Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 13, No. 4
December, 1935

Page 485

Students of the Southwest know something of the services and writings of Baldwin Möllhausen. When Jefferson Davis as Secretary of War ordered the survey of a route for a railroad from Memphis to the Pacific Ocean the undertaking was committed to Lieut. A. W. Whipple of the topographical engineers. His company was composed of engineers, geologists, naturalists, astronomers and surveyors. The party also included one topographer and artist. The person who was selected for this post was the German, Baldwin Möllhausen, or, as his name appeared on Whipple's roster, H. B. Möllhausen. From the report of the survey it appears that the expedition began it's work at, Fort Smith on July 14, 1853. They traveled up the Arkansas and Canadian rivers, through the Panhandle of Texas to Albuquerque, crossed the Colorado River into California in February, and reached the "Pueblo de los Angelos" on March 20, 1854.

The very interesting journal of the expedition submitted by Lieutenant Whipple to the Secretary of War is adorned by many beautiful illustrations executed by Möllhausen. This enthusiastic artist made voluminous notes of his experiences and observations on this expedition and when he had more leisure reduced them to a detailed narrative which was published in Leipsig, Germany, in 1858. The same year an English translation of the work was published in London under the title of Diary of a Journey from the Mississippi to the Coast of the Pacific with a United States Government Expedition. The English edition appears in two handsome volumes containing many beautiful illustrations in color by the artist.

In that part of the work devoted to the travels of the expedition through the Indian Territory Möllhausen has given us many valuable descriptions of the country and the Indians seen by him, and his work thus stands as one of the valuable sources for the student of Oklahoma history. Baron von Humboldt, a devoted friend of young Möllhausen, in 1857 addressed an interesting letter, to Senator Davis soliciting other employment for the young artist and naturalist. The manuscript translation of this letter

Page 486

was discovered by the undersigned in the files of the war department, and because of the contribution made by Möllhausen and the great service rendered by the German Baron it is reproduced here.

—G. F.


"The friendship with which I was honored by the illustrious President Jefferson on my return from Mexico at the beginning of this century, and the kindnefs which has always been bestowed in your beautiful and free Country, upon my american works, emboldens me to beg of you a favor in a matter which I have very much at heart.

"Be pleased to receive with indulgence these scarcely legible lines from the oldest traveller on the Orinoco and in Siberia! In all its grand expeditions the U. S. Government has manifested a noble interest in the advancement of physical geography: in whatever regards the production of the Soil; the individual character of the Country; and the aspect of the indigenous population more or lefs retaining its primitive state.

"The important works to be carried on near the North Western Boundary Line, the astronomical part of which is under the direction of Lieut. John G. Parke of the Topogr- Engineers may perhaps afford an occasion to employ as draftsman, an artist, who, by long experience is also well qualified to act as Collector of specimens of natural history. I take the liveliest interest in one of my young countrymen Mr. Baldwin Möllhausen, who after passing several years among the Northern Indians, has had the honor to serve under the command of the worthy Captain Whipple between the Missouri River and the Coast of California and distinguished himself as draftsman and topographer by his activity and intelligence. Mr Möllhausen as an inmate of my house for several months has enlisted my warmest interest in his behalf by his varied knowledge and amiable character. His artistic talents have been singularly developed and perfected here by his intimate relations with one of our first landscape painters. He has read before the Geographical Society in Berlin several memoirs illustrated by his own drawings which have attracted great notice among my friends.

Page 487

"The King of Prussia, who has a marked predilection for your noble expeditions to the North West, has while at Potsdam manifested a personal interest in Mr. Möllhausen but as frequently is the case with travellers who, like myself, have for a time been in contact with the wild abundance of nature, Mr Möllhausen dreams of nothing but of the happinefs to be attached once more to an american expedition. I would then in soliciting the good offices of a statesman who has for a long time been at the head of the War Department wish to aid in procuring for Mr Möllhausen an employment in accordance with his desire which is one for usefull activity. My excellent friend the Prussian Minister, Baron von Gerolt shares my sentiments. I can only offer you on my part the frank and lively gratitude of an old man of 88 years who considers himself half an American.

"Mr. Senator I beg you to accept the assurance of my homage and of my high consideration

Signed (Alexander von Humboldt)

"Berlin March 24th, 1857.

Jefferson Davis U. S. Senator &
late Secretary of war

The Baron's solicitation was, not in vain; the sequel to this letter is to be seen on the last page of Möllhausen's second volume, where he pays this tribute to his friend:

" 'Mr. Möllhausen, — I am desired by the Secretary of War to Communicate to you that you have been appointed as assistant to an expedition to proceed under my command to the exploration and survey of the Colorado River. You will, therefore, proceed from New York to San Francisco in the steamer which leaves there about the 20th of September, 1857, and should you there find no special instructions, go on by the next boat to San Diego, where you will present yourself to me. Allow me to express the pleasure I feel at this renewal of our intercourse.'

"By the time this book is published, therefore, I shall be again on the coasts of the Pacific, collecting materials for fur-

Page 488

ther work. This fulfilment of my wishes I by no means owe, however, to my own exertions or merits, but to the untiring kindness of the high-minded man, of whom an American, holding one of the most important public offices of his country, once expressed my own feelings when he said to me, uttering at the same time the general sentiment, 'How sacred to me is every word of Alexander von Humboldt.' "


The General George Izzard Chapter, Daughters of 1812, of Little Rock, Arkansas, on November 24, 1935, at 2:30 o'clock, unveiled a marker in Mt. Holly cemetery to the memory of Quatie, wife of John Ross, Cherokee Chief. She died in 1839 on a steamboat on the Arkansas River as it neared Little Rock during the enforced emigration of the Cherokee tribe, and was buried at Mt. Holly.

The Daughters of 1812 of Oklahoma, under the leadership of Mrs. Howard Searcy, State President, are inaugurating an ambitious campaign to commemorate veterans who died within the limits of this state. They intend to erect an appropriate monument in Fort Gibson where many veterans of that war served and died. It is also planned to erect a monument at the grave of Capt. Nathaniel Pryor near Pryor, Oklahoma. Captain Pryor served with the Lewis and Clark Expedition and afterwards, in the United States Army, participated in the battle of New Orleans. His life was closely identified with the history of the Indians and of the early days of Oklahoma. He died in 1830 and was buried about 7 miles from Union Mission.

Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site