Holley Family
Papers, 1793-1860

SC11010

Quantity: 3 boxes (0.50 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Purchase: William Todd, July 1942
Processed By: Jennifer Drautz, Intern, The College of St. Rose, July 1995; revised March 2014

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Biographical Note:

Myron Holley was born April 29, 1779, at Salisbury, Connecticut, the second son of Luther and Sarah (Dakin) Holley. After graduating from Williams College in 1799 he studied law. About 1804 he moved to Canandaigua, New York, where he practiced law and operated a bookshop. Eventually became involved in local politics and was elected Ontario County Clerk in 1810. In 1816 he was elected to represent Ontario County in to the New York State Assembly and was re-elected in 1820 and 1821. During his time in the Assembly he was closely allied with Governor DeWitt Clinton in promoting the construction of the Erie Canal. This led to his appointment in 1816 to the Erie Canal Commission, which had oversight of the construction of the canal.  He was chosen as the treasurer of the commission.

In 1824 an audit revealed a shortage of about $30,000 in the canal construction fund; Holley could not give an accounting of its disappearance. As a result he resigned from the Canal Commission on March 30, 1824, and turned over his personal property, including his home near Lyons, New York, as partial restitution. In 1828 the State Legislature exonerated him of any wrong doing and ordered his property returned to him. He subsequently purchased land along the Genesee River near Rochester and named his small estate “Rose Ridge.”

During the later years of his life Myron Holley was involved in the anti-Masonic and abolitionist movements. In 1839, he launched the Rochester Freeman, an anti-slavery newspaper, serving as editor as well as publisher. (There are only a few issues in existence.)  He married Sallie House in 1804 and they had six daughters. He died at his home on March 4, 1841.

Orville Luther Holley was born May 19, 1791, at Salisbury, Connecticut, the youngest son of Luther and Sarah (Dakin) Holley. He was educated at Yale and Harvard, graduating from the latter in 1813. Thereafter he moved to New York to study law, but he gravitated towards journalistic and literary interests. From May 1817 to April 1819 he edited, with Horatio Bigelow, the American Monthly Magazine and Critical Review in New York.

By the end of 1819 Orville Holley had moved to Hudson, New York, where he was engaged primarily in the practice of law until mid-1823, when he moved to Troy, New York, to become editor of the Troy Sentinel for eight years. By 1836 he was living in Canandaigua, New York, and was editor of the Western Repository and Genesee Advertiser, a newspaper that was partial to the Whig Party. His activism on behalf of the Whig party led to his appointment as New York State Surveyor General in 1838, a post he held until the Whigs lost power in 1842. Afterwards, he edited the New York State Register for a few years, and, during the 1850s, authored a biography of Benjamin Franklin. He died March 25, 1861.

Scope and Content Note:

These papers consist chiefly of letters Myron and Orville Holley sent to their father, Luther Holley, and other members of their immediate family. Early letters of Myron Holley detail his academic interests and student life at Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and his subsequent time in New Haven, Connecticut, where he took up the study of law. Later, the letters of Myron Holley detail personal and family matters as well as his life in western New York and his career in politics and government. In particular, he mentions his service in the New York State Assembly; his work relative to the construction of the Erie Canal; concerns relative to implementing the new state constitution adopted in 1821; and the creation of Wayne County in 1823. His sentiments relative to the anti-Masonic and abolitionist movements are also mentioned in a number of his letters. The letters written by Myron Holley conclude with his letter to Caroline Chapin in December 1837 in regards to the Upper Canada Rebellion.

The papers also include a number of letters addressed to Myron Holley, most of which were from his friends from school and college. Among them was Joseph Dewey Fay, a prominent New York City attorney who was best known for his advocacy for abolishing laws mandating imprisonment for financial indebtedness, and Elijah Hunt Mills, an attorney in Northampton, Massachusetts, who became prominent in Massachusetts politics and government during the early-nineteenth century.  

Other papers related to Myron Holley include a notebook that contains notes on lectures and sermons he had heard as well as excerpts and commentary on literature he had read.

Letters written by Orville Holley were addressed primarily to his father, Luther Holley, and brother, John Milton Holley. His early letters detail his academic pursuits and student life, first at Yale and then at Harvard. A number of these letters concern financial matters, particularly Orville’s need for funds to pay for college and living expenses. After he finished his academic studies, Orville Holley’s letters indicate he was living in New York and pursuing a career as a newspaper editor and writer. Beginning in 1823, he wrote a number of letters from Troy, New York, which detail his experiences of living and working there as well as personal and family matters. By 1832, his letters indicate he was residing in Hudson, New York, and had become editor of a local newspaper.

These papers also include a number of letters addressed to Orville Holley, some of which were from individuals who were prominent in politics and government at the time: Amos Eaton, James Wadsworth, Thurlow Weed, and William H. Seward. These letters are generally political in nature. Another series of letters was sent to John M. Holley from Enos Hopkins, who was serving in the New York State Assembly at the time he was writing them in 1825.

The papers also include a number of speeches and orations delivered by Orville Holley from 1816 to 1842.  They cover an array of topics relative to political, social, economic, and religious issues of the time, including the education of women, the colonization of Africa, how common school education is dependent on the character of textbooks, the temperance movement, and banking and currency issues. There also are eulogies of the lives and careers of Gilbert Mortier LaFayette and James Madison, and an endorsement of William Henry Harrison for president in 1840.

Related Collections and Resources:

There are also a number of letters of Myron Holley in the David Thomas Papers (SC12671) which are related specifically to Holley’s role in the construction of the Erie Canal. Official records related to Myron Holley’s service as New York State Canal Commissioner are held by the New York State Archives in the record series of contracts and accounts for construction and repair, ca. 1817-1836. Additional series of papers related to the Holley family can be found at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and the Connecticut Historical Society, in Hartford, Connecticut.

Box and Folder List:


Box Folder Description
1 1 Letters: Myron Holley to Luther Holley, 1793-1799
  1. Williamstown, [Mass.], November 4, 1793
  2. Williamstown, [Mass.], January 3, 1794
  3. Williams College, March 8, 1796
  4. Williams College, February 27, 1797
  5. Williams College, March 13, 1797
  6. Williams College, December 9, 1797
  7. Williams College, August 25, 1798
  8. Northampton, [Mass.], January 3, 1799
  9. Williams College, January 10, 1799
1 2 Letters: Myron Holley to Luther Holley, 1801-1814
  1. New Haven, [Conn.], February 15, 1801
  2. New Haven, [Conn.], July 8, 1801
  3. Albany, [N.Y.], October 27, 1804
  4. Canandaigua, [N.Y.], July 23, 1807
  5. Canandaigua, [N.Y.], May 21, 1808
  6. Canandaigua, [N.Y.], March 2, 1809
  7. Canandaigua, [N.Y.], December 24, 1809
  8. Canandaigua, [N.Y.], February 10, 1814
  9. Canandaigua, [N.Y.], April 6, 1814
1 3 Letters: Myron Holley to Luther Holley, 1817-1823
  1. Albany, [N.Y.], April 3, 1817
  2. Albany, [N.Y.], December 12, 1817
  3. Albany, [N.Y.], March 25, 1818
  4. Canandaigua, [N.Y.], June 6, 1820
  5. Canandaigua, [N.Y.], June 20, 1821
  6. Canandaigua, [N.Y.], November 11, 1821
  7. Albany, [N.Y.], January 16, 1823
1 4 Letters: Myron Holley to Orville L. Holley, 1820-1830
  1. Albany, [N.Y.], March 6, 1820
  2. Canandaigua, October 30, 1820
  3. Albany, [N.Y.], January 23, 1822
  4. Lyons, [N.Y.], May 27, 1825
  5. Lyons, [N.Y.], December 26, 1825
  6. Lyons, [N.Y.], December 28, 1830
1 5 Letters: Myron Holley to family and others, 1816-1837
  1. To Sally Holley, Batavia, [N.Y.], June 26, 1816
  2. To Holley & Coffing, Albany, [N.Y.], March 25, 1818
  3. To Sally Holley, Albany, [N.Y.], March 20, 1828
  4. To David S. Bates, Lyons, [N.Y.], November 14, 1828
  5. To Caroline E. Chapin, Rose Ridge, [N.Y.], December 26, 1837
1 6 Letters to Myron Holley, 1795-1797
  1. Birch [?], Æsculapius Hall, September [1795]
  2. Birch [?], Æsculapius Hall, [September 1795]
  3. Arthur [?], Red Hook Landing, [N.Y.], September 23, 1795
  4. Birch [?], Red Hook, [N.Y.],  October 20, 1795
  5. Arthur [?], New York, June 10, 1796
  6. Arthur [?], Red Hook Landing, [N.Y.], September 26, 1796
  7. Arthur [?], Red Hook Landing, [N.Y.], February 25, 1797
  8. Arthur [?], [Red Hook Landing, N.Y.], April 18, 1797
1 7 Letters to Myron Holley, 1798-1802
  1. Joseph D. Fay, Burlington, July 4, 1798
  2. [Elijah Hunt] Mills, Northampton, [Mass.], August 31, 1798
  3. [Elijah Hunt] Mills, Northampton, [Mass.], October 25, 1798
  4. [Elijah Hunt] Mills, Northampton, [Mass.], March 22, 1798
  5. [Elijah Hunt] Mills, Northampton, [Mass.], June 4, 1799
  6. Peter Staff, Westfield, [Mass.?], June 23, 1800
  7. Joseph D. Fay, New York, April 12, 1801
  8. Joseph D. Fay, New York, July 14, 1801
  9. [Joseph D.] Fay, [New York, October 29, 1801] (fragment)
  10. [Joseph D.] Fay, New York, March 31, 1802
1 8 Letters: Luther Holley to Myron and Orville Holley, 1798, 1810-1811
  1. To Myron Holley, Dover [N.Y.], July 23, 1798
  2. To Orville L. Holley, Salisbury, [Conn.], June 5, 1810
  3. To Orville L. Holley, Salisbury, [Conn.], July 29, 1810
  4. To Myron Holley, Hartford, [Conn.], April 21, 1811
  5. To Orville L. Holley, Hartford, [Conn.], May 12, 1811
1 9 Notebook of Myron Holley, ca. 1800-1801; includes notes on lectures and sermons, and extracts from publications. (60 p.; 20 cm.)
2 1 Letters: Orville L. Holley to Luther Holley, 1802-1809
  1. New Haven, [Conn.], March 14, 1802
  2. Litchfield South Farm [Conn.], December 3, [1804]
  3. Canandaigua, [N.Y.], November 19, 1805
  4. New Haven, [Conn.], September 28, 1808
  5. New Haven, [Conn.], December 16, 1808
  6. New Haven, [Conn.], March 28, 1809
  7. New York, May 23, 1809
  8. Boston, [Mass.], June 12, 1809
  9. Boston, [Mass.], August 2, 1809
  10. Boston, [Mass.], September 21, 1809
  11. Cambridge, [Mass.], November 6, 1809
2 2 Letters: Orville L. Holley to Luther Holley, 1810-1815
  1. Boston, [Mass.], January 12, 1810
  2. Cambridge, [Mass.], July 12, 1810
  3. Cambridge, [Mass.], October 20, 1810
  4. Cambridge, [Mass.], January 9, 1811
  5. Cambridge, [Mass.], August 11, 1811
  6. Cambridge, [Mass.], January 2, 1813
  7. New York, February 15, 1815
  8. New York, April 21, 1815
  9. New York, October 26, 1815
2 3 Letters: Orville L. Holley to Luther Holley, 1816-1823
  1. New York, March 1816
  2. New York, July 25, 1816
  3. New York, October 12, 1816
  4. New York, November 5, 1816
  5. New York, November 19, 1816
  6. New York, December 19, 1816
  7. New York, April 14, 1817
  8. New York, December 12, 1818
  9. Hudson, [N.Y.], [December] 7, 1819 (to Sarah Holley)
  10. Troy, [N.Y.], September 14, 1823
2 4 Letters: Orville L. Holley to John M. Holley, 1812-1823
  1. Cambridge, [Mass.], March 10, 1812
  2. Cambridge, [Mass.], August 19, 1812
  3. Cambridge, [Mass.], February 16, 1813
  4. Cambridge, [Mass.], July 2, 1813
  5. New York, January 12, 1815
  6. New York, August 14, 1817
  7. New York, February 18, 1819
  8. New York, June 8, 1819
  9. Hudson, N.Y., November 22, 1819
  10. [Hudson, N.Y.], November 22, 1819 (2nd letter)
  11. [Hudson, N.Y.], June 7, 1821
  12. Troy, [N.Y.], December 11, 1823
2 5 Letters: Orville L. Holley to John M. Holley, 1826-1834
  1. Troy, [N.Y.], March 16, 1826
  2. Troy, [N.Y.], March 20, 1826
  3. Troy, [N.Y.], March 31, 1826
  4. Troy, [N.Y.], June 12, 1826
  5. Troy, [N.Y.], July 12, 1826
  6. Troy, [N.Y.], March 11, 1828
  7. Troy, [N.Y.], January 14, 1830
  8. New York, August 10, 1831
  9. Hudson, [N.Y.], August 9, 1832
  10. Hudson, [N.Y.], August 21, 1832
  11. Albany, [N.Y.], March 16, 1833
  12. Hudson, [N.Y.], July 22, 1834
2 6 Letters: Orville L. Holley to family, relatives, etc., 1831-1860
  1. Draft of letter to unidentified person, New York , November 27, 1832
  2. Draft of letter to brother, Salisbury, Furnace Village, [Conn.], March 7, 1834
  3. Draft of letter to unidentified person, Canandaigua, [N.Y.], December 8, 1836
  4. To Alexander Holley, New York, May 5, 1831
  5. To Alexander Holley, Hudson, [N.Y.], December 17, 1834
  6. From Alexander Holley, Lakeville, [Conn.], December 27, 1848
  7. To [Alexander] H. Holley, Albany, [N.Y.], November 24, 1857
  8. To Sarah D. Holley, Albany, [N.Y.], December 16, 1858
  9. To [Alexander] H. Holley, Albany, [N.Y.], November 23, 1859
  10. To Sarah D. Holley, Albany, [N.Y.], January 13, 1860
2 7 Letters to Orville L. Holley, 1824-1847
  1. Amos Eaton, Troy, [N.Y.], January 7, 1824
  2. William H. Seward, Albany, [N.Y.], January 21, 1832
  3. William H. Seward, Albany, [N.Y.], February 10, 1832
  4. Thurlow Weed, Albany, Albany, [N.Y.], August 28, 1834
  5. James Wadsworth, Geneseo, [N.Y.], March 28, 1837
  6. Eliza Robbins, New York, May 21, 1838
  7. C.K., New York, April 30, 1838
  8. Thomas T. Whiteley, New York, April 16, 1847
2 8 Letters: Enos Hopkins to John M. Holley, 1825
  1. Albany, [N.Y.], January 17, 1825
  2. Albany, [N.Y.], January 26, 1825
  3. Albany, [N.Y.], February 16, 1825
  4. Assembly Chamber, [Albany, N.Y.], March 29, 1825
2 9 Commission of Orville Holley as captain of the light infantry in the 47th New York Militia, D.S. DeWitt Clinton, March 17, 1821
2 10 Printed materials: Broadsides and newspapers clippings, ca. 1840s (5 items)
3 1 Speeches, 1816-1817
  1. “Is more happiness to be found in the civilized than in the savage state? Yes.”: New York Forum, March 1817 (19 p.)
  2. “Ought the minds of women to be cultivated by the same studies as those of men? Yes.”  A fragment intended for New York Forum … 1816-1817 (15 p.)
3 2 Speech on colonization of Africa given by Orville L. Holley to a meeting of citizens at the Court House in Troy, New York, December 30, 1823 (19 p.)
3 3 Speech: Eulogy and tribute to the life of General Lafayette by Orville L. Holley, ca. 1834 (40 p.)
3 4 Speech: “A lecture read before the Association for Mutual Improvement of the City of Hudson, [N.Y.], at the first meeting of the association in December 1834 by [Orville] L. Holley, an associate.”  (27 p.); abstract (3 p.)
3 5 Fourth of July oration by Orville L. Holley, [Troy, N.Y., 1836]; closes with a tribute to James Madison, who had passed away June 28, 1836 (40 p.)
3 6 An address to the people of the State of New York by Oroville L. Holley relative to banking and currency, ca. 1836 (29 p.)
3 7 Lecture by Orville L. Holley on the” importance of common school education , and its efficiency and value as dependent on the character of school books,” read before the Young Men’s Association of Troy, March 11, 1842. (49 p.)
3 8 Discourse by Orville L. Holley on temperance organization, ca. ca. 1830s (60 p.)
3 9 Speeches and addresses of Orville L. Holley, ca. 1840s
  1. Endorsement of William Henry Harrison for President, 1840 (8 p.)
  2. Issues relative business speculation and monopolies, ca. 1840s (5 p.)
  3. Issues relative to bank and currency (7 p.)
3 10 Notes and drafts for speeches and writings relative to history, politics, law, and religion, ca. 1804-1840 (ca. 21 items)
Last Updated: May 21, 2014