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George Waldo papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 9

Scope and Contents

The George Waldo Papers contain family correspondence documenting the life of George Waldo, a nineteenth-century New England farmer. The papers also contain eighteenth-century commonplace books, diaries, poetry, and sermons probably written by ancestors of George Waldo's mother, Eunice Devotion Waldo. The papers span the dates 1732-1910, but the bulk of the material covers the years 1872-84.

The Correspondence series begins with a July 27, 1810 letter from Hetty Tuttle to her brother Benjamin Tuthill, probably relatives of Waldo's wife. The rest of the chronologically arranged letters with their original stamped envelopes cover the latter part of the nineteenth century and were written by three groups of correspondents: Giles Waldo, George Waldo, and the Waldo children.

Giles's letters to George, written while he was in Washington D.C. in 1842-43, are housed in folders 2-4. Giles assisted James Pollard Espy "in arranging his meteorological results" and also became acquainted with Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose writings were much admired and quoted by the Waldo family. In a July 18, 1843 letter from Concord, Massachusetts, Giles describes Emerson's neighbors, Nathaniel Hawthorne and William Ellery Channing, and mentions Bronson Alcott's cooperative farm near Harvard.

The other two groups of correspondence cover the period 1865-88. The bulk of George Waldo's letters were written to Carrie M. Otis, a friend from Willimantic who moved to Boston to serve as companion for Mrs. H. B. Emerson and Dr. Caroline E. Hastings. He also wrote to his daughter Margaret Mabelle, called Belle, who married widower George Cyrus Thomas, superintendent at Scoville Manufacturing Company. In letters to Miss Otis, George discussed family news such as the death of his daughter May in January 1868; forwarded letters from such mutual friends as Stuart Weld; thanked her for a piano sent in 1872; and consoled her when Mrs. Emerson went insane and was committed (Box 2, folder 35). Mrs. Waldo, who was kept busy managing her large family, tending her invalid husband, and taking in boarders to supplement the family's income, usually added hastily scrawled postscripts to her husband's letters. Waldo also discussed his reading, which included Popular Science Monthly, Carlyle, Emerson, and the Bible, and described the New England seasons, farming, local travel by train and steamer, and rural customs. His letters to Belle are filled with fatherly concern over such things as her failing eyesight and the health of her children, Georgie, Waldo, and Margaret. On November 28, 1881, he encouraged her to visit Concord "and greet there Mr. Alcott and Mr. Emerson."

The third major segment of correspondence is among the Waldo children and Belle was the recipient of most of these letters. Genevieve, her elder sister, wrote about college life at Mount Holyoke in 1871-72, the lectures she attended at Cornell from 1873-75, and teaching primary school in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. A May 27, 1874 letter from Ithaca, New York, discusses her ascension in a Donaldson hot-air balloon. Ernest and Hubert, who also attended Cornell like most of the Waldo family, wrote a few letters from Ulysses, Nebraska, where they went in 1883 to practice law and farm. Gerald, who married and stayed in Scotland to run the family farm, wrote during the 1880s about business matters and his rheumatism. Belle's younger sister Melvine, called Mellie, who joined the "emigrants" in 1884, wrote from Alliance, Nebraska after her marriage to Ralph A. Weston, a loan agent. While the youngest sister, Jessie, was still at home, she wrote to Belle in 1877 about gathering wild flowers and making May baskets which "are all the rage in Scotland this spring" and later in 1883 from Ithaca about college life at Cornell. An occasional letter from Belle's friends and children complete the collection, with Aunt Eliza Waldo writing the last letter nearly two years after her brother George's death: "Oh Belle, I don't want to go to Neb[raska], not one bit, and leave you and the children and Gennie . . . , but I must go where my Shepherd is leading."

