Skip to main content

Nourse family papers

Call Number: MS 1390

Scope and Contents

A scrapbook, begun by James Nourse in 1853 and entitled "Family Memorials," comprises the Nourse Family Papers. The volume, the gift of Mrs. Joseph L. Ruegg in 1984, had been previously taken apart. Its contents, including genealogical charts, notes on family history, family correspondence, portraits, certificates, and clippings concerning Nourse's ancestors and extended family, are arranged in folders which for the most part follow the order of the scrapbook, since Nourse attempted to keep items by or about individual family members together. The papers date from 1775, but the bulk of the items dates from 1784-1853. The inclusion of materials up to 1910 indicates that the scrapbook was maintained well after James Nourse's death.

The papers primarily document Nourse family history. Correspondence is not continuous; rather, selected letters were included which announce births of children, marriages, new addresses and careers or which detail deathbed scenes. Folders 9 and 11 describe the death in Key West, Florida, of Benjamin Franklin Nourse while serving as a naval surgeon during the Indian wars. Many of the eighteenth century letters discuss expansion of the family's holdings through land purchases in Virginia and Kentucky. Most of the later letters are written to James Nourse or his wife. Of particular note are several letters (folders 5, 8, 11, and 14) concerning James Nourse's abolitionist sentiments and the tension they created in the family.

Related Nourse Family papers are held by the University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Virginia.


  • 1775-1910
  • Majority of material found within 1784 - 1853


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers consist of a scrapbook begun by James Nourse in 1850, entitled "Family Memorials." Included are genealogical charts, notes on family history, family correspondence, portraits, certificates, and clippings concerning his ancestors and extended family. The materials primarily document Nourse family history and James Nourse's abolitionist views.

Biographical / Historical

James Nourse (1805-1854)

James Nourse, son of Michael and Mary Rittenhouse Nourse of Washington, D.C., was born on April 30, 1805. He came from a large and well known family; an uncle Joseph Nourse (1784-1841) served as first registrar of the United States Treasury and a brother, Benjamin Franklin Nourse (1807-1834) was a surgeon, who died serving in the Indian wars in Key West, Florida.

Nourse grew up in Washington, D.C. and graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church at Princeton in 1827. He was ordained and for many years served a church in Valey, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, before returning to the Central Academy in Washington, D.C. Initially a supporter of the American Colonization Society, like other members of his family, he eventually broke with the society and became a vocal abolitionist. James Nourse married Sarah Harvey Nourse, and they had eight children who survived their father. Nourse died in 1854 on a visit to southern Iowa.
Guide to the Nourse Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane Ellen Kaplan
July 1984
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)


Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours