Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Blake-Colony Collection, 1807-1872

Finding aid created by
Clements Staff, Erin Platte, and Meg Hixon, January and December 2012

Summary Information
Title: Blake-Colony collection
Creator: Blake family and Colony family
Inclusive dates: 1807-1872
Bulk dates: 1807-1837, 1862-1865
Extent: 131 items
This collection is made up of correspondence related to Ira Blake of Chester, Vermont, and his descendants, and is divided into three main groups: letters between Ira Blake and Mary Seamans, his future wife; letters to Frances Blake, their daughter; and letters by Ormond and Oscar Colony, Frances's sons. The Blake letters relate to Ira and Mary's courtship and to news of their families in New England, and the Colony letters pertain to the brothers' experiences traveling to and living in Colorado during 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:

1995. M-3174.1, M-3197.2.

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.

Preferred Citation:

Blake-Colony Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Blake Correspondence
  • Series II: Colony Correspondence

Each series is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


Ira Blake (February 5, 1785-February 11, 1813) was born in Keene, New Hampshire, and later lived in Chester, Vermont. He and his wife, Mary Seamans of Keene, New Hampshire (b. 1787), were married on April 10, 1808, and had three children: Frances Seamans ("Fanny") (November 4, 1808-August 9, 1876), Mary Ann (b. 1810), and Charles (b. 1812). After Ira's death, Mary Blake married a man named Moore; they lived in Concord, New Hampshire. Her daughter Frances married Joshua D. Colony (1804-1891) in 1831. They lived in Keene and had six children: Lewis Joshua (b. 1832), Frances Marion (b. 1834), Sarah Richards (b. 1836), Hannah Taylor (b. 1838), and twins Ormond Everett (1840-1895) and Oscar Leverett (1840-1913).

Ormond and Oscar Colony were born on August 27 or 28, 1840. In 1860, Oscar worked with his father, the town's postmaster, while Ormond worked as a clerk, and both brothers moved west after the outbreak of the Civil War. Ormond arrived in Central City, Colorado, in early June 1862, and Oscar joined him that December. Oscar returned to New Hampshire in the fall of 1863, though Ormond remained in Central City until May 1865. The brothers eventually took over their father's commercial interests, which included a cotton mill and a newspaper, the Cheshire Republican. Oscar married Emma F. Lewis on January 3, 1870, and eventually became the full owner and editor of the Cheshire Republican. He died on January 18, 1913. Ormond become postmaster of Keene and died a bachelor on June 14, 1895.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection (131 items) is made up of correspondence related to Ira Blake of Chester, Vermont, and his descendants, and is divided into three main groups: letters between Ira Blake and Mary Seamans, his future wife (8 items); letters to Frances Blake, their daughter (30 items); and letters by Ormond and Oscar Colony, Frances's sons. The Blake letters primarily concern courtship and family news in New England, and the Colony letters pertain to the brothers' experiences traveling to and living in Colorado during the Civil War.

The Blake correspondence (38 items) relates to Ira Blake's immediate family. In 1807, during their courtship, Ira Blake and Mary Seamans exchanged 8 letters about their relationship and separation. The remaining 30 items are mostly letters to Frances Blake (later Colony) containing personal and family news, with the exception of one letter by [G.]S. Barstow to "Mr. Stutevant" relating to information about local deaths from 1859-1861 (December 30, 1864). The majority of the letters are from Mary Blake (later Mary Moore), Frances's mother, and Cyrus Blake, a friend who wrote of life in Roxbury and Boston, Massachusetts, and who provided a list of items he purchased for Frances, along with each item's cost (August 12, 1831).

The Colony correspondence (103 items) chiefly consists of letters that Ormond and Oscar Colony wrote to their family in Keene, New Hampshire, while living in Central City, Colorado, during the Civil War. Winslow J. Howard wrote the earliest letter to the twins' brother Lewis; he described the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico (May 16, 1859). Oscar and Ormond Colony wrote the remainder of the letters. Ormond departed from New Hampshire in the summer of 1862 and wrote several letters from Saint Joseph, Missouri, before embarking on an overland journey to Colorado. He traveled in covered wagons across the Great Plains, which he described in a lengthy composite letter composed after his arrival in Central City, Colorado (June 3, 1862). His first work in Colorado required occasional journeys in the mountains to survey potential routes for the Pacific Railroad. He wrote about his daily life in the town, mentioning its gold mines and describing the surrounding scenery.

Oscar joined Ormond in early December 1862, and the brothers continued to provide their family with updates on their everyday lives and local news, including at least one report of a trial (October 20, 1863). On December 25, 1862, Ormond drew a detailed picture of their home and shop, complete with sketches of their merchandise, which included stuffed mountain birds and fiddles. Oscar shared a related drawing of a covered wagon pulled by two mules, captioned "…our gilded chariot, and we are inside, but you can't see me" (October 16, 1863). The pair also took several trips throughout the surrounding area. On two occasions, they described the perils of cross-country railroad travel, which included fatal Indian attacks (December 6, 1864), causing Ormond to remark that he wanted the Indians "wiped out" (December 11, 1864). The twins also occasionally commented on the Civil War and contemporary politics. While in Missouri, Ormond mentioned a local military unit and the effects of martial law, and in Colorado they occasionally saw military recruiters and wrote about the public's view of the war. On January 8, 1864, Ormond shared his belief that future politics would be difficult because of problems posed by African Americans, Native Americans, and Mormons. In his final letters, written in or around 1865, he revealed his plans to return to New Hampshire following the closing of his business ventures in Colorado.

Undated material includes several letter fragments and drawings. Among the latter are a valentine and a poem; a surreal drawing depicting "A Dream;" a picture of a man driving a mule behind two men carrying long guns; and a drawing of the Pikes Peak Stage labeled "Mr. Aged Individual Candidate for Pikes Peak." Other items include a newspaper clipping regarding Howard & Colony's jewelry products and a printed advertisement for Winslow J. Howard's jewelry business in Santa Fe.

Subject Terms

    • Central City (Colo.)
    • Chester (Vt.)
    • Colorado--Description and travel.
    • Colorado--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Courtship--United States.
    • Frontier and pioneer life--Colorado.
    • Gold mines and mining--Colorado.
    • Great Plains--Description and travel.
    • Indians of North America--Colorado.
    • Keene (N.H.)
    • Pawnee Indians.
    • Railroad travel--United States.
    • Saint Joseph (Mo.)
    • Santa Fe (N.M.)--Description and travel.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Wagons.
    • West (U.S.)--History--1860-1890.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Dreams.
    • Dwellings--Colorado.
    • Horse-drawn vehicles.
    • Stores, Retail.
    • Blake, Cyrus.
    • Blake, Ira, 1785-1813.
    • Colony, Frances Seamans Blake, 1808-1876.
    • Colony, Ormond, 1840-1895.
    • Colony, Oscar, 1840-1913.
    • Howard, Winfred.
    • Moore, Mary Seamans Blake, 1787-.
    Genre Terms:
    • Advertisements.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Sketches.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   23, Small Collections  
    Blake-Colony collection [series]
    Blake correspondence
    Folders   38-41  
     January 30, 1807-January 25, 1872, and  undated
    Colony correspondence
    Folders   42-52  
     May 16, 1859-May 21, [1865], and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Griffin, Simon Goodell, and Frank H. Whitcomb. A History of the Town of Keene... Keene, N.H.: Sentinel Printing Company, 1904.

    Whitcomb, Frank H. Vital Statistics of the Town of Keene, New Hampshire, Compiled from Town Records, First Church and Family Records, the Original Fisher Record and the Newspapers. Keene, N.H.: Sentinel Printing Company, 1905.