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John Esch Collection

Identifier: RH-A-3578

Scope and Contents

Most of the letters are addressed to Harriet M. Ashley and her husband Jerome B. Ashley. Harriet was born in Ohio in 1841. Jerome was also born in Ohio in March of 1837. He and Harriet were married in 1858 and then moved to Michigan a year later. He was a farmer and was drafted to the Civil War in 1863. Harriet and Jerome remained in Michigan with their two children, Hattie and Frank. Harriet became a widow in 1906 until her death in 1922.

Harriet’s parents Ambrose and Abigail Holder had seven children. Both parents were born in Virginia and moved to Ohio after they were married. Their children Frank, Charles, Reuben, Mary and Ira were the ones who frequently wrote Harriet. Two of Harriet’s brothers, Franklin and Ira served in the civil war. Franklin was discharged in 1862 and died a few months later. Besides his letters he leaves behind his bible. Ira Holden joined the war effort in 1863. His wife Sarah Jane Phelps he had married the year before. They had one child, Francis Holden. Ira, his wife and daughter all wrote Harriet. One of Harriet’s sister Mary and Mary’s daughter Winna also have letters in the collection. Harriet’s brother Rueben was married twice. His first marriage he had a daughter, Ella Holder. His second marriage he had four children, Eva was the daughter who wrote her aunt Harriet.

On the Ashley side of the family Jerome’s brother Glover Ashley has a single letter addressed to him. Harriet and Jerome’s children wrote and received letters within this collection. Hattie Gage was born in 1863 and moved back in with her parents after her husband died. Hattie was a music teacher. Harriet and Jerome’s second child Frank Ashley and his wife Ora have documents in the collection. Frank and Ora had one daughter, Joyce. Joyce married Leo Esch. Harriet’s niece Ruby also writes her, although who her parents were could not be found.

Also in this collection is a five year diary spanning form 1938-1942 after most of the letters were written. There is no indication of who wrote this diary. Also in this collection are miscellaneous documents. This includes receipts from a piano store and land purchase. There are also name cards from Burlington High School 1922; the name that pertains to this collection is Joyce Ashley. The newest document is a centennial booklet form 1966, going into detail of the history of Union City area.


  • Creation: 1858-1964



1 boxes : 0.5 cubic feet

Language of Materials



This collection is mostly comprised of family letters, dealing mostly with the Holden and Ashley families. The range of dates is from 1858 to 1964. Although the majority of the letters are between 1858 till about 1920. These letters are mostly addressed to Harriet and Jerome Ashley from their children, Harriet’s siblings and their children. Harriet and Jerome lived in Calhoun county Michigan for a majority of their lives.

Physical Description

This collection is .50 cubic feet and fits in one box. This collection overall is in decent shape. A few letters are very faded and a few are torn. The binding on the diary is falling apart. Most of the letters are yellowed. This collection also contains a few miscellaneous items. Such items include a diary and a bible. The overall range of all the documents in the collection is between 1858 and 1966.


John Esch Collection Finding Aid
Stephanie Davis
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
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Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490