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I. Chapin Bartlett Papers

Collection Outline
Digital Archives

See Irving Chapin Bartlett Collection for digitized versions of the letters.


Irving Chapin Bartlett was born on December 19, 1842 in Clarksburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), the son of Phipps Waldo and Emily Byrd Chapin Bartlett. In 1844 the family moved to Kentucky where young Bartlett received his education, attending schools in Flemingsburg and Covington.

Bartlett entered Centre College in the fall of 1858. During his years as a student, Bartlett lived the life of a fairly typical student. He joined the Chamberlain Literary Society on campus, and during his senior year he served as censor for the society. For a while he boarded at the home of the college president, L. W. Green. Bartlett completed the full classical course and graduated on June 27, 1861.

Upon graduation, Bartlett joined the Confederate Army and served under John Hunt Morgan. He was wounded in 1863 during an engagement at Edgefield, Tennessee, the wound being serious enough for Bartlett to be discharged. By this time Bartlett had risen to the rank of lieutenant. His obituary referred to him as Colonel but time and Kentucky's fondness for the title probably account for the higher rank.

Bartlett moved to Louisville and took a position with the Second National Bank. After several years he left to become a partner in the wholesale whiskey firm of John Callahan & Company. The choice of the whiskey business is ironic in the light of his letter home from Centre talking about a meeting of students to boycott stores selling liquor. Later, Bartlett moved to an office with Bartley, Johnson & Company, another whiskey firm.On December 19, 1884, Bartlett married Ella Glazebrook, the daughter of a prominent Louisville businessman, Austin Glazebrook. The couple had one son, Austin Glazebrook Bartlett.

Bartlett was active in social and fraternal organizations, particularly the Masons, becoming a 33 Mason. He also served for a time as Eminent Commander of the Louisville Commandery of the Knights Templar. During a trip to French Lick, Bartlett took ill. He died there of heart failure on July 10, 1893. He was buried two days later in Cave Hill Cemetary in Louisville. He was survived by his wife, son, and parents.

Centre College Catalogues, especially the 1890 edition
Louisville Courier-Journal, 11 July 1893
History of Kentucky, Vol. III. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1928

Collection Description

All but one of the letters in this collection fall between the years 1858 and 1861, the other letter having been written in 1863. The gaps between letters, such as the one between February 27, 1859 and June 3, 1859, indicate that either Bartlett was a poor correspondent or that not all of his letters were saved. Since the letters were written to family they tend to be chatty, asking of friends or relatives. However, the collection does provide insights into life at Centre during the years just before the Civil War. Bartlett writes about hunting trips, his classes, a student being expelled for intoxication and the rivalry between his literary society, the Chamberlains, and the Deindogians. As the Civil War drew nearer, Bartlett's letters reflected the Northern-Southern antagonisms at Centre, which were felt so keenly throughout Kentucky. He described the growing disagreement between Unionist and Secessionist both in the town of Danville and on campus. Generally, the students seemed to favor the Confederacy, despite the strong Union support in the area as evidenced by the establishment nearby of Camp Dick Robinson, a Union training camp, in the summer of 1861 while Kentucky struggled to remain neutral. Overall, the collection is rich although small and containing gaps in time. While the collection cannot provide a complete record of life at Centre between 1858 and 1861, it does give one the flavor of those times.

Collection Inventory
Calendar of Letters
Folder 1
  • Unknown, probably mother. Undated, probably December 3, 1860. Site unknown, probably Danville. 1/2 page, 2 sides. Bartlett brags on his marks in one of his classes, second best on this day.
  • Folks. October 31, 1858. Danville. 1 page, 3 sides. Recounts the trip to Danville and describes the town.
  • Parents, Aunts and Sisters. November 7, 1858. Science Hill. 1 page, 4 sides. Describes life at the Green's, where he is boarding, and announces he is joining the Chamberlain Literary Society.
  • Mother. November 18, 1858. Science Hill. 1 page, 4 sides. Talks of the cost of boarding.
  • Uncle. December 6, 1858. Centre College. 1 page, 4 sides. Describes his initiation into the Chamberlain Literary Society.
  • Father. December 12, 1858. Science Hill. 1/2 page, 4 sides. Recounts society activities and the rivalry with the Deinologian Literary Society.
  • Father. January 3, 1859. Science Hill. 1/2 page, 4 sides. Thanks for food sent from home and talks about school starting after Christmas break.
  • Aunt. January 23, 1859. Danville. 1/2 page, 4 sides. A chatty letter asking for one in return and brief descriptions of activities at Centre.
  • Mother. January 26, 1859. Danville. 1 page, 3 sides. Describes a touch of homesickness. Bartlett would like to be home but school is more attractive to the mind.
  • Aunt. February 20, 1859. Mount Vernon. 1/2 page, 4 sides. A student is expelled for being intoxicated in Lexington.
  • Father. February 27, 1859. Danville. 1/2 page, 4 sides. Recounts a fight between two students and the February 22 celebration activities.
  • Father. June 3, 1859. Danville. 1 page, 2 sides. Discusses his classes and readings.
  • Mother. June 8, 1859. Danville. 1 page, 2 sides. Taking a study break to look forward to the end of school and summer break.
  • Mother. September 18, 1859. Danville. 1 page, 3 sides. Recounts the activities of the L.W. Green family, including the visit of a relative.
  • Father. October 11, 1859. Danville. 1/2 page, 3 sides. Describes a hunting trip taken with friends.
  • Father. October 16, 1859. Danville, 1 page, 2 sides. Another hunting trip and an account of money spent.
Calendar of Letters
Folder 2
  • Mother. January 19, 1860. Danville. 1/2 page, 4 sides. Describes a meeting of students to organize a boycott of stores selling liquor.
  • Father. April 30, 1860. Danville. 1/2 page, 3 sides. Recounts reasons for moving to a different boarding house.
  • Mother. October 22, 1860. Danville. 1/2 page, 3 sides. Asks about the letter Dr. L. W. Green sent to his parents and recounts the disagreement between Green and Dr. Breckinridge over the science department.
  • Uncle. November 22, 1860. Danville. 1/2 page, 4 sides. Describes a political meeting of the students, which was broken up by the faculty.
  • Mother. December 2, 1860. Danville. 1/2 page, 4 sides. A chatty letter to bring the family up to date on campus activities.
  • Father. February 7, 1861. Danville. 1/2 page, 4 sides. Describes the disagreements between Unionists and Secessionists in Danville.
  • Father. February 24, 1861. Danville. 1/2 page, 4 sides. The problem of Unionist vs. Secessionist on campus, particularly the question of whether the "Star Spangled Banner" would be enjoyed by the campus as a whole.
  • Uncle. March 31, 1861. Danville. 1 page, 4 sides. Describes his hopes & plans. He would like to go South and teach, then go to law school.
  • Composition. Undated. 1 page. A brief composition entitled "Revolutionary Will"
Materials Pertaining To But Not Written by I. Chapin Bartlett
Folder 3
  • Application by Bartlett for membership into the Kentucky Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, September 6, 1889.
  • Biography of Bartlett in History of Kentucky - The Blue Grass State. vol. 3. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1928.