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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the James W. McDill Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1850-1894
Creator: McDill, James W. (1834-1894)
Extent: .75 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0204
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: U.S. Representative and Senator from Iowa, member of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and judge. Diaries, memoirs, correspondence, speeches, and other material relating to his life and career.

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: The papers of James W. McDill were given to the University of Iowa Libraries in 1965, by Mrs. Narcissa L. Palmer, Mrs. Jessie M. Page, and Mrs. Ruth E. Scullen with an additional gift in 1998, by Phyllis Mapes.

Preferred Citation: James W. McDill Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

James Wilson McDill was born in Monroe, Ohio, on March 4, 1834. He graduated from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) in 1853, and spent the following year teaching school in Kossuth, Iowa. McDill returned to Ohio to study law in the office of Galloway and Mathews. He was subsequently admitted to the bar in 1856. Moving back to Iowa, McDill settled in Afton, Union County. There he established his legal practice and became active in the community. He was elected superintendent of schools for Union County in 1859 and the following year he became a county judge. When Iowa's Governor Grimes was elected to the Senate, McDill accompanied him to Washington, D.C., where he became a clerk. From 1862 to 1865, McDill worked as a clerk in the Treasury Office where much of his time was spent in the Division of War Claims.

After briefly practicing law in Washington, D.C., James McDill returned to Afton, Iowa. In 1868, he was elected as the first circuit judge and then in 1871, he became the district judge of the third judicial district. In 1873, McDill once again found himself in Washington, D.C., this time as a Republican Congressman. He served in the 43rd and 44th Congresses , refusing renomination in 1876. Back in Iowa, he resumed his legal practice. From 1878 to 1881, he was a member of the Board of Railroad Commissioners of the State of Iowa. Judge McDill was appointed and subsequently elected to fill the vacancy left in the U.S. Senate when Samuel J. Kirkwood was appointed to the Cabinet in 1881.

When McDill once again returned to Iowa, he moved to Creston, which had become the county seat. He spent his final years as a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission. It was while traveling on Commission business that he fell ill. Judge James Wilson McDill died on January 13, 1894, at the age of fifty-nine.

The papers of James Wilson McDill date from 1850 to 1894 and are comprised of 0.75 linear feet of manuscripts arranged alphabetically by folder title. Included are diaries, memoirs, correspondence, speeches, and other material relating to his life and career. The diaries date from his college days to the years he spent on the Interstate Commerce Commission, with large gaps in between. While most of the correspondence is between family members, there are some letters relating to his career. Biographical and autobiographical material about McDill is also included.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Article about fiction by James W. McDill.
    Holograph draft
  • "Argument of James W. McDill upon the Reduction of Passenger Rates in Iowa to Two Cents per Mile"
  • Bereavement statements in honor of James W. McDill - 1894
  • College diary - 1850-1854
  • Correspondence - 1882-1894
  • Diaries - 1854, 1875, 1885-1887
  • Diaries - 1888-1892
  • Diaries - 1893
  • Interstate Commerce Commission - 1887
    Holograph report
  • Journal of James W. McDill
  • Box 2:
  • Journal of James W. McDill. - 1891-1893
    Transcriptions of portions of the journal
  • "The Making of Iowa" by James W. McDill. Iowa Historical Record, vol. 7, #4. October - 1891
    pages 162-169
  • Recollections of his grandfather by James W. McDill
    Holograph draft
  • Registry of correspondence - 1893
  • "Representative Men IV. James Wilson McDill" by S.R. Davis. The Midland Monthly, vol. 1 #4. April - 1894
    pages 383-392
  • Speeches by James W. McDill - 1874-1882

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Corporate Names:
United States. Interstate Commerce Commission


Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Alton
United States -- Iowa -- Creston
United States -- Iowa
United States -- Iowa -- Union County

Genre/Form of Materials: