Guide to the McKeen-Duren family papers, 1720-1945 and undated, bulk 1855-1900
Collection documents in great detail the histories of the McKeen and Duren families, particularly of Silas, Phebe, and Philena McKeen. Topics of note documented through correpondence, diaries and journals, other peronal papers, printed material, and images include: religious thought and institutions in New England; the education of women and the careers of female educators; photography throughout the 19th century; the Civil War and its effects on New England society; westward migration patterns; social life in Massachusetts and Vermont; family relations in the 19th century; 19th century New England women writers and their activities; and New England genealogy. There are also many clippings in the scrapbooks debating the abolition of slavery, many written by minister Silas McKeen. The photographs series is large and offers many fine examples of 19th century portraiture and photographic processes, including ambrotypes, cyanotypes, daguerreotypes, tintypes, albumen prints, postcards, and early gelatin silver and platinum prints. The majority are portraits but there are also interiors of family rooms and images of educational institutions, especially Abbott Female Academy in Andover, Massachusetts (now Abbot Academy), whose principal over several decades was Philena McKeen. Three photograph albums round out the photograph series.
- Collection Number
- McKeen-Duren family papers
- 1720-1945 and undated, bulk 1855-1900
- 12.6 Linear Feet, 16 boxes; 1 oversize folder, Approximately 3240 items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Material in English
- Correspondence, 1816-1934 and undated
- Diaries and Scrapbooks, 1804-1906 and undated
- Financial Papers, 1821-1890 and undated
- Genealogy, 1839-1945 and undated
- Legal Papers, 1720-1938 and undated
- Photographs, 1841-1928 and undated
- Printed Material, 1839-1894 and undated
- Writings, 1816-1899 and undated
- Oversize Material, 1833-1857
the histories of the McKeen and Duren families, particularly of Silas, Phebe, and Philena McKeen. Topics of note documented through correpondence, diaries and journals, other peronal papers, printed material, and images include: religious thought and institutions in New England; the education of women and the careers of female educators; photography throughout the 19th century; the Civil War and its effects on New England society; westward migration patterns; social life in Massachusetts and Vermont; family relations in the 19th century; 19th century New England women writers and their activities; tourism in 19th century England, Scotland, Switzerland, and Egypt; and New England genealogy. There are also many clippings in the scrapbooks debating the abolition of slavery, many written by minister Silas McKeen.
The bulk of the manuscript material is housed in the Correspondence Series, which chiefly consists of exchanges between members of the McKeen-Duren families. The earliest correspondence originates from New England, the McKeen family having been established in the area by brothers James, William, and Samuel McKeen, who emigrated from Ireland in the early 18th century. Beginning around 1823, letters exchanged between Silas McKeen and the father of Serena McKeen (she married Charles Duren) appear. A significant later portion of the correspondence was written by Silas to his son Charles, who served as a Union soldier during the Civil War. The family's exchanges then began to stretch westward during a period in which Philena and Phebe McKeen taught at the Western Female Seminary, Oxford, Ohio, and when Charles McKeen Duren moved to Iowa following the Civil War. Prominent topics in the letters from the latter half of the 19th century include Phebe and Philena's literary and publishing activities; education in New England and the Midwest; the Civil War and its effect on New England citizens; and routine family topics such as health, religion and morality, and social activities. There are very probably references to the abolition movement and slavery: the McKeens, Silas in particular, were outspoken abolitionists.
A rich variety of written communication is found in the Writings Series, divided into two subseries, Manuscripts and Volumes. The Manuscripts subseries contains handwritten copies of a variety of types of writings by members of the McKeen-Duren families. The Volumes subseries contains often unattributed handwritten drafts and notes on fictional pieces; essays, probably written by Phebe or Philena; and sermons, most likely written by Silas McKeen. There may be material related to Silas McKeen's writings on slavery.
The collection is notable for its extensive Photographs Series. Almost all photographic formats across the 19th century can be found here, including many albumen prints, chiefly in the form of cartes-de-visite and cabinet cards; cyanotypes; cased and uncased ambrotypes and daguerreotypes; and tintypes. Also present are gelatin silver and platinum prints. The series is divided into four subseries: Albums, Cased Images, Oversize Prints, and Prints. One family member, perhaps Phebe, was reportedly an amateur photographer, but direct evidence of this remains to be discovered. Interior photographs of the family home show multitudes of photographs hung on the wall. Subjects in the collection's images include family members from babyhood to old age, family friends, travel in England, Europe, and the Middle East, pets, and horses. Other families portrayed in the photographs include Page, Deming (?), Grovenor, and Dunlevy. There are only a few landscapes but there are images of Abbot Academy buildings, grounds, and students with their teachers (Andover, Massachusetts). Some of the photographic items, particularly the cased images, are fragile and should be handled with care.
The Diaries and Scrapbooks Series contains many personal journals and diaries, spanning the years 1804-1900, and scrapbooks, circa 1838-1902. The diaries are quite detailed and were chiefly written by the female members in the McKeen family; topics revolve around family health problems, visitors and travel, readings, the weather, and emotional or religious experiences. There may be passing references to slavery; there is one reference to a prominent abolitionist, later imprisoned, who visited the McKeen house. The scrapbooks house pasted-in clippings pertaining to family members, and many published short pieces written by Silas, Phebe, and Philena McKeen. There are also handwritten extracts of letters, as well as prescriptive pieces and poems, and a series of pages from Civil War periodicals. There are quite a few clippings in the scrapbooks on slavery and abolitionism, as well as references to issues pertaining to statehood; many of the anti-slavery pieces published in New England serials were written by Silas McKeen from the 1830s to the 1850s. The clippings folder in the Printed Material Series contains similar loose items.
The Financial Papers Series contains notifications of contributions to missionary institutions, receipts for good and services, society memberships, and subscriptions. A number of ledgers, some in bound volumes, are also found here.
The Genealogy Series contains extensive handwritten accounts and notes originating from the early 19th century, documenting the ancestry of the McKeen-Duren families and related branches, as well as two hand-written bound volumes containing detailed genealogies of the Duren, Gould, Prichard, and Freeman families. There are also a few printed materials, including obituaries and memorial pieces.
The Legal Papers files contain the earliest documents in the collection (1720). Items include land grants and deed transfers, inheritance inventories, loan notices, service contracts, wills and will abstracts, writs of indenture or apprenticeship, powers of attorney, and other documents.
An assortment of printed items, clippings, and ephemera pertaining to members of the McKeen-Duren families can be found in the Printed Materials Series, including invitations, event programs, announcements, obituaries and memorial pieces, short story reprints, copies of a course curriculum, a copy of the Abbot Academy journal, cards, and other assorted materials, including a hand-drawn map, perhaps the local vicinity where one of the families lived, found in the ephemera folder.
A folder of Oversize Material housing diplomas awarded to members of the McKeen-Duren families completes the collection.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research.
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How to Cite
[Identification of item], McKeen-Duren family papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
This series starts off with a single folder of birthday "Certificates," letters written from Silas McKeen, Charles Duren, and Charles McKeen Duren to their children giving thanks and a description of the child on the occasion of his or her birthday. A significant portion of the correspondence falls during the United States Civil War period, 1861-1865 (17 folders); they were written mainly by Silas McKeen to his son Charles, who served in the Union Army. Exchanges from this period express the senders' thoughts on contemporary events and are sometimes written on stationery supporting the Union cause, and include passing references to slavery. A number of letters pertain to or are written by Freeman Duren, a family member who served in the 13th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers. There are very probably many more references to the abolition movement and slavery in the correspondence - the McKeens, Silas in particular, were abolitionists. Following the Civil War, the bulk of the correspondence generally belongs to members of the Duren family in Iowa, and refer to family matters, health and sickness, honors received by family members, and business. Themes of note include the teaching and education administration career of Philena McKeen, who was Principal of Abbot Academy, Andover, Massachusetts for 33 years (1859-1892). The literary career of Phebe McKeen, sister of Philena and a teacher at Abbot Academy, is also a notable topic of correspondences in the collection. From 1859 a number of the exchanges relate to Phebe's contributions to serial publications and several book-length works: Thornton Hall (1872), Theodora (1875, entitled Theodora Cameron when published in the United Kingdom circa 1878), The Little Mother and her Christmas (1876), Annals of Fifty Years: A History of Abbot Academy, Andover, Mass., 1829-1879 (1880, coauthored with her sister, Philena), and Sketch of the Early Life of Joseph Hardy Neesima (1890, published posthumously). A letter of particular note sent to Philena McKeen in March of 1892 is from the widow of Joseph Hardy Neesima, the first Japanese person to receive a degree from a western college, Amherst College, and founder of what would become Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan; in it she thanks Philena for sending a copy of the book that Phebe McKeen had written about Joseph Hardy Neesima. Another letter of note comes from Harriet Beecher Stowe (1892 May 5), sent along with an autographed copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin for a new library/reading room that was constructed at Abbot Academy. Two letters, the first from an unidentified writer addressed to Miss McKeen (1890 Nov. 3) and the second from the widow of Joseph Hardy Neesima include cartes-de-visite photographs.
Comprised of 19 volumes of varying sizes. The diaries and journals, described more fully below, were kept by various individuals in the McKeen family, mostly women, and span the years from 1804-1898; most are quite detailed. Names in brackets are tentative identifications extrapolated from context or handwriting; names without brackets are taken from the items themselves.
The scrapbooks house many clippings pertaining to family deaths or honors, publications written by family members, and other events relating to the McKeen-Duren families. In the scrapbooks probably kept by Silas McKeen from the 1830s through the 1850s, there are a number of clippings regarding abolitionism, slavery, and various political events relating to statehood, the Dred Scott Decision, and other national issues preceding the Civil War.
Series materials are arranged in rough chronological order.
Writer mainly expresses religious sentiments and interior experiences of unworthiness, guilt, and redemption; few personal names are mentioned.
Memoranda documenting Silas McKeen's ministerial service; includes 1877 postscript regarding the monument erected to Silas after his death.
Diary, 1848, possibly written by George Whitefield McKeen, died in 1850 at age of 27. Comments on many events, education, and family routines, including visits by friends. Inscription on flyleaf reads "Marianne McKeen, 1840" - George's sister, died in 1845, age 23. Clipping on stereoscopic photography, 1855, Alfred Southworth, laid in back.
Title page reads, "Index Rerum," G. W. McKeen, Dartmouth College, Oct. 1843 N. H.," but first pages cut. Diary, 1851-1854, begins on page marked "29," entries written by a woman, possibly Serena, George's sister, as it mentions Philena and Phebe in the third person. Postscript from 1853 may be by a different hand, as it speaks of "our dear" Serena's illness after June 1851. Comments on page 40 that antislavery "martyr" Capt. [W?alker], came to dine; had been imprisoned and was evidently supported by the McKeens.
Seems to have been a teacher at the seminary. Mentions Phebe McKeen, missionary training and visits by missionaries, missionary work among Native Americans, and various school events and festivities.
The writer, Phebe McKeen, expresses many religious sentiments and practices much self-examination; entries also mention visits of family and friends, outings, the weather, and readings. The diary dwells at length on her sister Serena, who at the time was an invalid and died in 1862. Clipping about Civil War Vermont soldier laid in, also several religious notes.
Small almanac diary which begins with the funeral for her daughter, Lizzie, who died at 14. Brief entries which follow note the weather, her own health and the sickness and death of others, outings, and visits. Small list of expenditures in back.
Small almanac diary continues as above, with frequent mentions of ill health, daily weather, visits, and infrequent outings. Serena Duren died at age 43, July 1862.
Small almanac diary for 1863 sewn to a larger farmer's almanac for 1864. The 1863 diary begins in May with a trip to Lowell (Vt.); subsequent entries are brief and chiefly note the comings and goings of family members, especially his children, his own church-related activities, and trips out of town. There are lists of addresses on the last few pages. The 1864 almanac's memoranda, which chiefly record Silas' travels, are even more brief.
Diary of pleasure trip down the St. Lawrence in summer 1867. Sketches, packing list, names and addresses, and expenses on last pages. Two dried plants laid in. Also includes notes on a trip to Adirondacks in August 1869. These trips were turned by Philena into published travel pieces pasted into a scrapbook in this collection.
Trip to England and Switzerland with Charles, her brother, and one other woman. Almost certainly related to photo album from same geographical locations - see the Photographic Materials Series, as well as to published travel pieces appearing in a scrapbook in this collection. Currency conversions and detailed expenses included.
A researcher has tentatively identified the handwriting in this journal to be Phebe McKeen's, and going by the student names, also notes that the timeframe appears to be circa 1870s.
Contain much genealogical and biographical information regarding the McKeen family, including lengthy biographies of Serena and Marianne McKeen as well as extracts of letters describing the demise of various female individuals in the family, including the death of Silas McKeen's first wife in a carriage accident.
A large scrapbook contains a lengthy series of published exchanges from 1838-1840 on slavery, apparently initiated by Silas McKeen, addressing church members in Mississippi. In the same scrapbook there are many published extracts from The Christian Banner written under the pseudonym "Jenny Bradford," who has been identified as Phebe McKeen. Some travel pieces are signed by Philena, and clearly pertain to travels which are also documented in her diaries in this collection. Many of the writings by Bradford also appear in a Civil War-era newsletter published by the Tract Society of Boston, and these pages are pasted into the same scrapbook. A second large scrapbook, from the 1860s and 1870s, contains a handwritten chronology of military and civil events during the Civil War, and a handwritten transcription of President Lincoln's last inaugural address, March 4, 1865. Other scrapbooks also contain clippings on slavery, the Dred Scott Decision, and events concerning statehood and slavery, as well as many poems, prescriptive anecdotes, temperance pieces, and other writings by the McKeen family and other authors. One scrapbook contains a pasted-in confederate bill for ten cents, issued in Charleston, S.C. in 1861. The latest date in these scrapbooks appears to be 1902.
The first of the two folders comprising this series houses a variety of materials, including certificates announcing professional qualifications; reciepts for cemetary bequest, church assessments, contributions to missionary institutions, good and services, society membership, and subscriptions; a calling card from Miss Dix, and a three-page ledger of monies received. The second folder contains three bound volumes: a memorandum of bonds and obligations in the care of Rev. S. McKeen, 1874; an account ledger pertaining to publication of a book by Silas McKeen, 1875; and an account of expenses of Miss Philena McKeen on behalf of Abbot Academy, 1886.
This series contains handwritten accounts and notes pertaining to the ancestry of the McKeen-Duren families and related branches. Printed materials, usually in the form of obituaries and memorials, also appear in the series. Two hand-written bound volumes contain detailed genealogies of the names of Duren, Gould, Prichard, and Freeman.
This small group of materials comprises legal documents relating to the McKeen-Duren families beginning from 1720 and continuing into the twentieth century, among which are land grants and deed transfers, wills, writs of indenture/apprenticeship, powers of attorney, inheritance inventories, loan notices, and service contracts.
Arranged by type of material into four subseries: Photograph Albums, Cased Images, Oversize Prints, and Photographic Prints.
Three albums, almost certainly related to Philena's trips to England, Scotland, Switzerland, and other places. Philena then wrote travel pieces on these experiences, and these writings are pasted into scrapbooks in this collection.
Contains many loose prints of artwork and tourist locales in England and Switzerland; the first print in the album is of a seated woman, and is captioned as being taken in Turkey.
15 ambrotype and 22 daguerreotype portraits of McKeen-Duren family members and friends. Many cases are fragile - please handle with care. Gloves should be used.
Sixteen interior photographs of different buildings of Abbot Academy, one exterior photograph of "Maple Walk," presumably on the Academy campus, and prints of three different classes of students at the Academy (1893-1895).
Approximately 160 portraits of individuals, groups, and animals. The majority of these are albumen prints, usually mounted, of members of the McKeen-Duren families, and almost all are captioned with names and dates. Images for each individual are housed in separate folders. Folders also exist for the Deming, Dunlevy, and Grovenor families, for family pets and other animals, and for unidentified individuals, as well as various identified individuals. There are also 38 photographs of Egyptian monuments and archeological sites.
First folder contains an assortment of printed materials, including invitations, event programs, announcements, obituaries and memorial pieces, short story reprints, course curricula, the Abbot Academy journal (including an obituary for Phebe Fuller McKeen), a boarding house business card, and a list of saloon passengers on a 1889 steamship passage. A single folder of newspaper clippings (1859-1882) comprises obituaries, historical pieces focusing on individuals or groups of people; contains a number of travel, local interest, and other short articles written by Phebe or Philena McKeen, sometimes under a pseudonym. The ephemera folder contains a variety of materials (1839, 1884-1898) including a certificate announcing completion of study at the Theological Seminary, Bangor, Maine, by Charles Duren; a receipt for a framed portrait of Phebe; a list of letters sent to Europe; a number of wedding announcements and calling cards; a list of household items with names penciled next to them; and a sketch of the road from Bradford to Vershire, Vermont, annotated with traveling directions, "for Philena and Phebe, 1865."
Divided into two subseries, Manuscripts and Volumes. Manuscript folders of this series (10 folders) contain handwritten copies of short stories and essays, manuscripts, burial services, sermons, speeches, reports, themes for pedagogical purposes, in rough chronological order ranging from 1816 to 1899, with two folders of undated materials. Volumes in the series (5 volumes in 4 folders) contain unattributed handwritten drafts and notes on fictional pieces, essays or texts, most likely written by Phebe. The author of the manuscript sermons is most probably Silas. There may be material in this series related to Silas' anti-slavery writings published in book form and in periodicals prior to the U.S. Civil War.
Family tree "For Charles Duren," pen and ink. Tag says Eldora, Iowa, 1934 but signed by artist Dec. 1857.
