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Emily M. Morrill Family papers, 1846, 1900

.75 cubic feet (in 2 boxes)

Family papers includes mostly diaries, as well as some correspondence and biographical information of two sisters, Mrs. Emily (Dewey) Morrill and Mrs. Saluta (Dewey) Barber.

The collection consists mainly of diaries, twenty of which were penned by Mrs. Emily M. Morrill and seven by her sister, Mrs. Saluta Barber. Both women wrote diaries in 1888-1889 and 1891-1893. Otherwise, their diaries exist for different years. Sixteen of the diaries document an entire year. The remaining diaries document a year plus part of the next year, or slightly less than a complete year. Saluta’s diaries exist for 1884-1885, 1887 through January 2, 1888, 1889, and 1891-1893. Emily’s diaries exist for 1874-May 23, 1875, 1877-1879, 1881-1882, 1885-1886, and 1888-August 7, 1900.

The diaries are excellent primary sources for researching nineteenth century Michigan women, their social, religious, familial, and emotional lives, household and farm labor, social and religious activities, concerns, illnesses, and funeral customs. Saluta and Emily wrote daily for years about many topics in detail. Both women had neat penmanship and fairly good vocabularies although they were a bit phonetic sometimes with their spelling of words. They both used initials instead of names in their diaries when writing about close relatives and friends. The diaries are gems of primary resources for the period in which they were written.

Emily and Saluta wrote about the same types of events, but with different amounts of detail emphasizing different activities, events, people, or concerns. They both noted the weather, birthdays of family members, local community news, including births, marriages, illness, and deaths, helping dress the dead, attending funerals and social events, and their and their husband’s illnesses and labors. They kept track of their correspondence, noting who they wrote and when, as well as when and from whom they received letters or postals (postcards). Sometimes there are miscellaneous accounts, receipts, or lists written in or enclosed in their diaries. A lens from Saluta’s spectacles is also enclosed.

Emily noted a lot of vital statistics, including birthdays of relatives and their ages, death dates, marriage dates, and anniversaries of marriages and deaths. In comparison, Saluta always noted Rena’s birthday, but rarely her own and never her wedding anniversary. She noted DH’s birthday only when he turned 70 and they had a party to celebrate the occasion, but rarely recorded other family member’s vital statistics. However, she wrote in detail about funerals and preparing the dead for burial.

The sisters both wrote about visiting and visitors. Saluta wrote in more detail about this part of her life than Emily did. Saluta noted if the person she visited was ill, getting worse or better, what illness or symptoms they had, and the food she brought them.

When Emily and James visited Vermont in 1874, Emily noted the names of relatives and the towns they visited, and housework she helped with, such as washing and ironing lots of laundry, cutting out dresses, and berry picking and preserving. She also noted that James shot many woodchucks and helped Adams farm, as well as their illness. Emily also recorded their colds and that James suffered from several migraines. What exactly they saw when they visited various towns is not noted and relatives’ surnames are rarely noted. Being photographed was still an important event and she noted when one relative, Charles [Barber?] from Vermont, had his photograph taken during their visit.

Saluta and Emily usually noted the daily weather, the daily high and low temperatures, and drastic changes in the weather, particularly when it was inclement. Saluta noted when she and other family members or friends went sleighing or swimming (although she and DH did not go in the water), whereas Emily noted few outdoor leisure activities outside of attending church or her visits with relatives.

Emily always noted where James was and what he was doing, either hunting, farming, or gone on business and with whom, when they left, when they returned, and if they rode, walked, or took a train. Saluta does this to a far lesser degree of detail when recording the agricultural labors of her husband. Without children, Emily apparently focused more of her attention on her husband than Saluta did.

Saluta, who may have worked harder and been more of a “neat freak” than Emily, often wrote about housework. Her long list of detailed backbreaking labor usually ends with a note that she had “sore shoulders” or was extremely tired. Usually within a day or hours she had a migraine. Saluta also wrote more about going to religious events, hearing different preachers, evangelists, and sermons at various churches, quilting, attending socials, prayer meetings, and attending the Presbyterian Women’s Foreign Missionary Society meetings than Emily. Emily more often simply noted that she and other people attended church or Sabbath School. Both women often noted the chapter and verse or the general topic of the sermon, and if there was good attendance.

Comparing a few days in diaries that exist for both sisters offers an example of their styles and what they chose to record. For example, on April 16, 1885 Saluta wrote, “16th April, Thursday. It was cloudy the most of the day, and quite a chilly wind from the east. I was very busy this forenoon straightening up the house and doing some baking. This afternoon went up to the store and from thire[sic] to Mrs. Coon’s we called Mrs. Ball’s and saw her new carpet. I eat [sic] supper to Mrs. Coon’s then we went to prayer meeting.”On the same day Emily wrote, “ 35 degrees 45 degrees Cloudy. Busy cuting[sic] [quilt] blocks in the pm. baking in the am. Herby called they came down with their fat cattle. Jenny Traves a little better. Attended prayer meeting in the evening a good number present. Red[sic] a letter from Ella S. Johnson (a cousin?) and a postal [postcard] from Aunt Lonesa Flint saying she thought she would be here next week.”

Another example records Rena’s twenty-fourth birthday on Sunday, January 18, 1891. On this day Saluta wrote, “It keeps just as dark and cloudy as ever, no change in three days. We both went to church and S.S. [Sabbath School] and DH has gone again to night[sic]. Bro. Riehl’s subject today was card playing, dancing and theater going, and a very sensible sermon it was. To day [sic] is my Rena’s birthday,24 years old, it don’t[sic]seem possible. My prayer to night[sic] for her is that she may have her health and that she may be true to the vows she made to God and the church.” Emily wrote on the same day, “Cloudy. All went to church except Merritt and the twins and P[a]. Merritt has a hard cold, he helped me do up the work, I gave quite a general sweeping, only got through when they came from church. Florence and I staid [sic] at home in the evening, she has a hard cold. They heard Bro. Wightman’s baby died at 2 this morning. I enjoy making myself useful for Florence has so much to do. Rena 24 today. George gave a present.” [probably one from Emily to Rena]

It is obvious here that Emily was living with George and his family by January 1891. Merritt was 13-years-old and the twins both four in 1891.

Also included in the collection is biographical information from censuses, three family letters, one from James Morrill, Tunbridge (Orange County, Vermont) to Emily M. Dewey, Concord, Michigan, February 1, 1846 prodding her to consider marriage; one from Emily to her fiancé James in Cohocton (Steuben County, New York), June 6, 1849; and one to Asa O. Dewey, Concord from a friend in Tallmage, November 2, 1851, with a mailing address of Steele’s Landing, Ottawa County, Michigan. Asa must be a relative, but the connection is unknown.


Harlow B. Ross photograph collection, 1948

1 envelope

Harlow B. Ross was a car salesperson in Owosso, Mich. who supported Thomas E. Dewey's bid for presidency in the 1948 United States presidential election. Consists of photographs of a Thomas E. Dewey homecoming parade in Owosso.

The collection consists of photographs of a Thomas E. Dewey homecoming parade in Owosso, Michigan.


Williams family papers, 1838-1953

2 linear feet

A. L. Williams family of Owosso, Michigan. Personal and business correspondence of A. L. Williams, Owosso, Michigan pioneer, railroad entrepreneur, and spiritualist; and personal letters of other members of the family, including May Williams Dewey, wife of E. O. Dewey (Thomas E. Dewey family); and miscellaneous newspaper clippings, business ledgers, and personal and business diaries concerning business affairs and daily activities; "spirit messages" received from departed family and others; also photographs.

The Williams Family [Owosso] collection consists of 2 linear feet of material. It includes the personal and business papers of four generations of Williamses from 1838 to 1953. However, the bulk of the material relates to the family of Alfred Leonzo Williams between 1860 and 1890.


Ziba Roberts collection, 1826-1957 (majority within 1861-1911)

1.5 linear feet

This collection is made up of correspondence, diaries, financial records, legal documents, photographs, speeches, and ephemera related to Ziba Roberts of Shelby, New York, and his family. Much of the material concerns his service in the 28th New York Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, veterans' pensions, reunions, genealogy, and estate administration.

This collection is made up of correspondence, diaries, financial papers, legal documents, photographs, speeches, printed items, and ephemera related to Ziba Roberts of Shelby, New York, and his family. Much of the material concerns his service in the 28th New York Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, veterans' pensions, reunions, genealogy, and estate administration.

The Correspondence series (approximately 110 items) includes a group of 17 items (1826-1852) related to the family of James Harland, an ancestor of Cynthia Dewey Roberts. Harland, who lived in Manchester, New York, received letters from his son William, who moved to Clarksfield, Ohio, around 1839. Shortly after his arrival, William described local marshes and discussed his land and the prices of various crops. His later letters concern his financial difficulties and his Christian faith. A letter of September 3, 1841, includes a small manuscript map of property lines.

The remaining correspondence pertains to Ziba Roberts and, to a lesser extent, his wife and children. The first item is a letter from his sister Henrietta dated March 14, 1858. Roberts regularly corresponded with family members and friends while serving in the 28th New York Infantry Regiment between January 1862 and April 1863. In his letters home (around 20 items), he described aspects of military and camp life, including food, hygiene, illness, long marches, and general boredom; several items concern his experiences in occupied Winchester, Virginia, in the spring of 1862 and his treatment after his release from Confederate prison. He sometimes commented on news of the war, expressing confidence in a Union victory. During this period, Roberts occasionally received letters from family members at home, who discussed farming, religion, and family news (5 items).

The Roberts correspondence resumes in 1886 and continues as late as 1937; most date between 1889 and 1912. Roberts received a series of letters from William W. Eastman in South Dakota, who wrote at length about his financial difficulties. Most of his late correspondence concerns Civil War veterans' affairs, particularly related to pensions and reunions. Some writers complained about the difficulty of receiving a pension, the health issues that affected former soldiers, and Roberts's own disability claim. One printed circular contains reminiscences by members of the 28th New York Infantry Regiment (printed and distributed in May 1892). In 1912, Ziba Roberts received letters from fellow veterans regarding the 28th Regiment's annual reunion; most expressed or implied a lasting sense of comradeship with their fellow veterans, though many declined the invitation on account of poor health or other circumstances (with some reflecting on whether deaths would put future reunions in jeopardy).

The latest correspondence, written in the 1920s and 1930s, concerns the Grand Army of the Republic, insurance policies, and Roberts and Sanborn family genealogy. One correspondent returned an essay written by Ziba Roberts in December 1916: "A Brief History of the Methodist Episcopal Church at East Shelby" (enclosed with letter dated February 27, 1924). Minutes of the 28th Regiment's 68th reunion, held in May 1929, note the death of Ziba Roberts and other soldiers.

Ziba Roberts wrote two Diaries between November 14, 1861, and December 31, 1862. His daily entries concern aspects of his service with the 28th New York Infantry Regiment in Maryland and Virginia, including his imprisonment in 1862. He wrote about marches, guard duty, drills, health, and rations.

The Documents and Financial Papers series (74 items) includes legal documents and financial papers dated 1864 to 1940. Correspondence, indentures, and mortgages pertain to land ownership, management of decedents' estates, and a legal dispute between William W. Dewey and Seneca Sprout in the 1890s. Four items are Grand Army of the Republic commissions for Ziba Roberts, dated between 1918 and 1922. One group of tax receipts pertains to payments made by Ziba and Cynthia Roberts as late as 1940.

The collection's account book originally belonged to Ziba Roberts in the late 19th century. Roberts recorded around 35 pages of accounts between around 1884 and 1919, including records related to everyday purchases of food and other goods, a female domestic worker's wages, road construction, and estates. A later owner recorded tax payments for the years 1922-1944.

The Photographs series consists of 2 photograph albums and 8 loose items. Together, the photograph albums contain around 120 cartes-de-visite, tintypes, and cabinet cards. These items consist of studio portraits of members of the Roberts, Dewey, Wolcott, and Sanborn families, as well as additional friends and family members. Most of the pictures, which feature men, women, children, and infants, were taken in New York.

The loose items are made up of photographs of Ziba Roberts, including a heavily retouched portrait and a corresponding print of the original image; portraits of soldiers in the 28th New York Infantry Regiment; pictures of Colonel Dudley Donnelly's tomb; and a group of soldiers posing by the High Water Mark of the Rebellion Monument at Gettysburg. Additional items show a group posing for a souvenir photograph after a "balloon route trolley trip" in Los Angeles, California, and members of the Sprout family standing in front of their home.

The Speeches, Printed Items, and Ephemera series (30 items) includes Civil War materials, such as scores for the songs "We're Marching on to Richmond," "The Passing of the Veteran," "We Old Boys," and "Have You Got the Countersign"; and a printed booklet of war songs issued by the Grand Army of the Republic and related veterans' societies. Other items pertain to veterans' reunions and reminiscences. The series also includes two typed carbon copies of postwar speeches given by Ziba Roberts, "Seeing Lincoln" and "Lecture on Army Prison Life."

Additional pamphlets and ephemeral items concern New York political reforms, cholera, and a meeting of the descendants of Henry Wolcott. One newspaper clipping describes the career of William Ziba Roberts. The series includes a biography of George Dewey and history of the Dewey family (Adelbert M. Dewey, 1898). The final items are World War II-era ration books, with many stamps still attached.

The Genealogy series (21 items) is comprised of records related to the Roberts and Dewey families, and to the ancestors and descendants of Ziba and Cynthia Dewey Roberts. A manuscript volume contains approximately 35 pages of family trees; registers of births, marriages, and deaths; and the military service of Daniel Roberts (Revolutionary War) and Ziba Roberts (Civil War). Other items include additional registers, death notices, and notes.