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Burchard Family papers

Identifier: IWA0800

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Scope and Contents

The Burchard Family papers date from 1861 to 2003 and measure 2.08 linear feet. The papers are arranged in two series: Biographical information and Diaries. The collection is comprised of sixty-seven diaries and focuses on the activities of daily life for the women of the Burchard family from the 1860s to the 1930s, first in New York, then in Illinois after 1862, and in Iowa after 1910.

The Biographical information series consists of obituaries, eulogies, funeral programs relating to the Burchard family, family correspondence from 1866 to 1993, genealogical information and the wills of Chauncey Buell and Hamilton K. Wheeler. Also included are talks and research notes about the diaries by Ann Murray, great-granddaughter of Lettie Burchard Wheeler and daughter of the donor, Alberta Hall Randall.

The Diaries series contains forty-two diaries written by Celestia Burchard between 1861 and 1901, thirty-one diaries written by Lettie Burchard Wheeler between 1880 and 1931, three written by Celestia Burchard's mother Levina Willis Buell between 1865 and 1869, and one by Lettie Wheeler's daughter Adelaide Wheeler in 1921. The series also includes talks and research notes about the diaries by Ann Murray, the great-granddaughter of Lettie Burchard Wheeler and Phyllis Harris, the great-grandaughter of Celestia Burchard. Various topics are covered in the diaries, including health, weather, travel, food and clothing, social events, religion, news both local and national, farm work and education.

Extensive financial notes are in the back of each diary. For example, the 1898 diary documents the income and expenditures from the sale of cattle, handmade butter, and boarders who stayed in their home. The repetitive cycle of work that these women undertook dominates the diaries, which describe such tasks as sewing, washing, and the hours it took to melt the snow in order to wash clothes during the winter months. Other duties included cleaning, churning as much as 60 pounds of butter, baking, making soap and cheese, providing food by butchering cattle and canning fruit. A quilt pattern is tucked into the back of the 1902 diary. Many of the social events described in the diaries, such as weekly temperance meetings, quilting, dances, and Ladies Aid gatherings, occurred through the local church. Letter writing was an important means of communication for these women outside their domestic sphere and the diaries discuss letters received by friends and family from the East Coast.

Health is another topic in the diaries, which document diseases and deaths in the family. They describe the outbreak of yellow fever in 1878 and include recipes and remedies for such ailments as "prairie itch" (found in the 1862 diary).

Politics and national news are mentioned sporadically throughout the diaries. Grandfather Burchard's political involvement, including his attendance at caucuses and town meetings, is described in the 1862 diary, which also includes discussion of the Civil War, war meetings and making bandages. Passing reference is made to the Chicago Fire in 1871, the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.


  • Creation: 1861-2003


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Celestia Levina Buell, one of five children of Chauncey and Levina Willis Buell, was born on 25 July, 1831 in Lebanon, New York. Celestia Buell married twice, first in 1849 to Lafayette Muzzy of Hamilton, New York, who died in a sawmill accident in 1849. After being a widow for six years, she married Patrick Henry Burchard in Hamilton, New York, in 1855. Their daughter Lettie Buell Burchard was born July 10, 1859 in Hamilton. In 1862, the Burchard family moved to Illinois. Patrick Henry Burchard died in 1883.

Three years later, Lettie Burchard married Thomas Jewett Wheeler. After Celestia Burchard's death in 1903, her daughter continued the tradition of keeping a diary that her mother had started in 1860. In 1910 the Wheelers move to Laurens, Iowa, in Pocahontas County, which became their permanent home. Lettie and Thomas Wheeler had a daughter, Adelaide Wheeler Joselyn, who wrote one diary in 1921. Lettie Burchard Wheeler was the grandmother of Alberta Randall Hall, who donated the family diaries to the Iowa Women's Archives.


2.08 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The family lived in New York state until 1862 when they moved to Illinois before settling in Iowa in 1910. The diaries are from several generations.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no.1231) were donated by Alberta Hall Randall in 2009 and Phyllis Harris (donor no. 1405) in 2015.

Rosemary Riess, 2011; Dylan Davison 2019
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)