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John Witherspoon Collection

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Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Witherspoon, John, 1723-1794

Born at Gifford, Scotland, in 1723, and a descendant of John Knox, John Witherspoon became the leader of the conservative group of the Church of Scotland. Persuaded by Benjamin Rush and Richard Stockton, both trustees of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), to come to America, he became the sixth president of the College of New Jersey (1768 to 1794) as well as a member of the Continental Congress (1776-1782) and the only active clergyman or college president to sign the Declaration of Independence. Witherspoon also helped organize Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey.

The collection consists of selected manuscripts, correspondence, and documents of Witherspoon, as well as material about him. Among the manuscripts are a Latin address (1783) to the trustees at Princeton, a Latin oration (1794), and fragments of a sermon (undated). There are receipts (1779) for four Scottish prisoners-of-war, for whom Witherspoon made himself accountable; over twenty letters (1767-1768) by Witherspoon to Benjamin Rush, who was then a medical student in Edinburgh, Scotland; and letters to John Bayard, Henry Lee, James Madison, Jonathan Sergeant, George Washington, and others. One letter (1787) to St. George Tucker discusses Witherspoon's theory of education and the establishment of a grammar school. A signed circular letter (1784) to the Presbytery of New Brunswick seeks funding support in order to deal with consequences of the American Revolution on the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) campus. Also included are receipts and bills from the Treasurer's Office of the College of New Jersey, two deeds, and notes taken by Abel Johnson (Princeton Class of 1784) of Witherspoon's history lectures. There are also documents regarding a case filed by Witherspoon in a court in the City of New York, dated 4 June 1793, against Lewis Morris for money owed to Witherspoon.

Additional accessions include material of John Witherspoon as well as material of members of his family. Included are letters by Witherspoon--one to his son David, another addressed "To the Public" (1774), and a letter to Aaron Burr--and material related to the legal suit of Witherspoon vs. Lewis Morris. There are deeds for land signed by Witherspoon's second wife, Ann, to satisfy debts against his estate. Also among the additions are some correspondence of his daughter Marianne Witherspoon Woods and her children, John Witherspoon Woods, Francis W. Woods, James S. Woods, and Margaret J. Woods, a receipt of Witherspoon's son David, and correspondence of other members of his family.

One box of the collection consists entirely of photocopies of correspondence, documents, and other papers, the originals of which can be found in the collection, the Library of Congress, the Presbyterian Historical Society, and other locations.

Letters from Potter to Davis and Ewing are a gift og F.S. Acton. Letter to Van Dyke is a gift of Clement R. Hoopes. Notes on Witherspoon lectures are a gift of Thomas A. Gleason. Letters and Portrait of Witherspoon are a gift of Harold T. Shapiro. The remainder purchased in 1978-2010.

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

No appraisal information is available.

Publisher
Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Date
2002
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Collection Inventory

Scope and Contents

Consists of original papers of John Witherspoon, including writings, correspondence, documents, and papers about John Witherspoon.

Arrangement

This series is arranged into five subseries: Writings, Correspondence, Documents, Miscellaneous Materials, and Papers About John Witherspoon.

Physical Description

1 box

Scope and Contents

Consists of original manuscripts for the writings of John Witherspoon, including an address to the trustees and a funeral oration for Meredith Clymer, as well as others.

Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by title.

Physical Description

1 box

Address to the Trustees, 1783 October 7. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Delivered at the College of New Jersey in Latin.

Physical Description

1 folder

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Funeral Oration for Meredith Clymer, 1794. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Petitions to New Jersey Assembly, 1779. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Philological Dissertation, 1770. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Sermon (fragment) on II Corinthians, chapter 7, verse 10, dates not examined. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Scope and Contents

Consists of original manuscripts for the correspondence of John Witherspoon with John Bayard, James Madison, Benjamin Rush, and George Washington, as well as others.

Arrangement

Arranged by whether letter is by or to John Witherspoon.

Physical Description

1 box

Physical Description

1 box

Bayard, John, 1775. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Carmichael, John, 1779. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Fitzsimmons, Thomas, 1788. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Hogg, Baillie Thomas, Mrs., 1766 April 4. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

ALS to Mrs. Hogg.

Physical Description

1 folder

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Iredell, James, 1787. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Lee, Charles, 1790. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Lee, Henry, Colonel, 1770. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Madison, James, 1790. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Presbytery of New Brunswick, 1784. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Rush, Benjamin, 1767. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Rush, Benjamin, 1768. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Sergeant, Jonathan, 1774. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Shields, Thomas, 1794. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Tucker, St. George, 1787. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Van Dyke, Nicholas, 1786. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Wadsworth, Jeremiah, 1786. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Washington, George, 1783. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Witherspoon, David, 1777. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Unidentified receiver, 1770. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Unidentified receiver, 1786 July 10. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

ALS to "Dear Sir" written to Witherspoon's printer in Philadelphia. Also included is a letter dated January 17, 1935 regarding the contents of Witherspoon's letter.

Physical Description

1 folder

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Physical Description

1 box

Hyslop, William, 1793 February 22. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

ALS by Hyslop to Witherspoon regarding the location and a survey of land in New Jersey.

Physical Description

1 folder

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Jay, John, 1784 April 6. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

ALS by John Jay sent ffrom Paris congratulating him on his safe arrival in America, and discussing the practice of raising money for universities in America.

Physical Description

1 folder

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Porteous, William, 1786 May 27. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

ALS by Porteous from Glasgow, Scotland, regarding a remmondation he received for Witherspoon's nephew, Mr. French, to the vacant Parrish of Carmunnock.

Physical Description

1 folder

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Randall, Thomas, 1767. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
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Scope and Contents

Consists of original documents of John Witherspoon, including bills, deeds, receipts, and agreements.

Arrangement

Arranged by genre of material.

Physical Description

1 box

Physical Description

1 box

Receipt to Jonathan Sergeant, 1767. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Receipts for bricks to Joseph Horner from Jonathan Sergeant, 1770-1771. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Agreement: College of New Jersey and First Presbyterian Church of New Jersey, 1783. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Acknowledgement: Receipt of 4 Scottish prisoners of war, 1779. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Smith, A. l.: Court Case, 1793 June 4. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Autograph document of a case of John Witherspoon versus Lewis Morris regarding money owed to Witherspoon by Morris. The case was filed in a New York City Court by Witherspoon's attorney, A. L. Smith.

Physical Description

1 folder

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Smith, A. L.: Account, 1794 January 18. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Autograph document signed by Smith to James Morris, regarding Smith's expenses for the court case of Witherspoon versus Lewis Morris.

Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
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Physical Description

1 box

Hill, John, 1769 May 16. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Receipt for payment by Trustees of the College of New Jersey to Hill for work done to the College President's house.

Physical Description

1 folder

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Scott, Richard, 1773. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Trustees' Dinner, 1772. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Physical Description

1 box

Castle Howard, 1794. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Stockton, Robert, 1786. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
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Memorandum of Account: Sergeant, Jonathan, 1770. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
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Payment Order, 1770. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
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Physical Description

1 box

Morris, Lewis, General, 1779. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Rock, James, 1770-1771. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Testimonial, for Jacob Ford (Class of 1792), 1792. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
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Scope and Contents

Consists of miscellaneous materials, including a memo, a collection checklist, and biographical information on John Witherspoon.

Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by genre.

Physical Description

1 box

Biography: Witherspoon, John (TMs, 5 pp.), undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Collection Checklist, dates not examined. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Memorandum: "Things to be done", 1763. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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Scope and Contents

Consists of papers about John Witherspooon, including Johnson, Abel: notes on the History lectures of Witherspoon and Pardee, Mary: letter from "Tusculum" to "Dear Henry."

Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by author.

Physical Description

1 box

Johnson, Abel: notes on the History lectures of Witherspoon, 1784. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Autograph manuscript signed, by Abel Johnson, Princeton Class of 1784, 48 pp.. The manuscript is undated, but probably from 1784.

Physical Description

1 folder

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Pardee, Mary: letter from "Tusculum" to "Dear Henry", undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
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Scope and Contents

These have been copied from originals in various locations.

Arrangement

The material has been organized into subseries that mirror those of the originals.

Physical Description

1 box

Scope and Contents

Consists of photocopies of writings, including a Memorial for the College of New Jersey and a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, as well as others.

Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by title.

Physical Description

1 box

"Instructions" in regard to boundaries of the United States, 1781. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Memorial for the College of New Jersey, 1784. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Petition: Council and Assembly for the State of New Jersey, 1779. 2 folders.
Physical Description

2 folders

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1781. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

Consists of photocopies of correspondence with individuals such as Benjamin Franklin, ALexander Hamilton, Benjamin Rush, and George Washington, as well as others.

Arrangement

Arranged by whether letter is by or to John Witherspoon.

Physical Description

1 box

Physical Description

1 box

Franklin, Benjamin, 1777. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Fitzsimmons, Thomas, 1787. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Hamilton, Alexander, 1787. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Holland, Samuel, 1785. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Lee, Charles, 1790. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Lee, Henry, colonel, 1770. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

"The Rev. Mr. Nisbet", 1767. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

"The Rev. Mr. Nisbet", 1767. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Pickering, Timothy, 1799 August 21. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Copy of an autograph letter signed requesting "one bound copy of the laws of the U.S.".

Physical Description

1 folder

Rush, Benjamin, 1767-1768. 2 folders.
Physical Description

2 folders

Sergeant, Jonathan, 1774. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Simms, Charles, 1784. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Smith, Jonathan, 1770. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Steuart, William, 1792. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

VanDyke, Nicholas, 1786. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Washington, George, 1732-1799. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Wallace, Archibald, 1767. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Witherspoon, David, 1776-1777. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

unidentified, 1770. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Physical Description

1 box

Franklin, Benjamin, 1781-1784. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Rush, Benjamin, 1767-1768. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Stockton, Richard, 1767. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Washington, George, 1783-1786. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Witherspoon, John, 1781. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Photostat copies of correspondence and documents used by V. Lansing Collins in his biography of Witherspoon. Includes copies of correspondence with Henry Laurens Benjamin Franklin, and James Lovell.

Physical Description

1 folder

Witherspoon, John, 1767-1788. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Photostat copies of forty letters and documents by Witherspoon to various people including Benjamin Rush, Robert Livingston, and Charles Lee. From various locations.

Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

Consists of photocopies of documents, including deeds, bills, and accounts.

Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by genre of material.

Physical Description

1 box

Accounts of Jonathan Sergeant, 1770. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Bill of John Witherspoon, 1791. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Photostat copy of a bill for Witherspoon's son at the College of New Jersey.

Physical Description

1 folder

Deeds, dates not examined. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Photostats of several deeds for Castle Howard.

Physical Description

1 folder

Deed: Mershon Land, 1771. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

Consists of photocopies of the following materials: a booklist on "Titles of volumes once belonging to President Witherspoon...", a collection checklist, and The Pennsylvania Evening Post.

Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by genre.

Physical Description

1 box

Booklist: "Titles of volumes once belonging to President Witherspoon...", undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Collection Checklist, dates not examined. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

(This checklist is not up-to-date)

Physical Description

1 folder

The Pennsylvania Evening Post, 1779. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

Consists of photocopies a letter of recommendation from La Luzerne to Vergennes.

Arrangement

Not arranged according to any arrangement scheme.

Physical Description

1 box

Letter of Recommendation: from La Luzerne to Vergennes, 1783. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

Additional accessions include material of John Witherspoon as well as material of members of his family.

Arrangement

This series is arranged alphabetically by last name and chronologically within.

Physical Description

2 boxes

Morris, James, 1793. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Three documents of James Morris who was the attorney for Lewis Morris in the suit of Witherspoon vs. Morris.

Physical Description

1 folder

Price, Eoline Witherspoon, Document "Ancestors of Miss Price", 1903 February 6. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

West, Stephen to Ezra Stiles and Samuel Hopkins, 1774 January 4. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

ALS concerning plans to send two unnamed black members of the First Congregational Church in Newport, Rhode Island (known to be the freedmen Bristol Yamma and John Quamine) to Princeton for private study with John Witherspoon.

Samuel Hopkins was the driving force behind a project to resettle theologically trained black men in Africa with the goal to missionize the continent and, as a result, halt the further enslavement of Africans.

While Quamine and Yamma did study with John Witherspoon, neither of them ultimately did missionary work in Africa. John Quamine fell in the Revolutionary War in 1779 while serving on a privateer trying to win prize money to buy his wife Dutchess's freedom. Hopkins left Newport during the British occupation, delaying his plans. In 1793, he was again planning to send Bristol Yamma overseas (to Sierra Leone), but the plan failed and Yamma died in North Carolina in 1794.

An overview of religiously motivated resettlement schemes in Rhode Island in the late 18th century may be found in the following article: George E. Brooks, Jr. "The Providence African Society's Sierra Leone Emigration Scheme, 1794-1795: Prologue to the African Colonization Movement." The International Journal of African Historical Studies 7:2, (1974). 183-202).

Physical Description

1 folder

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Physical Description

1 box

Deed [copy 1], 1795 July 6. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

DS: Deed for land seized to satisfy a claim of Samuel Tucker against the estate of John Witherspoon signed by sheriff John Hardenbergh.

Physical Description

1 folder

Deed [copy 2], 1795 July 6. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Deed, 1796. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

DS: Deed of land in Princeton to Ann Witherspoon by the executors of the estate of Samuel Tucker, signed by Benjamin Smith and James B. Machett.

Physical Description

1 folder

Release and Quit Claim to Mary Magdalen Claveau Lombard for Tusculum property, 1796 November 23. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Deed to Thomas P. Johnson, 1798 January 1. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

DS: Deed for a tract of land near Princeton "being part and parcel of a large tract of land known by the name of Managrove farm". The document refers to a sheriff's sale of Witherspoon's property, and is signed by Robert Stockton and his son-in-law Samuel Stanhope Smith.

Physical Description

1 folder

Witherspoon, David, 1781 May 28. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

AD: Receipt to Matthew Irwin for 100 Spanish milled dollars on account of his father, John Witherspoon.

Physical Description

1 folder

Physical Description

1 box

Letters to James S. Woods, 1840-1844. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

2 ALsS to his brother James S. Woods, Cadet at West Point.

Physical Description

1 folder

Letters to Family Members, 1840-1853. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

9 ALsS to his son James S. Woods, his sisters Frances M. Woods and Marianne Woods, and his daughter Margaret J. Woods.

Physical Description

1 folder

Woods, John Witherspoon, 1774-1841. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Miscellaneous ALsS of J. W. Woods to family members and others, 2 ALsS of John Witherspoon, 1 ALS to Aaron Burr to John Witherspoon, and a certification of John W. Woods while he was a senior in the Princeton Class of 1837 to be a teacher, written by Princeton University president John Maclean.

Physical Description

1 folder

Woods, Marianne Witherspoon, 1837-1843. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

2 ALsS to her son John Witherspoon Woods, 8 ALsS to her daugher Frances M. Woods, and 13 ALsS to her son James S. Woods, Cadet at West Point.

Physical Description

1 folder

Print, Suggest