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Peter R. Brady papers

Identifier: GTM-880801

Scope and contents note

Peter R. Brady [1825 - 1902], one of Arizona's leading pioneers, served his country on exploring expeditions as well as in local and state offices. His papers consist of correspondence, documents, photographs and clippings. Most of the correspondence in this collection is from Brady's sisters, Margaret and Mary Ellen, and their respective husbands, Edmund and Major B. B. French. Letters from these individuals provide a fascinating view of the country, and especially Washington, D.C., before, during, and after the Civil War, as well as revealing glimpses of Brady's life and his successes "out West."

Major Benjamin B. French served as the Commissioner of Public Buildings in Washington, D.C., and was the intimate friend of many presidents, including Abraham Lincoln. His letters, like those of his brother, show the state of the nation's capital during the Civil War with "troops quartered all around us - a thousand or so, on the vacant lot just below our house, within half a stone's throw...They are very quiet and gentlemanly." (ALS from B. B. French, May 18, 1863) His letters also provide interesting revelations of the state of national politics after the war. Edmund French's letters also comment on the state of the nation before and during the war, discuss possible appointments for Brady in Washington, D.C., and inform Brady of a gun which the Frenches have procured for him. French's letters also discuss Brady's father and sisters and mutual friends and acquaintances, such as Lieutenant Mowry, who first represented the territory of Arizona in Congress.

Margaret French's letters discuss personal and family matters, as well as mutual friends and acquaintances and her own growing family. Mary Ellen French's letters, the largest correspondence in the collection, also discuss such matters in detail and enquire particularly about Brady's wife and children as well as his various adventures. She recounts stories which the Frenches have heard from such distinguished men as Colonel [Andrew B.] Gray and Dr. [C. H.] Lord and also refers to mutual friends such as the Honorable R.C. McCormick, one of the first governors of Arizona. She congratulates Brady on his business success as well his elections to various positions within his community. Her letters also illustrate how Washington, D.C. was torn apart during the Civil War; she often writes, during that period, of friends who have joined the Northern or Southern Armies.

Mary Ellen French's correspondence also refers to Daniel Chester French, the famous sculptor, his wife, Mary Adams French, daughter of Margaret and Edmund French, and their daughter, Margaret French Cresson. She refers to some of his statues, particularly one he made for Chicago's World Fair, which she urges Brady to attend. She also writes of the changes which have occurred in Washington, D.C., since her brother's departure:

"Washington is beautiful just now - I wish you could see it, with two hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. Such broad avenues...and frequent parks just like the Garden of Eden. There are palatial residences... This new Library [of Congress] is near Margaret's and the rotunda finished in Sienna marble, cannot be surpassed... Dan French is making two statues for the latter." (April 28, 1895)

Mary Ellen also refers to a pipe which Andrew Jackson once gave to her when she was a small child. Apparently, President Jackson expressed his regrets that he had no toys for the Brady children and asked them if they wanted anything. "Yes," chimed Mary Ellen, "your pipe." When asked what she'd do with it, her ready reply--"blow soap bubbles"- -so charmed Jackson that he had the pipe delivered to her the following day.

The Peter R. Brady Papers also contain documents certifying that Peter R. Brady was elected to the posts of sheriff and treasurer for Pima and Pinal Counties in Arizona, photos, and clippings. The collection includes photos of Brady, his second wife (Maria Antonia Ochoa), three of his children, Margaret French, Mary Ellen French, Edmund French, Major B.B. French, Sarita Brady Hutchins (Brady's half-sister and wife of Washington Post owner Stilson Hutchins), and Sophia Treadway (the "Baroness of Arizona" in the Peralta-Reavis fraud) from the Charles A. Brady Collection of Family Photos at the Arizona Historical Society Library.


  • 1850-1898

Conditions governing access note

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical note

Peter Rainsford Brady was born on August 14, 1825, in Washington, D.C., to Peter and Anna Brady. Peter Brady was an Irish immigrant and prominent local politician in Washington, D.C., who introduced his children to many famous men such as Andrew Jackson. He and Anna Rainsford had three children, Peter R., Margaret, and Mary Ellen. After his wife's death, he remarried and had one daughter, Sarita Brady, who later married Stilson Hutchins.

Peter R. Brady was educated at Georgetown College and then entered the United States Navy as a Master's Mate and did Midshipman's duty in 1844 and 1845 on the U.S.S. Plymouth and U.S.S. Lexington until an Act of Congress reduced Navy personnel. After serving in the Navy, he joined the Texas Rangers and fought in the Mexican War. In Texas, he became captain of a railroad route survey expedition which journeyed to San Diego, California. He first went to Arizona as part of this surveying team and later wrote a series of articles about his experiences exploring the unkown territory. In 1855, he was appointed Spanish interpreter for the International Boundary Commission. In 1859, he married Juanita Mendibles and became post trader at Fort Mohave. He had five children with Juanita: Peter R. Jr., Henry, Robert, Richard, and Mary Ellen (Nellie).

During the Civil War, he smuggled information about the Confederates in Mexico to the commanding officer at Fort Yuma. After the war, he took his family to Tucson, Arizona, where he settled and prospered. He farmed, raised cattle, and mined succesfully. He introduced Egyptian wheat in Arizona in 1867, raised the first Louisiana sugar cane in 1871, and began a corn and barley mill in at his ranch in Florence in 1888. Despite his numerous business and ranching responsibilities, he still found time to serve his community in various positions. He served as a school board member, member of the board of prison commissioners, sheriff and treasurer for Pima and Pinal Counties, and later as a member of the Arizona Territorial Legislature for a number of years.

Brady's first wife died in 1871, but he continued to care for his children, his enterprises, and his community. He moved to Florence, where he established a large ranch and a good reputation. In 1878, he decided to marry again, and he and Maria Antonia Ochoa were wed. They had four children : John A., Margaret A., Charles A., and James L. During this period, he discovered a rich ore deposit with his partners, which he eventually sold for $65,000, helped form the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society, acted as a special agent for the U. S. Interior Department., and continued his ranching and political activities. He moved back to Tucson in 1899, and died there on May 2, 1902. His papers are located at the Arizona Historical Society Library. He led a full life, as the correspondence from his sisters and brothers-in-law shows: "We are interested in the Arizona papers, in which you figure as one of the most influential citizens...Lieutenant Harrington...spoke in the highest terms of you and said that you were about the only man there that had any brain![sic] That you were growing rich and were respected by everybody." [ALS, Mary Ellen French, June 29 []; ALS, Major B.B. French, Jan 5, 1868]


0.42 Linear Feet (1 Hollinger Document Case)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Francis P. Brady, August 1988.

Peter R. Brady papers
Deborah Marrone, Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
Description rules
Local Practice
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057