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Peter McVicar Papers, 1854-1918

Peter McVicarMs. Collection 429



Born in St. George, New Brunswick, Canada, on June 15, 1829, Peter McVicar was the fourth of six children born to George and Christina McVicar, who earned their living as farmers. At age 13, his family moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Beloit College in 1856. Then, before attaining his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Andover Theological Seminary in 1860, the young Peter McVicar went to Union Theological Seminary.

Before he served as the pastor of the Congregational Church and Society of Topeka (1860-1866) Rev. McVicar marched with the “Topeka boys” protecting the Kansas border from pro-slavery forces during the “Bleeding Kansas” years. From 1867 to 1871, McVicar served the Kansas public as the State superintendent of public instruction. He became president of Washburn College (now University) in Topeka, Kansas, a post he held for twenty-five years (1871-1896). He and his wife, Martha Porter (Dana) married in 1863 and had two children, Dana and Marion. Marion died sometime in her childhood.

Rev. McVicar, along with his wife, corresponded with various members of their family, such as brothers, sisters, cousins, and children concerning financial matters (borrowing money for investments, discussing real estate, and interest rates), religion, and travel, among other issues, on a frequent basis.

Peter combined the aspects of his two careers: that of a minister and an educator, by often tying the teachings of the Bible to education, expressing the opinion that the Bible promotes intellectual growth and stimulus. He did this in his sermons and addresses, attempting to connect the philosophies of creationism and evolution together (see box 3, folder 4, and box 4, folder 1), and in his philosophy of how children- at home and at school - should be treated.

He also used his two professions to express his views of such politically pertinent issues as slavery, the assassination of President Lincoln (see box 2, folder 3), the limits of teaching due to government requirements, and the education of women (see box 3, folder 5).

Peter McVicar died in Topeka in 1903.

Scope and Content

This collection contains primarily the sermons, addresses and financial papers of Peter McVicar. Included in this collection, but not limited to it, are letters and journals from Peter McVicar, his wife Martha, and their son Dana. Certain items have been stored in the oversize storage, for their safety (see box 1, folder 2). In the container list, papers are of Peter McVicar unless otherwise specified.

The collection contains five 5 inch boxes, and two 2.5 inch boxes dealing with family correspondence by Rev. McVicar, his wife, son and members of his and his wife’s families; as well as church officials and Washburn College students and faculty. The document cases also contain sermons, commencement and other school addresses, in addition to receipts pertaining to the McVicar household.

Not all the sermons and addresses within this collection possess dates as to when they were composed or delivered. These materials are located in box 3, folders 3 through 6. The sermons and addresses that do possess dates typically have a series of dates listed in either the top corner of the first page or on the back of the completed document. This is the initial date indicating its original deliverance to an audience. The other dates signify when, and often state where, the document was further used. All sermons and addresses are arranged according to the first and earliest date given.

Contents List

Box# Folder# Description
1 1 Correspondence: 1854-1903.
    Letters to and from various family members, but primarily from Dana McVicar to Martha McVicar.
1 2 Correspondence: 1903-1918.
    Letters to and from various family members, but primarily from Dana McVicar to Martha McVicar.
1 3 Miscellaneous Papers: 1860-?
    American Home Missionary Society papers, Bible House papers, Astor Place proposal.
2 1 Sermons and Addresses: 1/1860 - 1/1861.
    Sermons pertaining to sacrifice, forgiveness, “The First Thanksgiving Sermon,” truth, those who are closer to Heaven than others, religious truth.
2 2 Sermons and Addresses: 1/1861 - 4/1861.
    Sermons pertaining to: those who die in the Lord, preparing for death, Christ and the Church, Isaiah 21:11.
2 3 Sermons and Addresses: 11/1861 - 9/1862.
    Condition of the Soul after death, the Sabbath, self doubt vs. over confidence, road blocks to seeking god, “On Reconstruction.”
2 4 Sermons and Addresses: 11/1862 - 12/1864.
    Bribery, Sabbath, personal responsibility, God’s creations, discussion on Psalms, Thanksgiving (1863), “Fitness for Responsible Trust,” relationship between pastor and congregation, tales of Israel, discussion on Psalms.
2 5 Sermons and Addresses: 1/1865 - 12/1865.
    Early Hebrew people, reasons to read the Bible, Lincoln assassination, opposition to the Bible, Christianity is many things, Thanksgiving (postwar), sin is punishable.
2 6 Sermons and Addresses: 1/1866 - 11/1869.
    John Knox, region in schools, the Bible, salvation and the Gospel, truth, God’s influence in man’s life, “Temperance Address.”
2 7 Sermons and Addresses: 1871-11/1875.
    John 17:19, forming of Washburn College, Hebrew religion, “The Appression Mission of the Church,” Jesus and the Disciple, Matthew 11:25, Matthew 9:37,38, obedience, mission of the Disciples.
2 8 Sermons and Addresses: 1/1876 - 3/1879.
    Deuteronomy 1:25, Joseph, creation, “Our Common School,” salvation.
3 1 Sermons and Addresses: 1879-1883.
    “Rededication of Congregational Church in Manhattan,” public education, “Common School,” Christian Education.
3 2 Sermons and Addresses: 12/1883 - 6/1888.
    Purpose of the Bible, sanctuary in God, friends, proof of divinity in Christianity
3 3 Sermons and Addresses: no date (1).
    “The Bible in School,” education, public school system.
3 4 Sermons and Addresses: no date (2).
    Origins of man vs. science, “Our Common Schools,” the Second Coming, those who die in the Lord.
3 5 Sermons and Addresses: no date (3).
    Advice to teachers, history of women’s education, consciousness and God history of Ruth.
3 6 Sermons and Addresses: no date (4).
    Unfinished sermons and addresses; advances in education, graded plan of instruction.
4 1 Notes and Memoranda: 1838 - 1862.
    “Be Neat,” advice to teachers, Psalm 103, “Science of Life,” faith.
4 2 Notes and Memoranda: 1865.
    Sermon notes.
4 3 Notes and Memoranda: 1865.
    Political issues; Reconstruction, government and teaching.
4 4 Notes and Memoranda: no date (1).
    Biblical Notes.
4 5 Notes and Memoranda: no date (2).
    “The Word of God,” Primary Conditions of Success in Life,“ Science of Life,” missionary address.
4 6 Notes and Memoranda: no date (3).
    Value, shipyard wage report, economics notes, English grammar notes, school addresses, science notes.
5 1 Notes and Memoranda: no date (4).
    Biblical sermons, unfinished.
5 2 Notes and Memoranda: no date (5).
    Biblical sermons, unfinished.
5 3 Notes and Memoranda: no date (6).
    Church memos (Marriage records, funeral dates available on Microfilm MS 1408)
5 4 Notes and Memoranda: no date (7).
    Newspaper clipping (Marriage records, funeral dates available on microfilm MS 1408).
5 5 Notes and Memoranda: no date (8).
    Tutors’ notes.
6 5-Jan Household Records: no date (1).
    All files contain receipts, bills, bank records, canceled checks, and personal records of finances.
7 2-Jan Household Records: no date (2).
    All files contain receipts, bills, bank records, canceled checks, and personal records of finances.

Additional Information for Researchers


2 ft. (3 boxes)


This manuscript collection was acquired by the Kansas State Historical Society through a donation from the family of Peter McVicar.


Citations referring to this collection should include the Kansas State Historical Society, Library/Archives Division, Manuscript Section, Peter McVicar Papers, 1854-1918, and the appropriate box and folder number.

Copyright Notice

This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).

The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights are derived from the principal of common law, affirmed in the 1976 copyright act, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof for the duration of the copyright. Unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right, the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of the author or his or her publisher to secure permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.

Processed by

Jennifer L. Tombs, Lela Barnes intern, 1996