Thomas Leiper Kane papers, 1831-1880

Overview of the Collection

Kane, Thomas Leiper, 1822-1883
Thomas Leiper Kane papers
1831-1880 (inclusive)
1 linear feet
Collection Number
MS 0227
The Thomas Leiper Kane papers (1831-1880) consist of correspondence between family members, with some additional letters, papers, and notes.
University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
295 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT
Telephone: 8015818863
Access Restrictions

Twenty-four hour advanced notice encouraged. Materials must be used on-site. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Thomas Leiper Kane (1822-1883) was born 27 January 1822 in Philadelphia, the second son of John Kinzing and Jane Duval Leiper Kane. He had five brothers and one sister: Elisha Dent, John Kent, Robert Patterson, Elizabeth, John Kinzing Jr., and William Leiper. With the exception of John Kent, who died as an infant, and William Leiper, who died at age fourteen in 1852, all reached maturity and became respected members of their communities. Elisha Kent and John Kinzing Jr. became medical doctors; Thomas Leiper and Robert Patterson became lawyers. In addition, Elisha Kent became a well-known Arctic explorer and writer. At least three in the family were memebers of the American Philosophical Society, while the father was an officer from 1828 until his death in 1858. Robert Patterson followed his father's example in acting as one of the trustees of the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

Throughout his life, Thomas Leiper Kane had serious health problems, the most serious of which affected his lungs. Thus, on several occasions in his life, he went on extended travels in order to recover his health. Shortly after completing his studies in 1840, he went to England for several months and then to the Continent. When he visited the Mormons in the summer of 1846, he again did so partially to recuperate; moreover, he again became seriously ill with what is now thought to have been pulmonary tuberculosis. In 1852-1853, he again needed to take an extended trip away from the cold and wet of the winter in the northeastern United States, traveling to the West Indies. During the Civil War, he contracted pneumonia in addition to being wounded in the face, which later caused intense neuralgia weakening his eyesight and leg, which bothered him for many years. One of the motives for his journey to Utah with his wife, Elizabeth, and two sons in 1872 was to regain strength by wintering with Brigham Young in St. George. He died of pneumonia in 1883.

In spite of his recurring health problems, Kane still accomplished much. He gained admittance to the Pennsylvania bar in 1846. Shortly after, he heard a public speech by Jessie C. Little, an elder in the Mormon Church, concerning the injustices suffered by the Mormons. Kane was immediately interested and, as a result, began assisting Elder Little, especially in the latter's efforts to obtain United States government help in the form of the Mormon Battalion. Kane went to Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1846 and then traveled west to visit the Mormon exiles near Council Bluffs on the Missouri River. There he assisted Captain Allen of the United States Army to obtain the five hundred volunteers to make up the Battalion.

Having returned to Philadelphia to complete his recuperation following his illness he contracted among the Mormons, Kane became involved in the slavery issue which was increasingly dividing the nation. He became a leader of the Free Soil Party in Pennsylvania and supposedly operated a station on the Underground Railroad. In 1850, following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, he resigned his appointment as United States commissioner in protest to the law. Tradition has it that his father, then judge of the United States District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania, considered the letter in contempt of court and had Thomas jailed. Thomas's reforming beliefs continued as evidenced in a letter written to his mother from the front in Virginia during the Civil War in which several months prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, Thomas called not only for partial emancipation, but for full enfranchisement of the Blacks. His participation in the Liberal Republican Convention held in Cincinnati in May 1872 further demonstrates his continued committment to reform of society. In addition, Kane was the first president of the Pennsylvania Board of Charities.

Beyond his traveling to Council Bluffs and his work in obtaining a Mormon Battalion in 1846, Thomas Kane also assisted the Mormons with careful instructions to John M. Bernhisel while the latter was a delegate from the constitutional convention for the State of Deseret to the United States Congress. In 1857, when increasing tensions between Mormons and the Federal government threatened to result in fighting between the Mormons and the Federal troops traveling to Utah, Kane went to Utah by way of the Isthmus of Panama, San Pedro, and San Bernadino, California, to arrange a compromise between Brigham Young and the troops. Previous to this, in 1850, Kane delivered an address to the Pennsylvania Historical Society on the Mormons in which he tried to reverse the negative opinion commonly held of them. Later that year, he published the address in a small book.

