Captain Charles E. Davis Collection
Scope and Contents
The Captain Charles E. Davis Collection contains Davis' original journals that document his work on retracing the Donner-Reed Party emigrant trail through Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming to California. In addition to his notes, the collection also contains correspondence regarding his work and photographs of the expedition.
Additionally, the collection contains handwritten notes on Davis' visit to the scene of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah.
- Davis, Charles E. (Person)
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.
Charles E. Davis was born into a wealthy Massachusetts family, but as a young man signed on as an ordinary seaman with an Atlantic fishing fleet. By the time he was eighteen, he had won the rank of captain, a title he kept until he died in 1933. In 1898, he joined the Alaska gold stampede and traveled to the Klondike, though did not see success as a miner. Afterward, he spent time as an amateur naturalist and explorer, collecting specimens and guiding explorations throughout the world. He had fished from Alaska to the Caribbean, explored unknown regions of Siberia, traveled up the Amazon, collected 3,000 specimens of sea life, captured elephant seals, and spent several years exploring the desert trails of America’s Southwest. At the time of the Overland Trail project, Davis was retired and living on Mullet Island on the Salton Sea about ten miles northwest of Calipatria, California. Davis spent his own money and time recreating the Donner-Reed Party’s route from Independence, Missouri to Sacramento, California, believing that Sutter’s Fort and the people who traveled there on the overland trails represented the indomitable spirit of the pioneer better than anything else in the world.
[Historical note adapted from the "Researcher’s Guide to Sutter’s Fort’s Collections of Donner Party Material" published by Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, accessed November 7, 2022.]
0.41 Linear Feet (1 box)
Language of Materials
Captain Charles E. Davis ( -1933) was an amateur historian and expert on westward emigration in the United States. The collection contains Davis' original journals, correspondence, and photographs that document his work on retracing the Donner-Reed Party emigrant trail through Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming to California. Additionally, the collection contains handwritten notes on Davis' visit to the scene of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Typescript journal purchased from unknown source circa 1968. Original journals, correspondence, and photographs donated by Sally Peterson in October 2022.
In October 2022, materials that had belonged to Captain Charles E. Davis were donated to the Special Collections and University Archives Department. At the time of accession, it was discovered that NC622, Donner-Reed Exploration contained a typescript of Davis' original journal which had been dictated by him. At that time, the processing and accessioning archivist decided to add these new materials to this collection because of the relation between the materials. The title was also at that time updated to reflect the provenance of the second portion of the collection as well as the creator of the original collection.
This collection was processed by Jessica Maddox between November 2022 and February 2023. During processing, standard archival preservation measures were taken to ensure the longevity of the materials. This includes rehousing into appropriate acid-free containers and sleeving photographic prints. Photograph titles were adapted from handwritten captions on images. Full captions as they appear on the verso of images are included in a scope and content note.
- Davis, Charles E. (Person)
- Guide to the Captain Charles E. Davis Collection
- Jessica Maddox
- February 2023
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository
Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA