Thomas Indian School Correspondence and Subject Files

Held by the New York State Archives

Overview of the Records


New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

This series consists of correspondence, reports, publicity materials; and deeds and court records dealing with the founding, operation, and administration of the Thomas Indian School. Much of the correspondence concerns enrollment of Indian children at the School and placement of graduates at other institutions for further education. Also include are the contents of a cornerstone, and lists of students and visitors. Records may be restricted due to personal privacy protection.
4.2 cubic feet. Copies: 2 microfilm rolls; 35mm.
Inclusive Dates:
Series Number:


Arranged by major subject or institutional correspondent within each accretion.

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of correspondence, reports, minutes of meetings, memoranda, and a few news clippings concerning the general operation and administration of the school.

Correspondence is generally with officials at other schools having Indian education programs (e.g. U.S. Indian School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Hampton Institute, Virginia; Haskell Institute, Lawrence, Kansas), officials at or residents of Indian reservations in New York, and county welfare agency officials. The correspondence concerns the enrollment of Indian children at the Thomas Indian School and placement of Thomas Indian School graduates at other institutions for further education.

B0640-78: This accretion (1855-1956) consists of correspondence, deeds, court papers, and miscellaneous items concerned primarily with the founding and acquisition of land for the Thomas Asylum for Orphan and Destitute Indian Children. Correspondence includes several letters from Philip E. Thomas (the financial backer for whom the asylum was named) to E.M. Pettit (the asylum's treasurer) concerning the asylum's financial state. Other correspondence concerns land acquisition. Several deeds and leases document the expansion of the asylum's grounds during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One item is a transmittal letter to Superintendent Brennan (1934) regarding payment to the Seneca Nation for a land parcel to be used by the school. The court records relate to the settlement of the estate of Robert Kennedy in 1893 by the Peacemakers Court on the Cattaraugus Reservation, including the petition and judgment and decree.

Also included are the following items: list of contents of the contents of the cornerstone of the first building (1855); early account of the founding of the asylum; list of contributors through September 1855, giving amount of donation; description of the first children at the asylum; typescripts of legislative bill texts (Laws of 1847, Chapter 238; Laws of 1886, Chapter 330 and 546); photographic portrait (ca. 1848) of Philip E. Thomas (unidentified printing process) presented by Thomas to Mary Kennedy in 1848, and in turn given as a gift by her daughter, Ely Pierce, to Superintendent J.C. Brennan in 1942; school Arbor Day programs (1903-1906), including layout sketches of trees and landscaping; aggregate 1855 census statistics on the population of the Seneca Nation (Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, Tuscaroras, and St. Regis), also including statistics for churches on the Cattaraugus, Allegany, and Tonawanda reservations; and list of election of officers of the Seneca Nation, and annual council resolutions.

B0640-85: This accretion (1855-1963) consists of alphabetical subject files containing correspondence as well as other records and include the following subjects or types of records: budget; centennial of the school (1955); Governor's Committee on the Utilization of the Thomas Indian School (1956-1958); history of the school; list of all children at the school, 1855-1955; financial aid for Thomas Indian School graduates at other educational institutions; Principal's Reports of Regents Examinations, listing students and their scores on examinations (1906-1942); narrative reports of visits to the school by Board of Charities and Department of Social Welfare staff (1927-1957); registers of vacations permitted to children (1931-1943); logs of visitors to the school (1943-1957); admission and placement correspondence for needy children from Allegany, Cattaraugus, Onondaga, Shinnecock, Tonawanda, Tuscarora, and St. Regis reservations; and transmittal letters for checks or closing out balances of county accounts.

Restricted folders and individual restricted items found in otherwise disclosable folders from this accretion were removed from the original file sequence and placed together in Boxes 6-8. See folder list for more information.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

Records less than 75 years old may be restricted under the personal privacy protection and other provisions of the Freedom of Information Law. Requests to use records must be reviewed according to State Archives procedures and approved by the State Archivist.

Microfilm is unavailable for interlibrary loan or duplication because of the presence of restricted information.

B0640-85: Boxes 6-8 are restricted.

Alternate Formats Available

B0640-78: Microfilm is available at the New York State Archives.

Related Information

Related Materials

Series A1909, Register of Trustees, Indian Children and Visitors

Series B1932, Register of Indian Children

and A1911, Register of Visitors, contain earlier and additional registers of visitors.

Other finding aids

Folder and roll lists are available at the repository.

Custodial History

Accessioned from the New York State Library as old collection #248, accession -375.

Access Terms

Personal Name(s):
Corporate Name(s):
Geographic Name(s):