The Nixon family papers consist of 88 items: 84 letters, 3 legal documents, and a ledger. The materials cover the period between 1800 and 1889, with the bulk clustered around 1800-1851. They primarily concern the family's settlement on land in southern Ohio in the 1810s and 1820s and the education and social lives of Warren Nixon's daughters in Massachusetts in the late 1840s.
Thomas Nixon, Jr., and his attorney, Rufus Putnam, wrote most of the correspondence of 1800-1817, which relates to taxes and land values in southeastern Ohio. Several documents concerning the land also date from this period. Beginning in 1818, letters from Warren Nixon, Otis Nixon, and Richard Nichols describe clearing and planting in Morgan Township, Ohio, as well as their everyday lives there. Warren looked down on his neighbors, calling them "a poor ignorant lazy set of beings as ever inhabited the world," and disapproved of their religious practices --"the old women & girls will pretend to preach… and jump round a while and then fall down as if they were dead" (June 22, 1818). In many letters they described their hardships; these included the neighbors stealing their horses (December 3, 1819), the low prices paid for their crops (July 13, 1822), and widespread disease (August 10, 1823). Responses from Thomas Nixon, Jr., advised patience and frugality.
By the 1830s, Warren had returned to Massachusetts, and only Otis Nixon remained in Ohio. Otis wrote the majority of letters during this period to Warren and other relatives. In a letter of May 14, 1841, he described the events in Watertown, Ohio, leading up to William Henry Harrison's election: "We have had Harrison women and Harrison boys, tippacanoe poles, log cabins and hard cider in abundance besides dinners I don't know how many & balls not a few. Many have supposed that Gen Harrison lived in a log cabin and drinked hard cider and therefore would be an uncommon friend to the poor, but such was not the fact." Otis' later correspondence also gives details of his crops, farm buildings, and events within his immediate family circle.
Between 1846 and 1851, the focus of the collection shifts to several of the daughters of Warren Nixon and Salome Rice: Selina (1825-1916), Marcella (b. 1827), and Laurella (b. 1820). The sisters exchanged a series of letters concerning family news, church matters, Charlestown Female Seminary, and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. In her letter of January 25, 1847, Marcella, a Baptist, worries that the "far off Western wilds" are filling with "Roman Catholics… undermining the minds of the young with their false religion." On April 13, 1848, while at Mount Holyoke, she gave an account of Mary Lyon's attitude toward missionaries: "Her whole soul is bound up in the missionary work and she would have her pupils cherish it as she does." Only five items represent the period after 1851. These include several letters from Otis Nixon and his son, George, updating the family on their health and endeavors.