Beginning in 1856, when he spent the summer exploring the north central and northwest parts of Pennsylvania, Thomas Kane became a pioneer and developer. He moved his wife and two children to Williamsburg, McKean County for the summer of 1857. Shortly after his resigning from the Union Army, and undoubtedly after the birth of William Wood Kane in November 1863, Thomas moved his wife and children permanently to McKean County. A letter written in January 1864 suggests the move may already have occurred; one in May, however, details the journey. For a period of time, the Kanes lived in a barn while Thomas built a house for the family. At times, the ram he had installed to bring water into the living quarters did not function, and the family had to carry all their water about a quarter of a mile uphill. During the first winter, letters to the family in Philadelphia record freezing temperatures within the living quarters themselves.

Thomas Kane built an empire for himself, cutting and sawing timber. Some of his original purchases of land in the area were for their potential coal resources. He planned routes for railroads, especially the Sunbury and Erie and the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railroad and Coal Company.

Thomas L. Kane apparently succeeded equally with his family. He remained close to his parents, brothers, and sister. In 1853, shortly after returning from the West Indies, he married his second cousin, Elizabeth Dennistoun Wood. They had four children: Harriett Amelia (Harry), born 11 July 1854; Elisha Kent (Lyly and Lashy), born 25 November 1856; Evan O'Neill, born 6 April 1861; and William Wood (Willie), born 17 November 1863. William changed his name shortly after his father's death to Thomas Leiper Kane II. Elisha Kent became an officer in the United States Navy, following partially his uncle's career. The other three children became medical doctors, as did Elizabeth Wood Kane.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Thomas Leiper Kane papers (1831-1880) consist of correspondence between family members, with some additional letters, papers, and notes. Most of the family correspondence is from Thomas L. Kane to his father, John Kinzing Kane, and his mother, Jane Duval Leiper Kane. Another sizable number of letters was written by Kane's wife, Elizabeth Dennistoun Wood Kane, to his parents. Several letters are from Thomas Kane to his brother, Elisha Kent Kane, with a lesser number from Elisha to Thomas. Letters between Thomas and Robert Patterson "Pat" Kane and between Thomas and John Kinzing Kane Jr., two other brothers, and a few letters between other members of the family, round out the family correspondence.

All contents of the Thomas Leiper Kane papers are copies of originals in the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. Literary rights remain with the society and permission to publish or copy must be also be obtained from them.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The library does not claim to control copyright for all materials in the collection. An individual depicted in a reproduction has privacy rights as outlined in Title 45 CFR, part 46 (Protection of Human Subjects). For further information, please review the J. Willard Marriott Library’s Use Agreement and Reproduction Request forms.

Preferred Citation

Collection Name, Collection Number, Box Number, Folder Number. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Processing Note

Processed by James F. Cartwright in 1980.

Separated Materials

Photographs were transferred to the Multimedia Division of Special Collections (P0638).

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Family CorrespondenceReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
Thomas Leiper Kane to Elisha Kent Kane
1 2
Thomas Leiper Kane to Elisha Kent Kane
1 3
Elisha Kent Kane to Thomas Leiper Kane and/or Robert Patterson Kane
1 4
Thomas Leiper Kane to John Kinzing Kane and/or Jane Duval Leiper Kane
1 5
Thomas Leiper Kane and/or Elizabeth Dennistoun Wood Kane to John Kinzing Kane and/or Jane Duval Leiper Kane
1 6
Thomas Leiper Kane to Jane Duval Leiper Kane
1 7
Thomas Leiper Kane and Elizabeth Dennistoun Wood Kane to John Kinzing Kane and/or Jane Duval Leiper Kane
1 8
Thomas Leiper Kane to and from Robert Patterson Kane
1 9
Elizabeth Dennistoun Wood Kane to John Kinzing Kane and/or Jane Duval Leiper Kane
1 10
Elizabeth Dennistoun Wood Kane to Jane Duval Leiper Kane
Contains notes to Elizabeth Kane Shields, Thomas Kane's sister.
1 11
Thomas Leiper Kane to and from John Kinzing Kane Jr.
1 12

General MaterialsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
2 1-2
2 3
Collection Listing
2 4-12
2 13
Financial Material
2 14
Kane Memorial Chapel
Programs and newspaper articles about the Kane Memorial Chapel in Kane, Pennsylvania.
2 15
Letters of Recommendation
2 16
Salmon River Outbreak, Report Extracts
2 17
Treaty Between Pottowatamie and Mormons

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Mormon Church--History

Personal Names

  • Kane, Elisha Kent, 1820-1857
  • Kane, Elizabeth Wood, b. 1836
  • Kane, Jane Duval Leiper
  • Kane, John Kinzing

Corporate Names

  • United States--Army--Mormon battalion
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865

Geographical Names

  • Council Bluffs (Iowa)
  • Nauvoo (Ill.)