An Inventory of Papers in Syracuse University Libraries


Page 2 of 14
Three generations of the Osborne family are represented in the papers of this collection, There are, in addition, papers from an earlier generation of the Coffin, Pelham and Wright families. . . .

The papers of Peter Pelham (b. Dec. 18, 1785) form the earliest body of records. As a U.S. Army officer in the War of 1812, he was wounded and captured by the British, then returned to American lines in exchange for British prisoners. After the war Pelham was promoted to captain and stationed in the Florida Territory as a sub-agent for Indian affairs.

Leavenworth Penitentiary -- officially the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas -- takes its name, as does the fort and the city, from Col. Henry Leavenworth whose correspondence with Peter Pelham is included in the Osborne collection.

The oldest U.S. Army fort in continuous use west of the Mississippi, the Fort was established by Col. Leavenworth on the bluffs of the Missouri River in 1827 to protect the Santa Fe Trail. After the Civil War, the Black 10th Cavalry Regiment was formed that distinguished itself throughout the frontier. The Buffalo Soldier Monument at the fort honors the Black 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments.

In 1875 the Fort was chosen as the site for a military prison. In 1895, Congress transferred the military prison from the War Department to the Department of Justice. Leavenworth is situated on 1,583 acres with 22.8 acres inside the penitentiary walls.

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Among his correspondents between 1812 and 1826 were Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, Col. Henry Atkinson, who was his uncle, Col. Henry Leavenworth, and Col. Josiah Snelling. . . .

Pelham married Martha Coffin, the sister of Lucretia Coffin Mott and the daughter of Nantucket and Philadelphia Quakers. They had one child, Marianna. Capt. Pelham . . . died on July 10, 1826 . . . .

Martha Coffin Pelham remarried in 1829. Her second husband was David Wright (b. Mar. 18, 1806), who moved from Pennsylvania as a young man and practiced law in Auburn, N.Y. There were six children from the second marriage, among them

  • Eliza, who married David Munson Osborne;
  • Ellen, who married William Lloyd Garrison Jr.; and
  • William, who married Flora MacMartin, a relative of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Lucretia Coffin Mott, some of whose correspondence is included in the Osborne collection, is depicted in a woman suffrage movement monument situated in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

The sculpture depicts, from left to right, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), Quaker reformer who helped organize of the 1848 Seneca Falls, NY, convention, that launched the women's rights movement. The Osborne collection includes some Stanton correspondence.

Lucretia had a profound influence on the life of one of NY's major prison reformers, Abby Hopper Gibbons, also of Quaker heritage. Abby was under Mrs. Mott's tutelage at a school connected with Philadelphia's Pine Street Friends meeting. Later Abby's brother married Lucretia's daughter.

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The Wrights and the Coffins, and their relatives in the Mott family, were active in the movements for women's rights and abolition. Martha Coffin Wright died in 1875 and David Wright in 1897.

Their eldest daughter, Eliza, had married David Munson Osborne in 1851. Osborne (b. Dec. 15, 1822) was the son of John Hall and Caroline Bulkley 0sborne of Rye, N.Y.

When John Osborne died in 1839, David was left to support his mother, brothers and sisters.

D. M. Osborne began his business career as a clerk in a New York City hardware store . . . [and] met James Watrous, an Auburn storekeeper who invited Osborne to become a junior partner . . .

When James Watrous retired, Osborne assumed control of the store but abandoned it soon afterwards to manufacture straw cutters and corn shellers.

After the business failed, Osborne moved to employment in Buffalo. As general superintendent of the Buffalo Agricultural Works, he met William Kirby, a mechanic who possessed untried patents for agricultural machinery. Soon Osborne was back in Auburn with Kirby.

Their new company turned out 200 combination mowers and reapers in 1857 . . . . By 1866, having won two blue ribbons in the national trials, D.M. Osborne & Co. was solidly established . . . . Eventually there were offices and warehouses in Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, Hamburg, Paris, Odessa, Sydney and Buenos Aires.

As a Republican, David Munson Osborne took an active part in local politics, being elected alderman from 1871 to 1874 and mayor from 1879 to 1880. After his death in 1886, his wife continued to interest herself in the arts and education in Auburn. She died in 1911.

The Osbornes had four children:

  • Emily married Frederick Harris, a banker from Springfield, Mass;
  • Florence, the second born, died when she was 21;
  • Thomas Mott married Agnes Devens of Cambridge; and
  • Helen married James J. Storrow Jr., a financier in the Boston firm of Lee, Higginson & Co.

All these people wrote scores of letters around the turn of the century, and the correspondence of Thomas Mott Osborne amounts to thousands of items between 1880 and 1926.

The Osborne Family Inventory text ©1971 by Syracuse University Libraries
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