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.

Administrative Information

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

Biographical Note

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.

Content Description

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.

Detailed Description of the Collection

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This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Corporate Names:
Camp Alexander Hays (Kan.)
Des Moines University
First Baptist Church (Fort Des Moines, Iowa)

American Civil War, 1861-1865
Baptist Church
Church colleges


Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Des Moines
United States -- Iowa

Clergy and the Church