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Preston Family letters

Identifier: C-96

Scope and Contents

This collection comprises one box of letters, bound in two volumes, the bulk of which were written between 1822 and 1850, though outlying letters date to 1896. The majority of the letters were written by Preston and his siblings, Maria and Nathaniel, in addition to their spouses, Clarissa, Stephen Johnson, and Charlotte. Their letters explore the happenings of rural life in Vermont and New York, the life of the college student, the struggles of missionary work in Siam, and the building of a parish in New Orleans.


  • 1822 - 1896
  • Majority of material found within 1822 - 1850


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:

Biographical / Historical

John B. Preston was born in Rupert, Vermont on December 29, 1802. After attending Bennington Academy, John matriculated to Middlebury College in the class of 1827. He later attended Auburn Theological Seminary and graduated in 1830. John began a pastoral role at the Presbyterian Church in Ripley, New York. In 1831, he married Mary Whedon, with whom he had one child. John’s wife died unexpectedly in 1832, and so he took another, Clarissa North, to be his wife in 1833. He had five children by her. Having begun in 1830, he continued to pastor in New York until 1850, whereupon he moved to Wisconsin until 1865. He then returned to New York where he remained active in the church until he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1876, causing his retirement from the pulpit. John B. Preston passed away at the age of 74 on October 17, 1877. Nathaniel O. Preston was born in Rupert, Vermont on December 22, 1804. After graduating from Middlebury College in the class of 1831, Nathaniel became the principal of Royalton Academy. He left this post after two years and thereafter studied theology. He was soon ordained a deacon in 1834 and a priest one year later. In 1835, Nathaniel married Charlotte Whedon. After serving as a rector in Bennington, Vermont, for ten years, Nathaniel and his wife relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana. There they helped to build a parish and amass a congregation; Nathaniel was elected first rector. In 1856, the couple briefly moved to Philadelphia, and then two years later transitioned to Kansas. Nathaniel was Principal of the Female Seminary, Topeka, Kansas, and also held the position of Professor of English Literature at the State Agricultural College, Manhattan, Kansas. Nathaniel O. Preston passed away at the age of 61 on February 14, 1866. Hannah Maria Preston was born on December 4, 1808. She married Rev. Stephen Johnson on May 26, 1833. Not a month later, they set sail as missionaries aboard Ship Duncan for Bangkok, Siam. There they spread the Gospel until late 1838, when Hannah Maria’s declining health brought the couple back to the United States. Hannah Maria passed away untimely at the age of 30 on January 6, 1839.


2 Boxes

Language of Materials



This collection of 220 letters comprises eight series of letters and correspondence of and among the extended family of John B. Preston (Middlebury College Class of 1827), of his brother Nathaniel O. Preston (Middlebury College Class of 1831), and of their sister Hannah Maria Preston (m. Johnson), including their mother, two siblings and each of their spouses. Most of the letters in this collection breach the quotidian subjects of personal and familial health, happenings in the village, as well as thoughts and prayers. In this collection are included letters by both John B. Preston and his brother Nathaniel O. Preston while they were attending Middlebury College (1823 – 1831). Both brothers became involved in the ministry; John became the pastor of several Presbyterian churches while Nathaniel became rector of several Episcopalian churches. Nathaniel was also involved in higher education, having served as both principal and professor. Of particular note are the letters written by Hannah Maria Preston and her husband Stephen Johnson. The missionary couple sailed to Singapore and Siam in order to evangelize. This collection comprises their 27 letters to and from family and friends at home.

Other Finding Aids

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These letters were donated to Middlebury College by Katherine Stern Brennan on behalf of Margaret Bassett Stern in 2011.

Processing Information

Collection Processed: July 2012 by Elijah S. Cory Finding Aid Compiled: January 2013 by Elijah S. Cory and Stephanie L. Ovitt
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Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

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