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Knighton, Edith M.
Manuscript Diary 1887 of Edith M. Knighton, of Towanda and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, wife of Van Camp Peters, relating her experience of being robbed on a train near Grande Junction, Colorado, by Butch Cassidy, also includes large Collection of Incoming Correspondence and Ephemera, all dated 1872-1913

Archive consisting of 444 letters, 1506 manuscript  pages, (240 retained mailing envelopes),  dating from  May 7, 1872 - August 15, 1913, the bulk being from the  1880s to 1890s, with a 25 page manuscript travel diary recording a journey to the West (Sept-Nov 1887), plus 65 pieces paper and manuscript ephemera. Many of the letters were written to Edith by her husband, mother, or other family members and friends.

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1870s - 18 letters, 66 manuscript pages, 10 envelopes, dated 7 May 1872 - 2 Dec 1879.

1880s - 214 letters, 782 manuscript pages, 161 envelopes, dated 11 Jan 1880 - 26 Dec 1889 (mostly 1885-1889).

1890s - 97 letters, 327 manuscript pages, 54 envelopes, dated 27 Jan 1891 - 18 July 1898.

1900s - 4 letters, 7 manuscript pages, 1 envelope, dated 3 Oct 1912 - 15 Aug 1913.

Undated letters - 88 letters, 266 manuscript pages, 14 envelopes, not dated.

23 incomplete letters, 58 manuscript pages.


13 pages of diary entries and 12 pages of accounts and expenses, plus blanks, measuring 3 ½" x 5 ½", bound in limp calf, good condition, written in pencil, in a legible hand. Records the events and occurrences of a railroad journey to Colorado and Utah, including an eyewitness account of a train robbery, which is believed by many historians to have been the first of many by Butch Cassidy.

According to Outlaw historian, Charles Kelly (1889-1971), the first train robbery of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was carried out on November 3, 1887 by Butch Cassidy, Bill McCarty, and Matt Warner. Modern historians (such as William M. Patterson) question Kelly's findings, however many appear to agree with Kelly.

This train robbery is recounted in Edith's diary:

"After passing Grand Junction, Colo. about five miles from this of the wildest spots on this Grand River at 1:15 A.M the train was "held up" by [ties], boulders, and a red lantern on the track. Six masked men attacked the train and presenting revolvers at the head of the fireman and engineer entered the express car. Sealing engineer, fireman, express messenger and mail clerk up as he [barked] "Hands Up," demanded to try the safe. Being locked up with combination it could not be opened, then took 25 registered packages & letters. After 55 minutes concluded to leave without disturbing passengers. [The] brakeman had been sent back to Grand Junction of which they were informed. The train conductor and brakeman went forward but were fired at and retreated. The robbers removed obstructions from the track before leaving. Colored porters hid in upper berth, money secreted in various places & feeling a visit. Water cooler held our [pear pins], purse [with] several watches, etc. After a night of adventure were up before six o'clock...."

The correspondence in this archive for the latter part of 1887 includes letters from Van C. Peters to Edith, while Edith was traveling out west by train. The letters are addressed to her at Denver and Salt Lake City. These letters confirm facts and details of Edith's  journey, and since the diary does not have Edith's signature, the correspondence proves that the diary belonged to Edith. One letter, written by William Newbold Wilson to his sister Sarah "Sadie" R. Knighton (Edith's mother) makes a reference to the train robbery that Edith witnessed:

"December 23, 1887

...O Sadie, it is very hard for us to live & yet God has been exceeding kind in giving me such loving & true friends. I will enclose Bro - E's letter - How sorry I am he has had a return of neuralgia. What a joy it must have been to you to have your children return, safe, sound, & well, after such a long & as it proved "perilous journey.""

Between October 5 and October 19, 1887, Edith receives 2 letters addressed to her at Denver, Colorado, and 7 letters addressed to her while at Salt Lake City, Utah. It was on her return trip that the train robbery occurred.

     Description of the Correspondence:

The correspondence in the collection centers on the Knighton family of Towanda and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The majority of the letters are written to Edith M. Knighton, but a sizeable number are written to her mother Sarah "Sadie" R. Wilson Knighton, and Edith's husband Van C. Peters.  The correspondents tend to be family or friends. Edith's future husband Van Camp Peters writes a number of letters to Edith as he courts her and after their marriage in 1888. Edith also writes a number of letters to Peters, particularly in 1888. Edith's two uncles (William Newbold Wilson, a retired merchant of Binghamton, New York and Edward Wilson, of NYC) write letters to Edith's mother. Edith's mother also writes frequently to her daughter Edith, particularly when she is visiting Philadelphia and writes to Edith back in Stroudsburg. Edith's sister Alice occasionally writes to her mother and Edith. Alice married the banker Noble N. Betts of Towanda, Pennsylvania. There are also letters from friends written to Edith. One branch of the Wilson family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where they were in business as "Beard, Wilson, & Co., Box Manufacturers." This branch of the family's letters make up a portion of the correspondence of the 1890s.

Before Edith and Van married, Edith lived at Towanda and later at Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Van C. Peters wrote a number of letters on the letterhead of the "Water Gap House," located at Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania, a large resort hotel that appears to be have been a business partnership between Peters and  Luke Brodhead, his uncle.

As might be expected, the correspondence is filled with news of family and business matters, and offers insight into one of the pioneering Northeastern Pennsylvania families of Pike and Monroe Counties.


Approximately 65 pieces: includes Peters family papers such as business and account papers, receipts, insurance policies, estate papers, envelopes, postcards, invitation cards, miscellaneous papers (verse) and notes, dated 1867-1944.

      History of the Peters and Knighton Families

The Peters family was a pioneer family of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Peter Peters, a miller by trade, emigrated from Holland at the time of the Revolution. From Philadelphia he went to Easton, then to Stroudsburg. His son, Henry Peters (1787-1857), bought a large timber tract, which included much of the present town of Bushkill, Pike Co., Pennsylvania. Henry moved to Bushkill, worked in the lumber trade and rafting, as well as milling and the mercantile trade. He founded the town of Bushkill. Henry's son Charles Ridgeway Peters (1822-1867) married Elizabeth E. Coolbaugh, of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, daughter of John Coolbaugh. Together Charles and Elizabeth had several children, of which three of their sons were Edwin F. Peters, who was engaged in the hotel business, Harry Peters, who with his mother conducted the "Peters House" a first class hotel twelve miles from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and Van Camp Peters, Edith M. Knighton's husband.

Van Camp Peters was born on 17 June 1862, at Bushkill. He went to local schools, attended seminary at Kingston, Pennsylvania, took courses at Eastman Business College (Poughkeepsie, NY) and engaged in a partnership in the grocery business in Pittston, Pennsylvania. He later sold out and accepted a clerkship at the Stroudsburg National Bank, later going into business with his uncle, the Hon. Luke Brodhead at Water Gap, Pennsylvania, then in 1887, devoted his time to the tanning business in connection with the Stroudsburg Tannery.

Mr. Van C. Peters, married on December 27, 1888 Miss Edith M. Knighton (1860-1918) of Stroudsburg.  Besides the tanning business, Van C. Peters, acted as Secretary of the Delaware Valley, Hudson and Lehigh Railroad when it was reorganized in 1899. Van's brother Edwin F. Peters was one of the directors. In 1903, the Monroe County Water Power and Supply Company capitalized at $10,000, with Van C. Peters as one of the directors. The Stroudsburg and Bushkill Telephone Company, was chartered on 14 Feb 1906. Two of the officers were Edwin F. Peters, who acted as President (Bushkill, PA); O. M. Peters, the Secretary; and Van C. Peters, General Manager.  There was also a Walter G. Peters involved with this company.

The Stroudsburg Tannery that Van C. Peters was involved with eventually became the large tannery of W. R. Bennett & Co. This tannery was completely destroyed by fire in August of 1898. The loss was estimated at $30,000 on which there was insurance of only $12,000. There was much costly and modern machinery in the plant. W. R. Bennett & Co was originally called the Stroudsburg Tannery and was erected about 1841and manufactured sole leather. In 1874, the plant passed into the hands of Captain W. R. Bennett who manufactured grained and split leather, of which a large stock burned. Besides Van C. Peters, Edith's father, the Rev. Frederick Knighton, also had an interest in this tannery.

Both Edith and her husband Van C. Peters died in 1918 and were buried in the family plot at Stroudsburg Cemetery. Their son Henry E. Peters (1895-1951) was also buried there, as was Edith's mother, Sarah R. (Wilson) Knighton in 1897.