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Foster-Meyers Family Papers

Identifier: SFHL-RG5-221

Scope and Contents

Organization: The papers were organized by family units by the donor, and that organization has been largely retained. They have been placed in seven series: Series 1 includes the papers of Henry and Thyra Jane Foster and Henry's siblings, the series includes extensive correspondence from Thyra Jane; Series 2 contains the papers of Joseph E. Meyers and his family, including his reminiscences of conservative Quakers; Series 3 contains the papers of Horace Bragg and Mary S. Cope Foster and their generation, as well as some Sharpless family material which descended through Mary Sharpless Cope Foster; Series 4 contains a small amount of earlier Foster family generations, that of Horace Foster's parents, John and Pauline Kenyon and family correspondence centered on the Foster family and its residents; Series 5 contains the papers of John H. and Georgana Foster including correspondence from Rasulia, India; Series 6 concerns the Foster family farm in Warwick, Rhode Island; and Series 7 contains miscellaneous papers.

Series 1: Henry and Thyra Jane Foster and their generation: a. Henry and Thyra Jane Papers; b. Charles and Hilda Steckle Foster; c. Elizabeth and Anna Foster; d. William (Bill) Oliver and Millicent Foster; e. Family postcard scrapbooks.

Series 2: Joseph Meyers and Family: a. Joseph E. Meyers Papers; b. William D. and Mary Warner Meyers and the Warner family; c. Mary Worthington Meyers; d. Bernice Meyers; e. Charles Lionel Meyers.

Series 3: Horace and Mary Cope Foster Family and Cope ancestors: a. Horace Bragg and Mary Cope Foster; b. Joshua Sharpless Family; c. Hannah Sharpless Cope and Caleb Cope; d. John Hoxie and Mary E. Simkinson Foster, Lizzie Foster Leigh and Thomas Leigh, Edward H. and Emma Walmsley Foster, and Martha Otis Foster.

Series 4: Foster Family: Horace Foster's ancestors: Ethan Foster, John and Paulina Kenyon Foster, Family correspondence of the Foster Family.

Series 5: John and Georgana Foster.

Series 6: The Foster Family Farm, Warwick, Rhode Island Farm, 1838-1992.

Series 7: Miscellaneous.


  • Creation: 1765-2006


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some of the items in this collection may be protected by copyright. The user is solely responsible for making a final determination of copyright status. If copyright protection applies, permission must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns to reuse, publish, or reproduce relevant items beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to the law. See

Biographical / Historical

Thyra Jane (also known as Jane) Foster (1898-1984) was born in West Branch, Iowa, to Joseph E. and Mary Warner Meyers. She attended Stillwater Primary School in West Branch, the Friends Boarding School of Barnesville, Ohio, and the Westtown School in Westtown, Pa. In 1921, Jane graduated from Mt. Holyoke College and in 1924 married Henry Cope Foster (1895-1987). Henry graduated from the Massachusetts Agricultural College (now the University of Massachusetts) in 1923 and returned to Warwick, Rhode Island, where in his early years he worked in the family farm with his brother William and his father Horace. His two sisters, Anna and Elizabeth Foster, lived on the farm for their entire lives. Jane taught chemistry, physics, Latin, and German in the Coventry school system from 1944 until her retirement in 1959. After her retirement, she was the founding archivist of the Archives of the New England Yearly Meeting. Thyra Jane and Henry Foster were active members of Providence Monthly Meeting of Friends. The Fosters' son, John Henry Foster, was born in 1926, and twins Harold M. and Thera were born in 1929. The children were educated at Westtown School before college. John H. Foster married Georgana Falb in 1954. He was a member of the faculty of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Thyra Jane's father was Joseph E. Meyers (1858-1937), a conservative Orthodox Quaker, raised in Pennsdale, Pennsylvania, a member of the Muncy Monthly Meeting. His father, William D. Myers (1826-1892) was a convinced Friend who became a member of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting for the Southern District in 1854. His mother was Mary Roberts Warner (1828-1873), a birthright member of Muncy Monthly Meeting. Through his mother's side, Joseph E. Meyers was related to prominent Muncy Quaker families such as Lundy, Carpenter, Winner, and Starr.

Joseph E. Meyers was the second of four children and the only to survive early childhood. His father was disowned by the Society of Friends in 1859, and the marriage was not a happy one. In 1863, Mary Meyers returned to Pennsdale and the Muncy Monthly Meeting. She raised her only surviving child with strict adherence to the rules of discipline regarding dress, behavior, and marriage. After her death, Meyers attended Westtown Boarding School and then West Chester Normal School. It had been the desire of his mother that he pursue a career as a teacher, and for about ten years, he taught at a number of schools in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Iowa. However, it was a career to which he was ill-suited, and by 1894, he became a farmer.

In 1880, with the encouragement and support of his uncle, Charles Warner, he moved to Barnesville, Ohio, where he became acquainted with members of the Ohio Yearly Meeting. For about the next ten years, he spent time in Ohio, Kansas, and Iowa. In 1894, Joseph Meyers married Mary J. Worthington at Stillwater Monthly Meeting in Barnesville, and for a short time they lived on a farm in Cedar County, Iowa. About 1907, the family returned to Barnesville, Ohio. He remained at Stillwater MM until 1931 when he moved to Rhode Island to live with his daughter and son-in-law, Thyra Jane and Henry Cope Foster. About 1929, he began to compile biographies on Quakers that he knew from his youth in Pennsdale, Pa., and his many years in Ohio and Iowa, corresponding with a number of friends for information and suggestions.

Additional biographical notes are included as preface to individual series.


27 linear ft. (52 boxes (plus oversized items and photograhs))

Language of Materials



Contains the papers of the Foster Family, a Wilburite New England Quaker family of Rhode Island, and the Meyers Family, conservative Orthodox Quakers of the Midwest. The families were united in 1924 by the marriage of Henry Cope Foster (1895-1987) of Warwick, Rhode Island, and Thyra Jane Meyers (1898-1984), born in West Branch, Iowa. The collection contains extensive personal correspondence of five generations of the Foster and Meyers families, school materials, diaries, writings, reminiscences and biographies which offer insight into conservative Quaker life in Iowa, Ohio, and New England in the late nineteenth and twentieth century. Also includes extensive records of the Foster family farm in Warwick, Rhode Island, memorabilia, pictures, and correspondence and related papers of John Henry Foster concerning his AFSC service at Friends Rural Center, Rasulia, India.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Libraries' online catalog:

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of John H. Foster, 1992-2013. Accessions: 1997.065, 1999.022 and .036, 2000.024 and .043, 2002.028, 2005.020 and .022, 2009.011, 2010.001, 2013.004.

Gift of Mary Foster Cadbury, Acc. 2005.020.

Gift of Thera Hindmarsh, sister of John Foster, Acc. 2016.023.

Related Materials

The donor transcribed many Joseph Meyers's writings and some Foster letters, and these transcriptions are stored with the originals.

MSS 003/443. Rachel Coope Journal, Some Account of Rachel Coope. . . , 1805. 2 MSS copies; also, another (incomplete) version of Some Account of Rachel Coope.

MSS 040: Sharpless Manuscripts. Includes expanded version of Joshua Sharpless journal of trip to visit the Indians, 1798. Typsecript, photocopy. Parts of the journal were published in The Friend, 1847.

Separated Materials

Photographs and slides removed to PA 115 and PA 103.

The Medicine box of Paulina Kenyon Foster, prior to 1882, removed to Relics.

Plain clothes patterns removed to Relics.

Artifacts from Mary Cope Foster's letterbox and John Foster's spectacles removed to Relics.

Processing Information

Received in several parts beginning in 1992. The papers concerning Joseph E. Meyers, including informal personal reminiscences and other writings, remained in the family at Meyers' death. His grandson, John H. Foster, sorted and transcribed most of the papers. In April 1997, the Joseph E. Meyers Papers were arranged in four series, described, and processed as RG 5/186, Joseph Meyers Papers. Oversized documents such as marriage certificates and diplomas are stored in Oversize.

Later the same year (1997), an additional 22 cubic feet of Foster family papers were received with inventories by the donor. In general, the papers were organized by family units, and that organization largely has been preserved. Selected papers were photocopied for the donor. Photocopies of the records of the Kickemuit Literary Society were added to the collection in 1999. A small amount of material was added in 2000, and in 2002, the whole collection was integrated, renamed the Foster-Meyers Family Papers, and a new finding aid produced. In 2003, John H. Foster deposited additional Foster family letters and some personal papers. In 2013, he added correspondence, including letters from India

Relics and photographs were removed to FHL Relics and FHL PA 103, respectively. Brochures from the Friends Boarding School, later Moses Brown School, transferred to reference files for better access. File with secondary material on PAX, Massachusetts Political Action for Peace, and peace candidate Stuart Hughes transferred to Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Pictures of Quaker schools and meeting houses and Moses Brown which arrived with Miscellaneous Papers have been stored in FHL General Picture Collection for ease of access.

Inventories and general notes by John H. Foster are filed in Series 5, John H. and Georgana Foster Papers. Comments, transcripts, explanatory notes are stored with the related originals.

In 2013 and 2014, John Foster's India slides, corrrespondence, Thyra Jane's material on her sister Bernice, and miscellaneous papers were added to the appropriate categories.

A typescript of Joshua Sharpless's 1798 journal which was given to FHL in 1979 by Thyra Jane Foster was transferred from MSS 040 to be stored with the original in RG 5/221, Series 3. MSS 040, Sharpless Manuscripts, contains a different version of the Sharpless journal given to FHL in 1970 by Elizabeth Foster, aunt of John H. Foster and sister-in-law of Thyra Jane Foster.

The collection is open, with additional papers relating to John H. and Georgana Foster and their generation retained by the family.

Foster-Meyers Family Papers, 1765-2006
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