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RG3461.AM:  William Burnham Chilvers, 1835-1914

Correspondence:  1856-1879

Illinois, and Pierce County, Neb.:  Soldier; court clerk

Size:  1 reel of microfilm


William Burnham Chilvers was born at Terrington, county of Norfolk, England, on October 19, 1835. He was left an orphan at the age of six years and reared by his grandparents. With his uncle, George Burnham, he came to the United States in October of 1851 and located in Chicago where for three years he served as a carpenter’s apprentice. In 1855 he moved to Belvidere, Illinois, where he worked at his trade and later became interested with his uncle in the lime and stone business. In the spring of 1861 he took up farming but upon the outbreak of the Civil War, he disposed of his growing crops and enlisted in Co. B, 95th Illinois Infantry and served until the close of the war. His service was a remarkable one, having taken part in seventy-five battles. He was colorbearer at the siege of Spanish Fort in Alabama and carried the colors over the rampart during a successful assault. During the siege of Vicksburg, a bullet passed through his cap making a scalp wound. At the close of the war he returned to Belvidere where he resumed his trade.

He came to Pierce County, Nebraska, in 1871 and erected the first building in Pierce, known as the George D. Hetzel Hotel, the lumber being hauled from Sioux City. This was followed by a school house in 1872 and the first store building for Herman Mewis in 1874. The lumber at that time was hauled from Wisner, the terminus of the nearest railroad. Chilvers homesteaded near Plainview and also filed on a timber claim on which part of the town now stands. He put up the first frame house in this part of the state and was the first postmaster of that hamlet known then as Roseville. He served eight years as County Clerk and Recorder and in 1900 was elected Clerk of the District Court serving for twelve years.

Mr. Chilvers was married at Sharon, Wisconsin, on October 6, 1872, to Irene Ellen Pilcher (Nellie), a native of Lancaster, Ohio. Their first daughter, Eliza May, was the first white child born in the Plainview settlement. He served as president of the village board of Pierce for many years and was also a member of the school board at the time of his death, having served in that capacity ever since the organization of the district as a high school. He was a charter member of Pierce Post G.A.R. and also of the Masonic lodges at both Norfolk and Pierce. He was secretary of the latter lodge from its conception, a position he still held upon his death.

William Chilvers died December 16, 1914, at his home in Pierce. He was survived by his wife and seven children: John P., Alfred W., George W., Frances, Nellie, Charles H., and Anna. (Pierce County Call, December 24, 1914)


This collection consists of one reel of microfilm containing correspondence dating from 1856-1879. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, 1862-1865, between William Chilvers and George and Rebecca Burnham. Also included are letters to Chilvers from his cousin James Fillingham, 1860-1877, and from his relatives in Great Britain, 1856-1870. The bulk of the letters relate to the experiences of William B. Chilvers during the Civil War. The collection was loaned for microfilming by the Chilvers family in January of 1976. The NSHS does not hold the original letters.


Series 1 – Correspondence, 1856-1879

Reel 1


  1. 1862, William Chilvers, outgoing

  2. 1863, William Chilvers, outgoing

  3. 1864, William Chilvers, outgoing

  4. 1865, William Chilvers, outgoing

  5. 1863, Dated fragments, William Chilvers, outgoing

  6. 1864, Dated fragments, William Chilvers, outgoing

  7. Undated, Dated fragments, William Chilvers, outgoing

  8. 1863, Letters from Nellie Pilcher to William Chilvers

  9. 1871-1872, Letters from William Chilvers to Nellie Pilcher

  10. 1863, George and Rebecca Burnham, outgoing

  11. 1864, George and Rebecca Burnham, outgoing

  12. 1865, George and Rebecca Burnham, outgoing

  13. 1873-1874, Fragments, George and Rebecca Burnham, outgoing

  14. Undated, fragments, George and Rebecca Burnham, outgoing

  15. 1860-1877, James Fillingham, outgoing

  16. 1856-1870, Letters from Great Britain

  17. 1862-1879, Miscellaneous correspondence



Chilvers, William Burnham, 1835-1914

Illinois Infantry. 95th regiment, 1861-1865

Pierce County (Neb.) — History

United States — History — Civil War, 1861-1865 — Personal narratives


DDS/ct   02-12-1976

Encoded TMM   03-10-2010