Guide to the LeConte Family Papers, 1857-1949

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Guide to the LeConte Family Papers, 1857-1949

Collection number: BANC MSS C-B 452


The Bancroft Library

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Contact Information:

Processed by:
The Bancroft Library staff
Encoded by:
Brooke Dykman Dockter
© 1997. The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Collection Summary

Collection Title: LeConte Family Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1857-1949
Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 452

Origination: Leconte family
Extent: Number of containers: 3 boxes, 2 cartons, 1 oversize volume, 3 oversize folders, 3 card file boxes
Repository: The Bancroft Library.
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Abstract: Correspondence, diaries, lecture notes and miscellaneous papers of various members of the LeConte family: Joseph, Joseph Nisbet and Caroline Eaton. Relate mainly to California Sierra trips, 1871-1946, and to activities with the Sierra Club. Some geological and engineering notes included.
Languages Represented: English

Information for Researchers


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft 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

[Identification of item], LeConte family papers, BANC MSS C-B 452, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Material Cataloged Separately

  • Photographs have been cataloged separately in The Bancroft Library's Pictorial Collections.
  • Printed items have been cataloged separately also.

Scope and Content

These papers, spanning two generations of the prominent University family, have come from various sources. The diaries and papers of Joseph Nisbet LeConte were the gift of Miss Helen M. LeConte, March 1, 1951. A few photostats of early documents relating to the Le Conte family genealogy with some Confederate items were given by Miss Caroline LeConte, 1937 and 1938. Ten notebooks of Joseph LeConte were the gift of Francis P. Farquhar, May 3, 1959.
The collection, consisting mainly of correspondence and notebooks, contains papers of Joseph LeConte, geologist and beloved teacher of the University of California; his daughter, Caroline Eaton; and his son, Joseph Nisbet, engineer and University teacher, and a few items from other members of the family.
Joseph LeConte, born in Liberty County, Georgia, graduated from Franklin College in 1841. He later went to the New York College of physicians and surgeons, finishing his medical work in 1845. He married Caroline Elizabeth Nisbet in 1847 and practiced medicine in Macon, Georgia. Dissatisfied, he went to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1850 and studied sciences. He then taught in Georgia until 1856. He obtained the chair of geology in 1857 at the college of South Carolina until 1862 when it closed due to the Civil War. Though not actively involved in the war, he remained in the south and resumed teaching in 1866 until 1867. He and his brother John both applied for positions at the University of California in 1866 and moved to California in 1869, where Joseph LeConte taught geology to undergraduates until 1896. A great lover of camping, he made summer trips to the Sierras, particularly to Yosemite and King's River Canyon. He died in 1901 of a heart attack while on a Sierra Club camping trip to the Yosemite.
There were four children -Sarah (Sallie), 1850-1915; Emma, died ca. 1932; Caroline Eaton, 1864-1949; Joseph Nisbet, 1870-1950. Sallie married Robert Means Davis and had one child, Isabel. Emma married Farish Furman, had two daughters, Kate, born in 1872, and Bess, born in 1874. Both Sallie and Emma resided mostly in the southern states. Caroline never married. She spent part of her life in California and lived in Europe for great periods of time.
Joseph Nisbet grew up in Oakland and Berkeley, went to the University of California, won a scholarship to Cornell University for one year. Here he deepened his knowledge of electrical engineering and obtained his master's degree in 1892. He returned to the University of California where he accepted a teaching position and gradually built up an engineering department. He married Helen Marion Gompertz, had two children, Helen Malcom, born in 1904, and Joseph, born in 1908. His wife Helen died in 1924. Five years later he took as his second wife, Adelaide Elizabeth Graham, a longtime friend of the family. His son Joseph married Dorothy Emma Teager in 1934 and had a son, Joseph, in 1940.
Joseph Nisbet LeConte was also an avid mountaineer and continued the family traditions of the Sierra trips. He was active in the Sierra Club, maintaining his interest even when he could no longer climb.
His love of the mountains is shown by the correspondence of Joseph LeConte, Joseph Nisbet and Helen (Gompertz) LeConte and by the notebooks in which Joseph, Caroline and Joseph Nisbet kept records of summer trips, over the years from 1871 until 1943, with great emphasis on the Yosemite and its surroundings, and King's River Canyon.
Joseph LeConte's knowledge of geology illuminated his letters and notebooks in observations on mountain formation. His interest in things philosophical is manifest in jottings and notes scattered throughout the notebooks.
Joseph Nisbet LeConte's notebooks record readings -azimuth, altitudes, temperature -of mountain areas on summer trips. There are also many notebooks containing lecture notes from University of California days as an undergraduate through his year at Cornell and for a course given in Kinematics. He also kept records of snow depths from 1897 to 1949.
Pictures from the collection of the LeConte family, early Berkeley, and Sierra views, have been catalogued separately. Albums, v. 1-13 are to be found in the picture drawer, nos. 5325-5337. Pictures, a total of 1114 pictures and/or negatives, in the picture drawer have nos. 5338-5594. In the portrait drawer, nos. 1006-1088a, are a total of 83 pictures and/or negatives.
Printed items have been catalogued separately also. Arrangement is as follows:

Key to Arrangement


Papers of Joseph LeConte

Box 1

Correspondence - See partial list of correspondents for further information


Outgoing, arrangement chronologically


Incoming, arranged alphabetically


Vols. 1-2: Journal of three months personal experience during the last days of the Confederacy. 1864. Manuscript, illustrated with sketches, and typescript.

Box 6

Vols. 3-15: Notebooks: roll books, accounts, diaries, 1857-1900. 13 items, containing accounts of summer mountain trips, with pertinent information concerning geological formations.


Vol. 3:


1857: Law of Development in Geology


1858-ca. 1862: Roll book


Vol. 4:


1871: Oregon, British Columbia


1872: Yosemite, with mention of John Muir. Misc. notes


Vol. 5:


1873: Oregon, with illustrations of mountains, down into California to Mount Shasta


1874: Tahoe


Also list of plants on Mount Diablo, and misc. notes


Vol. 6:


1875: Yosemite. Includes list of articles taken on trip, and expenses


Roll book, 1876-1881


1879: Trip to Sulpher Banks


Vol. 7:


1878: McGillivray (near Auburn, California)


1879: Nevada City, Mount Hughes


1879: Oregon, British Columbia


Also miscellaneous notes


Vol. 8:


1882: Nevada trip: geological surveys




Rollbooks: 1883-1887


Vol. 9:


1885: Mt. Shasta, then Oregon


1887: Modoc


Also miscellaneous notes


Vol. 10:


1887: Calico


Notes, especially on religion


Vol. 11:


1889: Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite, High Sierra


1893: Yosemite


1900: King's River Canyon. Include lists of provisions, expenses


Vol. 12:


1891-1892: Miscellaneous notes, addresses


Vols. 13-14:


1894: Yosemite


Miscellaneous notes


Vol. 15:




A few accounts

Box 1

A brief confession of faith, written in 1890. Slightly revised and added to in 1897. Manuscript and two transcripts.


Golden wedding celebration: invitations to receptions, drafts of speeches (1897)


Lecture notes for geology, 1872, 1875, 2 vols., not in Joseph LeConte's writing


Miscellaneous notes


Certificates to various societies (see also oversize portfolio)


Miscellany: clippings, calling cards, etc. (1 folder)




Photocopy of school exercise


Letter from children of LeConte School, Berkeley, 1897


Mainly papers of Caroline Eaton LeConte. Also genealogical material.

Box 2

Correspondence: See partial list of correspondents for further information


LeConte, Caroline Eaton: Journals


Vol. 1: Original notebook, relating to the Yosemite camping trip, 1878, with pencil sketches. Members of the trip: family, friend Nana, and Capt. George Gordon Greenough.


Vols. 2-3: Copy of Vol. 1, rewritten and enlarged. [N.B. Photo negatives of sketches here are in picture index under LeConte, Caroline: neg. 5464 (1-49), picture drawer]


Vols. 4-6: Journal of Yosemite trip, 1882, with cousin John Lawrence LeConte, his son Jack and her father.


Vol. 7: LeConte genealogical notes, 1901-1926, with 1927 inscription in front.


