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Isaac Stevens Metcalf papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Metcalf

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, writings, diaries, and journals documenting family and rural life, as well as early business correspondence and records, and a few photographs, all pertaining to Isaac Stevens Metcalf and the Metcalf, Furber, and Putnam families. Family correspondence was used to keep all of the branches of the family in touch with each other when family members moved away. There are many instances where multiple family members wrote on one letter to one or more other family members, and some people even wrote "family letters" that were intended to be shared amongst parents, siblings, and the like. Topics of family correspondence tend to be related to religion, daily activities on the farm, weather, and the news of friends and relatives (births, deaths, sicknesses, etc.)

Business records of Metcalf's pertain to land ownership, railroad engineering and construction, and running a coal mining business. The mid-19th century business records also document tax payments and some reports including labor and payroll expenses. There are a few drawings and sketches from Metcalf's tenure as division engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad.

The first accession of these family papers was a donation of the letters between Charles W. and Albina Rich, given by Grace Leadingham, Charles Rich's granddaughter. This gift was facilitated by Keyes D. Metcalf, 17th child of Isaac Stevens Metcalf.


  • Creation: 1827-1955
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1850 - 1897


Conditions Governing Access

The Isaac Stevens Metcalf papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Isaac Stevens Metcalf 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 Isaac Stevens Metcalf

Railroad engineer, farmer, and businessman of Maine, Ohio, and Illinois during the second half of the 19th century. Isaac Stevens Metcalf was born in Royalston, Massachusetts, on Jan. 29, 1822. His father, Isaac Metcalf, had married Lucy Heywood in 1810; she died childless in 1820. In March 1821 he married Anna Mayo Stevens Rich, the widow of Charles Rich, by whom she had had three children (named Charles, Elizabeth Anna, and Almeida). Isaac was born to Metcalf and Rich, followed by Joseph, Lucy, and Eliab. Isaac Metcalf (father) died in Boston in 1830, and the family relocated to Milo, Maine, where half-brother Charles had purchased a farm. Isaac Stevens Metcalf lived there with his mother and siblings, preparing for college and working on the farm until he entered Bowdoin College as a sophomore in 1844. He graduated there in 1847, having taught school while studying engineering. He surveyed and built railroads in New England until the spring of 1850, when he became a division engineer on the southern section (near Centralia, IL) of the Illinois Central Railroad. Metcalf worked closely with the Chief Engineer, Roswell B. Mason. Metcalf remained on the job until the line was completed to Cairo, IL, in 1855. While in central Illinois, Metcalf purchased land and with his partner Chester A. Keyes laid out the railroad town of Du Quoin, which was officially dedicated on Sept. 20, 1853.

On Jul. 5, 1852, he married Antoinette ("Nettie") Brigham Putnam, the daughter of prominent New Hampshire minister John Milton Putnam. The couple had twelve children, three of whom died young. They settled in Elyria, Ohio, in Nov. 1856, to be near Metcalf's half sister, Elizabeth Ann (also known as Ann Elizabeth), and more family joined them within the next ten years. Metcalf and family lived in Elyria for over 41 years, farming and running a flour mill while Isaac Stevens Metcalf maintained business interests in Du Quoin, Illinois (real estate and coal mining). Antoinette died Aug. 14, 1875, and three years later Metcalf married Harriet Howes. That couple had six boys. Harriet Howes died of pneumonia Dec. 7, 1894, and Isaac Stevens Metcalf died Feb. 19, 1898, age 76.

A more complete Metcalf genealogy family, focusing on the children of Isaac Stevens Metcalf, is available in the Special Collections Department information files. The genealogy was compiled by Keyes DeWitt Metcalf, 17th child of Isaac Stevens Metcalf.


10.8 Linear Feet (20 boxes and 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



Letters, diaries, daybooks, scrapbooks, and business documents of Isaac Stevens Metcalf, a Bowdoin College graduate from Milo, Maine, Illinois Central Railroad division engineer, and Du Quoin, Illinois resident, his wife Antoinette Brigham Putnam Metcalf (originally of New Hampshire), their parents, and children. Included are many letters written from college, family letters, Illinois Central Railroad business correspondence with R.B. Mason and other records of railroad construction, and records of a private business partnership - the Du Quoin Coal Company. Families represented include DeWitt, Furber, Metcalf, Putnam, and Rich.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Family Papers, 1827-1935
Boxes 1-14
Series 2: Du Quoin Records, 1854-1897 (bulk 1854-1884)
Boxes 15-17
Series 3: Illinois Central Railroad Company Records, 1851-1856
Boxes 17-19
Series 4: Photographs, approximately 1885-1955 (bulk approximately 1885-1912)
Box 19

Collection Stack Location

1 26 3-4, 1 30 7


Gift, Grace Leadingham and Keyes Metcalf, 1970; Peter M. Small, 1986, 2018.

Processed by

Jeff Metcalf, 1991; Alison Hinderliter, 2009.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Isaac Stevens Metcalf Papers, 1827-1955, bulk 1850-1897Midwest.MS.Metcalf
Finding aid prepared by Alison Hinderliter
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