The Updegraffs were a 19th-century Quaker family living in Ohio. The oldest family member appearing in this collection is Abram Op den Graeff, who sailed from the Netherlands to Pennsylvania along with his two brothers in the 1680s. Abram’s brother, Nathan, became the father of David Benjamin Updegraff in 1789. David was born in Winchester, Virginia but ultimately moved with his family to Ohio, where he remained until his death in 1864. David Benjamin was a farmer and also served as a minister for the Society of Friends. He married Rebecca Taylor Updegraff in 1812. Rebecca, daughter of Jonathan Taylor and Ann Scholfield, was born in Virginia in 1790 and died in Mount Pleasant, Ohio in 1867. For much of her life, she worked as a well-regarded Quaker minister. Between 1826 and 1834, it has been reported that Rebecca visited nearly every Quaker meeting house in the country. Together, David and Rebecca were actively involved in the anti-slavery movement. They were members of the Anti-Slavery League and used their farm as a station on the Underground Railroad.
David Benjamin and Rebecca Taylor Updegraff had a total of eight children. Jonathan Taylor Updegraff, their oldest son, was born in 1822. He attended Franklin College and pursued a career in medicine, which led him abroad to Europe and eventually to a position as a Union army surgeon in the Civil War. He served as a U.S Congressman from 1879 until his death in 1882. Jonathan’s brother, David Brainerd Updegraff, was born in 1830 and died in 1894. David attended Haverford College from 1851 to 1852 and married Rebecca Price later that year. After Rebecca’s death, he remarried to Eliza Mitchell in 1866. David Brainerd had an active and varied religious life; he was born a Quaker, yet ultimately converted to evangelicalism as a Methodist baptized by a Baptist minister. David was a farmer and a minister for the Society of Friends. He also spent time working on a revivalist Quaker journal, the Friends Expositor. Three of the Updegraff daughters—Sally, Ann, and Rebecca, are featured in this collection as well, though less prominently.