New Acquisition: The Journals of T.C. Abbot

12 01 2012

Here at the University Archives & Collections, we love receiving new items, especially those tied very closely with MSU history! Just recently, we received two new pieces from the MSU Special Collections that once belonged to Michigan State University’s third president, Theophilus Capen Abbot.

T.C. Abbot was born on April 29, 1826 in Vassaboro, Maine and spent much of his childhood in Augusta, Maine. At the age of fifteen he enrolled in Colby University (later Colby College) at Waterville, Maine. He graduated in 1845 and received his A.M. (masters) degree from Colby four years later. After receiving the A.M. degree, Abbot taught in Vermont, at the Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine, at Colby University, in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and at the Union School in Ann Arbor. In 1858, Abbot accepted the Professorship of English Literature at the State Agricultural College. He also served as the treasurer of the college in 1860, and as secretary pro tempore of the State Board of Agriculture in 1861 and 1862.

On July 5, 1860, Abbot married Sarah Merrylees, a teacher at the Union School in Ann Arbor. Sarah and Theophilus Abbot had two children: Mary Monat and Joseph Rodney.

The State Board of Agriculture elected Abbot president of the college in December, 1862. Abbot assumed an active role in the administration of the college during his twenty-two years as president while continuing to teach. In 1866, he became Professor of Mental Philosophy and Logic, and four years later received a LL.D. degree from the University of Michigan. He resigned the presidency in 1885, but remained at the college as a professor until his retirement in 1889. Abbot died on November 7, 1892.

The Special Collections have recently given to the archives, two journals belonging to Abbot. The first is a portfolio that he had from 1844-1845 while studying at Waterville College. In this portfolio, it appears as though he copied various essays, poems, hymns, quotes, histories, and passages from famous works. The passages are written in extremely elegant cursive handwriting with the traces and pressures of the pen that was once dipped into his inkwell. He writes in various languages as well, including English, Ancient Greek, and what appears to be Italian.

The second journal appears to be Abbot’s notes on various philosophies. There are notes on methodologies, diagrams of various ideas, charts regarding various subjects, reflections regarding certain ideals, rules of sorts, reactions to other people’s works, and religious thoughts. Although not as neat and tidy as the first, each page of this journal is completely full from top to bottom with various sorts of information.

Seems as though our University’s third president was quite the philosopher.




2 responses

4 05 2016
jin johnson

I want to know how Abbot School in Ann Arbor came to be named for T C Abbot and if the journals will be transcribed or be made available online.

9 05 2016

Thank you for your comment, Jin Johnson. There is an excellent explanation of why the school was named for Abbot on their website: At this time we do not have plans to transcribe Abbot’s journal or to put it online.

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