This collection contains 22 letters that Orville E. Watson wrote to his mother while attending Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, between 1878 and 1882, as well as 2 letters he wrote after graduating. He discussed his coursework and his social life, which included membership in a fraternity.
Watson generally wrote every month or two between April 5, 1878, and July 8, 1882, with a few longer gaps between letters. He mentioned some of his courses, lectures, and examinations, and commented on faculty-student relations. Watson wrote most frequently about his social activities and those of other university students, occasionally focusing on relations between the junior and senior classes. As a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, he discussed Greek life and houses' recruitment efforts, as well as his experiences after briefly leaving his own fraternity. During his later years in school, Watson also participated in a literary society. Though much of his social life revolved around fellow students, he interacted with other Delaware residents, including an older woman named Sadie West, the subject of a humorous anecdote and sketch in his letter of March 5, 1882. He also described his search for lodgings (September 18, 1881), his landlady, "Mrs. Carlisle" (September-December 1881), and the floor plans of his room and the apartment he later shared with a fraternity brother (September 18, 1881, and January 14, 1882). Watson and his friends sometimes traveled outside of Delaware, taking a hunting trip (May 6, 1882) and visiting a haunted house (December 14, 1879). Though most of Watson's letters are lighthearted and humorous in tone, he wrote 2 more serious letters around the time of his graduation about the possibility of joining the United States Army Signal Corps and corps members' daily routine (June 17, 1882, and July 8, 1882). He wrote his final 2 letters from Cardington, Ohio, on December 25, 1884, and June 16, 1885, providing his mother with family news. His brother Clarence, who occasionally visited Delaware, contributed to 2 of the letters.