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Helen M. Tarbell letters

Identifier: C-56
Collection contains 1 box, with 2 folders. The collection includes 24 holograph letters, 4 typed transcriptions, 2 printed deeds, 2 receipts, and 1 printed probate notice.The Helen M. Tarbell letters comprise letters to and about Tarbell ranging in date from 1862-1926, the majority dating from 1864 through the early 1870's. A debilitating spinal weakness ended Tarbell's employ as governess for the family of Liet. Col. Thomas H. Johnson near Beaufort, South Carolina in 1864, but Tarbell maintained correspondence with Mrs. Johnson, whose letters describe the tumultuous final and successive years of the Civil War. Johnson recounts the disorder on their plantation, economic hardship, and the social unrest of freed slaves, providing details of encounters with the latter.


  • 1862-1926


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 (1 box, 2 folders)

Biographical / Historical

Helen M. Tarbell, born April 17, 1841, attended the Emma Willard School in Troy, NY. From Troy, Tarbell travelled to South Carolina, near Beaufort, around 1862, where she worked as a governenss for the family of Lieut. Col. Thomas H. Johnson. Health issues ended her employ with the Johnsons and she returned to Randolph, Vermont, to live with her father, Gilman Tarbell, in 1864. She eventually settled in Quincey, MA, where she lived the remainder of her life. She established her own private school in her home in Quincy, MA in the 1880's. Helen Tarbell married John Wade around 1891, near the age of 50, and was married for 25 years until widowed, roughly 1916. At Wade's death in 1927, her letters became the property of her sister, Mary F. Tarbell. The letters eventually passed to Mary Tarbell's grand-niece, Elizabeth Bean, when Tarbell died in 1956.


Collection is arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated in October 1966 by Miss Elizabeth Bean (Mary Tarbell's grand-niece), Middlebury College class of 1927.

Related Materials

Included in box is 2007 essay by Middebury student Kate Silbert, entitled "My Dear Helen: A Southern Woman's Perception of Identity in the Aftermath of the Civil War."

Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

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