This collection documents four generations of the Darby family, along with its allied families of Hale, Heard, Tillotson, Mann, and Smith. Pioneers from New England, the Darbys migrated to Genesee Co., N.Y., in 1825, then westward to Peoria Co., Ill., in 1850, and to Champaign Co., Ill., in the 1880s. From there the family spread to Iowa, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and South Dakota. These papers provide an intimate look into family life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as a first-hand account of the American pioneer movement.
The collection consists of letters, diaries, land deeds, newspaper clippings, Bible records, photographs, a small memo book, and other material. Notable items include the Civil War papers of Private Henry Harrison Darby, Co. D, 132nd Ill. Vol. Inf.; Henry Harrison Darby's love letters to his future bride Ellen Smith; a Spanish-American War letter from Cuba, where Henry's son, First Lieutenant William Edson Darby, was stationed; and letters from Henry's daughter Nellie (Darby) Pettersen, who graduated from the University of Illinois in 1891, and was traveling through Europe with her husband, Benjamin, in the summer of 1914, as World War I was breaking out.
Much of the collection is published in Judith Morgan Darby, Comfortably Fixed (Weston, Conn., 1990) [IHLC: 929.20973 C734], which includes genealogical appendixes. Judith Morgan Darby (whose husband William Dillard Darby is Henry Harrison Darby's great-grandson) also published "The Civil War Letters of Henry Harrison Darby," Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly 21, no. 4 (Winter 1989), pp. 221-231.
Judith Morgan Darby donated this collection to the Library in 1991.