Littlefield Family Papers, 1834-1935
Using These Materials
- The collection is open for research.
- Littlefield family.
- Papers, of the Josiah Littlefield family of Monroe County and Farwell, Clare County, Michigan. Correspondence, typescript of autobiography, and excerpted typescript of University of Michigan student diary, 1867-1871, of Josiah Littlefield, surveyor, lumberman, and conservationist; also letters of other members of the Littlefield and Hall families; and photographs.
0.5 linear feet
- Call Number:
- 85810 Aa 2; UAx
- Finding aid prepared by: Richard Doolen
- Scope and Content:
The Littlefield family collection documents several generations in the life of a family which migrated from Grafton, New York about 1830, and came to Michigan, settling first near Ash in Monroe County and later in Farwell in Clare County. The collection (311 items) spans the period of 1834 to 1935, and consists almost entirely of letters among family members, though there is a small group of printed items dealing with University of Michigan activities and life in Farwell, Michigan. Included with the papers are the correspondence, autobiography, and excerpted diary of Josiah Littlefield. There is also correspondence of Littlefield's wife, Ellen Hart Littlefield, his mother, Mary Hall Littlefield, his daughter, Ellen Littlefield Elder, and his uncle, Edmund Hall.
The correspondence comprising the collection includes several recurring subjects: schooling, medical treatment, social customs, religious matters (selecting ministers, sermons, and church activities), agriculture (types of crops grown and prices received), food prices in Michigan, fashions of domestic furnishings (see Josiah Littlefield folder: September 13, 1874, September 24, 1874, October 4, 1874 and January 1, 1874 from Ellen Hart Littlefield; Mary Hall Littlefield folder: October 14, 1874 from Josiah Littlefield; Ellen Hart Littlefield folder: March 3, 1875 from Lucy Hart and October 5, 1873, letter from Josiah Littlefield; see Ellen Hart Littlefield folder: April 25, 1875 from Jessie Hart Williams).
Interesting though brief descriptions of Oberlin College in the 1830's occur in letters from Edmund Hall (see Martha Smith Hall folder: February 15, 1840 from Edmund Hall; and Mary Hall Littlefield folder: May 21, 1836 and October 11, 1836 from Edmund Hall). Mr. Hall apparently became involved in abolition activities in Michigan in the mid 1840's. A listing of seven speeches scheduled for September or October, 1844 is in the first Edmund Hall folder.
In the area of women's history, parts of the collection cover several topics of interest in addition to those referred to as recurring subjects. Martha Smith Hall, Josiah Littlefield's maternal grandmother left her husband E.F. Hall in New York state about 1830 and migrated to Michigan with her children. She managed to establish a new home and raise and educate her family without any economic help from her husband. (see Martha Hitchcock folder: February 2, 1854 from E.F. Hall, October 12, 1855 from Carolina A. Kinsley; see Edmund Hall folder: August 13, 1855 and August 21, 1855 from Carolina A. Kinsley, October 20, 1855 from Martha Hitchcock, and October 2, 1855 to Mrs. Kinsley from Edmund Hall).
Reference to a case of post-natal depression so severe that it culminated in temporary insanity and the killing of a child occurs in the Josiah Littlefield folder (January 15, 1875 from Ellen Hart Littlefield). Descriptions of another serious post-natal depression are contained in the Josiah Littlefield folder (January 15, 1875 from Ellen hart Littlefield and May 21, 1877 from Margaret Hart).
- Biographical / Historical:
Josiah Loomis Littlefield, was born in Flat Rock, Wayne County, Michigan, July 3, 1845, the son of Daniel and Mary Hall Littlefield. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Gibraltar, six miles from Flat Rock, where Daniel supported his family by operating a sawmill with his brother-in-law Henry Woodruff. Josiah in later years blamed business worries and failures for his father's early death in 1850.
After her husband's death, Mary Littlefield moved her sons (Josiah, Wesley, and Cyrus) to an eighty acre farm at Swan Creek, Monroe County, where the family had lived earlier. With the help of her young sons and occasional hired men, she commenced to farm the land and teach school at near-by Grafton. The family remained here until 1865.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Cyrus joined the 1st Michigan Cavalry. He contracted typhoid during his second year in the army which the family said affected his mind; this was by way, in part, of explaining his subsequent desertion from the army.
In 1865, Mary moved to Ann Arbor, bought a house on the corner of Church Street and Washtenaw Avenue, and entered Josiah in the Ann Arbor High School to prepare him for the University of Michigan. Josiah spent the years from 1867 to 1871 as a student at the university and graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering. Short descriptions of student life are found in Josiah's autobiography (this autobiography was privately printed under the title Josiah Littlefield, Lumberman-Conservationist; An Autobiography) and his diary (a microfilm of the original diary is located in this library).
After graduation, Josiah moved to Farwell, Clare County, Michigan as county surveyor. He became active in local concerns, serving as Township Treasurer, Village Council member, Superintendent of the Union Sunday School, and a member of the Methodist Church Board of Trustees. About 1875, Josiah began operation of a lumber mill which he continued for the rest of his working life.
Josiah's work in surveying, buying up woodland as a source of supply for his lumber mill, and as the person in charge of the sale of lots for the Farwell Land Company gave him considerable opportunity to observe land speculation and the rise in prices of land. (see Mary Hall Littlefield folder: Letters from Josiah Littlefield, November 26, 1871, and March 26, 1872; also see Edmund Hall folder: Letter, February 17, 1841 from Daniel Littlefield; and letter, July 1886, from Gradus Deyoe).
At the same time Josiah was cutting trees for his lumber business, he began to set aside preserves of trees as a conservation effort. Filibert Roth, professor at the University of Michigan and member of the Michigan Forestry Commission, as well as early proponent of reforestation, encouraged Littlefield's efforts in this direction. A gift of ten acres of land to the Farwell school on which students planted 16,000 seedlings was one of the ways in which Josiah tried to create an interest in forestry and conservation.
An adjunct to lumbering activities was clearing former forest areas and turning this land into productive farm land. Josiah's agricultural interests led him to experiments in growing sugar beets and alfalfa in the 1930's and an involvement with the Farmers' Institutes in Clare County.
- Acquisition Information:
- The collection was placed on deposit by Elizabeth Elder Nickell and Daniel B. Nickell in 1977. Donor no. 5974
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Agriculture -- Michigan.
Antislavery movements -- United States.
Conservation of natural resources -- Michigan.
Forests and forestry -- Michigan.
Land use -- Michigan.
Logging -- Michigan.
Lumbering -- Michigan.
Medicine -- Michigan.
Women -- Michigan -- Monroe County.
Women -- Michigan -- Farwell.
Business enterprises -- Michigan -- Saginaw.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1861-1870.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1871-1880.
Littlefield, Josiah L. (Josiah Loomis), 1845-1935.
Clare County (Mich.)
Michigan -- Social life and customs -- 1831-1840.
Michigan -- Social life and customs -- 1841-1850.
Michigan -- Social life and customs -- 1851-1860.
Michigan -- Social life and customs -- 1861-1870.
Michigan -- Social life and customs -- 1871-1880.
Michigan -- Social life and customs -- 1881-1890.
Michigan -- Social life and customs -- 19th century.
Monroe County (Mich.)
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
Bear Lake (Clare County, Mich.)
Clare County (Mich.)
Saginaw (Mich.) -- Business enterprises.
Using These Materials
The collection is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Donor(s) have not transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
item, folder title, box no., Littlefield Family Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan