Correspondence, 1816-1934 and undated

7.5 boxes
Scope and content:

This series starts off with a single folder of birthday "Certificates," letters written from Silas McKeen, Charles Duren, and Charles McKeen Duren to their children giving thanks and a description of the child on the occasion of his or her birthday. A significant portion of the correspondence falls during the United States Civil War period, 1861-1865 (17 folders); they were written mainly by Silas McKeen to his son Charles, who served in the Union Army. Exchanges from this period express the senders' thoughts on contemporary events and are sometimes written on stationery supporting the Union cause, and include passing references to slavery. A number of letters pertain to or are written by Freeman Duren, a family member who served in the 13th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers. There are very probably many more references to the abolition movement and slavery in the correspondence - the McKeens, Silas in particular, were abolitionists. Following the Civil War, the bulk of the correspondence generally belongs to members of the Duren family in Iowa, and refer to family matters, health and sickness, honors received by family members, and business. Themes of note include the teaching and education administration career of Philena McKeen, who was Principal of Abbot Academy, Andover, Massachusetts for 33 years (1859-1892). The literary career of Phebe McKeen, sister of Philena and a teacher at Abbot Academy, is also a notable topic of correspondences in the collection. From 1859 a number of the exchanges relate to Phebe's contributions to serial publications and several book-length works: Thornton Hall (1872), Theodora (1875, entitled Theodora Cameron when published in the United Kingdom circa 1878), The Little Mother and her Christmas (1876), Annals of Fifty Years: A History of Abbot Academy, Andover, Mass., 1829-1879 (1880, coauthored with her sister, Philena), and Sketch of the Early Life of Joseph Hardy Neesima (1890, published posthumously). A letter of particular note sent to Philena McKeen in March of 1892 is from the widow of Joseph Hardy Neesima, the first Japanese person to receive a degree from a western college, Amherst College, and founder of what would become Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan; in it she thanks Philena for sending a copy of the book that Phebe McKeen had written about Joseph Hardy Neesima. Another letter of note comes from Harriet Beecher Stowe (1892 May 5), sent along with an autographed copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin for a new library/reading room that was constructed at Abbot Academy. Two letters, the first from an unidentified writer addressed to Miss McKeen (1890 Nov. 3) and the second from the widow of Joseph Hardy Neesima include cartes-de-visite photographs.


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