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Martha Sawyer Holmes Papers

Identifier: SMC-280

Scope and Contents

The collection is arranged into two folders: CORRESPONDENCE and REPORTS.

The CORRESPONDENCE file contains correspondence to Sarah P. Gulliver as well as Martha Sawyer Holmes' letter of resignation from Wheaton. One typed summary and two original letters are here, the summary explaining the interesting points of the first letter. The first letter, dated March 24, 1846, is addressed to Miss Sarah P. Gulliver, from Miss M. C. Sawyer, regarding the death of Judge Wheaton and "the warm relation of Miss Sawyer to Miss Gulliver, who was then a teacher".

The second letter, addressed to Rev. William Barrows Jr. from Miss M. C. Sawyer, is dated October 8, 1846. It is titled "Resignation of Miss Sawyer". Miss Sawyer mentions her own health, and writes, "Through yourself I would express my thanks to the Board for the proposition made by them last Spring at my resignation but(?) must sincerely regret that my health is not sufficient to permit a return to my former duties".

The REPORTS file (SMC 280 48/5) contains reports Martha Homes Sawyer made about the state of Wheaton Seminary. They are not addressed to anyone in particular, and the files spans the years 1839-1846.

Martha writes in 1838(?) that the small winter school, Wheaton Seminary, is doing well and that the students are interested in their work, which included religious studies.

The second report (in the same folder) is mostly illegible, but contains numbers, is seemingly a log regarding monetary transactions from 1842-1846. It has a stamp on the back two pages, which looks like a sailed ship and anchor. It is titled "(?) under the care of M. C. Sawyer".

On the first page the second report also reads: "Change in (???)- though favorable for the school" and "1844... 5 pupils from Norton. 5 graduates." One of these transactions was probably related to "the 1844 construction of a free-standing building for the sole purpose of providing an indoor gymnasium."

There is also a small and extremely fragile book of poems, in a third folder, written for Martha Sawyer by her friends and family in 1837. The book belonged to Charlotte Sawyer.


  • 1839-1846



Copyright is retained by the authors, or their descendants, of items in these papers as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions. Open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Martha Chickering Sawyer was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on September 16, 1820, to Peter and Charlotte Sawyer. Sawyer came to Wheaton Seminary in 1836, and graduated with the first class of four graduates in 1839. She then returned as a full-time teacher in 1840, when she was only twenty-three years old.

When Principal Martha Vose resigned in 1842 Sawyer replaced her. Sawyer was principal until 1846 when she had to resign due to exhaustion, although she remained a life-long friend of Mrs. Eliza Baylies Wheaton.

When Mrs.Wheaton spent a month in New York for surgery, Sawyer remained at the Wheaton home, managing their affairs, sending flowers to Mrs. Wheaton's friends, and serving as housekeeper to Laban Morey Wheaton. Sawyer often traveled with the Wheatons.

Sawyer married the Reverend Franklin Holmes (pastor of the Trinitarian Congregational Church, Norton) on July 6, 1855, and together they had two sons. The couple occupied "Holmes Cottage", and were neighbors of the Wheatons. Sawyer was also an accomplished sewer and made many of the linens for Mrs. Wheaton. Mrs. Wheaton frequently lent her the sewing machine. Reverend Holmes was a Wheaton Trustee from 1853-1859. In 1859, the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where they were visited by the Wheatons. In 1892, Sawyer, now Mrs. Holmes, presided over the monthly meetings of the New York Wheaton Female Seminary Club.

The relationship between Mrs. Wheaton and Marth Sawyer was very important, as reflected in a biography of Mrs. Wheaton saying in reference to Sawyer, "whom [Mrs. Wheaton] often called "Sister Mattie", greatly to the mystification of strangers, who could never determine whether the ladies were sisters" (Paine, 30). The close friendship was maintained to the very end of Mrs. Wheaton's life.

"She attempted to resign before the summer term of 1846, but the Trustees insisted that she stay until the end of the fall term. The Trustees, not having planned for her replacement despite her warnings, were forced to appoint Sarah B. Putnam, teacher in English Branches and Latin, as interim principal for the winter 1846-47 term."

Martha Sawyer Holmes died December 12, 1912.


3 folder(s)

Language of Materials



The collection includes materials collected by Martha Sawyer Holmers. The collection includes letters and reports on Wheaton Seminary. The main focus of the collection is Martha Sawyer Holmes' time at Wheaton as the principal from 1842-1846.The collection spans the years of 1839-1946.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Found in Collection. Acquisition information not available for this collection. Collection inputted into database in 2008.

Processing Information

Processed by: Ashley Kuhn, W09, October 2008; and Hanna Juergens, W13, April 2011

Encoded using Archivist Toolkit by: Hanna Juergens, W13, September 2012

Encoding edited by: Megan Wheaton-Book, Assistant Archivist, October 2012

Inventory of the Martha Sawyer Holmes Papers
Hanna Juergens, W13
April 2011
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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Marion B. Gebbie Archives and Special Collections Repository

Wheaton College
26 East Main Street
Norton Massachusetts 02766