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Beecher family papers

Identifier: MS 0509

Scope and Contents

The Beecher Family papers contain material relating to Lyman Beecher; seven of his thirteen children: Catharine E., William, Edward, Mary, Henry Ward, Charles, Thomas Kinnicut; a daughter-in-law, Katherine Edes Beecher; and a grandson, Frederick W. Beecher. Included in the collection are correspondence, sermons, lecture notes, funeral sermons, a poem and biographical information relating to members of the Beecher family. Much of the collection consists of correspondence from 1822-1836 between members of the Beecher family, including Lyman, Catharine, Edward, Mary, William and George. These letters discuss Edward's position at Yale College, his ordination and his future career as a minister, theological issues, Catharine's Hartford Female Seminary, and family matters, such as the Beecher family's move from Litchfield to Hartford, Connecticut. In a letter to George dated April 25, 1826 Catharine writes, "the interest of brothers and sisters in each others employment and concerns should be suffered to decay, by neglecting" letter writing. Catharine's letters to Mary Lyon, dated 1828-1836 and to Zilpah Grant Banister, dated 1844-1859, discuss Catharine's Hartford Female Seminary, plans to advance the cause of women's education, plans to publish textbooks, the need for more teachers, and objections to Lyon's plans to open Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. The sermons in the collection are dated ca. 1870 and were written by Edward Beecher. Topics include "Is dancing a proper amusement for Christians?" and "Has more evil than good been accomplished by fictitious writing?" There are also lecture notes taken by Frederick W. Beecher on sermons by his father Edward Beecher and others. The biographical information includes a memorial article for William Beecher; a memorial volume for Henry Ward Beecher; and an address delivered at the funeral of Charles Beecher.


  • Creation: 1822-1903, bulk 1822-1865

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Lyman Beecher was born on October 12, 1775 in New Haven, Connecticut to David Beecher, a blacksmith, and Esther Hawley Lyman. After graduating from Yale University, he was ordained as a minister at the Presbyterian Church in East Hampton, New York. He became the president of Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1832. In 1799 he married Roxana Foote, the daughter of Eli and Roxana (Ward) Foote. They had nine children: Catharine E., William, Edward, Mary, Harriet, George, Harriet Elizabeth, Henry Ward, and Charles. Roxana Beecher died on September 13, 1816. In 1817, Lyman married Harriet Porter and they had four children: Frederick C., Isabella Holmes, Thomas Kinnicut, and James Chaplin. After Harriet Beecher died on July 7, 1835, he married Lydia Beals Jackson (1789-1869) in 1836. He died on July 10, 1863. Catharine Esther Beecher was born on September 6, 1800 in East Hampton, New York. She attended private school as a young girl. After her mother died in 1816, she took over care of the house and her younger siblings. In 1821 she began teaching piano lessons in New London, Connecticut. In 1823 her fiance Alexander Metcalf Fisher died, and in the same year she began the Hartford Female Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1832 she began the Western Female Institute and sent teachers from the eastern United States to the west to start schools. She wrote many essays and textbooks. She died on May 12, 1878 in Elmira, New York. William Beecher was born on January 15, 1802 in East Hampton, New York. He studied at Andover Academy and became a pastor, working in Newport, Rhode Island and Cincinnati. Marrying in 1832, he had six children with his wife Katharine Edes, who died in 1870. He died in Chicago, Illinois on June 23, 1889. Edward was born on August 27, 1803 in East Hampton, New York. He graduated from Yale College in 1822 and became pastor of the Park Street Church in Boston in 1826. He was a close friend of Elijah P. Lovejoy and helped to organize Illinois' first anti-slavery society. In 1824 he returned to Boston as pastor of the Salem Street Church. In 1829, he married Isabella Jones (1807-1895), and together they had eleven children, including Frederick W. Beecher. In 1855 Edward took charge of the First Congregational Church of Galesburg, Illinois. In 1871 he moved to Brooklyn, New York and died on July 28, 1895 in Brooklyn, New York. Mary Beecher was born in 1805 in East Hampton, New York She assisted her sister Catharine at her school in Hartford and married Thomas Clapp Perkins (1798-1870) in 1827. They had four children. She died on March 14, 1900. George Beecher was born on May 6, 1809 in East Hampton, New York. He graduated from Yale University in 1828 and married Sarah Buckingham on July 13, 1837, in Ohio. They had two children. He died on July 1, 1843 in Clark, Ohio. Henry Ward Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut on June 24, 1813. He attended Amherst College from 1830-1834. In 1837 he began preaching in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. In August of that same year, he married Eunice White Bullard (1812-1897). They had nine children. In 1844 a series of his public addresses was published under the title "Seven lectures to young men." In 1847 he became the pastor of at the Plymouth Church of Brooklyn. In 1863 he went to England and delivered speeches to heighten awareness of the United States Civil War and to heighten Northern support. He died on March 8, 1887 in Brooklyn, New York. Charles Beecher was born on October 7, 1815 in Litchfield, Connecticut. He attended Boston Latin School and Lawrence Academy. In 1834 he graduated from Bowdoin College and studied at Lane Theological Seminary. He married Sarah Leland Coffin (1815-1897) in 1840 and they had six children. In 1844 he became pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. From 1851-1881 he worked at various churches. In 1870 he moved to Florida and was the Superintendent of Public Schools for the state until 1877. He died in Georgetown, Massachusetts on April 21, 1900. Thomas Kinnicut Beecher was born on February 10, 1824 in Litchfield, Connecticut. He graduated from Illinois College in 1843 and became the principal of the North East Grammar School in Philadelphia. He then became principal of a high school in Connecticut. In 1851 he became pastor of the Congregational Church in Williamsburg, New York and continued to work at various churches. He married Olivia Day (1826-1853) in 1851 and Frances Juliana Jones (1826-1905) in 1857. He adopted four children. He died on March 14, 1900, in Elmira, New York.


1.5 Linear Feet (1 half Hollinger and 1 long half Hollinger boxes)

Language of Materials



Beecher Family. Lyman Beecher and children: Catharine E. (1800-1878), William (1802-1889), Edward (1803-1895), Mary (1805-1900), George (1809-1843), Henry Ward (1813-1887), Charles (1815-1900), and Thomas Kinnicut (1824-1900); daughter-in-law, Katherine Edes Beecher (d. 1870), and grandson, Frederick W. Beecher. Papers consist of correspondence, sermons, lecture notes, funeral sermons, a poem and biographical information relating to members of the Beecher family; principally pertaining to family matters, women's education and theological issues; includes letters written to Mary Lyon and Zilpah Grant Banister.


Arranged in 10 series. Series 1. Lyman Beecher Material. Series 2. Catharine E. Beecher Material. Series 3. William Beecher Material. Series 4. Katherine Edes Beecher Material. Series 5. Edward Beecher Material. Series 6. Mary Beecher Material. Series 7. Henry Ward Beecher Material. Series 8. Charles Beecher Material. Series 9. Thomas Kinnicut Beecher Material. Series 10. Frederick W. Beecher Material.

Beecher family papers, 1822-1903 (bulk 1822-1865)
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Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA