Cole family papers
Scope and Content of the Collection
The Cole Family Papers primarily contain family correspondence between two generations of the Cole family: John A. Cole and his wife Julia A. Cole and their daughter Elizabeth Cole Fleming and her husband Daniel Johnson Fleming.
John A. Cole’s correspondence is chiefly between his sister, Ella Cole Barrows, father Captain John Cole, and mother Mary Wells Cole. Additionally, John A. Cole corresponded with his brother Arthur W. Cole and his wife Mary Cole, as well as good friends. A large portion of John A. Cole’s correspondence comes from his time volunteering and eventually serving as a General Field Agent for the United States Christian Commission during the Civil War as well as his commission service after the war in Louisiana and Texas. Additionally, John A. Cole’s correspondence comes from his time in Washington D.C. where he connected with the First Congregational Church and served as superintendent/president of the church’s Lincoln Industrial Mission, an educational and social aid mission that worked with freedmen, women, and children. During his time in Washington D.C. he also served as secretary and the financial agent at the newly founded Howard University, and some of his letters relate to his time there too.
Correspondence from Elizabeth Cole Fleming and Daniel Johnson Fleming relate to their service as Presbyterian missionaries at Forman Christian College in Lahore, India (now Pakistan) from 1904 – 1913. The Fleming’s correspondence also covers their return to the United States, first in Chicago and then in New York City, where they both continued their service to mission study and work.
Elizabeth Cole Fleming and Daniel Johnson Fleming chiefly corresponded with Elizabeth’s parents, John A. Cole and Julia A. Cole.
The Cole Family Papers also include family and personal documents such as an autograph collection, clippings, diaries, drawings, fliers, genealogy research, mailing addresses, photographs, poems, publications, reports, schedules, school compositions, taxes, and writings.
- Creation: 1842-1945
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1854-1928
- Cole family (Family)
Materials are in English.
Conditions Governing Access
The Cole family papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Cole family papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at email@example.com.
Biographies of Cole family members
Protestant missionary family who lived in the New England region of the United States and also Chicago.
John A. Cole (1838-1932)
John Adams Cole was born on December 16, 1838 to Captain John and Elizabeth Shaw Cole in Westmoreland, New Hampshire. He had two sisters, twins: Ella Amelia “Ella Cole Barrows” and Anna Elizabeth, born on July 27, 1841. His father, a sea captain, was frequently absent on long voyages. During one such voyage his sister Anna Elizabeth died on April 6, 1843 and his mother died on April 13, 1843, a little over one month into her thirtieth year. His father married Mary E. Wells in Oct. 1845. John A. Cole also had siblings from his father’s second marriage: Frederick Herbert born on December 29, 1848 who died from croup on August 24, 1853; Arthur Wells born on March 2, 1856; and Alice M. born on December 22, 1859 who died on August 21, 1861.
After an academic course at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire John A. Cole entered the engineering office Thomas Doane in Boston, Massachusetts, where he stayed for three years. Afterwards, he worked as civil engineer on the state survey of the Sudbury Meadows Mystic Water works. In 1862 he volunteered as a delegate of the United States Christian Commission and became the General Field Agent for all the fieldwork east of the Allegheny Mountains in 1863. His work with the commission took him to the battlefields of Antietam, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and he was present for the Confederacy’s surrender in Appomattox. After the surrender he served the commission in Louisiana and Texas, after which time he moved to New York City and worked as the secretary of the American Christian Commission. He then moved to Washington D. C. and opened an office as a civil engineer and became connected with the First Congregational Church there. For some years he was superintendent/president of the church’s Lincoln Industrial Mission, an educational and social aid mission that worked with freedmen, women, and children in the city. He also served as secretary and the financial agent at the newly founded Howard University for several years, and helped champion the arts education programs.
John A. Cole married Julia Mead Alvord on December 15, 1870 in Washington D. C. and in 1872 they moved to recently platted Ravenswood Township in Chicago, where he established himself as a civil engineer. Among the important works he designed was the original Lake View Pumping Station in Ravenswood Township, which brought lake water to the township in 1875. He also designed the north-west corner of Graceland Cemetery. He and Julia later moved to Hyde Park, where they resided for 47 years on East 53rd Street. The Coles also became involved with the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church, and John A. served as an elder there.
John A. and Julia A. Cole had two children: Edward Smith Cole (December 29, 1871 – March 18, 1950) and Julia Elizabeth Cole “Elizabeth Cole Fleming” (January 31, 1875 -1955).
John A. Cole died on November 16, 1932.
Julia Alvord Cole (1847-1934)
She was born Julia Mead Alvord on August 8, 1847, in South Boston, Massachusetts to Reverend John Watson and Myrtilla Mead Peck Alvord, the eldest of their five children. When the Civil War broke out her father went to the front representing the American Tract Society in relief work until the establishment of the United States Christian Commission and later worked for the Freedman’s Bureau. She graduated from high school during this time, and not long after the family relocated to Washington D. C. to Wisewell Barracks where officials belonging to the Freedmen’s Bureau were stationed. Eventually, her father bought a lot and built a home near the newly founded Howard University.
Julia A. Cole taught Latin language classes in the Normal Department at Howard University, and she spent her Sunday afternoons at the Lincoln Industrial Mission with John A. Cole and his 1,400 pupils. She then went to New York City for a year and studied vocal performance, music, and drawing at the Copper Institute, now the Copper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. When she came back to Washington D.C. she continued her instruction in the Normal Department at Howard University. She married John A. Cole on December 15, 1870, and they had two children: Edward Smith Cole, born on December 29, 1871 and Julia Elizabeth Cole “Elizabeth Cole Fleming,” born on January 31, 1875.
Julia A. and John A. Cole moved to Chicago in 1872, and in 1902 she became the state treasurer of the Illinois State Committee of the YWCA. When their daughter Elizabeth Cole Fleming and her husband Daniel Johnson Fleming left in 1904 as missionaries for Forman Christian College in Lahore, India (now Pakistan), Julia received an invitation came to become a member of the Presbyterian Board of the Northwest and served as a correspondent to the missionaries in China. Her role as a correspondent to missionaries in China occurred during the aftermath of the Yihetuan Movement or Boxer Rebellion, and reporters questioned her about the death of Dr. Eleanor Chestnut, one the correspondents, a missionary stationed in Lianzhou (Lien-Chow) in the province Guangdong, who died along with four other missionaries and a child in an altercation. Julia then became a corresponding secretary for missionaries in Thailand and Laos, a position she held for twenty years.
She died on March 9, 1934.
Elizabeth Cole Fleming (1875-1955)
Born Julia Elizabeth on January 31, 1875 in Chicago, Illinois “Elizabeth” was the second and youngest child of John A. and Julia A. Cole. She graduated from Smith College in 1897 and then returned back to Chicago after graduation. From September 1901 until 1904, she worked as the state secretary for the Illinois State Committee of the YWCA. She was also recruited by the General Assembly’s Committee on Evangelistic Work of the Presbyterian Church, to serve as a special evangelistic secretary visiting colleges west of the Mississippi River.
She married Daniel Johnson Fleming on August 9, 1904, and the same year they left for Forman Christian College in Lahore, India (now Pakistan) as Presbyterian missionaries. Upon arrival Elizabeth committed herself to learning and studying the Urdu language, and she took her final Urdu language oral examination in May 1909. She was the first married woman required to pass the language proficiency test in order to be given full missionary status in the Punjab mission, which included the right to vote in the mission. While in India, the Flemings had three children. Their first child, Elizabeth “Betty” Cole Fleming, was born on May 5, 1906. Due to malarial fevers, Elizabeth and Betty returned to the United States from January 1907 to November 1907. On May 29, 1909 Edward McClung Fleming was born, and on August 6, 1911 Helen Josephine Fleming was born. The Flemings were the first missionaries sent out by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions for short-term service (eight and a half years) rather than for life, and thus they returned to the United States in 1913.
The Flemings first settled in Chicago upon arrival in 1913, and after that moved to New York City, where Elizabeth became a member of the New York Women’s Board of Foreign Missions (1915-1920), the United Women’s Board (1920-1923), and a charter member of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions (1923-1944). She also was a member of the World’s Day of Prayer Committee and a trustee of Isabelle Thoburn College in Lucknow, India. During 1918 and 1919, she had speaking career promoting missionary work.
She died on November 23, 1955.
Daniel Johnson Fleming (1877-1969)
Daniel Johnson Fleming was born on January 30, 1877 to Daniel Johnson and Josephine (née McClung) Fleming in Xenia, Ohio. He had two sisters, Lois McClung Fleming born on March 22, 1871, and Sue Eliza Fleming born on January 27, 1874 who died on July 6, 1888.
He graduated from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. After he completed a short-term mission assignment teaching physics at Forman Christian College in Lahore, India (now Pakistan), and while on sabbatical from 1901-1904, he earned a M.A. in physics from Columbia University and a M.S. in chemistry from the University of Chicago.
He married Julia Elizabeth Cole “Elizabeth Cole Fleming” on August 9, 1904, and that same year they left for Forman Christian College as Presbyterian missionaries. While in India the Flemings had three children: Elizabeth “Betty” Cole Fleming born on May 5, 1906, Edward McClung Fleming born on May 29, 1909, and Helen Josephine Fleming born on August 6, 1911. The Flemings were the first missionaries sent out by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions for short-term service (eight and a half years) rather than for life, and thus they returned to the United States in 1913.
The Flemings first settled in Chicago, Illinois where Daniel Johnson Fleming completed a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School. He then worked at Union Theology Seminary in New York City where he first served as the director of the newly established Department of Foreign Service and then as a professor of missions (1918-1944). In addition to his teaching, he published widely writing twenty-three books and seventy-five articles on Christian mission thought and practice.
Elizabeth Cole Fleming died on November 23, 1955. His second marriage was to Helen Mack Howard and he died in April 1969.
Additional Family Members
Captain John Cole (1806 – 1875)
John Cole was born in Westmoreland, New Hampshire on November 27, 1806 to Asa and Anna Goldsmith Cole. His father a hydraulic engineer, died on December 6, 1816, and John and his ten siblings worked as soon as they could earn a living. John worked for a farmer and left Westmoreland around the age of sixteen when he went to Cambridge, Massachusetts to see his aunt, Mrs. Hayden, who adopted one of his brothers. He worked for a few months on a farm, and then shipped “before the mast” on a coasting vessel. After this first voyage he decided to become a sailor, and on July 9, 1833 he received his sailing orders as captain on a ship for a whaling voyage that would result in 1800 lbs. of oil.
On March 6, 1838 Captain John Cole married Elizabeth Shaw from Westmoreland whom he long sought out but who was unwilling to marry him because he was not a professing Christian. On one of the voyages before their marriage, he read the Bible carefully and converted. After their marriage he went out on a voyage again, and during his absence on December 16, 1838 John A. Cole was born. After he returned, he left sailing for a number of years during which time the family purchased a cottage in Medway, Massachusetts near Elizabeth’s brother Lambert Shaw. John and Elizabeth had twin daughters, Anna Elizabeth and Ella Amelia on July 27, 1841 in Hartford, Connecticut.
John Cole left for a three year sailing voyage for whale oil in 1842 and had been concerned about Elizabeth’s health. While on his voyage, Elizabeth died on April 13, 1843 and Anna Elizabeth died one week earlier on April 6, 1843. John received the news in July 1844 from the reverend who gave Elizabeth’s funeral sermon. When John returned to Medway in February 1845 he found his children in the care of Lambert and Susan Shaw. In October 1845 he married Mary E. Wells.
The Coles moved to Westminster, Vermont in 1847 and then to Walpole, Vermont in 1848 where John and Mary Wells Cole had a son, Frederick Herbert on December 29, 1848. In a recollection by one of his children it is said the Coles home in Walpole, Vermont served as a station on the Underground Railroad. Around this time he also got interested in politics, specifically the Free Soil Party, and also in Temperance as he joined the Sons of Temperance organization. Additionally, he joined the Freemasons. On August 24, 1853 Frederick died from an attack of croup.
In the fall of 1853, John Cole took command of another voyage and Mary Wells Cole accompanied him. The voyage ended sadly, as the ship wrecked on Cape Hatteras, one of the long-thin barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks. John helped Mary over the side of a ship to a raft as the deck broke apart and they got separated. For several days neither John nor Mary knew of the other’s safety, but they were reunited in New York. As John was a large owner in the ship and its insurance was ultimately lost after lawsuits, the shipwreck considerably changed his and his family’s financial circumstances. After this incident he lived a quieter life, mostly at the cottage in Medway.
John and Mary Wells Cole had to more children: Arthur Wells born on March 2, 1856 and Alice M. born on December 22, 1859 who died on August 21, 1861. In 1872, the family moved back to the Shaw homestead in Westmoreland, New Hampshire to care for Mary Wells Cole’s mother. Around this time, John became actively engaged in church affairs and he united two Congregational churches in Westmoreland, which for more than 20 years had been separated by controversy. In 1864, John went to Virginia to see his son John A. Cole and his work with the United States Christian Commission. After John A. and Julia A. Cole settled in Chicago, John Cole visited them in 1874. On December 29, 1874 he had a stroke of apoplexy (stroke) and died on January 6, 1875.
Elizabeth Shaw Cole (1813 – 1843)
Born in 1813, Elizabeth Shaw from Westmoreland, New Hampshire married Captain John Cole on March 6, 1838. John left for a sea voyage after their marriage, and during his absence on December 16, 1838 John A. Cole was born. After John returned, he left sailing for a number of years during which time the family purchased a cottage in Medway, Massachusetts near Elizabeth’s brother Lambert Shaw. John and Elizabeth had twin daughters, Anna Elizabeth and Ella Amelia on July 27, 1841 in Hartford, Connecticut. John Cole left for a three year sailing voyage for whale oil in 1842 and had been concerned about Elizabeth’s health. While on his voyage Elizabeth died on April 13, 1843, a little over one month into her thirtieth year, and Anna Elizabeth died one week earlier on April 6, 1843.
