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Percival Nash Collection, 1870-1929

By Rachel Lilley

Collection Overview

Title: Percival Nash Collection, 1870-1929

Predominant Dates: 1904-1906


Primary Creator: Nash, Percival (1874-1937)

Extent: 0.33 cubic feet. More info below.

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Percival Nash Collection consists of copies of Nash's diary of his time spent as a fur trapper and trader in the Yukon Territory in Canada (1904-1906); two pieces of correspondence, including a 1903 letter from Percival Nash to his stepbrother Gifford Nash; article manuscripts by Nash; and copies of photographs of Percival Nash in the Yukon and of Nash Family members. The typescript copy of Nash's diary has been digitized and is available upon request.

Percival Nash attended the State Agricultural College of Oregon between 1888 and 1893, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.

Scope and Content Notes

The Percival Nash Collection consists of copies of Nash's diary (1904-1906); correspondence between Nash and members of the Nash family, including his stepbrother W. Gifford Nash; copies of article manuscripts by Nash; and photographs documenting Nash’s time in the Yukon Territory of Canada, and in Manhattan, Nevada.

The collection includes two pieces of correspondence. The first is a typewritten letter from Percival Nash to his stepbrother Gifford W. Nash from the Yukon Territory in Canada, and is dated February 9, 1903. In the letter, Nash discusses his experiences hunting and trapping in the Yukon, and expresses the desire to work with a fellow trapper Mike McMurray. Of particular note in this letter is the story Nash relates of breaking his leg on the way to McMurray’s camp. The second letter, from an unidentified relative of Nash’s and dated January 30, 1911, references Nash’s work in Nevada, presumably referring to his work as a surveyor and Assistant Secretary of the Manhattan Dexter Mining Company.

The collection also includes two unpublished works written by Nash. The first, entitled The Ghost in the Snow, relates the story of the death of a man known only as “Frenchy” on the Stewart River in the Yukon Territory. The second work is a photocopy of an unidentified, hand-written article draft about fur trapping in Canada in which Nash describes the “various Northern furs,” and covers everything from building a camp and trading post, to acquiring and training sled dogs from puppies.

Three copies of Nash’s diary are included in the collection: a photocopy of the original, a hand-written transcription done by Mary Dimick (a Corvallis resident, and OSC alum), and a typescript copy. In the diary, Nash recounts, among other things, where he and his fellow trappers made camp as they traveled through the territory; the animals they encountered, including those they trapped or killed for sustenance or trade (e.g. moose, wolverine, ermine, marten, and mink); activities Nash engaged in during his “down time” (e.g. repairing or constructing clothes, baking, washing clothes, fixing up his cabin); daily weather conditions; and other trappers Nash visited or worked with, most of whom are only referred to by last name (e.g. Joslin, Brewster, Forten, McNaughten, Barker, Morrison, Sinnott, Frank Williams, Bob Waken, and his partner Frank Braine).

Of particular note in the diary are entries written between February 17 and February 20, 1906 in which Nash discusses developing his photographs, and trading and camping with nearby First Nations peoples. Nash makes frequent mention of this trading again in April 1906, and throughout the rest of the year. The typescript copy of the diary has been digitized and is available upon request.

Images in the collection document Nash’s travels and activities in the Yukon Territory of Canada – namely the environs of the Stewart River and Dawson City – between 1900 and 1906. A typed list of negatives compiled by Nash’s daughter Betty Nash Carlson in 1983 provides additional context for the images. The majority of the prints are 8x10 inch. A list of the prints in the collection - with additional descriptive information - is included with the photographs. Some descriptive language used in the print list is outdated and offensive.

Yukon Territory locations documented in the collection include Duncan Creek, Fraser Creek, and the Hess River, all tributaries of the Stewart River; Sheep Mountain and Mount Joy; Fraser Falls and Pleasant Lake; Lansing Creek and Dawson City; and the Lansing Creek Trading Post. Also included is an image of an “Indian burial ground” at the Lansing Creek Trading Post.

People featured in the images include Nash; Jim Christi (or Christy); Dave Huy (or Hug); Frank Braine; Cameron Hunt, “proctor” for the Hudson Bay Trading Company at the Lansing Creek Trading Post; and Boston Mackay, a man who served as one of Cameron Hunt’s porters. Mackay may have been Métis, and may also have been involved in the North-West Resistance of 1885.

Topics, activities, and additional subjects documented include the fauna of the Yukon Territory (martin, ermine, mink, moose, wolves, sheep, and a Canada lynx); panning for gold and whipsawing lumber; portaging a canoe (carrying it overland); early 20th-century automobiles; sled dogs attached to a sled; a sternwheeler on the Stewart River near Dawson City; and a studio portrait that may be of Nash, his wife Mary, and their children.