Genealogical material: including original John Nisbet letter, Nov. 22, 1666, with transcript; photocopy of Guillame LeConte's last will; Emma (LeConte) Furman's Sketch of the LeConte family of the Nonant line in America, with a few miscellaneous notes relating to genealogy.


LeConte family miscellany (6 items)


Caroline's LeConte's copy of Horace, containing illustrations by Caroline. (Transferred from Archives)


Papers of Joseph Nisbet LeConte and his wife, Helen (Gompertz) LeConte

Box 3

Correspondence: See partial list of correspondents for further information




Incoming miscellany, single items A-Z


Incoming, alphabetically arranged


At end miscellaneous letters to Helen (Gompertz) LeConte


Papers of Joseph Nisbet LeConte: Notebooks, diaries, journals, 1887-1946

Physical Description: (46 volumes) (Some rehoused in boxes 4-5, as noted below)
Ctn. 1

Vols. 1-2:


1887: Blue Lake, Modoc County


Appendix, a few notes on Electrical Engineering and calculations


Vols. 3-4: 1889: Sierra camping trip, Hetch-Hetchy and Yosemite

Box 4

Vol. 3: Notes

Ctn. 1

Vol. 4: Enlarged and with photographs


Vols. 5-9: 1890: High Sierra camping trip, with references to Prof. Davidson and the Utica mine

Box 4

Vol. 5: Notes on observations, latitude, azimuth, barometer readings

Box 4

Vol. 6: Original Notes

Ctn. 1

Vol. 7: Copy of Vol. 6, with some photographs, and references to separate photograph album (see picture drawer)

Ctn. 1

Vol. 8: Typescript carbon

Ctn. 1

Vol. 9: Mimeographed

Box 4

Vol. 10: 1892: Small daily diary, sporadically kept, relating to Mt. Ritter trip, Mt. Lyell, and Yosemite

Box 4

Vol. 11: 1893: Hetch-Hetchy, Yosemite

Box 4

Vols. 12-13: 1894


Vol. 12: Yosemite, May


Vol. 13: Yosemite, July

Box 4

Vol. 14: 1895: Mt. Brewer and Mt. Whitney

Box 4

Vol. 15: 1896: Yosemite: observations, lists of photographs

Ctn. 1

Vol. 16: 1891-1897: Record of Sierra trips


1891: Yosemite via Lake Eleanor and Hetch-Hetchy


1892: Yosemite and Sierras, Mt. Lyell and Mt. Ritter


1893: Yosemite and surrounding country


1894: Yosemite, Hetch-Hetchy, Tuolumne Meadows (mentions Benjamin Pownall)


1895: Kings and Kern River Canyons, etc.


1896: Yosemite, King's River Canyon


1897: Yosemite, Tuolumne meadows, etc.

Box 4

Vol. 17: 1898: Yosemite

Box 4

Vol. 18: 1903: Kern, Whitney, and Kings Canyon

Ctn. 1

Vol. 19: 1898-1903: Record of Sierra trips


1898: Yosemite, Tuolumne Meadows to King's River Canyon. Mention of Colby and Sierra Club


1899: Tehipitee Valley, King's River Canyon, and Mt. Tyndall


1900: King's River Canyon and Kearsage Pass


1901: King's River Canyon, wedding trip


1902: South and middle fork of King's River, Sierra Club


1903: Yosemite; Kern's River Canyon; King's River. Met President T. Roosevelt and John Muir.

Box 4

Vol. 20: 1904: Yosemite to King's River

Box 4

Vol. 21: 1906: King's River Canyon and Simpson Meadow

Ctn. 1

Vol. 22: 1904-1906


1904: Yosemite to King's River


1905: Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Shasta, with Sierra Club, Colby, Parsons


1906: King's River Canyon and Simpson Meadow

Box 4

Vol. 23: 1907: Yosemite, Tuolumne Meadows, Mono Lake and Mammoth

Box 4

Vol. 24: 1908: Yosemite, etc.

