This collection is made up of approximately 190 incoming letters to Governeur J. Tompkins of Salt Point and Clinton, New York, and to his wife, Elizabeth Doty Tompkins, from friends and family members in Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Tennessee.
Governeur Tompkins corresponded with male and female family and friends throughout the Midwest. George H. Gillins, an acquaintance, wrote around 20 letters from Prophetstown, Lombard, and Oak Park, Illinois, from 1874-1876. He commented on his work digging wells, political issues and the election of 1874, and Illinois agriculture. In his letter of April 4, 1875, he mentioned his attendance at a show featuring African-American performers. Tompkins received additional letters from his cousin, Ida Ostrom, who provided news from Paxton, Illinois, and Chicago, Illinois, where she lived around 1875.
Much of Tompkins's incoming correspondence consists of letters from two female pen-pals, Minnie Ramsay of Home, Tennessee, and Flora Belle Pearsall of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Ramsay first wrote in response to his request for a female correspondent (February 1875) and she later wrote with a flirtatious tone. Her letter of August 2, 1875, contains a secondhand account of the death of President Andrew Johnson. Both Ramsay and Pearsall discussed courtship, education, temperance, their social lives, and differences between the North and South. Pearsall mentioned the death of General George Custer in her letter of July 12, 1876, and frequently referred to religious topics and conversions. Both Ramsay and Pearsall ceased to write in 1880, shortly after Governeur Tompkins married Elizabeth W. Doty.
After 1880, Governeur Tompkins received letters from various members of the Doty family, including H. A. Doty, one of Elizabeth's parents. Most of the Dotys' correspondence pertains to family news from Kansas and Missouri; one letter includes a description of a lynching (April 4 ,1882).