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Waples family papers

Identifier: MSS 0402

Scope and Contents

The Waples Family Papers, spanning the dates 1753-1864, contains correspondence, wills, deeds and surveys, financial and legal documents, speeches, wills, manumissions, a broadside, a newspaper clipping, an announcement, and invitations. The papers outline the family’s role in the economic development of Milton in Broadkill Hundred, Delaware. But the bulk of the collection, 1851-1864, focuses on Gideon B. Waples, beginning with the pre-Civil War period when he was a student at Delaware College. After he voluntarily left his studies, he became a farmer and businessman in southern Delaware; he also served as a political aide to two governors of Delaware during the Civil War. The collection covers layers of a maturing man’s life: his close male friendships formed during college days; his political leanings during the tumultuous 1850s-1860s, including his association with Stephen A. Douglas’s American Union Party; and life in Milton, Delaware.

The collection, which is housed in two boxes, is arranged in four series: the bulk of the material (located in F6-F31) is the papers of Gideon Burton Waples. Two other series are divided between the papers of his father Gideon Waples and his daughter Clara Waples Carey and the Carey family. The final series contains a group of unidentifiable personal correspondence and loose envelopes (F41-F49) as well as documents that relate in some way to the Waples Family. A small family Bible, which was owned by Gideon B. Waples, is cataloged in the Special Collections Printed Materials Collection (SPEC DEL BS185 1838 .H3x). Another Bible owned by Clara Waples is also cataloged in Special Collections Printed Materials Collection. Bible has four pages of family records, including marriages, births, and deaths.

In Series I there are twenty deeds (see F2) that date from 1822-1837, and indicate Gideon Waples was a landowner in Milton, Sussex County, Delaware. Scant other material is available in this part of the collection. Notable among the few papers of the senior Waples is a manumission (see F4) from him to “Negro John.” The two-page document is dated 1834, and declares 31-year-old John to be free on January 1, 1835.

In 1837 Waples wrote his will, and bequeathed the 300- acre Coston Farm to his wife Sarah. This is the same farm that the Theodore C. Careys (Clara Waples Carey) owned at the turn of the twentieth century. To his son Gideon he left, among other businesses and real estate, the 400-acre Factory Farm, which later became part of Carey family properties.

Series II Gideon Burton Waples forms the majority of the collection. Thirty-two letters (see F6-F15) were received from his Delaware College classmates, many of whom were natives of Delaware. The letters give insight into nineteenth-century young male friendships and their willingness to voice their feelings to each other; these young men openly wrote about their lives and their ambitions. They were enamored with Waples, who must have been charismatic and sensitive all at once. The correspondents seem devoted to Waples as a friend and confidant. Through their youthful eyes these letters record small gems about Delawareans’ views of the national political scene, from the elections of Franklin Pierce (1852) to James Buchanan (1856) and Abraham Lincoln (1860). Of significance are the comments about the political parties—Waples and many of his friends were “Douglas men’’—as the country moved closer and closer to the Civil War.

Gideon B. Waples’s letters span from 1851-1860, and center on college life. Several topics are repeated within the texts from different correspondents, especially their association with the Athenaean Literary Society, the standing of Delaware College with its students and other colleges, their professors (e.g., Daniel Kirkwood, who became president from 1854-1856), the College’s presidents, their health, careers, personal lives (including their love lives), philosophies, and politics. Of particular significance (for quantity and content) is correspondence from John M. Clymer, John T. Lovell, and John W. Wharton.

Four letters (see F9) by John Clymer were written from Delaware College to Waples in Milton between 1852-1853. In one dated January 28, 1852, Clymer proclaimed, “The respect and esteem I have for you induces me with the most profound integrity to hold correspondence with you. There was not a student in the College thought more of than you.” The rest of Clymer’s correspondence mixed comments about their friendship with news about Delaware College. Topics cover the Athenaean Society, Delta Phi (a rival society), improvements to the College, the faculty, the president of Delaware College, local and national politics, and the death of Dr. [Charles H.] Black, who was a trustee from New Castle, Delaware. In a later letter from 1852 Clymer wrote the “Athenaean cord of friendship which I trust will never be severed seem [sic] to make it our imperative duty to hold a friendly correspondence.”

Another classmate, John T. Lovell, left Delaware College to return to his home in Virginia, where he matriculated at the University of Virginia. There were many life experiences that interfered with his studies, but eventually he became a lawyer in Dubuque, Iowa. His letters (F6) show that he was enamored with Athenaean Literary Society (“our noble and beloved society”) and the friends he made there. He also commented about Delaware and Virginia in relation to national politics, the upcoming presidential election of 1860, returning to his parents’ home, his transition from student to tutor to student again, Waples’s return to “tiller of the soil,” their classmates, his experience as a “stump speaker” for Buchanan and the Union, their love lives, and the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Finally, John T. Wharton’s correspondence (F7) is over a dozen letters, and contains similar subjects. Wharton wrote in the early ones (1851-1852) about leaving college and teaching in southern Delaware. He clearly wanted to retain his ties to Waples, as well as learn about classmates and events at Delaware College. The remainder of correspondence by John M. Burton, Samuel Cacy, Luther G. Jacobs, Aaron M. Marshall, William Hargrave Redden, Samuel R. Ross, and [Henry M.] Terry includes similar content.

Oratory was a common practice at the College, especially in competitive exhibitions between the Athenaean Literary Society and the Delta Phi Literary Society. On Saturday evenings students practiced speaking and reading in front of each other. At the end of the winter term the public was invited to a town-and-gown event to witness the annual exhibitions that featured readings and speeches. Included in this collection are three speeches by Waples (F16). One, undated, was delivered by Waples to his “Fellow Athenaeans,” and espoused their “noble pursuits” at the College as well as the friendships that developed between the members. The hand-written document seems to be an acceptance speech for his election to the presidency of the Society (“I have been honoured with the highest office in your gift … ”), and therefore must be dated between 1850- 1852. A second undated speech addressed the president and fellow members of the Athenaean Literary Society on the subject of “evil war” or “intemperance.” The third document is the text of a speech delivered on September 17, 1857, at Delaware College, five years after he had voluntarily left the College. “Speech for the Exhi[bi]tion of Delaware College” addressed “The Evils of War,” and was, no doubt, an outgrowth of the earlier one. His thesis is summarized in his opening line: “War is decidedly the greatest curse that has ever been afflicted upon our fallen race…”

Gideon Waples’s departure from Delaware College is documented by a letter of good standing dated July 21, 1852, written months after Waples left college. Authored by the Rev. Walter Scott Finney Graham, president of Delaware College from 1851-1854, the letter confirms that Waples left his studies on his own volition. Graham ends the letter with these remarks, “Leaving with him the warmest wishes of the Faculty for his future happiness and prosperity.” This document, along with the correspondence from classmates, infers Waples’s abilities and congeniality.

Along with these documents is a small newspaper clipping (F18) that was published in the Cecil Whig. The undated piece reports the eighteenth anniversary celebration of the Athenaean Literary Society (1852). Celebratory speeches were delivered by R.E.C. Downs, Esq. of Queen Ann’s County, Maryland, and the Rev. J.W. Mears of New Jersey on February 4, 1852 (See F9, Clymer’s letter of same date).

Other important documents (See F19-F28) are an array of items that demonstrate Waples’s continued interest and participation in state and national politics. In 1859, Delaware Governor William Burton (who served from 1859-1863) appointed Waples as his Aid-de-camp, and in 1863 Governor William Cannon (who served from 1863-1865) also appointed Waples to that position. Two social invitations born of political relations (F20) are included in the papers: one to a supper given by the “U.S. Senators from this state” (n.d.), and a second dated, February 2, 1859, to a supper at the Fountain Hotel in Dover for Senator Willard Saulsbury.

Additional letters (F21-F28) received from 1857-1862 have political commentary about Waples and his associates’ efforts as Democrats and “Douglas men” on behalf of “the cause.” A letter (F25), which is imprinted with an American flag and “THE UNION FOREVER” underneath it, was sent to Waples from James Montgomery on June 10, 1861. He wrote, “ … we expect every Union man in Sussex County to attend the Mass Convention to be held in Dover Thursday June 13th. It will be the largest meeting ever held in the state. New Castle will be there in her majesty. Please sound the trumpet … We expect every Douglas man to do his duty …. ” During the antebellum days Stephen A. Douglas (1813-1861) campaigned as a Democrat against Republican Abraham Lincoln, inspiring his followers with a new sense of nationalism. His “American Unionism” called for focus on shared principles of the constitution, and not separation through extremism between the North and the South. In the campaign, Douglas urged the people to return to the importance of the American Union.

A January 31, 1862 letter (F26) from Samuel Maxwell Harrington, Jr., asked Waples to acquire names on a petition for the Emancipation Bill. There are two letters (F27) from Samuel Townsend written in July 1862, which have numerous comments about local and national politics. In a broadside dated October 20, 1862 (F28), Townsend appealed “To The Douglas Democracy of Delaware” to “put down rebellion and abolitionism and restore the Union.” One of the most interesting political letters was sent from Millsboro, Delaware, and dated November 5, 1860. Its contents were so politically sensitive to the author that he wrote at the end “Burn this.” The letter was saved, but its author’s signature was torn from the bottom of the four-page epistle (F29).

The remainder of Gideon Burton Waples’s papers (F30- F31) are financial records, including an insurance policy and receipts, a power of attorney, an 1854 business license, and a statement of the estate of his wife Sarah; correspondence; and his 1864 will (F32). Waples’s last will and testament divided his estate between his wife Mary Anna and his daughter Clara. He also leaves some household items and the unexpired term of service to his “negro girl Ann, and the Service of my negro man George until he Shall arrive at the age of twenty one, when it is my will that he Shall be free.” Clara is left two-thirds of the real estate. In the instance of his death other beneficiaries were to be his sisters Sally W. Ponder (wife of James Ponder) and Hetty Ann Burton (wife of Peter R. Burton). He appointed James Ponder as guardian of his daughter Clara, as well as executor of his will.

Series III Clara Waples Carey and the Carey family contains five items: two deeds, a certificate of marriage, a wedding announcement, and a will. Carey inherited from her father substantial properties in Broadkill Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware. She continued to increase her holdings (see F34), and followed the familial pattern of real property development in Milton, Delaware. She married Theodore Campbell Carey, who was one of the well-known brothers of the Carey Bros. Wall Paper Manufacturing Co. of Philadelphia, where she moved after her marriage. Clara’s will of 1894 (see F35) stated her home as Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Other documents show that other Carey family members were also landowners in Broadkill Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware. Additional documents related to the Carey family include deeds, manumissions, surveys, and wills. Mostly, the items are about the Careys, but there are also documents about the Davis family, which was related to the Careys through the marriage of Susan Pitt Davis to Robert Hood Carey.

The final documents, which are found in Series IV, are deeds and surveys, correspondence, and some additional financial and legal records that relate in some way to the Waples family papers. Some of the deeds and surveys relate to Coston Farm and Factory Farm in Milton and date from the 1750s to the 1860s (F41-F48). One of the surveys dated 1831 shows the close proximity of land held by several well-known Delaware families—the Maulls, Ponders, and Waples. These thirty-seven items once again demonstrate the large amount of real estate owned by the Waples family. There is also a 1744 last will and testament of William Waples.


  • Creation: 1753-1864
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1851-1864


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

The well-known Waples family of Milton, Delaware, was related to another prominent southern Delaware family, the Careys. These two families were central to the economic development of Broadkill Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware. The Waples, as were the Careys, were successful business entrepreneurs and landowners.

William W. Waples (d. ca. 1746) married Margaret in the first half of the eighteenth century. Seven children were listed in the 1744 will of William Waples: Thomas, Burton, Paul, Peter, William, Elizabeth Carey, and Mary Divixson (F48).

Gideon Waples (1800-1837) was born in Milton to Thomas Waples II and Mary Burton Lamb. He was a manufacturer and retailer who was noted for bark production in the 1830s along with Dr. Joseph Maull (governor of Delaware in 1846). Waples also was involved in iron ore and dyeing operations, and owned a cotton factory, as well as grist and saw mills. Waples was married twice: to Priscilla L. [?] and Sarah Cottinham (née Burton ca. 1807), and had three children, Gideon Burton (b. ca. 1832), Sarah Elizabeth (b. ca. 1835, also called Sally), and Hetty Ann. In 1851 his daughter Sally married James Ponder, who served one term as governor of Delaware (1871-1875).

Gideon Burton Waples (ca. 1832-ca.1864) was born in Milton, Delaware. He inherited his father’s businesses, and continued the family tradition of entrepreneurship. By October 1850 he matriculated at Delaware College in Newark where he studied in the “Scientific Department.” His classes included bookkeeping, surveying, chemistry, algebra, and geometry. Waples’s activities on campus were focused around his membership in the Athenaean Literary Society (founded in 1834) and his political activism. He was affiliated with the Democratic cause. After two years he voluntarily ended his studies, and returned to Milton where he became a businessman and farmer. Waples continued his interest in local and national politics, and served (until his death ca. 1864) consecutively as Aid-de-camp to two governors of Delaware, William Burton (1859-1863) and William Cannon (1863-1865). He married Sarah Hunter on October 2, 1856. His 1864 will left his estate to his second wife, Mary Anna, and his daughter, Clara.

Clara Waples Carey (1857-1894) was the only child of Gideon Burton Waples. On October 21, 1885 she married Theodore Campbell Carey, a native of Milton, who was one of the partners in the Carey Bros. Wall Paper Manufacturing Co. of Philadelphia. This marriage brought together two well- respected southern Delaware families known for their strong business acumen. Before her marriage Clara was known as a landowner in her hometown of Milton. The Theodore Careys had two surviving children, Theodore Campbell Carey, Jr. (b. 1888), and Joseph Maull Carey (b. 1892). After Clara’s death on June 7, 1894, her sister-in-law Susan D. Carey became guardian of the two Carey boys.

Robert Hood Carey married Susan Pitt Davis. They had five children: Theodore Campbell Carey (1847-1895), Susan (Susie) D. Carey, R. Davis Carey, Joseph M. Carey, and Sarah (Sallie) M. Carey (d. ca. 1925). Susan Pitt Davis Carey’s parents were Robert and Mary Davis.

Historical and biographical information obtained from this collection, the Carey Bros. Wall Paper Manufacturing Co. Records, and alumni information from the University of Delaware Archives.Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Delaware: 1609-1888, 2 vol. Philadelphia: L.J. Richards & Co., 1888.Hancock, Harold and Russell McCabe. Milton’s First Century, 1807-1907. Milton, Del.: The Milton Historical Society, 1982.Munroe, John A. University of Delaware, a history. Newark, Del.: University of Delaware Press, 1986.Dictionary of American Biography. Vol. II. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958.


.6 linear foot (2 boxes)


The Waples Family Papers, spanning the dates 1753-1864, outline the family’s role in the economic development of Milton in Broadkill Hundred, Delaware. But the bulk of the collection, 1851-1864, focuses on Gideon B. Waples, beginning with the pre-Civil War period when he was a student at Delaware College. After he voluntarily left his studies, he became a farmer and businessman in southern Delaware; he also served as a political aide to two governors of Delaware during the Civil War.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Charles D. Carey, 1996 and 2001

Related Materials in this Repository

MSS 0401, Carey Bros. Wallpaper Manufacturing Company records

Shelving Summary

Boxes 1-2: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes

Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)

Processing Information

Processed by Sally W. Donatello, February 2001, revised January 2002, and encoded by Jaime Margalotti, March 2022.

Finding aid for Waples family papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2022 March 8
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA