Guide to the Mary Agnes Craig McMicken letters

Table of Contents

Collection Overview

Collection Inventory+/-

Biographical Note/Historical Note

Content Description

Collection Use

Administrative Information


Collection Overview +/-

Title: Mary Agnes Craig McMicken letters
Dates: 1876-1890 (inclusive)
Collection Number: MSS-010
Summary: This collection consists of 40 transcribed letters, primarily written by Mary Agnes Craig McMicken between 1876-1890 to her family. Miss Craig left her home in Pennsylvania in September 1881 and traveled across the country by train to the Territory of Utah to serve from October 1881 to 1885 as a Presbyterian teacher-missionary at the Fillmore School in Fillmore, Utah.
Repository: Westminster College, Giovale Library
1840 South 1300 East
Salt Lake City, Utah 84105
Phone: (801) 832-2250

Collection Inventory +/-

box 1, folder 1: Introduction and Craig Family photographs
box 1, folder 2: Letters 1-4 (1881 September 29-October 29)
box 1, folder 3: Letters 5-9 (1881 [undated]-November 20)
box 1, folder 4: Letters 10-14 (1881 November 21-1882 February 4)
box 1, folder 5: Letters 15-19 (1882 February 24-June 2)
box 1, folder 6: Letters 20-24 (1882 July 11-October 3)
box 1, folder 7: Letters 25-30 (1882 October 9-1883 January 1)
box 1, folder 8: Letters 31-36 (1883 January 6-December 22)
box 1, folder 9: Letters 37-40 (undated-1890 August 17, 1876 February)

Biographical Note/Historical Note +/-

Mary Agnes Craig McMicken was a Presbyterian missionary-teacher at the Fillmore School in Fillmore, Utah from 1881-1885.

Mary Agnes Craig ("Agnes", "Ag", "Aggie") was born March 1854 in Pittsburgh, Pa. to Benjamin Kirkpatrick Craig (1824-1872) and Sarah Smith Craig. She was their first child, followed by Edward S. Craig, Harriet Sherrard Craig, and Elizabeth ("Bessie") Sherrard Craig. In the Fall of 1881 at age 27, Miss Craig left her home in Pennsylvania and traveled across country by train to serve as a teacher-missionary in Fillmore, Utah.

On July 2, 1883 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, she married 29-year old Joseph J. McDowell McMicken (1854-1903), son of Andrew McMicken and Anna R. Trimble (McDowell) McMicken. Joseph had been in the cattle business in Wyoming, then later in Utah where he met Miss Craig. In 1886 the family returned east, locating in Cincinnati, Ohio where Joseph McMicken entered medical school and earned his medical degree. The couple had four children: Joseph (who died before age 1), Andrew Craig, Anna Sarah, and Donald Ewer McMicken (born Dec. 19, 1887 in Ohio, died Sept. 1967 in Chehalis, Washington).

In 1890 the family moved west again, to Portland, Oregon where Mary Agnes and Joseph McMicken spent their remaining years. Both died in Portland, Oregon--Joseph McMicken on September 13, 1903 at age 49, followed by Mary Agnes McMicken 8 years later on July 1, 1911.

Sources viewed online June 9, 2016:

  • entry for Joseph Mcmicken.
  • Descendants of Samuel Craig 4th and 5th generations websites, individuals #136 (Benjamin Kirkpatrick) and #661 (Mary Agnes Craig).
  • entry for Joseph J. McMicken.

Content Description +/-

This collection consists of 40 transcribed letters, primarily written by Mary Agnes Craig McMicken between 1876-1890 to her family. Miss Craig left her home in Pennsylvania in September 1881 and traveled across the country by train to the Territory of Utah to serve from October 1881 to 1885 as a Presbyterian teacher-missionary at the Fillmore School in Fillmore, Utah.

The collection is comprised of photocopies of the 40 typewritten transcriptions of the letters and photocopies of most of the original handwritten letters. The bulk of the letters were written by Mary Agnes to her family.

In 1985, Mary Agnes' granddaughter, Sally Murrow (Hitchcock) Collins began transcribing these 40 letters. She typed the letters "in order to share them with others." She admitted only "to a minimum of editing inasmuch as her [grandmother's] thoughts seemed to flow too rapidly for her to bother with such things as periods or paragraphs ... there were a wealth of commas, exclamation marks and underlining, but no other punctuation. Therefore, it was difficult to see when one sentence ended and another began, and what editing I did was simply to make them readable. No word was omitted, however, keeping the letters verbatim." In the fall of 1985, Mrs. Collins and her husband "traveled the length of Utah stopping at the places [her grandmother] mentioned." She noted that the "most interesting place we visited was . . . [the Territorial Statehouse] Museum [in Fillmore], since [her grandmother] lived and taught school in the Statehouse during the time she lived in Fillmore". In August 1991, Sally Collins presented a copy of the transcribed letters to the Museum writing that she thought they "might like to have a copy of these letters, and so I am enclosing them and hope I am not being presumptuous" with her gift.

Introduction and Craig Family photographs (Box 1, Folder 1) contains a preface by Sally Murrow (Hitchcock) Collins dated 1985; a letter dated August 9, 1991 from from Sally M. Collins, writing from Eugene, Oregon to the Museum Director, Territorial Statehouse State Park (Fillmore, Utah) donating a copy of the 40 letters; photocopies of 3 family photographs (Mary Agnes Craig McMicken, Edward S. Craig, the Craig Mill), and a photocopied obituary of Mary Agnes Craig's sister Elizabeth Sherrad Craig ("Miss Bessie").

Letters 1-4 (September 29-November 4, 1881)--Box 1, Folder 2: These letters describe Mary Agnes' train trip from Pennsylvania to Utah, stops to visit family and events she witnessed along the way, people she met on the train, and her first impressions of Salt Lake City and Fillmore, Utah. In Letter 1 (September 29, 1881, Chicago, Illinois) Mary Agnes describes what she saw days earlier in Cleveland, Ohio--mourning the death of President James Garfield, the city draped in black as more than 150,000 paid their respects, and the impressive funeral cortege for Garfield, who was assassinated July 2, died September 19, 1881, and was buried in Cleveland on September 25, 1881. Letter 2 (October 4 [i.e., November 4?], 1881): This letter is likely misdated as it describes her first impressions of the geography of the Utah Territory south of Salt Lake City, and Fillmore, Utah. Letter 3 (October 26-27, 1881) is two postcards from Omaha and Cheyenne written en route to Ogden, Utah. Letter 4 (October 29, 1881, Salt Lake City, Utah) describes Moline, Illinois, the train west (which travelled through Omaha, Denver, Cheyenne, Ogden where Mary Agnes disembarked, and continued on to San Francisco), fellow passengers and their stories, and first impressions of Salt Lake City.

Letters 5-9 (undated-November 20, 1881--Box 1, Folder 3): Letter 5 describes Fillmore landscape, buildings, and population ("The population numbers about one thousand, and are nearly all foreigners. English, Scotch, Irish, Swedes, and Danes. The majority are Mormons, but there are a good many apostates ... There is but one professed Christian in town besides ourselves"). Mary Agnes quotes an article by Rev. Mr. McNiece on Mormonism. Letter 6 is undated. Letters 7-9 (November 13-20, 1881, Fillmore, Utah) describe settling in to a boarding house, resistance from Mormons, one saloon in town ("ruining the town if it could be made any worse"), and teaching Sunday School ("we meet in the dilapidated old State House every Sabbath at 1:30 and study the same lesson you have at home, but how different the circumstances ... yesterday we had an old Mormon Dr. for dinner [at the boarding house] who has at least four wives, and two more cattle drovers, one so drunk he was silly ... home from church, [Presbyterian minster] Mr. Hough preached well").

Letters 10-14 (November 2, 1881-February 4, 1882--Box 1, Folder 4): These letters describe the many broken windows in the two-story stone State House, starting a night school, Mary Agnes being asked to relocate to teach in Scipio but refusing the offer, family news, Christmas plans, and in the February 4, 1882 letter describes meeting her future husband ("Mr. McMicken ... rather fine looking ... a 'cow-boy' ... Mr. Mc makes money in cattle ... he is sharp, splendid business man ... the most generous, big hearted man I have ever met").

Letters 15-19 (February-June, 1882--Box 1, Folder 5): These letters describe Fillmore social life in February 1882, and an April 1882 trip to American Fork, Salt Lake City, Nephi, and Juab, Utah with "19 ministers, 2 elders, 30 teachers present ... with a Miss Kelly who teaches in the Collegiate Institute ... and all are at the Octagon [building at the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute]". She also mentions a camping trip planned to Panguich Lake for a few weeks in July, and Presbytery at Manti, Utah in August. In a June 2, 1882 letter (#19)she mentions that "Rev. D.J. McMillan was here over last Sabbath" and that "Mrs. McMillan presented 25 Webster Unabridged Dictionaries to as many schools in Utah".

Letters 20-24 (July-October, 1882--Box 1, Folder 6): Letter 20 describes attending "a funeral ... of a neighbor mormon, an old man 72 yrs ... dressed in his Endowment robes with a white turban on his head, and did look so well, poor old man. I liked him.". In a September 3, 1882 letter (#21), she describes canning fruit; polygamy in Fillmore including "President Hinkly in town has two sisters for wives and when he took the second, she wanted to be considered the first ..."; eating "bread, butter, applesauce and venison for breakfast, and boiled beef and potatoes and venison, cucumbers, peach pie for dinner"; "we will be busy soon, all winter, singing every Monday night, Prayer meeting Wednesday, Literary Society Thursday ...". In a September 17 letter (#23) she describes "a party at an infidel's home. He was brought up a Catholic, then embraced Mormonism and now has renounced everything. There were fully 60 present, and such a mixture of Mormons, liberals, infidels, polygamists, etc. I had a chat with the second wife of our Sheriff and another who was one of four ... we had nice refreshments and good music and lots of fun".

Letters 25-30 (October 1882-January 1883--Box 1, Folder 7): Letter 27 (November 7, 1882) includes a history and description of the State House in Fillmore, how it came to be built, never finished, was abandoned by the Mormons to the "Liberals", and several rooms became a school and lodging for the teachers; she also writes of speeches at the State House by Gen. Bane of Salt Lake [General M.M. Bane was Government Land Agent for Utah] and Judge McBride ("The mormons are simply raging. They would, I believe, cut all our thumbs if they dared. They declare they will continue to practice polygamy and they will send their children to hell before they will see them in Presbyterian schools ... Yesterday was election, and all the women in Utah vote, and we voted. Just to think of us casting a vote. Over 65 polygamous men and families in town now cannot vote"). [In 1870 the Utah Territory, controlled by Mormons, had given women the right to vote.] Letter 28 (December 15, 1882) described Christmas preparations and a growing admiration of "Mr. Mac" (Joseph McMicken).

Letters 31-36 (January-December, 1882--Box 1, Folder 8): A January 6, 1883 (#31) is addressed to Mary Agnes' mother and appears to be written after Mary Agnes received and accepted a holiday marriage proposal from Joseph McMicken. It mentions Christmas presents received, a surprise visit in Fillmore from "Father McMicken" (Joseph's father), and plans made by Mary Agnes and Joseph to live in Fillmore for two years, then maybe go to "one of Father's Illinois farms, or Joe may study medicine in Cin[cinnati]". A March 13, 1883 letter (#33) states "there are 27 scholars under 12 yrs" at the school and that "one week ago some vile characters broke 30 panes of glass in our schoolroom windows ... we do not know but suppose spite work for the Mormons ... they are hot over the Polygamy bill ... to send to the Congress". [The Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882, went into effect January 1, 1883.] This folder also contains a photocopy of the wedding announcement ("Joseph J. McMicken, Mary A. Craig, married Friday, July Sixth, 1883, Cheyenne, Wyoming"). Letter 36 (Dec. 22, 1883 and Jan. 2, 1884, Fillmore, Utah) describes the first Christmas and New Year's after Joseph and Mary Agnes were married, with a visit from Joe's father.

Letters 37-38 (undated, August 30, 1885--Box 1, Folder 9): Letter 37 (undated) is from Mary Agnes to her sister "Bess" (Elizabeth). Letter 38 (August 30, 1885, Fillmore, Utah) from "Ag" (Mary Agnes) to "Our Dear Ones" describes a trip she made from Fillmore to Salt Lake City and Logan in Utah, and then north to Franklin, Idaho.

Four letters written by others (#25, 29, 39, and 40):

  • Letter 25 (October 9, 1882, Salem, Oregon--Box 1, Folder 7) is from OPS Plummer to "My dear cousin" inviting her to visit the family in Portland, Oregon; it was sent to Miss Craig to be forwarded to the cousin.
  • Letter 29 (December 23, 1882, Fillmore, Utah--Box 1, Folder 7) is from Jos. J. McMicken to Mrs. Sarah S. Craig (Mary Agnes' mother) asking for Mary Agnes' hand in marriage.
  • Letter 39 (August 17, 1890, Westwood--Box 1, Folder 9) is from "Your aff[ectionate] Sister, Jane McMicken" to "Dear Joe and Agnes" after their move to Portland, Oregon. Jane reports "the photo of Craig and Donald came last night ... we are glad you are settled ... and hope Joe will have a big [medical] practice in time".
  • Letter 40 (February 7, 1876, Crystal Casacade--Box 1, Folder 9): This letter pre-dates Mary Agnes' move to Utah. It is unclear who wrote this letter, addressed to "Miss Bessie" (Mary Agnes' sister). It describes farm life and chores, but also shares news "of the proceedings of the trial that is now going on concerning the manager of the 'House of Refuge' ... the inmates there have been most cruely treated", naming Mr. & Mrs. Avery and Sarah McClelland. This refers to a scandal and trial about staff mistreatment at the House of Refuge where juvenile delinquents were sent, located in Pittsburgh and Morganza, Pennsylvania from 1850-1876.

Collection Use +/-

Restrictions on Access:

Open to public research.

Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Twenty-four hours advance notice is encouraged.

Restrictions on Use:

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.

Permission to publish material must be obtained from the director of the Giovale Library.

Preferred Citation:

Mary Agnes Craig McMicken letters. 1876-1890, MSS-010, Giovale Library Archives, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Administrative Information +/-


This collection is arranged alphabetically by category, thereunder numerical by the number assigned the letter by the transcriber.

Custodial History:

In August 1991, Sally M. Collins (transciber) presented a copy of the transcribed letters to the Territorial Statehouse Museum in Fillmore, Utah.

Acquisition Information:

In August 2005, Carl Camp, the director of the Territorial Statehouse Museum in Fillmore, Utah, gave a copy of the letters to the Giovale Library at Westminster College to make certain another copy was available in Utah.

Processing Note:

Processed by Patricia Scott in May 2007. Mrs. Collins, who transcribed the letters, also numbered the letters and attempted to arrange them chronologically. Since some of the letters were undated and others were dated incorrectly, a straight chronological arrangement was impossible.


McMicken, Mary Agnes Craig, 1854-1911


Collection materials are in English.


0.2 linear feet

Language of the Finding Aid:


Author of the Finding Aid:

Finding aid written by Patricia Lyn Scott, May 2007; expanded June 2016 by Sarah J. Shaw.

EAD Creation Date:

2016 June 9 by Sarah Shaw


Describing Archives : A Content Standard (DACS)



Related Material:

Related collections and photographs in Giovale Library Archives:

Related photograph held by the Utah Territorial Statehouse State Park Museum, Fillmore, Utah:

Subjects +/-

Corporate Names:

Cincinnati House of Refuge--Trials, litigation, etc.
Territorial Statehouse (Fillmore, Utah)

Subject Terms:

Cattle trade--West (U.S.)--History--19th century
Education--Utah--Fillmore--19th century
Education, Elementary--Utah--Fillmore--19th century
Missions to Mormons--Utah--History--Sources
Mormon Church--Relations--Presbyterian Church
Polygamy--Law and legislation--United States
Polygamy--Utah--Fillmore--19th century
Presbyterian Church--Relations--Mormon Church
Presbyterians--Utah--19th century
Railroad travel--United States--19th century
Women missionaries--Utah--History--Sources

Form or Genre Terms:

Letters (correspondence)
Transcriptions (documents)
Wedding announcements

Personal Names:

Bane, M. M., 1827-1897
Collins, Sally M., 1921-2005
Garfield, James A. (James Abram), 1831-1881--Death and burial
McBride, J. R. (John Rogers), 1832-1904
McMicken, Jane
McMicken, Joseph J. (Joseph Jefferson), 1854-1903
McMicken, Mary Agnes Craig, 1854-1911--Archives
McMillan, D. J. (Duncan James), 1846-1939

Geographical Names:

Utah--Description and travel
West (U.S.)--History--Sources