Sterling Family papers
This collection consists of correspondence between Will and Tillie Sterling. During the Civil War, from February 1863 to February 1864, Will was stationed in Annapolis; for the last half of this period he was on mustering duty with the regiment there. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence from Tillie to her mother, A. V. Farquhar, in Philadelphia. The letters discuss personal and military affairs, occurrences of note, prisoners of war, slavery, and military officers and duties. Also covered in the letters are lodging, dinner parties and entertainment, travel, and disease and vaccination.
Important Information for Users of the Collection
This collection is open for research.
Sterling Family papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
Transcriptions of these letters are available online at http://www.lib.umd.edu/dcr/collections/sterling/index.jsp. Digital copies of the letters in this collection are available at http://digital.lib.umd.edu/ in the University of Maryland's Digital Collections.
This collection is PROCESSED.
William Henry Sterling was born December 4, 1828, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was Henry Sterling, born circa 1785-1790, apparently in Ireland. Henry lived until at least the 1860s, when he appears in Will and Tillie's correspondence. Will's mother was Susan Brown. Henry Sterling later married Jane, a Pennsylvania native.
Will's family included a sister, Anna M. (born circa 1831-1837); brothers Frank (born ca. 1839) and Alexander (born circa 1841); and sister Mary (born ca. 1838-1843). According to the 1830 census, Will's household also included three other boys and two other girls, whose relationship to the family is unknown. Alexander does not appear in any further records; he died young. Mary lived until at least 1860, when she appears in the census. Frank survived at least into the 1860s, since he appears in Will and Tillie's correspondence. Anna lived until after 1880, at which time she was sharing a home with Will and Tillie in New Jersey.
Will Sterling's family lived in Philadelphia in 1830. From July 1 to October 15, 1849, Will was a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. By 1850, Will was again living with his family, now in Pittsburgh; Will's father, Henry, was an iron manufacturer who owned about $158,000 in real estate. Will was working as a clerk and had no significant personal property yet.
In 1860, the Sterlings were again at home in Philadelphia. Will's father Henry, Will himself, and Will's brother Frank were all working as clerks; Will may have been clerking in a bank. Will's sister Anna was keeping house and sister Mary was a waitress. Henry still had a very large estate, with $90,000 of real estate and $50,000 in personal property. Will himself now had $7,500 in his personal estate.
On May 18, 1861, Will enlisted in the Union Army. At this time, he was 5' 10" with blue eyes. He was given the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in Company G of the First U.S. Infantry of the Regular Army, and was promoted almost immediately to 1st Lieutenant on July 28, 1861 and then made Adjutant of his regiment on September 1, 1861.
On October 1, 1861, Will Sterling and Tillie Farquhar were married at the Philadelphia home of Tillie's mother, by the rector of St. Clement's Episcopal Church.
Matilda Louisa Farquhar (known as "Tillie") was born January 14, 1841 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Her father, Edwin Yorke Farquhar, born circa 1808, and her mother, Anna Virginia Farquhar, born ca. 1805-1813, were both natives of Pennsylvania. Anna Virginia's mother, Sophie Carre, was born in San Domingo, the old name for the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Anna Virginia's father was John Sanderson.
Also in Tillie's family were sister Sophie (born ca. 1825); and brothers George W. (born circa 1837), Stephen (born circa 1839), and Edward Y., called "Ned" (born ca. 1843). According to the 1840 census, Tillie's household also included another boy, whose relationship to the family is unknown. Brother Stephen does not appear in any censuses after 1850 or in any of Will and Tillie's correspondence. Brother Ned lived at least into the 1860s, since he figures in almost all of Tillie's letters. Brother George Farquhar married Camilla and had a son, Edward Y. (born circa 1862), who later became an editor. In 1870 George and Camilla's son Edward was living with his grandmother Anna Virginia. George remarried Ella Johnson Oliver, and they had a daughter, Sophie C. (born circa 1878). Sophie married in 1868. She was still alive in April 1918, when "Sophie C. Jester," a "sister of Matilda Louisa Sterling," filed an affidavit in support of her sister's pension claim.
In 1840, the Farquhars lived in the Borough of Pottsville in Pennsylvania. By 1850, the family had moved to Philadelphia, where Tillie's father Edward headed a large and wealthy household. He was a conveyancer, and owned $120,000 in real estate. In addition to the family, several lodgers and servants lived in the home, along with Anna Virginia's brother and sister-in-law, John and Susan Sanderson, aged 32 and 33. Edward died in 1856. Tillie's mother, Anna Virginia, stayed in the family home until after 1861, when Will and Tillie were married there. But by 1870 Anna was living in others' households, although she still possessed substantial property--real estate of $150,000 and personal property worth $20,000. In 1870, "Virg" and her grandson Edward (George's son) were part of a very large household in Philadelphia headed by "Adel" Price, aged 39, and including Emily C. Price, age 9. Possibly these Prices were relatives of the Farquhars, since Tillie had a cousin named Matilda L. Price. And by 1880, Anna Farquhar was living with her son George's family in Philadelphia.
Will Sterling was already in the Army when he married Tillie Farquhar. At the time of their marriage, through May 5, 1862, Will was "on recruiting service," probably in Philadelphia. From May 1862 until February 1863 he was stationed in Plattsburgh, New York, where he and Tillie lived. From February 1863 to February 1864, Will was stationed in Annapolis; for the last half of this period he was on mustering duty with the regiment there. Tillie again moved with Will, this time to Annapolis. The correspondence in this digital repository comes from this time period. While they were in Annapolis, on July 2, 1863, Will received his third promotion, to Captain.
From February 1864 to July 1865, Will was with the Department of the Gulf, then through February 1869 he was at New Orleans, Louisiana. It is not clear where Tillie lived while Will served in the South. While in New Orleans, Will was a member of the Provost Marshal General's staff of the Freedman's Bureau in Louisiana from August 1866 to November 1867; served with the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands from April to August 1868; was the aide de camp to Major General Rousseau from November 1868 to January 1869; and was stationed with the regiment at Jackson Barracks from January to March 1869. During his time in the South he also served on the staff of the Commissary of Prisoners and Agent for Exchange, and as Inspector General, Provost Marshal, and Judge Advocate of different major generals' units. From March 1869 to September 1870 he was at Fort Gratiot, Port Huron (Detroit), Michigan, when he received an honorable discharge from the Army in October 1870.
After being discharged from the army, Will applied for an invalid's pension on April 22, 1872. At the time of his application, Will and Tillie were living at 4407 Spruce Street, Philadelphia. Will claimed to have contracted "swamp fever"--probably malaria--while commanding Company B of the 1st Infantry in New Orleans during the Election Riots of December 1868. However, the application was rejected circa 1873.
Will and Tillie moved to Plainfield, New Jersey around 1875. Around this time the former Union General George McClelland became governor of New Jersey. He named Will as his Aide-de-Camp on January 16, 1878, soon after his inauguration. Governor McClellan next appointed Will to the position of Inspector General of the New Jersey National Guard, on April 4, 1879. The Inspector General gathered inspection reports of the individual National Guard units, analyzed them, and reported the results to the Adjutant General, who in turn reported them to the New Jersey legislature. Will's term ran until March 18, 1881. During his term, Will and Tillie lived in Plainfield in Union County, New Jersey, together with Will's sister, Anna Sterling.
Will and Tillie moved into their final home at 829 First Place in Plainfield, Union County, New Jersey by 1905. In January of 1905, Will made another application for an invalid's Civil War pension. His application was approved this time, because of his "total inability to earn a support by manual labor." Initially for $12 per month, it was raised twice and ended at $30 per month by the time of his death. Will died on January 30, 1918, in Plainfield, New Jersey, of pneumonia. He was buried at Christ Church Yard in Kent County, Delaware.
