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1846 – 1894


(bulk 1849 – 1853)


Manuscript Collection Number 511


Accessioned:  Gift of the Moyerman family circa 1970-1972


Extent:  98 items (.1 linear ft.)


Content:  Correspondence, school compositions, penmanship copy book, school leaflets, recommendation letters


Access:  The collection is open for research.


Processed:  November 2005, by Emily Holloway

Table of Contents

Historical Note

            In 1850 the United States was involved in a passionate debate concerning the future of slavery.  The Compromise of 1850 was an attempt to avoid the secession of the southern states, which was a real threat if California entered the Union as a free state.  In an attempt to appease the southern states, one of the measures proposed by the Compromise was a stronger fugitive slave law.  The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was a victory for southern slave owners and slave-catchers, and it was a source of new aggravation for abolitionists.  The measures in the Compromise of 1850 caused a more intense antislavery impulse from the northern states.

            With this Compromise on the floor the outcome of the 1852 presidential election was extremely important for the future of slavery in the United States.  The Whigs, the Free Soilers, and the Democrats all rallied behind their candidates, in hopes of securing a victory for their respective causes.  Franklin Pierce, a Democrat from New Hampshire, won the presidential election on a platform that vowed to abide by the measures of the Compromise of 1850.

Biographical Note

            The siblings in the Rowell family, a Quaker family of Loudon, New Hampshire, recorded their responses to such national social and political issues in a series of correspondence among themselves as well as other acquaintances.  John F. Rowell, Perley Rowell, and Sarah Ann Rowell discussed many national and local issues in the letters they exchanged throughout the period of 1849-1854.

            John F. Rowell graduated from common school in Loudon, and then went on to assist at district schools in Weare, Lee, and Pembroke, New Hampshire.  From 1851-1853 he attended Haverford College in Pennsylvania but never graduated.  He eventually acquired a position at the Friends’ School in Providence, Rhode Island, where he remained for 20 years.  In 1875 he retired from teaching, moved to California and became involved in both agriculture and the lumber industry.  The year of his death is unclear, but he was still living in 1885, when a history of his hometown in New Hampshire was published.  John F. Rowell never married.

            Perley W. Rowell was born in 1823, and married Caroline Clark in 1869.  They had two children, Sarah W. and George W. Clark.  The family lived in Loudon, where Perley engaged in local politics and community concerns.

            Very little is known about Sarah Ann Rowell.  She did attend school in New Hampshire, and she may have spent some time at a women’s college in that state as well.  She also spent some time as an editoress of a Loudon newspaper, The Star.  In 1852 she suffered a severe illness, and it is unclear if she ever recovered from this illness.  However, there are no letters addressed to her or written by her after that year.

            Moses A. Cartland, born in 1805, was school master of two schools in New Hampshire, one at Weare and one at Lee, from 1834 to 1853.  He appears frequently in the correspondence in this collection.  He maintained a close relationship with the Rowell siblings, as well as other former students.  He instructed both John and Sarah Rowell, and presumably Perley as well.  A practicing Quaker, Moses was involved in the Friend’s Society in New Hampshire, attending yearly meetings and other events.  Early in his career he was a teacher at the Friends’ Yearly Boarding School in Providence, Rhode Island.  In addition to being an educator, he was very active in local and state politics, running for district representative as well as Post Master in New Hampshire. 

            Moses A. Cartland was an active abolitionist.  He worked as contributor, printer, and editor of many publications, some of which were vocal about the abolition of slavery.  Cartland was the editor of White Mountain Torrent, The New Hampshire Journal of Education, and New Hampshire Journal of Agriculture.  He was also a correspondent for the National Era and the Independent Democrat.  He was the second cousin and very close friend of John Greenleaf Whittier, a Quaker poet and vocal abolitionist.  Cartland was involved in many of Whittier’s early pursuits in journalism and publication, as well as being a personal confidant.  Moses Cartland’s brother Joseph Cartland was the superintendent of Haverford College circa 1850 -1853, the period when John F. Rowell attended.




The History of Merrimack and Belknap Counties, New Hampshire Edited by D. Hamilton Hurd and Published in 1885.  Retrieved on November 1, 2005 from


Shackford, Martha Hale.  “Whittier and Some Cousins.”  The New England Quartlerly.  Vol. 15, No. 3. (Sep. 1942), pp. 467-496


Tindall, George Brown and David E. Shi.  America: A Narrative History.  Sixth edition, Volme One.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004. pp.  619-626.



Scope and Content Note

            The Rowell Family Correspondence, spanning the years 1846 to 1894 (bulk dates 1849 - 1853), preserves the letters exchanged by a Quaker family of Loudon, New Hampshire, recording their responses to significant social and political issues of the period leading up to the national crisis over slavery and states’ rights.  Ninety-eight items of correspondence, school compositions and a penmanship copybook, and school leaflets comprise the collection.  The collection is broken into three series, and arranged chronologically within each series.

            The first series includes letters received by John F. Rowell between the years 1849 and 1853, undated letters, and other papers pertaining to his life.  The letters John received in this period came from various friends and relations, including his siblings Sarah Ann and Perley, his mother, his cousins Louisa and Myra, Moses A. Cartland ,and many former school mates.  They were sent to him while he was living in New Hampshire, and while he attended Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

            The letters to John F. Rowell (F1-F3) discuss a variety of topics including local gossip and politics, personal matters, national politics and social issues.  Many of the letters pertain to education, school subjects, and school facilities.  Moses A Cartland, one of the main correspondents represented in the collection, often wrote detailed accounts of the schools he supervised, discussing such things as the number of scholars in attendance, where the classes were located, what subjects were taught, and the personalities of the students.  These topics are reflected in many of the other letters from John’s former classmates, as well as his sister.  Sarah Ann attended “Young Ladies’ Home Boarding School” in Concord, New Hampshire (see school circular in F7), and she devoted much time discussing her experiences there.  Other acquaintances were teaching or attending school elsewhere in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, and would often describe their experiences.

            Other issues of local interest were mentioned in the correspondence.  Discussion of shoemaking, the sale and trade of livestock, and the destruction of local mills appear throughout the series.

            In a majority of the letters there is mention of important national political issues such as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the 1852 election of Franklin Pierce, the abolition of slavery, and the problems facing the Whigs and the Free Soilers.  Moses A. Cartland devoted a great deal of time on these subjects in his letters, because he was vocal in the abolitionist movement.  Noteworthy in the collection is a draft of an article entitled “Some account of the life & character of the Authoress of ‘Uncle Toms Cabin,’ up to the present date,” signed by “Demetrius” (F4).  Although the use of a pen name implies the author’s intention to remain anonymous in print, there is a handwritten note on the draft addressed to John.  It was signed by the author, J.H. Ladd, a publisher based in New York City who published numerous anti-slavery tracts in the mid-nineteenth century.

            The other items in the John F. Rowell series that are not correspondence include a small copy book of quotes and poems, and loose pages from his pocket diary from March 1852.  Also, there are three letters of recommendation for John F. Rowell, certifying his qualifications to teach in the state of New Hampshire.  The letters were signed by the superintendents of schools in Pembroke, Concord, and Loudon (F4)

            Series II holds the letters addressed to and school work of Sarah Ann Rowell, spanning the years 1846 – 1851, as well as some undated material (F5-F6).  The correspondents in this series include John F. Rowell and Moses A. Cartland, “Phebe,” “Samuel” and others, as well as two unsigned letters.  The letters from John F. Rowell discussed his experiences at Haverford College, and his feelings concerningQuaker meeting.  Other topics covered in the letters include the California migration, local lyceums, and a fugitive slave from Boston staying with Moses A. Cartland in Lee, New Hampshire.  Sarah Rowell’s school work (F6) includes a copy book and a series of compositions written at Home Boarding School and possibly other schools she attended.

            The third series (F7) includes other papers not directly related to John or Sarah Rowell.  There are circular leaflets and guidelines for attendance at Towle Academy in Winthrop, Maine, Rockingham County Teacher’s Institute, and Young Ladies’ Home Boarding School in Concord, New Hampshire.  There are also undated, unsigned pages of compositions and school notes and a “Clubbing List for 1883,” the subscription list for publications and engravings offered by the New York City-based The Independent.  

            The national and local political and social issues discussed in the correspondence in this small collection render it useful to a variety of historical pursuits.  The correspondence of educated, politically active Americans in the 1850s provides a glimpse into how Americans were talking about the slavery issue, as well as other political and social issues of this period.  The discussion of educational practices, as well as female involvement in education would be helpful to students of educational, women’s and social history.  The correspondence and school compositions would be of interest to students of American handwriting.  Although the collection is small, the nature of the correspondence and the associated material provides a rich, detailed snapshot of Americans in the mid-nineteenth century, and more specifically of New Hampshire in this period.

Series List

I.          John F. Rowell Papers, 1849 - 1853, n.d.

II.         Sarah Rowell Papers, 1846 - 1851, n.d.

III.       Other Papers, 1851 - 1883, n.d.


Contents List

Folder -- Contents

            Series I.  John F. Rowell Papers, 1849 - 1854

                        Includes letters addressed to John F. Rowell from various friends and family in New Hampshire and other New England and Mid-Atlantic states.


F1        Letters to John F. Rowell, 1849-1850 (15 items)

            Includes letters from various family members, acquaintances and former schoolmates concerning local and national politics, personal affairs and educational matters. Topics include New Years letters, Free Soil Debate, New Hampshire Constitutional Convention, the Fugitive Slave Law and Compromise of 1850, the burning of a local shingle mill, the attendance and curriculum of various schools in New Hampshire, the politics of New York Weekly Tribune editor Horace Greeley, and gold in California.


F2        Letters to John F. Rowell, 1851 - 1853 (32 items)

            Includes letters addressed to John at Walnut Grove and Lee, New Hampshire, as well as at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, from Sarah and Perley Rowell, cousins Myra and Louisa, former teacher Moses A. Cartland, and other former schoolmates.  Subjects addressed in the letters include the New Hampshire Railroad, events in Boston, district schools in Cape Cod, the shoemaking profession, women’s thoughts on education, national and local politics, the severe illness of Sarah Rowell, the construction of a new school with a hand-drawn sketch, migration to California, many deaths from consumption, and an increase in birth rates in various towns throughout New Hampshire.


F3        Undated Letters to John F. Rowell (15 items)

            Includes letters lacking a year, although many include the month.  Most of the letters are from Moses A. Cartland, with some from former schoolmates.  Topics discussed in the letters include Whig politics, local news and events, Moses Cartland’s new school, and pieces Moses wrote for the newspaper the “Independent.”


F4        Other papers, 1847-1894, n.d. (6 items)

            Includes small copybook (8 pages) containing quotes and poems on various topics.  Ladies ticket for “M.A. Mitchell’s Dancing School Assembly, at the Opera House, Pittsfield, N.H., Thursday, November 8, 1894” laid in.


            Handwritten draft of an essay entitled “Some account of the life & character of the Authoress of “Uncle Toms Cabin,”,up to the present date” signed by “Demetrius.”  Includes a note written by the author, instructing John as to editing the essay for publication, and signed by the essay’s author, J.H. Ladd.


            Three letters of recommendation from school officials at Pembroke (1847), Concord (1848), and Loudon (1853), New Hampshire; certifying John Rowell’s ability to teach in that state.


            Pages from a pocket diary used while attending Haverford College in 1852.


            Letter of recommendation written by John F. while at Friends’ School, Providence, 1860.

            Series II.  Sarah Ann Rowell Papers, 1846-1851, n.d.

                        This series includes letters to Sarah Ann Rowell from family and friends, and school compositions and penmanship exercise book.


F5        Letters to Sarah Ann Rowell, 1846-1852, n.d. (11 items)

            Includes letters from John F. Rowell, Moses A. Cartland, Phebe, Samuel, and two letters unsigned.  Topics discussed include: Haverford College, Quaker meeting, California migration, local and national politics, lyceums in town, a fugitive slave from Boston staying with Moses in Lee, and a personal note from “Samuel,” offering affection and apologies.


F6        Sarah Rowell School Work, ca. 1851, n.d. (5 items)

            Includes composition notebook including compositions and penmanship copy book, and individual compositions from Home Boarding School, and possibly others.




            Series III.  Other Papers, 1851 - 1883, n.d.

            Includes school leaflets, announcements, newspaper club advertisement, shorthand sample, papers of Caroline Clark, and undated, unsigned schoolwork.


F7        Other papers, 1851-1883, n.d.(14 items)

            Circular advertising a pic-nic at Clinton Grove, Weare New Hampshire, 1851, for former students of Moses A. Cartland.


            Letter to “Sister” from “Your Brother Wells” sent from Pittsfield, May 3, 1854. Subject is of a religious nature.


            Letter of teacher certification for Miss Caroline Clarke, written by Dyer H. Sanbron, Principal at Pittsfield, New Hampshire school, 1856.


            Leaflet for Towle Academy in Winthrop, Maine, advertising the school commencement date and per term prices in 1857.  Includes handwritten note on back.


            Leaflet for Rockingham County Teacher’s Institute, 1858.  Includes handwritten letter addressed to “Misses Clarke.”


            The Independent, Clubbing list for 1883, New York City.  Promotional leaflet offering a savings on the subscription price of other publications by subscribing to The Independnet.


            Guidelines and information for the attendance of Young Ladies’ Home Boarding School, Concord, New Hampshire.


            Shorthand sample, no date.

            Series III. Other paper, 1851-1883, n.d. (cont’d)


F7        Other papers (cont’d)

            Undated schoolwork, poems, and notes.

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