Series II, Family Papers , is housed in Box 3. It begins with a folder of three unidentified commonplace books, at least one of which may have been written by the Reverend Ebenezer Devotion (1714-1771), first pastor of the Congregational Church in Scotland, Connecticut and grandfather of Eunice Devotion Waldo. The series also includes sermons and a diary of the Reverend James Cogswell (1720-1807), minister in Canterbury and Scotland, who married Ebenezer Devotion's widow. According to one entry in Cogswell's diary, he traveled to Stanford, Connecticut, to a religious convention chaired by Dr. Witherspoon, attended the Yale commencement of September 8, 1773 at which "a Doctorate was conferred on Mr. Williams of Lebanon," and spent the following evening in Hartford with Governor Griswold. Nearly ten unpublished poems from the same period, in an unknown hand, are also part of the Family Papers.

Between 1905 and 1910, Genevieve Waldo compiled the "Letters of George Waldo," a typescript which was intended for publication. It includes excerpts of untraced letters written by George Waldo to family and friends from 1843-71, a memoir of her father, and an appendix of letters from friends of George Waldo written to his family after his death (Box 3, folders 58-66). In his January 5, 1887 letter, Theodore D. Weld wrote "Truth was George's breath of life, Right his pole star, Love his heart-beat, and his tongue's vernacular."


  • 1732-1910 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1872 - 1884


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The George Waldo 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 papers were donated by George Waldo's granddaughter, Mrs. Andrew R. Morehouse, to The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library from 1963-65.


1 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 family correspondence, commonplace books, diaries, poetry and sermons of eighteenth-century Waldo ancestors, including the Reverends Ebenezer Devotion (1714-1771) and James Cogswell (1720-1807).

GEORGE WALDO, 1816-1886

George Waldo, the youngest son of Ebenezer and Eunice Devotion Waldo, was born in Scotland, then a parish of Windham, Connecticut, on April 14, 1816. Giles, his closest sibling, was two years his senior. Following his brother's footsteps, George was apprenticed to a Norwich printer at age fourteen. In 1832 he attended the Academy at Plainfield and two years later he and Giles went on to Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, where they became friends with Theodore D. Weld, William Tappan, and William Smith. When the school was broken up by anti-slavery agitation, the brothers went to Oneida Institute in New York and then to Amherst College, where George prepared for the ministry. George left Amherst in his junior year; worked briefly in the printing office of a New York daily paper; taught at the school in Southold, Long Island where his brother Giles was principal; and returned in 1842 to the Waldo homestead in the Shetucket River valley of Scotland, Connecticut, where he spent most of his remaining years.

George ran the family farm after his father died on July 7, 1843. In the fall of 1848, he married Sarah Ellen Jagger of West Hampton, Long Island and lived briefly in Brooklyn, New York and in William Tappan's house in Lenox, Massachusetts. The couple built a house on the Waldo property in 1857 and converted the old farm house into a dairy works in 1877.

George's health began to fail in 1860, as a slow paralysis attacked his body, affecting his speech and finally reducing him to an invalid. He died on the last day of 1886 at the age of seventy-one, and his wife died twelve years later. They were survived by seven children: Genevieve, Ernest, Hubert, Margaret Mabelle, Melvine, Gerald, and Jessie. Ebenezer Waldo ( -1843) m. Eunice Devotion

Eliza Waldo

Giles Waldo ( -1849)

George Waldo (1816-1886) m. 1848 Sarah Ellen Jagger ( -1898)

Genevieve Waldo

Ernest Waldo

Hubert Waldo

Margaret Mabelle Waldo m. 1877 George Cyrus Thomas

George Thomas (stepson)

Waldo Thomas

Margaret Thomas

Dorothea Thomas m. Andrew R. Morehouse

Melvine Waldo m. 1884 Ralph A. Weston

Gerald Waldo m. 1885 Mary

Jessie Waldo

May Waldo ( -1868) Note: The names of important correspondents are underlined. Ebenezer and Eunice Waldo had six other children. The children of George and Sarah Ellen Waldo are arranged in approximate birth order.

Guide to the George Waldo Papers
Under Revision
by Karen V. Peltier
April 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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