William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Finding aid created by
Laidley Family Papers, 1838-1886
Abby Smith, June 2011
Laidley family papers
Laidley, John Osborne, 1791-1863 and Laidley, W. S. (William Sydney), 1839-1917
The Laidley family papers consist of letters written by members of the Laidley family regarding family news, politics, and life in the military. The collection also contains fiction written by William Sydney Laidley, a travel journal, legal documents, photographs, and genealogical materials.
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.
Laidley Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
The Laidley family papers are arranged in series
- Series I: Correspondence
- Series II: Diary
- Series III: Financial and Legal Documents
- Series IV: Creative Writing
- Series V: Personal and Genealogical Materials
- Series VI: Business Cards
- Series VII: Newspaper Clippings
- Series VIII: Photographs
John Osborne Laidley was born in Morgantown, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1791, the fourth child of Thomas Laidley and Sarah Osborne. John served as a volunteer in the Virginia Artillery during the War of 1812. He returned to Cabell County, Virginia, in the winter of 1814 to practice law. He was appointed the prosecuting attorney of the county and continued in that position for the rest of his life. In 1816 he married Mary Scales Hite (1801-1876), the daughter of Jacob Hite and Sarah Scales, with whom he had fourteen children. He was a member of the Virginia Convention in 1829 and 1830, where he opposed secession from the Union. John Osborne Laidley died in 1863 of pneumonia.
Amacetta Laidley was the first child of John Osborne Laidley. She was born in Cabell County, Virginia in March 1818. In 1833 she married Judge George W. Summers (b.1804) and moved to Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia). George was a congressman from Virginia from 1841-1844. He campaigned to be governor of Virginia in 1851, but was defeated after running on an anti-secessionist platform. He continued to be a judge in Virginia after his election defeat. Amacetta and George had six children, but only two of them survived infancy. Amacetta died in 1867 after many incidents of poor health, and George died in 1868.
Theodore Thaddeus Sobieski Laidley was born April 14, 1822, the third child of John Osborne Laidley and Mary Scales Hite. Theodore entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1838, graduating four years later ranked sixth in his class. He joined the Ordnance Department as a second lieutenant, and served in the Mexican War and later at arsenals in New York, Virginia, and North Carolina. Theodore married Jane Webb Averill in 1848, and they had one daughter, Jane Laidley, born in 1849. Theodore served in the Union Army during the Civil War. After over 40 years in the military, he retired and travelled to Florida to improve his health, which had plagued him his entire life. He died April 4, 1886, in Palatka, Florida.
William Sydney Laidley, the eleventh child of John Osborne Laidley and Mary Scales Hite, was born in June 1839 at the family home, Lamartine, in Cabell County, Virginia. William studied law and moved to Charleston, West Virginia, in 1863 to begin practicing as an attorney. He married Virginia Brown in 1869, and they had nine children together. William was Kanawha County’s delegate to the West Virginia State House from 1872-1873. William died in 1917 after a long career as an attorney, genealogist, and writer.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Laidley family papers are comprised of letters, a travel diary, miscellaneous documents, creative writing, genealogical materials, business cards, newspaper clippings, and photographs.
Correspondence: The bulk of the letters are from Theodore T.S. Laidley to his father, John Osborne Laidley, between 1838 and 1861. The collection also contains letters from Theodore to his brother William Sydney Laidley, and letters from various friends and family members, including Amacetta Laidley and George W. Summers, to John Osborne Laidley.
Theodore's early letters describe his life at the United States Military Academy at West Point. After graduating from West Point, Theodore spent time at the Watervliet Arsenal near Troy, New York. He wrote to his father monthly about military life, his enjoyment of New York State, and his health. Theodore took an interest in politics, and was very much concerned about bills, policies, and appointments that he felt were detrimental to the future of the army.
Letters from Theodore contain news about his family, his wife's family, and their health. He also wrote to his father with advice about his siblings. Fewer letters exist from the other Laidley children, and Theodore refers to them being infrequent correspondents. Amacetta did write her father from Washington, recounting politicians and writers she had met. Amacetta's husband, George W. Summers, wrote to John Osborne Laidley about legal matters and his future in politics. Laidley's friends and children wrote frequently about faith and church matters. Following John Osborne Laidley's death in 1863, the bulk of the letters are from Theodore Laidley to his brother, William Sydney Laidley.
Diary: The travel diary is the record of an unidentified family member's journey from Charleston, West Virginia, to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1879. It contains several pencil drawings including sketches of bridges, a ship, the Chesapeake Bay, and a chandelier.
Documents: The miscellaneous documents consist of receipts, a bill of sale, and a deed.
Creative Writing: The creative writing series contains two poems and a short novel of the Civil War written by William Sydney Laidley.
Personal and Genealogical Materials: The personal and genealogical materials consist of Thomas Laidley's report cards, including some from West Point, a large family tree, information about individual family members, and records of births, deaths, and marriages.
Business Cards: The business card series is made up of the business cards of Theodore Laidley and William Sydney Laidley. William Sydney Laidley's business card features a pencil drawing of an infant on the reverse.
Newspaper Clippings: The collection includes two newspaper clippings. The first is a report of the sinking of the steamer Sultan and the death of Sarah Laidley Poage. The second is a report of a trip to Europe by a member of the Laidley family.
Photographs: The photographs series is composed of three photographs, including two of William Sydney Laidley and one of an unidentified member of the Laidley family.
- Cabell County (W. Va.)
- Family life--Virginia.
- Family life--West Virginia.
- United States. Army--History.
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Fiction.
- United States Military Academy.
- United States--Politics and government--1783-1865.
- United States--Religion--19th century.
- Watervliet Arsenal (N.Y.)
- West Virginia--History.
- Laidley, Theodore, 1822-1886.
- Laidley, W. S. (William Sydney), 1839-1917.
- Summers, Amacetta Laidley, 1818-1867.
- Summers, George W. (George William), 1804-1868.
- Business cards.
- Financial records.
- Legal documents.
- Newspaper clippings.