Special Collections: New Donation of 19th Century Letters Document Pioneer Life

This article expired 13-Feb-2013 -- it may contain outdated or superceded information
13-Feb-2013 Newsletter article

The Special Collections Department recently received additions to the Sarah Underwood Papers from a donor who had found a description of the collection online and wanted to unite the correspondence he had with the letters in our collections. Sarah Tefft Underwood moved with her husband Horace to eastern Iowa most likely during the fall of 1856. They lived approximately two miles outside of the community of Princeton, Iowa, which is located on the banks of the Mississippi River just north of Davenport. Sarah named the homestead Slippery Elm Grove, and family lore says that their home was the first brick house in Iowa. The Underwoods left Iowa and moved back Kingston, Rhode Island at some point between 1861 and 1864.

Many of the handwritten letters are from Sarah Tefft Underwood to her family in Kingston, Rhode Island. It is clear from her letters that Sarah missed Rhode Island and the friends and family she had left there. In a letter from 1857 she writes "It is Sunday half past 11 o'clock a.m. and I suppose you are now enjoying yourself at meeting at the old school house. O! how I wish I could be there with you, if I had wings like Noah's Dove you would soon see me sitting beside you." In the letters, Sarah asked about the family in Rhode Island, wrote about the people she had met in Iowa, and almost always included a report on the Iowa weather. She often wrote about activities on the farm including meals, farm work during harvest time, and butchering the animals. The recently donated additional letters to the Special Collections Department are a great addition to this collection which documents a woman's experience in Iowa during the middle of the 19th century.

More information on the collection can be found in the finding aid:

If you have questions regarding this collection, please contact the Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library at 515-294-4216, or visit our website at

Iowa State University

University Library, Ames, Iowa 50011, Email Webmaster
Copyright © 2000-2017, Iowa State University of Science and Technology. All rights reserved.

Federal Depository Library ProgramTwitterFacebook

Follow us online