Anna Lander West McDonnell Papers

Identifier: 96-13

Scope and Contents

Due to the custodial history of the Anna Lander West McDonnell Papers, the materials no longer had any resemblance to their original arrangement so they were divided into two series: the papers of Mrs. McDonnell and Lander family materials. Series 1 contains intriguing glimpses into Anna McDonnell's life, especially that period immediately following World War I when she returned to France under the auspices of the American Committee for Devastated France. Her U.S. passport, French identity cards and travel permits, and correspondence to the American Committee for Devastated France on her behalf document her involvement. Also included in this series is some correspondence from and the will of Anna's sister, Louise Lander Pullman.

Series 2 consists of materials related to the Lander family, including correspondence to and from Anna's paternal grandfather, Edward Lander; his sons Edward, Frederick, and Charles; and sister Eliza Lander. The bulk of these letters date from the mid-1850s to the early 1860s; an especially poignant letter from Edward Lander Sr. to Charles on April 9, 1862 details the death of Frederick West Lander, his funeral, and the eulogies offered in his memory. Other correspondence relates news of Frederick's career and family happenings. Related to Frederick's demise is a copy of a draft will written by him in 1860 and a eulogy by Thomas B. Aldrich. Several biographical sketches from published Nevada histories are included.

Another sibling of the Lander family, Edward Lander, Jr., served as the first chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Washington. In addition to his letters, the collection includes a copy of his will, a power of attorney granted by Edward to Charles over the sale of land called "Ojo del Anil" in New Mexico, a copy of a speech delivered by Judge Lander in Honor of Albert Gallatin Riddle, and obituaries for the Judge.

Another interesting legal document is a copy of the complex will and a codicil of Nathaniel West, grandfather of Frederick West Lander, in which he designates bequests to Edward Lander Senior's daughters, to grandson Edward Lander, Jr., but not to any other sons of his daughter, Eliza West Lander.

As mentioned earlier, Charles Lander immigrated to California in 1849; included in the collection is the roster of members of the Pacific Mining and Trading Company, including Charles, who sailed together on the ship Marianna from Richmond, Virginia. Interestingly, Charles is listed as C. H. West, indicating he'd changed his name prior to leaving the East Coast.

Also included are two reports of securities held in trust for the estate of George Singer, 1923 and 1928. Singer's relationship to the Lander/McDonnell family is unknown.

Last, a section of the book, Frederick West Lander: A Biographical Sketch (1822-1862), edited by Joy Leland, with contributions by Mavis Shahrani, Joy Leland, and Alice Baldrica, 1993, is included to help clarify the connections between the West, Lander, and McDonnell families. This section was removed from an unbound copy of the book, also donated by Dr. Leland.


  • 1849-1993
  • Majority of material found within 1849-1964


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical Note

Anna Lander West McDonnell was born in San Francisco, California, on December 14, 1876; her parents were Charles and Marguerite Rode Lander West. Charles was a brother of Frederick West Lander, wagon road surveyor and army officer; Louisa Lander, sculptress and artist; Edward Lander, first chief supreme court justice of the Territory of Washington; and three other siblings. Charles Lander, originally from Salem, Massachusetts, moved to California in 1849, where he changed his name to his mother's maiden name, "West." He and Marguerite had seven children, of whom Anna was the youngest.

Little is known of Anna's life, other than what was gleaned from her collection. She married Hugh McDonnell on June 3, 1897 in New York City. James J. Phelan was one of the witnesses and M. A. Corrigan, Archbishop of New York City performed the ceremony in St. Patrick's Cathedral, an indication of the important social status of the bridal couple. Hugh died March 22, 1910 according to a family tree chart in the book, Frederick West Lander.

The McDonnells had no children. According to a letter of recommendation, Anna lived in Paris, France from 1907 to about the time of World War I and owned property there, while retaining her American citizenship. She served as an auxiliary or trained nurse in a hospital in Bordeaux and returned to France in 1918 after the war to serve with the American Committee for Devastated France. She was also a member of the League for Woman's Service while residing in the United States during WWI.

Mrs. McDonnell later returned to the States and resided in the San Francisco Bay area when she died in 1966.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 box, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



The Anna Lander West McDonnell Papers contains materials documenting Anna McDonnell (1876-1966) and the Lander family, including correspondence, wills, cemetery documents, newspaper clippings and biographical information (1849-1964).


Arranged into the following series: 1) Anna Lander West McDonnell Materials; 2) Lander Family Materials

Custodial History

The papers of Anna Lander West McDonnell were given to the Desert Research Institute's Center for Western North American Studies, along with funds to write a biography of her famous uncle, Frederick West Lander. The biography was published in 1993 as Frederick West Lander: A Biographical Sketch (1822-1862), edited by Joy Leland with contributions by Mavis Shahrani, Joy Leland, and Alice Baldrica. It was published as the Desert Research Institute Publications in the Social Sciences no. 15.

Anna McDonnell's papers formed a portion of the research notes and photocopies used by Dr. Leland in compiling the Lander biography. The McDonnell papers were then segregated into a separate manuscript collection by the department's curatorial staff.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Joy Leland in early 1996.

A Part of

Nevada women's archives.

Guide to the Anna Lander West McDonnell Papers
Susan Searcy
May 1996
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)