Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Claxon mss. II, 1937-2000, consist of the personal papers of William Neville and Emma (Osborne) Claxon. The Claxons, originally from Kentucky, spent more than thirty years of their lives pursuing Baptist missionary work in West Africa. The materials in this collection date to before, during, and after their tenure as missionaries abroad.

The collection is arranged into the following series: I. Biographical; II. Correspondence; III. Subject Files; IV. Writings; V. Conferences; VI. Photographs. The Biographical series includes biographical writings, educational information, passports, and other personal documents, which provide background information about the Claxons themselves. The Correspondence series contains some letters from the Claxons and many by acquaintances and colleagues affiliated with the Baptist church and mission. (Most family letters are contained within the first Claxon mss collection.) There is also a topical file of correspondence related to the effects of the United States' Civil Rights movement on African nations. Frequent correspondents include T. A. Akande, Edgar H. Burks, Bob Couts, Edna Frances Dawkins, Gaines S. Dobbins, Cornell Goerner, I. N. Patterson, M. Theron Rankin, George W. Sadler, and Carl F. Whirley.

The third series, Subject Files, contains materials related to the Claxons' professional endeavors as Baptist missionaries in various African countries, as well as their daily life, travels, and activities within the United States. Subject files are divided into four subseries: Nigerian Baptist Training Union, Nigeria Mission, Benin Mission, and General. The Nigerian Baptist Training Union subseries provides a record of Neville's role as secretary, the highest position in the training union, through which he helped to improve religious education and maintained active communication with churches throughout Nigeria. The Nigeria Mission subseries documents the Claxons' general mission work in Nigeria. The Benin Mission subseries documents the Claxon's role in establishing and advancing the Baptist mission in Benin. The General subseries contains subject files documenting the Claxons' other undertakings; these include files related to shorter mission appointments outside of Nigeria and Benin, jobs and activities pursued in the United States while on furlough, travel documents, materials from various churches (including Neville's home church in Switzer, KY), and documentation of mission-like endeavors pursued after retirement to the United States, including work with Haitian immigrants in Florida.

The fourth series, Writings, is divided into two subseries: Sermons and additional religious materials; and Additional writings. The first subseries includes a large number of sermons, religious messages, talks, and notes for speaking engagements composed and used by Neville Claxon. (Most of these materials are in English; however, there is also a group of French sermons used during the Claxon's work in Benin. Some of the French-language materials may have been reused during mission work with Haitian immigrants.) The second subseries contains articles, datebooks, memoirs, meeting notes, and documents written for radio and television work in Nigeria.

A series on Conferences includes pamphlets, programs, notes, travel documents, and other materials related to various Baptist conferences attended by the Claxons. The final series, Photographs, contains photographs taken by and of the Claxons; almost all photographs depict mission work and life in Africa.

An inventory is available

Purchased: 2006

See also: Claxon, Emma and Neville, Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.

Collection size: 5,000 items

Related manuscripts: Claxon mss.

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.