Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Catherwood mss., 1880-1902, consist of the letters of writer Mary (Hartwell) Catherwood (Mrs. James Steele Catherwood), 1847-1902, to Mary Elizabeth (Riley) Payne (Mrs. Frank C. Payne), 1864-1936, sister of James Whitcomb Riley.

Born in Licking County, Ohio, December 16, 1847, Mary Hartwell moved west with her parents in the 1850's. At age 12, following her parents' death, she returned to Ohio to live with relatives. By the aid of teaching school, she managed to work her way through the Granville Female Seminary. Because her ambition to become a writer was firmly fixed, she varied her teaching at Danville, Illinois, and elsewhere by writing various stories, poems, and articles.

On December 27, 1877, she married James Steele Catherwood, and moved to Indiana. In 1879 the Catherwoods moved to Indianapolis and she soon became part of the literary circle of the city and a friend of James Whitcomb Riley. The major part of her married life was spent in Hoopeston, Illinois, where Catherwood was postmaster. After separating from her husband, she spent her summers at Mackinac Island writing, or gathering material in Canada or abroad. Her last years were spent in Chicago.

Her first novel, A Woman in Armour (1875), brought widespread recognition. This was followed by The Romance of Dollard (1889) and other historical novels of the French in America.

The letters are characterized by their personal content and reveal the deep affection between the two women during their long friendship, with an occasional mention of Catherwood's works, especially Dollard.

The collection includes a letter from Hazel H. Catherwood (later Mrs. Donald Palmer Cameron) to Mary Elizabeth (Riley) Payne, letters from Catherwood to Lesley Payne and to Mr. Page, and an inscribed photograph of Catherwood. Several of the letters are accompanied by envelopes and typescripts.

Collection size: 79 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.