On February 8th, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society accepted a collection of 32 letters mostly written by David “Doc” Maynard and his wife, Catherine, from 1850 to 1893 and sent to his son, Henry. The letters were generously donated by a group of cousins descended from Henry Maynard.
These letters represent incredible first-hand accounts of life in early Seattle through the eyes of Doc and Catherine. Maynard writes about events such as the Battle of Seattle in 1851, the businesses he set up in downtown Seattle, and his relationship with the indigenous people of the area. Maynard even mentions that one of the letters was written in the presence of the Duwamish chief and namesake of the fledgling city, Seattle. The letters also illuminate Doc’s relationship with Henry. Every letter Doc wrote to his son implored him to leave the Midwest and join him on Puget Sound. Doc says how much he misses him and how Catherine had made a home for him and his sister, Francis. Henry and Francis never did move to Seattle, but Henry’s children did years after Doc’s death.
The letters were put between the pages of a magazine and stored in a shed for decades. Maynard descendant Chris Braaten rescued the letters from the shed and stored them in a dry space. He also transcribed some of the letters with the help of his family.
Because of their age, the letters have some conditions that threaten their long-term preservation. Almost all the letters have extensive mold growth. The letters that were stored directly against the magazine pages have bits of magazine paper that have adhered to the letters, which is obscuring the text beneath. In addition, several of the letters are in fragile condition and are torn.
This donation comes at a great time for our society. We will be holding our annual home tour at the Maynard house this year, and these letters will add context to that event. We are also planning on posting high-resolution images of the letters on our website so anyone can read them. We also hope to do more events and programs inspired by these letters.
This is an important collection of items, and SWSHS will be raising funds to ensure that these letters can be preserved for future generations. We want to hire a conservator to stop and contain the mold growth on the letters, remove the magazine pages, repair tears, and clean over a hundred years’ worth of grime off the letters.
If you would like to help us preserve this priceless collection, as well as many other items in our collection, please consider donating by using the link below.
If you would like more information about these letters, check out the West Seattle Blog’s coverage of our Maynard family reception here: https://westseattleblog.com/2020/02/video-photos-priceless-gift-doc-maynard-celebrated-during-reunion-at-log-house-museum/.
Video of the event can be found on our Youtube page here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYPtTTXG6uQ.
Thank you to the donors of these letters:
Mary Ellen Braaten