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Helen Sophia Stilphen letters

Identifier: C-68
The collection comprises 1 box, with 6 folders containing a total of 52 letters, 6 photographic negatives, and 15 miscellaneous items and realia.

Letters from family and friends provide local news about Stilphen’s hometown of Swanton, VT, including the lives and deaths of local residents, activities like dancing, masquerade parties, and business, with reference to the topics of prohibition and women’s suffrage. Hometown correspondents include friends, future husband Homer W. Hungerford, and Stilphen’s family, including mother and father, Fannie M. and Hiram C. Stilphen, sister Barbara Stilphen Hillers, ‘23, brother Mortimer, and aunt May.

Besides her mother, sister, aunt, and two girlfriends, the bulk of the letters are from men who are hometown friends, suitors, enlisted men, Middlebury College students, or a combination thereof. Middlebury College friends, male and female, mention fraternity and sorority customs. James P. “Brainy” Bower, ’20, was a suitor and military man, and his letters mention other Middlebury men in the military, including Herbert C. Brokenshire, ’20; Francis N. Hinchey, ’21; Augustus P. Benedict, ’17; Robert B. Shepardson, ’21; John W. “Jocko” Mead, ’21; Allen Prest Logan, ’16; George J. Keppler, ’21; and Joseph P. Kasper, ’20. James Rankin Geddes, ’21, is likely the “Jim” who pens the 6 love letters of 1919 (Folder 5). Homer W. Hungerford is a Swanton, VT, man who served in the Navy and marries Stilphen in 1922. Correspondence reveals contemporary dating practices and activities, and provides glimpses of wartime logistics and military regimen. The wartime letters are the first to mention the influenza epidemic and instances of quarantine.

Of particular note is the letter from 1st Lieutenant, Frank T. Bobst, Middlebury College class of 1916. Writing from France in January 1919, shortly after the Armistice, Lt. Bobst thanks Stilphen for her letter written on behalf of the War Service Committee at Middlebury, and speaks briefly of his life in France, including action in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and his current post-war position as Scout Instructor to officers and non-commissioned officers of the army of occupation. His impressions of the non-military public view of war and post-war effects on social life are insightful. The envelope has a “passed by censor” stamp with signature.


  • 1915 - 1919


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish materials, contact: Special Collections & Archives Middlebury College Phone: (802) 443-2387 Email:


1 Box (6 folders)


A collection of 52 letters written to Helen S. Stilphen during her undergraduate years at Middlebury College, 1915-1919. The letters come from her immediate family and friends from her hometown of Swanton, VT, from fellow students at Middlebury College, and boyfriends associated with both locales, most of whom served in the military during WWI, including Stilphen’s future husband, Homer W. Hungerford, of Swanton, Vermont. Contents of the letters provide insights on college and country social and courting customs of the early 20th century in New England, as well as military life during WWI.

Biographical / Historical

Helen Sophia Stilphen was born in Swanton, VT, on February 22, 1897 to Hiram Cornelius Stilphen and Fannie Mary Bullard Stilphen. She prepared for college in Swanton High School. She entered Middlebury College in 1915 and became a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. She earned her B.S. in 1919, was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and taught Home Economics at Southern Seminary (now Southern Virginia University) in Buena Vista, VA, from 1919-1921. She married Homer William Hungerford on August 26, 1922 and had three children, Merrill, Richard, and Mary. She died in St. Albans, VT, at Verdelle Village Nursing Home on July 31, 1995, and is buried at Riverside Cemetery, Swanton, VT.


The 52 letters and miscellaneous items are arranged chronologically into 6 folders.

Other Finding Aids

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Received from Meg Storey Groves '85, Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations and Annual Giving, Middlebury College, in August 2011. Ms. Groves was a neighbor and friend of Helen Stilphen Hungerford in St. Albans, VT until the latter’s death in 1995. The Hungerford family passed the collection on to Groves who then donated them to the College Archives.

Related Materials

General Catalogue of Middlebury College, Bicentennial Edition The Middlebury Campus, September 1915-June 1919 Middlebury College Kaleidoscope, 1916-1920 Alumni Pamphlet Files, C.1919

Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

Middlebury College
Davis Family Library
110 Storrs Avenue
Middlebury Vermont 05753 United States