After Will died, Tillie applied for and received a widow's Civil War pension of $25 per month, from March 9, 1918, until her own death. Will and Tillie never had children and, according to Tillie's pension claim, she was "practically blind ... [and] feeble" although mentally competent. Tillie died October 15, 1920, in Plainfield.
- 1830 census, Sterlings: Microfilm M19, "Fifth Census of the United States, 1830," Roll #159, "Pennsylvania, City of Philadelphia," South Ward, p. 383
- 1840 census, Farquhars: Microfilm M704, "Sixth Census of the United States, 1840," Roll #492, "Pennsylvania, Pike, and Schuykill Counties," Pottsville, p. 204.
- 1850 census, Farquhars: Microfilm M432, "Seventh Census of the United States, 1850," Roll #814, "Pennsylvania--Free Schedules, City of Philadelphia (part), Wards: Middle and Locust," p. 180, dw 1166, fam 1166, lines 33-42 and 1.
- 1850 census, Sterlings: Microfilm M432, "Seventh Census of the United States, 1850," Roll #745, "Pennsylvania--Free Schedules, Allegheny County (part), City of Pittsburgh, Wards 1-4," p. 249, dw 440, fam 507, lines 17-28.
- 1860 census, Sterlings: Microfilm M653, "Eighth Census of the United States, 1860," Roll #1159, "Pennsylvania--Free Schedules, City of Philadelphia, Ward 9," p. 344, dw 942, fam 1041, lines 14-22.
- 1870 census, Farquhars: Microfilm M593, "Ninth Census of the United States, 1870," Roll #1393, "Pennsylvania, City of Philadelphia (first enumeration), Ward 8," 23rd District, pp. 133-134, dw 349, fam 315, lines 32-40 and 1-5.
- 1880 census, Farquhars: G. W. Farquhar household, "1880 United States Census Household Record," accessed October 18, 2004, at http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/frameset_search.asp?PAGE=census/search_census.asp.
- 1880 census, Sterlings: William H. Sterling household, "1880 United States Census Household Record," accessed October 18, 2004, at http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/frameset_search.asp?PAGE=census/search_census.asp.
- Medich: Medich, Catherine M., New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, New Jersey, to Elizabeth Feil, Columbia, Maryland, 22 October 2004, e-mail describing contents of Will Sterling's officer file.
- NJSA: Documents from William Henry Sterling's officer file, New Jersey State Archives, P.O. Box 307, Trenton, NJ 08625.
- Pension record: Pension record of William H. and Matilda L. Sterling; certificate no. 1104858 and 856263; Pension Files, 1861-1934; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The papers of the Sterling family cover the years 1862-1864. The bulk of the material dates to 1863 and 1864.
This collection consists of correspondence between Will and Tillie Sterling. During the Civil War, from February 1863 to February 1864, Will was stationed in Annapolis; for the last half of this period he was on mustering duty with the regiment there. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence from Tillie to her mother, A. V. Farquhar, in Philadelphia. The letters discuss personal and military affairs, occurences of note, prisoners of war, slavery, and military officers and duties. Also covered in the letters are lodging, dinner parties and entertainment, travel, and disease and vaccination.
Custodial History and Acquisition Information
The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the Sterling Family Papers from Charles Apfelbaum of Valley Stream, New York, on February 4, 1986. Linnea F. Layton, a descendent of the Farquhar family, donated additional materials in July 2005.
Processed by Thomas L. Edsall, June 1987. Guide revised by Jennie A. Levine, December 2004; Maureen Cech, May 2010.
The historical note for this collection was compiled in Fall 2004 by Libby Feil, a student in LBSC 708Y, who used this collection as a pilot for a digital project. Additional information was incorporated in July 2005 based on information sent by a Sterling family descendent.
The letters were arranged chronologically and placed in acid-free folders in an acid-free box.
EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Janna S. Robinson, February 2005.
Arrangement of Collection
This collection is organized as two series:
Detailed Description of the Collection
Series 1: Correspondence, 1862-1864 (62 items)
Series I consists of manuscript correspondence between "Tillie" Sterling, her husband "Will" Sterling, her mother A. V. Farquhar ("Ma"), and Will's father.
The letters are mainly accounts of day-to-day events combined with expressions of affection. Topics of discussion include military affairs (the mustering of troops, prisoners and prisoner exchanges, and changes in offers and duties), personal matters (lodgings, travel, entertaining), and subjects of general interest (slaves and slavery, secessionists, disease and vaccination, and unusual events).
Among the 62 items are 50 letters from Tillie Sterling to her mother, 1 letter from the mother to Tillie, 10 letters from Will Sterling to Tillie, and 1 letter from Will to his father.
Arrangement is chronological. Year of letter, when not provided, is inferred from letter content. In many cases, the inferred year of the letter is penciled in. These annotations were made prior to acquisition by the University of Maryland Libraries (1986).
|Description||Series||Box / Reel||Folder / Frame|
|Correspondence (Online), 1862-March 1863||series 1||box 1||folder 1|
|Correspondence (Online), April-June 1863||series 1||box 1||folder 2|
|Correspondence (Online), July-September 1863||series 1||box 1||folder 3|
|Correspondence (Online), October-December 1863||series 1||box 1||folder 4|
|Correspondence (Online), 1864||series 1||box 1||folder 5|
Series 2: Photographs, ca. 1860-1910 and undated (13 items)
Series II consists of color photocopies of photographs of members of the Sterling family, provided by Linnea Layton, a descendent of the Farquhar family. Included are photographs of Captain William H. Sterling (Will), Matilda Louise Sterling (Tillie), Sophie Carre [Farquhar] Jester, and Anna Virginia Farquhar. Also included are photographs of the Sterling home at First Place, Plainfield, NJ.
|Description||Series||Box / Reel||Folder / Frame||Item|
|Photographs||series 2||box 1||folder 1|
|Matilda Louise Sterling (Online), circa 1875||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 1|
|Captain William H. Sterling (Online), circa 1875||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 2|
|Sophie Carre Jester nee Farquhar, undated||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 3|
|Matilda Louise Sterling (Online), undated||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 4|
|Anna Virginia Farquhar (Online), circa 1865||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 5|
|Camilla Farquhar nee Black, wife of George W. Farquhar, and son, Edward Yorke Farquhar IV, circa 1863||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 6|
|Edward Yorke Farquhar III (Ned), undated||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 7|
|Virginia Sanderson Jester, circa 1890||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 8|
|Virginia Sanderson Jester, February 14, 1895||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 9|
|Brass-trimmed copper teakettle owned by Anna Virginia Farquhar, undated||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 10|
|First Place, Plainfield, New Jersey. Home of Matilda and William Sterling, 1905-1920, undated||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 11|
|First Place, Plainfield, New Jersey. Home of Matilda and William Sterling, 1905-1920. Parlor, undated||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 12|
|First Place, Plainfield, New Jersey. Home of Matilda and William Sterling, 1905-1920. Dining Room, undated||series 2||box 1||folder 1||item 13|
A collection of letters between Will and Tillie Sterling is located at the New York State Library. Sterling Family Correspondence, 1861-1863, is a companion collection to this one.
Transcriptions of all of the papers in this collection are available online http://www.lib.umd.edu/dcr/collections/sterling/index.jsp.
Please see curator for additional genealogical notes in administrative file.
For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.
Selected Search Terms
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.
- Maryland -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources
- Maryland -- Social life and customs -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources
- Sterling family -- Correspondence
- United States. Army -- Military -- Sources
Names (Added Entries)
- Farquhar, A. V.
- Sterling, Tillie -- b. 1841
- Sterling, Will