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Oscar Eugene Learnard family papers

Call Number: RH MS 36


This collection consists of copied and original correspondence, clippings, photographs, and other related materials regarding the life of Oscar Eugene Learnard, his family, and the early history of Lawrence, Kansas.


  • Creation: 1850 - 1943


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

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

History of the Learnard family

Oscar Eugene Learnard was born in 1832 in Fairax, Vermont, the son of Stephen Tracy Learnard. He attended Bakersfield Academy in that same state before attending Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont from 1853-1854. Thereafter he went to law school in Albany, New York and was admitted to the bar in 1855.

In the fall of 1855, Learnard came to Lawrence, Kansas territory. He immediately became involved in events happening in the local area, including the Wakarusa War and fighting against pro-slavery raids on Lawrence and its environs during the border wars between Missouri and Kansas. He was commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel in the 1st Kansas Volunteer Infantry. He resigned this commission in 1863 but continued to fight through the rest of the Civil War with the state militia, including during Price's raid in Kansas, at the Battle of the Blue, and at Westport, Missouri.

In 1862 Learnard married Mary Sophia Eldridge. She had been born in 1842 in Massachusetts to Shalor Winchell and Mary R. (Norton) Eldridge, who relocated their family to Kansas City in 1854 due to her father's work as a railroad contractor. In Kansas City Eldridge bought the American House and operated it as a free state hotel; in 1856, he began operating the Free State Hotel of Lawrence, Kansas. This hotel was burned by pro-slavery forces twice; each time, Eldridge rebuilt.

Oscar and Mary Learnard remained in Kansas for most of the rest of their lives. Oscar Learnard held a variety of public and business positions throughout his career, including organizing Burlington, Kansas in 1857 with other Lawrence-based citizens; serving as a member of the Kansas Territorial Council from 1857-1859; organzing the Kansas Republican Party in 1859; serving as a judge for the 5th Judicial District; serving as a state senator from 1868-1871; publishing the Lawrence Journal newspaper from 1894-1905; serving as Superintendent of Haskell Institute in Lawrence in 1889; and working as tax commissioner for the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad and special attorney for the Atchison, Topek and Santa Fe Railroad.

Oscar Eugene Learnard and his wife Mary had 6 children: Mary Eugenie, born in 1865 and died in 1868; Clarence, who did not live a a year; Paul, born in 1868 and died in 1914; Lawrence, who did not live a year; Tracy, born in 1872, and Oscard E., born in 1874 and died in 1955.

O. E. Learnard died 1911 in Lawrence. His wife Mary moved to California to join her son Tracy and his wife Georgene (Wilder) Learnard, who had started operating a ranch near Gilroy in 1902. Mary Learnard died in 1932.

Tracy Learnard was appointed postmaster of Gilroy, California in 1922, a position he held for 12 years. Thereafter he served as deputy tax collector for Santa Clara County and moved his family to San Jose, later moving to Palo Alto. Tracy Learnard died in 1959.


2.5 Linear Feet (5 document cases + 8 volumes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

This collection contains a wide variety of material related to Oscar and Mary Learnard, their descendants and other relatives, and the history of Lawrence, Kansas during the latter half of the 19th century. Much of the collection is original and photocopied newspaper and other clippings, correspondence, photographs, programs, and other materials compiled by Tracy Learnard, the son of Oscar Eugene Learnard, from materials his mother Mary brought with her to California after her husband died and she moved in with her son's family. The collection provides a variety of primary and secondary source documentation of early Kansas Euro-American settlers, the border wars and Civil War in Kansas, and civic and social life in Lawrence, Kansas.

Physical Location

RH MS 36

Physical Location

RH MS 1411

Physical Location

RH MS D113, RH MS D116, RH MS D117

Physical Location

RH PH 553

Other Finding Aids

Nucmc: 67-485

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Tracy Learnard, 1948-1951; purchase, Tracy Learnard, 1957; purchase, Smoky Hill Bookseller, 1976. (Kb accession nos. 400105, 400106, 441883)

Related Materials

Mary S. Learnard collection, Kansas Collection, RH MS P803, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Oscar E. Learnard papers, Manuscripts Collection 415, State Archives, Kansas Historical Society.

Oscar Eugene Learnard papers, Norwich University Archives, Kreitzberg Library, Northfield, Vt.

Friends in Council records, RH MS 94, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

List of correspondents

Correspondents and other named individuals found in the collection include but are not limited to

  1. Barnes, J L
  2. Bew, George H
  3. Bonebrake, Parkinson Isaiah
  4. Bowersock, Justin DeWitt
  5. Bradford, Simeon Briggs
  6. Carrier's address. Lawrence Daily Journal
  7. Chapman, J B
  8. Crowell, H R
  9. Denver, James William
  10. Dorrance, Julia E (Mrs. O. H.)
  11. Eldridge, Thomas Bailey
  12. Ewing, Thomas
  13. Faulkner, Charles E
  14. Finney, David Wesley
  15. Ford, J S
  16. Gleed, Charles Sumner
  17. Grass, Daniel
  18. Hallowell, James Reed
  19. Harris, George B.
  20. Higgins, William
  21. Holloway, E. J.
  22. Hutchinson, G. W.
  23. Johnson, Alexander Soule
  24. Johnson, John Blosser
  25. Kingman, Samuel Austin
  26. Lamb, John
  27. Lane & Kent, Burlington, Kansas
  28. Lapham, Amos S.
  29. Leis, George
  30. Lemmon, Allen Borsley
  31. McDowell, W. C.
  32. McHale, Francis
  33. Manchester, George O.
  34. Meigs, Montgomery Cunningham
  35. Merritt, James S.
  36. Meserve, Charles Francis
  37. Moody, Joel
  38. Morrill, Edmund Needham
  39. Morse, C. F.
  40. Nute, Ephraim
  41. Parrott, Marcus Junius
  42. Patrick, George Edward
  43. Plumb, Preston B
  44. Prentis, Noble Lovely
  45. Prince, W. E.
  46. Riddle, Alexander Pancoast
  47. Robinson, Albert Alonzo
  48. Ruggles, R. M.
  49. St. John, John Pierce
  50. Saltonstall, Henry
  51. Smith, Byron Caldwell
  52. Smith, Edwin R
  53. Strong, William Barstow
  54. U. S. Land Office, Ironton, Missouri
  55. Ware, Eugene Fitch
  56. West, Joseph Rodman
  57. Wilder, Edward
  58. Williamson, James Alexander

Processing Information

The items located at RH MS 1411 were formerly located at RH MS D114 and RH MS D115. Photographs formerly located at RH MS-P D116 are now at RH PH 553.

Guide to the Oscar Eugene Learnard family papers
Oscar Eugene Learnard family papers
Finding aid compiled by lgg, 28 July 1975. Finding aid encoded by mg, 2004. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2017.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Oscar Eugene Learnard family papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 36, 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