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Henry Wilson Papers

Identifier: FMS-47

Scope and Contents

The Henry Wilson Papers reflect the life of a "weighty" Friend in southern Indiana in the first half of the nineteenth century. Although small, the collection is an important source for the migration of North Carolina Friends to Indiana. The most important item in the collection is Henry Wilson's autobiography, written in 1860. It provides an almost unique glimpse into the life of a Quaker child in North Carolina and an early Quaker settler in Indiana. Wilson apparently kept a series of diaries, to which he refers in the autobiography, but their whereabouts is now unknown. Extracts from one 1814 diary, describing a trip to Indiana, were published in the Yearbook of the Society of Indiana Pioneers in 1942.


  • 1791-1911
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/06/1990

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access.

Conditions Governing Use

Some materials may be protected by copyright. Permission to reproduce and to publish for commercial purposes must be requested from the Archivist.

Biographical or Historical Information

Henry Wilson was born in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, April 8, 1791, the son of Joseph and Sarah (Charles) Wilson. Orphaned as a child, he grew up in a Quaker family in Guilford County, North Carolina. In 1816 he married Deborah Coffin (1794-1855) of Guilford County, the daughter of Matthew Coffin, who about this time became one of the first settlers in the Blue River Friends community in Washington County, Indiana. The Wilsons moved to Blue River in 1817. In Indiana, Henry Wilson became a leading Friend, serving as clerk of his monthly meeting and an elder. Later he was recorded a Friends minister. He made at least two long trips to the east as a companion to other Quaker ministers, James White and Eleazar Bales. At the time of the Hicksite Separation in 1828, he was one of the leaders of the Orthodox group at Blue River, even though his sister-in-law Priscilla Coffin Hunt was the leading Hicksite minister in Indiana Yearly Meeting. He was also a member of the Boarding School Committee when Friends Boarding School (now Earlham College) opened in 1847. Although he had been a saddler in his youth, in Indiana he took up the practice of medicine, and is usually referred to as Dr. Henry Wilson. Deborah Wilson died in 1855, and in 1856 Henry Wilson married a widow at Blue River, Martha (Cosand) Albertson (1810-1894). He died July 12, 1863.

Note written by


1 Boxes

Language of Materials


Source of Acquisition

Donald Maris, Earlham class of 1940 and Henry Wilson's great-great-grandson

Method of Acquisition


Accruals and Additions

No additions or accruals are expected.

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Repository Details

Part of the Friends Collection and Earlham College Archives Repository