Guide to the Richards Family Correspondence

MSN/EA 5023


Collection Summary

Title: Richards family correspondence
Dates: 1835-1902 (bulk 1835-1858)
Collection No.: MSN/EA 5023
Creator: Richards, George Hersey, 1816-1903
Creator: Richards, Irene Huse Lincoln, 1813-1857
Creator: Whitney, Frederick H., ca. 1815-1877
Extent: 73 items; 1 container
Language: Collection material in English
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: A group of 67 personal letters written by or to members of the Richards family of Massachusetts and Montgomery County, Illinois, chiefly during the late 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s.

Selected Search Terms

Richards, George Hersey, 1816-1903
Richards, Irene Huse Lincoln, 1813-1857
Missouri--Social life and customs.
Missouri--Social conditions--19th century
Missouri--Economic conditions--19th century
Illinois--Social life and customs
Illinois--Social conditions--19th century
Illinois--Economic conditions--19th century

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation: Richards Family Correspondence, Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The Richards Family Correspondence was purchased by the Hesburgh Libraries in 2006, from Carmen D. Valentino of Philadelphia. Arranged and described 2006, by George Rugg. Finding aid 2011, by Scott W. Young.

Biographical Note

The two individuals central to the Richards Family Correspondence are George Hersey Richards (1816-1903) and his wife, Irene Huse Lincoln Richards (1813-1857). George Richards was born on a farm in Roxbury, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, the son of Eliakim and Susan Hersey Richards. Eliakim Richards was a carpenter, and in his youth, George apprenticed in the same trade. In July 1837 he left Massachusetts for the West, spending time in northwest Ohio and southeast Missouri before settling in Hillsboro, Montgomery County, Illinois, in the south-central part of the state (1839). Here he built and operated a steam-powered sawmill, in partnership with Amos Clotfelder. In 1842 he married Irene Huse Lincoln, daughter of Bradford and Rebecca Austin Lincoln, who owned a farm near the Richards family property in Roxbury. George and Irene Richards had six children, three of whom survived infancy: Susan (b. ca. 1845); Alice (b. ca. 1850); and Edward (b. 1852). By 1850 the family had returned to Roxbury, for reasons that are not entirely clear; for at least part of the ensuing decade Richards worked as a wholesale dealer in structural iron. Early in 1857 George and Irene moved to Charleston, South Carolina, hoping the warm climate would be beneficial to Irene's failing health. There they stayed in the home of Frederick H. Whitney (ca. 1815-1877), a transplanted Bostonian and family friend who had found success operating a soap and candle manufactory. Irene Richards died on 5 May 1857. Later that year George purchased 120 acres of farmland in Hillsboro Township; he was joined in Illinois by his three children and by Irene's older sister, Elisabeth Lincoln (b. ca. 1804). Richards and his son Edward managed this property, farming and raising livestock, for many years. Richards died in 1903.

Scope and Content Note

The Richards correspondence includes 67 letters, primarily personal; 6 miscellaneous manuscripts; and one printed pamphlet. Thirty-three of the letters were written by George Richards. A series of nineteen of these, dating from 1837 to 1843 and addressed to his brother Henry (b. ca. 1819) in Boston, chronicles the early years of George's settlement in the West. These speak of life in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri and Montgomery County, Illinois, with commentary on the economy, agriculture, language, social customs, and politics of these regions. Richards' writing is animated and sometimes humorous; while his feelings about his prospects in the West change with circumstance, he takes consistent pleasure in elaborating on its distinctive natural and cultural features. A second series of 14 letters of George Richards (1856-1858) was written around the time of his wife's Irene's death, from Charleston, South Carolina and subsequently from Hillsboro. Most of these are directed to his three children, Susan, Alice, and Edward, or to Irene's sister Elisabeth. Twelve additional letters in the correspondence were written wholly or partly by Irene Richards, many of them from Hillsboro in the 1840s to her sister or parents in Massachusetts, describing her Illinois acclimitization and socialization. Also, there is a largely unrelated group of twelve business and personal letters (mostly 1839-41) written to Henry Richards by Frederick H. Whitney, from Charleston. The letters of George and Irene Richards are substantial and quite literate; several sheets of George's poems are included among the letters.

Arrangement Note

The letters in the collection (folders 1 through 67) are arranged chronologically, one item per folder. Other manuscripts and a single printed item follow (folders 68 through 73).

Container List