The Ravi D. Goel collection of Samuel James Renwick McMillan family papers, 1818-1956 is now open for research at the Minnesota Historical Society.
Below is a collection overview, detailed item-level inventory, family background research, genealogical data, and additional references.
The collection includes many extraordinary images! I defer posting detailed images in this blog post and refer researchers to the Minnesota Historical Society.
I collect historical documents as a hobby. Since 2008, I have donated manuscripts, rare books, archival materials, and collections to Amherst College, Dickinson College, Forest History Society, Harvard Law School, Minnesota Historical Society, Princeton University, and Yale University. The Goel collections are described here.
Samuel James Renwick McMillan (“SJRM”, 1826 – 1897) was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. He was a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and moved to Minnesota in 1852. Minnesota became the 32nd US state on May 11, 1858 and McMillan was named the first judge of the newly formed Minnesota District Court. McMillan served as the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court (1864 -75) and US Senator from Minnesota (1875-87).
The Samuel James Renwick McMillan collection includes photos, personal letters, transcribed documents, and printed publications from 1818 to 1956. These papers span five generations & start with a direct connection to the Revolutionary War. The materials were preserved by Senator McMillan’s daughter Jessie McMillan Seely, a lifelong autograph collector.
In addition to the content regarding Senator McMillan, the collection includes research material related to the controversial 1890 Battle of Wounded Knee. Included is one of the only known photos of Medal of Honor recipient Albert McMillan (Princeton 1884) as a young man.
Curators at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), Henry Heinz History Center, Yale, Penn, and Princeton Libraries felt the collection was outside of their respective scopes. Many of the curators noted the strong Minnesota connections to these materials. Candid comments are included in the support materials.
When I shared the collection with Minnesota Historical Society curator Kathryn Hujda, she wrote, “We’d be delighted to add them to the collections here at the Minnesota Historical Society. One of our collecting strengths is in fact political history, and I know these materials will be well-used by our researchers.” The collection complements the Samuel McMillan and family papers, 1842-1913 at the Minnesota Historical Society (OCLC 122588317).
Below are my personal notes on the collection. The materials may be in a different accession order at the Minnesota Historical Society.
Part I. Samuel McMillan (1753-1831). Grandfather of SJRM
Item #1 and Item #2 (SM #1 and SM #2) – Transcripts (one original, one carbon copy) of two depositions for Samuel McMillan’s military service. The first deposition is from April 30, 1818 in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, confirming military service by Samuel McMillan, then age 65, in the Revolutionary War. This is for the purpose of securing veterans’ benefits. A second deposition, dated July 29, 1818, includes William McMillan’s deposition in favor of Samuel McMillan.
Samuel McMillan and William McMillan enjoy a remarkable military history — complete with capture & escape — as noted in a recent blog post “Revisiting the Capture and Escape of the McMillan Brothers.” (Maryland 400 link).
Part II. Thomas L. McMillan (1791/1792 – 1852). Father of SJRM
Item #3 (TLM #1) ALS dated Mechanicsburgh [PA] March 10, 1845 from Thomas L. McMillian to son Samuel in Allegheny City, signed “your affectionate Father.” TL McMillan exhorts his son to the virtues of a Christian life, with numerous Biblical references and quotations. Three sheets of unlined paper 7-3/4” x 12” text on five sides, address on one side; 1/3 of one sheet missing along the vertical fold, one sheet with several holes along the fold lines, but text mostly still decipherable.
T.L. McMillan enlisted in the war of 1812, “but his services were not required in the field,” and later served as an Alleghany County, Pennsylvania judge.
Part III. Samuel J. R. McMillan (1826 – 1897). “SJRM” (born in Brownsville, PA, graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, 1846)
Item #4 (SJRM #1) – Cabinet photo portrait with ink notation “S.J.R. McMillan” on back. Photographer CW Bell, Washington DC.
Item #5 (SJRM #2) – Victorian style Valentine card in later envelope with notation: “First Valentine sent to Harriet E. Butler by Samuel J. R. McMillan, Allegheny Pa. “ Also decorative envelope (no contents) addressed to Mr. Samuel McMillan Pittsburgh Pa with note in separate hand “To Miss H. E. Butler 1849.” “Amiability crowns thy other virtues valentine”
Item #6 (SJRM #3) – ANS from SJRM to Mrs. H. E. McMillan on Senate Chamber notepaper in envelope with return address of United States Senate date stamped Dec. 9 1883. Reference to arrangements in respect to Samuel. “Tell him I expect him to do [his] whole duty and to acquit himself well.” Youngest son is Samuel Renwick McMillan (1869-1910). Signed, “The darling of my heart, the light of my life.”
Item #7 (SJRM #4) – ALS from SJRM to Harriet McMillan (“My dear Hattie”) dated February 16, 1891, on notepaper for the Church of the Covenant Washington, D.C. Describing work on a church committee and his attendance at sermons.
Item #8 (SJRM #5) – ALS with date stamped envelope from Jn. S. Marshall of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, October 31, 1894 to SJRM in Saint Paul, Minnesota, containing a character reference for Edwin C. Seely, who married SJRM’s daughter Jessie.
Part IV. Harriet E. Butler McMillan (1827 – ?). Wife of SJRM
Item #9 (HEBM #1) – Photo portrait 3-3/4” x 6-1/4” with ink notation on back “Mrs. Harriet E. McMillan, Taken while I was in Washington D.C.”
Item #10 (HEBM #2) – ALS on notepaper for the National Hotel, Washington, D. C. 187_, addressed “To dear little Sam written in the car” and signed “Mama” in the form of a poem in rhymed couplets, with reference to “Jessie dear” [see below]
Item #11 (HEBM #3) ALS from M. W. McMillan (brother of SJRM) to Harriet B. McMillan – “Dear Sister Hattie” – on stationery for Bank of Pittsburgh dated October 4th 1897. Letter of condolence on the death of SJRM.
Part V. Albert Walter McMillan (1862 – 1948). Son of SJRM. Princeton Class of 1884.
Item #12 (AWM #1) – Cabinet photo portrait, with ink notation “Albert W. McMillan” on back. CA Zimmerman, 9 W. 3rd St. Paul, Minnesota (C. A. Zimmerman photographer was at this location from 1881-1894 according to this site.) The Army At Wounded Knee blog post states, “Albert McMillan’s passport photograph from 1918 is perhaps the only image of this Medal of Honor recipient.” The cabinet photo portrait is only the second known photo of Albert W. McMillan to survive.
Based on the cabinet photo portrait, I have also identified an 1890-1891 military photo from the US Archives which may include McMillan. See “Officers in tent by fire during the Pine Ridge campaign, 1890–91” (US National Archives photo) in which McMillan appears to be seated at the right. The Princeton archives may also have a photo, though none appears in the 2010 Princeton Alumni Weekly article on Medal of Honor recipients.
Item #13 (AWM #2) – Signed Marksman’s Certificate No. 380 awarded to Albert W. McMillan, dated St. Louis, Mo. Oct. 1, 1890 by the Office of the Inspector of Small-Arms Practice, Headquarters Departments of the Missouri.
Item #14 (AWM #3) – Headquarters of the Army, Washington D.C. dated December 1, 1890, addressed to Hon. S. I. [sic] R. McMillan/St. Paul, Minnesota – regarding his son’s decision not to compete for an Army commission and applying for transfer to the seventh Cavalry. Typewritten letter, first page only, not signed.
Item #15 (AWM #4) – Vellum certificate appointing Albert W. McMillan to the rank of Sergeant Major in the 7th Cavalry, effective December 30, 1890, dated January 13, 1891, and signed by Redfield Proctor as Secretary of War and J(ohn) C. Kelton as Adjutant General. Note evidence of damp exposure/staining to the lower third of the document.
Note: The effective appointment date, 12/30/1890, is one day after the Battle of Wounded Knee on 12/29/1890. This original document corrects other sources. The Minnesota Medal of Honor and Army at Wounded Knee list a promotion date of 12/31/1890 (pdf link).
Item #16 (AWM #5) – ALS with date stamped envelope, Fort Riley, Kansas June 25,1891, from Albert McMillan to SJRM in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Description of wind storm, reference to returning “Jessie’s letters ‘as requested’” (possibly for her collection of family papers), and a reference to a pending Presidential appointment.
Albert W. McMillan writes, “How long do you think it will be before it can be settled as to whether the President will appoint? I can hardly see now how he can do it but of course I do not fully understand all the points in the case.” (**Is he referring to his appointment as a Medal of Honor recipient or to his father’s appointment to some position? Most intriguing!)
Part VI. Jessie McMillan Seely. Daughter of SJRM
Item #17 (JMS #1) – ANS from SJRM to “Dear Jessie” dated May 13, 1876 regarding tickets to a US Centennial exhibit in Philadelphia – no envelope.
Item #18 (JMS #2) – ANS dated 7 February 1887 from George William Curtis (American writer and editor active in the Abolitionist movement) with a date stamped envelope addressed to Miss Jessie McMillan, an early item in her autograph collection.
Item #19 (JMS #3) – Small photo – 3-1/4” x 5-1/4” – identified on the back as “Jessie McMillan and Florence Monfort / St. Paul Minnesota / Taken by Truman Ingersoll”, placed in an envelope printed “A Curtis Miniature from the Curtis Studio, …Seattle, Washington”, along with larger negative showing the same image with the rounded borders of a cabinet photo, possibly from the Curtis studio when it was reproduced in the smaller format.
Item #20 (JMS #4) – Small photo – 3″ x 3″ – identified on the back as “Jessie McM. Seely” (in old age).
Item #21 (JMS #5) – ALS dated Blanchard, Washington Aug. 3, 1891 signed “ever your devoted daughter Jessie” with a stamp dated envelope addressed to SJRM in St. Paul. 12 pages on three folded sheets of letter paper.
