An Introduction to Floriculture at the Wylie House

Starting this fall, Indiana University’s Wylie House Museum and Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology began a joint bicentennial project that will be ongoing until 2020. The purpose is to discover more about IU Bloomington’s cultural heritage, protect local archaeological resources, contribute information to enrich the university’s mission, and to supplement the documentation and interpretation of campus history. The first stage of this joint project focuses on the Wylie House, which was built in 1835 and was the home of IU’s first president, Andrew Wylie, and his family. Research efforts are being made to expand more on what is currently known about the house gardens and 19th century floriculture as a whole and specifically relating to the Bloomington area.

“Wylie House”, around 1900, P0071638

Image courtesy of Indiana University Archives

The resources currently being used to better understand Wylie House floriculture are the “Affectionately Yours”, a two volume compendium of Wylie Family letters, historic photographs from the Indiana University Archives Photo Collection, a sketch map drawn by Theophilus Wylie, Louisa Wylie’s essay on gardening, and various text sources outside of the Wylie House and IU Archives. These sources provide first-person documentation of the types of flowers and other plants that the Wylie family grew during their time living in the Wylie House. Smilax, fuchsias, geraniums, begonias, and roses are the flowers that are most often mentioned in the Wylie family letters. The letters also mention that the family often bought plants from a “Heinl” who gets imports from France, as well as trading for seeds with others from all over Indiana and from other states.

Another important aspect of this bicentennial project is uncovering more information about the garden “pits” that the Wylies had in their front yard. These “pits” were small shelter-like containers built into the ground to house plants during cold or bad weather so they didn’t wilt or die. There are a few photos of these Wylie House pits, as well as a drawing and mentions of them in the Wylie family letters.

Garden pit visible in right foreground in between house and stone wall.

“Cyanotype real picture postcard of Wylie House”, 1907 May, P0071637

 Image courtesy of Indiana University Archives

Today, the Wylie House Museum shares the life of the Wylies who lived there, mainly focusing on the second  Wylie family, Theophilius Wylie and his family. The Wylie House also has an heirloom seed-saving garden in which flowers, herbs, and vegetables that were grown in the Bloomington area prior 1875. In this way, the museum attempts to both accurately reflect the historic property as well as share these varieties and growing practices with the community. The exact varieties of all of the plants is a mystery we  hope to solve through this bicentennial project.


Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume I.” IUScholarWorks,

Indiana University, 2011,

Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume II.” IUScholarWorks,

Indiana University, 2011,

The Theophilus Adam Wylie Family Correspondence, Wylie House Museum, Indiana

University Libraries, Bloomington

Blog Post Authored by Maclaren Guthrie


This blog post is also featured on Indiana University’s Bicentennial website at



African-American History Month at Wylie House

In honor of African-American History Month, Wylie House is pleased to feature two notable African-Americans who made history in Bloomington, Indiana and lived with the Theophilus A. Wylie family in the last half of the 19th century.

Lizzie Breckenridge

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Breckenridge was an African-American woman born in Bedford, Indiana on July 5, 1843. In 1856, the Theophilus A. Wylie family employed Lizzie at the age of 13 as their domestic servant, where she stayed for nearly 45 years.

lizzie-with-buckets-outsideWhile living with the TA Wylie family, Lizzie learned to read and write. She developed a rich taste in literature and took special interest in astronomy. Lizzie never married, but she eventually saved enough money to purchase her own home, an important accomplishment for an African-American woman in her day. Lizzie’s home was located on S. Washington Street.


We know from an article published in the Indianapolis News in 1903 that Lizzie attended the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bloomington, the same church attended by the Wylie family. This article, found on Page 7 of the newspaper, provides background information about Lizzie’s family.


Covenanter Presbyterians who left southern states in favor of Indiana’s position against the practice of slavery formed the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bloomington. The church was originally located on land adjacent to the Covenanter Cemetery, where Lizzie is buried. She passed away on September 25, 1910 at the age of 67.

Harvey Young

Harvey Young came to Bloomington from Indianapolis in 1882 to enroll at Indiana University and was the first African-American to do so. Theophilus A Wylie, in a journal entry dated August 20, 1882 wrote, “Harvey Young, graduate of Indiana High School came last Thursday intending to enter the Freshman class. He is well recommended has a good appearance – Intelligent & neat – will be a pioneer colored student in the College – Hope he will do well –”. Harvey Young boarded with the Wylie family for at least his first semester in 1883.


We know from a journal entry that on at least one occasion Harvey attended church with the Wylie family. In another entry dated November 11, 1883 Theophilus writes, ““Friday night Athenian Society had the opening of its new Hall. Harvey Young (Aithiops) one of the speakers. – Such a thing would not have been tolerated 25 yrs ago. – The world moves. –”  Note: Aethiops – antiquated term used to denote the dark complexion of an individual from Ethiopia.

theos-journal-entry-about-harvey-2Harvey did not graduate from Indiana University, but rather returned to Indianapolis after three semesters to become a public school teacher in the Indianapolis Public School system. We know from articles published in the Indianapolis News that Harvey taught at IPS schools #19, #23, and #24 from 1885 to 1895. Census records were unable to determine his whereabouts following 1895.


The Underground Railroad and Wylie House

Visitors to Wylie House sometimes ask if the home was part of the Underground Railroad. We cannot verify that it was, but accounts from older local area residents lend support to the idea that it could have been.

According to, “The Covenanters, a group of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians from South Carolina, had settled just outside Bloomington by 1821.  Believing that slavery was a moral evil, the Covenanters acted on their principles and during the Civil War provided a way station for escaped slaves traveling north on the Underground Railroad.” Both Andrew and Theophilus A. Wylie were active members of the Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church, so it is reasonable to believe they also held these views.

An article published in the September 1917 issue of Indiana Magazine of History entitled, “The Underground Railroad in Monroe County” identifies local individuals, church members, and contemporaries of the Wylies who are believed to have been active participants in the Underground Railroad.

Additional Resources:

Wylie House is happy to assist with reference requests. Please contact us at

Quick Links:

IU Archives Online

Monroe County Historical Society

Monroe County Public Library

National Archives Census Records

Indiana Newspaper Online Archive

Indianapolis News Online Archive


Blog Post Author: Sarah Rogers

Theophilus Wylie’s Family Lineage in Fraternal Organizations

With the school year wrapping up here at IU we thought it would be fitting to share some recent research on the Wylie family’s extra-curricular involvement at Indiana University, specifically in their memberships in Greek letter organizations. Greek Letter Societies were established in the 1776 with the creation of the Phi Beta Kappa Society at the College of William and Mary.  Fraternal organizations rapidly gained national prominence in the 19th century and quickly became a collegiate tradition. Indiana University is historically known to be the home of several early chapters of both men’s and women’s fraternities, with members of the Wylie family playing a significant part in these organizations’ beginnings.

The Phi Delta Theta Legacy of the Wylie Family 

Theophilus A. Wylie

Theophilus A. Wylie

Theophilus Adam Wylie was an honorary member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity.  Established at IU in 1849, Phi Delta Theta often recognized outstanding faculty members of IU as honorary members, therefore the accomplished university professor, librarian, and president, Theophilus was welcomed to Indiana Alpha Chapter of Phi Delta Theta in 1853.  The Fraternity paid great respects to Theophilus upon his death in 1895.  A letter written by the IU Phi Delta Theta Chapter to his wife Rebecca reveals the Fraternity’s sincere grievances in regards to their late brother:

“By his scholarly habits, his unselfish disposition, and his untiring zeal in every good work, we recognize him a man worthy of universal emulation; therefore, be it resolved, that we as members of PDT Fraternity, as well as students of Indiana University, extend to Mrs. T.A. Wylie and family our tenderest condolence in his their hour of bereavement, and that we shall hold ever dear the memory of his work for the University as well as the pleasant relationship that existed between him and the fraternity.”

A newspaper article also elaborates on Theophilus Wylie’s funeral: “Resolutions of respect were read from the faculty and also from the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity.  Dr. Wylie was one of the oldest and most prominent members of the letter organization, and as long as he was an active member of the faculty, took a special interest in all the young men of the fraternity.  The floral offerings were simple and of exquisite taste.  Among them was a shield, representing the badge of Phi Delta Theta.”

Arthur Melette

Arthur Melette

Theophilus was cherished by Phi Delta Theta, and his fraternal loyalty certainly must have inspired several other Wylie family members to join the brotherhood. For instance, Arthur C. Mellette was a student at Indiana University who boarded at the Wylie House, where he met and later married Theophilus’s daughter, Margaret Wylie. In 1864, he became a member of Phi Delta Theta, perhaps under the guidance of his future father-in-law.

Mellette Family

Mellette Family

Arthur’s own son, Arthur Anton Mellette later became a legacy of Phi Delta Theta at IU in 1903.  Theophilus also had two nephews, Theodore W.J. Wylie and Reddick A. Wylie, who became members of Phi Delta Theta in 1877 and 1893, respectively.

Three Generations of Wylie Kappa Alpha Thetas

Marie and the 1899 Thetas

Marie and the 1899 Thetas

Women’s fraternities began to appear much later than those of men’s fraternities. The first fraternity for women, Kappa Alpha Theta, was founded in 1870 at what is now known as DePauw University.

Not long after the creation of these female fraternities did the first women’s fraternities begin to appear at Indiana University (the term “sorority” was created later in 1882).  The earliest women’s fraternity at IU, Kappa Alpha Theta, was installed in 1871. It was the second chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta installed and was subsequently named Beta Chapter.

Louisa Wylie

Louisa Wylie

Louisa Wylie Boisen, the eldest daughter of Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie, was one of the first female students at IU and an early member of Kappa Alpha Theta in 1871.  (For more information on Louisa’s memories as a Theta, please read the previous Wylie House Museum blog post:  Louisa’s Theta legacy continued with her daughter, Marie Boisen Bradley, in 1896, and her granddaughter, Louise Bradley, in 1927.  Louisa’s niece, Rebecca (Reba) Wylie, also joined Kappa Alpha Theta in 1905.

Marie Boisen 1897

Reba Wylie

Reba Wylie

Louise Bradley

Louise Bradley

Other Wylie Family Greek Affiliations

Several other members of the Wylie family were affiliated with Greek letter organizations.  Hermann B. Boisen, the husband of Louisa Wylie, became an honorary member of Phi Gamma Delta at DePauw University in 1874.  Like Theophilus at IU, the brothers of Phi Gamma Delta honored Hermann Boisen with the honorary membership as he was an esteemed professor of Modern Languages.  Hermann and Louisa’s son, Anton Theophilus Boison, later became a legacy of Phi Gamma Delta.  Two of Theophilus’ grandchildren, Samuel Brown Wylie, Jr. and Morton C. Bradley, Sr. (the husband of Marie Wylie Boisen) were members of Sigma Chi Fraternity.

Herman B. Boisen c. 1865

Herman B. Boisen c. 1865


Morton C. Bradley Sr.

Morton C. Bradley Sr.

Sam Brown Wylie

Sam Brown Wylie

The entire Wylie Family Collection is incredibly vast. There is so much information on how many members of the family were involved in Indiana University’s campus life. While we can form a narrative with much of the information that resides in the collection, there are some material that remain a mystery to us. This photograph of a young woman remains unidentified except for a small clue from an accessory. Look carefully at her hair and you will notice that she is wearing the Kappa Alpha Theta badge neatly in her coif. We are not sure who she is but we can assume that she was somehow affiliated with one of the Wylie daughters based on this pin.


Unknown Theta

From correspondences, dance cards, and photographs we were able to piece together the story of the Wylie’s relationship not only to the history of IU and Bloomington but also to these prestigious national organizations.

Written By

Carly Dannenmueller                  

Wylie House Museum Volunteer

Graduate Student, Art History, Indiana University


Caroline Voisine

Wylie House Graduate Assistant

Graduate Student, Library Science, Indiana University


Greene, Elizabeth M. “Simple Burial Services of Dr. Wylie.” In Theophilus Adam Wylie Diaries from 1832 to 1892: A Transcription from the Handwritten Copy of Original Diaries, 659. Bloomington: Department of Chemistry, Indiana University, 1987.

Laut, William F. “’To Eternity We’ll Brothers Be: 150 Years of Leadership by the Indiana Alpha Chapter of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity’,” 1999.

Phi Gamma Delta Board of Trustees. “Membership Catalogue, Lambda Chapter.” The Phi Gamma Delta, 1913.

The Wylie House Museum. “Letter from Phi Delta Theta to Rebecca Dennis Wylie, 11 June 1895.” In Theophilus Adam Wylie Family Correspondence, 1806-1930. Bloomington: Wylie House Museum.

The Wylie House Museum. “Letter from Phi Gamma Delta of Depauw University to Theophilus Adam Wylie, 28 February 1884.” In Theophilus Adam Wylie Family Correspondence, 1806-1930. Bloomington: Wylie House Museum.

Wylie, Theophilus Adam. Indiana University, Its History from 1820, When Founded, to 1890, with Biographical Sketches of Its Presidents, Professors and Graduates, and a List of Its Students from 1820 to 1887. Indianapolis: William B. Burford, 1890.

Yale University, School of Forestry. Biographical Record of the Graduates and Former Students of the Yale Forest School. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1913.

“Kappa Alpha Theta.” Wylie House Museum Blog, December 4, 2008.

“Dance Cards.” Wylie House Museum Blog, February 25, 2011.

Kappa Alpha Theta, Beta / Indiana University.

Phi Delta Theta, Indiana Alpha Chapter

Parlor Music

One of our favorite events each semester at the Wylie House Museum is our Parlor Concert Series. The house is filled with people and beautiful music for a few hours, and   the world of the Wylie Family seems to come alive. Our Parlor Concerts are rooted in a long tradition of home entertainment provided by the people who lived in them.

family in parlor

Wylie Family in Parlor

Parlor Music refers to the genre of popular music that found its heyday in the mid-nineteenth century. With the advent of mass production and the growth of the middle class in the United States, musical instruments, including pianos, became a parlor or living room staple. With this came the production of simple sheet music that could be easily played and sung by amateur performers within their homes. Family members and their guests enjoyed musical concerts and entertainment provided from the comfort of their parlor.

back parlor

Wylie Family Back Parlor (piano to the right)

Musical ability was a key aspect of a lady’s education and signaled quality marriage material. This is evident even in the Wylie Family letters. Maggie Wylie once wrote to her brother John in 1847 on the subject.

“I hope it will come a good long healthy spell and then you can leave Quakerdom for a while and come down and pay us a visit, for it will soon be a year since you were here, and besides I want you to come down and get acquainted with our sweet little Yankee girls, the best at everything that can possibly be found they are most excellent teachers, good musicians, fine housekeepers &c &c &c Only come down and you will have no difficulty at all in choosing a wife. O! it would do your ears good to hear them sing & play They both admire our piano very much, think it a very high brilliant tone. Last week they, with all their scholars, gave, a concert in the college which was most excellent.”


By the end of the 19th century more complex music, such as Ragtime, came into popularity. This led to more public performances by professional musicians. At this time there was also a decline in the view that music was a sign of accomplishment in women. In the 20th century the invention of phonographs and radio led to a different type of home music. Regional styles were played all over the country and professional performers could be heard on a nationwide scale. In smaller homes, pianos could be considered a waste of space. Radios and phonographs allowed for high quality listening of complex music that could not be replicated easily by amateurs. Sheet music was not necessary for these devices and was quickly replaced by recordings of all genres.

The Wylie House Museum’s Spring Parlor Concert Series takes a step back to what it might have been like to gather as a family in a common space and enjoy music together. Students from the Jacobs School of music perform their favorite pieces to our audience. Attendance is free and open to public. We hope to see you all there: Saturdays, March 28th, Apr. 4th, and April 18th.  Concerts begin at 3:00pm, doors open at 2:30.

Written by Caroline Voisine, Graduate Assistant


Foy, Jessica H., and Thomas J. Schlereth. “Family Pastimes & Indoor Amusements.” In American Home Life, 1880-1930: A Social History of Spaces and Services. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992.

Margaret “Maggie” Wylie to brother John Wylie, Richmond, Indiana with a P.S. from JaneWylie Bloomington April 4th 1847 (Found in Affectionately Yours) Wylie House Museum, Indiana University.

Janowski, Diane. “Victorian Pride – History of Parlor Music in America.” Victorian Pride – History of Parlor Music in America. January 1, 2013. Accessed February 3, 2015.

Andrew Wylie’s Financial Records

Recently we have done some digging through Andrew Wylie’s financial records. This collection is a popular one with classes who have been visiting the house recently. Financial records can tell us a lot about the past and are an essential tool for any archivist, historian or enthusiast of the past.


There are so many questions we can ask just from this simple list of purchases in 1835. Why was the Wylie Family buying so much sugar? Surely 46 lbs. of sugar was not necessary for one purchase? Did the family have an insatiable sugar tooth? Was there to be a party where they needed to bake tens of cakes? We might never know exactly why they needed that much sugar, but by investigating practices of the time we can get a better idea. In the 1830s there was no electricity in the house and there was no refrigeration. How would they have kept their food from rotting without keeping it refrigerated? To keep food from going bad, during this time period, the popular practice was “sugaring”. Many people assume that “canning” was the main preservation technique of food throughout the nineteenth century but in fact it did not come along until the end of the nineteenth century as an everyday household practice. Sugaring refers to dehydrating foods and then packing them with sugar. The same can be done using salt. Therefore maybe the Wylie’s were buying so much sugar so that they could make their produce and meats last from harvest time through the winter.

Just by looking at this receipt you might be able to figure out exactly where it came from. Take a look at this one below from 1842!


Although the specific vendor is not specified, except for his name, the items bought indicate that John Height might have been grocer, or maybe he was a local farmer who helped keep the family supplied with food when needed.

But food was not the only thing that Wylie’s were buying. The receipts come in all shapes and lengths, and show a very diverse purchase record. With so many daughters, the family seemed to buy lots of fabric and trimming to keep the girls well clothed while they lived in their parents’ home. The family bought calicos, linens, thread and other materials needed to sew their own clothes.


As a teaching tool, these receipts are hard for some people to read, so we also have them transcribed and printed for easy perusal. Going through these records has been fascinating for this amateur historian and (hopefully!) future archivist. These purchases can tell us so much about what was happening with the family in a given month or year. Maybe it was a lean year for dairy and they needed to buy extra butter from an outside source. Maybe the reason they did not often buy groceries is because the house was built on farmland in which the family tended. These receipts and bills are like puzzle pieces of the past, we put them together to reveal what was going on with the Wylie’s when they lived in the house.


Although the transcriptions cannot be found online the original documents have been scanned and uploaded to the Indiana University Archives Online site. For those who are interested in delving into the person papers of Indiana University’s first president, visit this link to connect with the Wylie Family history from the comfort of your own home.

Caroline Voisine, Graduate Assistant

A Day at the Beach


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A few months ago, I posted some pictures from the Wylie Family’s descendants. I thought this would be a good time to show you a few more!  After the exceptionally cold winter this year, it’s such a delight that summer is finally here. The warm weather had me thinking about these vintage beach photos that I came across while writing the last photograph post.

These pictures are from Morton Sr. and Marie Bradley’s honeymoon trip in 1900 when they enjoyed some lovely time at the beach in Atlantic City.  These pictures are some of my favorite from our collections and I hope you enjoy them, too.  Happy 114th anniversary to Marie and Morton! (They were married on July 10th for you inquiring minds.)

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“You’re all tired to death of course today. I can imagine just how it all is and looks and how much there is to be done and I only wish that I might be there to help. Morton and I are awfully—if Grandma will pardon the word—sorry to make so much trouble, and we’ll never do it again.”

“Kiss everybody for me and thank everybody for being so very very kind. We thought our wedding was just perfect—in everything it was just what we most wished it to be—thanks to all of you. You were all so kind and now please don’t work too hard clearing up the debris.”

– Letter from Marie to her mother, Louise, as she and Morton traveled to Atlantic City


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“I realize now more than ever before why you were anxious to have Marie with you even a week longer. She is the dearest girl in all the world. She becomes dearer every minute. I do hope I can sometime become worthy of her and that I can be the comfort and happiness to her that she is to me. I told you I would be good to her; every day I take again that vow. She is too dear to me to want to be otherwise to her, dear girl.”

-Letter from Morton to his new mother-in-law Louise, as he and Marie traveled to Atlantic City


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“We sat out in the sun about two hours, purposely trying to get a good burn so that we could show our tan to our admiring Western friends – – – – – -Well, we’ve invested in Ridgway’s Sunburn Lotion, Cuticura and cold cream and still we are the color of beets and so sore—especially Morton—that we’ve hardly been able to move today. We aspire to peel off tomorrow and then we think we’ll improve.”

– Letter from Marie to her mother, written from Atlantic City


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“The Board Walk with its hundreds of shops filled with beautiful things is a ver-ending pleasure, and then there are scores of different amusements all the time—and the people—such crowds of them and such dresses and jewels. I had never realized before that some women did have such marvelous dresses. We usually have breakfast between 8:30 and 9, go to the Board Walk between ten and eleven, take a sea bath about noon and have dinner at one. Everybody here naps in the afternoons—it is the laziest place in the world—and then dresses up about supper time and goes up to the Board Walk again at night.”

– Letter from Marie to her mother, Louise, written from Atlantic City




“I’m sure that you’ll be interested in our pictures when we get home. We have had a great deal of success with our Kodak and have a number of good pictures.”

– Letter from Marie to her mother, Louise, written from Atlantic City


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Enjoy your summer!

– Abi Parker, Wylie House Graduate Assistant

Samuel and Margaret Wylie Martin – Missionaries in China


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The letters of the two Wylie families who lived here at the house are a treasure-trove of fascinating information and stories.   One such particular story is that of Margaret Wylie Martin and her husband, Samuel, who traveled to China as missionaries in the 1850s. Born in 1826, Margaret, or Maggie as she was affectionately known, was the daughter of Andrew and Margaret Ritchie Wylie.  Maggie married Samuel Martin in 1849, and in 1850 they traveled to Ningpo, China, as missionaries.  Samuel’s brother, William, and his wife also traveled to China as missionaries at the same time.

In a letter dated 1850 to one of his sons, Andrew Wylie expressed his doubts about his daughter and son-in-law’s decision.  He writes, “Generally speaking: for there are cases where a man may and ought to sacrifice his happiness in this world for the cause of Truth & Right in other words for the benefit of the Race. This however requires the spirit of the martyr. The two Martins [Samuel and William] have compelled me to think of this matter. Had they and their intendeds the true spirit of martyrdom I dare not say a word against their project of going to China as missionaries. But this I doubt and yet I do not like to interpose my veto, & know not whether it would avail if I should. Were I unmarried & thought it my duty to go a missionary to a heathen land I am sure I should never think of taking a wife with me as our missionaries do.”

On May 23, 1850, Maggie wrote her parents from Shanghai to tell them that on April 29th during the voyage from Hong Kong to Shanghai, she had prematurely given birth to her first child.  They named their son William Boone after Bishop Boone, a missionary whose kindness the Martins had much appreciated upon their arrival.  Three other children were born to Maggie and Samuel during their time in China – daughters Susan, Elizabeth, and Emma.

During their time as missionaries, the Martins corresponded with their family and friends as much as the distance in geography allowed.  In one letter, Maggie’s sister, Elizabeth, writes to their brother, John, that there had been no news from China for four months.  The letters give details of the Martin’s lives in China and of their work.  Maggie also writes of the local people and in one letter describes Chinese farming and harvest habits to her father.   A great deal of the letters’ content is the discussion of the news concerning the health and activities of family and friends back home.

In a letter dated November 1850, Maggie writes to her parents that, “We have richly experienced the fulfillment of that blessed promise “Go I am with you” truly has God been with us in delivering us from dangers seen and unseen I wish I could tell you all He has done for me, but it would require too much time and space…. When I first came to China I was much struck with the oriental appearance of things, the temples, high walled cities & houses the lodges in the fields & now, things have become familiar.”

A niece of Maggie’s wrote in 1918 that, “While in China Aunt Martin sent a large box of Chinese curios to her sisters.  We had a number of them & the Chinese articles that, as a girl, I saw in the McCalla home, undoubtedly came from her— ”

Sapstone Piece 2

The Martins remained in China until 1858 when they returned home due to Samuel’s health.  They then became missionaries to Native Americans, working mostly in the Midwest and Texas.  Several years later, Samuel wished to return to China.  Although Maggie’s letters home from China had described her belief in the Soapstone Piece 1good work that they were doing sharing their Christian message, a life of low pay, poor living conditions, and very few material comforts had apparently taken its toll.

When Samuel again applied to be a missionary to China in 1872, Maggie took matters into her own hands and wrote to the Mission Board stating her position.  “Without consulting me in the least my husband has written to you in regard to returning to China. I must confess I do not look at things in the light he does. As to our children, 5 out of the 7 are still living but they are mostly very delicate…. After a prayerful consideration of the whole subject I leave it to the wise council & consideration of the board of which you are an esteemed member.”

Not surprisingly, the Martins did not return to China.  Maggie died in 1898 of a paralytic stroke, while Samuel died in 1904.  Additional information about the Martin family is available in the Indiana University Archives.

-Allison Haack, Graduate Student Volunteer

The 1896 Fire at Wylie House


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Sometime in late August or early September of 1896, a fire occurred in the woodhouse located on the east side of Wylie House.   The woodhouse also served as a wash house and store room.  The local newspaper reported on the fire, writing, “The frame building on the east side of the residence used as store room and wash house, was almost entirely consumed and at one time it looked as if the residence would be destroyed, as the roof of the main building caught fire in several places.”


The fire was soon detected and the Bloomington fire department was able to reach the house quickly, and immediately start the work of putting out the fire.  Thankfully, the fire did not reach the rest of the house.  The newspaper article reports that it was thought that the fire had accidentally been started by Anton Boisen, grandson of Theophilus Wylie.  Shortly before the fire broke out, Anton had been in the garden burning caterpillar nests in the trees with fire on the end of a pole.  He placed the pole, which he believed to have been extinguished, in the wash house.  However, the pole likely ignited the fire.   According to the newspaper article, $400 in damaged was caused by the fire, but the entirety of the cost of was covered by insurance.

We know that Anton’s sister, Marie, wrote to her fiancé, Morton C. Bradley about the fire, but only Morton’s letter of reply from September 4th still exists.  He writes Marie that, “Actually, I don’t believe I took a breath all the time I was reading it [her letter]. I was in suspense, in fear that your home—and it must be dear to you, mine always to be—had burned… I don’t know what I should do in case a “big blaze” came “sailing” into my room. I fancy I run to a window and jump into the rain barrel… I think you acted extremely judiciously in consideration of the very exciting, dangerous, and nerve shattering conditions… But I do pity you in your task of cleaning up the house – that is if any of the firemen came inside. I have seen houses after the fire was out. If yours is anything at all like those I surely sympathize with you.”

Irene Fee, a friend of Anton and Marie’s mother, Louisa Wylie Boisen, kindly wrote to her on September 14.  “I wish I could see you instead of having to write for we want so much to know all about the fire you were so unfortunate as to have.”  She comments that she hopes there will not be trouble getting the insurance, and continues, “It is fortunate your home was saved. It would make me feel very bad to have misfortune happen to that dear old house where I had such lovely times when a child and so many pleasant hours since.”

Irene’s sentiments are shared by all of us who love Wylie House.   Just think— if the fire has spread to the rest of the house, the Wylie family artifacts such as the numerous books and letters we have in our possession today might have been destroyed or irreparably damaged.  Thank goodness for the speed and hard work of the fire department!

-Allison Haack, Graduate Student Volunteer

Louisa’s Gardening Essay


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Finally! It seems as if spring has finally arrived.  As we enjoy the warming weather, many turn their thoughts to their gardens, as do we here at the Wylie House.  Our annual seed sale was a great success but if you missed it, don’t worry! You can still purchase heirloom seeds from plants grown right here at Wylie House.  The Bloomington Watercolor Society is still displaying their work and Quilt Show will continue through April! We hope you’ll get a chance to visit this month!

