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Identifier: MC 547

Gaston Family Papers


  • Majority of material found within 1808-1960, 1837-1946

Scope and Content Note

The 1.2 cubic feet of documents which make up the Gaston family papers consist mostly of holograph correspondence. The dates range from 1808 to 1960, although the bulk of the material dates from 1837 to 1946. The correspondence covers at least four generations of the Gaston family. However, not all family members are included in these papers to the same degree. The first group consists of the Hugh M. Gaston papers. These include his own correspondence, as well as letters to and from his brothers, and a letter to his father. These letters only span the years 1837 to 1847, with most of them dating from 1838 and 1839.

The next group consists of the Evelyn Gaston VanderVeer papers. These letters really form three distinct parts. There are letters from 1869-1882, from 1901-1906 (including Elizabeth VanderVeer's years at Vassar), and from 1918-1919 (Elizabeth's years with the Y.M.C.A.). Even within these sections the letters are uneven, with all three sections containing more letters from their later years than their earlier ones. This section also contains letters written by Evelyn VanderVeer, as well as printed picture postcards.

The third group contains the papers of Elizabeth VanderVeer. Her documents date almost exclusively from her Vassar years (1902-1906). The only exceptions are a 1907 recommendation, a 1919 American Expeditionary Forces Y.M.C.A. movement order, and a 1960 letter concerning her aunt, Dr. Mary E. Gaston.

The final group consists of the papers of Frances Mallet-Prevost Gaston, as well as those members of her family whose own papers were so few as not to warrant a separate group. This group includes letters received by Louis P. Gaston from 1889-1891, letters received by Frances P. Gaston between 1884 and 1914, and again from 1936 to 1946, and letters received by Dr. Mary E. Gaston between 1874 and 1906. Most of these sets of correspondence are small. The letterbooks in this group record two trips to Europe, one in 1894, and another in 1901. This group also contains several early letters, from the years 1808-1809, 1818, and 1821. The diary contained in this group is very short, and covers only two months, February and March of 1897.

The bulk of the correspondence found in this collection has to do with Frances Mallet-Prevost, Evelyn Gaston VanderVeer, and Elizabeth Kirkpatrick VanderVeer. There are very few letters written to, or received from, the men of the family, with only several exceptions. These are the H.M. Gaston group as a whole, the early letters to Frances Mallet-Prevost Gaston (from Hugh M. Gaston), and the 1881-1882 correspondence between Evelyn Gaston and Augustus VanderVeer.

There is almost no information on Hugh K. and Louis P. Gaston, who made significant contributions to Somerville.


1.2 Cubic Feet (3 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials



The Gaston family resided in Somerville, Somerset County, New Jersey. Among the members of the family were Hugh M. Gaston, his spouse Frances Gaston (nee Mallet-Prevost), their daughter Evelyn (who married Augustus VanderVeer), and the latter couple's daughter Elizabeth Kirkpatrick VanderVeer. The papers primarily consist of letters, 1837-1847, exchanged between Hugh M. Gaston and his brothers; letters, 1848-1946 with gaps, received by Frances Gaston and three of her children from other family members; copies of letters, 1894 and 1901, written by Frances Gaston during European tours; letters received by Evelyn Gaston VanderVeer from her sister Mary (while at Vassar College, 1874-1875), from her husband (during their engagement, 1881-1882), and from her daughter Elizabeth (while a Y.M.C.A. volunteer in France, 1918-1919); and letters, 1902-1906, exchanged by Evelyn Gaston VanderVeer and her daughter Elizabeth while the latter was a student at Vassar. The collection also includes letters, 1808-1809, sent by Jane Dennis of New Brunswick, New Jersey, to Margaret Blackwell, a friend or relative, and a brief diary, 1897, of a teenaged Mary Oakley Bartine, a Somerville resident.

Biographical Sketch

The Gaston family papers span at least four generations of a prominent Somerville, New Jersey, family. The earliest identified member of this family is William B. Gaston. He moved from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, to Somerville about 1824. His family was of Huguenot origin. He was a merchant, and held real estate. He was also an elder of the Second Reformed Church, and a lay judge of Somerset County.

William B. Gaston had at least four sons: Joseph, Frederick, Alexander and Hugh M. As the sons grew, they settled in various places in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Frederick Gaston (1821-1847) was a physician who resided for a time in Woodsville, Hopewell Township, Mercer County, New Jersey. Hugh M. Gaston (1818-1892) was a lawyer, and was admitted to the Bar in 1840. He drew up the charter for the Town of Somerville in 1862. Hugh Gaston married Frances Mallet-Prevost, daughter of Louis Mallet-Prevost of Frenchtown, New Jersey. Mr. Mallet-Prevost was a French banker who left that country at the time of their Revolution.

The H.M. Gastons had at least six children: Lizzie, Hugh Kirkpatrick, Louis Prevost, Mary Exton, Evelyn, and Frances P. Little information is available about Lizzie. Hugh K. Gaston was born August 10, 1858. He was admitted to the Bar in 1880. In 1888 he married Susan Cammann, who died in 1919 without children. Hugh K. died April 10, 1938.

Louis P. Gaston was born October 17, 1864. He attended Lehigh University and was graduated in 1888 with a degree in civil engineering. He was President of his own contracting firm, Richards and Gaston. He died in July of 1938.

Mary Exton Gaston was born in 1855. She attended Vassar College in the 1870s. She became a physician, and lived in the family's home at 18 West High Street. She died in 1956.

Frances P. Gaston did not marry, and lived at home with Mary E. Gaston, who was also unmarried.

Evelyn Gaston married Augustus ("Gus") VanderVeer on June 15, 1882. He seems to have been a civil engineer also, as he wrote several letters from Corning, New York, where he was working on a railroad construction project.

The Augustus VanderVeers had at least two children, Hugh and Elizabeth Kirkpatrick. Hugh VanderVeer worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, at least from 1904 to 1906. Elizabeth ("Bess") attended Vassar from 1902 to 1906. After that, she taught in the Dunellen Public Schools for a year. In 1918, she joined the American Expeditionary Forces Y.M.C.A., and subsequently worked in and near Bordeaux, France.

There are also other family members mentioned in these papers. Madge Safford appears to be a daughter-in-law of Frances M. Gaston. Various nieces and nephews of the H.M. Gastons are mentioned, including nieces Mary and Mado, and nephews Kay, Kenneth, Lynn, and Milton. Two of the earlier letters pertain to a member of the Exton family who was a relative. The earliest letters in the collection are to Margaret Blackwell, who was perhaps also an ancestor.

Arrangement Note

The Gaston Family papers were divided into four groups, to reflect their major focus around several important family members. Almost all of the correspondence is grouped by recipient and then arranged chronologically. In cases where a person from one group wrote to a person of another group (for example, Elizabeth VanderVeer's letters to her grandmother, Frances M. Gaston), the letters were placed with the other letters of the recipient. When context permitted, undated letters were interfiled with the rest of a series, with a circa date. Undated letters, as well as fragments, have been placed at the end of each series.

These papers had undergone some preliminary arrangement prior to final processing. The collection was originally received in a suitcase and a cardboard box. Some of the correspondence was bundled, but most of it was loose. Preliminary processing involved arranging the correspondence according to recipient, and placing it into file folders.

Final processing involved the establishment of the four groups. Many of the documents were left in the file groupings they were in before, but some of these files were rearranged to reflect their position within the established groups. The documents were also arranged chronologically within the series.

Basic conservation measures were undertaken, such as filing in acid-free folders and replacing metal paper clips with plastic ones. However, no restoration was attempted in the case of fragile or brittle letters. Several of the earliest letters (Margaret Blackwell letters, Hugh M. Gaston papers, and the Mary Exton Gaston letters) are brittle, with some tears and holes.

Approximately .2 cubic feet of material were removed from the collection. This consisted entirely of envelopes. In the case of undated letters, the postmark date (if any) from the envelope was transferred to the letter itself.

Photographs and postcards had been interspersed throughout the collection. They have been grouped together for the sake of convenience. In addition, miscellaneous items have been placed together, at the end of the collection.


Finding aid edited by Albert C. King. Original (preliminary) processing by Anne Ciliberti, Stuart A. Kohler, and Jean Swanson.

Inventory to the Gaston Family Papers MC 547
Edited Full Draft
Mary Ellen Benz
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.