Alden Family
Papers, 1834-1902

SC23276

Quantity: 2 boxes (0.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift: Carol A. Fincham, Mariposa, California, January 2013
Processed By: Regina Berry, Student Assistant, State University of New York at Albany for Manuscripts & Special Collections, November 2014

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Genealogy and Family History Note:

This Alden Family, descended from several lines of historic note, provides an excellent example of how a colonial family grew and migrated west in the years after the American Revolution.  Isaac Alden (1813-1892), the recipient of many of the letters, was an eighth-generation descendant, through an all-male line, of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, of Mayflower and Plymouth fame.  His father, Pliny Alden (1787-1834), was born in Ashfield, (Franklin County), Massachusetts, moved west to central New York in 1794, and served briefly during the war of 1812.  His mother, Anna Upson Alden (1787-1862), who wrote many of the letters, was born in Litchfield County, Connecticut, and married Pliny Alden in Camden, (Oneida County), New York on March 17, 1812.  Anna’s father, Ashbel Upson (1762-1831), was a veteran of the American Revolution as was her maternal grandfather, Levi Munson (1738-1815), who achieved the rank of lieutenant, fought with Ethan Allen, was taken prisoner and was later with George Washington at Valley Forge.

Isaac, Pliny and Anna’s eldest child, was born January 8, 1813, in Williamstown, Oswego County, New York, and died February 20, 1892, in Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan.  One of five siblings to live to adulthood, he was raised on a farm.  At the age of twenty he was commissioned to transport a supply of gunpowder and other goods from the U.S. arsenal at Rome, New York, to Fort Mackinac in northern Michigan. This became a five-month adventure.  After this introduction to travel and the west, Isaac decided to seek his fortune in this territory that was soon to become a state. Thus, he returned to Michigan in 1834, settling in first in Pontiac and, later, in Coldwater, engaging in farming and milling.

Pliny Alden died suddenly in 1834, shortly after Isaac had left for Michigan, leaving Anna with four young children and little means: Nancy Irene (1822-after 1900), Alma (1825-1904), Philomela (1826-1890), and Lyman P. (1831-1904).  The children are referenced frequently in Anna’s letters to Isaac.  She subsequently remarried in 1848, to Plinney Darrow. 

Isaac married Mary A. Hopkins (1819-1906) on March 18, 1845, in Jonesville, Michigan.  She had been born in Groton, Tompkins County, New York, the daughter of David and Abigail (Crane) Hopkins. Her father, too, had served in the War of 1812. Mary Hopkins had been a teacher for some years and, at the time of her marriage, was the principal of a school in Jonesville. The couple had four children: Marion A. (b. 1846), Willis Hopkins (b. 1856), Anna L. (b. 1859), and another daughter who died in 1852. 

Various family members are represented in this collection: Isaac’s siblings: 1) Nancy, who married Horace Hill in 1856 and lived near Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan; 2) Mary Alma, who married Horace French in 1846, had six children and lived in Floyd and Rome, Oneida County, New York; 3) Philomela, who married Allen Cook in 1860, and also lived in Coldwater, Michigan; and 4) Lyman P. Alden, who married Lena Kidder in 1863, had three children and lived in Michigan and later Indiana. Other letter writers include an uncle (Lent Munson Upson, 1797-1870), an aunt (Philomela Alden Rathbun, 1783-1861), several siblings of Mary Hopkins Alden, as well as various cousins and friends.

Scope and Content Note:

These papers consist chiefly of family letters containing news of routine matters of everyday life, such as health, weather, chores, finances and news about family, friends and relatives.  There is much discussion of sickness, deaths and births, and many references to God and religion throughout.  Family economics is a frequent topic, presenting insights on how difficult it was to provide and how all family members must contribute.  Most of the family letters have been transcribed. 

The first letter in the collection, dated  November 7, 1834, from Anna Alden in Camden, New York, to her son, Isaac, in Michigan, describes, in detail, the days leading up to Pliny Alden’s unexpected death at the age of 47, when “your dear father’s soul took its flight to the land of spirits.”  She reflects that “what I shall do this winter in uncertain … my mind is so confused I hardly know what I am about.”  Subsequent letters are full of advice and concern for her son, pleas for him to write, greetings from his brother and sisters, and news of how they all fare at home: “When I had fed my hog what I could spare, I killed him.  He was good meat, weighed 161 pounds.” 

Upon learning of Isaac’s marriage in 1845, his mother wrote, “I do fondly hope and trust as you have found one that has condescended to become your second self you will treat her with the tenderest affection … We should be much pleased if it was so you could come and see us this summer and bring your wife.  We should like to get acquainted with her.”

In 1846 Anna, with two of her daughters working in New York Mills in Oneida County, wrote to Isaac: “I hope you not forget you have a mother [and] that I is very lonesome.  Not one child in 30 miles.” Isaac had invited her to come spend the winter with him in Michigan, but Anna wrote that “the distance is so great and the great water to cross, it looks like a mountain.”

Other letters, dated 1844-1902, were to either Isaac or Mary Alden from various Alden and Hopkins relatives and friends in locations around the United States. One was a letter to Mary Alden from Eliza (last name unknown), who had been a teacher in Coldwater and boarded with the Aldens.  In 1849 she was studying at Oberlin College and contemplating a foreign mission posting: “I think some part of Africa, either South Africa or the Mendi country, yet it may be one of the Sandwich Islands or Siam … Haiti or Jamaica.”

Another interesting item is an 1857 letter to Isaac from his widowed aunt Philomela Alden Rathbun, who had moved in the 1830s to Pinegrove Plantation, near Minden, Louisiana.  She was 74 years old and wrote to suggest that a cousin of Isaac’s should come south for his health, but cautions: “If he is an abolitionist he must lay that off as he would an unnecessary garment, for it would be useless here … for it is absolutely necessary that the Blacks should have masters that will provide a comfortable living for them and keep them at steady labor … They have no economy, no judgment, no inclination to industry or frugality.”

Three of the letters are to Isaac’s youngest daughter and her husband, Annie and Edward Sampson, regarding accusations of an affair between Edward and a female friend.  There are a series of letters from 1892 discussing the Alden family genealogy.  In addition, there is Isaac’s will and obituary, his personal reminiscences, papers relating to his military service in 1833-1834, and some poetry written my Mary A. Alden.

Box and Folder List:


Box Folder Description
    Letters: Anna Alden to Isaac Alden, 1834-1860
1 1 Letter: Anna Alden, Floyd, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan, November 7, 1834; letter details the passing of Pliny Alden
1 2 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan, September 19, 1835; contains news about family, relatives, and friends in Camden and vicinity
1 3 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan, January 19, 1836; discusses weaving and other chores, and news about the family
1 4 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan, April 24, 1836; discusses a recent snowstorm, the state of her health, religious experiences, news about family, etc.
1 5 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan, June 15, 1836; news about family, friends , and relatives, especially deaths and marriages
1 6 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan, December 11, 1836; discusses the state of her health and family; high cost of food staples and the difficulty making ends meet
1 7 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan, March 11, 1838
1 8 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan, May 11, 1838
1 9 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Selby Mill, Shelby County, Illinois, May 24, 1839
1 10 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Plymouth, Wayne County, Michigan, October 20, 1839
1 11 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Plymouth, Wayne County, Michigan, March 7, 1840
1 12 Letter: Freeman Hurd, Floyd, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Plymouth, Wayne County, Michigan, July 11, 1840
1 13 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Plymouth, Wayne County, Michigan, July 13, 1840; also includes letters of Philomen[?]a [Philomela] and Alma Alden
1 14 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Plymouth, Wayne County, Michigan, November 8, 1840
1 15 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, June 17, 1842
1 16 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, September 11, 1842
1 17 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, August 1, 1843
1 18 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, April 6, 1844
1 19 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, August 18, 1844
1 20 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, January 12, 1845
1 21 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, March 8, 1845
1 22 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, June 22, 1845
1 23 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, October 11, 1845
1 24 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Nancy I. Alden, New York Mills, Oneida County, [New York], December 30, 1845
1 25 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, April 26, 1848
1 26 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, October 18, 1846
1 27 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, January 11, 1847
1 28 Letter: Philomela Alden and Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan, March 5, 1848
1 29 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, July 13, 1848
1 30 Letter: Anna Alden, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan, July 23, 1848
2 31 Letter: Anna Darrow, Camden, [New York], to Isaac and Mary A. Alden, Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan, October 29, 1848
2 32 Letter: Anna Darrow, Camden, [New York], to Isaac and Mary A. Alden, [Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan], September 2, 1850
2 33 Letter: [Anna Darrow], Camden, [New York], to Isaac and Mary A. Alden, [Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan], April 27, 1851
2 34 Letter: Nancy [Alden], Camden, [New York], to Philomela [Alden], [Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan], October 29, 1855
2 35 Letter: Anna Darrow, Camden, [New York], to Isaac and Mary A. Alden, [Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan], November 16, 1855
2 36 Letter: [Anna Darrow], Camden, [New York], to [Nancy Alden Hill], [Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan], September 14, 1857
2 37 Letter: [Anna Darrow], Camden, [New York], to Isaac and Mary A. Alden, Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan, September 1, 1858
2 38 Letter: Anna Darrow, Camden, [New York], to Isaac and Mary A. Alden, Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan, November 25, 1858
2 39 Letter: Anna Darrow, Camden, [New York], to Isaac and Mary A. Alden, Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan, January 12, 1859; on back is a letter to Marion Alden (granddaughter)
2 40 Letter: Anna Darrow, Camden, [New York], to Isaac and Mary A. Alden, [Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan], May 3, 1860
    Alden-Hopkins family letters, 1844-1902
2 41 [Lent Munson] Upson, Camden, [New York], to Isaac Alden, Coldwater, Michigan, April 3, 1862; letter relates to the death of Anna Alden Darrow
2 42 [Lent Munson] Upson, Camden, [New York], to [Nancy Alden Hill?], [Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan], [mid-April, 1862]; more on the death of Anna Alden Darrow
2 43 Letter: Harriet [Hopkins], Elk Creek, [Pennsylvania], to Mary A. Hopkins, Painesville, Ohio, January 7, 1841; relating to the death of brother Eliphaz Hopkins
2 44 Letter: [Warner Whiton] Hopkins, Cranesville, [Pennsylvania], to Mary A. Hopkins, Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Michigan, September 2, 1844
2 45 Letter: [Alma] Lewis, Coldwater, [Michigan], to Mary Alden and Harriet [Hopkins], Jonesville, Michigan, August 21, 1846
2 46 Letter: Eliza [?], Oberlin, [Ohio], to Mrs. [Mary] Alden, [Coldwater, Michigan], December 24, 1849
2 47 Letter: George S. Sweet, Elk Creek, [Pennsylvania], to Isaac Alden, [Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan], April 14, 1853
2 48 Letter: Philomela Rathbun, Pinegrove Plantation, [Louisiana],  to Isaac Alden, [Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan], December 12, 1857
2 49 Marcus C. Riggs, New York, to Mary Hopkins [Alden], October 29, 1867; letter is from a former pupil
2 50 Letters:
  1. Nancy [Alden Hill?] to Isaac? [Alden], n.d [after October 1855]
  2. Mary H. Alden, Coldwater, [Michigan], to Willis H. Alden, Oneida, New York, August 20, 1878
2 51 Letters: Freeman Hurd to Isaac and Mary A. Alden
  1. Mannsville, New York, [February 12, 1882] (part of letter torn off – missing)
  2. Mannsville, New York, March 25, 1883
  3. Mannsville, New York, April 1, 1883
Letter: Mary Etta Hurd, Mannsville, New York, to Mary A. Alden, Coldwater, Michigan,  November 6, 1883
2 52 Letters to Isaac Alden
  1. E.F. Hutchison, Bellwood, Butler County, Nebraska, August 30, 1882
  2. A.S. Stewart, Bay City, Michigan, August 24, 1888 (on stationery of Louisville Underwriters)
2 53 Letters to Isaac and Mary Alden
  1. Daniel W. Baldwin, Fall River, [Massachusetts], February 2, 1880
  2. Louise D. Benedict,  Lima, [New York], February 18, 1883
  3. Cousin Betsy, Union Mills, Michigan, March 6, [1883]
  4. Lewis Benedict, Lima, [New York], March 17, 1883
2 54 Letters to Isaac and Mary Alden
  1. J.D. Yerkes, Northville, [Michigan], January 6, 1885
  2. [Ebenezer] K. Alden, Boston, Massachusetts, October 30, 1888
  3. P.R. Day, New Orleans, [Louisiana], July 6, 1886
  4. Amos B. Hart, Bear Lake, [Michigan], [November 15], 1888
2 55 Letters to Edward J. and Annie Alden Sampson, Concordia, Kansas
  1. “Your friend”, Concordia, Kansas, [April 23], 1887
  2. Rose P. McDonald, Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 27, 1888
  3. Roselle [Rose P. McDonald], Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 28, 1888
2 56 Letters: Alma L. Alden to Mary H. Alden,
  1. San Francisco, California, January 3, 1892
  2. San Francisco, California, January 21, 1892
  3. San Francisco, California, February 26, 1892
  4. San Francisco, California, June 11, 1892
2 57 Letter: J.B. Sutton to Mary H. Alden, Tacoma, Washington, May 24, 1894 (Puget Sound Savings Bank Stationery) Bulletin of Tacoma Presbyterian Church enclosed
2 58 Letter: J.B. Sutton to Mary H. Alden, Tacoma, Washington, August 12, 1902
2 59 Papers relative to military service of Isaac Alden, April-May 1887 (3 items plus cover)
2 60 Personal reminiscences of Isaac Alden for Harry Haynes, relating the story of his 1833-1834 trip to Fort Mackinac, Michigan; ca. 1890
2 61 Copy of the last will and testament of Isaac Alden and letters testamentary of  Probate Court, Branch County, Michigan, March 5, 1892
2 62 Newspaper clippings: Obituaries of Isaac Alden, ca. February 24, 1892 (2 items)
2 63 Poetry and verse written by Mary Abigail Hopkins Alden, n.d.
2 64 School exercises: “Scraps of Knowledge” by Edna H. Haskins, January 1882
2 65 Printed Poems
  1. “Song to Our Pioneers” by Emma Tuttle, n.d. (broadside)
  2. “A tribute to dear mother on her ninetieth birthday” Mrs. Russell W. Chase, n.d. (news clipping)
2 66 Miscellaneous
  1. Program: Coldwater, Michigan, High School Commencement, June 25, 1891
  2. Wedding invitation: Emma Haskins to Willis H. Alden, July 25, 1890

 

Last Updated: September 26, 2017