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Hartwell papers

Identifier: MS 0761

Scope and Contents

The Hannah Louisa Plimpton Peet Hartwell Papers include four volumes of journals and notebooks, correspondence (191 letters), Plimpton family correspondence (72 letters) and biographical information as well as one photograph. The collection documents Hartwell's years as a Mount Holyoke Female Seminary student, 1845-1848; her work as a teacher at the Oak Hill Seminary, West Haven, Connecticut, 1849-1852, and at Duquoin Female Seminary in Duquoin, Illinois, 1852-1856; and her life in China as a teacher, wife, and mother, 1857-1908. Two notebooks date from her years as a student at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. One contains notes reflecting her study of Milton's "Paradise Lost" from 1847 and the other is a herbarium prepared for botany class in 1847 but also contains plant specimens from China collected in 1866 and 1868. The remaining material chiefly concerns her later activities as a teacher, missionary, and mother. There is correspondence to Louisa from Oak Hill Seminary teachers with news from vacation periods and stories about students, as well as the daily activities of the school from 1852-1856. There are also letters pertaining to her fundraising activities for the Duquoin Female Seminary and letters from Duquoin Female Seminary students with school news and from its director and personal friend, Eliza Paine Warner from 1852-1858. Other letters include those from her family relating family and community news during her stay in all locales. The forty-three Plimpton-Peet letters chronicle the transition of a proposed marriage based on mutual convenience to one which "speaks right to my heart" over a five month period from 1858-1859. The collection also contains two other journals, one which chronicles her marriage in June, 1858 then her journey to China from October 5, 1858-February 28, 1859 and her daily life in Foochow from March, 1859-October, 1871. She makes note of shipboard illness, weather, and daily activities on the ship, the "Empress." After arriving in China, she comments on Chinese daily life, the people and the customs she encounters, as well as makes notations about mission daily life, including the illness and death of neighbors. The second journal, kept by her first husband, Lyman Peet, lists the expenses incurred from 1842-1877 while in China, which includes household and grocery expenses, payments to missionaries, and other miscellaneous expenses as well as expenses incurred from their return to the United States from 1871-1877. The Plimpton family letters contain letters of Sarah Plimpton Benham and her husband Lucius A. Benham, to other family members, as well as return correspondence from the Reverend Salem Plimpton, written from 1849-1871, which describe courtship, marriage, death, farm life and daily life in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, West Haven, Connecticut, and Wells River, Vermont and other information about family relations. Both correspondence series contain typed transcripts of many letters prepared by Winifred Pickett Corbett. The biographical information includes a copy of the Plimpton family genealogy, published in 1885, "Jubilee Notes", an anniversary publication celebrating Charles Hartwell's fifty years of service and Hannah Louisa Plimpton Peet Hartwell's eightieth birthday published in 1904, photocopies of sections from a book providing information about Foochow and the Foochow Mission and pages from the "Missionary Herald" (1859-1871) concerning Foochow Mission news and a news article with Hannah Louisa Plimpton Peet Hartwell's obituary printed in 1909 in the "Foochow Messenger".


  • Creation: 1847 - 1909
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1850 - 1871

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Hannah Louisa Plimpton was born on June 30, 1823, in Sturbridge, Massachusetts to Ziba Plimpton and Hannah Marsh Plimpton. Her father was a farmer, miller and teacher. She attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary and graduated in 1848. She became an Associate Principal of West Haven Ladies Seminary with Susan Arms Wright, class of x1840, which then became the Oak Hill Seminary in West Haven, Connecticut from 1848-1856. Her younger sister, Sarah, also taught at the school. With another Mount Holyoke alumna, Eliza Paine, she opened the Duquoin Female Seminary in Duquoin, Illinois and taught there from 1852-1856. In 1857 she traveled east to raise money for the school and met the Reverend Lyman Peet. He was a missionary to Foochow, China whose wife, Rebecca Sherrill Peet, had recently died, leaving him with three young children: Jane, Frances, and Anna. Louisa Plimpton and Lyman Peet married on June 6, 1858. They sailed for China on October 5, 1858 aboard the "Empress" and arrived in Shanghai on March 1, 1859. They had four children: Ellen Louisa, Lyman Plimpton, Edward Wright, and Mary Susan. They served as missionaries in Foochow until Lyman Peet became ill and the family returned to Connecticut in 1871. He died on January 11, 1878 in West Haven, Connecticut at the age of sixty-eight. Louisa Plimpton Peet returned to Foochow in 1884 with her daughter and son-in-law and in 1885 married the Reverend Charles Hartwell, who had served as missionary in China since 1853. She became stepmother to his daughter, Emily S. Hartwell. She began a school for women at Ponasang, China in 1885 and also taught English at Foochow College. Charles Hartwell died in 1905 in Foochow. Hannah Louisa Plimpton Peet Hartwell died in Foochow on December 7, 1908 at the age of eighty-five. Many of her relatives attended Mount Holyoke, including: Catherine Plimpton, Ellen Louisa Peet, Emily S. Hartwell, Jane S. Peet, Frances R. Peet, Christine Hubbard, Christine Winifred Pickett, Patricia Louisa Pickett, and Barbara Elizabeth Pickett.


2 boxes (1848 Plimpton)

Language of Materials



Hartwell, Hannah Louisa Plimpton Peet, 1823-1908; Teacher and missionary. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary graduate, 1848. Papers contain four volumes of journals and notebooks, correspondence, Plimpton family correspondence, biographical information and a photograph.


Arranged in 5 series: Series 1. Journals and Notebooks. Series 2. Correspondence. Series 3. Plimpton Family Correspondence. Series 4. Biographical Information. Series 5. Photograph.

Hartwell papers, 1847-1909 (bulk 1850-1871)
Edited Full Draft
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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