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Hadley family papers

Identifier: Ms-0553

Content Description

The collection contains letters, photographs and reminiscences of the Hiram and Katharine Hadley family. Includes letters from Hiram and Katharine Hadley to their granddaughter Caroline (Carrie) Hadley, photographs of Katharine Hadley, photographs of the Fulghum family, and a reminiscence of Walter C. Hadley and Lake Valley by Robert A. Stewart.


  • 1878 - 1931

Conditions Governing Access

These materials are available for study in the Caroline E. Stras Research Room, NMSU Library Archives and Special Collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Most materials in this collection are in the public domain and may be reproduced and published. Copyright status for some of the materials is undetermined.

Biographical / Historical

Hiram Hadley was born near Wilmington, Ohio, March 17, 1833, into a Quaker family. His early education was at the Friends School at Springfield Meeting. When he was 17, he taught for one year at the Friends School at Grassy Run Meeting near Wilmington. In 1851, he attended Friends Boarding School at Richmond, Indiana (later known as Earlham College), earning tuition by chopping wood and tending fires. He then attended Haverford College, near Philadelphia, for a little more than a year. There he edited the student newspaper and was elected president of the students' society. He was the only one of his siblings to attend college, at "some sacrifice to the family."

After Haverford, he taught two years at a Friends school in Carthage, Indiana. He then served as principal of Friends Academy at Whitewater Meeting in Richmond, the earliest Quaker meeting in Indiana. He married Hannah Fulghum April 30, 1856. Their first child, Walter Carpenter Hadley, was born in Richmond September 7, 1857. A daughter, Caroline Elizabeth, was born three years later. When Walter was six and Caroline three, their toddler son Francis "fell into a tub of laundry water" and drowned. The Hadley's last child, Anna Rhoda, was born in 1867. Hiram spent seven years at Friends Academy and left "partly because the attendance had become too large for the limited accomodations."

In 1865, a former meetinghouse on North Franklin Street, Richmond, became available for a school. Hiram bought the property and founded Hadley's Normal Academy, where son Walter received his first schooling. The teachers included Eliza B. Fulghum, his wife's younger sister, and tuition ranged from $12.50 to $25 for each of the two 22-week sessions. His reputation for teaching and his efforts to establish a state teachers' association began to be recognized throughout the state. Frustrated by pedantic grammar texts, Hiram wrote "Lessons in Language."

Around 1868, Hiram moved his young family from their residence on 9th Street, between Mulberry and Sassafras, Richmond, to 1707 Prairie Avenue in Chicago. With his much younger brother Seth, he established Hadley Brothers Book Store at 63-65 Washington Street and became the western representatives for the publishing company Scribner's. Hannah's motherless niece Iola, who was the same age as Walter, joined the family for two years. The book business thrived until the great Chicago fire of 1871, when the business burned and nearly everything was lost.

Hiram, his brother, and their families moved to the suburbs of Western Springs, Illinois, and attempted to rebuild their store. Another fire in 1874 left them penniless. "Family resources lessened...we must live more modestly," wrote daughter Anna, and they returned to Chicago in 1875. About this time, Hiram bought his son Walter a "hand printing press and necessary type and fitted up an office for him in the second story of our stable," where he filled orders for tickets and programs for various University of Chicago societies. Walter attended the university and spent a winter in Colorado Springs, where he observed mining operations, and hoped, in part, to cure his recent lung ailments.

Around this same time, Hiram's wife Hannah began to suffer from "an insidious and dangerous disease," said to have been breast cancer or "Dropsy (edema) of bowel cavity." Her mother, sister and grandmother had all died of breast cancer. In August 1878, accompanied by her 17-year-old daughter Carrie, Hannah sought a cure from the famous springs in Waukesha, Wisconsin. "Descending the veranda steps" on September 17, she fell. The fall did not seem serious, but pain rapidly increased and that evening she died in Carrie's arms.

That same month, Walter entered Haverford College in Pennsylvania as a junior. Carrie and her 11-year-old sister Anna moved to the home of their aunt Maggie Hadley Evans in Indianapolis, while Hiram worked as a traveling salesman for Scribner's.

In April 1879, while attending Haverford, Walter met Alice Paxson through a mutual friend. They expected to make their engagement public by Christmas, but Hiram "felt that (the relationship) had been a very rapid growth" so the news was kept secret until February, when Walter's lungs worsened and he was forced to leave Haverford. Trying to regain his health, he stayed a week or two with Alice's family in Philadelphia. When doctors recommended a seaside cure in Atlantic City, Hiram made a two-night visit east to settle him there. In search of better health, Walter headed west on April 13, 1880, stopping briefly in Richmond and Indianapolis, working for a month in Tepeka, and reaching Colorado in July. He was almost penniless and needed a job.

Meanwhile, on May 20, 1880, Hiram Hadley married 36-year-old Katharine Coffin of Indianapolis. "It was a very great cross to (Walter) when his father married again so soon...I believe the connection is as pleasant a one as any could have been at this time, but it seemed so very very soon," wrote Walter's wife Alice.

Later in 1880, Hiram opened Hadley's Classical Academy in Indianapolis, which attracted 200 puils the second year. He withdrew in 1883 because of an "uncongenial partnership." The next two years included some teaching and an unsuccessful publishing venture. By 1885, he again was head of a school, Friends Academy at Bloomingdale, Indiana, assisted by Katharine, 18-year-old daughter Anna, and 20-year-old nephew Franklin Brown. In 1886, Earlham awarded him an honorary Master of Arts.

In April 1887, he applied to become superintendent of schools in Topeka, Kansas. He was a finalist among 59 applicants but was not chosen for the position. He resigned from Bloomingdale school in July, visited Walter, now in New Mexico, and decided to buy a farm in Las Cruces. Hiram and Katharine moved into an old adobe house, to which they later attached a two-room brick addition.

In early 1888, he met with local families in Las Cruces and opened a school in September with 40 students. After securing land grant money with a trip to Washington in early 1890, the school was known as the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now New Mexico State Unviersity). He was president of the college until 1894 when "Democrats gained control of the college," and he was ousted.

Elected acting president of the Territorial University of New Mexico (now University of New Mexico), Hiram and Katharine moved to Albuquerque for about three years, during which time Walter died of tuberculosis. Hiram and Katharine returned to Las Cruces, where he served as chair of history and philosophy at the Agricultural College until 1905. At that time, the governor appointed him territorial superintendent of education. Retiring at age 74, after two years of extensive education-related travel throughout the territory, he moved to a new home near the college.

Hiram pursued other interests as well. In 1894, he considered a "San Diego scheme" and in 1896 invested money left to him by his son to build an apartment house in El Paso. He and Katharine briefly experimented with taking in boarders. He grew melons, pears, grapes, and apples on his Las Cruces farm during the early 20th century, which seems to have been rarely, if ever, profitable.

During the first decades of the 1900s, while farming in Las Cruces, Hiram and Katharine corresponded regularly with their three granddaughters: Walter's daughter Caroline Hadley, and Carrie's daughters Mildred and Margaret Allen. Starting in 1900, the Allen granddaughters signed a "contract" to exchange bi-weekly letters. During her childhood in New Mexico, Caroline saw her affectionate grandparents regularly, and particularly enjoyed the animals on their farm.

Hiram Hadley also served as president of the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, president of the Mesilla Valley Produce Exchange, president of the Las Cruces Building and Loan Association, secretary of the Children's Home Society, member of the Board of Regents of the New Mexico Agricultural College from 1907 to 1913. In 1909, the main administration building on campus was named Hadley Hall.

Hadley died in Kansas City, Missouri, after seeking help for a "cancer of the face." Both his daughters were with him. He is buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Las Cruces.

[Biographical notes by great-great granddaughter Christine Erb, April 2022]


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Language of Materials



Letters, photographs and reminiscences of the Hiram and Katharine Hadley family. The bulk of the material is letters sent from Hiram and Katharine Hadley to their granddaughter Caroline (Carrie) Hadley between 1899 and 1921. Also included are: historical and explanatory notes to the collection written by Christine Erb, great-great granddaughter of the Hadleys, in 2022; a 1931 reminiscence of life in Lake Valley, New Mexico, by Robert A. Stewart, including information on his relationship with Walter C. Hadley; and a booklet titled "The Heart of a Nation: an Oration," by Walter C. Hadley, son of Hiram Hadley. The collection also contains photographs of Katharine Hadley, Hiram Hadley's second wife, photographs of the Fulghum family, and a photograph of Hiram Hadley's headstone.
Guide to the Hadley family papers
Dennis Daily
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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