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Elizabeth Lucy Chapin Papers , 1842, 1859-1861
1 box ( .2 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 0855 (LD 7096.6 1857)

Chapin, Elizabeth Lucy, 1838-1862; Secondary school teacher. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary graduate, 1857. Papers span the years 1842, and 1859-1861, and consist of correspondence, a photograph, a photocopy of a poem, and a small book. Primarily letters written by Lucy in Athens, Georgia and West Point, Mississippi, to a sister in Chicopee, Massachusetts, documenting her life as a young woman from the North teaching in the South on the eve of the Civil War.

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Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections

Biographical Note

Elizabeth Lucy Chapin, secondary school teacher, was born on August 27, 1838 in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Her father, Titus Chapin, was a farmer and her mother died when she was young. Lucy, as she was called, entered Mouth Holyoke Female Seminary in 1854, and graduated in 1857. An older sister, Roxanna Emily Chapin, was a graduating member of the class of 1854. Lucy taught at the Lucy Cobb Institute, a women's secondary school in Athens Georgia when it opened in 1859 until 1861. From 1861 to 1862 she was employed by her sister's husband, William Louis Crawford Gerdine, as governess to his nine children, her sister's step-children, on their cotton plantation in West Point, Mississippi. Lucy died there in mid or late October, 1862, after unsuccessfully trying to return to Massachusetts during a long illness. Lucy and Roxanna traveled as far as Richmond, Virginia where they were turned back. They were detained at Corinth, Mississippi, about 100 miles north of West Point, during the October 3-4 Battle of Corinth. Lucy died the day after arriving back in West Point, at the age of twenty-four. Her body was later reburied in Chicopee, MA.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Elizabeth Lucy Chapin Papers span the years 1842, and 1859-1861, and consist of correspondence, a photograph, a photocopy of a poem, and a small book. The correspondence series, arranged chronologically, consists of twelve letters written by Lucy while in Georgia and Mississippi, to a sister, Emily ("Em") in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Topics discussed in the letters include being a Northerner in the Deep South on the eve of the Civil War; aspects of a young school teacher's life; expressions of home-sickness; commentary on the pleasant Southern weather; and the unmarriageablity of the local young men. Several of the letters discuss her sister, Roxanna Emily Chapin Gerdine, class of 1854. All of the letters are available digitally online. The undated photograph is a faded oval daguerreotype portrait of Lucy. Her birth and death dates are inscribed on the back, "b. August 27, 1838 Chicopee, Mass d. March 21, 1862 West Point, MS" [a source in Archives and Special Collections indicates her death was actually in October, 1962]. The photocopied poem was written by the head of the Lucy Cobb Institute, Thomas R.R. Cobb, to Lucy on January 1, 1859 in celebration of her arrival at the school. Rounding out the collection is an illustrated copy of The new Robinson Crusoe : designed for youth, published in Cooperstown by H. & E. Phinney, in 1842. A modification of the original story, it is a morality tale that bids parents not to spoil their children and children to obey their parents and avoid idleness.

Correspondence from this collection is available online in a digital format.

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Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:


Preferred Citation

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

Elizabeth Lucy Chapin Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts, USA.

Additional Formats

The correspondence in this collection is available online in a digital format Mount Holyoke Digital Collections .

History of the Collection

Donated by Patricia Emily Moon Bramich, 2007.

Custodial history:

Papers were orignally held by Emily Chapin Parsons Gill, grand niece of Roxana Chapin Gerdine, and were donated to Mount Holyoke College by her daughter Carolyn E. Gill Moon, and her grandchildren including Patricia Emily Moon Bramich.

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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Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

  • Chapin, Elizabeth Lucy, 1838-1862.
  • Chapin, Roxanna Emily, 1833-1891.
  • Cobb, Thomas Read Rootes, 1823-1862.
  • Family -- United States -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
  • Lucy Cobb Institute (Athens, Ga.) -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary -- Students.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources.
  • Women -- Education -- Georgia -- Sources.
  • Women -- Education -- United States -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
  • Women teachers -- Georgia -- Correspondence.

Genre terms
  • Letters.

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