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James E. Carty Collection

Identifier: WSUV-SpeColl-001

Scope and Contents note

James E. Carty’s great granduncle (James), arriving with the Hudson’s Bay Co. in 1837, and grandfather (James N. Carty), arriving in 1858, were among the first non-Native American families to settle in Clark County. Among the family papers in this collection includes title abstracts of property owned by the Carty family as well as receipts and accounting ledgers documenting the family’s daily business, which included a rock and gravel quarry. A small number of personal letters and a scrapbook of clippings and poetry are also included.

As an attorney, James E. Carty encountered many interesting cases in his career. One of the more notable cases was his involvement in the parole of the legendary gangster Alivin “Old Creepy” Karpis, a leader of the Barker/Karpis gang. During the late 1960’s Carty became lawyer for Karpis after being recommended by another inmate. Carty and Karpis became good friends and continued a regular correspondence. Karpis was successfully paroled after spending over 30 years behind bars, 25 of which were spent at Alcatraz with some of the nations most notable criminals. The James E. Carty Collection contains over ten years of correspondence between Karpis and Carty, photographs documenting the day of parole, a manuscript and galley proof of Alvin Karpis book The Alvin Karpis Story, clippings and other items and ephemera relating to their legal and personal relations.

Although much of Carty’s political career had ended in the early 1980s, he remained politically active in the Democratic Party until his death in 2001. The collection includes a large number of copies and clippings of editorials written to local newspapers expressing concern over political and social issues of the day. Correspondence with regional and national political figures are also contain in the collection as well as a number of news articles, research data for political strategy and a collection of jargon for political speeches.

In his later life, Carty exercised his abilities as a historian. In 1994 he published a book called A Territorial Anthology of the Oregon Territory 1792-1860, an historical survey revealing the early voyages, settlements and business of immigrants in the Northwest, the life of American Indians in the area and the ensuing wars and conflict with whites. The collection includes typed drafts and notes of the book with revisions and finalized copies. Also included are a number of other historical writings Carty composed during and after the creation of the book. Some of these writings uncover little known histories about Clark County and the Pacific Northwest. Other miscellaneous writings are interspersed among the historical papers, revealing Carty’s reflections and opinions of his own history, his politics and observations on the present state and future of Clark County and the nation.


  • 1873-1915; circa 1966-1980; 1984-2001


Language of Materials


Biographical/Historical note

James E. Carty was born on November 11, 1920 in Ridgefield, Washington. The son of former Washington State Representative William Edward Carty and Mary E. Fitzpatrick, Carty was a descendant of one of the first non-Native American families to settle in Clark County. He graduated from Ridgefield High School in 1938, attended Washington State University (graduating in 1949) and then received his law degree from Duke University in 1952. For over twenty years Carty served as city attorney for Woodland, Washington. He later became prosecuting attorney for Clark County, which he served from 1973 to 1980. During his lifetime Carty was politically active in the Democratic Party, becoming chairman for both Cowlitz County (1952-1956, 1958-1960) and Clark County (through the sixties and seventies). Following his retirement in the 1980s, Carty began doing historical research on the Northwest, writing a series of essays, a book and giving presentations and lectures to the local community. In the early 1940s he married Leona Carty and they remained together living in Woodland for 59 years until the time of his death on October 24, 2001.


10.6 Linear Feet


Manuscripts, correspondence, essay drafts, editorials and other materials created and compiled by James E. Carty during his career as former Woodland, Washington city attorney, Clark County prosecuting attorney (1973-1980), historian and Chairman for the Cowlitz County and Clark County Democratic Party. Also contains personal letters and contents relating to the early history of the Carty family. Materials in this collection were donated by James E. Carty's wife, Leona Carty.

Arrangement note

The Collection is broken into four series.

Series A-1: Drafts, notes, research data and correspondence related to A Territorial Anthology of the Oregon Territory 1792-1860 (alternately titled An Oregon Country Anthology) by James E. Carty. Dates of research ca. 1986-1994.

Series A-2: Miscellaneous writings and history writings.

Series B: Carty family documents. Journal and account Day Books, photographs and miscellaneous documents. 1873-1890; 1899-1919.

Series C: Political correspondence and papers, letters to the editor, personal correspondence and miscellaneous papers.

Series D: James E. Carty and Alvin Karpis correspondence and other materials and documents relating to Alvin Karpis. ca. 1969-1979.

Physical Description

1 filing cabinet; 5 filing cabinet drawers
Guide to the James E. Carty Collection
Finding aid prepared by Robert Schimelpfenig
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Washington State University Vancouver, Archives and Special Collections Repository

14204 NE Salmon Creek Ave
Vancouver WA 98686 United States