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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the John Anson Nash Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1845-1888
Creator: Nash, John Anson (1816-1890)
Extent: 93.00 items.
Collection Number: MSC0223
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Baptist clergyman and founder of Des Moines University. Church documents, correspondence, school bonds and contracts, etc.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Box 1

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: This collection was given to the University of Iowa Libraries in 1958 by his granddaughter, Mrs. Marjorie M. Macomber.

Preferred Citation: John Anson Nash Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

John Anson Nash was born on July 11, 1816, near Sherburne, New York. Orphaned at the age of five, he was raised by his aunt and uncle. From 1836 to 1844 he attended the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution (later to become Madison University). A Baptist minister, his first pastorate was in Watertown, New York. In 1851, the American Baptist Home Mission Society sent him to Fort Des Moines, Iowa, where he helped organize the First Baptist Church of Des Moines. Nash retained that pastorate for eighteen years, while helping to establish many other Baptist churches in central Iowa, including ones in Grinnell, Ames, and Newton.

Rev. Nash was deeply interested in promoting education. With his wife's assistance, he opened a private school at his five acre home in Des Moines. It was very successful and eventually grew into the Forest Home Seminary. Not satisfied with this school alone, Nash wanted to establish a still higher institution of learning. In 1865, he founded the Des Moines University, became its first financial agent, and served as its first president.

Politically, Nash was actively sympathetic to the abolitionists and was one of the original members of the Republican Party in Iowa. However, after the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves, he turned his energy to the cause of temperance. Nash became a leader in the Prohibition Party, accepting the party's nomination to Congress in 1884. Rev. John Anson Nash died in Des Moines on February 14, 1890 at the age of seventy-three.

The papers of John Anson Nash consist of 93 items dating from 1848 to ca.1890. Arranged alphabetically this small collection reflects Nash's work in the ministry and his involvement in educational issues in Des Moines, Iowa. There are lectures on theological subjects, Baptist association minutes, receipts, and treasurer's reports for the First Baptist Church of Fort Des Moines. The correspondence covers various topics from Civil War battles to Baptist church business to school finances. His interest in schools in Des Moines is reflected not only in his correspondence but also in documents relating to school bonds and building reports. The papers also contain photographs of the Rev. Nash. Finally, the collection includes such items as General instructions for the Guard at Camp Alexander Hays in 1880, a marriage license issued to William Reynolds and Cynthia Goodell in 1857, a concert ticket for a military ball in 1881, and a financial statement issued by the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company of Newark in 1865.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Baptist Church of Fort Des Moines. Report of the Treasurer, W.A. Galbraith, SUBMITTED January 30 - 1857
  • Central Iowa Baptist Association, Knoxville Baptist Church, September 12 -- 13 - 1856
    Minutes of the fifth anniversary meeting, Rev. J.A. Nash, corresponding secretary.
  • Clippings and memorial tribute to the Rev. Nash.
  • Correspondence - 1848-1868
  • From A.C. Kaedrick, Hamilton. re: establishment of a Baptist University, June 13 - 1848
  • From H.E. Galsbury, New York Central RR, Seneca Falls, NY. re:personal matters, November 22 - 185?
  • From H. Hunt, Davenport, IA. re: a job offered Rev. Nash in Davenport, September 15 - 1852
  • From S. Corey. re: a proposed move to Des Moines, February 24 - 1853
  • From G.D. Price. re: personal matters, August 6 - 1853
  • From G.J. Johnson, Burlington, IA. re: business of the Baptist Church, August 9 - 1853
  • From Washington Irving, NY. re: Irving's membership in the Iowa Lyceum and Museum of National History, March 18 - 1854
  • From George Anderson, Placer County, CA. re: Anderson's relocation to California, May 17 - 1855
  • From Leonard Brown, Burlington, IA. re: personal matters & Burlington University, May 3 - 1856
  • From Joseph & E.L. Custard, New Lisbon. re: personal matters, March 3 - 1858
  • From T.J. Griffith, Dubuque, IA. re: church business, February 7 - 1859
  • From Frank Mott, Winterset, IA. re: hiring of a new teacher, March 28 - 1859
  • From "sister" Maria, Augusta. re: personal matters, April 17 - 1859
  • From "mother", Augusta. re: personal matters, April 18 - 1859
  • From S. Bennett, Chillicothe, MO. re: personal matters, February 25 - 1864
  • From W.A. Eggleston, Winterset, IA. re: personal matters, April 4 - 1864
  • From A.W. Russell, Boonesboro, KY. re: personal and church business, July 2 - 1864
  • From G. Johnson, Burlington, IA. re: personal and church matters, July 14 - 1864
  • From Will Christy, Atlanta, GA. re: battle on "the 22nd" in which the 2nd Iowa played a prominent part and other news of Iowa's militia, August 4 - 1864
  • From William W. Reed (Nash's nephew), Pittsford re: advice on going West, August 15 - 1864
  • From Phebe S. Primley, Davies County, IL re: personal matters, October 2 - 1864
  • From Sam Adams, Fort Yuma. re: travels west, October 22 - 1864
  • From Sam Adams. re: personal matters, October 23 - 1864
  • From Luther Stone, Chicago, IL re: early plans for the establishment of the University of Des Moines, December 3 - 1864
  • From M.H. Robinson, Davenport, IA re: information on Des Moines, January 4 - 1865
  • From Sam Adams, Great Salt Lake, UT re: personal matters, March 30 - 1865
  • From L.S. Lisverman, Vicksburg, MS re: past church work and military experience, September 18 - 1865
  • From Gen. Isaac Stevens, Vicksburg, MS re: a teaching position, September 21 - 1865
  • From Andrews & Bigelow, Chicago, IL re: business matters, April 21 - 1866
  • From J. Burroughs, Chicago, IL re: University of Chicago matters, June 4 - 1866
  • From M.R. Fary, Chicago, IL re: University matters, June 4 - 1866
  • From Christian Times and Witness, Chicago, IL re: school advertising, March 14 - 1866
  • From H.J. Fairbands, Petaluma, CA re: school finances, January 20 - 1868
  • From Sam Adams, AZ Territory re: personal matters (incomplete letter), undated
  • First Baptist Church, Des Moines, Iowa. History of the church written by Rev. Nash. (Including a typed transcription) - "
  • General Instructions for the Guard at Division Headquarters, Camp Alexander Hays, September - 1880
    Prepared by Lieut. Col. Russell Thayer.
  • Lectures - 1845-1857
  • "Attributes of God, Proof of the Divinity of Christ."
  • "The Faithful Minister, Not an Enemy," April 11 - 1845
  • "The Pastor to be Esteemed for His Work's Sake," June 28 - 1850
  • "The Righteous and Wicked, Their Wisdom Contrasted," June 27 - 1857
  • Mexican politics. Essay.
  • Miscellaneous
  • Marriage license issued to William Reynolds and Cynthia Goodell, September 15 - 1857
  • Receipt from Church Goodman and Kennedy for books purchased by Rev. Nash, April 10 - 1861
  • Statement by Superintendent of Iowa Institution for the Education of the Blind giving announcements of coming events, June - 1864
  • Financial statement issued by the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company, Newark, NJ, January 1 - 1865
  • List of works on sale at the Mercantile Library Association, May - 1866
  • Receipt for a package from the United State Express Company, March 17 - 1868
  • Complimentary ticket to a concert and ball at the Armory Hall for "C" Company, 17th Regiment and N.G.P., July 4 - 1881
  • Circular from John Wiley, Colonel of the 16th Regiment Infantry, Second Brigade, Franklin, Pennsylvania to First and Second Lieutenants, re: duties, July 25 - 1888
  • Story entitled "If She Will" written by Rev. Nash's daughter.
  • Paper listing names of persons and sums of money beside each name.
  • Photographs.
  • School bonds, reports, etc. - 1854-1865
  • Thirteen bound pages having to do with school house construction. - 1854-1857, 1864
    Including a report to school officers on building the school house; a report to school district No. 5, Des Moines Township; a contract specifying how the schoolhouse should be built, December 9; and a bid by D Harris agreeing to do the plastering, July 25
  • Statement by J. Dewey, Vice President and C.C. Davis, Secretary certifying that J.H. McClelland was elected President of the district on March 11 - 1861
  • Document approving bond offered by J.H. Given, March 12 - 1861
  • Document approving bond offered by D.B. Spaulding, March 12 - 1861
  • Document approving bond offered by Chester C. Cold, April 6 - 1861
  • Letter to J.H. McClelland from C.C. Dawson concerning school finances, August 7 - 1861
  • Document approving bond offered by M.S. Dickerson, November 2 - 1861
  • Official Bond Records: Francis R. West. March 14 - 1862
  • Official Bond Records: W.W. Williamson. March 14 - 1862
  • Official Bond Records: J.H. McClelland. March 18 - 1862
  • Official Bond Records: William Leas. March 31 - 1862
  • Official Bond Records: Matthew S. Dickerson. March 22 - 1864
  • Official Bond Records: F.D. Parmelees. March 22 - 1864
  • Official Bond Records: J.H. McClelland. March 23 - 1864