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Gilbert-Cheever family papers

Call Number: MS 700
Scope and Contents
The Gilbert-Cheever Family Papers contain correspondence, diaries, journals, record books, documents, photographs, memorabilia, printed matter, and sermons relating to members of the Goodridge, Gilbert and Cheever families from about 1836 to 1900, with the bulk of the material from 1840 to 1880. Much of the materials in the papers is of a personal and family nature, describing details of domestic and social life in New England and San Francisco during the period. Subjects include diet, medicine(particularly diabetes), and death; education, primarily at Yale College, Bradford Academy (Massachusetts), and other schools; and religion, both attitudes of individuals and activities of religious organizations. There is also material concerning the shipping trade and life at sea during the 1840's and early 1850's; life in San Francisco from about 1853 to the 1880's; and the Civil War.

Also included is a significant amount of material concerning William Hinman Gilbert's pastorships in several New England towns from 1844 to 1864; his work for the American Bible Society and the U.S. Christian Commission, primarily from 1864 to 1882; and his real estate investments in Virginia during 1890-1891.

The papers are arranged in four series:





CORRESPONDENCE consists chiefly of letters between family members and friends, and also includes some of Reverend William Hinman Gilbert's correspondence and reports regarding his work for religious organizations from 1864 to 1880.

A large part of the correspondence consists of letters to Mary (Goodridge) Gilbert from friends and family members, particularly her sister Fanny (Goodridge) Cheever and her husband Henry A. Cheever. During the 1840's and early 1850's, Henry A. Cheever often wrote to his wife and sister-in-law from ports such as Havana and New Orleans. After the Cheevers settled in San Francisco about 1853, they (particularly Fanny) maintained a steady correspondence with their friends and relatives back in "the States," extolling the climate and scenery of California, but decrying the violence, greed and corruption they saw in California life. As one commented in a letter to a New England relative, "One year's experience in California is equal to five in Massachusetts." Fanny's frequent letters to her sister Mary and to other relatives provide a continuing account of family illnesses, accidents, finances, visitors, livestock, gardens and other domestic activities, as well as observations on high prices, hard times, elections and other events in San Francisco.

William E. Goodridge's letters to his New England relatives are curiously vague as to the nature of his work; in one letter he commented that his family might not understand or approve of what he was doing. Apparently he did travel frequently, worked for a time for the express company, and was involved in a political campaign in Nevada. In his letters he wrote of his impressions and his feelings about the West, suggesting rather than describing in detail his experiences. In 1864 he described the rapid transformation of Nevada from a "savage wilderness" to a civilized society. From her homes in New York, eastern Pennsylvannia, and then Washington, D.C., William's fiancée, Sara A. Gonsalves, wrote to Mrs. Gilbert concerning her hopes that William could return to the East. Following his death in October 1864, Sara described her tremendous grief. Her letters, dated 1861-1865, also commented on the effects of the Civil War, including descriptions of visits to soldiers' hospitals, a threatened invasion of Pennsylvania in 1862, visits to Congress, news reports of battles, celebrations of the capture of Vicksburg, and the New York draft riots. Sara's father, M.J. Gonsalves, wrote to Mrs. Gilbert in May 1865, describing his work as army chaplain at a hospital in Louisiana and the grief of former slaves over President Lincoln's assassination.

Another valuable perspective on the Civil War is provided by Reverend Gilbert's reports and correspondence concerning his work as a delegate of the U.S. Christian Commission and an army agent of the American Bible Society in 1864 and 1865. Of particular interest are his comments on conditions in Richmond in April 1865 and his reports of an expedition in May 1865 to recover bodies hastily buried at the Cold Harbor battlefield. Many of Gilbert's reports were copied in a letterpress book, dated February - July 1865.

Correspondence concerning Reverend Gilbert's career as a Congregational minister and as a Bible Society agent is scattered throughout the series. An interesting letter to Reverend Gilbert from Alabama in July 1870 vividly describes the lynching of a black teacher, including a copy of his last letter to his wife in Canada. Newspaper clippings describe the incident from a much different perspective. Correspondence for 1890 and 1891 includes information concerning Gilbert's interest in land investment in Virginia.

The series also contain letters written by Charles Minor Gilbert and George Edwards Gilbert while students at Yale and later while teaching school. The twin brothers exchanged frequent letters with each other, with their two sisters, and with their parents, concerning student life at Yale, their teaching positions, their illnesses with diabetes, and family news and visits. Letters exchanged with several doctors discuss diets, medication, and treatment for diabetes. There are also two letters from Professor Thomas A. Thacher of Yale to Reverend William H. Gilbert: May 25, 1872, offering financial assistance to enable Gilbert to send his two sons to Yale, despite the high cost; and February 7, 1880, regarding repayment of a loan for his sons' education.

Most of the material in the DIARIES, JOURNALS, MEMORANDUM BOOKS AND ACCOUNT BOOKS series consists of the journals, memorandum books and other record books kept by William Hinman Gilbert from 1847 to 1899. These volumes provide an unusually full and detailed account of his activities and observations. His journals from 1864 to 1865 are particularly interesting. The series also contains a diary kept by Mary (Goodridge) Gilbert of her trip to San Francisco in 1878, and notebooks and diaries of Charles Minor Gilbert and George. Edwards Gilbert.

MEMORABILIA, PRINTED MATTER AND PHOTOGRAPHS contains biographical and genealogical information, printed matter, photographs, printed sermons, documents, essays, notes and memorabilia such as programs, invitations, pins and autograph books, relating to William Hinman Gilbert, Mary (Goodridge) Gilbert, Charles Minor Gilbert and George Edwards Gilbert. Of interest are publications, printed sermons, and documents relating to Reverend Gilbert's pastorships and to his work with religious organizations. Also included are Yale College memorabilia, photographs, and student essays and notes belonging to Reverend Gilbert and his sons Charles and George. Yale College catalogues, class record books, and a Class of 1878 photograph album have been transferred to the Yale College publications collection.

Series IV, SERMONS OF WILLIAM HINMAN GILBERT, consists of an extensive file of Reverend Gilbert's sermon manuscripts from 1844 to 1864. His early sermons (1844-1854) were numbered in chronological sequence; most of these sermons and many later sermons contain notations of dates and places where each sermon was preached. Some sermons were delivered ten or more times and a number were re-written at later dates. Numbered sermons marked as re-written have been arranged by the date of the revision rather than in Gilbert's numerical sequence. Undated sermons, sermon outlines, and notes are arranged in order of the biblical text on which the sermon was based. The series also contains sermon plans, 1844-1845 and n.d., which consist of notes on various biblical texts, topics to be covered and commentary for sermons. These were apparently compiled from courses taken at Yale Divinity School.

The papers were given to the Yale University Library in 1973 by Frederic B. Schell, Jr., and Alice (Horrax) Schell. Additional papers, including correspondence, memorabilia, and sermons, were given in 1976. Arrangement of the papers was completed in July 1977.
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 Frederic B. Schell, Jr., and Alice Horrax Schell in 1973 and 1976.
Arranged in four series: I. Correspondence. II. Diaries, Journals, Memorandum Books, and Account Books. III. Memorabilia, Printed Matter, and Photographs. IV. Sermons of W. H. Gilbert.
7 Linear Feet (16 boxes)
Related Names
Gilbert family
Language of Materials