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Van Vorhes Family Collection

Manuscript Collection No.10
Overview | Biography | Scope and Content | Container List


1.3 cu.ft. in 4 boxes. 1843-1943 [bulk 1841-1896].

Provenance: The Ohio University Libraries received the Van Vorhes collection as a gift from two donors. Mrs. Agnes Millikau, Executrix of the Estate of Nellie Van Vorhes, donated a scrapbook of personal effects of Nellie Van Vorhes in 1935, Clark E. Williams donated a part of the collection on January 18, 1973 and Dr. Fred Luchs, former pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Athens, donated a portion of the collection of December 10, 1974 and in March 1985. Carolyn Copper processed this collection in May 1985.

Property Rights: The Ohio University Libraries owns the property rights to this collection.

Copyrights: The Ohio University Libraries has dedicated such copyrights and/or literary rights as may apply to these books and papers to the public.

Access: This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the Ohio University Libraries.

Photoduplication: The Library will entertain requests to photocopy reasonable amounts of material from the collection for the convenience of individual researchers.

Citation: Researchers are requested to cite collection name, collection number and Ohio University Libraries in all footnotes and bibliographic references.

Related materials: The Brown Family Collection (MSS Collection # 18) and the William Parker Johnson Letters (MSS Collection # 173) are both local collections with Civil War materials.

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Nelson Van Vorhes was born on January 23, 1822 in Washington County Pennsylvania. The Van Vorhes family came to Ohio in 1832, settling in Alexander Township. Nelson's father, Abraham Van Vorhes moved the family to Athens in 1836 when he became publisher and editor of The Western Spectator. At the age of 14, Nelson became an apprentice to his father and four years later became principal editor and publisher of the newspaper. Abraham Van Vorhes was unable to continue his position as editor and publisher of the Spectator because of an appointment to the Ohio State legislature in 1838 and another appointment as register of the United States Land Office in 1844. Andrew Jackson Van Vorhes, Nelson's brother joined the newspaper in 1844; the paper was then called The Athens Messenger and Hocking Valley Gazette.

Sometime between January and November of 1844 the name of the paper was changed to The Athenian and Messenger. This name remained until October of 1846; the exact number of issues under this name is unknown. The title of the paper varies from that point on: Athens Messenger and Hocking Valley Gazette (1846(?)-1861), Athens Messenger (1861-1893), Athens Messenger and Herald (1894-1902) and, Athens Messenger (1902-1909).

See: W.E. Peters. Vol. 57, The Athenian and Messenger. 2 issue. October 2 and 7, 1846. Ohio University Library, Archives and Special Collections.

In 1854, Nelson Van Vorhes sold his interest in the Athens Messenger because of a desire to pursue political interests and activities. He returned to the paper as editor and publisher in 1856, then 5 years later withdrew from the Messenger permanently.

Nelson Van Vorhes served in the Ohio State Legislature from 1850- 1872, representing Athens and Meigs Counties; and served four years as Speaker of the House. In October of 1855, Mr. Van Vorhes was elected probate judge of Athens County but resigned one month later to become a candidate for the United States House of Representatives. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Thirty- sixth Congress in 1858. Van Vorhes was a delegate to the Republican National Convention held in Chicago in 1860. Abraham Lincoln was elected that year.

Nelson Van Vorhes enlisted as a private in the first company of volunteer militia in Athens (18th Regiment) at the onset of the Civil War in 1861. He was appointed first lieutenant of that company on September 13, 1861 by William Dennison, Governor of Ohio (1860-1861). One year and three days later, Van Vorhes was appointed Colonel of the 92nd Ohio Regiment of volunteer infantry (O.V.I.) by David Tod, governor of Ohio.(1862-63) The 92nd Regiment, stationed in West Virginia, remained Van Vorhes' home until the summer of 1863 when his health became very poor and he was forced to resign his commission. Very little information exists on Mr. Van Vorhes activities from 1863 to 1869. He contracted some type of illness, although unknown, it was said to be quite incapacitating, therefore the six years between 1863 and 1869 may have been a time of recuperation.

In 1869, he resumed his political career once again with a nomination and election to the Ohio House of Representatives. Van Vorhes was re-elected to the house in 1871 and was made Speaker of the House for the second time. In 1874, he won a seat in the Congress of the United States and was re-elected to in 1876. Against his own wishes he was nominated for a third term in 1878 but was defeated by the democratic candidate.

Nelson Van Vorhes' other activities include a membership in the Sons of Temperance and the Paramuthia Lodge. He was a strong supporter of the prohibition of alcohol; his collection contains numerous speeches and papers written on the subject.

Nelson Van Vorhes married Elizabeth B. Foster on October 23, 1845 in Athens. The Van Vorhes had three children; the first born son Charles, died at the age of 4 years, 8 months, Louis A. was ill most of his life, apparently stricken with some type of paralysis, and Nellie who taught in the Ohio University School of Music from 1898 to 1927.

Nelson Van Vorhes died in Athens on December 4, 1882.

See: Correspondence from Melvin C. Keith M.D. Box 2 Folder 3 and 4, Van Vorhes Collection.

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The Van Vorhes collection is composed mostly of letters and correspondence from Nelson Van Vorhes and Nellie Van Vorhes, covering a period of 85 years, 1849 to 1934. The majority of Mr. Van Vorhes' letters and correspondence pertain to political matters during his years as Representative of Ohio. 1855 is the most represented year. Several issues that were extensively written about were temperance, election campaigns and results, part affiliations and results of votes on bills presented to the House Representatives, and of local concern to Athenians was the railroad that was to be constructed through Hocking Valley. There are numerous letters written during the Civil War when Van Vorhes was stationed at Camp Dennison and also at a camp in Nashville, Tennessee. The collection contains family correspondence between Mr. and Mrs. Van Vorhes, brother and sister-in-law (John & Jane Coulter) and children and parents.

Nelson Van Vorhes retained some government documents from his stay in the House of Representatives. These include memos and letters, two voting result sheets on House Bills, a diagram of the floor plan of the House of Representatives in 1850 and 1851, and a copy of a letter (1870) sent to George S. Boutwell (Secretary of Treasury Department) from U.S. Grant, former president of the United States. Other documents and important papers are listed in the Collection Inventory.

The collection contains newspaper clippings from unknown sources; the articles are mainly political in nature. No dates are shown on the clippings, however, most of them would probably date 1850-1856.

A scrapbook from W.E. Peters collection containing personal mementos of Nelson Van Vorhes is located in the collection. The majority of items are invitations from government officials, business cards and a few letters from Elizabeth Van Vorhes and Charles H. Grosvenor. There is one invitation to attend a dinner party given by Rutherford B. Hayes. Researchers may refer to a detailed listing of the scrapbook holdings by referring to the collection inventory.

Some miscellaneous items in the Van Vorhes collection are; 44 unmatched envelopes with 3 cent stamps, dating 1851-1881, grocery list books belonging to Elizabeth Van Vorhes 1889-1895, and 16 wedding invitations to Nellie and Elizabeth Van Vorhes 1898-1903.


  • Athens Messenger, Centennial Issue of Athens Messenger, 1825-1925. 100pp. Ohio University Archives and Special Collections.
  • History of Hocking Valley, Ohio. Chicago: Inter-State Publishing Co. 1883.
  • Murray, Randall J., A historical Study of a Southeastern Ohio Newspaper. Masters thesis 1961. Ohio University Archives and Special Collections.
  • Ohio University Archives and Special Collections, Biographical File - Dr. Fred Luchs.
  • Ohio University Archives and Special Collections, Ohio University Personnel File - Nellie Van Vorhes.
  • United States Government Printing Office 1971. Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1971. The Continental Congress September 5, 1774 - October 21, 1788. The Congress of the United States, March 4, 1789 - January 1, 1971.
  • The Van Vorhes Association, Historical Handbook of the Van Vorhes Family in the Netherlands and America. 1935. Ohio University Archives and Special Collections.
  • Walker, Charles M., History of Athens County, Ohio. Robert Clarke & Co. Cincinnati 1869.
  • Wittke, Carl, History of the State of Ohio - The Civil War Era. 1944.

    Box 1

    • Folder 1 Letters to Nelson Van Vorhes 1841-1897, 39 letters
      • -A.L.S. from William Henry Young, Department of Mathematics, Ohio University, April 15, 1857, 1p.
    • Folder 2 Van Vorhes Family Correspondence 1851-1859, 25 items. Wife, children, Jane and John Coulter, and mother.
    • Folder 3 Van Vorhes Family Correspondence 1861-1900, 30 items
    • Folder 4 Political Correspondence 1849- 1857, 60 items
      • -A.L.S. from Antoinette Brown-Black. Concerning Women's Rights Convention New York, February 10, 1857, 1p.
      • -A.L.S. From Charles H. Grosvenor, August 28, 1835, 3p.
    • Folder 5 Political Correspondence 1859-1876, 18 items
      • -Letters form the House of Representatives
    • Folder 6 Undated political Correspondence, 19 items
    • Folder 7 Legal Correspondence 1850-1876, 50 items
      • -Court case hearings, petitions and war correspondence
    • Folder 8 Legal Documents: House of Representatives 1852- 1878, 11 items
      • -Special Report of the Board of Public Works, March 10, 1852, 6p.
      • -Copy, A.L.S. from U.S. Grant to George S. Boutwell July 22, 1870
      • -Copy, A.L.S. to George S. Boutwell, Secretary of Treasury from R.B. Dennis July 22, 1870, 1pp.
      • -House Document 59th General Assembly No. 143 provision adopted January 19, 1871
      • -List of General Assembly Members of Ohio 1870- 1871 2pp. includes Representative name, district, and county represented
      • -Copy, General Nature No. 6: an act to incorporate a National Military and Naval Asylum for the relief of disabled soldiers Approved January 21, 1871
      • -Standing and Select Committees of the House of Representatives. 45th Congress, 3rd session, Monday, December 2, 1878
      • -Civil Rights Speech by Honorable James F. Wilson U.S. Senate Wednesday December 12, 1883, 13pp.
    • Folder 8
      • -Petition presented to General Assembly of Ohio from Hocking Valley residents in support of a House Bill presented by M.A. Daughtery, 1870, 480 signatures
      • -Results of vote on House Bill No. 3511 n.d.
      • -Results of vote on House Bill, unknown bill number, n.d.
      • -Floor Plan of the House of Representatives for the session of 1850, 1851
    • Folder 9 Undated Legal Documents
      • -mostly court cases involving intoxication, letters about temperance, real estate dealings, larceny, 11 cases for intoxication, one 5 page document on banking laws in Ohio n.d. author unknown
    • Folder 10 Athens Messenger; Letters to the editor, 1847-1857, 54 letters, 10 advertisements
    • Folder 11 Undated Personal Papers and Speeches
      • -Poems written by unknown person(s) 2 items
      • -Article written by N. Van Vorhes on Lakeshore Railroad n.d.
      • -Paper written for the Sons of Temperance 4pp. n.d.
      • -Speech delivered at a commencement ceremony 2pp. n.d.
      • -Speech delivered at a Commencement ceremony 10pp. n.d.
      • -Speech presented to Soldiers entering battle 1p. n.d.
      • -Speech on Woman's Rights by Olivia P. Gonsline 4 pp. n.d.
      • -Temperance speech 20pp. n.d.
      • -Paper written on "the evils of drinking" 4pp. n.d.
    • Folder 12 Printed Matter
      • -Miscellaneous business cards and cards from advertisers
      • -Fourteenth Annual Report of the Trustees and Officers of the Ohio Institution for the Education of the Blind 1850, 25pp.
    Box 2
    • Folder 1 Newspaper clippings: Political 1850-1870's 55 items concerning elections, and current political topics and interests. Unknown sources.
    • Folder 2 Newspaper Clippings: Political 49 items
      • -Article on Dr. William Henry Scott, n.d. no source available
    • Folder 3 Receipts 1855-1891, ca. 100 items, Merchant, bank, and medical receipts
    • Folder 4 Receipts 1880-1896, ca. 90 items. Merchant, bank, post office, and medical receipts
    • Folder 5 Receipts 1887-1895, ca. 65 items
    • Folder 6 Receipts 1888-1893, ca. 30 items
    • Folder 7 Receipts 1854-1896, ca. 130 items
    • Folder 8 Bills and Account Balances 1854-1887, ca. 75 items
    • Folder 9 Bills and Receipts: Athens Messenger 1847-1863, ca. 85 items
    • Folder 10 Bills and Receipts: Athens Messenger 1848-1894, ca. 125 items
    • Folder 11 Account Receipts: A.H. and Nelson Van Vorhes 1845- 1851, ca. 50 items
    • Folder 12 Account Receipts: A.H. and Nelson Van Vorhes 1846- 1855, ca. 25 items
    • Folder 13 Unmatched Envelopes with 3 cent stamps 1851-1881 44 envelopes from New York, Minnesota, Washington D.C., Columbus, and Cincinnati
    Box 3
    • Folder 1 Nellie Van Vorhes Scrapbook of Personal Mementos from W.E. Peters Collection 27.5 x 22.5 cm.
      • -Picture of Van Vorhes home, Athens, Ohio. Lot 65. March 3, 1943 located on the present Bryan Hall site (University Terrace)
      • -Page 2, In Memoriam-Abraham Van Vorhes Feb. 3, 1879
      • -Page 4, Dedication of Mrs. Agnes Millikauw, Executrix of Nellie Van Vorhes personal papers Athens, December 1941
      • -Page 32, Letter of Notification that Nelson Van Vorhes had been appointed First Lieutenant of the 18th Regiment September 11, 1861
      • -Page 34, Certificate of Appointment to First Lieutenant of 18th Regiment from William Dennison; Governor of Ohio November 22, 1861
      • -Page 36, Appointment from Governor David Tod of Ohio to N. Van Vorhes as Colonel in 92nd Regiment September 16, 1862
      • -Page 38, A piece of the flag of the 92nd Regiment and parts of the flag of the "Old Minnesota First"
      • -Page 86, Invitation from United States Centennial Commission to attend One-Hundredth Anniversary of U.S. Independence June 10, 1876
      • -Page 36, Memo to N. Van Vorhes from Rutherford B. Hayes, "to meet with him at his convience" A.L.S. n.d.
      • -Page 98, Invitation from President Hayes to attend a meeting of the members of the Diplomatic Corps
      • Feb. 25, 1879, Engraved invitation
    • Folder 2 Twelve Account Books with Local Grocers: Elizabeth Van Vorhes 1889-1893
    • Folder 3 Van Vorhes Account Book with Athens Branch Bank 1852- 1894 ca. 30pp.
    • Folder 4 Leather Bound Expense Traveling Book n.d. ca. 200pp.
    • Folder 5 Leather Bound Blank Memo Book ca 50pp. n.d.
    Box 4
    • Folder 1 Letters to Nellie Van Vorhes 1892-1893, 41 letters
    • Folder 2 Letters to Nellie Van Vorhes 1897, 8 letters
    • Folder 3 Letters to Nellie Van Vorhes 1897, 19 letters
    • Folder 4 Letters to Nellie Van Vorhes from Melville Keith M.D. 1898, 20 letters
    • Folder 5 Letters to Nellie Van Vorhes 1898, 1926, 1934, 22 letters
    • Folder 6 Letters to Aunt Kate 1897-1898, 8 letters
    • Folder 7 Letters to Elizabeth Van Vorhes 1897-1898, 13 letters
    • Folder 8 Wedding invitations to Nellie and Elizabeth Van Vorhes 1898-1903, 16 items

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