Item #22 (JMS #6) – ALS dated Blanchard, Washington Sept. 22, ’91 addressed to “My darling Annie” and signed “Ever your loving Jessie” 12 small pages 4-1/2” x 7” includes a description of a hike up a mountain and a view of the San Juan Islands north of Seattle – no envelope.
Item #23 (JMS #7) – ALS August 26, 1902 from Jessie Benton Fremont, Los Angeles, CA. “Most willingly I give my consent to this mark of respect to be given my Father’s remains.”
Item #24 (JMS #8) – ALS to “Dear Jessie,” dated St. Louis Aug 22, 1906 and signed “Affectionately from cousin Breading” enclosing two items for her autograph collection (included) – no envelope.
Item #25 (JMS #9) – ANS dated May 16, 1922 on card-stock note printed “Y.M.C.A./ Peking, China” not stamped, addressing “My dear Jessie” and signed “Louise D. Edwards” offering condolences on the death of Jessie’s mother, Harriet McMillan.
Item #26 and Item #27 (JMS #10 and JMS #11) – Two autograph items in date stamped envelopes, 1904 and 1931, addressed respectively to Mrs. E. C. Seely and Mrs. J. McM Seely at addresses in Seattle Washington, one a signed quotation from Edwin Markham, the other a signature only and not clearly decipherable.
Item #28 (JMS #12) – Autograph card from Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Ambassador to Russia under McKinley and Secretary of the Interior under McKinley and Roosevelt
Part VII. Harriet McMillan Seely. Daughter of Jessie McMillan Seely. (Granddaughter of SJRM)
Item #29 (HMS #1) – Passenger list for the Norddeutscher Lloyd ship SS Bremen for 1931, listing Fraulein Harriet B. Seely as joining the ship at Halifax.
Item #30 (HMS #2) – ALS from Harriet Seely to Mrs. J. M. Seely % Empress of Australia / Cherbourg / France referencing her travels in Europe and wishing her mother well on her own imminent departure for the Continent. In stamped envelope dated June 8th 1931.
Item #31 (HMS #3) – Four snapshot photos, 2-3/4” x 4-1/2” identifying places in the Pacific Northwest. Includes the notation “H. Seely” or the name Harriet Seely among the persons identified – not dated. A. Photo of Emerald Lakes & Islands. B. Chinaman rock, Sucia Island. C. “Part way up Bear Mt.” D. “Our cottage at Bear Mt.”
Item #32 (HMS #4) – LS dated June 11, 1950 from J. H. Cramer to HS on letterhead of the International Peace Arch Association detailing their activities and plans. Addressed incorrectly to her at 2617 Howard (for Harvard) North, Seattle.
Item #33 (HMS #5) – LS dated May 1, 1956, from Chapin D. Foster, chairman, to Miss Harriet Seeley (sic), on letterhead of the Pacific Northwest History Conference, concerning an announcement for the Peace Arch Program.
Samuel McMillan (1753-1831), grandfather of SJRM
- “Revisiting the Capture and Escape of the McMillan Brothers” (Maryland 400 link)
- Samuel McMillan (1753-1831) profile. Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series)
Thomas L. McMillan (1791/1792 – 1852), father of SJRM
The Judiciary of Allegheny County Author(s): J. W. F. White Source: The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography , 1883, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1883), p. 191. (link, pdf). States that Thomas L. McMillan was appointed 6/10/1851, re-appointed 11/10/1851, and died 1852.
Samuel James Renwick McMillan (1826-1897) “SJRM”
- Samuel J.R. McMillan (Wikipedia)
- Biographical Directory of the US Congress (link).
- Samuel McMillan and family papers, 1842-1913 at the Minnesota Historical Society (OCLC 122588317).
- Proceedings in Memory of Chief Justice McMillan, Minnesota Supreme Court 1897 (pdf).
- Find A Grave (link)
Albert Walter McMillan (1862 – 1948), son of SJRM
- “Sergeant Albert Walter McMillan,” Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial (pdf link)
- “The Medal of Honor.” Michael Goldstein ‘78. Princeton Alumni Weekly. 11/3/2010. (link)
- “Officers in tent by fire during the Pine Ridge campaign, 1890–91” (US National Archives photo which I believe compliments my photo.) (link)
- “Sergeant Albert Walter McMillan, E Troop, 7th Cavalry – Conspicuous Gallantry.” See Army At Wounded Knee blog (link).
- “Congress Members Propose Rescinding Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee” (HistoryNet.com link)
- “Elizabeth Warren Wants to Revoke Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee Massacre” NY Times, 11/27/2019.
- “Wounded Knee – A Look at the Record.” Field Artillery Journal (Jan-Feb 1939), p. 5-25.
- U.S. Army Medal of Honor Recipients (link)
- List of Medal of Honor recipients for the Wounded Knee Massacre (military.wikia.org)
Jessie McMillan Seely, daughter of SJRM
Daughters of the American Revolution. 1924, Vol. 72-73. (link)
History of the Gazzam Family (1894). (link)