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Minnie Moore Willson papers


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Subject Terms

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Minnie Moore Willson Papers

James M. Willson Papers

Aultman / Cantrell Files

General Files



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Minnie Moore Willson papers, 1888-1949 | University of Miami Special Collections

By Esperanza B. Varona

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Collection Overview

Title: Minnie Moore Willson papers, 1888-1949Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1888-1949

ID: ASM0203

Creator: Willson, Minnie Moore (1859-1943)

Extent: 78.0 Boxes


SERIES I: MINNIE MOORE WILSON PAPERS, consists of nine boxes of correspondence, manuscripts and other materials related to Minnie Moore Willson from 1889-1937. Boxes 1-3 contain correspondence to and from Minnie Moore Willson. Boxes 4-8 contain manuscripts and box 9 contains general material related to Willson.

SERIES II: JAMES MALLORY WILLSON PAPERS, consists of 44 boxes of correspondence, legal material, financial material and business files from 1888-1938. This series is divided into four sub-series : Correspondence (boxes 10-41), Legal Material (boxes 42-45), Financial Material (boxes 45 and 46) and Business File (boxes 47-53).

SERIES III: AULTMAN/CANTRELL CORRESPONDENCE, consists of 4 boxes of correspondence, financial material and general material on Elizabeth Aultman Cantrell and S.B. Aultman from 1906-49. This series is divided into three sub-series: Correspondence (boxes 54-55), Financial Material (box 56) and General Material (box 57).

SERIES IV: GENERAL FILES, consists of 18 boxes of Correspondence (boxes 58-59), Financial Material (boxes 60-61), Florida Printed Material (boxes 62-63), Indian Material (boxes 64-66),  Kissimmee Material (box 67), Periodicals (boxes 68-70), General Material (boxes 71-73) and Blocks from Books (boxes 74-75), dated 1889-1949

SERIES V: PHOTOGRAPHS, consists of 2 boxes of photographs and negatives arranged by topic.

SERIES VI: POSTCARDS, consists of 1 box of postcards, arranged by topic.

Formats/Genres: Certificates, Clippings, Deeds, Documents, Financial statements, Fletcher, Duncan Upshaw, 1859-1936 - Correspondence, Florida - History - Maps, Letters, Manuscripts, Notebooks, Notes, Pamphlets, Periodicals, Printing blocks, Receipts (financial records), Reports, Scrapbooks

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Minnie Moore Willson Papers document the life and career of a noted Florida writer and advocate for the Seminole Indians of Florida. The Papers also include materials related to her husband James Mallory Willson, a prominent Kissimmee businessman and a defender of Seminole Indian rights. The Papers were purchased by the University of Miami in the late 1940s from the Elizabeth Aultman Cantrell Historical Museum in Kissimmee, Florida. Selected materials from the Papers, including books, maps, pamphlets and some periodicals were removed from the collection and sent to the appropriate areas in the Library.

The collection includes material from Minnie Moore Willson as well as material from her husband James Mallory Willson. The Minnie Moore Willson Collection consists of correspondence with individuals including Florida Senator Duncan Fletcher and Florida Representative Ruth Bryan Owen.  Correspondence files also include letters with Seminole Indians such as Billy Bowlegs, Tony Tommie and other prominent Seminole Indian chiefs. The collection contains a number of manuscripts by M.M. Willson related to the Seminole Indians and such issues as the equality of blacks and Southern politics. Additional material relates to the creation of a bird sanctuary in Kissimmee, Florida.

James M. Willson's papers contain business records including correspondence, abstract of titles (original and copies) scrapbooks, and financial records from the 1880's to the 1930's (in the latter years Minnie Moore Willson handled the business correspondence due to illness). Correspondence deals with Mr. Willson's real estate and insurance business in the Kissimmee area. The files also contain manuscripts, correspondence and material collected or written by Elizabeth Cantrell, niece of James Mallory Willson. Correspondence to and from S.B. Aultman (Elizabeth Cantrell's father and brother-in-law of J.M. Willson)and letters with Dr. Howard Kelly, a family friend and widely known surgeon are also organized in these files.

The collection also includes several newspaper clippings from the late 1800's through the 1930's. The majority of these clippings are from Florida-based newspapers. Several maps of Florida have been removed from the collection and placed with Map Collection.

Also included are photographs of the Willsons, Seminole Indians, plants, and animals. The collection also includes postcards depicting scenes from Florida and the United States.

Biographical Note

Minnie Moore Willson was born to a well-to-do country family near the town of West Newton, Pennsylvania, on August 14, 1859. Willson was a relative, through her mother, of President James Polk. Minnie Moore married James Mallory Willson, a native of Somerset, Kentucky, but a resident of Chicago, Illinois, on September 3, 1890 in West Newton Pennsylvania.

Willson's acquaintance with Kissimmee, Florida, began in the early 1880s. Wilson visited the area during the winter season and developed an interest in the Seminole Indians. Both Willsons were nature lovers and Minnie wrote for a number of wildlife magazines. The Willsons were active members of the Audubon Society of Florida and through Mrs. Willson's writings and influences, the town of Kissimmee served as one of the first towns in the state to become a bird sanctuary.

Through contacts with the Southern Baptist Organization, James Willson helped organize Baptist missionary crusades for the Seminole Indians. The Willsons were instrumental in the society known as "Friends of the Florida Seminoles". This organization dealt with the Indians through education and attempts to raise their standard of living. The Willsons proved instrumental in the passage of an act by the Florida Legislature in 1913, setting apart 100,000 acres in the extreme southern portion of the state for use by the Seminoles. The Willsons worked closely with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the resident Indian Agent, and the National Indian Association, and their efforts culminated with passage of the bill.

Minnie Moore Willson served as first president of the Kissimmee Women's Club and thereafter was elected honorary president for life. She was also a member of the American Pen Women and other literary groups. Willson published The Seminoles of Florida in 1895. The book contained a vocabulary of the language by James Willson and the volume achieved unusual success. The Seminoles of Florida was rewritten, enlarged and re-edited in later years.

Willson also wrote short stories, the most famous of which was a collection of "slave" stories taken from an old slave woman from Virginia who lived among the Seminoles and claimed to have cooked the "treaty dinner" that marked the end of the Seminole War. Willson's last works included a short history of Osceola County and a monograph of the Indian Chief, Osceola. Minnie Moore Willson was an invalid a great part of her life, suffering from headaches and hip problems that required two major operations. Willson died on August 12, 1937. James M. Willson, also an invalid the last few years of his life, died on August 5, 1943.

Subject/Index Terms

Bowlegs, Billy, 1808?-1863 or 4
Florida - History - 20th century
Indians of North America - Civil rights - History - 20th century
Kissimmee (Fla.)
Moore-Willson, Minnie, b. 1863
Naturalists - Florida
Owen, Ruth Bryan, 1885-1954
Seminole Indians - Claims
Seminole Indians - Florida
Undurraga, Antonio de
United States - Race relations

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: Minnie Moore Willson Papers Finding Aid © 2009 University of Miami. All rights reserved. Requests to reproduce or publish materials from this collection should be directed to

Preferred Citation: Minnie Moore Willson Papers, Special Collections, University of Miami Libraries, Coral Gables, Florida

Processing Information:

Processed by Esperanza D. Varona and Pedro Ariz, Adria A. Watson, Annabelle Ramos and Ana Martinez, 1991.

Acidic originals from boxes 2-3, 35-41 were copied onto acid free paper in Spring/Summer 2011. The acid free copies were put in place of the originals within the folders, and the originals were put in a folder at the end of each box.

Finding Aid Revision History: Revised and updated by Rudo Kemper, 2009. Revised and updated by Laura Capell, 2011.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Minnie Moore Willson Papers],
[Series 2: James M. Willson Papers],
[Series 3: Aultman / Cantrell Files],
[Series 4: General Files],
[Series 5: Photographs],
[Series 6: Postcards],

Series 6: PostcardsAdd to your cart.
This series consists of 1 box of postcards, arranged by image topic, including Florida and other states throughout the United States.
Box 78Add to your cart.
Item 1-10: American Museum of Natural HistoryAdd to your cart.
Item 11-25: AnimalsAdd to your cart.
Item 26-28: FlagsAdd to your cart.
Item 29-31: ArtifactsAdd to your cart.
Item 32-72: Indians: SeminolesAdd to your cart.
Item 73-77: Motor Vehicles: TrucksAdd to your cart.
Item 78: AlabamaAdd to your cart.
Item 79-80: CaliforniaAdd to your cart.
Item 81: Florida: DaytonaAdd to your cart.
Item 81a-82: Florida: GothaAdd to your cart.
Item 83-85: Florida: Key WestAdd to your cart.
Item 86-92: Florida: KissimmeeAdd to your cart.
Item 93-98: Florida: MiamiAdd to your cart.
Item 99-100: Florida: New SmyrnaAdd to your cart.
Item 101: Florida: OrlandoAdd to your cart.
Item 102: Florida: Palm BeachAdd to your cart.
Item 103-105: Florida: Punta GordaAdd to your cart.
Item 106: TallahasseeAdd to your cart.
Item 107: IllinoisAdd to your cart.
Item 108: IndianaAdd to your cart.
Item 109-116: KentuckyAdd to your cart.
Item 117-118: LouisianaAdd to your cart.
Item 119-120: MarylandAdd to your cart.
Item 121: MassachusettsAdd to your cart.
Item 122: MichiganAdd to your cart.
Item 123: MissouriAdd to your cart.
Item 124-125: NevadaAdd to your cart.
Item 126-128: New HampshireAdd to your cart.
Item 129-130: New JerseyAdd to your cart.
Item 131-149: New York: New York CityAdd to your cart.
Item 150-154: New York: CatskillsAdd to your cart.
Item 155-159: New York: Saratoga SpringsAdd to your cart.
Item 160: North CarolinaAdd to your cart.
Item 161-164: North DakotaAdd to your cart.
Item 165: PennsylvaniaAdd to your cart.
Item 166: Rhode IslandAdd to your cart.
Item 167-177: South CarolinaAdd to your cart.
Item 178-180: TennesseeAdd to your cart.
Item 181: TexasAdd to your cart.
Item 182-183: VermontAdd to your cart.
Item 184: VirginiaAdd to your cart.
Item 185-191: CanadaAdd to your cart.
Item 192: ChinaAdd to your cart.
Item 193: EnglandAdd to your cart.
Item 194: HondurasAdd to your cart.
Item 195-204: James M. Willson and Minnie Moore WillsonAdd to your cart.
Item 205-218: MiscellaneousAdd to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Minnie Moore Willson Papers],
[Series 2: James M. Willson Papers],
[Series 3: Aultman / Cantrell Files],
[Series 4: General Files],
[Series 5: Photographs],
[Series 6: Postcards],

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