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Robert Sewall Browne Letters on Prospecting


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Browne, Robert Sewall

Robert Sewall Browne (1866-1904) traveled from Maine to Colorado, Wyoming, the Yukon Territory, and Alaska in the 1890s in order to make a living for his family who remained back in Maine. Browne was the son of Minerva Lydia Meader (b. 1840) and Reverend Sewall Browne, a Baptist clergyman living in East Corinth, Maine. Robert Sewall Browne's wife, Alice E. Gray Browne (b. 1869), was the daughter of C. H. Gray. They had one son named Carle Meader Browne. Robert S. Browne pursued a variety of money-making schemes in the American and Canadian West, including working as a prospector and miner in Colorado, Wyoming, and the Yukon Territory during the Klondike Gold Rush, a rancher in Colorado, and a wood contractor in Alaska. Browne drowned in 1904 in a boat accident on the Tanana River in Alaska after completing a contract with the Northern Commercial Company to supply wood for river streamers.

Consists of twenty-five manuscript letters from Robert S. Browne to his wife Alice Gray Browne in Old Town, Maine, documenting his gold and silver mining activities and other money-making schemes, including ranching and trading goods, and his associated travels in the American and Canadian West from 1896 to 1901. The first ten letters document Browne's overland prospecting trip from Cripple Creek, Colorado, to mining camps at Hahns Peak and nearby ranching colonies at Slater Park, a distance of over 250 miles; from Slater Park to Rawlings, Wyoming; and from Rawlings back to Slater Park and Hahns Peak, covering an eight-month period from May 1896 to January 1897. Following a significant gap, spanning a period when Browne likely returned to visit his family on the East Coast, the other fifteen letters date from December 1899 to November 1901, when Browne was engaged in mining activities at hilltop mining camps near Dawson City in the Yukon Territory during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Browne's letters express affection for his wife and son at home, as well as confidence in the projected future success of his endeavors, and he often urges his wife to come and join him. The letters provide lengthy and detailed descriptions of his partnerships and individual prospecting activities, the several small settlements and camps in which he stayed or passed through, his encounters with Native American traders, and the successes and failures of his ventures and those of his fellow travelers. Browne's last letters from the fall of 1901 describe finding a promising deposit in the Yukon Territory, which turned out to be a bust.

Some of the letters and envelopes have been annotated at a later date by a different hand. The collection also includes a newspaper clipping reporting on the circumstances of Browne's death in Alaska in 1904.

Arranged chronologically.

Purchase, 2018 (AM 2019-1).

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This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in June 2018. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in June 2018.

No materials were removed from the collection during 2018 processing.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
Kelly Bolding
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

Open for research.

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Collection Inventory

Robert S. Browne Letters to Alice Gray Browne, 1896 May-1897 January. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Robert S. Browne Letters to Alice Gray Browne, 1899 December-1901 November. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Newspaper Clipping on the Death of Robert S. Browne, 1904. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

"Sad Intelligence. Robert S. Browne Drowned in Alaska."

Physical Description

1 folder

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