Benton Aldrich, 1831-1918 [RG3264.AM]


RG3264.AM: Benton Aldrich, 1831-1918

Papers: 1815-1837; 1850-1972
Clifton, Nemaha County, Neb.: Horticulturalist, Farmer, Lecturer
Size: 3.0 cubic ft.; 6 boxes & 1 reel of microfilm


Benton Aldrich was born on May 3, 1831 in Westmorland, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, the son of Alfred and Mary Aldrich. His education was limited to a common school near the family farm and to one year in the academy at Saxtons River, Vermont. In 1850 he left home and went west to Hudson, St. Croix County, Wisconsin, where he married Miss Martha Jane Harshman on Dec. 5, 1854. Soon after his marriage he sold what land he had acquired and moved farther west to Winona County, Minnesota. He made his final westward journey in 1865 and settled eight miles south of the present city of Auburn in Nemaha County, Nebraska.

One of the earliest settlers in this southeastern Nebraska county, he soon became widely known as a farmer, horticulturalist, postmaster and librarian. From 1869 to 1881, Aldrich served as postmaster at Clifton, the small, rural community in which he resided. He was active in tree planting, having at one time a sizeable apple orchard. His most unique contribution to the community was the Clifton Library Association, an organization of about sixty farm families founded by Mr. Aldrich in 1876. Over 700 volumes were owned jointly by the association and kept in the home of Mr. Aldrich, who held the position of librarian until his death on Mar. 14, 1918.

In contributing to the culture of his community and to the science of agriculture, Benton Aldrich was an active leader. He urged co-operation in agricultural communities and was an early advocate of Farmers’ Institutes. Politically, as a young man, he was an abolitionist, and, like so many of this persuasion joined the Republican Party. He was keenly aware of the history being made on the frontier and was a charter member of the Nebraska State Historical Society.


This collection consists of six boxes and 1 microfilm reel of manuscript material arranged in eleven series: (1) Correspondence, 1850-1907; (2) Essays and Comments, largely undated; (3) Quotes and Texts selected by Aldrich, undated; (4) Newspaper Clippings and Obituaries, 1885-1908; (7) Land Deeds and Treasurer’s Receipts, 1816-1874; (8) Histories and Reminiscences pertaining to southeast Nebraska, 1934-1967; (9) Clifton Women’s Club Minutes, 1895-1906; (10) Research Paper on Aldrich, 1972; (11) Miscellany, 1894-1956; and (12) Unprocessed material.

This collection relates primarily to horticulture and early farm life in Nebraska and to Nemaha County history, as well as to local organizations, such as the library and women’s club in Clifton. All of Aldrich’s many interests, horticultural, agricultural, political, economic, social and philosophic, are reflected through this collection.

Series 1 consists of Correspondence written and received by Benton Aldrich, 1850-1907. Most of this series is comprised of letters written by Aldrich to his family back east in which he describes his travels and works, homesteading, the advantages of settling in the west; crops grown, land values, family news, diet and health practices, political views, anti-slavery beliefs, religious views, horticulture advances, and Farmers’ Institutes. Letters from Aldrich’s wife and children to their eastern residents are also included. The correspondence received by Aldrich provides news from his mother residing in New Hampshire, Farmers’ Institute material, and agricultural and horticultural advice and techniques. See also Series 12.

The bulk of this collection consists of Essays and Comments of Series 2. These writings discuss the virtues of farm life, prohibition, religion, uses of wealth, education, health practices, Farmers’ Institutes, the Clifton Library and other opinions held by Aldrich. These essays provide much information pertaining to Aldrich’s activities and extensive intellectual interests.

Series 3 consists of Quotes and Texts from writings of various authors, which influenced Aldrich’s views. Quoted authors include Herbert Spencer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Stuart Mill.

Aldrich collected the Newspaper Clippings and Obituaries of Series 4. He wrote several of the newspaper articles.

Series 5 consists of Day Books (or Farm Journals) 1878-1904, which provides personal accounts and analyses of Aldrich’s farm operations. Also part of this series is Aldrich’s Farm Journal, 1882-1893, which is on microfilm. This describes agricultural experiments and techniques, cultivation records, farm product accounts, market values, and employee contracts. Much emphasis is placed on the progress of Aldrich’s orchards. Some observations and thoughts are included in an essays and comments section, 1913-1917. Newspaper clippings, 1904-1958, noting marriages, anniversaries and deaths are also included in this filmed volume.

Series 6 contains material pertaining to the Farmers’ Institute, 1891-1908. Aldrich helped to organize these forums that enabled scientists and farmers to exchange ideas on agricultural improvement. Included are papers delivered, constitutions, programs, instructions, and opinions.

The Land Deeds and Treasurer’s Receipts of Series 7, 1816-1874, pertain to Aldrich family land held in New Hampshire, as well as for land held in Nebraska.

Series 8 consists of histories of and personal reminiscences about southeastern Nebraska during its early settlement. Included are histories of Brownville and Nemaha County, Nebraska, as well as a reminiscence, “Events in the Life of a Nebraska Pioneer” by Nella Aldrich Stoddard, daughter of Benton Aldrich. Biographical and genealogical material about the Aldrich family is also provided in this series.

The Minutes of the Clifton Women’s Club, of Series 9, are recorded in two ledgers. They provide a record of the organization from 1895-1906. The constitution, by-laws and amendments are also included in these minutes.

Series 10 consists of a 1972 research paper by John William Irwin which provides an in depth look at Benton Aldrich and his work with the Clifton Library.

The Miscellany of Series 11 contains printed material, including agricultural and horticultural advertisements collected by Aldrich, as well as an inventory of his book collection. Books that were part of the Clifton Library are designated as such on the inventory.

Series 12 consists of unprocessed materials received after the initial bulk of the collection was processed. These materials consist mainly of correspondence sent to Benton Aldrich from various family members, friends, and acquaintances. Also included are reminiscences and various other writings by Benton Aldrich.

Additional materials relating to Benton Aldrich and the Aldrich family are located in the Library and Photograph collections. Ask a Reference Staff member for assistance. See also the Stoddard Family papers [RG4036.AM].

Benton Aldrich container list (PDF)

Subject headings:

Agricultural history
Agriculture — Economic impacts
Agriculture (Nemaha County, Neb.)
Aldrich Family
Aldrich, Benton, 1831-1918
Clifton Library (Clifton, Neb.)
Clifton Women’s Club (Clifton, Neb.)
Farmers’ Institutes
Horticulture — Nebraska — Nemaha County
Nemaha County (Neb.) — History
Tree culture — Nebraska
Women’s clubs — Nebraska

Revised 06-18-2008 TMM

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