Gridley family papers  [1798]-1885
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Gridley Family papers (212 items) are comprised of 210 letters, 1 legal document, and one speech. The Gridley family of Clinton, New York, maintained regular correspondence with relatives in Rochester, Aurora, Hamilton, and other towns in western New York. The 210 letters, spanning the years 1808-1885, are entirely personal in nature and document a highly educated New York family, who were drawn to evangelical religion in the 1820-1830s. The letters show a family that held abolitionist, temperance, and other progressive views.

The earliest items are a printed notice from 1798 directed to the inhabitants of Connecticut informing them of an upcoming property tax recently enacted by congress, and a deed transferring land in New York State to Orrin Gridley in [1807?].

Ten letters from 1815-1828 are from Orrin to his wife Fanny, written during his travels to Albany, New York, and Baltimore. He speaks of his business dealings and of religious services he attends. In one letter from April 17, 1820, he described a church service that included missionaries who were about to travel west to convert the Osage Indians "on the Arkensaw." Other letters from this period include nine items from Rachel Kellogg Strong, Fanny's younger sister, and a few from her husband S. Strong, addressed to Orrin. As with most of the letters in the collection, these discuss family, health, business, and religion.

Wayne Gridley's earliest letter is from 1825, written when he was 14 years old. His letters from Andover provide a sense of student life at the Seminary and include discussions of his education (such as learning about missionary work and encounters with "heathen Indians" from North America and the Pacific Islands), as well as his evolving thoughts on religion and social issues. In a letter from 1837, he voices anti-slavery sentiments to his parents. Wayne's letter from November 20, 1836, contains a large lithograph letterhead of Andover Theological Seminary; a letter from July 31, 1849, has a colorful letterhead depicting buildings in Hamburg, Germany.

Through 1849, most of the letters are addressed to Fanny and Orrin from their children, including ten items written to Fanny from her youngest son Charles, when he was in Saratoga Springs, New York, and when he traveled in Europe. In a long letter to Albert G. Gridley, a friend in Paris described his brother Charles' illness and death, and enclosed a carte-de-visite, presumably of Charles.

Letters written by Amos Delos Gridley and his wife Ellen, while on a tour of Georgia and Florida in 1851, include extensive commentary on slavery and the South. For instance, the Gridleys mention that rarely does one see anyone from the South being waited upon by a white person. They also discuss the issue concerning the conversion of slaves to Christianity. In one note, they remark about the steamboat Magnolia exploding on the Ohio River. The latter part of the collection contains many letters sent to George Bristol, Harriet E. Bristol, and Cornelia Bristol of Clinton, New York, from Ellen and Amos Delos Gridley.

The collection contains 48 undated family letters. In the last undated folder is an ink illustration of a house drawn by Amos Delos Gridley. This folder also contains an 18-page speech written upon the death of Adelaide G. Smith, the only daughter of Orrin Gridley.

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