Skip to main content

Lewis family papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-LewisF

Scope and Content of the Collection

The Lewis and Fussell families were extremely close and dedicated to their Quaker faith and this is reflected in extensive correspondence between family members. Significant correspondence between Lewis family members Joseph B, Elizabeth and their children Jay, Eva and Maude Lewis cover topics such as the upkeep of the family farm and the teaching careers of Jay and Eva. Many letters between cousins of the Lewis family deal with the comings and goings of friends and relatives and other aspects of domestic life in Madison County, Indiana, and Chester County, Pennsylvania. As the Lewis and Fussell families were both committed abolitionists, letters often discuss political happenings and perspectives. Also of interest are the letters of Jonathan Thomas to wife Ann written while he was living and working with the Six Tribes Nation in 1809, and letters from Joseph Swain a Lewis cousin, who became president of Indiana University and later Swarthmore. Family documents include deeds and indentures, marriage certificates, wills, and materials pertaining to the Lewis family farm. Genealogical research done by Eva and Louise includes notes, family trees, and correspondence with various historical agencies. Photographs include portraits and snapshots of family members, as well as photos of family homes and the Lewis family farm.


  • Creation: 1775-1977
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1850-1950



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Lewis family 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 at

Biography of the Lewis Family

Extended members of the Lewis and related families including the Fussell, Downs, Rogers, Moore, and Thomas family members who were active in the Religious Society of Friends and the abolitionist movement in Chester County, Pennsylvania and Madison County, Indiana.

John Jones Lewis and his wife, Rebecca Thomas Lewis, were among the first Quakers to settle in Madison County, Indiana, migrating from Chester County Pennsylvania in the 1820s. John J. Lewis was a farmer by trade and bought land in Fall Creek on which to work and live. In 1833 they were visited by Rebecca's father, Jonathan Thomas, a devout Hicksite Quaker, who claimed to have a mystical vision which determined the site of the Fall Creek Friends Meeting House and cemetery, where later many generations of the Lewis family were active and then buried. Other early settlers in Fall Creek included Soloman Fussell, and members of the Downs and Rogers families, all of whom became inextricably intertwined by marriage and friendship.

John J. and Rebecca Lewis had at least three children, sons Albert G., John Jr., and Joseph B. Lewis. Joseph B. Lewis, born in 1830, took over the family farm, but also became active in county and state politics. He was a trustee of Fall Creek Township, superintendent of schools, and was also a writer and poet of note. He married Elizabeth M. Fussell, daughter of Joseph B. Fussell and Elizabeth Moore, also of Chester County Pennsylvania, in 1953. Her parents had lived in Baltimore for a time, and while there had negative experiences of slavery which led to their becoming active in the abolitionist movement. They eventually moved to Fall Creek to farm as the Lewis family had. Elizabeth and Joseph B. Lewis had three children, John "Jay," Evangeline, and Maude Lewis.

Eva, born in 1865, attended Indiana University and had a teaching career that spanned 32 years. She taught in the Anderson Schools and was later principal at the Huntington High School. She returned to Pendleton in 1910 to be with her sister Maude, also a teacher. After retiring from teaching, both Eva and Maude became librarians at the Pendleton and Fall Creek libraries and were by all accounts, beloved by the community and library patrons. Jay Lewis, born in 1857, was a teacher at Spring Valley school for 23 years while also tending to the family farm during and after Joseph B. Lewis' death in 1907. He married Josephine Downs, daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth Brown Downs of Urbana, Illinois, in 1890. Isaac Downs was also a farmer, and relocated the family to Pendleton to be near the Fall Creek Religious Society of Friends Meeting.

Jay and Josephine Lewis had two children, Lloyd, born in 1891 and Louise, born in 1895. Lloyd Lewis went on to prominence as a journalist and historian in Chicago. Louise Lewis received her Ph.B. from the University of Chicago, was a Chicago teacher, a statistician, and an advertising writer and executive. Lloyd Lewis died in 1949, Louise in 1986, neither had children.

The collection contains materials of other notable family members. Joseph Swain was a cousin of the Lewises who became president of Indiana University and later Swarthmore. Graceanna Lewis, born in 1812, was the daughter of Esther Fussell and John Lewis. She was active in the abolition and temperance movements, was a teacher, and studied ornithology and botany in Philadelphia in the 1860s. She was elected to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia in 1870. Charles Lewis Fussell (1840-1909) was a recognized landscape painter who studied and lived in Philadelphia.


16.8 Linear Feet (37 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Correspondence, documents, personal materials, genealogical research, and photographs of the Lewis and related families collected by Louise Lewis, sister of Chicago journalist Lloyd Lewis.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence and Personal Materials, 1809-1974
Boxes 1-12
Series 2: Documents and Other Materials, 1775-1963
Boxes 13-15
Series 3: Farm Diaries, 1868-1916
Boxes 16-20
Series 4: Genealogical Research, 1900-1977
Boxes 21-31
Series 5: Photographs, approximately 1850-1970
Boxes 32-35

Collection Stack Location

1 24 3-4, 1 30 3


Bequest of Louise Lewis, 1986.

Processed by

Lisa Janssen, 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 Lewis family papers, 1775-1977, bulk 1850-1950
Lisa Janssen
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