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Guide to the Abbot Family Papers, 1733-1999 and undated (bulk 1860-1910)

Collection Overview

The papers of the Abbot family consist mainly of correspondence, but also include financial and legal papers, diaries, a letter-book, clippings, printed material, speeches and photographs (several of them cartes-de-visite). The papers date from 1733 to 1999, the bulk ranging from 1860-1910. A significant portion of the correspondence comprises personal letters exchanged during the Civil War between William Richardson Abbot, who became headmaster of Bellevue High School in Virginia, and his wife, Lucy Minor Abbot (daughter of educator Dr. Charles Minor and niece of prominent legal scholar John Minor). Abbot's letters mention battles and political events of the Civil War. They also recount Abbot's experience of active service in the field as an officer in the First Regiment of the Engineers Troops (Army of Virginia). Other correspondence from the nineteenth century includes exchanges between W.R. Abbot and his immediate family, both during and after the Civil War, as well as numerous letters to Abbot from parents of boys attending Bellevue High School. The collection also includes materials from the lives of the children and grandchildren of William and Lucy Abbot, ranging from the late-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Letters from the children of William and Lucy Abbot consist of personal exchanges, including accounts of extended tours through and stays in turn-of-the-century Europe, as well as experiences of higher study in the German university system of the time. The Abbot family papers also extend to materials belonging to the Minors of Charlottesville (Va.), and include correspondence of Charles and John Minor. The Abbot Family papers are particularly rich in their documentation of military and civilian life during the Civil War; boys' secondary education in the liberal arts during Reconstruction; and the romantic and social conventions of the American South in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

The Correspondence Series includes Abbot's personal letters to his wife and family (William Richardson Abbot and Lucy Ridgway Minor Abbot sub-series), as well as several from his mother and sisters (Abbot Family (1) sub-series). Correspondence from the Civil War consists predominantly of Abbot's romantic exchanges with Lucy Minor. Apart from expressing Abbot's deep attachment to Lucy, both during and immediately after their courtship, the letters document Abbot's daily life as a clerk in the War Office in Richmond, his duties as an officer on recruiting assignments in Georgia and his experiences in the field in Virginia. Abbot's letters from 1864-1865 describe conditions at various camps and picket lines in and around Appomattox, where Abbot was present during General Lee's surrender.

The letters of Abbot's widowed mother and sisters speak to women's experiences of everyday life during the War. The Abbot women sometimes mention the price of supplies and clothing from both before and after the Civil War. Of particular interest is an exceptionally detailed, ten-paged letter from Ellen Abbot to her brother from September of 1864, recounting the surrender of the town of Woodstock in Northern Virginia to Union soldiers. Written over the course of several days, the letter describes Ellen and her mother's departure from the border town, providing a general idea of refugee movements within and around the state. The account details the prices of supplies and of means of conveyance during evacuation. Ellen Abbot also documented the concealment and care of wounded Confederate soldiers by civilians, partisan violence, and a summary execution during the town's surrender.

A significant portion of nineteenth century material from the Abbot Family Correspondence series relates to Abbot's teaching activities after the War, and in particular to his involvement with and eventual purchase of Bellevue High School (1870-1909) (Education/Bellevue sub-series). Founded by prominent educator and lawyer J.P. Holcombe in 1866, this institution was an important preparatory school for the University of Virginia. A series of letters from parents of its students provide personalized accounts of education during the Reconstruction. Of interest is a two-paged letter from one of Abbot's students in Mississippi (1874), assessing the political and social causes of interracial violence in his hometown during the Reconstruction.

Early to mid-twentieth century material from the Correspondence series consists of exchanges between the children and grandchildren of William and Lucy Minor. (Abbot Family (2) subseries). The letters of Francis H. Abbot, son of W.R and Lucy Abbot, are predominantly reports of his experience as a doctoral student of German language and literature in the Universities of Goettingen and Leipzig (1889-1903). A few political lampoons on postcards provide a perspective on current events in Europe at the time, including perceptions of Prussian militarism and of events leading to the Boer war. Also included in this subseries are personal correspondence of James Southall (married Jane Oliver Abbot), prominent physicist at the University of Columbia; personal and business letters of Daniel Henderson (married Lucy Minor Abbot), lawyer and well-known activist for Native-American rights; early personal correspondence of Virginia Henderson (daughter of Daniel and Lucy Henderson), pioneer in the post-war nursing profession and coauthor of the authoritative study on modern nursing techniques, Nursing Research: Survey and Assessment.

The Correspondence series extends to the Minor side of the family ( Minor Family subseries), and includes letters from the early-nineteenth century exchanged between Dr. Charles Minor, prominent educator in Virginia, and his brother John Minor, leading legal scholar at the University of Virginia. Correspondence of the Minor brothers continued in exchanges with Abbot during the latter's tenure at Brookhill School before the Civil War, and afterwards, when Abbot served as principal of Bellevue. The subseries also includes some of the private correspondence of the numerous siblings of Lucy Ridgway Minor.

While the bulk of the collection comprises correspondence, the papers also include Abbot's addresses to schools and the Virginia Educational Society; printed bulletins detailing courses of study and formal statements of the teaching philosophy at Bellevue; and an official letter-book, receipts, financial and legal documents relating to the purchase, expansion and daily administration of the school. Other materials relating to the children of the William and Lucy Abbot include educational addresses by their son, Charles Minor Abbot, who administered Bellevue until it closed (1901-1909), as well as biographical material on Virginia Henderson's authoritative influence on professional nursing.

Newspaper clippings from the Reconstruction include articles by Ellen Abbot (Sr.) on her interpretation of the events leading immediately to the Civil War, and by William R. Abbot on the role of women in the Confederate cause. These also include some patriotic poetry; Virginian novelist Thomas Nelson Page's childhood recollection of a slave-auction; reports of speeches by W.R. Abbot; and obituaries of friends and family.

Of particular interest from the Minor side of the family papers are two personal diaries, the first belonging to Dr. Charles Minor and the second kept by Anne Minor, the youngest of the ten children of Charles Minor. Charles Minor's eleven-paged account of a trip from Charlottesville to New Orleans provides a detailed idea of road and steamboat travel in the early nineteenth century. The account mentions General Jackson, who was on the same boat. The second half of the diary is an autobiographical note on Minor's early instruction in the classics. The ten-page record of Anne Minor's diary is unusual for its dramatic reconstruction of a child's perspective on events witnessed during the Civil War, as well as for its disturbing reflections on the particular insecurities suffered by young children in war-time (c.1929).

The Picture Series includes photographs and several cartes-de-visite of the Abbot and Minor families.

The Abbot Family Papers provide the researcher with numerous vantage points onto public, professional and private life in nineteenth-century Virginia, most particularly through personalized accounts of men and women of the time. While the papers follow the families' colonial past from the early eighteenth century into the mid-twentieth century, the collection is noteworthy for its emphasis on military and private life in the Confederacy and in the Reconstruction South. The collection illuminates the experience of the Civil War through numerous windows onto the private lives of individuals; the professionalization of secondary education during the Reconstruction; the social and epistolary conventions of nineteenth century courtship; and the construction of an inter-generational identity, based on extended familial affections and ties to the institution of Bellevue.

Descriptive Summary

Collection Number
RL.00006
Title
Abbot Family papers
Date
1733-1999 and undated (bulk 1860-1910)
Extent
19 Linear Feet, 7000 items
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
English.

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Collection is open for research.

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All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. There may be a 48-hour delay in obtaining these materials.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

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Contents of the Collection

1. Correspondence Series, 1827-1952

The Correspondence series is divided into five subseries: the William Richardson Abbot and Lucy Ridgway Minor Abbot subseries; Bellevue High School subseries; Abbot Family (1) subseries; Abbot Family (2) subseries; and the Minor Family subseries.

William Richardson Abbot and Lucy Ridgway Minor Abbot Subseries, 1860-1909

Personal and romantic exchanges between William and Lucy Abbot, chiefly from the Civil War period. Includes some hand-written transcriptions.

Arranged chronologically.

1860 March-1862 October
(27 folders)
Box 1
1862 November-1864 December
(32 folders)
Box 2
1865 January-1909 March
(7 folders)
Box 3
Undated
(2 folders)
Box 3

Abbot Family (1) Subseries, 1827-1875

Personal letters to and from William R. Abbot, and family members. Chief correspondents are W.R. Abbot's mother Ellen Abbott and his sisters Ellen and Jane Abbot. Includes letter from Ellen Abbot (Jr.) recounting surrender of Woodstock in Northern Virginia to Union soldiers. Also includes official papers such as reports of W.R. Abbot's academic progress at the University of Virginia and professional recommendations for university positions; and W.R Abbot's enlistment papers and other formal correspondence with the Confederate Army. The personal correspondence contains some hand-written transcriptions.

Arranged chronologically; W.R. Abbot's university evaluations, professional recommendations and correspondence with the Confederate Army collated separately and arranged according to subject.

1827 November-1875 November
(17 folders)
Box 3
Undated
(2 folders)
Box 3
Official Civil War Correspondence, 1863 November-1864 February
(3 folders)
Box 3
Academic Evaluations and Recommendations, 1861-1863
(1 Folder)
Box 3

Education/Bellevue Subseries, 1866-1911

Formal correspondence to and from the Virginia Educational Association, and correspondence regarding general administrative matters at Bellevue High School. Also includes letters of parents of Bellevue students assessing students' progress and concerns. Contains letter to W.R. Abbot from a student describing inter-racial violence in Mississippi. A letter-book in William R. Abbot's hand-writing contains copies of correspondence pertaining to Bellevue High.

Arranged chronologically.

1866 July-1911 July
(25 folders)
Box 4
See also letter-book, 1886 Aug. 27-1903 June 24 (1 vol. in Box 8)
Box 4

Abbot Family (2) Subseries, 1879-1960

Personal letters of the Abbot children to and from William and Lucy; to each other; to their spouses; and from their spouses to William and Lucy. Includes several postcards to Bellevue from Francis Abbot during his studies in Germany. Also includes the personal exchanges of several Abbot grand-children.

Arranged alphabetically, according to correspondent.

Abbot, Charles Minor, 1901-1960
(1 folder)
Box 5
Abbot, Emily McIlvane, 1901-1912
(1 folder)
Box 5
Abbot, Francis H. (Frank), 1895-1932
(10 folders)
Box 5
Abbot, Jane Oliver (Jinx; Jeannie), 1889-1927
(3 folders)
Box 5
Abbot, Louisa Noland (Toodles; Loulie), 1889-1910
Box 5
Abbot, William (III), 1912 Oct.
(1 folder)
Box 5
Henderson, Jane, 1931-1953
(1 folder)
Box 5
Henderson, Lucy Minor Abbot, 1898-1950
(3 folders)
Box 5
Henderson, Lucy (Jr.) and Charles, 1901-1925
(1 folder)
Box 5
Houff, Frances Minor, 1918-1933
(2 folders)
Box 5
Southall, James (Jim), 1900-1931
(4 folders)
Box 5
Unidentified; undated
(1 folder)
Box 5

Minor Family Subseries, 1825-1900

Exchanges between Charles and John Minor as students, and with W.R. Abbot. Includes the personal correspondence of Lucy Ridgway Minor and her siblings.

Arranged alphabetically, according to correspondent.

Minor, Annie et al., 1846-1900 (1 folder)
Box 5
Minor, Dr. Charles, 1827-1876
(2 folders)
Box 5
Minor, John B., 1828-1825
(2 folders)
Box 5
Minor, Lancelot, 1825-1834
(1 folder)
Box 5
Minor, Lucy Ridgway, 1863-1904
(2 folders)
Box 5
Minor, Lucy Walker (cousin Lucy), 1890-1892 (1 folder)
Box 5
See also oversize folder.
Box 5

2. Diaries Series, 1835; 1836; 1930

Transcription of entries from Charles Minor's personal diary from a trip from Charlottesville to New Orleans, mentioning General Jackson. The second half of the document is Minor's account of his early education in the classics, also detailing the circumstances surrounding Minor's first teaching position in Albemarle County and eventual move to Ridgway.

Personal diary of Anne Minor, youngest child of Charles Minor. The diary describes early childhood experiences during the Civil War, after the family moved from Brookhill to Lands End upon the death of Charles Minor.

Anne Minor Diary, 1828-1830 (?)
(1 vol.)
Box 8
Charles Minor Diary, 1835; 1836
(1 document)
Box 8

3. Addresses, Notes and Drafts Series, 1856-1857 and undated

W.R. Abbot's undated addresses to the Virginia Educational Association, the Alumni Association of the University of Virginia, the Bar Association and assemblies of other Virginian schools; Charles Minor's speeches; and W.R. Abbot's notebook from his undergraduate philosophy course at the University of Virginia. Unarranged.

W.R. Abbot's addresses
(7 folders)
Box 6
W.R. Abbot's notes and drafts
(1 folder)
Box 6
W.R. Abbot's philosophy notes, 1856 Oct.-1857 March
(Notebook)
Box 6
Charles Minor Abbot's speeches
(2 folders)
Box 6

4. Printed Material Series, 1866-1921

Printed speech by W.R. Abbot and program for annual meeting of the University of Virginia Alumni Association; Bellevue High School Catalogues, transcriptions of school songs and copies of the Nondescript, the Bellevue High magazine; and transcriptions by Francis Abbot of folk and African-American music from Virginia. Unarranged.

Printed material, 1866-1921
(6 folders)
Box 6

5. Clippings Series, 1863-1909

Accounts of events and personalities of the Civil War written during the Reconstruction period; obituaries of Abbot friends and family; and obituaries for members of the Minor family.

Arranged chronologically.

Clippings, 1863-1909
(5 folders)
Box 6

6. Genealogy and Family Histories Series, undated

Genealogies of Abbots and Minors; family and church records of births and deaths; biographical notes on William Abbot, John B. Minor, Dr. Charles Minor and Virginia Henderson; an early history of Minor family estates in Albemarle County; and a printed transcription of an oral history of Bellevue and the Abbot family's association with St. Stephen's Episcopal Church by Frances Minor Henderson Houff. Unarranged.

Genealogy and family histories, undated
(4 folders)
Box 6

7. Financial Papers Series, 1860-1916

W.R. Abbot's business correspondence regarding the administration and expansion of Bellevue as well as various other real estate investments in Virginia and Kansas City. Contains savings book as well as an account book of Bellevue. Also includes receipts of taxes on property and of miscellaneous transactions with merchants for the daily administration of Bellevue.

Arranged chronologically; correspondence with legal firms recording financial investments collated separately and arranged alphabetically according to name of solicitor.

Financial papers, 1860-1916
(11 folders)
Box 6
Financial papers, 1860-1916
(15 folders)
Box 7
Savings book, 1875 July-1890 July (1 vol.)
Box 7
See also Account-book, 1895 March-1906 Sept. (1 vol.) in Box 8.
Box 7

8. Legal Papers Series, 1733-1950

Insurance policies, deeds of trust, and land plats pertaining to Bellevue property and W.R. Abbot's property elsewhere in Virginia and in Kansas City; legal papers of Ellen Abbot's pre-Civil War residence in Georgetown; records of W.R. Abbot's partnership with J.P. Holcombe and his assumption of Bellevue subsequent to Holcombe's death; affidavits of family members recording receipt of inheritance; and original deeds of trust recording land grants made in Virginia to John B. Minor from Sir Thomas Carr of Topping Castle.

Arranged chronologically; records of distribution of family estate and Holcombe-Bellevue papers collated separately and arranged alphabetically according to name.

Legal papers, 1733-1950
(17 folders)
Box 7

9. Pictures Series, [1860s-1980s]

60 photographs of the Abbot family and Bellevue, most of which are identified; one photocopy of a group picture of Abbots at Bellevue ([ca. 1900]) with names and dates labeled on reverse; 24 photographs of the Minor family; one photograph album containing mostly pictures of students at a turn-of-the-century women's college, including pictures of Lucy and Virginia Henderson; and 15 unidentified photographs of children, and young men and women. Series includes several cartes-de-visite and a few tintypes taken mostly at photographers' studios in Charlottesville and Lynchburg.

Photographs, [1860s-1980s]
(5 folders)
Box 7
Account book, 1895 March-1906 Sept. (Financial papers series)
Box 8
Letterbook, 1886 Aug. 27-1903 June 24 (Correspondence series)
Box 8
Annie Minor's Civil War Memoir, undated (Miscellany series)
Box 8
1906 Typescript of the 1836 Diary of Charles Minor (Miscellany series)
Box 8
Letter, 1878 from Charles Minor to My Dear Mother... (Correspondence series)
Box 8

11. Miscellany, 1857-1965 and undated

Minutes of the Bellevue High School Literary Society; miscellaneous Bellevue-related papers including transcripts of a school-play and lists of academic journals on education; John Abbot's certificates of distinction at Bellevue; memorabilia of the Minor children comprised of verses by Cabell Minor and an elegy by Charles Minor (Jr.) on the death of Walter Scott written at Brookhill; a handwritten prayer and records of Brookhill school sessions (1857-1865). Includes Annie Minor's memoir of her experiences as a child during the Civil War (housed with oversized material in Box 8) and the Minor family Bible, an incomplete two-volume 1769 edition of the Authorized version with manuscript poetry and letters added to the front pages of the first volume.

Miscellany, 1857-1965 and undated
(3 folders)
Box 9
Album
(1 vol.)
Box 9
Abbot family Bible
(2 vol.)
Box 10

Historical Note

William Richardson Abbot

Chronology

Date Event(s)
1839 January 1 Born in Hagerstown, Md.
1855-1857 University of Virginia, distinction in the Study of Law
1857 Teacher at Mr. Halliwell's School, Alexandria, Va.
1858-1860 Teacher at Dr. Charles Minor's Brookhill School, outside Charlottesville, Va.
1860-1861 Tutor to family of Dr.Arthur Taylor, Opelouses, St. Landry Parish, La., until outbreak of Civil War
1861 Clerk at General Post Office Department, Auditor's Office to the Treasury of the Southern Confederacy, Richmond, Va.
1862 Clerk at First Auditor's Office to the War Department, Richmond Va.
1863-1865 Enlistment in the First Regiment of Engineers Troops, Army of Virginia; served in the field as Second Lieutenant; was present with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.
1863 Marriage to Lucy Ridgway Minor, daughter of Dr. Charles Minor of Brookhill School, Charlottesville, Va.
1866-1870 Opened school for boys in Charlottesville
1870-1873 Teacher of Classics and English; Associate Headmaster with founder James P. Holcombe at Bellevue High School, Va.
1873-1901 Headmaster of Bellevue on the death of J.P. Holcombe
1882 Purchased Bellevue
1902-1909 Bellevue administered chiefly by W.R. Abbot's son, Associate Principal Charles Minor Abbot
1909 Closed and converted Bellevue to personal residence; continued to reside at Bellevue with his family
1916, October 5 Died at Bellevue, Va.
Ellen Harris Abbot

Chronology

Date Event(s)
1815 December 9 Born; given name Ellen Jane
1831 Married William R. Abbot, founder of Georgetown Classical and Mathematical Academy, Georgetown.
1852 Widowed with five children
1861 Closed her boarding house in Georgetown with the outbreak of the Civil War
1902, December 3 Died
Jane (Jeannie) Oliver Abbot

Chronology

Date Event(s)
1834, August 14 Born to William and Ellen Abbot
1898, October 28 Died
Francis (Frank) Harris Abbot

Chronology

Date Event(s)
1841 Born to William and Ellen Abbot
1861-1862 Served as Lieutenant in 17th Regiment of the Alexandria Riflemen, Army of the Southern Confederacy
1862 Died in combat
Ellen Harris Abbot

Chronology

Date Event(s)
1847, June 1 Born to William and Ellen Abbot; given name Ellen Harris
1901, November 17 Died in Washington D.C.
Lucy Ridgway Minor Abbot

Chronology

Date Event(s)
1838 Born to Dr. Charles and Lucy Minor of “Brookhill,” Charlottesville, Va.; given name Lucy Ridgway
1861 Moved to “Lands End” (Va.) on death of Dr. Charles Minor and the subsequent sale of Brookhill School
Tutored and taught music with outbreak of the Civil War
1863 Married William R. Abbot
1870 Moved to Bellevue with W.R. Abbot
1921 Died
Charles M. Abbot

Chronology

Date Event(s)
1875, September 10 Born in Charlottesville to William and Lucy Abbot; given name Charles Minor
Educated at Bellevue, Bedford County (Va.)
1896 Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts, University of Virginia
1897-1901 Taught at Bellevue High School
1901-1902 Moved to Norfolk, Va.
1902-1909 Returned to Bellevue to teach; administered Bellevue in the capacity of Associate Headmaster until its closure
1909-1925 Taught in Campbell and Bedford counties, (Va.)
1925-1946 Taught History and Government at Glass High School,(Va.)
1940 [1941?] Played central role in re-establishment of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Forest, Va.; continued to serve as vestryman
1946 Retired from faculty at Glass High
1949 Died

Francis (Frank) H. Abbot

Date Event(s)
1877, November 3 Early education at Bellevue and other private schools in Va.
Born to William and Lucy Abbot
1895-1899 Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees, University of Virginia
1899 Doctoral student of Modern Languages at universities of Goettingen and Leipzig, Germany
1902 Returned to United States; taught English at Marion Military Institute, Alabama
Ph.D from University of Leipzig
1904-1919 Associate Professor of Rhetoric at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg (Va.)
Instructor of French, University of Chicago
Instructor of French, Johns Hopkins University
1919 Adjunct Professor of French, University of Virginia
1926 Full Professor of French, University of Virginia
1933 Died at the University of Virginia
Virginia Henderson

Chronology

Date Event(s)
1897, November 30 Born in Kansas City Mo. to Daniel Brosius Henderson and Lucy Minor Abbot
1900 Moved to Bellevue High School (Va.), where the Hendersons established their residence, “Trivium”
1921 Certified as Registered Nurse in N.Y. and Va.
Completed schooling in nursing with highest mark on examination, U.S. Army School of Nursing, Walter Reed Hospital, Washington D.C.
1921-1929 Public health visiting nurse in New York City and Washington D.C.
Nurse educator at the Protestant Hospital School of Nursing, Norfolk, Va.
1929 Enrolled in Teacher's College, Columbia University
1932 Bachelor of Sciences, Teacher's College, Columbia University
1934 Master of Arts, Teacher's College, Columbia University
1934-1948 Associate Professor of Nursing Education, Teacher's College, Columbia University
1948-1953 Engaged in extensive revisions of 5th ed. of Textbook of Principles and Practice of Nursing by Bertha Harmer
1959-1971 Research Associate at Yale University
1971 Retired from faculty of Yale University
1964 Publication of Nursing Research: Survey and Assessment, coauthored with Leo Simmons
1966 Publication of Basic Principles of Nursing
1972 Completed Nursing Studies Index
1982 Received honorary degree from Yale University
1985 Received highest nursing honor, the Christiane Reimann prize, from the International Council
1996 Died in Branford, Ct.
Dr. Charles Minor

Chronology

Date Event(s)
1810, Nov. 4 Born in Louisa county (Va.)
1827 Moved to Virginia, teaching at the Forks of the Rivanna, after graduating in medicine at the University of Virginia and attending Philadelphia Medical Clinics
1835 Traveled to New Orleans to decide whether to settle there; returned to Virginia to reside in Ridgway
1836 Married Lucy Walker Ridgway
Early-1850's Established Brookhill School, six miles north of Charlottesville (Va.)
1861 Died
John Barbee Minor

Chronology

Date Event(s)
1813, June 2 Born in Louisa county (Va.)
1828-1829 Attended Kenyon College, Ohio
1831-1834 Attended University of Virginia
1834 Awarded Bachelor of Law; practiced Law in Botetourt county, (Va.)
1840 Moved to Charlottesville
1840-1843 Partnership with his brother Lucian Minor in Charlottesville
1845 Appointed Professor of Law at the University of Virginia
1856 Appointed Professor of Common and Statute Law, University of Virginia
1875-1878 Published four volumes of Common and Statute Law
1895, July 29 Died at his home at the University of Virginia

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Abbot Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Provenance

The Abbot Family Papers was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase and gift in 2000.

Processing Information

Processed by Tania Roy

Completed December 13, 2000

Encoded by Ruth E. Bryan