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John Palmer Usher correspondence

Call Number: RH MS P565


Correspondence from John Palmer Usher when he was United States Assistant Secretary, later Secretary of the Interior under President Abraham Lincoln. Two letters are directed to President Lincoln, two are to two of Usher's children.


  • Creation: 1861 - 1865


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of John Palmer Usher

John Palmer Usher was born January 9, 1816 or January 18, 1818 in Brookfield, Madison County, New York. He studied law under Henry Bennett in New Berlin, New York and was admitted to the bar in 1839. He soon thereafter moved to Terre Haute, Indiana to open a law practice. A circuit lawyer in the 1840s and 1850s in both Indiana and Illinois, he became acquianted at that time with Abraham Lincoln.

Usher was elected to the Indiana state legislature in 1850, serving one term. He unsuccessfully ran for a U.S. House of Representatives position as a Republican in 1856 and participated in Lincoln's 1860 presidential campaign. In 1861 he was appointed the Indiana Attorney General, but he soon resigned this position to become Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior.

Secretary of the Interior Caleb Smith resigned his position in December 1862. On January 3, 1863, Usher was appointed his replacement, a role he held until his official resignation on May 15, 1865.

Usher eventually moved his family to Lawrence, Kansas after resigning from his post in Washington, D.C. and considering several other towns in Kansas in which to live. He built a home at 1425 Tennessee Street in Lawrence, completing it in 1873. He became general solicitor for the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division and actively promoted the building of the railroad west of Kansas City. He argued several significant cases for the railroad, many regarding land grants or relations with other railroads. He also served as mayor of Lawrence, KS for one term.

John Palmer Usher married Margaret A. Patterson, the daughter of Arthur and Margaret (Chambers) Patterson, on January 26, 1844 in Rockville, Indiana. They had four sons: Arthur Patterson, John Palmer, Linton Joseph, and Samuel Chambers. John Palmer Usher died from cancer in 1889. His wife died in 1911, and together they were buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence. Soon after Mrs. Usher's death, the family sold the house to the Alpha Nu chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, whose members moved in in 1913.


3 folders

Language of Materials


Physical Location

RH MS P565

Physical Location


Custodial History

The 1861 and 1863 letters to Usher's sons, and a Nevada Territory mining map separated from the manuscript collection, were found by the donor's father, Willis Rothwell Banker, in the Lawrence, Ks house library shortly after the Alpha Nu chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity acquired the house. Banker was a fraternity member.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Robert F. Banker, 1987.

Related Materials

Letter writen by John Palmer Usher, MS P328, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Usher, John Palmer. President Lincoln's Cabinet...with a foreword and a sketch of the life of the author by Nelson H. Loomis. [Omaha, Ne: unknown publisher, circa 1925]. Located at Spencer Research Library at RH C4568.

Edgerton, D.M. Proceedings of the Complimentary Banquet; to the Yal Alumni ASsociation of the South-West, and Honorary Guests: In Honor of Judge D. D. Hoag,'73. Including Judge Usher's remarks on Lincoln's cabinet. Wyandotte, Ks: Gazette Print, [1887?]. Located at Spencer Research Library at RH B1245.

Usher, John Palmer. Letters. Manuscripts Collection 524, State Archives, Kansas Historical Society. Also available on microfilm, reels MS 1127-MS 1129.

Separated Materials

H. H. Bancroft and Company. "Bancroft's Map of the Washoe Silver Region of Nevada Territory." San Francisco: H. H. Bancroft & Company, 1862. Located at Spencer Research Library at RH Map R480.


Guide to the John Palmer Usher Collection
John Palmer Usher correspondence
Finding aid compiled by mwh, 2017. Finding aid encoded by mwh, 2017.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
John Palmer Usher correspondence, RH MS P565, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States