Box 4

Vol. 25: 1909: King's River Canyon

Box 4

Vol. 25a: Transcripts of Journals, 1891-1909

Box 5

Vol. 26: 1910: King's River Canyon

Box 5

Vol. 27: 1911: Yosemite to Blaney's Meadow

Box 5

Vol. 28: 1912: Yosemite

Box 5

Vol. 29: 1913: King's River Canyon

Box 5

Vol. 30: 1914: Trip to Europe

Box 5

Vol. 31: 1915: Yosemite

Box 5

Vol. 32: 1916: Yosemite

Ctn. 1

Vol. 33: 1907-1916


1907: Yosemite, Tuolumne Meadows, Mono Lake and Mammoth; Sierra Club; Colby, Muir, Parsons


1908: Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy, High Mountain Route to King's River


1909: King's River Canyon, Simpson Meadow


1910: King's River Canyon; Sierra Club, Colby.


1911: Yosemite to Blaney Meadow


1912: Yosemite


1913: South and Middle Forks of King's River; Colby


1914: Europe


1915: Yosemite, Colby, Sierra Club, Mather, Marshall


1916: Yosemite, Tahoe; Marshall, Lewis

Box 5

Vol. 34: 1917-1919: Yosemite

Ctn. 1

Vol. 35: 1916-1920


1916: Yosemite (continuation of Vol. 33)


1917: Yosemite; Colby, Lewis, Sierra Club




Yosemite; Colby, Sierra Club


General Grant National Park


Tioga Road


Yosemite with Mather, Colby, Badè et al, winter trip




Yosemite, Tioga Road; Mather, Colby, Sierra Club


Yosemite Valley; Mather, Colby




Eel River Redwoods


Giant Forest (Sequoia Park); Mather


Horse Corral

Box 5

Vol. 36: 1920-1922


1920: Horse Corral


1921: Yosemite


1922: Redwoods in Humboldt

Box 5

Vol. 37: 1923: Yosemite

Ctn. 1

Vol. 38: 1921-1924


1921: Yosemite; Ansel Adams; Hetch-Hetchy dam; Colby; Mather; Farquhar; Sierra Club, Marion Parsons


1922: Redwoods, Humboldt Co.; Marion Parsons; South Fork of the San Joaquin


1923: Yosemite Valley, Porcupine and Lake Tahoe; Ansel Adams; Badè; Colby; Sierra Club


1924: Porcupine Flat

Box 5

Vol. 39: 1922-1926


1922: Redwoods, Humboldt Co.


1925: King's River District; Ansel Adams


1926: Ski Club House, (summit) King's River Region with Ansel Adams

Box 5

Vol. 40: 1927: Summit, Lake Tahoe

Box 5

Vol. 41: 1928: South and Middle Fork of King's River

Box 5

Vol. 42: 1929


Grant Park



Box 5

Vol. 43: 1930: Grant Park

Ctn. 1

Vol. 44: 1925-1930


1925: King's River Region with Ansel Adams


1926: Summit; King's River Region with Ansel Adams


1927: Summit, Lake Tahoe


1928: South and Middle Fork of King's River


1929: King's River Canyon Tahoe


1930: Grant Park; Horse Corral, Ansel Adams, King's River Canyon

Box 5

Vol. 45: 1931-1932: Trip to Europe

Ctn. 1

Vol. 46: 1931-1946


1931-1932: Europe


1933: Summit


1934: House in Carmel; Summit


1935: Carmel


1936: Carmel, trip to the East


1937: Retirement, Carmel


1938: Grant Park, King's Canyon


1939: Summit


1940: Summit


1941: Summit, Tahoe


1942: Yosemite; Grant Park; Friant Dam; Yosemite


1943: Yosemite; Ansel Adams; Colby (2 trips)


1944: Yosemite, Colbys, Adams;


1945: Yosemite; Hetch-Hetchy; Adams


1946: Yosemite; the Colbys

Ctn. 1

Vol. 47: "Recollections": Subtitled: a few notes descriptive of a happy life. Principally written in 1942, with notes added 1945-1949. Memories of early University of California, of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco; Yosemite and Oregon trips; his scientific work; formation of Sierra Club; Clarence Cory; 1906 earthquake; John Muir; Stephen Mather; Ansel Adams; list of publications at end.

Ctn. 1

Vol. 48: Tribute to Professor LeConte, 1937. Includes clippings, programs, lists of those who attended the memorial dinner and letters accepting or declining the invitation.

Box 5

Added to Box 5: 3 notebooks (Lists of Negatives, 1900-1947) of J. N. LeConte, transferred from Pictorial Collection (BANC PIC 1971.034)


LeConte, Joseph Nisbet: Lecture notes, diagrams, Master's thesis, and miscellany (1889-1949)

Ctn. 2

Vol. 1: Regular Mechanics


Vol. 2: Lectures in strength of materials


Vol. 3: Problems in hydrodynamics


Vol. 4: Advanced physical laboratory


Vol. 5: Electrical machinery


Vol. 6: Alternate current electric machinery


Vols. 7-9: Theory of electric measurements (3 vols.)


Vols. 10-11: Lab work in electrical measurements (2 vols.)


Vol. 12: Steam boiler design


Vol. 13: Steam engine efficiency


Vols. 14-15: Dynamo electric machinery (2 vols.)


Vol. 16: A physical study of the characteristics of a 40-ampere Edison Dynamo (Master's thesis, June 1892)


Vols. 17-20: Notes on Kinematics, 1895/1896-1898/1899 (4 vols.)


Vol. 21: Record of snow depths, 1897-1949


Miscellaneous diagrams of boilers and engines


Miscellaneous papers, include themes written in 1889, some papers relating to year at Cornell, miscellaneous newspapers, miscellaneous personal papers.



portfolio Portfolio

Diplomas and certificates, belonging to Joseph LeConte. Also, Caroline Eaton LeConte's University of California diploma.

Partial List of Correspondents


Cooke, Josiah Parson, 1827-1894

see Dana, James Dwight


Dana, James Dwight, 1815-1895


Letter to Josiah Parson Cooke, Oct. 10, 1870. With letter from Cooke to Joseph LeConte concerning a specimen of micah. (Box 1)


Gompertz, Helen Marion

see LeConte, Helen Marion (Gompertz)


Graham, Adelaide Elizabeth

see LeConte, Adelaide Elizabeth (Graham)


James, William, 1842-1910


1 letter, Feb. 4, 1899 (Box 3)


LeConte, Adelaide Elizabeth (Graham)


20 letters, 1928-1929. Written under her maiden name, prior to marriage in 1929. (Box 3)


LeConte, Caroline Eaton, 1863-1945


3 letters, 1900-1924 (Box 2)


LeConte, Caroline Elizabeth (Nisbet), ca. 1828-1915


3 letters, 1903-1904, written to Joseph LeConte on wedding anniversary and birthday after his death. Also letter, no addressee, Mar. 29, 1914, and copy of poem, God is near, July 1915. (Box 1)


LeConte, Helen Malcom, 1904-


4 letters, 1913-1914, to her parents. (Box 3)


LeConte, Helen Marion (Gompertz), 1865-1924


38 letters, 1892-1924, to Joseph Nisbet LeConte. Mainly written before her marriage. Also 7 letters, 1892-1915, written to family. 1892 letters relate to Yosemite trip before her marriage. 1914 letter about European trip. (Box 3)


LeConte, John Lawrence, 1825-1883


1 letter, May 27, 1858 [to Agassiz] (Box 2)


1 letter, Nov. 13, 1882 to Dr. R. E. Rogers (Box 2)


LeConte, Joseph, 1823-1901


15 letters, 1870-1900. Mainly to his wife. 1870 letters relate to Yosemite trip, with mention of John Muir. 1900 letters relate to King's River Valley. One letter, Oct. 15, 1888, refers to his book Evolution and its relation to religious thought. (Box 1)


LeConte, Joseph, b. 1908


1 letter, summer 1934. (Box 3)


LeConte, Joseph Nisbet, 1870-1950


33 letters, 1876-1949. Mainly letters to members of the family, relating to trips to King's River Canyon, Yosemite and Mount Rainier. Mention of Prof. Davidson, the Colbys and the Parsons. (Box 3)


Muir, John, 1838-1914


4 letters, 1871-1874. Observations on the geological formation and flora of Yosemite. The 1874 item is a transcript only. (Box 1)


Thurston, Robert Henry, 1839-1903


1 letter, Feb. 17, 1902 (Box 3)