by Robert Scott Davis
Lyman Copeland Draper (1815-1891) was born in Lockport, New York state; spent much of his adult life in Granville College, Ohio; Pontotoc, Mississippi; and Buffalo, New York; and came to permanently reside in Madison, Wisconsin. For more than fifty years, he gathered, copied, or compiled hundreds of thousands of pages of unique and extensive historical and genealogical material on the frontier colonial and Revolutionary War history of Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. However, from his over 500 volumes of material, he completed only one book, King’s Mountain and Its Heroes (1881), in time for the centennial of the battle, although his unfinished biography of Daniel Boone has recently been published. For more on his life see William B. Hesseltine, Pioneer’s Mission: The Story of Lyman Copeland Draper (1954). Why he saved the Revolutionary War past of this region, however, remains a mystery.
Information on the lives of thousands and thousands of southerners and Midwesterners from the colonial and Revolutionary War periods are found in original documents, interviews, and memoirs that survive only in the Lyman C. Draper Collection of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin; see William B. Hasseltine, “Lyman Draper and the South,” Journal of Southern History 19 (February 1953), available on line from JSTOR. This material even includes Revolutionary War pension depositions copied from old court minutes where no copy has survived in the National Archives and Records Administration.
The Draper Collection has several finding aids. The standard general guide is Josephine L. Harper, Guide to the Draper Manuscripts (1983). Some researchers still find Reuben G. Thwaites, Descriptive List of Manuscript Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (1906) useful. The papers/series of greatest interest to genealogists have published indexed calendars. Many libraries also have detailed and indexed the calendars of the Kentucky Papers; Tennessee and Kings Mountain Papers; George Rogers Clark Papers; Thomas Sumter Papers; and Frontier Wars Papers. The State Historical Society of Wisconsin also has a collection of Draper’s historical correspondence that has never been microfilmed but which sometimes includes his answers to letters he received that he filed in his collection.
This mountain of material is subdivided into papers by subject, such as “The Thomas Sumter Papers,” “The Daniel Boone Papers,” or the “Kings Mountain [Battle] Papers,” each of which has a unique designation by one or two alphabetical letters:
A. Bedinger MSS, 1 volume
B. Draper’s Life of Boone, 5 volumes
C. Daniel Boone MSS, 32 volumes
D. Border Forays, 5 volumes
E. Brady and Wetzel MSS, 16 volumes
F. Brant MSS, 22 volumes
G. Brant Miscellanies, 3 volumes
H. Broadhead Papers, 3 volumes
J. George Rogers Clark MSS, 65 volumes
K. George Rogers Clark Miscellanies, 5 volumes
L. Jonathan Clark Papers, 2 volumes
M. William Clark Papers, 6 volumes
N. Croghan Papers, 3 volumes
O. Drake Papers, 2 volumes
P. Draper’s Biographical Sketches, 3 volumes
Q. Draper’s Historical Miscellanies, 8 volumes
R. Draper’s Memoranda Books, 3 volumes
S. Draper’s Notes, 33 volumes
T. Forsyth Papers, 9 volumes
U. Frontier Wars, 23 volumes
V. Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina Papers, 1 volume.
W. Harmar Papers, 2 volumes
X. Harrison Papers, 5 volumes
Y. Hinde Papers, 34 volumes
Z. Illinois MSS, 1 volume
AA. Irvine Papers, 2 volumes
BB. Kenton MSS, 13 volumes
CC. Kentucky MSS, 30 volumes, see calendar
DD. Kings Mountain MSS, 18 volumes, see calendar
EE. London Documents at Albany, 1 volume
FF. Mecklenburg Declaration, by Draper, 3 volumes
GG. Mecklenburg Declaration MSS, 3 volumes
HH. Mecklenburg Declaration Miscellanies, 2 volumes
JJ. Newspaper Extracts, 4 volumes
KK. North Carolina MSS, 1 volume
LL. Paris Documents at Albany, 1 volume
MM. Patterson Papers, 3 volumes
NN. Pittsburg and Northwest Virginia MSS, 10 volumes
OO. Pension Statements, 1 volume
PP. Potter Papers, 1 volume
QQ. Preston Papers, 6 volumes, see calendar
RR. Rudolph-Ney MSS, 10 volumes
SS. Shepherd Papers, 5 volumes
TT. South Carolina MSS, 1 volume
UU. South Carolina in the Revolution Miscellanies, 2 volumes
VV. Sumter MSS, 23 volumes
WW. John Cleves Symmes Papers, 3 volumes
XX. Tennessee MSS, 7 volumes, see calendar
YY. Tecumseh MSS, 13 volumes
ZZ. Virginia MSS, 14 volumes, see calendar
Each document with a series of papers is numbered consecutively, for example, 1V16 refers to document number 16 in volume 1 of V Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina Papers. A citation such as “3TT45″ means that the document referred to is document 45 in volume 45 of TT The South Carolina Papers.
The Lyman C. Draper Collection is today in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, where Draper served as the first director. The collection is divided into papers by subject with each set of papers given an alphabetical letter or double letters to represent it as a series. Each set of papers/series is further divided into volumes. Selected microfilm of the Draper Collection is available at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, the McClung Collection of the Knoxville Public Library, Birmingham Public Library, Huntsville-Madison County Public Library, and the Houston Cole Library of Jacksonville State University. The Woodruff Library of Emory University has a complete set of this microfilm. Individual rolls can also be ordered through your local LDS Family History Center.
For additional information see the Wisconsin Historical Society’s website: https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/military/draper.