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Van Vorhes Family Collection
OVERVIEW OF THE COLLECTION
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.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE COLLECTION
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.
SCOPE AND CONTENTS OF THE COLLECTION
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.Sources:
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