Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Charlotte and Martha Wray Papers, 1839-1872

Finding aid created by
Cheney J. Schopieray, 2006, and Naomi Herman-Aplet and Meg Hixon, May 2012

Summary Information
Title: Charlotte and Martha Wray papers
Creator: Mattison, Martha Wray
Inclusive dates: 1839-1872
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
This collection contains the incoming and outgoing correspondence of Charlotte and Martha Wray, sisters who lived in Washington County, New York; Detroit, Michigan; and Iowa in the 19th century. The letters span Martha's time as a schoolteacher in Detroit, Michigan; Charlotte's work as a teacher in Albany, New York; and Charlotte's experiences in Iowa prior to the Civil War.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1992. M-2877.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Alternate Format:

Portions of the correspondence are reprinted in the following volume: Coffin, Margaret M. Death in Early America: The History of Customs and Superstitions of Early Medicine, Funerals, Burials, and Mourning . Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc. 1976

Preferred Citation:

Charlotte and Martha Wray papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


Charlotte, Martha, and Mary Jane Wray were sisters and natives of Washington County, New York. Mary Jane married Stephen C. Rathbone (or Rathbun) sometime before 1843. Martha taught school in Detroit, Michigan, in the early 1840s, married John Mattison (or Madison) in 1849, and settled in Comstock Landing, New York. Charlotte taught at the State Normal School in Albany, New York, between late 1845 and mid-1846, and, in 1847, married Dr. John Thomas H. Scott ("Thomas"). They moved to Garnavillo and other Iowa towns, before settling in Monona. Scott ran a medical practice in Monona during the Civil War. Charlotte Wray and John Thomas H. Scott had three children: Winifred, Mary Elvira, and Cora. Charlotte died in March 1863.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains approximately 110 letters, of which Charlotte Wray wrote about 90 to her sister Martha. Additionally, Martha and Mary Jane Wray each wrote 1 letter, and Charlotte and Martha Wray received about 18 letters from cousins and other family members. Charlotte's letters discuss her experience as a schoolteacher and her life in Albany, New York, and in Iowa, where she lived after the late 1840s. Charlotte's letters also include content on the arrival of new immigrants, her declining health, and her husband's medical practice during the Civil War.

The earliest items in the collection include a 1-page essay by Mary Jane Wray, Charlotte and Martha's sister, titled "of Solitude" and dated September 18, 1839, and a poem Charlotte wrote about her sister. The correspondence begins on May [15], 1842, with a letter from Martha about her arrival and teaching in Detroit. When Mary Jane traveled to Detroit in 1844, she wrote home about the birth and first weeks of her son Van (August 25, 1844).

Charlotte wrote approximately 20 letters to Martha after moving to Albany, New York, around October 1845, where she taught school. She gave news about her life and friends in Albany, such as her intent to turn down a marriage proposal (January 19, 1846) and student expenses at the New York State Normal School (March 15, 1846). In a later letter from Albany, written around the summer of 1846, she explained her reasons for leaving the school, based on the belief that she could earn more money sewing.

After June 22, 1847, Charlotte wrote approximately 70 letters to Martha describing her married life with Thomas. They moved to Garnavillo, Iowa, in the summer of 1847. She informed her sister about life in Iowa, including her travels, the experiences of other new immigrants, and her homes in Garnavillo, Farmersburg, and Monona. Charlotte also discussed married life and her husband's medical practice. She reflected on the Civil War in two letters, mentioning the draft, financial aspects of the war, and her husband's wartime medical practice (August 21, 1862, and February 1863). Following Charlotte's death around March 1863, Martha received 7 letters from her brother-in-law, who described Charlotte’s final sickness and death (March 31, 1863) and the devastating impact on the family.

Subject Terms

    • Albany (N.Y.)
    • Courtship.
    • Death.
    • Detroit (Mich.)
    • Education.
    • Family life--Iowa.
    • Garnavillo (Iowa)
    • Immigrants.
    • Iowa--Description and travel.
    • Iowa--Social life and customs.
    • Medicine--Practice.
    • Monona County (Iowa)
    • State Normal School (Albany, N.Y.)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Medical care.
    • Washington County (N.Y.)
    • Women--Employment.
    • Women teachers--United States.
    • Mattison, Martha Wray.
    • Rathbone, Mary Jane Wray, 1821-1892.
    • Scott, John Thomas H.
    • Scott, Charlotte Ann Wray, d. 1863.
    Genre Terms:
    • Essays.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Poems.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Correspondence [series]:
    Box   1 Folders   1-9
      September 18, 1839-October 27, 1872, and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Wray sisters were nieces of George Wray, commissary of the Royal Regiment of Artillery during the American Revolution. The Clements Library holds the George Wray papers.

    Portions of the correspondence are reprinted in Coffin, Margaret M. Death in Early America: The History of Customs and Superstitions of Early Medicine, Funerals, Burials, and Mourning. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1976.


    Cooley, John Clark. Rathbone Genealogy. Volume 1. Syracuse, N.Y.: Press of the Courier Job Print, 1898.