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Wickham Family papers

Call Number: MS 773

Scope and Contents

The Wickham Family Papers primarily document the lives and careers of Joseph Dresser Wickham and his third wife Elizabeth Cooke Merwin Wickham. The papers also contain, however, extensive correspondence of numerous Wickham, Merwin, Porter, and Roe relatives. The papers span the dates 1785-1958, but the bulk of the material covers the years 1814-1901. The Wickham Family Papers were donated to Yale University in December 1975 and January 1983 by Marjorie Page Schauffler, great-granddaughter of Joseph D. Wickham, and her daughter Elizabeth Dudley Schauffler Lyman. Significant related material can be found in the Roe Family Papers, Ms Gr 774.

The Wickham Family Papers are the first of five related family collections, the others being the Roe Family Papers, Page Family Papers, Elizabeth Page Harris Papers, and the Schauffler Family Papers. In order to ensure that correspondence to and from the same people is kept together, a hierarchical system of arrangement for these collections has been adapted. All correspondence to and from Joseph D. Wickham and Elizabeth Merwin Wickham, therefore, is found in the Wickham Family Papers, including that of Emma Wickham Roe; her husband, Alfred Cox Roe; and their children.

The Wickham Family Papers are divided into five series. Series I, CORRESPONDENCE, fills Boxes 1-14. It contains letters documenting the professional career of Joseph D. Wickham and a great deal of family correspondence. Series II, FAMILY PAPERS, consists of a variety of materials, mostly concerning Joseph D. and Elizabeth Merwin Wickham. Series III contains diaries, Series IV sermons, and Series V has a variety of printed works, most of which were owned by Elizabeth Merwin Wickham.

Series I, CORRESPONDENCE, is arranged in chronological order and will probably be of greatest interest to researchers in nineteenth century family history and those interested in studying secondary education during the middle third of the century. The correspondence covers the career of Joseph D. Wickham from his graduation from Yale in 1815 to 1859 and documents the personal lives of a large group of Wickham, Merwin, Porter, and Roe relatives.

The earliest significant group of letters, folders 3-30, are primarily from Yale classmates and friends and were written between 1815 and 1823. The youths discuss their activities, aspirations, travels, and career choices. Prominent correspondents from the Yale class of 1815 include Charles James Hinsdale, Isaac Edward Holmes, Simeon Terry Kibbe, Ezekiel Sanford, Randolph Stone, and Joseph Youle. The collection also contains two letters written by classmates John M. Clayton, the future Delaware Senator, and three by Truman Smith, the future Whig Senator from Connecticut. Additional early correspondents of note, most of whom were also Yale graduates, are Israel K. Tefft, Thomas Mather Smith, Timothy Dwight Porter, and Theodore Woolsey Porter. The latter two were brothers of Wickham's first wife Julia Ann Porter. The collection contains several letters of Yale friends written between January and March 1817 commenting upon the death of Yale President Timothy Dwight; a handful of 1818 letters of Randolph Stone describing his southern travels; and several 1820 letters from Isaac Edward Holmes, Timothy Dwight Porter, and Ezekiel Sanford concerning the possibility of Wickham obtaining a math professorship at South Carolina College. He was rejected primarily because of local prejudice against northerners.

The collection contains relatively little that documents Wickham's activities as missionary for the New York Evangelical Missionary Society of Young Men on Long Island in 1821-1822, his services representing the Presbyterian Education Society in central New York in 1822-1823, and his pastoral labors at the Congregational Church in Oxford, New York 1823-1825. The papers also provide little information on Joseph D. Wickham's career between 1824 and 1833. Wickham served as proprietor of the Washington Institute in New York City 1828-1834, but the correspondence covers only his final year there. In August 1834 N. La Rue P. Thompson invited Wickham to preach at the newly organized Presbyterian church of Matteawan in the town of Fishkill, New York. Installed as minister in November 1834, he remained in that post for little more than a year, during which time Charles Bartlett and he ran the Highland Gymnasium at Fishkill Landing. In January 1836 Wickham rejoined the Presbyterian Education Society and spent most of the next two years travelling among churches in western Pennsylvania and western and northern New York. These activities are described in a series of letters to his third wife Elizabeth Merwin Wickham.

At the end of 1837 Joseph D. Wickham succeeded Lyman Coleman as principal of Burr Seminary, later Burr and Burton Seminary, in Manchester, Vermont. He remained at Burr Seminary until retirement in 1862, except for service between 1853-1856 as acting professor of Latin and Greek at Middlebury College and instructor at the Collegiate Institute of Poughkeepsie, New York, whose principal was old friend Charles Bartlett. The papers contain professional correspondence covering Wickham's tenure at Burr Seminary for the years 1838-1841 and 1845-1859. Correspondents include parents of students and prospective students; associates at Burr Seminary and Manchester, Vermont friends; students and former students; Middlebury College faculty; educators; ministers; and business associates and other acquaintances. Parents of Burr Seminary students include Simeon Gilbert, John Harris, the abolitionist William Slade, and Peter Roe. One of Roe's sons, the writer Edward Payson Roe, attended Burr Seminary, while another son, Alfred Cox Roe, married Emma Wickham.

Numbered among his Burr Seminary associates and Manchester friends are James Anderson, William P. Black, William Alldo Burnham, A. G. Clark, Cyrus Hudson, and Joseph Steele. A large number of former students, many of whom subsequently became teachers or ministers, corresponded with the man they called their "beloved teacher" or "respected instructor." Some of these students are Thomas Scott Bacon, A. G. Cochran, Velie H. Dean, John K. Harris, W. A. McBurney, Horton R. Platt, Daniel Roberts, E. P. Roberts, and Philo Beckwith Wilcox. For additional information on Burr Seminary, see Box 16, folder 447.

Wickham was closely associated with Middlebury College and he received letters from such officers and professors as Joshua Bates, Benjamin Labaree, T. A. Merrill, Nahum Parker, William Henry Parker, and L. L. Tilden Wickham also corresponded with many men concerned with secondary education in Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire, such people as John Holmes Agnew, W. F. Bascom, Amos A. Carpenter, Henry B. Furniss, William R. Glen, Pierpont Isham, Ephraim H. Newton, Timothy Dwight Porter, Ward Stafford, Abijah Stowell, E. M. Torrey, and William Warner. Clerical correspondents include James Anderson, Elijah Hayward Bonney, Aretas Loomis, H. G. Ludlow of Poughkeepsie, and Elijah. W. Plumb. From these and other ministers, it is possible to discover information about religious conditions in mid-nineteenth century Vermont. Additional important correspondents, several of whom had business connections with Wickham, are Isaac Adriance, George Edwin Delavan, Thomas Douglass, J. C. Ellsworth, and William B, Leonard. Non-family correspondence ends in 1859 and only picks up again in the period from 1876 to 1901. These files contain letters of such old friends as Cyrus Hemlin, P. S. Pratt, and George L. Prentiss to Joseph D. and Elizabeth M. Wickham.

Correspondence of Wickhams, Merwins, Porters, Roes, and related families comprises the second major group of letters in the Wickham Family Papers. For charts outlining the genealogical relations of the Wickham, Merwin, Porter, and Roe families, please consult theGenealogical Charts. Although the collection contains some letters of Timothy Taylor who was Elizabeth Merwin Wickham's grandfather, Samuel Merwin, Daniel Hull Wickham, Joseph D. Wickham, and several Porters in folders 1-30, significant family correspondence begins in 1825 and lasts until the death of Elizabeth Merwin Wickham on February 22, 1901.

The Wickham Family Papers contain extensive correspondence from the close-knit Merwin clan. Elizabeth Merwin Wickham is well represented in the family correspondence, but she was also the recipient of scores of letters from her parents, the Reverend Samuel Merwin of New Haven and Wilton, Connecticut and Clarina Bradley Taylor Merwin, and her siblings, Timothy Taylor Merwin, Susan Townsend Merwin Wood, Clarina Merwin Marvin, Mary Daggett Merwin Clark, Samuel John Miles Merwin, and Emily Baldwin Merwin Hall. There are a smaller number of letters from Aunt Sarah Mather, the Reverend Gordon Hall, and nephew A. Moss Merwin. The letters, particularly those of the sisters, are often detailed and are primarily devoted to family news and descriptions of events in New Haven, Wilton, and other Connecticut communities. The sisters freely discuss their marriages, children, health, and finances. The letters of Elizabeth's parents feature religious advice in addition to family news. Elizabeth served as preceptress of Oxford Academy in Oxford, New York from December 1832 to August 1834. Her letters to her family and those of her students discuss this important activity.

The most important Wickham correspondents are Daniel Hull Wickham, Mary Dresser Wickham, Daniel Hull Wickham, Jr., and Abigail Wickham. Other family members represented in the correspondence include sister Esther Wickham Stebbins, George Stebbins, and nephews William Hull Wickham and Joseph Dresser Wickham. News of family and friends together with discussions of family business affairs predominate. The vast majority of Joseph D. Wickham's correspondence consists of letters to his wife Elizabeth. The Porter correspondence is much smaller than that of the Wickhams and Merwins and consists primarily of letters from the family of Amy Porter, Joseph D. Wickham's second wife and the mother of Emma Wickham Roe. The most important correspondents were father Moses Porter and sisters Lucretia Porter Snell, Sophia Porter Hitchcock, and Susanna Porter Farnham. Although family news and religion are discussed, the Porters were preoccupied with little Emma. The child spent a great deal of time with her Porter relatives and they were particularly devoted to her. In a May 1837 letter, for example, Sophia Porter Hitchcock strongly suggested to "sister" Elizabeth, the child's stepmother, that Emma would be happier living with her Porter relatives than with her parents. The collection also contains letters of clergyman brother-in-law Reuben Smith and several 1850's and 1860's letters from nephew Moses Porter Snell.

The major Roe correspondents are Emma Wickham Roe, Alfred Cox Roe, and their children Caroline Powell Roe Landon, Elizabeth Merwin Roe Page, Mary Wickham Roe, and Joseph Wickham Roe. Emma's letters to her parents, most written after her marriage in October 1860, deal primarily with her marriage and children, her husband's clerical and teaching career, the tragic death of stepdaughter Susan Williams Roe in February 1873, and from 1896 to 1901 with life and conditions at the Indian mission in Colony, Oklahoma, where Alfred and Emma lived in retirement with their missionary daughter and son-in-law, Mary Wickham and Walter Clark Roe. Emma Wickham Roe was the second wife of Alfred Cox Roe and had to endure the difficulties of being a stepmother to the three children of the mentally disturbed Caroline Powell Childs Roe. Except, however, for one letter written to her parents in January 1860, there is relatively little discussion of these problems.

The papers provide considerable documentation of the courtship and marriage of Joseph D. and Elizabeth Merwin Wickham. Letters written between May and October 1834 together with letters to and from Elizabeth's parents give insight into nineteenth century courtship and the proprieties concerning courtship. After their October 1834 marriage, Elizabeth Merwin Wickham was faced with the difficult task of raising stepdaughter Emma, a duty made more onerous because the child was the pampered favorite of all her grandparents, especially her Porter relatives. Emma spent a great deal of time with Porter, Wickham, and Merwin relations because Elizabeth was often ill and her father was preaching throughout Pennsylvania and New York on behalf of the Presbyterian Education Society. The difficulties of being a stepmother to a strong-willed child and of being the wife of an absent clergyman are graphically outlined in Elizabeth's correspondence during 1836-1837. The family situation only improved when Wickham became principal of Burr Seminary in December 1837. Intermittent correspondence between husband and wife continues for several decades, at times when Elizabeth Merwin Wickham was visiting her family and Joseph D. Wickham was engaged in professional duties that took him away from their Manchester, Vermont home.

Many other subjects are discussed in Series I of the Wickham Family Papers. Researchers Interested in nineteenth century attitudes toward death can find much information scattered throughout the correspondence. By way of example, there are letters describing the death of Amy Porter in October 1832, Moses Porter in May 1854, Mary Dresser Wickham in December 1854(see also Box 17, folder 458), Samuel Merwin in September 1856, Clarina Bradley Taylor Merwin in 1859, Susan Roe in February 1873, and Daniel Hull Wickham, Jr. in March 1893. In addition to the correspondence describing the missionary activities of Joseph D. Wickham and Walter Clark Roe, the collection contains letters written by Amos S. Cooke from Hawaii in November 1842, William Goodell from Turkey in July 1845, and Samuel Merwin from Ceylon in May 1855. The history of the Wickham family, particularly concerning the role of ancestor William Wickham in the founding of the Linonian Society, is discussed in letters of J. P. Wickham, William Wickham, Jr., John W. Wells, W. F. Sharpe, William K. Hall, and Israel H. Wickham written in 1855-1857 and 1862-1863.

For the period between 1887 and 1891, the collection includes birthday letters sent to nonagenarian Joseph D, Wickham. Following his death in May 1891, there are a series of condolence letters, including those from former Burr Seminary students E. P. Roberts, Philo Beckwith Wilcox, Daniel Roberts, and Jonas Tufts. A variety of other topics are discussed in the correspondence. Researchers who carefully examine the collection can find material on temperance in 1834, 1835, and 1847; the peace movement in 1850; the efficacy of corporal punishment in schools 1845, 1847; the bottle feeding of infants in 1870; and techniques for straightening teeth in 1873.

Series II, FAMILY PAPERS, is housed in Boxes 15-18 of the Wickham Family Papers and consists of a variety of materia1s by, about, and collected by different members of the Mervin, Porter, and Wickham families. The series contains, for example, three folders of deeds and legal papers of Timothy and Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Mervin Wickham's grandparents; church records, religious reflections, and notebooks on history and philosophy belonging to the Reverend Samuel Merwin; obituaries; and a small group of poems. The poetry includes verses written by Timothy T. Merwin celebrating his sister Susan's twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, an anonymous poem dedicated "To the Ladies composing the Sunday School Society for the instruction of indigent females," a folder of poems composed by Elizabeth Merwin Wickham, and one written by Joseph D. Wickham honoring the missionaries who left New Haven in November 1822 for the Sandwich Islands. There are also a small number of items on women's benevolent activities, a folder of reminiscences about missionary Mary Reynolds Schauffler, and a photograph album.

Material on Elizabeth Merwin and Joseph D. Wickham is found in Boxes 16-17, folders 429-457. It consists of such things as bills and receipts, schoolgirl compositions, writings, reminiscences, and Oxford Academy material about Elizabeth Merwin Wickham and biographical notes, an undergraduate disputation on slavery, an address on classical study, and information on Burr Seminary concerning Joseph D. Wickham.

Series III consists of three boxes of diaries kept by Joseph D. Wickham, Elizabeth Merwin Wickham, and one unidentified one, probably written by a female. The Joseph D. Wickham diaries begin in September 1819 and conclude on May 7, 1891, less than a week before his death. The earliest journals are the most interesting and informative. Three journals describe his tour of service on Long Island in the service of the New York Evangelical Missionary Society, while several others covering the period August to November 1822 concern his agency for the Presbyterian Education Society. Another 1834 journal describes a journey from New York City to Louisville, Kentucky. He spent several days in Washington, D. C., attended sessions of the U. S. Senate, and visited Yale classmate John M. Clayton. Two more 1836-1837 diaries contain notes on his second Presbyterian Education Society agency. The other diaries kept by Wickham for the years 1868-1891 and those of his wife for the period 1866-1901 are much more routine in nature. They give details on daily activities.

Series IV, SERMONS, fills Boxes 23-25 of the Wickham Family Papers and contains sermons written and delivered by Joseph D. Wickham between 1819 and 1890. Some date from the times when Wickham was a minister in Oxford, New Rochelle, and Matteawan, New York, but most were delivered on occasions when he supplied vacant pulpits in Vermont and substituted for ministers who were ill or on vacation.

The final series is called PRINTED WORKS. It consists of two boxes of almanacs, church histories, essays, memoirs, religious tracts, etc., plus several copies of A Long and Well-Spent Life, recollections of Joseph D. Wickham published in 1893.

The Wickham Family Papers, particularly when used in conjunction with the related Roe Family Papers, provide a great deal of information about nineteenth century family life and the careers of educators and ministers.


  • 1785-1958
  • Majority of material found within 1814 - 1901


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the Wickham Family has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Marjorie Page Schauffler in 1975, and Elizabeth Schauffler Lyman, 1983.


Arranged in five series: I. Correspondence. II. Family Papers. III. Diaries. IV. Sermons. V. Printed Works.

Associated Materials

Related material: Roe Family Papers, MS774, (Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.)

Related material: Page Family Papers, MS772, (Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.)

Related material: Elizabeth Page Harris Papers, MS771, (Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.)


11.5 Linear Feet (27 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 correspondence, family papers, diaries, sermons, photoprints, and other materials documenting the personal lives and professional careers of Joseph Dresser Wickham, Elizabeth Cooke Merwin Wickham and several Wickham, Merwin, Porter, and Roe relatives. The Wickham family papers have extensive material on such family subjects as relationships between brothers and sisters and parents and children, courtship, death, marriage, and the difficulties endured by stepmothers and clergymen's wives and on secondary education in the mid-nineteenth century, missionary work, religious conditions in Vermont, and Connecticut social life and customs.

Biographical / Historical


He was born in Thompson, Conn., on April 4, 1797, the eldest son of Daniel H. and Mary (Dresser) Wickham, who in 1799 removed to New York City. For the first year after leaving College he served as amanuensis to President Dwight, and during the following year was Rector of the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven. From 1818 to 1820 he held a tutorship in Yale college, at the same time pursuing theological studies under Professors Fitch and Goodrich. He began his ministerial labors in 1821 as a missionary on Long Island, and then spent some time in central New York in the service of the Presbyterian Education Society. Having been invited to the charge of a Congregational Church in Oxford, Chenango County, he began his labors there in January, 1823, and on July 31, at the dedication of a new house of worship, he was ordained to the ministry.

He removed in the spring of 1825 to Westchester County, New York, where he remained for a somewhat longer period in charge of the united Presbyterian churches of New Rochelle and West Farms. In 1828 he became one of the proprietors of the Washington Institute, a prominent boarding-school for boys in New York City, where he remained (ultimately in sole charge) until 1834, in November of which year he was installed pastor of the recently organized Presbyterian Church at Matteawan in the town of Fishkill, N. Y. At the end of two years, being solicited to renew his service in connection with the Education Society, he spent a laborious year among the churches of Northern and Western New York. He removed in December, 1837, to Manchester, Vt., to take charge of the Burr Seminary, with which he remained connected for twenty-five years, except for three years (1853-1856), in the first of which he was Treasurer of Middlebury College and Acting Professor of Latin and Greek, while for the two following years he was connected with the Collegiate Institute in Poughkeepsie, N. Y. In 1856 he returned after great urgency to the charge of Burr Seminary, but resigned his position in 1862, though continuing to serve the institution most valuably as President of its Board of Trustees. He lived in retirement in Manchester until his death, retaining remarkable physical and mental vigor to the last.

He was chosen a member of the Board of Trustees of Middlebury College in 1840, and continued in that position throughout his life. That corporation conferred upon him the degree of D.D. in 1861, in honor of his valuable services as an educator in the communities in which he had lived, and in testimony of the high honor and respect in which he was held.

Dr. Wickham was married on May 26, 1823, to Julia A., only daughter of Jonathan E. Porter (Harvard 1786), of New Haven, and a niece of President Dwight. She died on December 23, 1830. He was again married, on December 28, 1831, to Amy, daughter of Col. Moses Porter, of Hadley, Mass., and a cousin of his first wife, who died October 29, 1832. He was married for the third time, on October 12, 1834, to Elizabeth C., eldest daughter of the Rev. Samuel Merwin (Yale Coll. 1802), who survived him. Of his two children, a daughter by his first wife died in infancy. He died of old age in Manchester, Vt., on May 12, 1891, in his 95th year.

Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale University 1890-1900 (1900), pp.3-4.

For charts outlining the genealogical relations of the Wickham, Merwin, Porter, and Roe families, please consult theGenealogical Charts.

Guide to the Wickham Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane Ducharme and Bruce P. Stark
May 1984
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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