Boston-Townes Family Papers, 1887-1920

Held by The Filson Historical Society

Creator: Boston-Townes family

Title: Papers, 1887-1920

Rights: For information regarding literary and copyright interest for these papers, see the Curator of Special Collections.

Size of Collection: 0.33 cubic feet and one volume

Location Number: Mss./A/B747

Scope and Content Note

The Boston-Townes family Papers consist of correspondence between members of the Boston and Townes families, chiefly Edna Townes (nee Boston), her husband Isaac Townes, and her mother Alice Boston.  These papers document farm life, family life, and the professional life of a doctor during the years 1877-1920.

The correspondence is arranged chronologically, and features both original letters and a volume of transcriptions which contains additional letters not donated.  The letters discuss life on the Boston family farm in lower McLean County, Kentucky, including harvesting, school, and selling crops.  They also discuss classes and the cost of tuition for Edna Boston, who studied for one year at Eminence College in Eminence, Kentucky.

Edna later married Dr. Isaac “Ike” Townes, and letters frequently discuss his professional duties, a graduate school for medicine he attended in Chicago, and their family life.  Later letters to their son, Fay, discuss his career prospects and mention his service in the United States Navy during World War I.

The transcription was a project to publish a book entitled Edna Earle Boston Townes, March 27, 1871-October 24, 1920: An Autobiographical Biography.  It contains transcriptions of both the original letters and additional letters that were not donated.  The letters in this volume are arranged by broad themes, and the volume also includes a chronology of Edna Earle Boston Townes’ life, brief family histories and biographical sketches by various members of the family, and five recipes.  Footnotes to the transcriptions provide additional context for events and individuals mentioned in the letters.

Much of the work of collecting the letters and creating the transcripts was performed by Edna Townes’ grand-daughter, Martha Townes Grattan.  After Grattan’s death in 2007 the work of editing the volume was finished by Joyce Colony, a professional editor.

The collection also includes different versions of the transcription volume, as well as family trees (folders 13-14).

A CD containing digital copies of Edna Earle Boston Townes, March 27, 1871-October 24, 1920: An Autobiographical Biography and 76 photographs is included with the finding aid. Photos depict property, gravestones, and individuals associated with the Boston and Townes family. Many photos have captions describing the contents of the photo. Only one original photo, of an unidentified woman, is included within the collection. This photo is in the finding aid folder.

Biographical Note

Alice Clay Harper married Charles Oliver Boston in 1870.  Charles and Alice Boston lived in lower McLean County, Kentucky. Their daughter, Edna Boston (1871-1920), wrote the majority of the letters contained in this collection.  Edna Boston attended Eminence College, Eminence, Ky., from September 1888 to June 1889.  Edna Boston married Dr. Isaac Townes (1867-1944) in 1892, and the two were the parents of Dr. Charles Dwight Townes (1899-1972).  Dr. Charles Townes was Chairman of the Division and Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Louisville from 1941 to 1965. Another child, Fay Townes, graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Agriculture, and served in the United States Navy during World War I.  Their daughter, Pauline Townes Finley (1910-1988), married Gordon B. Finley, Sr. (1908-1990) around 1935 and was a teacher in the Jefferson County Public School system.  She and her husband were both in the Army, and are buried in the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

Folder List

Folder 1: Correspondence, 1887

Folder 2: Correspondence, 1888

Folder 3: Correspondence, 1889

Folder 4: Correspondence, 1890

Folder 5: Correspondence, 1891

Folder 6: Correspondence, 1899

Folder 7: Correspondence, 1910

Folder 8: Correspondence, 1911

Folder 9: Correspondence, 1918

Folder 10: Correspondence, 1919

Folder 11: Correspondence, 1920

Folder 12: Miscellaneous envelopes

Folder 13: Family genealogies

Folder 14: Earlier versions of Edna Earle Boston Townes, March 27, 1871-October 24, 1920: An Autobiographical Biography

Volume 15: Edna Earle Boston Townes, March 27, 1871-October 24, 1920: An Autobiographical Biography

Subject Headings

Alcoholism – Kentucky


Baking – Kentucky – Madisonville

Baptists – Illinois – Chicago

Boston family

Cable cars (streetcars) – Illinois – Chicago

Chicago (Ill.) – Description and travel


Condolence notes

Contract labor – Kentucky

Courtship – Kentucky

Crops – Kentucky

Drugstores – Kentucky


Education – Costs

Elections – Kentucky

Eminence College (Eminence, Ky.)

Farm life – Kentucky

Farms – Kentucky

Firearms accidents – Kentucky

Floods – Kentucky – Louisville

Formulas, recipes, etc. – Kentucky – Madisonville

Funeral rites and ceremonies – Kentucky – Louisville

Humorous poetry

Industrial Workers of the World

Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919 – Kentucky – Madisonville

Kentucky – Social life and customs


Love-letters – Kentucky – Louisville

Medicine – Kentucky

Medicine – Practice – Kentucky

Mental health counseling

Music in churches – Kentucky

Ohio River


Pharmacists – Kentucky

Physicians – Kentucky


Preaching – Kentucky


Railroads – Kentucky


Robbery – Illinois – Chicago

School children – Kentucky

Schools – Kentucky – Henry County


Sewing machines – Kentucky

Social life and customs

Strikes and lockouts – Washington (State) – Aberdeen

Teaching – Kentucky

Telephone – Kentucky



Tobacco – Kentucky

Tornadoes – Kentucky – Louisville

Townes family

Traffic accidents – Illinois – Chicago



Women – Education – Kentucky

Women college students – Kentucky

World War, 1914-1918

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