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James Patten papers, 1788-1799

16 items

The James Patten papers contain letters and documents detailing his capture and captivity by Delaware Indians in Ohio, the funds raised by the family to purchase his ransom, his eventual release, and his life on the Ohio frontier.

The James Patten papers (16 items) contain letters and documents regarding Patten's capture and captivity by Delaware Indians in Ohio, the family's efforts to raise funds to purchase his ransom, his eventual release, and his life on the Ohio frontier (1789-1799). The collection is comprised of 12 letters (1788-1799), 3 receipts (1791), and a subscription list (1791). Also present is a photocopied excerpt from The Choates in America, 1643-1896, by E. O. Jameson, which describes the capture of Patton and Isaac and Francis Choate by the Delaware Indians (pages 125-128).

The earliest item in the collection is a letter of recommendation for David Patten (1761-1836) by the Selectman of Bedford, New Hampshire, and endorsed by Justices of the Peace from Hillsborough and Middlesex Counties (May 1, 1788). It asks "all Civil Officers and others let him pass and repass unmolested." David may well have planned to go to Ohio with his brother James, but changed his mind. Matthew and Elizabeth Patten wrote the next two letters in the collection to James Patterson, who accompanied their son to Ohio (June 13, 1789 and December 1, 1790). They discussed local news like the new style of singing hymns in the meeting house, family news, and news on crop yields. James Patten wrote all his 7 letters after his captivity; these contain details about his time with the Indians and how he was freed (November 1, 1796 -- April 21, 1799). Though many of his comments on the experience are brief, his letter to friend Samuel Patterson provides a day-by-day account of the nearly month-long trek he made across what is now the state of Ohio, from Big Bottom, where he was captured, to "The Grand Auglaize" in the heart of the Northwest Indian Confederacy (Sept. 10, 1797). He described his abduction, daily travel, and forced run through the gauntlet before he was accepted into the village: "I was welcomed into ther town one with his Club[,] a nother with his foot [,] another with his hand [,] another with a tomyhak."

The collection provides considerable information on ransoming a prisoner during the Northwest Indian War. Lacking sufficient funds, James' father Matthew Patten wrote a subscription appeal to friends and neighbors and received 37 signatures (July 4, 1791). The three receipts follow the trail of the 93 dollars collected to ransom James, as it was carried to Montreal by Isaac Choate, Jr.

The papers also document improvements in transportation both in New Englandas well as in the Ohio territory. In his letter of Aug. 18, 1796, David Patten informed his brother James that they had had a bumper hay crop, but had to pay very high wages to harvest it because of the demand for local labor "which is caused by building bridges and digging canals." He also listed the locations along the Merrimack River where bridges were being built: Concord, Amoskeag, Pentucket, Bodwell's Falls, Haverhill, Sweat's Ferry, and Newbury. In letters to his brother David, James Patten described, in detail, new roads, canals, and bridges built in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and mentioned horse powered boats being used on rivers in Ohio (November 23, 1797).

On the back of the September 10, 1797, letter from James Patten to Samuel Patterson is a copy of a poem called O True Times, commemorating American independence.


Native American collection, 1688-1921

0.25 linear feet

The Native American collection contains miscellaneous letters and documents concerning Native American Indians in the United States, Canada, and the West Indies, and their interactions with British and American settlers.

The Native American collection is comprised of approximately 125 miscellaneous letters and documents concerning Native American Indians in the United States, Canada, and the West Indies, and their interactions with British and American settlers (1689-1921). Topics range from land agreements, legal issues, treaties, descriptions of travel through Indian Territory, Indian uprisings and conflicts, Indian captivities, prisoners of war, Indian enslavement, and interactions with Quaker and Moravian missionaries. Tribes include the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cree, Iroquois, Ojibwa, Oneida, Ottawa, Kickapoo, Seneca, Shawnee, Sioux, among others, and concern activities in Canada, New England, the Midwest, the South, and the western frontier. Also present are items written in Cherokee, Mohawk, and Ojibwa.


Nixon family papers, 1800-1889 (majority within 1800-1851)

88 items

The Nixon family papers document the lives of several branches of the Nixon family, including settlers in southern Ohio and women attending Mount Holyoke Female Seminary and Charlestown Female Seminary.

The Nixon family papers consist of 88 items: 84 letters, 3 legal documents, and a ledger. The materials cover the period between 1800 and 1889, with the bulk clustered around 1800-1851. They primarily concern the family's settlement on land in southern Ohio in the 1810s and 1820s and the education and social lives of Warren Nixon's daughters in Massachusetts in the late 1840s.

Thomas Nixon, Jr., and his attorney, Rufus Putnam, wrote most of the correspondence of 1800-1817, which relates to taxes and land values in southeastern Ohio. Several documents concerning the land also date from this period. Beginning in 1818, letters from Warren Nixon, Otis Nixon, and Richard Nichols describe clearing and planting in Morgan Township, Ohio, as well as their everyday lives there. Warren looked down on his neighbors, calling them "a poor ignorant lazy set of beings as ever inhabited the world," and disapproved of their religious practices --"the old women & girls will pretend to preach… and jump round a while and then fall down as if they were dead" (June 22, 1818). In many letters they described their hardships; these included the neighbors stealing their horses (December 3, 1819), the low prices paid for their crops (July 13, 1822), and widespread disease (August 10, 1823). Responses from Thomas Nixon, Jr., advised patience and frugality.

By the 1830s, Warren had returned to Massachusetts, and only Otis Nixon remained in Ohio. Otis wrote the majority of letters during this period to Warren and other relatives. In a letter of May 14, 1841, he described the events in Watertown, Ohio, leading up to William Henry Harrison's election: "We have had Harrison women and Harrison boys, tippacanoe poles, log cabins and hard cider in abundance besides dinners I don't know how many & balls not a few. Many have supposed that Gen Harrison lived in a log cabin and drinked hard cider and therefore would be an uncommon friend to the poor, but such was not the fact." Otis' later correspondence also gives details of his crops, farm buildings, and events within his immediate family circle.

Between 1846 and 1851, the focus of the collection shifts to several of the daughters of Warren Nixon and Salome Rice: Selina (1825-1916), Marcella (b. 1827), and Laurella (b. 1820). The sisters exchanged a series of letters concerning family news, church matters, Charlestown Female Seminary, and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. In her letter of January 25, 1847, Marcella, a Baptist, worries that the "far off Western wilds" are filling with "Roman Catholics… undermining the minds of the young with their false religion." On April 13, 1848, while at Mount Holyoke, she gave an account of Mary Lyon's attitude toward missionaries: "Her whole soul is bound up in the missionary work and she would have her pupils cherish it as she does." Only five items represent the period after 1851. These include several letters from Otis Nixon and his son, George, updating the family on their health and endeavors.


Rufus Putnam letters, 1797-1799

13 items

The Rufus Putnam letters are made up of 13 drafts of letters written by Putnam, primarily concerning the Greenville Treaty boundary line. Putnam was surveyor-general of the United States from 1796 to 1803, and these letters provide insight into his duties related to the partitioning of the Northwest Territory.

The Rufus Putnam letters (1797-1799) are made up of 13 drafts of letters written by Putnam, primarily concerning the Greenville Treaty boundary line. Putnam was surveyor-general of the United States from 1796 to 1803, and the letters provide insight into his duties related to the partitioning of the Northwest Territory. Putnam wrote twelve of these letters to Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, informing him of progress in drawing the treaty line, and of various other activities.

The earliest letters in the collection pertain to contracts for ax men and deputy surveyors needed in order to complete the "Greenville Treaty Line" survey in a timely fashion, as well as keeping Wolcott informed of Putnam's surveying plans. In a letter dated May 10, 1797, Putnam humorously reported that he had to acquire a new certification of his appointment as surveyor-general because the Senate revised his original commission, which meant he had to swear into office again. As surveyor-general, Putnam wished to avoid difficulties when working with Native Americans; on January 25, 1797, he wrote, "It will be proper to have the boundary lines between these lands & the present Indian claims ascertained as soon as may be to prevent all danger of our encroaching on the Indian Lands." To aid in the distinction between U.S. territory and Indian lands, Putnam believed that the construction of a "great road" was the best way to give the Indians "satisfaction & leave the white people without excuse with respect to their knowledge of the boundary line" (March 15, 1799).

The Rufus Putnam letters offer a glimpse into different native tribes' responses to the drawing of the Greenville Treaty line. A letter dated August 15, 1799, respects military officer Israel Ludlow's invitation to Indian chiefs to appear at the surveying of the line. However, after waiting for two weeks, no chiefs presented themselves to Ludlow. In a subsequent letter, Putnam described an encounter between Ludlow's men and "a party of Indians at Greenville; the Indians told them that they must go no farther [on] that course, that they would all be killed if they continued on." (10 September 1799) These situations left no doubt in Putnam's mind "that it was the intention of the Indians to prevent runing [sic] the boundary line, if it was in their power to effect a delay without employing actual force." (September 10, 1799) Ludlow completed the survey without any Indian representatives present.

The collection includes a copy of a letter from Shawnee chiefs to Ludlow, expressing their displeasure at Ludlow's apparent condoning of Chickasaw raids against the Shawnee (July 16, 1799). The Shawnee chiefs explained their dissatisfaction: "Brother you help the Chickasaws, you gave them provisions & they come here secretly to kill us and our families, we see them every morning but the woods is so thick we cannot catch them… When you send word that the Chickasaws are gon we will come to you to make the road, but if the Chickasaws kill one Shawonnoe we will follow them through your Town until we kill the most of them."