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John Eaton Papers

Identifier: MS-2256

  • Staff Only

In a November 24, 1877 letter and an undated note, the John Eaton Papers provide insight into the career of an educational leader after the Civil War. In a letter to Eaton in Washington, D.C., E. O. Jade of Hidalgo, Whatcom County, Wash., writes to ask for advice in the creation and opening of new Christian school in the Puget Sound area. He also provides information on existing schools in the area, including a statement that the "Territorial University seems to have been launched & managed mostly by Politicians & they have succeeded in letting the money all slip." The undated note found in this collection informs that free schools have been opened in "well nigh every county of the state."


  • circa 1870-1877

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 2 business days are needed to retrieve these items for use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library.


0.1 Linear Feet


The John Eaton Papers, written in a November 24th, 1877 letter, include a description of schools in the Puget Sound area, a plea for help in establishing a new Christian school in Washington state, and an announcement regarding the opening of free schools.

Biographical/Historical Note

John Henry Eaton Jr. was born on December 5, 1829, in Sutton, New Hampshire, to John Henry and Janet (Andrew) Eaton. Eaton graduated from Dartmouth College in 1854, after which he served as the Superintendent of Schools in Toledo, Ohio. He later studied theology in Andover, Massachusetts, and was ordained a Minister of the Gospel by the Presbytery of Maumee in 1861. When the Civil War broke out, Eaton enlisted in the 27th Ohio Infantry as a chaplain. In November 1862, General Ulysses Grant put Eaton in charge of the contraband camps, which cared for and organized the numerous formerly enslaved people whom had escaped to freedom behind Union lines. Eaton's excellent service in this position earned him a commission as a Colonel (and later Brigadier-General) in the 63rd U. S. Colored Infantry. Eaton married Alice Eugenia Shirley (1844-1927) on September 29, 1864, and resigned his military commission three months later. In May 1865, Eaton moved to Washington, D.C., to take a position as the assistant commissioner of the newly formed Freedmen's Bureau. He soon left this position in order to publish the Memphis Post (1866-1867), a decidedly pro-Union newspaper. He was elected Superintendent of Schools in Tennessee in 1867 and became the U. S. Commissioner of Education in 1870. After his resignation (due to poor health) in 1886, Eaton served as President of Ohio's Marietta College (1885-1891) and of Utah's Sheldon Jackson College (1895-1899). He began work on Puerto Rico's public school system during the American military occupation of 1899, but resigned in 1900 due to poor health. He died in Washington, D.C., on February 9, 1906, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Collection consists of a single folder.

Related Materials

Interested researchers may wish to consult:

  1. MS.0018, John H. Eaton Jr. Papers, 1865-1881
  2. MS.1078, John H. Eaton Papers, 1862 October 5-1881 September 29
  3. MS.2657, Leroy Graf Research Material (related to John Eaton), 1854-1953

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA