Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Towle Family Correspondence, 1850-1895

Finding aid created by
Bethany Anderson, January 2008

Summary Information
Title: Towle family correspondence
Creator: Towle family
Inclusive dates: 1850-1895
Extent: 127 items
Abstract:
The Towle family correspondence is comprised of letters written by Electa Towle of Avon, Maine to her husband Daniel while he was mining in California, and later to her daughter Clarinda when Electa was living away from her.
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:

1992, 1996, 2002. M-2888.12, M-3228.3, M-4228.4.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Towle Family Correspondence, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Biography

Electa M. Higgins Towle (1810-1900), a native of Turner, Maine, and Daniel Towle (1810- 1874) of Avon, Maine, married in 1833. The couple lived in Avon, where they operated a farm and raised their three children: Clarinda (1835-1901), Daniel Higgins (1841-1918), and Emma (1849-1851). A farmer and postmaster by trade, Daniel left for Sacramento, California, in early 1850 to find work during the "Gold Rush." Electa remained at home during his absence, caring for their children, managing the farm, and consequently taking on many of her husband's roles.

Daniel had several different jobs during his time in California. Initially, he mined at "Sagar's Bar" on the North Yuba River. By January 1, 1851, Daniel had relocated to a site on the Feather River, 120 miles from Marysville, California, where he was involved in dam building. In addition to these enterprises, Daniel also managed a shop. In 1852 he sold his interest in the shop in order to invest in the Spring Valley Quartz Mining Company (January 25, 1852). Daniel's brother George W. Towle (b. 1823) also traveled to California to seek his fortune, and another brother, Benjamin F. Towle (b. 1831), contemplated following his brothers to California.

During his absence, the family underwent many changes and endured several obstacles, which Electa nevertheless handled effectively. On January 21, 1851, daughter Emma died from scarlet fever, a loss which proved to be very difficult for Electa. In addition, Electa withstood the vicious gossip of her neighbors during the long periods of not hearing from Daniel, as well as her own anxieties about his safety and return. Her most prevalent concern, however, was paying their debts, something she hoped she could do with Daniel's earnings in California.

After Daniel returned to Avon c. 1853, their surviving daughter Clarinda married Edward K. Hitchcock (1817-1900) of Strong, Maine. The couple subsequently had a son named Alfred (b. 1859).

Shortly after Daniel's death on August 4, 1874, Electa moved to Red Wing, Minnesota where her son Daniel H. had settled with his wife Amanda (1844-1882) and their four children: Emma (1868-1944), Lena (1872-1952), Gertrude (b. 1878) and Merton (b. 1878). Clarinda remained in Strong with her husband and son while she and her mother exchanged letters for several decades. During her time in Minnesota, Electa wrote about her grandchildren, the death of Amanda, her son's remarriage to a woman named Mary (b. 1855), and the birth of a fifth grandchild named Neal (b. 1891). In addition, she discusses her son's farming business, for which he sold farm equipment and supplies from "Van Brunt, Barber & Co." Although she often considered returning to Maine one day, Electa remained in Minnesota until her death in 1900.


Collection Scope and Content Note

Electa wrote most of the letters (105 out of 127), 34 of which she wrote between 1850 and 1853, and 71 between 1874 and 1895. Other members of the family wrote the rest of the letters -- her son Daniel Higgins, his wife Amanda, his second wife Mary, her daughter Clarinda, and several of Electa's grandchildren. Many letters also contain entries by Electa and her children or grandchildren.

The collection can be divided into two parts chronologically and thematically. Those which date from July 24, 1850, to February 13, 1853, were written by Electa from Avon, Maine, to Daniel in California. The letters that date from August 11, 1872 to July 21, 1895 were written primarily by Electa to Clarinda, while the former lived in Red Wing, Minnesota, with her son Daniel and his family, and the latter in Strong, Maine. The two sets of letters illustrate two distinct phases in Electa's life. From 1850 to 1853, she had a very active role as the sole manager of both her household and the farm. She was also the Postmistress for Avon, a position Daniel had held before leaving for California. Their financial situation was her main concern, but she also wrote her husband about the management of the farm, and about their children's health and activities. Concerned about their many debts, she frequently requested money, giving details of her purchases and the sale of livestock and agricultural products from their farm: "I can get along if they do not call upon me for debts...how I wish you could send me a $1000 to pay all we are a owing" (January 1, 1851). Fortunately Electa was able to procure an income for herself, as she did not receive money from Daniel on a regular basis.

The letters from 1874 to 1895 reveal a more passive side of Electa, as her responsibilities were few, especially as she got older and more fragile. Nevertheless, she managed to provide Clarinda with detailed updates on Daniel's farming business and the activities of the family and neighbors. She took great care to describe her new home and the town of Red Wing, as well as her disapproval for her son and daughter-in-law's lax and indulgent parenting style. To a lesser degree, she also described her own activities, which mainly entailed looking after her grandchildren, sewing, and making dresses. Indeed, sewing, knitting, and dressmaking were activities that consumed much of the time of many women in the family. Several letters to Clarinda were accompanied by fabric samples of the material that they had used to make dresses. Electa also mentioned a considerable number of young female relatives and friends who had learned the dressmaking trade and found jobs in shops.

The Towle family was comprised of many hardworking men and women, who, whether seeking fortune in California, establishing themselves in new territories, or maintaining family order and business during difficult times, always managed to preserve family bonds. Their letters are filled with concern and affection, as exemplified by Electa's dedication to communicate with those who were far away but close in heart.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Education.
    • Gold mines and mining--California.
    • Women dressmakers.
    Contributors:
    • Hitchcock, Clarinda Towle, 1835-1901.
    • Towle, Amanda Ellsworth, 1844-1882.
    • Towle, Daniel Higgins, 1841-1918.
    • Towle, Electa M. Higgins, 1810-1900.
    • Towle, Mary A. Crandall b.c. 1855.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Towle family correspondence,  July 24, 1850-July 21, 1895 [series]
    Folder   1  
     July 24, 1850-October 6, 1850 (3 items)
    Folder   2  
     November 16, 1850-December 16, 1850 (3 items)
    Folder   3  
     January 1, 1851-March 23, 1851 (4 items)
    Folder   4  
     April 6, 1851-June 22, 1851 (4 items)
    Folder   5  
     July 24, 1851-October 19, 1851 (34 items)
    Folder   6  
     November 16, 1851-November 30, 1851 (3 items)
    Folder   7  
     December 7, 1851-December 28, 1851 (3 items)
    Folder   8  
     January 6, 1852-March 24, 1852 (3 items)
    Folder   9  
     April 6, 1852-July 1, 1852 (5 items)
    Folder   10  
      August 21, 1852-September 12, 1852 (2 items)
    Folder   11  
     October 10, 1852-November 28, 1852 (3 items)
    Folder   12  
     December 14, 1852-December 29, 1852 (3 items)
    Folder   13  
     January 30, 1853-February 13, 1853, and  August 11, 1872 (4 items)
    Folder   14  
     July 21, 1874-December 30, 1875 (11 items)
    Folder   15  
     January 21, 1876-June 25, 1876 (11 items)
    Folder   16  
     July 3, 1876-November 6, 1876 (7 items)
    Folder   17  
     January 1, 1877-November 4, 1878 (11 items)
    Folder   18  
     May 30, 1880-September 27, 1881 (10 items)
    Folder   19  
     October 16, 1882-1884 (10 items)
    Folder   20  
     September 14, 1885-April 18, 1886 (8 items)
    Folder   21  
     February 7, 1887-November 25, 1888 (10 items)
    Folder   22  
     March 4, 1889-November 6, 1891 (7 items)
    Folder   23  
     April 3, 1892-December 27, 1894 (14 items)
    Folder   24  
     February 2, 1895-July 21, 1895 (6 items)
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Realia and Graphic materials within the collection

    • 14 fabric samples – July 25, 1876 (1 sample); September 3, 1876 (1 sample); April 5, 1877 (1 sample); May 2, 1877 (1 sample); August 21, 1881 (1 sample); December 6, 1883 (1 sample); August 1, 1888 (3 samples); November 6, 1891 (1 sample); July 18, 1894 (4 samples).
    • Decorative insect designs printed at the top of the paper (March 11, 1888); A doodle of a lambrequin by Emma E. Towle (Jan. 15, 1886).
    • Letterheads: 1. "Agency of Goodhue County of the Patrons of Husbandry D.H. Towle, Agent" (e.g. July 21, 1874); 2. "D.H. Towle Dealer in Van Brunt, Barber &Co.'s Force Feed Seeder and Cultivator, Sulky Rakes, Plows, and Cultivators" (e.g. January 24, 1877); 3. "Red Wing Collegiate Institute" (e.g. October 8, 1891).

    Geographic Index

    • American River, California
    • Augusta, Maine
    • Avon, Maine
    • Bangor, Maine
    • Bowdoinham, Maine
    • Burnside, Minnesota
    • Boston, Massachusetts
    • Brooklyn, New York
    • Chesterville, Maine
    • Chicago, Illinois
    • Eau Claire, Minnesota
    • Feather River, California
    • Featherstone, Minnesota
    • Foxborough, Massachusetts
    • Freeman, Maine
    • Frenchtown, Maine
    • Goodhue County, Minnesota
    • Goshen, New York
    • Grass Valley, California
    • Hallowell, Maine
    • Hampden, Maine
    • Jay, Maine
    • Kingfield, Maine
    • Lake City, Minnesota
    • Mankato, Minnesota
    • Marysville, California
    • Medfield, Massachusetts
    • Methuen, Maine
    • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • Minneapolis, Minnesota
    • Minnehaha Falls, Minnesota
    • Morris, Minnesota
    • Mount Vernon Village, Maine
    • Napa City, California
    • Nashville, Tennessee
    • New Portland, Maine
    • New Vineyard, Maine
    • New York City, New York
    • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Phillips, Maine
    • Readfield, Maine
    • Redwing, Minnesota
    • Rochester, Minnesota
    • Sacramento, California
    • Saint Anthony Falls, Minnesota
    • St. Louis, Missouri
    • St. Paul, Minnesota
    • San Francisco, California
    • Strong, Maine
    • Winthrop, Maine
    • Yuba River, California
    Related Materials

    The William L. Clements Library has two other collections which contain letters of the Towles' relatives. The most important of these is the Edward K. Hitchcock Family papers, which contain the letters of Daniel and Electa's son-in-law. The majority of the letters in this collection, however, were written before Edward married Clarinda. The other collection is Nathan D. Stanwood papers. Nathan Stanwood was related to Daniel and Electa through their son-in-law, having married Edward's maternal cousin, Martha Jane Delano. The Stanwood Papers contain a single letter written by Daniel Towle in Sacramento to his wife Electa and his daughter Clarinda (January 25 and March 4, 1852). The letter was written when Daniel was making plans to invest in the Spring Valley Quartz Mining Company and he described the organization and development of the company.

    Bibliography

    Biographical Review. Biographical Review Publishing: Boston, 1897 (p.p. 334-335).

    Partial Subject Index
    Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888. Little women
    • March 11, 1888
    Richard Hildreth. The White Slave
    • February 13, 1853
    Teachers
    • passim
    Education
    • passim
    Child care
    • passim
    Children
    • passim
    Motherhood
    • passim
    Widows
    • passim
    Agriculture
    • August 1, 1888
    Dresses
    • passim
    Dressmaking
    • passim
    Sewing
    • passim
    Gold mines and mining--California
    • passim
    Lambrequin
    • January 15, 1886
    Aging
    • passim
    Children Death
    • January 28, 1851
    Diseases
    • passim
    Scarlatina
    • January 28, 1851
    Women physicians
    • October 1, 1876
    Postmasters
    • February 20, 1852
    Women dressmakers
    • passim
    Personal Name Index
    Aldrich, D.D.
    • March 4, 1877
    Beal, Sheldon
    • March 23, 1851
    Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-1887
    • February 25, 1877; March 1, 1877
    Brown, Charles, 1868-1946
    • February 2, 1895
    Brown, Lena Miriam Towle, 1872-1952
    • passim
    Chandler, Anson G., 1800-1863
    • September 12, 1852
    Clark, George W.
    • September 12, 1852
    Cousens, A.F.
    • March 24, 1852
    Crosby, John, b.c.1825
    • passim
    Crosby, William G., 1823-1900
    • September 12, 1852
    Cummings, Alfred
    • passim
    Cummings, Salome D., 1825-1894
    • March 31, 1895
    Davenport, Dr. William
    • January 28, 1851
    Dyar Jr., Joseph, b.c. 1860
    • September 12, 1852
    Field, Francis B.
    • September 12, 1852
    Gilman, Charles J., b.c. 1824
    • September 12, 1852
    Gordon, Samuel
    • September 12, 1852
    Hackett, Ephraim
    • September 12, 1852
    Hitchcock, Alfred, b.c.1859
    • passim
    Hitchcock, Clarinda Towle, 1835-1901
    • passim
    Hitchcock, Edward K., 1817-1900
    • passim
    Hitchcock, Mabel Blake
    • passim
    Hubbard, Governor John, 1794-1869
    • September 12, 1852
    Jacobs, Francis
    • passim
    Ladd, Etta M., b.c. 1852
    • passim
    Ladd, Stephen
    • October 29, 1876
    Lawrence, Francis
    • September 12, 1852
    Marston, Daniel, b.c. 1788
    • passim
    Mayall, Samuel, 1816-1892
    • September 12, 1852
    Mayhew, Mary
    • passim
    Mayhew, Zadoc
    • passim
    Norton, Peter
    • December 16, 1850
    Perkins, Hart, b.c. 1835
    • passim
    Perkins, Rhoda A., b.c. 1841
    • passim
    Perkins, Timothy, b.c. 1833
    • passim
    Potter Jr., Robert
    • September 12, 1852
    Pullen, Charles B.
    • July 25, 1851; September 12, 1852
    Read, W.M.
    • September 12, 1852
    Relyea, L.H.
    • March 24, 1852
    Sampson, Benjamin
    • September 12, 1852
    Sewall, Jonathan, 1728-1796
    • February 13, 1853
    Stubbs, Philip M.
    • September 12, 1852
    Talbot, Charles J.
    • September 12, 1852
    Titcomb, John
    • September 12, 1852
    Towle, Amanda Ellsworth, 1844-1882
    • passim
    Towle, Benjamin
    • November 16, 1851
    Towle, Daniel Sr., 1810-1874
    • passim
    Towle, Daniel Higgins, 1841-1918
    • passim
    Towle, David, b.c. 1820
    • November 16, 1850
    Towle, George W., b.c.1830
    • passim
    Towle, Merton David, b.c. 1878
    • passim
    Towle, Electa M. Higgins, 1810-1900
    • passim
    Towle, Emma L., 1849-1851
    • passim
    Towle, Emma Electa, 1868-1944
    • passim
    Towle, Gertrude May, b.c. 1878
    • passim
    Towle, Mary A. Crandall b.c. 1855
    • passim
    Towle, Neal Crandall, b.c. 1891
    • passim
    Towle, Samuel
    • March 23, 1851
    Towle, Susan, b.c. 1828
    • passim
    Tyler, Isaac, 1800-1869
    • September 12, 1852
    Vining, Jemima, b.c. 1808
    • passim
    Vining, Nathaniel, b.c. 1813
    • passim
    Vining, Thomas, b.c. 1800
    • March 23, 1851
    Whitney, George W.
    • September 12, 1852