Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Masten Family Papers, 1799-1899

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, April 2010

Summary Information
Title: Masten family papers
Creator: Masten family
Inclusive dates: 1799-1899
Extent: 122 items
The Masten family papers contain correspondence documenting the everyday lives of the Hastings and Masten families in 19th-century New York, as well as the Civil War service and subsequent endeavors of Henry Masten in Grandville, Michigan.
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:

1993. M-2966.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Alternate Format:

This collection has been microfilmed.

Preferred Citation:

Masten Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The materials are arranged chronologically.


Nancy Law Hastings was born September 20, 1796, to Jonas Hastings and Nancy Emerson in Warwick, Massachusetts. The Hastings’ other children included Caroline (Pennell), Samuel, Oliver, and two girls that died in infancy.

In November 1815, Nancy married Ephraim Masten (1786-1840) of Sutton, New Hampshire, and in 1819, they settled on a farm in Ridgeway, New York. They had 11 children, the youngest of whom was Henry Masten, born September 28, 1840. During the Civil War, Henry likely served with the 90th New York Infantry and frequently wrote home to his sister, Maryetta. He survived the war and settled in Grandville, Michigan, in the 1870s, during which time he married a woman named Sarah (whom he refers to as “Sate”). By 1892, he was running a grocery called Masten & Hammond in Kent County. He last appears on the Census in 1900.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Masten family papers are comprised of 120 letters and two miscellaneous items, dating from 1799 to 1899. The daughters of Jonas and Nancy Hastings were the primary writers of the earliest letters, which concern mainly family and farming news, specifically births, marriages, and deaths of relations and neighbors. Caroline (Hastings) Pennell’s letters to her siblings in New York shed light on the family’s struggle in Northville, Michigan, where they settled sometime in the 1830s. In a letter dated October 14, 1840, Caroline mourned the death of her infant Ebenezer, “his little body was laid in the silent grave by the side of little Andrew and it appears at times as though a part of my heart was buried with them. I find in the midst of life we are in Death and the most promising flowers are nipt in the bud…”

Several letters from the 1850s refer to problems between Samuel Hastings and his wife Mary. On September 25, 1851, Caroline wrote to her sister Nancy, stating, “Mary tells me she and the children talk of coming back this fall they cannot live there with Sam in any peace the children are afraid of him….” Caroline blames the strife on “cursed Drag Alcahol.”

Also noteworthy is the long series of letters between Henry Masten (son of Nancy and Ephraim Masten) and his sisters during the 1860s and 1870s. Henry’s Civil War letters cover camp life in Virginia, such as marching, food, weather, and equipment. In a letter of October 24, 1864, he describes being surprised by the Confederate Army at the Battle of Cedar Creek. The letters from the 1870s, when Henry lived in Grandville, Michigan, portray the work, recreation, family relations, and social setting of a farming family of that era. They contain details of farm work, birth and death of children, health and sickness, church activities, and religious beliefs. Later letters detail his activities with his grocery business, Masten & Hammond.

Subject Terms

    • Beal, George Lafayette, 1825-1896.
    • Bereavement.
    • Brothers and sisters.
    • Cedar Creek Region (Va.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Children--Death.
    • Death.
    • Diseases.
    • Family farms--Michigan.
    • Family farms--New York (State)
    • Family life.
    • Grandville (Mich.)
    • Grocery trade.
    • Independent Order of Good Templars.
    • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Assassination.
    • Marriage.
    • Medina (N.Y.)
    • Mothers and daughters.
    • Mothers and sons.
    • Northville (Mich.)
    • Petersburgh (N.Y.) .
    • Religion.
    • Religious education.
    • Temperance.
    • Temperance--Michigan--Societies, etc.
    • United States Christian Commission.
    • United States. Army. New York Infantry Regiment, 90th.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Military life.
    • Virginia--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Windham (Conn.)
    • Hastings, Nancy.
    • Hastings, Nathan.
    • Masten, Ephraim.
    • Masten, Henry.
    • Pennell, Caroline Hastings.
    • Pennell, Charles.
    Genre Terms:
    • Correspondence.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   45, Small Collections  
    Masten family papers [series]
    Folder   1  
     February 21, 1799-May 18, 1818
    Folder   2  
    November 15, 1818-[September 5, 1824]
    Folder   3  
     August 20, 1830-October 18, 1838
    Folder   4  
     June 1, 1840-October 10, 1846
    Folder   5  
     September 25, 1851-April 24, 1859
    Folder   6  
     March 3, [1862]-November 26, 1864
    Folder   7  
     December 2, 1864-April 8, 1865
    Folder   8  
     April 13, 1865-February 18, 1868
    Folder   9  
     December 6, 1868-June 10, 1869
    Folder   10  
     February 5, 1870-December 24, 1876
    Folder   11  
     February 5, 1877-December 30, 1879
    Folder   12  
     January 5, 1880-May 21, 1882
    Folder   13  
     June 17, 1883-December 26, 1886
    Folder   14  
     July 11, 1890-June 9, 1899
    Folder   15  
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Buckminster, Lydia N. H.The Hastings memorial. A genealogical account of the descendants of Thomas Hastings of Watertown, Mass. from 1634 to 1864 . Boston: S.G. Drake, 1866.