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Margaret Hampton Steele Letters

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Steele

Scope and Content of the Collection

33 letters primarily written by Margaret “Maggie” Hampton Steele to her cousin and future husband Silas Wade Hampton in 1859 and 1860. The letters discuss her courtship with Silas, her family’s move to Topeka, Kansas, her religious faith, and activities of family and friends.

The earliest letters are mostly written from Terre Haute, Indiana, where Maggie attended Terre Haute Female College along with her sister Mary. Maggie often wrote from the family home in Grandview, Illinois and later from Topeka, Kansas. There are also two letters written by Maggie’s father, John Armstrong Steele: one to Maggie after she was married and living in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1864, and one to Silas in 1860. After establishing a church in Grandview, Illinois, Rev. John Steele moved the family to Topeka in 1860, where he founded the First Presbyterian Church.

Maggie is initially apprehensive about her relationship with Silas, writing “I know that I love you to a certain degree but whether with all the intensity of my nature I known not” (Jan. 12, 1860). By May 1860, Maggie writes of her devoted love to Silas and discusses setting a date for the wedding, despite objections from her parents: “Pa and Ma both regret that it is to be at all their objection being that we are cousins and that you are subject to those nervous spells” (May 25, 1860). The collection only contains a few letters after Maggie and Silas married on Oct. 1, 1860.


  • Creation: 1859-1864



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Margaret Hampton Steele Letters are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Margaret Hampton Steele Letters 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.

Biography of Margaret Hampton Steele

Margaret “Maggie” Hampton Steele was born on Sept. 20, 1838 in Grandview, Illinois. She was the daughter of Rev. John Armstrong Steele (1802-1864) and Catharine Mary Hampton (1813-1890), both natives of Virginia. Maggie’s older sister, Mary (1837-1918) was born in Virginia, and the rest of her siblings, James, Catharine, John, and Robert, were born in Illinois. The Steele family moved to the Topeka, Kansas area in 1860, where John Steele became the minister of the new First Presbyterian Church of Topeka.

Maggie married Silas Wade Hampton (1838-1919) on Oct. 1, 1860 in Topeka, Kansas, with Maggie’s father John officiating. Silas was the son of Thomas Richard Hampton (1801-1845) and Elizabeth “Eliza” Metcalf Pickett (1805-1894), both of Virginia. Maggie and Silas were first cousins once removed, as Maggie’s maternal grandfather, William Hunton Hampton (1784-1821), was the brother of Silas’s father, Thomas.

Silas worked for the U.S. Treasury in Washington D.C. and for the Confederate Treasury at Montgomery, Alabama during the Civil War. After the war, Silas worked in the cotton and iron business in St. Louis, Missouri and Covington, Kentucky. Maggie and Silas had six children: Frederick (born in Virginia, 1861-1864), Adele Reid (born in Virginia, 1864-1891), Silas Wade Jr. (born in Missouri, 1866-1952), Katharine (born in Kentucky, 1868-1882), Margaret (born in Kentucky, 1871-1900), and John Steele (born in Kentucky, 1873-1954). The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1881. Maggie died on Dec. 13, 1891 at the residence of her brother-in-law, Rev. John S. Park, in Corinth, Mississippi, and was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.


0.2 Linear Feet (1 box)


Letters of Margaret “Maggie” Hampton Steele to her cousin and future husband Silas W. Hampton, primarily from 1859 and 1860. They are written from Terre Haute, Indiana, where she attended the Female College (1859), and from her family's residences in Grandview, Illinois, and later Topeka, Kansas. Steele’s minister father moved his family to Kansas in support of the free-state faction, settling in Topeka as minister of the First Presbyterian Church. Letters discuss her courtship with Silas, her family’s move to Topeka, Kansas, her religious faith, and activities of family and friends.


Materials arranged chronologically.

Collection Stack Location

1 32 5


Purchase, Michael Brown, 2018.

Processed by

Catherine Grandgeorge, 2018.

Inventory of the Margaret Hampton Steele Letters, 1859-1864
Catherine Grandgeorge
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States