Clarke Historical Library
Central Michigan University

Finding aid for
John Ball Family Papers

Finding aid created by
B. Moore; Marian Matyn

Summary Information
Title: John Ball Family Papers,
Creator: Ball, John, 1794-1884.
Inclusive dates: 1815-1943, and undated
Extent: .5 cubic feet (in 1 box)
The papers include biographical materials, legal and financial papers, correspondence,e maps, ephemera, and diaries.

Call number: MSS.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University
250 East Preston Street
Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
Phone: 989-774-3352
Fax: 989-774-2160

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

no Acc#

Access Restrictions:

John Ball Family Papers are open for research.


Copyright is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

John Ball Family Papers, Folder # , Box #, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University


Arrangement is alphabetical and chronological.



John Ball (1794-1884) was the son of Nathaniel and Deborah Ball, who were early New England pioneers. John traveled extensively throughout his life after being educated at Dartmouth College. He farmed in New Hampshire. Later, John traveled to New York, was shipwrecked on the coast of Georgia, and voyaged on a whaling ship to Rio de Janeiro. In 1832, he went to Oregon with Captain Nathaniel Wyeth. Afterwards, he settled in Vancouver where he taught children who lived in that settlement.

In 1836, John settled in Michigan Territory and for the next 48 years he called the Grand River Valley his home. With James H. McKee (born 1823), Ball was a partner in the law firm of Ball and McKee, 1849-1884. Ball was highly active in his community, operated a law office, served in the Legislature, and served on the school board for 37 years.

Ball married Mary Ball, with whom he had three daughters: Lucy, Flora Ball Hopkins, and Kate Ball Powers. (This information is from the collection.)

Collection Scope and Content Note

The John Ball Family Papers consist of legal and financial records, correspondence, essays, ephemera, and diaries, largely but not entirely dated after John Ball moved to Michigan. The topically grouped material is arranged alphabetically. The legal and financial records contain certificates allowing John Ball to practice law in New York. A large portion of the correspondence is between John, his wife, Mary, and their daughter, Lucy, which consists mainly of family affairs and travel to Europe, especially Switzerland and France (1869-1894). Earlier letters cover family matters and Michigan social conditions (after 1836). A letter of 1 March 1883 describes travel conditions and Indians at Fort Vancouver and a letter of 29 November 1838 expresses John Ball’s anti-abolitionists sentiments. The diaries written by John Ball tell about a trip to Lansingburgh (New York), 1878, and a trip to New York and New Hampshire, 1883. Mary Ball’s diaries describe traveling abroad, 1872, and her daily life in 1874.

Copies of several books on Ball are in Clarke, as are the papers of Ball and McKee. McKee’s diary of his student years in Massachusetts and Vermont are in the Bentley Historical Library.

A portrait of John Ball is housed in the Clarke as well. The note on the back reads as follows: “John Ball. Portrait painted while he was a student at Dartmouth. Ball became one of Michigan’s most famous pioneers. He was the first to teach west of the Mississippi.” The portrait is in a small, oval frame.

Subject Terms

    • Ball, John, 1794-1884.
    • Ball and McKee (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
    • Diaries--Michigan--Kent County.
    • Grand Rapids (Mich.)--History.
    • Switzerland--Description and travel.
    • New York (State)--Description and travel.
    • France--Description and travel.
    • New Hampshire--Description and travel.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    John Ball Family Papers. [series]:
    Box   1 F   1
    Biographical Materials, 1853, 1891, 1925, 1943
    Box   1 F   2
    Correspondence (folder 1 of 4), 1826, 1841, undated
    Box   1 F   3
    Correspondence (folder 2 of 4), 1847, 1890
    Box   1 F   4
    Correspondence (folder 3 of 4, in 1 volume), 1869, 1878
    Box   1 F   5
    Correspondence (folder 4 of 4, in 1 volume), 1878, 1893
    Box   1 F   6
    Diaries, John Ball, 1878, 1883
    Box   1 F   7
    Diaries, Mary Ball, 1872, 1874
    Box   1 F   8
    Ephemera (Calling Cards, Copper Plate), undated
    Box   1 F   9
    Ephemera (Leather Wallets), undated
    Box   1 F   10
    Ephemera (Paper Doll), undated
    Box   1 F   11
    Essays, undated, 1840, 1846, 1872, 1874-1875
    Box   1 F   12
    Legal and Financial Records, undated, 1815-1879 (Scattered)
    Box   1 F   13
    Maps (Kent County, Ottawa County, Southern Michigan), undated
    Box   1 F   14
    Photographs, undated