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Nathan Kendall and Abby J. Reed Kendall papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Kendall-Reed

Scope and Content of the Collection

Mainly correspondence but also manuscripts and biographical notes, of Nathan Kendall, his wife, Abby J. Reed Kendall, and their immediate families and friends, dating primarily from the two decades preceding the Civil War. Included are the couple's courtship letters as well as correspondence during later separations when one or the other of them was traveling, and a collection of their small diaries. There is correspondence and a few transcriptions of the narration of Charles Reed (Abby J. Reed's brother) concerning his 1849 overland journey to California and his subsequent adventures with the Washington City and California Mining Association, his prospecting on the Feather River and near Downieville, and his 1854 survival of a shipwreck off the California coast. News of close friends who took the Panama route to California is also included in the correspondence of Agnes Allen. Also included are numerous schoolgirl essays.


  • Creation: 1842-1912



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Nathan and Abby J. Reed Kendall papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Nathan and Abby J. Reed Kendall papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Nathan Kendall and Abby J. Reed Kendall

Members of two Massachusetts families who married in 1857 and raised a family of four sons, first in Indiana and later in Illinois.

Nathan Kendall was born in 1824 and Abby J. Reed in 1827. Nathan served as principal in academies in Kentucky and New England before becoming a civil engineer in 1853 and moving to La Porte, Indiana to work for the Cincinnati, Peru and Chicago Railway and then to own and operate a lumber mill. Abby Reed and her sister Mary were New England school teachers, and the friendships among the members of the Kendall and Reed families led to the marriage of Nathan and Abby in 1857.

Nathan's first wife, Josephine Stedman, died in childbirth in 1854. As the Kendalls and Reed families were friends, Abby then began a correspondence with Nathan. They were married in 1857 and settled in La Porte, Indiana and then in Kankakee, Illinois. By the end of the 1860s the couple had acquired considerable agricultural land in these two states, so after disappointment as a superintendent for the Cincinnati, Peru and Chicago Railway and as a mill owner, Nathan hoped to find success as a farmer. Abby bore four sons: Edgar, Winthrop, George and Arthur, losing two other children in infancy. Farming proved to be a struggle, for Nathan's health was always poor and his lungs weak, and Abby felt the need for periodic trips back to Warwick, Mass. to visit her family - especially to see her sister Mary, who was her closest friend.

Nathan Kendall died in 1871, just after he had decided that perhaps relocating in the South would help his lung disease. For the next few years Abby and the children lived in New England, renting out the Indiana farm, before returning to live permanently in the Middle West. At the time of her death in 1912, Abby owned property in Fowler, Indiana and in Hudson, Massachusetts.

Genealogical and Biographical Notes Regarding the Kendall and Reed Families

Kendall Family

Paul Kendall married Jane Nickerson and had 10 children. They were:

  • Erasmus, b. 1818. m. Sarah Jones of Wolcott, IN. Had at least one child, Lydia.
  • Edwin, b. 1820. m. Mary E. Brunner
  • Paul Raymond, b. 1822. m. Abigail Weaver in 1847 of Marietta, OH; then Caroline Woodbury of Galesburg, OH, in 1853. Had at least one child, Marion
  • Nathan, b. 1824. m. Josephine Stedman (sometimes spelled Steadman [1832-1854]; Josephine died in 1854, subsequently m. Abigail J. Reed [1827-1912] in 1857
  • Sarah, b. 1826. m. George Sumner Weaver [1818-1907]. Children: Clara, Abbie, Lydia, Ernest
  • Lydia ("Lillie"), b. 1829. m. G.S. (?)
  • David W., b. 1831. m. Mary E. Holland
  • Jesse, b. 1834; d. 1866. Never married
  • [Henry] Myron, b. 1838. m. Julia Gogun of La Porte, IN, in 1860
  • Thomas, 1841-1846
  • Reed Family

    Stephen Reed (d. 1847) married Jerusha Moore (sometimes spelled More) in 1819 and had 6 children. They were:

  • 1. Abigail J. [1827-1912]. m. Nathan Kendall, 1857. They had 4 sons: Edgar, b. 1858, Winthrop (Winnie), b. 1861, George M., b. 1863, Arthur, b. 1868 (married Mabel)
  • 2. Mary Ann, [1830-1875]. m. Henry P. Osgood, 1869. No children
  • 3. Emily. m. Danford Tyler (who had a sister named Rhoda). Children: Jennie Lawson (also known as Emilie Jane), Mary
  • 4. Charles [1823-1883]. m. Ellen. Children: Walter, Fred, Nellie, Mattie
  • 5. Chandler, d. ca. 1908. m. Rhoda. Children: Eva, Clara, Charlie.
  • 6. Samuel. m. Maria, 1854. Children: Alma, Abby (died young)
  • Other Relatives and Friends:

    Note: because it was common to address close friends as "cousin," and sometimes "brother" or "sister," it can be difficult to deduce who was actually related by blood, by marriage or just by close friendship.

    Sarah Aiken is daughter of Betsy Kendall Cheney, an aunt of Nathan Kendall. Betsy Kendall was Paul Kendall's sister, married to Cyrus Cheney

    Agnes Allen seems to have been a close friend - possibly an early girlfriend of Charles Reed - though she may actually have been related by blood. Some other women who signed themselves cousin to either Nathan and/or Abby were: Mary A. Crosby, Marie (of Cambridge, MA), Charlotte, Fannie Stewart, Susan Wales.

    "Real cousins" were the Pomeroys: Caroline, Clara, Harriet, Delia, Nancy, Gale, Luther, William. Their grandmother Elizabeth was a sister of Jerusha More Reed.


    2.9 Linear Feet (7 boxes)


    Correspondence, writings, documents of Nathan Kendall and wife Abby J. Reed Kendall of Massachusetts, Indiana and Illinois, including many letters to each other before and after marriage in 1857, as well as numerous letters to and from members of their families, friends and former students. Some correspondence and documents concern travel to California begun in 1849.


    Papers are organized in the following series:

    Series 1: Nathan Kendall and Abby J. Reed Kendall Correspondence, 1851-1871
    Box 1
    Series 2: Family Correspondence, 1842-1907
    Boxes 2-3
    Series 3: Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1843-1912
    Box 4
    Series 4: Miscellaneous Material and Writings, ca. 1848-ca. 1940
    Box 5
    Series 5: Diaries, 1854-1911
    Boxes 6-7

    Collection Stack Location

    1 23 7


    Given by a member of the Kendall family of Oak Park, Illinois in 1947.

    Processed by

    R.J. Bowker, 1993; Martha T. Briggs, 1996; Virginia H. Smith, 2002

    Inventory of the Nathan Kendall and Abby J. Reed Kendall papers, 1842-1912
    Virginia H. Smith
    Language of description
    Script of description

    Repository Details

    Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

    60 West Walton Street
    Chicago Illinois 60610 United States