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William Allen papers

Identifier: Ms-0109

Scope and Content

This collection is comprised of letters received by William and Hattie McWade Allen, letter received by Frank C. Allen, and notebooks containing recipes, addresses, and other notes. Most of the letters received by Hattie are from her sisters, Julia McWade Blazer and Lottie M. Payne. Another regular correspondent was her cousin Byron, a student at Oberlin College during the eventful years preceding the Civil War. Occasional letters reflect issues of the time, such as a Dec. 15, 1860 letter describing a sermon given by Charles Grandison Finney and the great revivalism that was sweeping the college town. The Allens also received many letters from Will's brothers, Benjamin Franklin Allen, Thomas Jefferson Allen and Joseph Allen. Mrs. Allen was Hattie McWade. Her sister Julia was a school teacher who was hired by Dr. J. H. Blazer to serve as a teacher for his children. Dr. Blazer was a pioneer New Mexico dentist and operator of Blazer's Mill. He and Julia eventually married. Besides Mrs. Blazer, Mrs. Allen also received letters from another sister, Lottie M. Payne. Another relative of Mrs. Allen's who corresponded regularly with her was the McWade's cousin Byron. Byron attended Oberlin College in the eventful years preceding the Civil War. Although Oberlin was deeply influenced by the abolitionist crusade and other socio-religious issues of the times, Byron remained aloft to most of these happenings. Rather his letters are full of flowery "I-miss-yous" and overflow with the self-pitying details of his broken romance with Mary Breck. However, occasionally he did remark on events on the Oberlin area. Of particular interest is a "Sunday 19th" letter to Harriet McWade, which describes the attempt of a Kentucky slaveholder to reclaim a fugitive slave near Oberlin. Another letter written on December 15, 1860 describes the great revivalism that was sweeping the college town. As one who used Sunday mornings to catch up on his correspondence, Bryon was not profoundly affected by the religious fervor. But in the December 15, 1860 letter, he relates having heard a sermon given by Rev. Finney (Charles Grandison Finney). This observation that Finney is "getting up a great religious excitement" offers a contemporary commentary on the famous evangelist's ministry in Oberlin. Despite Finney's impact on the Ohio town and his importance in American religious history, Byron was less than impressed and made particular note of Finney praying for the livery stables and omnibuses. The Allens also received many letters form Will's brothers. Besides Will, who lived in Green County, Wisconsin, the Allen family contained Benjamin Franklin Allen, Thomas Jefferson Allen and Joseph Allen. He probably corresponded the least with Will. But this is to be expected because Ben had gone west, settling for a time in Hamilton, Colorado territory and later in Nevada. Thomas Jefferson Allen was a would-be newspaperman and somewhat of a wanderer. Although he worked briefly for the Chicago Tribune and various Cincinnati papers, ill health and financial problems frequently forced him to move on. Most of his letters to his brother and sister-in-law discuss these problems and some request financial aid. In addition, Allen provides descriptive insight into life in Chicago. Of more national interest are his comments on the election of James Buchanan in a Feb. 8, 1857 letter. Allen's observant letters during the Civil War were written when he was sent to bring the remains of his brother Joe back to Ohio for burial. Besides describing the problems encountered on such an errand, he shrewdly judges the command structure and general appearance of the Union army. After the war, a September 6, 1866 letter discusses President Andrew Johnson's disastrous speech in Cleveland during his famous "swing around the circle." In that same letter, Allen also remembers Abraham Lincoln and the political relationship he had with Cleveland newspapers. A third brother, Joseph Allen, served with a Minnesota battery during the Civil War. Like many Civil War letters, they discuss the problems and express the opinions of the common soldier. Because Joe was not living at home prior to the Civil War, his letters during the conflict's early months show his gradual decision to enlist in the army. (Most similar sets of Civil War soldier correspondence begin when the solder leaves home). Plagued by sickness and lack of equipment, Joe's battery saw little action. The battery was initially taken via Chicago to St. Louis. From there, during the summer of 1862, the battery was involved in the maneuvering of the Army of Tennessee around Corinth, Mississippi. Although this campaign included the bloody battle at Shiloh, Joe's letters bemoan the fact that their battery has not gotten into the fight. Not being involved in the heavy fighting, Joe had time to comment on the shifts in the high command that marked the summer of 1862. He offers several low impressions on General Grant and lauds Rosecrans as the "old hero." Allen participated in the Battle of Iuka on Sept. 19, 1862 and his September 24th letter to Will and Hattie describes the action. In that same letter, he mentions that the battery had requested that it be moved to Minnesota to fight the Indians. There are no further letters written to Wisconsin until Christmas 1862. This gap is easily explained because Rosecrans had won an important defensive battle at Corinth in October of that year. Allen's battery was moved to the new Benton Barracks at St. Louis and his Christmas letter offers a description of the camp and General Pope's Confederate prisoners. Another interesting comment made in the letter is Allen's prediction that they would soon be seeing "Johnny bull pitching in the war." From this point on, Joe's correspondence tapers off and increasingly he discusses what he has been reading to relieve the dreariness of camp life. These letters also mention sickness among the troops. Joe himself succumbs to one of the camp diseases and his brother Tom is sent to bring his body back to Ohio in 1863. Later letters contained in these papers relate primarily to family matters. The most significant and extensive series of these later items relate to Frank C. Allen's (Will and Hattie's son) administration of Julia M. Blazer's estate in 1925.


  • 1857 - 1925

Access and Use Restrictions

This material may be examined by researchers under supervised conditions in the Caroline Straus Research Room.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright and other applicable statutes. All literary rights possessed in this collection have been transferred and assigned to New Mexico State University.

Biographical Sketch

Julia McWade Blazer and Harriet McWade Allen were the daughters of William McWade, who came to Brecksville, Ohio from Vermont in 1831, and Wealthy Wilcox McWade of Brecksville, Ohio. Harriet married William Allen about 1860 and moved to Wisconsin. Julia taught school in Warren, Ohio until Dr. J. H. Blazer engaged her to serve as a teacher for his motherless children. Julia moved to New Mexico, where she eventually married Dr. Blazer. William Allen had a number of brothers. Benjamin F. Allen had moved West., residing for a time near Hamilton, Colorado and later in Gold Mine, Nevada. Thomas Jefferson Allen was a newspaperman who lived in Chicago, Cincinnati and Cleveland at various points in his career. Joseph Allen tried unsuccessfully to make it in business prior to the Civil War. With the outbreak of hostilities, he enlisted with a Minnesota artillery battery which began its service at Fort Sarelling, Minnesota on October 21, 1861. Eventually this unit was stationed in the St. Louis and Corinth, Mississippi areas. Joseph's letters to his brother describe a typical soldier's life, such as the constant threat of disease which claimed many soldiers, including Joseph himself in 1863. Frank C. Allen was a son of Hattie and William Allen. He lived in Tularosa, New Mexico for many years.


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Language of Materials



Letters received by William Allen and his wife, Hattie McWade Allen. Also includes letters to their son, Frank C. Allen, concerning the estate of Mrs. Allen's sister, Julia McWade Blazer.

Related Material

Ms 110 Blazer Family Papers Archives and Special Collections. New Mexico State University Library.
Guide to the William Allen papers
Merleen Dibert
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the New Mexico State University Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Branson Hall
PO Box 30006
MSC 3475
Las Cruces New Mexico 88003 USA