Avery family correspondence (1841-1852)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Meg Hixon, August 2011
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Avery family correspondence
Creator: Avery, John, 1819-1902 and Avery, Robert Stanton, Jr.
Inclusive dates: 1841-1852
Extent: 46 items
The Avery family correspondence consists of letters sent to Robert S. Avery and John Avery of Preston, Connecticut, in the mid-19th century. The letters display a strong Congregationalist religious sensibility and chronicle life in Connecticut during the pre-Civil War era.
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: www.clements.umich.edu

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

1998. M-3478.

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

Avery Family Correspondence, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically.


John Avery was born in Preston, Connecticut, on August 19, 1819, and had several siblings: Robert S., Isaac, Erasmus, George, Sarah, and Eunice. He graduated from Yale College in 1843, and then entered Yale Divinity School, from which he graduated in 1847. Ordained on June 21, 1848, Avery preached for the Exeter Congregationalist church in Lebanon, Connecticut. In 1870, he served as a representative for the Connecticut legislature, and he remained in Lebanon until April 29, 1873. Shortly thereafter, he moved to a church in Central Village, Connecticut, and then to West Woodstock, Connecticut. In November 1881, Avery took charge of the Congregationalist church in Ledyard, Connecticut, where he served until April 1, 1892. After his work in Ledyard, he retired to Norwich, Connecticut, but remained active in religious life and occasionally preached for special occasions. He married Susan Champion on November 6, 1851, and the couple had one surviving daughter, Mary A. Avery. In 1901, Avery published a history of Ledyard, Connecticut. He died in 1902.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Avery family correspondence consists of letters sent to Robert S. Avery and John Avery of Preston, Connecticut, in the mid-19th century. The letters display a strong Congregationalist religious sensibility and chronicle life in Connecticut during the pre-Civil War era. A majority of the letters in the collection were addressed to John Avery, then a student at Yale College and, later, Yale Divinity School, from family members and friends. Avery's siblings, Robert S. Avery, Jr., and Sarah Avery, were some of John's most frequent correspondents, along with his friend James A. Darrah. Higher education was a prominent theme throughout the correspondence, and in a letter of February 14, 1842, John laid out an extensively detailed summary of his expenses at Yale for his brother Robert. The letters John received during his time in New Haven often originated from his siblings, who described weddings (February 15, 1847 et al.) and deaths, among other occurrences in their daily lives. His correspondents also displayed a pronounced religious fervor, discussing the nature of God and of Christianity in mid-19th century Connecticut; these ruminations often came to dominate their letters. Of particular interest among the religious correspondence is a lengthy letter from James A. Darrah, who described various religious denominations in Leesburg, Virginia, including Presbyterians and Methodists (June 21, 1848). John Avery received two printed commissions, dated May 1, 1851, and May 1, 1852, from the American Home Missionary Society and the Connecticut Missionary Society, both of which affirmed his position as head of the congregation of Exeter parish, in Lebanon, Connecticut.

Though the writers in the collection most frequently focused on daily life, higher education, and religion, political consciousness was not entirely absent from their thoughts. On March 22, 1841, John Avery wrote to his sister Sarah, "The Amistad captives who have been in New Haven till recently have now gone to Farmington to be brought to labor." Later, William L. Prather, one of Robert's acquaintances, provided his opinion on the Mexican War: "There is no news of importance…except the news from Mexico, which is glorious indeed, some of the most briliant [sic] victories are gained by the arms of the United States, there has been many valuable lives lost, which is to be lamented but the war with Mexico (in my humble opinion) is a just one in every sense of the word but it seems to be the opinion of every one [sic] that there will be no more fighting there now of any consequence" (April 4, 1847). Also of note is a letter dated April 11, 1848, in which F. D. Avery reported that he recently heard a "sermon by Henry W. Beecher of Brooklyn, he also preached 2 evenings. I liked him very much." Overall, the collection provides a detailed look at the religious and personal life of a Connecticut family in the mid-19th century.

Subject Terms

  • Christianity--United States.
  • Congregationalists--United States.
  • Education, Higher--United States--History.
  • Preston (Conn.)
  • Yale College (1718-1887)
  • Yale University. Divinity School.
  • Avery, Robert Stanton, Jr.
  • Avery, Sarah.
  • Darrah, James A.
Genre Terms:
  • Commissions (permissions)
  • Letters (correspondence)

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Box   30, Small Collections  
Avery family correspondence [series]
Folder   13  
 March 22, 1841-[January 1845]
Folder   14  
 June 30, 1845-June 24, 1846
Folder   15  
 June 24, 1846-February 15, 1847
Folder   16  
 [March 1847]-January 19, 1848
Folder   17  
 February 11, 1848-September 21, 1848
Folder   18  
 November 26, 1848-May 1, 1852

Additional Descriptive Data


Avery, John. History of the Town of Ledyard, 1650-1900. Norwich, Connecticut: Noyes & Davis, 1901.