The Brown-Orne family papers contains over 400 original family letters written between 1855 to 1954 among several generations of Brown-Orne family members, mainly women. The collection also includes postcards dated from 1880 to 1936 (some undated), three family bibles (all different sizes), business records, genealogical information, a scanned copy of Betty’s 1855 diary, and Zelia O. Bell’s book, “My Dearest Child,” which contains transcriptions of the letters and the diary, accompanied by explanatory notes. The collection is organized according to series and then chronologically within the series, boxes, and folders.
Elizabeth “Betty” Bolling Dandridge wrote a diary in 1855. It covered one year of her life as young, unmarried woman in Pontotoc, Mississippi, where she lived at the time with her mother, four sisters, and brother. Approaching her 21st birthday, Betty established her diary in confidence, recording her activities, observations, and opinions. Her astute observations continue in the letters to her daughters, many of which are part of this collection. Whereas Betty’s diary resides in a museum in Pontotoc, Mississippi, a scanned copy of it forms an integral part of the collection. The diary was an important precursor to the 475 letters subsequently exchanged between several generations of Brown-Orne family members, mostly women, starting with Betty. Betty wrote to her daughters from Pontotoc, and they wrote back from school and later from places they moved to as they got married. For example, one of the daughters, Zelia Dandridge Orne described life in nineteenth-century New Orleans delightfully, while Annie Maud Orne offered glimpses of her life on a plantation, and Cara Coffin maintained contact with her cousins as they established their homes away from Pontotoc. Among those who wrote and helped preserve these letters are Lizzie Cleveland Orne Brown (one of Betty’s daughters); Mary Annie Brown Zulauf (Lizzie’s daughter) and her husband Jacob Zulauf; and Zelia Orne Bell (Mary and Jacob’s daughter) and her husband Howard Bell. Zelia and Howard drove from Kansas City, Missouri, to Powhatan to deliver the collection to NEARA in the summer of 2019. Zelia is Betty’s great-grand daughter. Zelia O. Bell grew up in Tipton, Missouri – a German-Swiss community – in an intergenerational family that included her parents, her mother’s two nephews, and her maternal grandparents, the Browns. On a farm in the same community lived the Zulaufs, her paternal side of the family, including grandparents (both Swiss immigrant to the United States), two aunts, and an uncle. Zelia’s mother, Mary Annie Brown Zulauf, came from Arkansas. Zelia and her husband Howard live in Kansas City, Missouri.
Scope and Contents
The Brown-Orne family papers contains over 400 original family letters written between 1855 to 1954among several generations of Brown-Orne family members, mainly women. The collection also includespostcards dated from 1880 to 1936 (some undated), three family bibles (all different sizes), businessrecords, genealogical information, a scanned copy of Betty’s 1855 diary, and Zelia O. Bell’s book, “MyDearest Child,” which contains transcriptions of the letters and the diary, accompanied by explanatorynotes. The collection is organized according to series and then chronologically within the series, boxes,and folders.
Document; 8.5" x 11"
Brown-Orne family papers, MSNE.0090
Arkansas State Archives
Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives
Brown-Orne family papers, Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives, Arkansas State Archives, Powhatan, Arkansas.
United States History