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Charlotte and Martha Wray papers, 1839-1872

0.25 linear feet

This collection contains the incoming and outgoing correspondence of Charlotte and Martha Wray, sisters who lived in Washington County, New York; Detroit, Michigan; and Iowa in the 19th century. The letters span Martha's time as a schoolteacher in Detroit, Michigan; Charlotte's work as a teacher in Albany, New York; and Charlotte's experiences in Iowa prior to the Civil War.

This collection contains approximately 110 letters, of which Charlotte Wray wrote about 90 to her sister Martha. Additionally, Martha and Mary Jane Wray each wrote 1 letter, and Charlotte and Martha Wray received about 18 letters from cousins and other family members. Charlotte's letters discuss her experience as a schoolteacher and her life in Albany, New York, and in Iowa, where she lived after the late 1840s. Charlotte's letters also include content on the arrival of new immigrants, her declining health, and her husband's medical practice during the Civil War.

The earliest items in the collection include a 1-page essay by Mary Jane Wray, Charlotte and Martha's sister, titled "of Solitude" and dated September 18, 1839, and a poem Charlotte wrote about her sister. The correspondence begins on May [15], 1842, with a letter from Martha about her arrival and teaching in Detroit. When Mary Jane traveled to Detroit in 1844, she wrote home about the birth and first weeks of her son Van (August 25, 1844).

Charlotte wrote approximately 20 letters to Martha after moving to Albany, New York, around October 1845, where she taught school. She gave news about her life and friends in Albany, such as her intent to turn down a marriage proposal (January 19, 1846) and student expenses at the New York State Normal School (March 15, 1846). In a later letter from Albany, written around the summer of 1846, she explained her reasons for leaving the school, based on the belief that she could earn more money sewing.

After June 22, 1847, Charlotte wrote approximately 70 letters to Martha describing her married life with Thomas. They moved to Garnavillo, Iowa, in the summer of 1847. She informed her sister about life in Iowa, including her travels, the experiences of other new immigrants, and her homes in Garnavillo, Farmersburg, and Monona. Charlotte also discussed married life and her husband's medical practice. She reflected on the Civil War in two letters, mentioning the draft, financial aspects of the war, and her husband's wartime medical practice (August 21, 1862, and February 1863). Following Charlotte's death around March 1863, Martha received 7 letters from her brother-in-law, who described Charlotte’s final sickness and death (March 31, 1863) and the devastating impact on the family.


Gilford L. and Henrietta McNamara family letters, 1914-1936 (majority within 1914-1927)

78 items

This collection is made up of incoming personal letters to Gilford L. and Henrietta McNamara, natives of Emmetsburg, Iowa, who lived in multiple cities throughout the 1920s. The McNamaras received letters from family members and friends who discussed their lives in numerous Iowa locations, including Emmetsburg, Ruthven, Rodman, Ayershire, and Cedar Rapids.

This collection is made up of 78 incoming personal letters to Gilford L. and Henrietta McNamara from family members and friends, who wrote primarily from 1914-1927. Their most frequent correspondent was Gilford's mother, Julie McNamara, who provided news from Emmetsburg, Iowa. Other frequent writers included Gilford's sister Nellie and Henrietta's sisters Jean and Ruth. These and other correspondents lived in Iowa towns such as Emmetsburg, Ruthven, Rodman, Ayershire, and Cedar Rapids. Most of the letters concern the writers' daily social activities, which included odd jobs and events such as dances. Several of the McNamaras' siblings discussed their education. Some writers commented on local news, such as a fatal car crash (June 15, 1925) and a girl getting "cut up" (May 1, 1920). The collection includes a few letters exchanged by Gilford and Henrietta McNamara, mostly after their marriage. In the final dated letter, A. P. Myer discussed a visit to Sulphur Springs, Arkansas (November 22, 1936).