Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Nathan D. Stanwood Papers, 1852-1860

Finding aid created by
Mary Parsons and Shannon Wait, June 2010

Summary Information
Title: Nathan D. Stanwood papers
Creator: Delano, Nancy
Inclusive dates: 1852-1860
Extent: 23 items
The Nathan D. Stanwood papers primarily contain the outgoing correspondence of Stanwood, a gold miner who entered the meat and produce business in Sacramento in 1853.
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:

2007, 2013. M-4596, M-4987.

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.

Preferred Citation:

Nathan D. Stanwood Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Nathan D. Stanwood papers are arranged chronologically.


Nathan Davis Stanwood was born on October 18, 1817, in Ipswich, Massachusetts, the son of Jacob Stanwood (1785-1845) and his second wife, Sally Caldwell. In 1820, the family moved to Augusta, Maine, where Nathan's father worked as a wool merchant. On January 1, 1844, Nathan married Martha Jane Delano, daughter of Lemuel Delano and Nancy Eastman of Strong, Maine. Martha died just three years after the marriage, on October 15, 1847.

Stanwood held several occupations in the 1840s, including shopkeeper, itinerant daguerreotypist, and beginning in 1849, gold miner. He left New England for California in November 1849, and mined in Calaveras until 1852, when he abandoned mining for a series of ventures including a salmon fishing business and a meat retail venture called the "Boston Market." On January 1, 1857, he married Maine-native Emily S. Barrell, who sailed to California to marry him. They had two children: Elijah (b. ca. 1860) and Edith (b. ca. 1864). By 1864, Stanwood lived in San Francisco and worked as a secretary for the post office. He later served as a delegate in the 1867 Alabama Constitutional Convention and as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives. He died March 27, 1879.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Nathan D. Stanwood papers (1852-1857) contain 23 letters, spanning 1852 to 1860. Stanwood wrote 22 of the letters, and Daniel Towle, a relative of Stanwood's first wife, contributed an additional letter.

Stanwood wrote 19 letters to Nancy Delano, his former mother-in-law; 2 to Benjamin Delano, her son; and a third to "Mother." His most frequent topic was his various business ventures in Sacramento, California, and his intention to "make an honest pile and come home" (March 13, 1853). On September 11, 1852, he mentioned that he had purchased 15 salmon nets, with which he would start a fishing business with a friend from Maine, Joseph A. Locke. He also promised to send money and commented that his prospects were "very bright." On October 31, 1853, he wrote about the opening and early success of his new meat store, the "Boston Market," and by August 1854, he reported selling $1000 worth of meat per week. He eventually left this venture to go into the produce business after being forced "to wait too long for my pay" (July 3, 1856). His final letter, dated April 25, 1860, notes that an overland mail route will soon provide him with weekly delivery (in favor of the slower mail delivered by steamship).

In other letters, Stanwood commented on his reasons for not remarrying sooner, which were primarily economic (April 13, 1855); gave a secondhand account of the explosion of the steamship Pearl (January 30, 1855); and mentioned his support for John C. Fremont (November 30, 1854). The last few letters in the collection document Stanwood's marriage to Emily S. Barrell in 1857, and the increasing success of his produce business.

The single letter from Daniel Towle, dated January 25, 1852, primarily concerns his investment in the Spring Valley Quartz Mining Co., which he believed would bring him "a fortune."

Subject Terms

    • California--Description and travel.
    • California--History--1846-1850.
    • California--History--1850-1950.
    • Frontier and pioneer life--California.
    • Grocers.
    • Gold mines and mining--California.
    • Postal service--California--History.
    • Sacramento (Calif.)
    • Stanwood, Nathan Davis, 1817-1879.
    • Towle, Daniel.
    Genre Terms:
    • Correspondence.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   42, Small Collections  
    Nathan D. Stanwood papers [series]
    Folder   38  
     January 25, 1852-March 13, 1853
    Folder   39  
     March 30, 1853-April 29, 1854
    Folder   40  
     May 30, 1854-January 30, 1855
    Folder   41  
     April 13, 1855-June 4, 1857
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Towle family papers: 43 letters written to Daniel Towle while he was in California.

    The Edward K. Hitchcock family papers reference members of the Stanwood and Delano families: November 5, 1837; December 31, 1843; March 26, 1846.