Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Stryker Family Papers, 1800-1847

Finding aid created by
C. D. F., February 1994 and Rob S. Cox, November 1995

Summary Information
Title: Stryker family papers
Creator: Stryker family
Inclusive dates: 1800-1847
Extent: 60 items
The Stryker family papers consist of letters to and from this religious and reform minded family in New York and New Jersey.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1992. M-2812.7.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Stryker Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


An intellectual, liberal in thought and literary in inclination, Peter Stryker led a life that set the tone for the lives of his family for three generations. A New Jerseyan to the core, Stryker was reinstated as pastor of one of his former congregations in Perth Amboy, N.J. in December, 1809, and remained for 20 years, ministering to an appreciative Presbyterian flock. In 1829, he uprooted himself to move to New York City and become a missionary, but only a few months later he resigned due to "advanced age." Yet despite this age, Stryker moved to Geneva, N.Y., later in the same year and continued an active ministry until about 1845. He retired to his native New Brunswick, N.J., where he died in 1847.

The Strykers had four children, Elizabeth, Harman , James, and John. The eldest, Elizabeth (1788-1865) married Jean Baptiste Ricord in 1810 upon his graduation from the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons. The couple moved to Guadeloupe, where Jean Baptiste studied natural history when he was not practicing medicine, but before July, 1824, they had returned to the states, settling first in Woodbridge. N.J. Here, Elizabeth picked up a passion for reformist causes, opening a ladies' seminary in Geneva, N.Y., in 1829, serving as its principal until 1842. Her seminary became a touchstone for the wave of religious revivals that spread across western New York State in 1832, and its alumnae became important participants in a number of moral reform movements. After moving to Newark, N.J., in 1845, Ricord helped to found the Newark Orphan Asylum, and served for some time as its director. Her contributions to reform, though, were mostly as an author and publicist. She contributed widely to magazines and journals, and was the author of an important treatise on the mind, Elements of the Philosophy of Mind, Applied to the Development of Thought and Feeling (Geneva, N.Y., 1840) and a fictionalized poem about a slave insurrection in Martinique, Zamba, or the Insurrection (Cambridge, Mass., 1842).

Frederick William Ricord, the son of Elizabeth and Jean Baptiste, was born in Guadeloupe in 1819, was educated at Hobart and Rutgers Colleges, and studied law in Geneva, though he never practiced. After college, he settled in Newark, N.J., to teach school. Ricord soon became involved in local politics, first as a member of the local board of education, 1852-1869 (president, 1867-1869), but later winning election as mayor of Newark, 1870-73, and as associate judge of the county courts in Essex County, 1875-1879. Like his mother, he is best remembered as an author, whose works include The Youth's Grammar (1853), three widely used textbooks on Roman history, and -- drawing upon his knowledge of fourteen foreign languages -- numerous translations of foreign works into English.

James Stryker, the younger brother of Elizabeth Stryker Ricord, was born in Richmond County, N.Y. Graduating from Columbia College in 1809, James went on to study law in the prestigious offices of DeWitt Clinton, setting himself up in private practice in New York City in 1813. In 1830, James was appointed judge in Buffalo, N.Y., and was selected as a commissioner to negotiate with the Six Nations for their removal to the west. He remained in this post until 1840. At one time he was editor of the Buffalo Republican and was originator and editor of Stryker's American Register and Magazine.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Stryker papers consists of letters to and from Rev. Peter Stryker and his family, written while he was living in New Jersey and working as a missionary in New York City. Religious issues are the major theme in the collection, but most of the letters are lacking in substance regarding Stryker's missionary work in the city. Instead, most of the letters are comprised of family news, and tend to be descriptive, dealing with a variety of topics.

Illness and death are frequent topics. The coming of the great cholera epidemic is referred to in Sarah Stryker's letter from New York in July, 1832, and one month later, Peter Stryker writes to express his sorrow at the death of Elizabeth Ricord's son, John. In a letter to Elizabeth, Herman B. Stryker provides some details of the last days of Rev. Peter.

Travel is another recurring topic in the collection. In 1837, while Rev. Stryker was living in Elizabeth's home in Geneva, N.Y., he wrote to her describing life at the house. In the process, he gave incidental descriptions of various rooms within her home. In other travels, Rev. Stryker visited Schenectady, N.Y., which he enjoyed so much that he moved there in May, 1841. In a later letter he described a journey by canal boat.

Subject Terms

    • Family.
    • Religious life and customs.
    • New Jersey.
    • Presbyterian Church--Clergy.
    • Schenectady (N.Y.)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Stryker family papers,  1800 April 7-1847 April 15 [series]