Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Sylvester Dana Papers, 1770-1847

Finding aid created by
C.H., April 1990

Summary Information
Title: Sylvester Dana papers
Creator: Dana, Sylvester, 1769-1849
Inclusive dates: 1770-1847
Extent: 148 items
Abstract:
The Sylvester Dana papers contain letters written to Sylvester Dana during the period of his ministry at Orford, N.H. The collection provides insight into the religious lives of northern New Englanders during the period of the Second Great Awakening and provides information on the local history of a Congregational church.

Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1988. M-2434.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Sylvester Dana papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biography

Sylvester Dana was born in Ashford, Conn., on October 14, 1769, the seventh child of Anderson and Susanna Huntington Dana. When Dana was still very young, the family moved to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, where they intended to farm. However, when Anderson Dana was killed in the Wyoming massacre of 1778, the family returned to Connecticut, and Sylvester and his brothers were forced to seek work wherever they could find it to help support the family. In April, 1786, he and his next older brother moved back to their property near Wilkesbarre, which the family had never sold, and made enough of a success at farming that Sylvester was able to return to Connecticut and begin preparations to enter college.

After studying with Rev. Nehemiah Prudden of Enfield, Dana was accepted at Yale into the class of 1797. During his sophomore year, he was moved to become a full member of the Congregational church, and immediately after graduation, he entered into theological studies under Rev. Charles Backus, and was licensed to preach by the Tolland County (Conn.) Ministerial Association in June, 1798.

After preaching in various towns in Pennsylvania, New York, and Vermont, Dana was called to settle in Orford, N.H., in 1800. He was installed on May 10, 1801, and was called upon to preach alternately in the town's East and West Congregational meeting houses. His years at Orford saw a great increase in religious observance among the inhabitants, an early manifestation of the Second Great Awakening. During his twenty-one years as minister, 190 people were reported to have joined the church, mainly in the revivals of 1810 and 1819. Dana also played a part in spreading religion more broadly through the region. In 1805, for instance, he and two other ministers organized the Congregational Church at Dartmouth College.

Dana married Hannah Kimball (d. 1846) in 1802, with whom he had nine children, only four of whom survived infancy: Charles Backus (1806-1873), Sylvester (b. 1816), Anne Kimball, and one other daughter. Charles and Sylvester both attended Dartmouth. Charles followed his father into the ministry, though in the Episcopal church, and Sylvester became an attorney and judge.

After Dana's dismissal from the church at Orford in 1822, 28 former members of Dana's congregation separated to form the West Congregational Church, comprised of the west meeting house and some residents of nearby Fairlee, Vt. Dana was unanimously called there in 1823 and remained for ten years, bringing in over one hundred additional members to the new congregation. He resigned in 1833, moving to Thornton, N.H., where he preached for four more years, and then entered into semi-retirement in Concord, N.H., in August, 1837. He died at Concord at the age of 80, on June 9, 1849.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Sylvester Dana papers contain 148 items arranged chronologically, the vast majority of which are letters written to Sylvester Dana during the period of his ministry at Orford, N.H. However, there are three letters written by Dana, some significant church documents, and several miscellaneous letters. Seen as a whole, the collection provides insight into the religious lives of northern New Englanders during the period of the Second Great Awakening and the development of religious fervor among both ministers and laity, as well as provides information on the local history of a Congregational church.

The Dana papers contain detailed descriptions of revivals and local religious gatherings in New England and Pennsylvania, and news of particular churches, including Congregational and other denominations. In one series, a student, Daniel C. Blood, describes the religious atmosphere among the students at Dartmouth College, 1826 to 1828, always in the hope that a revival awaits them. Numerous Congregational clergymen kept Dana posted on the state of religion in their congregations. In one letter (81), Rev. Jail Mann describes a revival among children in Massachusetts cotton factories, noting, without a trace of irony, "These factories became, as it were, temples of divine worship and houses of prayer."

All three letters written by Dana (133-135) were written when he was in his late seventies, and show Dana's command of Biblical scholarship, his condemnation of all war, and his strong grasp of current affairs. Sylvester's brother, Anderson wrote 22 letters, all from Wilkesbarre, Pa. Anderson was an outspoken critic of Pennsylvania's Gov. Thomas McKean (26, 28, 55), and he also disapproved of President Jackson (122, 124). As expected, throughout his correspondence, Anderson reports on religious events, economic conditions, and efforts to settle their father's estate. Anderson also discusses a secret affair that his brother Eleazar had, which ended with the woman's miscarriage (38, 42).

The earliest items in the collection are important documents relating to the founding of the Presbyterian Church at Orford, the first church in town. These include the church covenant (1), which includes a brief outline of church doctrine followed by a signed confession of faith, records of subsequent church proceedings (2, 3), and the minutes of a 1786 meeting of the Grafton County, N.H., Presbytery (4). The Orford Church withdrew from the Presbytery in 1789 to become Congregational. Finally, letters of recommendation for people moving to other congregations are included in folder 139, and public complaints read at the Church of Orford are in folder 140.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Dartmouth College.
    • Epidemics.
    • Second Great Awakening.
    • Religious gatherings.
    • Revivals.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
     
    Sylvester Dana papers,  1770-1847 [series]:
    Box   1  
     1770-1814
    Box   2  
     1814-1847
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Bibliography

    Dexter, Franklin B.Biographical sketches of the graduates of Yale College , vol. 5 (N.Y., 1911), 271-273

    Partial Subject Index
    African-Americans--Religious gatherings
    • 81
    Agriculture--New York (State)
    • 84
    Alcot, Mills
    • 75
    Allen, Jacob, 1781-1856
    • 59
    American Education Society
    • 95
    Andover Theological Seminary
    • 127
    Avery, Silas
    • 140
    Backus, Charles, 1749-1803
    • 10
    Baldwin, Thomas, 1753-1826
    • 97
    Beecher, Lyman, 1775-1863
    • 30
    Bennett, Joseph, 1798-1847
    • 111
    Benton, Calvin
    • 90
    Bible-- Criticism, interpretation, etc.
    • 135
    Bingham, Amos
    • 73
    Biseley, Alfred
    • 58, 68, 72
    Blodgett, Constantine, b. 1802
    • 106
    Blood, Amos
    • 140
    Blood, Daniel Cole, b. 1803
    • 105, 107, 111, 112, 116, 117, 120
    Boroughs, Eden
    • 4
    Brainend, Israel
    • 27
    Bruge, C.
    • 71
    Buck, Amasa
    • 51
    Burt, Gidion
    • 32
    Burt, Moses
    • 19
    Burton, Asa, 1752-1836
    • 49
    Cavanaugh, Maskel
    • 64
    Church covenants
    • 1
    Church finance
    • 63
    Church management
    • 2, 3, 4
    Church meetings
    • 81, 87, 90, 106
    Church societies
    • 85, 93, 97, 108
    Church, John H., 1772-1840
    • 36, 50, 52, 95
    Confessions of faith
    • 1
    Congregational Church (Bath, N.H.)
    • 51
    Congregational Church (Orford, N.H.)
    • 5, 18, 140
    Coull, Matthew
    • 26
    Dana, Alvan
    • 80, 126
    Dana, Amasa (cousin)
    • 136
    Dana, Amasa (nephew)
    • 76
    Dana, Amelia
    • 69
    Dana, Anderson
    • 11, 16, 17, 28, 29, 38, 42, 44, 45, 55, 60, 63, 67, 70, 87, 93, 99, 100, 110, 114, 122, 124
    Dana, Aziel, d. 1804
    • 7, 42, 45
    Dana, Charles Backus, 1806-1873
    • 101, 119, 127
    Dana, Daniel
    • 71
    Dana, Eleazar
    • 20-25, 42, 122, 124
    Dana, Hannah, d. 1846
    • 40, 78, 92, 102, 108, 113, 130, 131, 136
    Dana, Persis K.
    • 41
    Dana, Polly
    • 39
    Dana, Susanna
    • 6, 8, 69, 80, 88
    Dana, Sylvester nephew
    • 132
    Dana, Sylvester, 1769-1849
    • as writer 62, 133, 134, 135
    Dana, Sylvester, b. 1816
    • 130-1
    Dartmouth College
    • 58, 59, 95, 105, 111, 117, 120
    Davis, James
    • 52
    Dewey, Benom
    • 49
    Droughts-- Connecticut
    • 53
    Dwight, Sereno E., 1786-1850
    • 97
    Eastman, Tilton, 1773-1842
    • 49
    Education-- Pennsylvania
    • 63, 70
    Election (Theology)
    • 60
    Elections-- Pennsylvania-- Wilkesbarre
    • 55
    Electoral College
    • 55
    Epidemics--Connecticut
    • 57, 74, 77, 88, 89
    Epidemics--Pennsylvania
    • 39, 45
    Epidemics--Vermont
    • 41
    Farnham, Deborah
    • 121
    Farnsworth, James
    • 101
    Fine, G. H.
    • 133
    Fish, Susanna
    • 53
    Foord, John
    • 90
    Fuller, Caleb
    • 49
    Gildersleve, Cyrus
    • 93, 110
    Grafton County (N.H.) Presbytery
    • 4
    Great Awakening, 2nd
    • passim
    Gurley, John
    • 13
    Hale, Jonathan
    • 109
    Hale, Mindwell
    • 139
    Hanover (N.H.) Moral Society
    • 75
    Harris, Elizabeth
    • 139
    Hart, Abel
    • 139
    Hartsough, Christopher
    • 22
    Hills, Peleg
    • 12
    Hills, William C.
    • 12, 57, 77, 89
    Holley, John M.
    • 118
    Holley, Sarah
    • 118, 123
    Hough, George
    • 56
    Howard, William
    • 82
    Hudson & Goodwin
    • 31
    Huntington, Lynde
    • 14
    Huntington, Nathan
    • 74
    Huntington, Sally
    • 88
    Hyde, Lewis
    • 61
    Hyde, Moses
    • 84, 86
    Jackson, Andrew, 1767-1845
    • 122, 124
    Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
    • 33
    Jowin, Josiah
    • 96
    Kimball Union Academy
    • 95, 101
    Kimball, John
    • 40, 78
    Kimball, Sally
    • 34, 65
    Kimball, Sarah
    • 125
    Kimball, Stephen
    • 49
    Lambart,
    • 49
    Legislators-- New York (State)
    • 55, 118, 122, 124
    Local church councils
    • 48, 71, 96
    Loomis, William
    • 5
    Lyman, Asa
    • 15
    Lyman, Elijah, 1764-1828
    • 49
    Mann, Cyrus
    • 33, 35, 43, 94
    Mann, Jail
    • 81
    Mann, John
    • 140
    Mann, Mindwell
    • 139
    Mansfield, John
    • 49
    Marston, Stephen W.
    • 79, 135
    McClure, Sam
    • 49
    McCoy, Nathan Jr.
    • 139
    McKean, Thomas, 1744-1800
    • 26, 28, 55
    Meeting houses
    • 26, 28, 29, 99
    Methodist Church--Massachusetts
    • 81
    Methodist Church--Pennsylvania
    • 29, 93, 99
    Miller, Samuel
    • 115
    Mine railroads-- Pennsylvania
    • 114
    Morey, Israel
    • 46
    Morey, Margaret
    • 98
    Morgan, William
    • 122
    Morril, Dr. Sam
    • 83
    Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1814
    • 21, 79
    New Hampshire Bible Society
    • 66
    New Hampshire Missionary Society
    • 36, 56
    New Hampshire-- Economic Conditions
    • 17
    New York (State)--Description and travel
    • 125
    New York (State)--Economic conditions
    • 76
    Niles, John
    • 9
    Orange Association
    • 94
    Oregon question
    • 134, 135
    Palmer, Moses
    • 3
    Pennsylvania--Economic conditions
    • 67, 93, 100
    Portsmouth (N.H.)-- Fire, 1802
    • 40
    Potter, Isaiah
    • 49
    Powers, Grant, 1784-1841
    • 91
    Powers, Peter, 1728-1800
    • 1
    Predestination
    • 23
    Prentiss,
    • 85
    Presbyterian Church (Orford, N.H.)
    • 1, 2, 3
    Presbyterian Church--Pennsylvania
    • 93
    Presidents--United States--Election--1828
    • 122
    Presidents--United States--Election--1840
    • 131, 132
    Princeton Theological Seminary
    • 115
    Protestant Episcopal Church--Pennsylvania
    • 99
    Quint, Joseph
    • 140
    Rankin, Andrew
    • 129
    Religious gatherings
    • 26, 53, 60, 63, 81, 97, 106, 126, 130
    Revivals-- New Hampshire
    • 85, 105, 108, 109, 111, 112, 120, 131
    Revivals-- New York (State)
    • 85
    Revivals-- Rhode Island
    • 81
    Revivals--Connecticut
    • 68, 89
    Revivals--Massachusetts
    • 81, 85, 111, 131
    Revivals--Vermont
    • 85
    Ripley, David B.
    • 37
    Rogers, John
    • 62
    Ropes, Hannah
    • 139
    Sawyer, Ichabod
    • 140
    Shepard, Mase, 1759-1821
    • 52
    Shurtleff, Roswell, 1773-1861
    • 47, 48
    Smith, John, 1752-1809
    • 18
    Snider, Jacob
    • 64
    Southerland, David
    • 51
    Sperry, Ebanezer P.
    • 137
    Steam engineering
    • 133
    Theology, Doctrinal
    • 138
    True, Anne
    • 102, 104, 125
    True, John
    • 102
    True, Osgood
    • 90
    Union Education Society
    • 95
    United States--History--War of 1812
    • 70, 74
    United States--History--War with Mexico, 1845-1848
    • 134, 135
    Van Buren, Martin, 1782-1862
    • 131
    Wayson, Moses
    • 51
    Weld, Elias
    • 49
    Wheeler, John, 1798-1862
    • 85, 91
    Wheelock, Eleazar, 1711-1779
    • 58
    Wheelock, Jas.
    • 49
    Whiskey production
    • 7, 17
    Whitslesey, C. H.
    • 123
    Wilcox, Jonathan
    • 54
    Willens, Harvey
    • 66
    Williams, R.P. & C.
    • 103
    Wisner, Benjamin B., 1794-1835
    • 97
    Woods, Abigail
    • 97, 113
    Woods, Judith
    • 128
    Yale College
    • 68