Flinn Family Correspondence

Finding aid prepared by Katrina Denman.
Manuscripts Department
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2203
Fax: (626) 449-5720
Email: manuscripts@huntington.org
URL: http://www.huntington.org
© 2013
The Huntington Library. All rights reserved.


Descriptive Summary

Title: Flinn Family Correspondence
Dates: 1847-1873
Collection Number: Consult repository
Creator: Flinn family
Extent: 67 items
Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Manuscripts Department
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2203
Fax: (626) 449-5720
Email: manuscripts@huntington.org
URL:http://www.huntington.org
Abstract: The collection consists of letters written between various members of the Flinn family between 1847 and 1873. The majority of the letters are addressed to Samuel Flinn from his brothers, nieces, and nephews. Major topics covered in the correspondence include western expansion and travel, farming and agriculture, Michigan and Ohio state politics, national politics, land tenure and the settlement of estates, Ohio state banking laws, the practice of ophthalmology, religious revivals in Ohio, the Spiritual Knockers movement in New York state, emigration to California, and family relationships, including courtship and marriage, in New York, Michigan, and Ohio.
Language of Material: The records are in English.

Administration Information

Access

Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, please go to the following website .

Publication Rights

In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Flinn family correspondence, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Acquisition Information

The collection was purchased from Michael Brown Rare Books on February 7, 2013.

Biography

The Flinn brothers were the sons of Peter Flinn (1780-1850) and Castilla Richardson (1786-1854), residents of Union Springs, New York, and early settlers of the Cayuga reservation. The eldest brother, Samuel Flinn (1806-1873) was a farmer in Springport, New York, who inherited his father’s homestead. He married Mary J. Penny and had two surviving sons, Glenn (b.1860) and Edward (b.1867). Morris Flinn (1811-1891) lived in Rushville, New York, and served on the New York State Assembly. He married Harriet Amelia Whitney (1818-1900). Chester Flinn (1818-1900) was a sometime surgeon who spent time farming with his brothers in Ohio and Michigan. John Flinn was an ophthalmologist and farmer who lived in Springfield and Norwalk, Ohio, and Albion, Michigan. Abram Flinn farmed with John in Norwalk and Albion, and may have owned land in Missouri in the 1850s. Edward Flinn departed New York for St. Louis before dying of fever while on a trip to New Orleans in 1850. DeWitt Clinton Flinn (b.1825) emigrated to California before a series of failed investments led to his returning home, destitute and ill, to live with his brothers in 1873. The Flinns also had two other brothers, Edwin and James, and a sister, Louisa “Lizzie” Clark, whose son John moved later moved in with his grandfather Peter.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of letters written between various members of the Flinn family between 1847 and 1873. The majority of the letters are addressed to Samuel Flinn from his brothers, nieces, and nephews. Major topics covered in the correspondence include western expansion and travel, farming and agriculture, Michigan and Ohio state politics, national politics, land tenure and the settlement of estates, Ohio state banking laws, the practice of ophthalmology, religious revivals in Ohio, the Spiritual Knockers movement in New York state, emigration to California, and family relationships, including courtship and marriage, in New York, Michigan, and Ohio.
The most frequent correspondent in the collection is John Flinn, who practiced ophthalmology and farmed in Ohio and Michigan. A letter written while John was in Utica, New York, in 1853 described his encounter with the Spiritual Knockers, whose authenticity he doubted, although he joked that “when I return home that I may have power to move tables stands [and] such…as I understand the spiritual knockers think favorably of making me a medium” (Mar.10, 1853). He had another religious encounter while living in Ohio in the mid-1850s, when a new preacher came to town and sparked a local revival. While John was unenthusiastic about the revival (“I for one am thankful that the meeting is about coming to a close,” he wrote in March 1856), he noted that it was widely believed that the preacher, an Elder Raymond, held “the golden key that unlocks the wickets of mercy.” An acquaintance of John’s became caught up in the excitement and was “in the zenith of his glory …singing [and] attending Meeting constantly day [and] night” (Feb.26, 1856). John also writes of politics, particularly the future of the Know-nothing and Democratic parties, and of the Nebraska Question, noting that in his region of Ohio “people are for Free territory almost to a man” (Mar.21, 1856). He writes often of the difficulties of making money in Ohio due to unfavorable banking laws and his difficulties in collecting payment from his ophthalmology patients. By 1855 he was working on a scheme to ship peaches east, and by the early 1860s seemed to be mainly focusing on his farming ventures in Ohio and Michigan.
The letters from DeWitt Clinton Flinn describe his unpredictable life in California. A letter to his mother dated March 29, 1854, recalled in detail a trip to Los Angeles, as well as describing the activities of the Filibusters and Captain William Walker (1824-1860). In the same letter he wrote of the decline of gold rush fever, noting that “peoples [sic] eyes have settled back into their natural sockets again [and] they have…dispense[d] with the hope of getting rich in a few days.” DeWitt mainly focused on cutting hay and other agricultural pursuits, and while he claimed to be doing well he also frequently asked his brother Samuel to send him money. In 1859 he took a trip to Peru and Chile, where he was “cheated out of some two thousand dollars” by a hacienda owner. In describing Peru he noted that “the slaves are all free now…and now may be seen many fine farms laying in idleness that formerly were finely flourishing…nothing is thought of in that country but Revolution” (June 12, 1859). He joined a temperance society upon returning to California and the following year bought 160 acres of government land in Visalia, where he brought his hogs (Aug.7, 1860). By 1872 he had returned east and stopped with various relatives, beginning with his nephew Morris in Ohio. Morris wrote that DeWitt had “come here from the South on foot, when he has been sick with the Yellow fever nearly all summer and which lost him all his property.” (Dec.27, 1872). When he arrived at his brother John’s home he was so changed that “we did not know him… he has had a rough life of it for some twenty five years” (Feb.8, 1873). DeWitt later planned to go to Battle Creek to attempt to find factory work.
A single letter from Edward describes his somewhat impromptu trip along the Mississippi River to St. Louis, although he claimed not to “flatter myself with the idea of becoming the hero of a romantic tale” (Oct.19-29, 1850). He took a steamer to New Orleans, where he died in November 1850. Subsequent letters to Samuel from Edward’s doctors describe his illness and death in a charity hospital.
A letter from Chester to Samuel dated May 4, 1869, recalled a trip he took by rail from New York to Detroit, including a five hour layover in Niagara Falls. “I stopped at Suspension Bridge… [and] walked over it and when about half way across there came along a heavy loaded freight train of about 27 cars,” he wrote. “All told they ran very steady…the supporting stays over the towers did not even stir.” On arriving in Albion, Michigan, he wrote that “the hard times does [sic] not seem to put an entire check its growth.” He was optimistic about the future of the city, noting that “We will soon have another Rail Road crossing the Central at Albion…connect[ing] with the Southern road…it will give our place quite a help will make business very lively here.”
Many of the Flinns’ letters include references to their attempts to find wives (“This is [Abram’s] second trip to Ohio this spring I am half inclined to think he has something aside from Horses to draw his attention,” John wrote to Samuel in June 1870). Morris echoed many of his brothers’ sentiments when he wrote “I can [never be] as well as I would with a wife, so you see I am in rather an unsettled state of mind” (July 19, 1852). Most of Morris’s subsequent letters focus on family news and issues, in particular his concerns over his brother Chester, of whom he wondered to Samuel whether “there seems to be any more hopes of a reformation,” continuing “I had hoped…that there was a chance for him to reform but I was sorry to learn that he could not be seen as he was not in a fit state” (Mar.4, 1856). A nephew hinted at further problems when he wrote that Chester and a brother-in-law partner in Norwalk “had some trouble, but I don’t know what it was about nor do I want to” (Sep.17, 1871).
Letters from Samuel’s nephews include those of C.W. Flinn, which focus on politics - including his observations that “the Radicals smashed us decidedly in our State…Some of the Rads. begin to remember Tyler [and] Johnson and fear that Grant is not quite up to their standard of “loyalty” should wonder if that they had caught a “Tartar” (Nov.17, 1868) - and his business in Ohio, including a store that burned down in 1869 at a loss of $2,500. C.W. and another nephew, M.R. Flinn, often asked Samuel to invest in their business ventures, including “keep[ing] agricultural implements of all kinds,” and assured him “we do business for cash only” (Jan.17, 1871). A third nephew, D.P. Flinn, wrote from Kansas City that he worked as a chief engineer of a “large coal and mining corporation” which supplied all “these western R.R.s” with coal. “I have been in Missouri three years,” he wrote, “…but my business calls me all over the west, out to the mountains, south to the Indian Territory, east to Ill., etc.” (Sep.17, 1871).

Arrangement

The collection is arranged chronologically.
A detailed container list is available through the Manuscripts Department.

Indexing Terms

Personal Names

Walker, William, 1824-1860.

Corporate Names

American Party.
United States. Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Subject

Agriculture--California.
Agriculture--Michigan.
Agriculture--New York (State)
Agriculture--Ohio.
Coal mines and mining.
Courtship.
Domestic relations--Michigan.
Domestic relations--New York (State)
Domestic relations--Ohio.
Elections--Michigan.
Elections--Ohio.
Filibusters.
Hay--Harvesting.
Land tenure--New York (State)
Ophthalmology--Practice.
Peach.
Political parties--Ohio--History--19th century.
Revivals--Ohio.
Spiritualism.

Geographic Areas

California--Description and travel.
California--History--1850-1950.
Chile--Description and travel.
Chile--History--1824-1920.
Los Angeles (Calif.)--Description and travel.
Michigan--Description and travel.
Michigan--History--1837-.
Mississippi River--Description and travel.
Missouri--History--19th century.
New York (State)--Description and travel.
New York (State)--History--1775-1865.
New York (State)--History--1865-.
Niagara Falls (N.Y.)
Norwalk (Ohio)
Ohio--History--1878-1865.
Ohio--History--1865-.
Peru--Description and travel.
Peru--History--1829-1919
Saint Louis (Mo.)--Description and travel.
Sonora (Calif.)--Description and travel.
West (U.S.)--History--1848-1860.
West (U.S.)--History--1860-1890.

Genre

Letters (correspondence)--California--19th century.
Letters (correspondence)--Michigan--19th century.
Letters (correspondence)--New York (State)--19th century.
Letters (correspondence)--Ohio--19th century.


Collection Contents

 

1 box: Correspondence, 1847-1873

 

1847, Jan.25. Flinn, Samuel. Letter to John Flinn. Bergen, N.Y.  HM 79100. 

 

1850, Oct.19-29. Flinn, Edward R. Letter to Samuel Flinn. St. Louis, Mo.  HM 79101. 

 

1850, Nov.25. Fenner, E.D. Letter to Samuel Flinn. New Orleans, La.  HM 79102. 

 

1850, Nov.29. King, William M, Jr. Letter to Samuel Flinn. New Orleans, La.  HM 79103. 

 

1850, Dec.14. King, William M., Jr. Letter to Samuel Flinn. New Orleans, La.  HM 79104. 

 

1852, Jan.22. Diggs, William S. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Detroit, Mich.  HM 79105. 

 

1852, Apr.7. Pinckerey?, William H. Letter to Chester Flinn. Lansing, Mich.  HM 79106. 

 

1852, July 14. Pinckerey?, William H. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Lansing, Mich.  HM 79107. 

 

1852, July 19. Flinn, Morris B. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Rushville, N.Y.  HM 79108. 

 

1853, Mar.10. Flinn, John. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Utica, N.Y.  HM 79109. 

 

1854, Mar.29. Flinn, DeWitt Clinton. Letter to Castilla Richardson Flinn. Napa, Calif.  HM 79110. 

 

1855, Jan.8. Flinn, John. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Norwalk, Ohio.  HM 79111. 

 

1855, Jan.27. Flinn, DeWitt Clinton. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Napa, Calif.  HM 79112. 

 

1855, Feb.13. Flinn, Morris B. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Rushville, N.Y.  HM 79113. 

 

1855, Mar.9. Flinn, John. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Springfield, Ohio.  HM 78114. 

 

1855, Mar.23. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Springfield, Ohio.  HM 79115. 

 

1855, May 9. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Springfield, Ohio.  HM 79116. 

 

1855, May 11. Flinn, DeWitt Clinton. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Napa, Calif.  HM 79117. 

 

1855, July 22. Flinn, John. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Springfield, Ohio.  HM 79118. 

 

1855, Nov.20. Vail, Louisa J.C. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Waterford, Mich.  HM 79119. 

 

1855, Dec.3. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Springfield, Ohio.  HM 79120. 

 

1855, Dec.16. [Flinn, Morris B.]. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Rushville, N.Y.  HM 79121. 

 

1856, Feb.26. Flinn, John. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Springfield, Ohio.  HM 79122. 

 

1856, Mar.4. Flinn, Morris B. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Rushville, N.Y.  HM 79123. 

 

1856, Mar.21. Flinn, John. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Springfield, Ohio.  HM 79124. 

 

1856, Apr.29. Flinn, John. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Springfield, Ohio.  HM 79125. 

 

1856, May 24. Flinn, D.?. Letter to Samuel Flinn.  HM 79126. 

 

1856, Sep.15. Clark, Josephus. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Aurora, Ind.  HM 79127. 

 

1857, Mar.21 Flinn, Morris B. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Rushville, N.Y.  HM 79128. 

 

1858, June 11. Flinn, Morris B. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Rushville, N.Y.  HM 79129. 

 

1858, Sep.23. Flinn, John. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Bergen, N.Y.  HM 79130. 

 

1859, Jan.6. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Norwalk, Ohio.  HM 79131. 

 

1859, June 12. linn, DeWitt Clinton. Letter to [Samuel Flinn].  HM 79132. 

 

1859, Nov.8. Flinn, Nell. Letter to Samuel Flinn.  HM 79133. 

 

1860. Flinn, Abram. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Bergen, N.Y.  HM 79134. 

 

1860, Aug.7. Flinn, DeWitt Clinton. Letter to [Samuel Flinn].  HM 79135. 

 

1860, Aug.31. Flinn, Abram. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Bergen, N.Y.  HM 79136. 

 

1861, Aug.2. Richardson, R[ichard] S. Letter to [Samuel Flinn].  HM 79137. 

 

[1861], Aug.11. Packingham, Louisa. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Florence, Ind.  HM 79138. 

 

1861, Nov.28. Flinn, DeWitt Clinton. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Visalia, Calif.  HM 79139. 

 

1866, Dec.3. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn.  HM 79140. 

 

1866, Dec.20. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Albion, Mich.  HM 79141. 

 

1867, Apr.11. Flinn, John. Letter ot Samuel Flinn. Albion, Mich.  HM 79142. 

 

1867, Aug.21. Curtis, Morey, and Co. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Rochester, N.Y.  HM 79143. 

 

1868, May 24. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Albion, Mich.  HM 79144. 

 

1868, Nov.17. Flinn, C.W. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Norwalk, Ohio.  HM 79145. 

 

1869, Mar.28. Baylies, Francis, 1783-1852. Letter to John E. Wool.  HM 79146. 

 

1869, Apr.4. Flinn, John. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Albion, [Mich].  HM 79147. 

 

1869, May 4. Flinn, Chester F. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Albion, [Mich].  HM 79148. 

 

1869, Dec.15. Flinn, C.W. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Norwalk, Ohio.  HM 79149. 

 

1870, Mar.22. Flinn, C.W. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Norwalk, Ohio.  HM 79150. 

 

1870, May 25. Griffin (J.S.) and Co. Letter to John Gildersleeve. Washington, D.C.  HM 79151. 

 

1870, June. Flinn, JOhn. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Albion, [Mich].  HM 79152. 

 

1870, July 7. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Albion, [Mich].  HM 79153. 

 

1870, Aug.3. Griffin (J.S.) and Co. Letter to Samuel Flinn.  HM 79154. 

 

1870, Nov.5. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Albion, [Mich.].  HM 79155. 

 

1871, Jan.17. Flinn, Morris R. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Norwalk, Ohio.  HM 79156. 

 

1871, Sep.17. Flinn, D.P. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Kansas City, Mo.  HM 79157. 

 

1871, Nov.2. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Albion, Mich.  HM 79158. 

 

1872, May 26. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Albion, Mich.  HM 79159. 

 

1872, Nov.3. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Albion, Mich.  HM 79160. 

 

1872, Dec.27. Flinn, Morris R. Letter to Morris B. Flinn. Norwalk, Ohio.  HM 79161. 

 

1873, Jan.8. Flinn, Morris B. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Albany, N.Y.  HM 79162. 

 

1873, Feb.8. Flinn, John. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Albion, Mich.  HM 79163. 

 

1873, Mar.29. Flinn, John. Letter to Samuel Flinn. Albion, Mich.  HM 79164. 

 

1873, May 29. Flinn, Morris B. Letter to [Samuel Flinn]. Albany, N.Y.  HM 79165.