Indian Wars Widows


Indian Wars Widows Project Records, c. 1864-1965
- Finding aid by Harry G. Heiss

February 1989


In preparing for the Museum of Westward Expansion, Don Rickey Jr., chief research historian at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in the early 1960s, solicited exhibit materials and information from widows and relatives of Indian Wars veterans. Rickey had obtained from the Veterans Administration the names and addresses of Indian Wars widows receiving pensions, and in the spring of 1962 he contacted each with a letter and questionnaire requesting information and the donation of records. This collection, measuring approximately four linear feet, contains the records produced by that project, including widows' correspondence, completed questionnaires, and copies of records documenting Indian Wars military service from 1865 to 1898. Information generated by this project was used by Rickey and others at the park doing exhibit planning for the Museum of Westward Expansion, including research reports, and particularly the report, "The Soldier's Frontier." This project also provided Rickey with material for Forty Miles a Days on Beans and Hay; The Enlisted Soldier Fighting the Indian Wars [Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963].

The widows were surveyed on their husbands' dates of Indian Wars service and military rank. They were asked if they were married to their husbands during their military service, if the widows lived in the West before 1898, and if their husbands continued to live in the West after discharge from the Regular Army.

The second half of the questionnaire was a solicitation for records associated with their husbands' Indian Wars service. Rickey was interested in knowing if the widows had in their possession photographs, letters, or diaries from the period 1865 to 1898, or anything written by their husbands about their Indian Wars experiences. The widows were also asked if they could furnish objects for exhibit in the Museum of Westward Expansion, particularly Indian relics, military uniforms, blankets, badges, insignia, and firearms.

Of the questionnaires returned to the park, most gave some information about Indian Wars military service. Many of the questionnaires were returned with accompanying letters, which themselves provide interesting commentary on the social and economic conditions of veterans' widows in the early 1960s. Typical of the many records that were loaned to the park were studio photographs, discharge certificates, and some personal reminiscences. Of particular interest were a diary kept by Hartford G. "Harry" Clark while a private in the Sixth Cavalry in Nebraska in 1891, and a journal kept by Lawrence Lea documenting his brief military service in Montana Territory from 1881 to 1884, during which he lost his left leg from an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot. Most of the photographs were studio portraits of individuals or small groups of soldiers, many in military uniform. Of particular importance were photographs of military installations and of soldiers at work, on bivouac, and off duty.

Most photographs and documents sent to Rickey for this project by widows were copied, and the originals returned to the donors. Although the copies were added to the project files, researchers are advised that some appear to be missing from this collection, and that the Archives cannot account for them. Park records indicate, for example, that in 1983 two photographs received from the widow of Howard Holmes were transferred to Yellowstone National Park.

Information obtained from this collection must be properly cited, whether used in publications or in other formats. A citation suggested for this collection is:

National Park Service
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Archives
Indian Wars Widows Project Records, circa 1864-1965
Box __, Folder __

Researchers are advised that before records, photographs, and any other unpublished materials from this collection can be published or exhibited, permission from the National Park Service must be obtained in writing.


When processing the records of the Indian Wars Widows Project into an archival collection, the original order of the office files was maintained. To aid researchers using these materials, the Archives staff has organized the collection into three series.

Series 1. Questionnaires, Correspondence, and Donated Records

There is a folder for each widow who responded to Don Rickey's questionnaire. These folders are arranged alphabetically, primarily by name of the widow; a few correspondents were not Indian Wars widows, but were referred to Rickey for this project. Most folders contain only a completed questionnaire and cover letter, and occasionally a reply letter from a widow. Any photographs, military records, or other materials received from a correspondent are also filed in that person's folder. Questionnaires that were returned unanswered are filed together in Box 3, Folder 68. Dates listed as part of a folder title are inclusive dates of records in that folder.

Series 2. Mailing List

This series contains computer cards produced by the Veterans Administration and containing names and addresses of all Indian Wars widows receiving pensions at the time of this project. These are arranged alphabetically by name of the widow. Dates written in the upper right corner are the dates when letters and questionnaires were mailed.

Series 3. List of Photocopies

This list appears to have been compiled as a subject index to donated photographs, and used by Rickey in his research for "The Soldier's Frontier," one in a series of planning documents produced for the Museum of Westward Expansion. Each subject entry on the list references a widow's file. This list appears to be incomplete, containing fewer entries than there are photographs in the collection. Researchers are advised to also use the general index to this finding aid, Appendix 1.

Oversize Items

Items too large to be preserved in standard archive document cases have been removed to an oversize box. The original location of oversize items within the collection is noted in the Container Listing section of this finding aid, as are cross references to their new location in the oversize box. The oversize materials are described at the end the Container Listing section on page 27.

If you have any questions regarding archives holdings, contact Archivist Jennifer Clark at the JNEM Archives at (voice) 314-655-1600. Appointments are encouraged, if possible.


Last updated: October 5, 2020

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