Also included is a photograph of the “Free Miner’s Certificate” issued to Nash by the “Dominion of Canada.” Privileges granted by the document include “fishing, shooting, and cutting timber for necessities; building of houses and boats; and mining operations.”

Biographical / Historical Notes

Percival Nash was born January 30, 1874 in the village of Down, England, the fifth of eleven children born to Wallis Nash and Louisa D’Amuty Nash. Not long after Percival was born, the family immigrated to the Unites States, settling in in Summit, Oregon by 1880. Wallis Nash served as an early member of Oregon State Agricultural College’s Board of Regents, and financially contributed to the building of Community Hall (originally the Administration Building, and known for many years as Benton Hall). Wallis also authored several books on Oregon including Two Years in Oregon, Oregon: There and Back in 1877, The Settler’s Handbook to Oregon, and A Lawyer’s Life on Two Continents.

Percival Nash began his academic career at the State Agricultural College of Oregon (OAC) in 1888. During his time at OAC, he had the distinction of having played in both the very first football game on OAC’s campus – played against Albany College (now Lewis & Clark College) November 11, 1893 – and the first Civil War game against the University of Oregon (UO). Nash played starting left half in the game against Albany College, scoring four touchdowns; OAC beat Albany College 62 to zero. Nash played with a dislocated shoulder in the game against UO – played November 3, 1894 – and OAC went on to beat UO 16 to zero.

After his graduation in 1893, Nash stayed on at Oregon State Agricultural College to do post-graduate work, which included serving as a voluntary meteorological observation data recorder for the Agricultural Experiment Station (July 1895-June 1895). In 1898, Nash left for Canada, gold mining and fur trapping near Dawson City in the Yukon Territory. In 1902, Nash, together with a man named Frank Braine and First Nations people from Fort Good Hope, established a trading post at Lansing Creek, near where the Northern Tutchone and Upper Stewart River people had historically gathered annually.

Nash left Canada in 1906, briefly relocating to San Francisco, where he took up “literary work.” An article he wrote, A Day in the Land of the Moose, was published in the March 1907 issue of Pacific Monthly, and describes camping along the south fork of the Stewart River near Dawson City during marten-trapping season. In the article, he relates hunting for moose to provide meat for the season, and images included in the article show Nash with a dead bull moose, at his winter camp along the Stewart River, and an abandoned camp used by, according to Nash, “Indian hunters.”

By 1907, Nash was working as a surveyor and Assistant Secretary of the Manhattan Dexter Mining Company in Manhattan, Nevada. On November 23, 1912, Nash married Mary Cole in Cuba, New York. Percy, Mary and their children – Betty, Louis, Eldredge, Oliver, and Jean – lived in Manhattan until 1916 when they moved to Tonopah, Nevada; after a year in Tonopah, the family moved to Reno, Nevada where Nash worked as a prohibition enforcement agent. In April 1929, Nash was selected to serve as Chief of Police in Las Vegas, Nevada and the family relocated there. Nash would eventually resign his position as Chief of Police to become Deputy Food and Drug Inspector for southern Nevada under S.C. Dinsmore, a position he held at the time of his death.

Nash was a member of the Board of Visitors of the University of Nevada, Reno; an active member of the Las Vegas Rotary Club; and for many years was active in local rifle teams. Percival Nash passed away in Las Vegas, Nevada August 23, 1937.

Author: Rachel Lilley

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 1 box, including 78 photographs and 11 negatives

Statement on Access: Collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: The materials were originally donated to Oregon State University's Horner Museum by Betty Nash Carlson, Percival Nash's daughter, in 1985 and 1986. They were transferred to the University Archives from the Horner Museum in 1996.

Related Materials:

Collections documenting the Nash family in Corvallis include the Nash Family Music Collection (MSS Nash) and the Oregon State University Memorabilia Collection (MSS MC). Additional collections documenting the Yukon Territory in Canada include the Gerald W. Williams Regional Albums (P 303). Collections with hunting- or trapping-related content include the E. E. Wilson Photographic Collection (P 101), and the Helen H. Marburger Photograph Album (P 341). Collections documenting the lands and customs of First Nations people in the Yukon and nearby areas include the Gerald W. Williams Prints and Postcards of Native Americans Collection (P 317) and the Native American Maps Collection (MAPS Native).

Percival Nash's photographs of Manhattan, Nevada were donated to the University of Nevada, Reno's Special Collections and University Archives in 2016.

Preferred Citation: Percival Nash Collection (MSS NashP), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Finding Aid Revision History: This finding aid replaces information about the collection that was placed online in 2012.


Nash, Percival (1874-1937)

People, Places, and Topics

Fur trade--Canada--History.
Natural Resources

Forms of Material

Film negatives.
Photographic prints.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.