Five College Archives and Manuscript Collections
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Burgess papers, 1838-1853.
1 box (2.5 linear in.)
Collection number: MS 0513 (LD 7092.8 Moore)

Burgess, Abigail Moore, 1813-1853; Missionary. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary graduate, 1838. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary teacher, 1838-1846. Papers contain letters, journal, volume of essays, poems by Mount Holyoke students compiled for Burgess and biographical information; primarily regarding her work at Mount Holyoke and as a missionary in India.

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Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Abigail Moore was born on March 2, 1813 in New Marlboro, Massachusetts to Ariel Moore and Electa Lyon Moore, Mary Lyon's eldest sister. She graduated from Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1838 and taught there until 1846. She also served as associate principal in 1842-1846. In 1846, she married Reverand Ebenezer Burgess. In September of 1846, they left Boston, Massachusetts and sailed for Bombay, India to work as missionaries. The Burgesses were stationed in Ahmadnagar, northern India. Burgess had two daughters, Abbie Lyon and Mary P., both of whom graduated from Mount Holyoke. Abigail Moore Burgess died in Mahabaleshwar, India on April 26, 1853 at the age of forty.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Abigail Moore Burgess Papers consist of correspondence, a journal, manuscript essays, poems, and stories written by Mount Holyoke Female Seminary students and collected for Burgess, and biographical information. The papers chiefly contain letters written by Burgess to family and friends, including Mary Lyon and Hannah Porter. The letters relate to Burgess' years as a teacher at the Seminary and her subsequent work as a missionary in Ahmadnagar, India, 1847-1849, alongside her husband, Reverend Ebenezer Burgess. Burgess' letters describe her activities and health while in India as well as the Indian people and conflicts in the Punjab region. The journal is a short, yet detailed account of her voyage to India dedicated to her family and Hannah Porter. The volume of manuscript essays and poems includes writings, known as Seminary Literature, by students between 1838-1849. Also includes biographical information containing published letters in response to her death and is supplemented by biographical notes that extend to 1945.

This collection is organized into three series:

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Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Abigail M. Burgess Papers, Mount Holyoke College, Archives and Special Collection, South Hadley, Massachusetts

History of the Collection

Summary of Correspondence

The journal of Abby Moore Burgess was written during her voyage on Ship Bertrand to India and was intended for members of her family and for Mrs. Porter. She describes life on a sailing vessel which departed on September 26, 1846 and finally reached Bombay about February 27, 1847. There were two emergencies during the trip, an officer went overboard accidentally, but was rescued, and in a severe storm the mast broke. Abby was very seasick during the first weeks of the voyage (she wrote she was "scarcely alive") but she gradually became accustomed to the motion. Food was remarkably good (they carried live fowl and a goat); when they sighted land in early February food was paddled out and was warmly welcomed. There appear to be about 8 passengers, plus officers and crew, totalling perhaps 20-25 (she wrote that 18 came to a Sabbath service on deck). Abby describes the ship in detail and the accommodations; she and her husband had their own stateroom, but the lack of air was the chief problem. The officers and steward did all they could for their comfort.

There are 12 letters in the collection: one short letter written in December, 1845, from So. Hadley and addressed to Martha Grant, expressing the hope of seeing her before departing for India; the remaining 11 letters date from March 2, 1847 to April 14, 1849 and are addressed to Mrs. Porter, except for one addressed to her mother. During this time Abby and her husband were stationed at Ahmednugger and her letters describe their home situation, their missionary work, the arrival of Mary and her serious illness after the baby's birth. There are frequent references to other missionaries in the area, especially with comments about their health, and an occasional reference to world affairs.

Of special note:

March 2 Arrival in Bombay after leaving floating prison
April 28 Describes house and cleaning; heat; "India is Satan's seat"
July 9 Describes servants and duties of cook; comments on Indian women
Sept 23 Visit to Miss Farrar's school; teaches classes in English; working on translations; schedule for day husband's duties; climate
Jan 13 Visits to villages; "most of the English society here drink, play cards and dance"
Apr 28 Revolutions in Europe; NY Observer comes overland in about 2 months; Mexican War; weather; rises at 4:30, bathes, rides, walks, returning after sunrise braced for heat of day
Oct 7 First letter (dictated) after illness; describes the illness after birth of Mary; near death Dec. 20, 1848. Camping in tents while preaching to women in villages
Apr 14 About her health; war in Punjab
March This collection also includes two letters by Moore to Mary Lyon, September 10, 1845, and September 27, 1846 (see summaries, this folder)

By CR Ludwig

March 1988

Additional Information
Contact Information
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
8 Dwight Hall
50 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075

Phone: (413) 538-2013
Fax: (413) 538-2370

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