The McKeen family traces its history to James McKeen, a magistrate, who immigrated to America from Northern Ireland in the early eighteenth century (circa 1718) and was active in the settlement of what would come to be called Londonderry, New Hampshire.
James McKeen, 1666-1756
Emigrated from Ireland to America in 1718. Settled in township of Londonderry, New Hampshire, circa 1719. Commissioned as magistrate in 1720.
Silas McKeen, 1791-1877
Great-grandson of James McKeen. Born in Corinth, Vermont. Married Phebe Fuller in 1816; she died in 1820. Children: Marianne, Serena, and Julia. Married Hannah Johnson in 1821. Children: Philena, Catherine, and George, and Phebe, his last child. Only two daughters survived into old age, Philena and Phebe. Second wife Hannah died in a carriage accident in 1848. Married Sarah Parmelee, 1851. Congregational Minister of Bradford, Vermont (1814-1832?, 1842-1866). Born in South Corinth, Vermont, and died in Bradford. Ordained, 1815. M.A., Dartmouth, 1822. Called to be pastor in Belfast, Maine, 1832. Called once more to Bradford, 1842-1866. Received D.D. from Dartmouth, 1861. Wrote many pieces for the The Vermont Chronicle, The Bradford Vt., The New Englander, and The Green Mountains Freeman, including memorial pieces, obituaries, and articles and published letters on temperance, and defending the abolition of slavery (1830s-1850s). Wrote A Scriptural Argument in Favor of Withdrawing Fellowship From Churches and And Ecclesiastical Bodies Tolerating Slaveholding Among Them (New York: American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 1848).
Serena McKeen Duren, 1819-1862
Daughter of Silas McKeen and Phebe Fuller McKeen. Married Rev. Charles Duren, 1841. Two daughters, Marianne and Elizabeth, died in childhood. Mother of Charles McKeen Duren (1842-1934).
Philena McKeen, 1822-1898
Daughter of Silas McKeen and Hannah Johnson McKeen. Helped to establish Abbot Academy (sister institution of Phillips Academy), Andover, Massachusetts, and served as principal for 33 years. Co-author with her sister Phebe of Annals of Fifty Years: A History of Abbot Academy, Andover, Mass., 1829-1879 (1880).
Phebe Fuller McKeen, 1831-1880
Daughter of Silas and Hannah McKeen. Long-time teacher at Abbot Academy. Author of numerous published writings including several book-length works: Thornton Hall (1872); Theodora (1875, entitled Theodora Cameron when published in the United Kingdom circa 1878); The Little Mother and her Christmas (1876); Annals of Fifty Years: A History of Abbot Academy, Andover, Mass., 1829-1879 (1880, coauthored with her sister, Philena); and Sketch of the Early Life of Joseph Hardy Neesima (1890, published posthumously). Published many short pieces under the pseudonym Jenny Bradford.
Charles McKeen Duren, 1842-1934
Grandson of Silas McKeen and son of Serena McKeen Duren and Rev. Charles Duren. Moved from New England to Iowa after the Civil War. Married Gertrude Whiting. Children: Alice Serena (Fanny?) and Mabel. Began successful career in banking in Iowa and worked to establish banking services in underserved areas.
More information on Silas McKeen family members can be found in Silas McKeen's book, A History of Bradford, Vermont (digitized and availabled online). Also, additional biographical information on the McKeen, Fuller, and Duren families and related individuals, as well as further details on the photographic components of this collection, are available in the Rubenstein Library; please contact Research Services for assistance. Finally, the numerous genealogical documents in this collection can be consulted.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Abbot Academy
- Duren family
- Duren, Charles McKeen, 1842-1934
- McKeen, Phebe F. (Phebe Fuller), 1831-1880
- McKeen, Philena, 1822-1898
- McKeen, Silas, 1791-1877
- McKeen Duren, Serena, 1819-1862
- McKeen family
- Abolitionists -- Vermont
- Antislavery movements -- United States -- History
- Education -- United States -- History -- 19th century
- Photography -- United States -- History -- 19th century
- Portrait photography -- United States -- 19th century
- Slavery -- Religious aspects
- Slavery -- United States -- Public Opinion
- Women -- Education -- United States -- History -- 19th century
- Women educators -- United States -- 19th century
- Iowa -- Social life and customs
- Massachusetts -- Social life and customs -- 19th century
- New England -- Social life and customs -- 19th century
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Social aspects
- Vermont -- Social life and customs -- 19th century
The McKeen-Duren family papers were acquired by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library in 1973.
Processed by Geraldine Degiron, Aaron Thornburg, January 2009.
Accession(s) represented in this collection guide: two accessions from 1973.