The Thurston Family Papers, ranging from 1823 to 1974, consist of correspondence; a diary; financial, business, and legal papers; photographs, daguerreotypes, biographical materials, and a scrapbook of advertising cards. The papers fall in to six groupings, Genealogy, The John Gates Thurston Family, The Francis H. Thurston Family, The George Lee Thurston II Family, George Lee Thurston III, and Visual Images. The folders in each grouping are arranged alphabetically.
Genealogy contains genealogical material and several drafts of The Thurston Chronicle, a history of the Thurston family, by George Lee Thurston III.
The John Gates Thurston Family material includes legal papers and records from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, an 1824 letter describing Lafayette’s visit to Alexandria, a 1836 diary of John’s trip to Chicago, Civil War letters from his son George L. Thurston I and Henry Nourse, and a passport from a trip to Europe in 1839.
The Francis H. Thurston Family material includes articles by Francis on such topics as Michigan trivia, Civil War memories, building a canvas canoe, and descriptions of the excellence of Michigan. Letters from his mother (1862, 1963) include Civil War news, details of his brother’s death following the war, and marriage advice. In an 1897 letter from his son, George, Francis learns that George had to put in a telephone because the competing lumber mill had one and was getting more business. A letter (1907) to Francis’ recently widowed daughter-in-law Lenore gives her nearly word for word financial advice given to him in 1886 by his friend E. H. Russell when William McNeil had a breakdown and nearly financially destroyed Francis.
The George Lee Thurston II Family material is more eclectic than the rest of the collection because of the variety of people and materials in this grouping. Included is correspondence of the Mohrmann family (George married Lenore Mohrmann) written in German and a German report card as well as both the original and transcript copies of William’s suicide poem “Pallida Mors.” George Lee Thurston II’s publication, the Intermediate Valley contains facts about Michigan, ads, and humorous stories. Letters from his Uncle Dud (1879, undated) are humorous and encourage George to develop his writing--both style and content. Letters written in 1879 from his boyhood friends in Ohio talk of the yellow fever epidemic and of the diphtheria epidemic in Michigan. Frederick Crandall Thurston’s (George’s son) correspondence includes letters he wrote to his family while he was looking for work in New York, 1930-1931, describing railway travel and his negative reaction to radios. The copies of the 1934 editions of the Remington News (Culpepper, Va.) indicate depression-era prices and an unusually progressive attitude (for the South) towards blacks which contrasts with an 1856 receipt for the sale of Hannah (a Negro) for $50 (the connection with the Thurston family is unclear).
Visual Images include photographs, photograph albums, daguerreotypes, and a scrapbook of advertising cards. Identified daguerreotypes and photographs include many family members and friends whose names appear in the Thurston papers. Among these are E. H. Russell, William McNeil, and Mary B. Thurston Nourse. The unidentified daguerreotypes include two images of a man with his dog and one image of a woman kissing a baby. The unidentified daguerreotypes are labeled with a number; the same number followed by a letter (ie 5a, 5b), indicates different daguerreotypes of the same person. A folder with a photograph of a Lee Thurston is in the Clarke’s Biographical Photographs File. The scrapbook includes only one Michigan advertising card, the rest being from New York (State) or other states.