart, 1782-1858
creator: Frémont Family
creator: Frémont, Jessie Benton, 1824-1902
creator: Frémont, John Charles, 1813-1890
creator: Frémont, Lily, b. 1842
creator: Lummis, Charles Fletcher, 1859-1928.


Collection is open for research. Appointments to view materials are required. To make an appointment please visit or contact library staff at An item-level inventory is available from library staff.


Copyright has not been assigned to the Braun Research Library at the Autry National Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Library Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Braun Research Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Preferred citation

Fremont Family Collection, 1836-1960, Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center, Los Angeles; MS.217; [folder number] [folder title][date].

Processing history

Initial processing by Braun Library Staff. Finding aid completed by Holly Rose Larson, NHPRC Project Archivist, August 28, 2012, made possible through grant funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Scope and contents

This collection of papers was compiled from donations from Elizabeth B. Fremont, as well as Southwest Museum curatorial and library staff.
The majority of the materials in Box 1 span from 1836-1919 and include correspondence, etchings, certificates, newspaper clippings, manuscripts, and other papers either generated by John C. Fremont, Jessie B. Fremont, or Elizabeth B. Fremont, or dealing directly with one of the members of the Fremont family. These materials include a political songbook from John C. Fremont’s campaign for presidency, and two federal reports made to the Secretary of the Interior by John C. Fremont as Governor of the Arizona territory in 1878 and 1879.
Materials in Box 1 date mostly from 1901 and 1957 and are mostly comprised of biographical articles and newspaper clippings written about the members of the Fremont family.
Box 3 contains oversized items, including maps that John C. Fremont drew from his expeditions in the Western United States, certificates for honorary memberships for John C. Fremont, and military commissions from the Presidents of the United States of America, documenting John C. Fremont’s military promotions between 1838 and 1890.


  • Box 1: Primary resource materials
  • Box 2: Biographical publications
  • Box 3: Oversize items


Donation by Elizabeth Benton Frémont and others, 1915-1960.

Biographical note

John Charles Fremont, born January 12, 1813 in Savannah, Georgia, was an American military officer, explorer, United States presidential candidate, and an opponent of slavery. In 1838, Fremont was appointed Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers, and he led expeditions through the western part of the United States. From 1842 to 1846, Fremont led expeditions through the Oregon Trail and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, leading to the San Joaquin Valley. His journals of these expeditions, especially the second, were wildly popular. The accounts of the two expeditions were printed together for the Congress as Report of the Exploring Expedition in the Rocky Mountains in the year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the years 1843-1844 . Fremont was also involved in gold mining in California but this venture eventually foundered. Fremont’s most notable political accomplishments include serving as one of California’s first two U. S. senators from 1850-1851 and being governor of the Arizona Territory from 1878-1881. Fremont died July 13, 1890 at the age of 77. Fremont married United States senator Thomas Hart Benton's daughter Jessie in 1841. Jessie B. Fremont, born May 31, 1824, was an American writer who supplemented the family income as a freelance writer. Some of Jessie's most popular publications were memoirs of her time accompanying her husband on his expeditions in the American West. Jessie Benton Fremont died December 27, 1902. Their daughter Elizabeth (Lily) Benton Fremont was born November 15, 1842 and died May 28, 1919.
John C. Fremont purchased land in the San Francisco Bay Area known as Black Point and built a house there for his family around 1860. When the Civil War started, the military claimed the land at Black Point, now Fort Mason, and the Fremonts were never reimbursed for their land. Future generations of the Fremont family, including grandson Benton Fremont, continued to fight for payment for the estate.
After John C. Fremont's death, Jessie and Elizabeth Fremont settled in Los Angeles. They became friends with Charles F. Lummis, who also tried to fight on their behalf for the money owed them by the U.S. government. Because of her relationship with Lummis, Elizabeth Fremont had a great role in the ground-breaking ceremony at the Southwest Museum on November 16, 1912. Elizabeth had the flag her father had raised on the crest of the Rocky Mountains in 1842, and she donated it to the Southwest Society in 1905, as a gift for the forthcoming Southwest Museum. At the groundbreaking ceremony for the museum in 1912, Elizabeth Fremont raised this flag and then turned over the first shovel of earth for the actual breaking of ground for the Southwest Museum building.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Frémont Family
Frémont, Jessie Benton, 1824-1902
Frémont, John Charles, 1813-1890
Southwest Museum (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Arizona Territory
Explorers -- West (U.S.)
Presidential candidates
Presidents -- Elections
United States. Army -- History
West (U.S.) -- Discovery and exploration