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Delano family letters

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Delano

Scope and Content of the Collection

27 letters addressed to either Nancy Eastman Delano or her son Benjamin Eastman Delano, or to both of them, in Strong, Maine.

The correspondence comes from friends or relatives, many living in seven different small Maine towns, as well as from Massachusetts, Missouri, and Alabama. There is one letter from a friend to Benjamin in which he describes his army camp in Port Royal, Virginia.

Nancy and son Benjamin are addressed variably as "sister," "aunt," "brother," "cousin," or "dear friend," so in some cases it is difficult to establish the actual family relationship between the writer and the Delanos. References to church-going and camp meetings suggest a religious association, and the many recollections of happy social visits might indicate friendships rather than family get-togethers. Main themes of many of the letters are a preoccupation with illnesses and deaths, fervent hopes for a fulfilling after-life, wishes for either sustaining or attaining good health, reports of children and marriages, and news about absent sons and neighbors serving in the army along with other small-town gossip.

Several interesting letters in the collection were written by Nancy Delano's former son-in-law, Nathan D. Stanwood, and his second wife, Emily, whom he married in 1857. Stanwood had traveled to California in 1860 for business and by 1864 was living and working in San Francisco. However, by October of 1865, Emily writes to Nancy that Nathan is in Montgomery, Alabama, buying cotton for his brother Jacob's business. He has written to her that "…the Southern merchants are willing enough to repair the damages of the last four years and are very glad to have the Northern capitalist come to their aid with the cash." In August 1866, Emily writes to Benjamin that Nathan has bought a large plantation near Montgomery where he will stay to superintend the raising of corn and cotton. Stanwood was a Radical Republican, and in two letters he describes his postwar operation of his Alabama plantation, the state of his freed workers, and his fervent drive to register all Freedmen to vote. Stanwood served as a delegate from his district to the Alabama Constitutional Convention, held at Montgomery, November 5-December 6, 1867. Emily, having joined Nathan with their two children, found it hard to adjust to the "sunny south", but tells Benjamin that she is teaching her "very good servants" to read.


  • Creation: 1859-1867



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Delano family letters 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 Delano Family

Residents of Strong, Maine.

Nancy Eastman, daughter of Ann Carr Barker Eastman (1766-1852) and Benjamin Eastman (1761-1831) of Strong, Maine, married Lemuel Delano (1784-1860). They had six children, four of whom grew to adulthood: Rufus Greenleaf Delano (1810-1832), Vaielette Eastman Delano Ellsworth (1812-1861), Benjamin Eastman Delano (1814-1885) and Martha Jane Delano Stanwood (1825-1847). Benjamin appears to have lived his life with or near his mother. Martha Jane married Nathan D. Stanwood in 1844, but she died three years later and in 1857 Stanwood married Emily S. Barrell.


0.2 Linear Feet (1 box)


27 letters addressed to Nancy Eastman Delano and her son Benjamin Eastman Delano, of Strong, Maine, written by relatives and friends just before, during and immediately after the Civil War, including one which describes an army camp in Port Royal, Virginia. Most letters reflect domestic life, frequent illnesses and deaths, and religious thought in Maine and Missouri during this period. There are two letters from Nancy's erstwhile son-in-law Nathan D. Stanwood, which describe his postwar working of his plantation in Alabama, the state of Freedmen and his drive to register them to vote, and several letters from his second wife, Emily. Letters also discuss conflicts between Union and Confederate sympathizers in Missouri, draft riots in New York City; Port Royal, Virginia, from a Union soldier's perspective; the great loss of life at Petersburg; and other topics.


Materials arranged alphabetically.

Collection Stack Location

1 14 2


Purchase, 2007.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2013.

Inventory of the Delano family letters, 1859-1867
Virginia Hay 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