Guide to the Alfred Cumming Papers, 1792-1889


Public official, Indian agent, and Territorial Governor of Utah (1857-1861).

Family and political correspondence, mainly of the 1850s, with material on Mormon history, including the "Mormon War," and on frontier and pioneer life. Includes journals, scrapbooks, letter books, and proceedings pertaining to councils and negotiations with the Blackfoot Indians and other tribes (1855). Letters of Cumming's wife, Elizabeth Wells Randall Cumming, describe incidents on her trip to Utah with her husband when he was named governor with frontier conditions and Indian troubles. Cumming's official letter books contain correspondence to James Buchanan, Lewis Cass, Howell Cobb, John B. Floyd, Albert S. Johnston, Brigham Young, and others. Additional correspondents include W.W. Bibb, J.S. Black, William Medill, B.F. Perry, Franklin Pierce, Alexander Stephens, and G.M. Troup. Includes papers of William Clay Cumming, a brother, pertaining to his studies at Princeton University (1805) and at Litchfield Law School; his accounts of opposition to Federalism in New England; his experiences in the War of 1812; travels in the Mississippi Valley and the South; and a few comments on Brazil and Uruguay (1816). The collection also contains papers from Thomas Cumming.

Descriptive Summary

David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
Cumming, Alfred.
Alfred Cumming papers 1792-1889
Language of Material
4.0 Linear Feet, 760 Items
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Collection Overview

Family and political correspondence of William Clay Cumming; Thomas Cumming; and Alfred Cumming (1802-1873), participant in the "Mormon War," 1857-1861, with material on Mormon history and frontier and pioneer life. Letters of William Clay Cumming, brother of Alfred Cumming, 1805-1818, contain mention of books read and studied at Princeton College, Princeton, New Jersey, in 1805; description of studies, living arrangements, and teachers in the Litchfield Law School, operated at Litchfield, Connecticut, by Tapping Reeve; accounts of violent opposition to Federalism in New England; description of climate and countryside around Litchfield; participation of William Clay Cumming's brother, Joseph, in disturbances at Princeton College, 1807; his activities in the War of 1812 as commander of a company in Florida, campaigns in New York as a colonel, criticisms of officers, a dispute with General George Izard, adoption of a system of discipline for the infantry; description of a trip in 1815 from New York to New Orleans with accounts of Louisville, Lexington, and the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, Asheville, North Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana; a few comments on Brazil and Uruguay, which he visited in 1816; and mention of John McDonogh. A series of letters by Elizabeth Wells (Randall) Cumming to members of her family describes the arduous trip to Utah, scenery, frontier conditions, and Indian troubles. The collection includes hints of discrepancies in Cumming's account with the U.S. government while territorial governor. Included also are nine volumes: journal of an expedition to the Blackfoot Indians with notes and instructions, 1855; two letter books and official proceedings of a commission to hold council with Blackfoot and other Indian tribes, 1855; two letterpress copy books, 1857-1861, 1859-1860, containing copies of letters to government officials, and to James Buchanan, Lewis Cass, Howell Cobb, John B. Floyd, A. S. Johnston, and Brigham Young; and four scrapbooks containing news paper clippings and broadsides. Among the correspondents are W. W. Bibb, J. S. Black, James Buchanan, Lewis Cass, Alfred Cumming, J. B. Floyd, Albert Sidney Johnston, William Medill, B. F. Perry, Franklin Pierce, Alexander H. Stephens, G. M. Troup, and Brigham Young.

Administrative Information

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Contents of the Collection

Some high-value items have been removed to secure storage. Duplicates remain with the collection.

Correspondence, 1792-1859
Box 1
Correspondence, 1860-1889
Box 2
Box 2
Box 2
Box 3

Historical Note

Alfred Cumming was born in 1802 in Augusta, Georgia. As Mayor of the city of Augusta, he achieved prominence by his active work in curbing a yellow fever epidemic. In May 1857, President James Buchanan appointed him the second Governor of Utah Territory, following Brigham Young. His trip West took several months and included a winter near Fort Bridger. He finally arrived in Utah with his wife, Elizabeth, in the spring of 1858. At the time, the territory was in conflict as the Mormon settlers resisted federal interference regarding slavery, polygamy, and states' rights. He was fairly successful in quieting the situation, and was backed up by an army detachment under Albert Sidney Johnston.

At the end of his four-year term, Cumming returned to Washington, D.C. His return to Augusta was postponed by the Civil War, and he arrived there the summer of 1864. His wife died in 1867; Alfred died in 1873.

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Alfred Cumming Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.


The Alfred Cumming Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 1933 and 1940.

Processing Information

Processed by Rubenstein Library Staff, 1989

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, August 2011

This collection is minimally processed: materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.

Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and local Style Guide.

This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.