William Burnham Chilvers, 1835-1914 [RG3461.AM]


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

    1. 1863, William Chilvers, outgoing

    1. 1864, William Chilvers, outgoing

    1. 1865, William Chilvers, outgoing

    1. 1863, Dated fragments, William Chilvers, outgoing

    1. 1864, Dated fragments, William Chilvers, outgoing

    1. Undated, Dated fragments, William Chilvers, outgoing

    1. 1863, Letters from Nellie Pilcher to William Chilvers

    1. 1871-1872, Letters from William Chilvers to Nellie Pilcher

    1. 1863, George and Rebecca Burnham, outgoing

    1. 1864, George and Rebecca Burnham, outgoing

    1. 1865, George and Rebecca Burnham, outgoing

    1. 1873-1874, Fragments, George and Rebecca Burnham, outgoing

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

    1. 1860-1877, James Fillingham, outgoing

    1. 1856-1870, Letters from Great Britain

    1. 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

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Marker Monday: The Savidge Brothers, Aviation Pioneers

Marker Monday: The Savidge Brothers, Aviation Pioneers

No Father’s Day for Nebraska in 1915

No Father’s Day for Nebraska in 1915

Sewing the Flag

Sewing the Flag

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.