This collection contains correspondence and personal records of the McNitt family of Montgomery County, Illinois. The correspondence, which makes up the bulk of the collection, is largely directed to Sophronia, Hellen, and Priscilla ("Jennie") McNitt, the three daughters of the family.
The McNitts were a farming family who lived in rural Montgomery County, Illinois, near the townships of Hillsboro and Irving. Thomas and Sarah Cress McNitt had four children who survived to adulthood: Sophronia, Francis ("Frank"), Hellen (sometimes spelled "Helen"), and Priscilla ("Jennie"). Thomas died in 1860, leaving his wife and children to maintain the family's farm. The family had many relatives and friends in Montgomery County and many of their male connections left the county during the years of the Civil War to join in the fight or to move to the west. Many of these men kept in contact with the family through letters. Among those writing to Sophronia was Eli Cress, a soldier in the 117th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Eli and Sophronia married in 1866 and had one child, Howard. After Eli's death in 1871, Sophronia managed their farm until her own death in 1933.
The collection largely consists of correspondence written to Sophronia McNitt by friends and suitors, including soldiers, relatives, and other friends from the area. These letters give a glimpse into the activities and lives of Civil War soldiers from rural Illinois, politics and anti-war movements in the 1860s, and courtship of the era. There are also letters directed to Sophronia's sisters, Hellen and Jennie, though fewer than to Sophronia. The collection also contains family financial records, Union and Confederate currency, scattered issues of newspapers from Montgomery County, and photographs of the McNitts and other family members.
The collection was donated to the Library in 1999 by Jeanne Tingley, a descendant of Sophronia McNitt and Eli Cress, and Donald F. Tingley.