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Updegraff Family papers

Identifier: HC.MC-1031

Scope and Contents

The Updegraff Family Papers are composed primarily of letters, in addition to a variety of other materials including financial documents and journals. David Benjamin Updegraff’s (1789-1864) materials span from 1802 to 1840 and include letters, an account book, and a journal. Many of these letters were exchanges between David and Rebecca, his wife. Rebecca Taylor Updegraff’s (1790-1867) materials span from 1815 to 1865 and include letters written to Rebbeca in addition to a personal journal. These documents reflect the religious themes found throughout the collection and point specifically to the central role of religion in Rebecca’s life. Another reoccurring topic found in Rebecca’s materials is death and tragedy. The unhappiness incurred by her life experiences is reflected in both her own writing and that which she receives from others. Jonathan Taylor Updegraff’s (1822-1882) section is comprised of letters, which span from 1841 to 1855. Much of this correspondence was sent from abroad. Next, there are letters, journals, account records, and an autograph book of David Brainerd Updegraff (1830-1894) that date from 1842 to 1890. One of these journals covers David’s experiences at Haverford College. Finally, letters and materials pertaining to other family members span from 1811 to 1847 and are placed at the end of this section.

Following these personal materials is a folder containing genealogical documents. Especially useful here is a handbook written by Rebecca Taylor Updegraff that provides detailed information about both her family and personal history. Another folder contains a small set of poems, some of which are addressed to Rebecca Taylor Updegraff. This is followed by a section of business documents, legal papers, and land grants dated from 1831 to 1893. The land grants are notable for their presidential signatures from Martin van Buren, John Tyler, and Franklin Pierce. A subsequent folder contains three photographs. Next is a folder of miscellaneous letters and documents from 1810 to 1893. These items, which are arranged chronologically, pertain to unrelated or unidentified individuals. The collection concludes with three miscellaneous items: a pin cushion, a homemade bookmark, and a copy of an anti-slavery speech delivered by Abram Op den Graeff (Updegraff) in 1688.


  • Creation: 1810-1929
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1810 - 1896


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copy Right Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical note

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 with his two brothers in the 1680s. Nathan Updegraff and Anne (Lupton) Updegraff became the parents 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.


1.0 linear ft. (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



Letters; diaries; genealogical material; land grants signed by Presidents John Tyler, Martin Van Buren, and Franklin Pierce; and other papers of the Updegraff family, mainly those of David B. Updegraff, which provide a picture of Quakerism in 19th-century Ohio.


Each folder contains letters either sent to or from a specified member of the Updegraff family. Folders are ordered to reflect the structure of the Updegraff family— beginning with David Benjamin Updegraff and working through his wife and children in birth order. Within folders, all materials are arranged chronologically. Materials without dates are placed at the end of the relevant section or folder.


The Updegraff Family papers were donated to Special Collections, Haverford College in 1967 by Betty Updegraff Dyson.

Related Materials

Related collections include: David B. Updegraff Bible, undated (MC.975.10.008) and Newlin family correspondence, 1839-1846 (MC.950.136)

Processing Information

Processed by Emily Kingsley; completed April, 2015.

Updegraff Family papers, 1810-1929
Emily Kingsley
April, 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • June 2022: by Nathaniel Rehm-Daly, Harmful Language Revision Project

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

370 Lancaster Ave
Haverford PA 19041 USA US