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Samuel Witt Eaton papers

Call Number: MS 972

Scope and Contents

Approximately forty letters to Samuel Witt Eaton from friends of his Yale College days make up the bulk of this small collection. His correspondents include Timothy Dwight (1828-1916), James Hadley (1821-1872), and John A. Porter (1822-1866), author of almost half of the lettters. There are, in addition, one letter from Eaton's wife, two from his brother Sereno, and one letter written by Eaton to John A. Porter. Topics discussed in these letters include theology and the ministry, education, and life at Yale and in New Haven.

Other materials in the collection deal with the Civil War. Among these are notes by Eaton on his service in the Union Army, letters from Samuel B. Morse and J.L. Pickard concerning his commission, a list of monies sent home by members of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry, and a clipping about pickets and chaplains. The remaining items in the collection are a list of appointments for the 1842 Yale commencement, a list of books by Eaton, and a sketch of Eaton.

These papers were donated to Yale University by Mrs. Henry W. Hincks in 1947 and 1948.


  • 1838-1905


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Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain.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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Henry W. Hincks, 1947-1948.


0.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The Samuel Witt Eaton Papers consist largely of correspondence from classmates at Yale College, among them Timothy Dwight, James Hadley, and John A. Porter. The letters discuss theology and the ministry as well as life at Yale College. Also in the papers are materials relating to the Civil War, during which Eaton served as chaplain. Included is his "Some sketches from a three year experience in the army."

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Witt Eaton, son of Eben Eaton, for over half a century deacon of the Congregational church in Framingham, Mass., was born on the ancestral farm in that town December 25, 1820. His mother was Sally Chadwick (Spofford) Eaton, who was educated at Bradford (Mass.) Academy.

After graduation he studied theology one year in Union Seminary, two years in Yale Seminary, and one year in Andover Seminary. He was licensed to preach in September, 1844, and while at Andover was stated supply in Montgomery, Mass. Having determined to devote his life to work in the new West then opening up in the Mississippi valley, he settled at Lancaster, the county seat of Grant County, Wisc., a fertile region abounding in lead mines. He was ordained as an evangelist January 28, 1848. After several years of arduous pioneer work the failure of his health compelled him to return East for rest, and he spent most of the year 1857 in European travel. Returning to Lancaster, his work was again interrupted in the second year of the Civil War by his acceptance of the chaplaincy of the Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers, one of the regiments of the "Iron Brigade." In this service he continued to the close of the war and gained the devoted friendship of soldiers and officers. He was on duty at the battles of South Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, before Petersburg, and at Appomattox Court House on the surrender of General Lee. After resuming his pastorate the church was enlarged, and then replaced by a new structure, but at the end of twenty years' further service, and forty from the beginning of his pastorate, the church yielded to his request for release, and in 1886 he accepted the call of the Congregational church at Roscoe, Ill. His service there was also notable in character and results and continued for sixteen years. In the autumn of 1903 he removed to Beloit, Wisc., the home of his son, President Eaton.

Since 1866 he had been a Trustee of Beloit College, from which he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1883. From 1881 to 1899 he was a Corporate Member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and was recognized as a wise leader in church councils. Two of his sermons -- one at the ordination of his eldest son in 1873 -- were published.

Dr. Eaton died after six months of extreme weakness, at the residence of his son, Dr. Samuel L. Eaton (Yale 1877), in Newton Highlands, Mass., February 9, 1905, at the age of 84 years.

He married, May 20, 1847, Catharine Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. James and Mary (Schoonmaker) Demarest, of Napanoch, Ulster County, N.Y. Their golden wedding was an occasion of unusual interest. They had four sons -- all living -- of whom the eldest, Rev. James D. Eaton, D.D. (Beloit 1869), has been for over twenty years a missionary in Mexico, the second, Rev. Edward D. Eaton, D.D., L.L.D. (Beloit 1872, B.D. Yale 1875), has been President of Beloit College since 1886, and the two younger are physicians. Mrs. Eaton died in February, 1904.

[Taken from the Yale Obituary Record.]

Guide to the Samuel Witt Eaton Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Staff of Manuscripts and Archives
December 1982
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

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