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Brewster family papers

Call Number: WA MSS S-1309

Scope and Contents

The Brewster Family Papers contain diaries, artwork, and an album which document several aspects of the lives of Elizabeth Bates Brewster and three of her daughters. The material spans the dates 1838-1879.

The earliest item in the collection is a small pocket diary kept by Elizabeth Bates Brewster in April and May, 1839. The opening entry describes her hopes that the diary will assist her in "the education of our children," and there are frequent summaries of the children's lessons and activities. Other subjects include visits from family and friends, household chores, gardening, and impressions of nature. The diary also contains several poems, signed with Elizabeth's initials and dated 1838, including "The New England Mother's Lament" over a duel in Washington.

Her namesake Elizabeth Brewster Scribner is represented by an album and a diary. The album contains pressed leaves and flowers collected at special events or at historical sites. Elizabeth's diary describes her experiences as a "Lady Nurse" at McDougall Hospital, Fort Schuyler, New York, during the Civil War. She recounted the daily routine of the hospital, conversations with staff and patients, and encounters with relatives of soldiers. Also mentioned are the often futile medical treatments, relationships among staff members, the arrival of soldiers wounded at Gettysburg, and Elizabeth's promotion to Lady Superintendent in August 1864.

Box 2, folder 15 holds the extensive diary kept by Mary Brewster Long between 1867 and 1872. The first half concerns her life in the Brewster home at Kingston, Massachusetts. Topics include her work as a school teacher, her interest in painting, and social events such as church dinners and a magic-lantern show. Family news is also discussed, particularly Elizabeth Brewster's 1869 move to Nevada prior to her marriage to Eben Scribner. Mary joined her sister the following year, and the remainder of the volume describes her life in Nevada and California. There is little mention of the actual journey, although she referred to the scenery en route as "monotonous but not uninteresting." The diary offers more detailed information on Gold Hill, Silver City, American Flats, and Forrest Hills, the towns in which Mary lived. Teaching in frontier schools; family life; differences in Eastern and Western manners; and social occasions like a visit to the opera in Virginia City are also mentioned. Mary wrote extensively about personal relationships, including her troubled and eventually broken engagement to George Sherman, a prospector in Virginia City, and her growing friendship in California with Henry Long. The last entry in the diary records her engagement to Long.

Ada Augusta Brewster, a younger sister of Mary and Elizabeth, moved to California in the 1870s. There she studied painting under Virgil Williams and Raymond Yelland, eventually opening a studio of her own in San Francisco as a portraitist, illustrator, and china-painter. Nine drawings by her can be found in Box 1, folders 1-9. These are landscapes and seascapes of San Francisco Bay locations, signed and dated 1879. Executed in charcoal on board, they are academic compositions typical of the period, perhaps done as exercises for Yelland. Folders 10-12 contain three small watercolors of houses in Nantucket.


  • 1838 - 1879


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Brewster Family Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was purchased in 1987 on the Frederick W. and Carrie S. Beinecke Fund for Western Americana.


2 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers contain diaries, artwork, and an album of Elizabeth Bates Brewster and her daughters Ada Augusta Brewster, Mary Brewster Long, and Elizabeth Brewster Scribner. Subjects discussed include child rearing and family life, nursing during the Civil War, school teaching, and life in Nevada and California.


Elisha Brewster (-1871) m. 1833 Elizabeth Bartlett Bates (1814-1878)

-----Mary Thomas Brewster (1834-1873) m. 1872 Hon. Henry Long

---------------Sylvinia Long (1873-1873)

-----Emma Frances Brewster (1835-1836)

-----Elizabeth Emmeline Brewster (1837- m. 1870 Eben Scribner (-1894)

---------------Danny Scribner (1871-1873)

---------------Eva Scribner (1873-

---------------Ada Louise Scribner (1875-1898)

---------------Nelly Lyman Scribner (1877-

-----Eudora Frances Brewster (1840-1843)

-----Ada Augusta Brewster (1842-

-----Emma Eudora Brewster (1846-1897)

-----Flora Louisa Brewster (1849-

-----Eva Octavia Brewster (1853-

-----Ernest Elisha Wrestling Brewster (1856-

Guide to the Brewster Family Papers
Under Revision
by Diane J. Ducharme
October 1987
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.