Mary Wells Cole
Mary E. Wells Cole married Captain John Cole in October after he returned the three year sailing voyage for whale oil during which time he lost his first wife, Elizabeth Shaw Cole and Anna Elizabeth Cole. The Cole family, which included the children from John’s first marriage, John A. Cole and Ella Cole Barrows, moved to Westminster, Vermont in 1847 and then to Walpole, New Hampshire in 1848. On December 29, 1848 John and Mary Wells Cole had a son, Frederick Herbert, who died on August 24, 1853 from an attack of croup.
Mary Wells Cole joined Captain John Cole on a sailing voyage that departed in the fall of 1853. The voyage ended sadly, as the ship wrecked on Cape Hatteras, one of the long-thin barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks. John helped Mary over the side of a ship to a raft as the deck broke apart and they got separated. For several days neither John nor Mary knew of the other’s safety, but they were reunited in New York.
Captain John and Mary Wells Cole had two more children: Arthur Wells, born March 2, 1856 and Alice M. born on December 22, 1859 who died on August 21, 1861.
Ella Cole Barrows (1841 – 1898)
Ella Amelia Cole was born on July 27, 1841 to Captain John Cole and Elizabeth Shaw Cole in Hartford, Connecticut. Her twin sister Anna Elizabeth died on April 6, 1843 one week before Elizabeth Shaw Cole's death on April 13, 1843. In Ella’s brother John A. Cole’s correspondence it appears as though she also went to Washington D.C. after the Civil War.
Ella married Thomas Barrows in 1872, a Chicago sewing machine businessman. Their only child David Prescott Barrows was born in June 27, 1873 in Ravenswood Township in Chicago. Around 1875, the family moved to California, first Oakland and then San Francisco. Thomas’s impaired health, a hemorrhage of the lungs, caused the family to leave Chicago for a milder climate. The family then settled in the Ojai Valley of Ventura County, California in 1878 on 160 acres of land, which they turned into a ranch raising cattle and horses. Thomas died on January 12, 1898. Ella Cole Barrows died on September 18, 1898 in Long Beach, Los Angeles County, California of uremia.
2.5 Linear Feet (6 boxes)
New England and Chicago Protestant missionary family. Includes letters and family documents from John A. Cole, a civil engineer, active in the U.S. Christian Commission during the Civil War. After the war he worked with and educated freedmen, women, and children in Washington D.C. through the Lincoln Industrial Mission and the recently established Howard University. He met his wife, Julia A. Cole (née Alvord) through his work with the Lincoln Industrial Mission and Howard University, who worked with and educated freedmen, women, and children too. The collection includes family documents related to her family lines as well. Additionally the collection includes letters and family documents of the Cole's daughter, Elizabeth Cole Fleming and her husband, Daniel Johnson Fleming, who served as Presbyterian missionaries at Forman Christian College in Lahore, India (now Pakistan). After the Fleming's return from mission work they settled in New York City, where they both continued to contribute and serve the mission.
Papers are organized in the following series
- Series 1: John A. and Julia A. Cole Family, 1842 - 1920
- Boxes 1-4
- Series 2: Daniel Johnson and Elizabeth Cole Fleming, 1905 - 1945
- Boxes 4-6
Collection Stack Location
1 41 2
Gift of Elizabeth Fleming Kittle, 2017.
Samantha Smith, 2017.
- Alford family (Family)
- Cole family (Family)
- Fleming family (Family)
- Mead family (Family)
- Peck family (Family)
- Shaw family (Family)
- Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education (Organization)
- Barrows, Ella Cole (Person)
- Cole, John A. (John Adams), 1838-1932 (Person)
- Cole, Julia Alvord, 1847-1934 (Person)
- Fleming, Daniel Johnson, 1877-1970 (Person)
- Fleming, Elizabeth Cole (Person)
- Forman Christian College (Lahore, Pakistan) (Organization)
- Howard University (Organization)
- Lincoln Industrial Mission (Organization)
- YWCA of the U.S.A. (Organization)
Genre / Form
- Correspondence -- 1801-1850
- Correspondence -- 1851-1900
- Correspondence -- 1901-1950
- Genealogical tables -- 1901-1950
- Poems -- 1851-1900
- Topographic maps -- 1901-1950
- Writings (documents) -- 1851-1900
- Writings (documents) -- 1901-1950
- American Civil War (1861-1865)
- Antislavery movements
- Brothers and sisters -- Correspondence
- Christian education
- Civil engineering
- Conduct of life -- Religious aspects -- Christianity
- Evangelistic work
- Manuscripts, American -- Illinois -- Chicago
- Parent and adult child -- Correspondence
- Women missionaries
- Inventory of the Cole family papers, 1842-1945, bulk 1854-1928
- Samantha Smith
- Language of description
- Script of description