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Lillian Graves Letters

Identifier: MSS-4316

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of twelve letters written by governess Lillian Graves from October 1885 through February 1886 as Graves cared for the Woodward family children in post-Civil War Alabama. Graves describes daily and holiday activities in late nineteenth-century Alabama, visiting the Woodward Iron Company mine, and makes extensive and problematic remarks about African Americans living in the Woodward home and in the area.


  • October 1885-February 1886

Physical Description

Old folds, minor chipping and edge wear obscuring some words, tiny wormholes in a couple of letters.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are responsible for using the materials in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright claimants in collection materials. Copyright for official University records is held by The University of Alabama. The library claims only physical ownership of many manuscript collections. Anyone wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of literary property rights or copyrights. Please contact Special Collections ( with questions regarding specific manuscript collections. For more information about copyright policy, please visit: Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal implications, for which the University of Alabama assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

Joseph H. Woodward (1843-1917) had served in the Union army during the Civil War for three years before moving to Texas to try his hand at ranching. The venture did not prove lucrative, and Woodward returned to the family home in West Virginia to work at LaBelle Iron Works. Upon their father’s death, J. H. Woodward and his brother A. H. Woodward founded the Woodward Iron Company near Birmingham, Alabama in 1881. J. H. served as president of Woodward Iron Company from 1886 until his retirement in 1910. During this tenure, the company built two furnaces and became recognized for its quality pig iron. Woodward also served as president of the First National Bank of Birmingham and of LaBelle Iron Works. In 1869, he married Martha ("Mattie") B. Metcalf, with whom he had three children.

Originally from Vermont, Lillian Graves travelled to the community of Wheeling (current day Jefferson County), Alabama to work as the governess for the three Woodward children, Bertha, Polly, and Allen. The area did not have a school for white children and so Graves became the family’s private tutor.


0.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Physical Description

Old folds, minor chipping and edge wear obscuring some words, tiny wormholes in a couple of letters.
Guide to the Lillian Graves Letters
September 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266