Soon the garden will be in full bloom and looking lovely! Wylie House has a long tradition of gardens being located on the property.  We know from the family letters that their plot of land originally included enough space for a working farm, allowing them to grow a portion of their own food. In addition to vegetables, the family also grew many varieties of flowers. Louisa, in particular, was an avid gardener.


In February of 1890, Louisa Wylie Boisen wrote an essay describing her love of gardening and many helpful hints for growing flowers. The following are excerpts from this essay:

“In the first of the oldest and best of Books, we read that when our first parents were created they were placed in the Garden of Eden where grew “every tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for food,” and may we not suppose that beautiful flowers were there also? Our Savior bids us “Consider the lilies” and well may we learn a lesson from them and from each and every flower that grows.

To one who truly loves flowers their culture is not a task, but a pleasure which grows with the flowers and increases day by day. To plant the seed, to watch the first little leaf as it breaks through the soil, to see it grow and develop into the full grown plant and then burst forth into bud and blossom which ripen into fruit will ever be a delight and a mystery which does not diminish as the years roll on.”

“Let us not forget to plant some bulbs also, for they will reward us with an abundance of lovely flowers—the tulip perfect in form and rich in color, the hyacinth fragrant and beautiful, the Narcissus, the Crocus, Lilies of various kinds—all seldom cut down by frost yet always the first to bid Spring welcome—there are few flowers more beautiful than these.”


“We may plant the [word missing] and Crocus in the shrubbery or in the grass and a bed of tulips and one of hyacinths will last for years if rightly attended to and they repay us richly for a little care. We are not yet quite through with flowers which are almost no trouble at all when once planted and growing, for just here I want to put in a plea for the cultivation of wild flowers in the garden. We have some beautiful wild flowers about here which bear taming exceedingly well. It would be better, of course, to give them a home as nearly like the one from which we have taken them as possible, but there are some which seem to thrive very well when brought into the garden. The large white Trillium makes a beautiful plant for the border, throwing up fifteen or twenty stalks each crowned with its pure white flower. The Celandine Poppy seems perfectly at home anywhere in the garden and is not satisfied with blooming once, but blooms a second time. The Virginian Lungwort, it seems to me, can hardly be surpassed for the delicate blending of blue and pink in its graceful flowers and only too soon flower and plant disappear and are seen no more till Spring comes again. There are many more which may be cultivated with success but I will only mention the Hepatica, one of the earliest blooming flowers, the Dodecatheon Meadia or Shooting Star with a flower resembling the Cyclamen, the brilliant red Lobelia Cardinalis or Cardinal flower which blooms in midsummer, and the Eupatorium which blooms in the Fall. The Trailing Arbutus does not flourish away from its native hills, nor does the Partridge Berry, but I am sure that there are many other beauties hidden in our forests which we would do well to bring into our gardens.

Having succeeded with these, we long for more, and we think we will try to raise some annuals. And now our trouble begins. The seeds do not come up, or if they do, they soon wither and die. Let us see what is the matter. We have planted all the different kinds of seeds in a well prepared bed outdoors at a uniform depth of an inch or more not knowing that the usual rule is to cover them about their own depth with earth, pressing the earth firmly upon them, afterwards covering them with paper or boards so as to prevent them drying out, unless there is prospect of rain soon, when they may be left uncovered. I think it is generally best to divide the seed, and plant some early in March or April in the house in shallow boxes, and transplant to the garden in May. The seeds of greenhouse plants I would not plant in the garden at all. The plants raised in the house will give us earlier blossoms, for we can seldom plant seeds in the ground before the first of May. There are some seeds though which do not bear transplanting well and fortunately they can be planted in the open ground as soon as it can be worked; this is the case with Larkspur, Candytuft, Poppies and others. Sweet Peas always do better if planted as soon as possible and will thrive best if planted from four to six inches deep in rich soil. The flowers of the pansies planted in the Fall are the largest and finest. The seed may be planted out doors but I prefer to plant in boxes and keep in a pit or Cold frame. A second planting may be made in Feb. or March in the house and transplanted into the garden; they will bloom in May or June, and make fine blooms. You can hardly make the soil too rich for pansies and if they are sheltered from the hot sun from 12-3 o’clock—getting only the morning and evening sun—and if they have plenty of water, they will flourish even in the hot summer weather and be radiant in the Fall. In planting seeds in boxes it is not necessary to make the soil very rich. Let it be good and well pulverized, but in the garden most plants like rich ground.”

MVC-018S“After we have learned to raise flowers from seed we are not satisfied until we have some pot plants—indeed some persons do not have any other kind. And certainly there is great satisfaction to be had in pot plants of thrifty growth. Even the very busy housewife who hardly has time to look in the garden can have a few house plants—to take care of them requires only a few moments daily and their bright blossoms and sweet perfume gladden and cheer her often weary heart. Pot plants usually need rich soil and plenty of water and light and heat of course. In Summer we can hardly give them enough water, in winter, especially in very cold weather, they need but little. In Summer it is well if they can be sheltered from the mid-day sun, in Winter give all the sunlight possible. Chinese Primroses, Begonias and some others will do well if not exposed to the direct rays of the sun at all, but I would rather give them sunlight even if they droop a little under it at midday. The Geranium is not a favorite with all, but there is no other plant which repays us better for our care than the Geranium in all its varieties and which is more long suffering under neglect. The Amateur cannot find any plant more suitable to begin with. It is easily rooted from cuttings—with the exception of the Apple Geranium which grows best from seed—and it will grow in almost any kind of soil. It will bear the hottest sun and will not die if once in a while we forget to water it. It has no insect enemies and is very easily kept thro’ the winter. And then in each variety the leaf is beautiful and in some the fragrance is delightful; while for profusion of bloom it can hardly be surpassed. During the whole Summer the Zonale Geranium is seldom without flowers, and the colors range from white through every shade of red with flowers both single and double. The Rose, the Queen of flowers, does well both as a pot plant and as a bedding plant. I speak now of the Monthly Rose—and when grown in perfection what is more beautiful! Unlike the Geranium it can not always be depended upon. Sometimes our bushes are loaded with beautiful and fragrant blossoms, and again they fail to respond to the most careful treatment, the leaves turn yellow and drop off and the plant dies a lingering death and we cannot discover the cause. And then the rose slug and the scale bug, the thrips, the aphis and the red spider all must have a taste of it at one time or another and our beautiful roses are blighted and we are in despair. We do not give up thought and we generally succeed in having some roses in the course of the year.”


“But time fails me to speak of the many beautiful flowers so dear to every flower-loving heart. The culture of flowers when once we become interested in it is of peculiar fascination and the great danger is that [we] can never be satisfied but are always wanting more. If we could confine ourselves to a few plants and keep them always in the highest state of cultivation it would be better and then their care would never be a burden but only a labor of love and a source of recreation.

Does it pay? I answer,Yes. Not always in dollars and cents, but in health and strength and pleasure and in creating a love for the beautiful and pure. Teach the children to love flowers, let the boys help their Mothers and Sisters, give them a few plants of their own to care for. Let the girls put on their sunbonnets and gloves if they choose, and rubbers, and go into the garden with a trowel and a rake and after the heavy digging is done, let them plant the seeds and pull up the weeds, transplant the seedlings and love and care for the tender plants. What if a little healthful sunburn darkens their skin or a few freckles even dare to show themselves. Their cheeks will catch the red of the rose, their eyes will grow brighter and their spirits lighter. The love of the good and true and beautiful would take the place of the love of pleasure and of dress which ruins so many girls. And our boys would not live to linger on the hot and dusty street corners, where so much evil is learned, but would be content to stay at home and help make home beautiful and to learn the great lesson which Nature would teach us. That floriculture pays financially too, we must believe when we see the many beautiful, floral catalogues which are now being sent broadcast over our land. While some of the illustrations and descriptions may be exaggerated yet upon the whole we find that the florists deal honestly with us.

As I close this imperfect and incomplete paper I would like to pay a tribute of respect and gratitude to Peter Henderson, the well known florist of New York who died last month. I do not know of any one who has done more to help the Amateur than he. He had no secrets of trade but shared with his customers all that he thought would prove helpful to them. His books, “Practical Floriculture,” “Gardening for Pleasure,” “Gardening for Profit,” “Garden and Farm Topics,” and “Handbook of Plants and Horticulture” are invaluable to the Amateur and to the professional gardener alike, and he will be lamented by many unseen and unknown friends in many lands.”

Happy gardening!

-Allison Haack, Graduate Student Volunteer

Love Letters between Marie Boisen Bradley and Morton C. Bradley


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Among our thousands of Wylie family correspondence are numerous letters between Marie Boisen Bradley and Morton C. Bradley.  Marie was the granddaughter of Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie.  Morton and Marie met early on in their time as students at Indiana University and soon began courting.  The two graduated from IU in 1900 and were married that same July.  Two children were born to the couple, a daughter, Louise in 1908, and a son, Morton Jr. (known as Bob to family and close friends), in 1912.

The pair wrote each other letters any time they had to be separated. The letters written between Marie and Morton are touching as they describe the depth of their feelings for one another and how much they miss the other and long to be together.   These letters are lovely examples of the kinds of love letters sent by couples in this time period.   Below is just a small sampling of excerpts from a selection of their letters.

MMatIUExcerpts of letter from Morton Bradley to Miss Marie Boisen [July 10, 1896]

“I was talking to my half sister. She said that she was in a crowd where my name was mentioned in connection with a girl’s here in town—somebody was wondering if I would not go with a girl here. Then someone else spoke up and said, “You needn’t worry about him going with anyone here. He has a girl in Bloomington who is the nicest, most intellectual and highest respected girl there. He’ll not go with any girl here unless it is to pass away the time.” O, how good that made me feel! …  But the compliments I have heard on you since I have been back! Just last evening one of the boys was looking at my pictures. He picked up one of yours and said “Say, there’s a pretty girl. I’ll bet she’s a nice girl.” And of course I assured him that he had struck the keynote. And he had.”

Excerpts of letter from Morton C. Bradley to Miss Marie Boisen [postmarked July 26, 1898]

“Sweetheart, although I have been away from you a very short time it seems as if months had passed since you said, “I’m so glad you came. Good bye, dear.” Do you know, dearest, that your saying that made me so happy that even now I can see you standing there with your hand in mine and your eyes telling me how much you loved me. I wanted so much to turn and tell the cabman that I wouldn’t need him, then take you in my arms and tell you that I couldn’t go, that I would stay another day. But, I knew that the parting then would be just as hard, even harder.”

 Excerpts of letter from Morton C. Bradley to Marie Boisen [Monday, 22 January 1900]

“I thanked God that He had given you to me to love and to make happy. I thanked Him that you loved me and that I loved you in the same way—with the whole heart. You had promised to be my wife and I was happy—so happy. You had changed my life; you had taught me to live a better life and I was grateful to you. You were a woman and I admired you. You had character and I loved you. You were my sweetheart and I worshipped you.

And now a year has passed. I still am grateful; I still admire you; I still love you; I still worship my darling sweetheart. And all to a greater degree than a year ago. But how can I write them stronger? I feel them—I know that my whole heart’s love, my whole life, my whole being is yours and will always be. I know that my entire happiness depends on you, dearest. I know that I wish more than for anything else that we were married—that you were now the darling wife I know you will be.

Five months, and less! My dearest, I am so anxious for our wedding day to come that were it right I would wish them gone. But still there is a sweetness in the waiting. I know I dearly love to talk to you about our wedding in blissful anticipation of the happiness I pray for. God willing, we shall be happy, my sweetheart. I will devote my life to your happiness. In doing that I know He will be pleased. For you will want me to live a Christian life.

And now that our perfect happiness is so near, I am trying more than ever to be what you want me to be. I will be what your husband should be. My darling, you deserve the very best husband in the world. And with His help, I will be that.”

Marie and Morton outside the front of Wylie House.

Marie and Morton outside the front of Wylie House.

Excerpts of letter from Marie Boisen Bradley to Mr. Morton C. Bradley [Postmarked May 14, 1901]

 “You will forgive the writing, won’t you? My position is not conducive to expert penmanship, but I love you just the same.

Dear heart, I am so sorry that you have had to go these three days without a letter from me. You know, don’t you, that if I could possibly have written I would have done so? I did all that I could—had mamma write and I hope that her letters kept you from being uneasy. Dear boy, you mustn’t be one bit uneasy now, though, for I am really and truly getting well quickly. I feel so well today. I don’t see how I will ever manage to stay in bed for ten days, but of course if it is for the best I will try to be patient. I want to get up entirely well and I know that the only way to do that is to stay in bed for a while.

Do write to me as often as you can, dear. Your letters will mean more than ever to me now that I have nothing to do but to be here and think.

Tomorrow I will try to write a longer, better letter. Now I wish I could see you, dearest. I am thinking about you all the time. I love you with my life. “


Excerpts of letter from Marie B. Bradley to Mr. Morton C. Bradley  [Postmarked Oct 20, 1903]

“Everyone sends dearest love to you, and all wish that you could have come. But most of all Mrs. wishes that! My heart was pretty heavy, dear one, when I found myself speeding westward past the billy goats grazing on the out skirts of Jersey City. But I’ve kind of picked up heart now, and much as I miss you, I intend to have a fine time, so that we will both be glad I came. Darling, I love you. Next time, which will be tomorrow, I will write a longer letter. Tonight circumstances are against me. I am down in the dining room and while the folks are trying to keep still it simply has to bubble over every so often. They all do seem so glad to see me dearest!

May God bless and keep you, my precious love. I am now, and will ever be

Your own true



No idea what is happening in this picture, but it’s one of my favorites.

Excerpts of letter from Marie B. Bradley to Mr. Morton C. Bradley [October 21, 1903]

“If only a letter comes from you tomorrow! I have so longed for one today. It seems a long time since I have had any word from my precious boy.

Everyone is impressed with the fact that I look so well. (I think too, dear, that my brown suit has made a profound impression.) I have felt so well today. It has been a heavenly day, a splendid Indian summer day. The country is wonderfully beautiful just now and the fine air is exhilarating.

But how I long for you! My heart is with you all the time. I am thinking, thinking, thinking of you all day. May God bless and keep you for me, dear one. He alone knows how I love you and long for you.

Tomorrow! I can hardly wait, for tomorrow, I know, will bring me one of your precious letters.

My heart’s love to you

I am, your own


A thousand kisses to you”


Morton C. Bradley, Boston, Mass. to Mrs. M. C. Bradley, 307 E. 2nd St. Bloomington, Indiana [postmarked Sept 27, 1905]

“I believe this letter will reach you on your birth anniversary. But whether it does or not it’s my birthday letter to you, my sweetheart-wife. I couldn’t think of letting the day go by without telling you at least some of the things my heart prompts me to say. And especially this year I must write you such a letter. For whatever of happy days the other years have brought you the one just beginning gives promise of greater happiness and completer contentment than any we’ve known. And we have been happy these other years, my sweetheart. It’s true, there have been times when we would have had conditions different. And yet through it all we’ve been happy. We had each other and we knew absolutely each other’s love—why shouldn’t we be happy? We knew each other and we loved completely and our hearts were happy. Those are the important things. Other conditions change, there are ups and downs, dark days and bright. But love, if it is love, changes only in that it grows more intense. And it is love only if it becomes more complete regardless of the changing conditions.

Such a love, my sweetheart, is mine for you. It has always seemed to me that my love for you was so great, so complete, that it wouldn’t be possible for anyone to love another with a greater or a more devoted love. And yet as the months go by and when new years begin, I realize that my love for my precious sweetheart wife has become more complete, more intense.

MarieMortonNow, I firmly believe that no one can inspire a real love, nor can anyone encourage any love to really grow unless that person is truly worthy of that love, and that never is the love greater than that person’s worth. Only good is truly loved and only to the extent that it is really good. To see good is to love it; it is only necessary to recognize it. The greater one realizes the good to be, the greater his love for it. My love for you, dearest one, has become greater every day. It’s simply that I have known you better every day. That my love should become more intense was only natural. My heart’s love today, sweetheart, great as it is, is all yours, my very life is just for you and your happiness.

Confident as I am that my love for you, my truly lovable wife, will become greater this coming year. I am just as confident that your happiness this year will be a more complete, a more contented, happiness. I believe we both can more correctly look ahead and that we have arrived at a point where there is actually more there to be seen. I think we have “found ourselves.” If that is the case, we need but to resolve and to work. If we haven’t quite reached that point, working, I know, will mighty soon bring us there. Dearie, I’ve resolved and I’m working. The results must come and they must be results commensurate with our abilities. And we know what they are, which means that we know the results not to accomplish which will mean disappointment to us. And neither of us will ever be satisfied with disappointments.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

-Allison Haack, Graduate Student Volunteer