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Inventory of the Guernsey Family Papers, 1837-1957
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Collection Overview
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The collection is semi-catalogued and arranged alphabetically by author. It contains 1,384 letters, written by 158 different authors, and 33 pieces of ephemera. The collection spans several generations of the Guernsey and Donaldson families. The correspondence centers around Emeline Donaldson Guernsey, her immediate family, relatives and friends. The letters give a detailed account of the lives of farmers, millers, shop keepers and school teachers in 19th century Midwestern America. The letters cover a wide range of aspects of their lives, such as family events, their day-to-day activities, trips to visit family and friends, farming, financial hardships, business interests and real estate transactions. Because the majority of the correspondence was written by women, the letters also give a strong female perspective of life on the frontier. There are over two hundred "Round Robin" family letters, spanning the years 1899 to 1957, that were sent to each family member. When the letters arrived, the family member would write a letter, add it to the group and send it on to the next person on the route card. The collection includes over 250 letters of Civil War interest written by William D. Guernsey, Henry A. Guernsey and several other soldiers. Both William and Henry wrote letters home dealing with army life and their experience in the war. The ephemera consists of biographical information, Confederate currency, printed materials, and three photographs.
Emeline Donaldson Guernsey, born in 1819 in Pennsylvania, was one of ten children born to Asa and Delia Allen Donaldson. She married Peter Buell Guernsey of Tioga, Pennsylvania, in the late 1830s. Peter died in a railroad accident in 1852. Six years later, in 1858, Emeline moved to Stacyville, Mitchell County, Iowa, to be near her sister and brother-in-law. There she settled on a farm bought and worked by her and her five children: William D. Guernsey, Henry A. Guernsey, Sarah Guernsey Beebe, Fannie Guernsey Orcutt, and Emma Guernsey Flint. In 1861 William, her oldest son, enlisted in the Fourth Iowa Cavalry and fought in the Civil War; Henry soon followed. With her sons gone, Emeline successfully managed the farm by herself while still managing to raise her three daughters. After the war, all of Emeline's children eventually married and moved away. In 1872, she sold her farm and moved to Illinois to live with her daughters. In the early 1880s, however, they all moved back to Iowa, including Emeline. Sarah Guernsey Beebe and her family remained in Iowa. Fannie Guernsey Orcutt and her family eventually moved to South Dakota. In the early 1900s, Emma Guernsey Flint and her family moved to Washington. Emeline's son, William D. Guernsey died of a sudden illness in 1879, at the age of 39. Henry A. Guernsey, her other son, moved out west to California, Oregon and Washington, where he lived for several years.
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.
Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL.