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Daniel and Tammy Dickinson Family Papers

 Collection
Identifier: MA.00245

Scope and Contents

The Daniel and Tammy Dickinson Family Papers consist of 0.5 linear feet of material documenting the personal and professional lives of three generations of family members, dating from 1818 to 1901. The bulk of the material dates from the 1850s through the 1870s. In addition to illustrating relationships among family members, the papers are a useful source for the study of American history in the nineteenth century, providing a personal view of the impact of religious, economic, social, and cultural issues on a New England family.

The strongest theme running through this collection is religion. Many of the writers were clergymen, or wives or children of clergymen. The letters reflect the important role religion played in the lives of both the writers and the recipients, especially in terms of how they dealt with difficulties in their own lives and in how they viewed their work for members of their communities.

The collection also includes items about Daniel Dickinson's work for the new North Congregational Church in North Amherst as well as about the many churches at which his brothers officiated.

Another theme running through the collection is that of westward migration. Both Daniel's brother Baxter and his family, and Daniel's sons Daniel Austin (1822-1923) and Edward Baxter moved out as far as Illinois and Iowa. Baxter's letters from Lake Forest, Ill. are especially interesting with their evocation of adventure, new opportunities, and growth. Son Edward's letters to his father illustrate his ambition and enthusiasm for the opportunities a move west offered. Edward's career was cut short by his early death, but during the short time he was in Iowa he established a profitable business and showed both great optimism and great expectations.

A few letters in the collection illustrate a movement toward the south early in the 19th century that was dictated more by religious interest than by a desire for adventure or financial opportunity. During this time, many New Englanders headed south to open and teach in schools. For example, records outside this collection show that Daniel's brother Rev. Austin Dickinson was involved with raising money for a theological seminary in East Tennessee (he helped raise $35,000, a large sum in those days). In this collection, we see a few letters with similar enterprises, viz. an 1822 letter about a teaching post in Savannah, Georgia; a letter of recommendation for an acquaintance heading south in 1824, and a later letter (1853) from an Amherst minster's wife, Mary Cooke, who had accompanied her husband to his teaching post at the East Tennessee Female Institute.

The Dickinsons' impulse to expand educational opportunities was not limited to work in the south. After Rev. Austin Dickinson returned from the south he became deeply involved with what would become Amherst College, putting much work into obtaining its charter. Rev. Baxter Dickinson was also involved in early efforts for Amherst College, sending some of his modest salary to the enterprise and helping raise funds for it as well. Later, two of his sons went to Amherst College, Rev. Richard Salter Storrs Dickinson (AC 1844) and Rev. William Cowper Dickinson (AC 1848; also a friend of cousin and poet Emily Dickinson).

The Dickinsons didn't confine their interest in education to boys. Rev. Austin Dickinson and his wife, Laura Whittlesey Camp, had only one child, a daughter named Clementine (sometimes mistakenly identified as Constance) who died very early, but both Daniel and Baxter had girls who received educations almost as good as those of their brothers. On the whole, it appears that the girls were limited in their opportunities by what the world offered, rather than by what the families were willing to provide. Daniel's daughter Louisa went to Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary (she was there when distant cousin Emily Dickinson was, and her name appears just below the poet's in the 1847-48 catalogue), then to Bradford Female Seminary, where she spent a year. Nearly a decade later she returned to finish her schooling at Mt. Holyoke. She married Rev. John Morton Greene (AC 1853), who is said to have advised Sophia Smith to provide money for what became Smith College. Louisa and John Greene in turn provided their own daughters with solid educations.

Baxter Dickinson's daughters followed their father to his many positions in the ministry and would have attended schools in New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, and New Jersey. At least one daughter, Harriet A. Dickinson (one of Emily Dickinson's correspondents) attended Lasell Female Seminary in Boston and later taught for decades at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, New York. When Baxter's family moved to Lake Forest, his daughters opened a school there, the Dickinson Seminary for Young Ladies (1859-1868). Baxter's lively and informative letters to Daniel describe the school - the number of students, the arrangements, the subjects covered, the effect of the Civil War, etc. - and his pride in his daughters is readily apparent. In these letters, at least, there is no sense of low expectations or surprise at their accomplishments.

The Civil War also figures in this collection through both the letters of Baxter Dickinson to his brother Daniel and, more directly, through the letters of Daniel's son Edward Baxter Dickinson to his family. Edward served in the 27th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry from 1861-1864. His letters talk about his duties, his opinions about the war and the people fighting (or not fighting) it, and his plans for the future.

Dates

  • Creation: 1818-1901
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1850-1880

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the Daniel and Tammy Dickinson Family Papers for research use. Particularly fragile items are restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the Daniel and Tammy Dickinson Family Papers should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

The Daniel and Tammy Dickinson Papers document the lives of members of the Daniel Dickinson and Tammy Eastman families. The collection is divided almost equally among correspondence to Tammy Dickinson; correspondence to and from Daniel Dickinson; and correspondence to and from either other members of Dickinson or Eastman families, or from friends and acquaintances. The correspondence covers three generations.

The following biographical sketches describe family members most represented in the collection. Many other correspondents or subjects are listed at the end of the finding aid, under search terms.

Daniel Dickinson (1793-1874) was one of four sons of Azariah (b. 1753) and Mary Eastman Dickinson (b. 1761) of Amherst, Massachusetts. He attended local schools and then turned to farming, eventually taking over the family farm when his father died in 1813. He was deeply involved in town and church affairs, including the organization in 1826 of the Union Church of North Amherst. He was married first to Louisa (sometimes identified as Laura) Adams (b. 1798) of Leverett, Mass. or Newfane, Vt. (records vary) with whom he had a son and daughter. After her early death in 1828, he married Tammy Dickinson, with whom he had two daughters and four sons. Additional biographical information for Daniel Dickinson is in William S. Tyler's sermon, Discourse delivered at the funeral of Daniel Dickinson at Amherst, Mass., December 29, 1874, copies of which are in Daniel Dickinson's non-alumnus biographical file and in the William S. Tyler Papers in the Archives and Special Collections.

Tammy (Martha Thomassine) Eastman (1801-1887) was the daughter of William Eastman (b. 1763) and Tamerson Read (b. 1770). Like the Dickinsons, the Eastman family is a widespread family in Western Massachusetts, and Tammy's branch - her children, and her siblings and their wives -- is well-represented in this collection. Tammy herself is less well represented, having only one sure item in her hand, a diary entry that suggests the difficulties of being a farmer's wife and the mother of two young children with another on the way. Letters to her indicate that her family was as devoted to her she was to them. She married widower Daniel Dickinson in June, 1829.

Rev. Austin Dickinson (1791-1849) was the second son of Azariah and Mary Eastman Dickinson. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1813, read law with Samuel Fowler Dickinson (grandfather of Emily Dickinson), traveled south for both religious and health reasons, and returned to Amherst in 1822. He became involved with the struggle to obtain a charter from the state "in the face of an organized, virtually state-wide opposition" (see Keep, below) for the new college in Amherst and devoted several years to the effort (chronicled in Ornan Eastman's "Rev. Austin Dickinson, His Services to Amherst College," 1872). He also published sermons (his own and those of others) and, in 1844, turned to inserting religious articles into secular newspapers in order to obtain a wider audience for the topic. His wife describes this work in her letter of February 3, 1845 (folder 18). Austin Dickinson died of cholera in 1849. See "Centennial Biographies: Two Amherst Dickinsons" by Austin Baxter Keep (AC 1897) in Amherst Graduates Quarterly, No. 35, May, 1920. Additional biographical information, including Ornan Eastman's piece mentioned above, may be found in Austin Dickinson's non-alumnus biographical file.

Rev. Baxter Dickinson (1795-1875) was the youngest of Azariah and Mary Dickinson's four sons. Like his brother Austin, Baxter Dickinson was marked early for the ministry. After his graduation from Yale in 1817, he attended Andover Theological Seminary and took his first position in Longmeadow, Mass., where he worked until 1829. A letter written from Longmeadow in 1829 by his wife, Martha Bush Dickinson, is in folder 11. Baxter Dickinson then worked in several locations before moving to Lake Forest, Ill., from which place he wrote several of the letters in this collection. From 1859 to 1868, Baxter Dickinson's four daughters had a school in Lake Forest, the Dickinson Seminary for Young Ladies (see http://collections.lakeforest.edu/items/show/5727for a photograph), and both Baxter and his wife worked with his daughters in the school. Baxter's lively, detailed letters provide useful information about his family, their school, and life in Illinois during the period. The family moved back to Brooklyn, New York, sometime in 1868 and resided there for many years. Baxter Dickinson died in 1875 at age 80. Two of his sons were Amherst alumni, Richard Salter Storrs Dickinson (AC 1844) and William Cowper Dickinson (AC 1848). The latter was one of Emily Dickinson's correspondents, along with sisters Harriet and Martha.

Louisa Dickinson Greene (1830-1881) was the daughter of Daniel and Tammy Dickinson. Aside from her mother's journal description about Louisa's mischievousness (folder 13), little is known about her early years. She probably attended a local school either in Amherst or North Amherst, perhaps even Amherst Academy, although her name is not in extant catalogues. In 1847-1848 she attended Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary, where she would have found her cousin Emily Dickinson. Two sources agree that she subsequently attended the Bradford Female Seminary in Bradford, Mass. (near Boston) for about a year; however, one of those sources says that she spent "her 18th year" (which would have been 1848-1849) with the Baxter Dickinsons in Auburn, New York, so it remains unclear when she attended Bradford. After her schooling, she commenced teaching, holding posts in three states between 1849 and 1856. While teaching in New York, she met John Morton Greene (AC 1848), who prevailed upon her to return to Mt. Holyoke to finish her studies before their marriage. This she did, returning to South Hadley in 1856 and graduating in 1857. After their marriage, Louisa and John Greene lived in Hatfield, South Hadley, and Lowell, Mass. Louisa's many letters to her mother provide details of her family life and the work she and her husband performed for the communities in which they lived. Louisa Greene died at her home in Lowell in 1881. The most detailed treatments of her life may be found in: "Memorial Sermon: Preached April 1, 1881, at the funeral of Mrs. Louisa Dickinson Greene," by Rev. C. L. Woodworth, and Foreshadowings of Smith College, by daughter Helen French Greene (see links below). The latter volume includes photographs of Louisa and John Greene.

Edward Baxter Dickinson (1840-1867) was the youngest son of Daniel and Tammy Dickinson. There is no known record of his youth, but he is likely to have attended a school in either North Amherst or Amherst. Our knowledge of him comes from letters to his family written during the Civil War. Edward enlisted in the 27th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and served from 1861-1864. In June, 1864, he was wounded at Cold Harbor, Virginia, hospitalized in Grant General Hospital on Willets Point, New York, and mustered out in September. The nine letters from the front in this collection are undoubtedly a fraction of what he wrote home. After returning from war, Edward headed west, staying first with his uncle Baxter Dickinson in Illinois and then starting a business, probably a general store, in Iowa Falls, Iowa. Edward often commented on his good health, even during war years, but he seems to have fallen ill quickly and severely, dying in 1867.

Extent

0.5 Linear feet (1 archives box)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Daniel and Tammy Dickinson Family Papers document the lives of three generations of the Daniel Dickinson (1793-1874) and Tammy (Martha) Eastman Dickinson (1801-1887) family. The papers date from 1818 to 1901 and are comprised almost entirely of correspondence, mostly incoming to Daniel and Tammy from siblings, children, grandchildren, friends, acquaintances, and business contacts. Topics in the letters include family news, religion, the Civil War, and western migration. The last two folders of the collection contain photocopies of miscellaneous background papers, including a selection of genealogical research reports with information about people mentioned in the collection.

Arrangement

This collection is organized chronologically in Series 1: Correspondence.

Related Materials

Related Material in the Archives and Special Collections

  1. Alumni Biographical Files (general information about Amherst alumni, including Dickinson-Eastman sons, grandsons, and brothers)
  2. Non-Alumni Biographical Files (for Daniel, Austin, and Baxter Dickinson)
  3. Early History Collection (history of Amherst Academy and Amherst College)
  4. Historical Manuscript Collection (essays and a few letters for Richard Salter Storrs Dickinson [AC 1844]; William Cowper Dickinson [AC 1848], and George and Henry Edward Eastman [AC 1830] )

Related Materials at Other Institutions and Online

  1. John M. Greene Papers, 1856-1917 (Smith College): https://findingaids.smith.edu/repositories/4/resources/384
  2. "History and genealogy of Deacon Joseph Eastman of Hadley, Mass. : grandson of Roger Eastman of Salisbury, Mass." (1908) http://archive.org/details/historygenealogy1908east
  3. "Foreshadowings of Smith College: Selections from Letters of Louisa Dickinson to John Morton Greene (1856-1857), Prepared by their Daughter Helen French Greene" http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005877031
  4. "Memorial Sermon: Preached April 1, 1881, at the funeral of Mrs. Louisa Dickinson Greene," by Rev. C. L. Woodworth
  5. Foreshadowings of Smith College, by Helen French Greene. Copy available in the Amherst College Library and online through http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005877031

Names of Women in the Collection

Women who figure regularly in the collection and whose marital histories are known are listed in two ways in order to clarify whether an item is relative to their lives before marriage or after:

Name form before marriage:

First name, maiden name, [married name]: example, "Tammy Eastman [Dickinson]"

and

Name form after marriage:

First name, maiden name, married name: "Tammy Eastman Dickinson"

Processing Information

Processed in 2013 by Margaret R. Dakin.

Subject

Author
Margaret R. Dakin, Archives and Special Collections Specialist
Date
2013
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299