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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Elvira Gaston Platt papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1853-1974
Creator: Platt, Elvira Gaston (1818-1914)
Extent: 1.00 linear inch.
Collection Number: IWA0181
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Teacher and abolitionist who assisted fleeing slaves on the Underground Railroad while living in Fremont County, Iowa. Taught school to Pawnee children in Pennsylvania and Nebraska.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Box 1.

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 261) were donated by Jean Ricketts Schobert in 1995.

Preferred Citation: Elvira Gaston Platt papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Address: 100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5068
Curator: Kären Mason
Email: lib-women@uiowa.edu
Website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa

Elvira Gaston Platt, teacher and abolitionist and underground railroad worker, was born in Danby, Thompkins County, New York, on July 15, 1818. She studied at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1835 and 1836 and began teaching in area rural schools. In 1841 Elvira Gaston married Lester Ward Platt and in 1842 they began teaching Pawnee Indians in the western territory, in what is now Nebraska. In 1847 they moved to Fremont County, Iowa, turned to farming, and began assisting fleeing slaves on the underground railroad.

In 1861 Elvira Platt returned to teaching Pawnee children, which she continued until 1872 with a few interruptions for Civil War work. Lester Platt died in 1875 and Elvira Platt joined the staff of the Industrial School for Indians in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1880. Three years later she became matron of a new school for Native Americans in Genoa, Nebraska, where she worked until she retired in 1887. She lived in Tabor, Iowa, until 1897, when she moved to Oberlin, Ohio. She died there on January 25, 1914.

The Elvira Gaston Platt papers date from 1853 to 1974 and measure 1 linear inch. The papers include biographical and genealogical information on the Platt family, correspondence, property deeds and titles, printed materials, and four photographs. The core of the collection is the correspondence, comprised of letters by Elvira Platt to local newspapers, and to relatives, mostly among herslf and her husband's sisters, Mrs. Charlotte Platt Ricketts, and Mrs. MaryA. Platt Darwin. The letters range from 1853 to 1894 (years in which Elvira Platt was, for the most part, living in Iowa), and include discussions of the politics of anti-slavery on the eve of the Civil War, a Theodore Tilton speech on women's suffrage, dress reform, temperance reform, and divorce. The printed materials are articles from the last twenty-five years of the Platts' teaching careers among the Pawnee Indians of eastern Nebraska, and their underground railroad work. There are also reminiscences by Platt relatives of how Lester Platt smuggled African-Americans through Civil Bend, Iowa, on his wagon.

Apart from the deeds, photographs and some newspaper clippings, the materials are photocopies of typewritten transcriptions.

Elvira Platt's reminiscences were published in the reports of the Nebraska State Historical Society, and in the Kansas Historical Collections of 1915 to 1918. Additional papers of Elivra Gaston Platt are held at the Nebraska State Historical Society (Lincoln, Nebraska) and in the Oberlin College Archives (Oberlin, Ohio).
Elvira Platt's reminiscences were published in the reports of the Nebraska State Historical Society, and in the Kansas Historical Collections of 1915 to 1918. Additional papers of Elivra Gaston Platt are held at the Nebraska State Historical Society (Lincoln, Nebraska) and in the Oberlin College Archives (Oberlin, Ohio).

Browse by Series:
Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL

  • Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical, genealogical and Oberlin College records of the Platt family [some typewritten transcriptions] - 1894, 1914, 1989
  • Correspondence [typewritten transcriptions] - 1853-1894
  • Underground railroad activity in Southwest Iowa, work among the Pawnee Indians, and records from the Civil Bend Congregational Church's founding - 1952, 1971, 1974
  • Deeds and titles of sale - 1856, 1859, 1863, 1896
  • Pencil sketch and photographs - 1858