Five College Archives and Manuscript Collections
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Sawin-Young Family Papers, 1863-1969
1 box (0.25 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 583

Abstract:
At the turn of the twentieth century, Albert Sawin and his wife Elizabeth (nee Young) lived on Taylor Street in Holyoke, Massachusetts, with their three children, Allan, Ralph, and Alice. Elizabeth's brother, also named Allan, traveled in the west during the 1880s, looking for work in Arizona, Utah, and Montana.

The bulk of the Sawin-Young Family Papers consists of letters exchanged between Elizabeth "Lizzie" Sawin, her sisters, and Jennie Young of nearby Easthampton. Later letters were addressed to Beatrice Sawin at Wheaton College from her father Walter E. Sawin, who contributed to the design for the Holyoke dam. The photograph album (1901) kept by Alice E. Sawin features images of the interior and exterior of the family's home, as well as candid shots of family and friends and photographs of excursions to nearby Mt. Tom and the grounds of Northfield School.

Terms of Access and Use:

The collection is open for research.

Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Historical Note
Beatrice Sawin, ca.1901

Beatrice Sawin, ca.1901

The Sawin and Young families of the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts were united by the marriage of Elizabeth Young and Albert E. Sawin in February 1864, and in the course of the next generation, the families grew very close. At the time of the wedding, Elizabeth (called Lizzie by her family) had four siblings -- Agnes, Jane (Jennie), Sarah, and Allan -- and her father James Young, a recent emigrant from Scotland, was residing in Englewood, New Jersey.

For many working class males in the 1860s, work options often amounted to little more than joining the military, becoming a miner, or a railroad worker. Finding none of these appealing, Allan Young decided to try his luck in 'the free land' of the western states, a place where he imagined one could find fortune, and perhaps settle down to raise a family. Once he arrived in the West in the 1870s, however, he lived a wandering life, moving from Montana to Arizona, California to Idaho, Nevada, and Utah, and soon realized that he was not going to 'strike gold.' Suddenly Holyoke, Massachusetts, seemed very far away. The 'black sheep' of his family, Allan was a light-hearted and adventurous young man, but evidently thoughtful, and throughout his separation from his family, he relied heavily on his sister Sarah during hardship.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Sawin-Young Family Papers contains a small number of letters and photographs documenting the lives and relationships of two families from Holyoke, Mass., during the years 1863 to 1924. The 18 letters, two postcards, newspaper article, and photographs provide insight into the close bonds forged between the Sawins and Youngs. The majority of letters in this collection were exchanged between siblings Elizabeth, Jane, Sarah, and Allan Young between 1863 and 1884, with the photographs documenting later generations. A highlight of the collection is a photograph album, ca.1901, kept by Alice E. Sawin that depicts family, friends, and the Sawin household in Holyoke.

The correspondence is almost exclusively personal in nature, with topics rangingfrom a father's inquiry into his daughter's life at college to letters revealing a man's life in the American West during the 1880s. Although the lives represented are ordinary in every sense, they can be revealing, with each writer and each recipient seeming to have a distinct personality and distinct feeling at the moment of exchange. The decisions they make, the letters they send, and the pictures they take offer a deeper glance into American life in the nineteenth and twentieth century.

In his letters home to his sister Sarah,1881-1884, three letters each from Montana and Utah, Allan Young displayed his feelings about life out west as he moved from state to state and job to job, and how much he missed home, and the letters also shed light on the Young family dynamics and the personalities of the sisters. Lizzie, for example, comes across as dominant personality, even controlling. The quieter Jane exchanged a number of letters with Lizzie between 1863 and 1865, trading gossip about their towns and chatting about their most recent dinner parties, their clothes, or simple day to day activities. Sarah later married Charles Tower, while Agnes married a Mr. Wright. The collection also includes letters from James Young (the father) to Jane and Sarah, and a letter from Robert Young to James which hints at the still-close relationship they still held with family in Scotland.

The collection includes a few items pertaining to a later generation, including several photographs, some postcards, and a letter to Beatrice Sawin (1894-1979), living the marvelous life of a 19 year-old student at Wheaton College, and causing her father, Walter E. Sawin, concern about her priorities in her studies. Walter Sawin was an engineer on the Holyoke Dam.

The Sawins and Youngs were an ordinary, middle class Massachusetts family, but their dynamic personalities and adventures shine through. The photographs and photo album put faces to names, and help piece together the story of these two families, the places they traveled, the houses they lived in, and the people and things they liked.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Sawin-Young Family Papers (MS 583). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

History of the Collection

Gift of C.K. Dexter Haven, October 2007.

Processing Information

Processed by Eleanor Gass, April 2009.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Special Collections and University Archives
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003-9275

Phone: (413) 545-2780
Fax: (413) 577-1399
Link to SCUA
Language
English

Contents List
Letters


Letters: The Friend Next Door (letter to Beatrice Sawin)
1913


Postcards (to Beatrice Sawin)
ca.1913


Letters: Sawin, Beatrice: Newspaper clipping
1969


Letters: Sawin W. E.
1913


Letters: Young, Allan
1865-1884
7 items

Letters: Young, James
1864
2 items

Letters: Young, Lizzie
1863-1865
6 items

Letters: Young, Robert
1864


Photographs


Photograph: Unidentified middle aged women


Photograph: Unidentified young woman taken in Holyoke


Photograph: Devil's Den, Gettysburg, Pa. Glossy collodion printing out photo of group of three unidentified men and two women posed at Devil's Den, Gettysburg Battlefield. Photo by J.I. Mumper
ca.1895


Photograph: House and visitor wearing early American dress.
ca.1915


Photographs: Sawin, Alice E., Photograph album
ca.1901


Images of home in Holyoke, dressing up in early American attire, outings to Mount Tom and Northfield School,family and friends. Includes photographs in a variety of processes, including glossy and matte printing out papers, cyanotypes, real photo postcards, and developing out prints.

Photograph: Sawin, Beatrice
ca.1915-1921
3 photographs

Portraits by Bachrach (dated 1921); Katherine E. McClellan, Northampton; and Brown Studio, Springfield, Mass.

Photograph: Sawin(?) children. Young girl and infant brother. Photo by W.J. Cady -- 109 Dwight St. Holyoke Mass.
ca.1900


Photograph: Ulis I, Cherry, Reeve, Eleanor, Phoebe
ca.1950


Photograph: Unidentified man. "Edith and Jane Sawin" written on verso. Photo by J.E. Prowler
1910


Photograph: Unidentified woman
ca.1910
2 photographs

Photograph: Wedding portrait of young woman. Photo by Waters, Holyoke
ca.1910


Photograph: Young family (mother, father, and their two children, possibly Elizabeth and Arthur Young)
ca.1915



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.

Subjects
  • Family--Massachusetts--Holyoke.
  • Holyoke (Mass.)--History.
  • Montana--Description and travel.
  • Utah--Description and travel.

Contributors
  • Sawin family.
  • Sawin, Alice E.
  • Sawin, Beatrice.
  • Young family.
  • Young, Allan.
  • Young, Elizabeth.

Genre terms
  • Letters (Correspondence).
  • Photographs.


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