The Masten family papers contain correspondence documenting the everyday lives of the Hastings and Masten families in 19th-century New York, as well as the Civil War service and subsequent endeavors of Henry Masten in Grandville, Michigan.
Collection processed and finding aid created by Shannon Wait
Scope and Content:
The Masten family papers are comprised of 120 letters and two miscellaneous items, dating from 1799 to 1899. The daughters of Jonas and Nancy Hastings were the primary writers of the earliest letters, which concern mainly family and farming news, specifically births, marriages, and deaths of relations and neighbors. Caroline (Hastings) Pennell’s letters to her siblings in New York shed light on the family’s struggle in Northville, Michigan, where they settled sometime in the 1830s. In a letter dated October 14, 1840, Caroline mourned the death of her infant Ebenezer, “his little body was laid in the silent grave by the side of little Andrew and it appears at times as though a part of my heart was buried with them. I find in the midst of life we are in Death and the most promising flowers are nipt in the bud…”
Several letters from the 1850s refer to problems between Samuel Hastings and his wife Mary. On September 25, 1851, Caroline wrote to her sister Nancy, stating, “Mary tells me she and the children talk of coming back this fall they cannot live there with Sam in any peace the children are afraid of him….” Caroline blames the strife on “cursed Drag Alcahol.”
Also noteworthy is the long series of letters between Henry Masten (son of Nancy and Ephraim Masten) and his sisters during the 1860s and 1870s. Henry’s Civil War letters cover camp life in Virginia, such as marching, food, weather, and equipment. In a letter of October 24, 1864, he describes being surprised by the Confederate Army at the Battle of Cedar Creek. The letters from the 1870s, when Henry lived in Grandville, Michigan, portray the work, recreation, family relations, and social setting of a farming family of that era. They contain details of farm work, birth and death of children, health and sickness, church activities, and religious beliefs. Later letters detail his activities with his grocery business, Masten & Hammond.
Biographical / Historical:
Nancy Law Hastings was born September 20, 1796, to Jonas Hastings and Nancy Emerson in Warwick, Massachusetts. The Hastings’ other children included Caroline (Pennell), Samuel, Oliver, and two girls that died in infancy.
In November 1815, Nancy married Ephraim Masten (1786-1840) of Sutton, New Hampshire, and in 1819, they settled on a farm in Ridgeway, New York. They had 11 children, the youngest of whom was Henry Masten, born September 28, 1840. During the Civil War, Henry likely served with the 90th New York Infantry and frequently wrote home to his sister, Maryetta. He survived the war and settled in Grandville, Michigan, in the 1870s, during which time he married a woman named Sarah (whom he refers to as “Sate”). By 1892, he was running a grocery called Masten & Hammond in Kent County. He last appears on the Census in 1900.
1993. M-2966 .
Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.
The materials are arranged chronologically.
Rules or Conventions:
Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Additional Descriptive Data:
Buckminster, Lydia N. H.The Hastings memorial. A genealogical account of the descendants of Thomas Hastings of Watertown, Mass. from 1634 to 1864 . Boston: S.G. Drake, 1866.
Alternative Form Available:
This collection has been microfilmed.
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