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Isaiah and Martha Lang papers

 Collection 0096-MDHC

This collection consists of the correspondence and business records of Isaiah S. and Martha Lang, New Hampshire farmers. It includes significant groupings of letters from Isaiah Lang's uncle, David M. Sanborn, a Baltimore physician, and from relatives farming on the Minnesota frontier. The letters from Sanborn are especially interesting in light of their particular references to economic and social conditions in a "border state" immediately before and during the Civil War.


  • 1858-1928

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


0.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Isaiah S. and Martha Lang papers span the period 1858 to 1928 and consist of correspondence to Isaiah and Martha Lang from various relatives and a small amount of business records. Approximately one-half of the correspondence is from Isaiah Lang's maternal uncle, David M. Sanborn. All the Sanborn correspondence was written from Maryland locations, including Baltimore City, Marriottsville (Howard County), and Hanover (Howard County). In his letters, Sanborn calls himself an abolitionist, although he mentions Eliza, a woman he enslaved, several times. Federal Census records show that in 1860 Sanborn enslaved a 38 year old woman; however, it is not certain if Eliza and the woman recorded in the Census are the same person or if these were two separate women Sanborn enslaved. He also discusses economic and social conditions in Baltimore during the Civil War.

Additional correspondents of the Isaiah and Martha Lang include relatives who moved to the frontier area of Minnesota: Ann Jane Campbell, A. E. Clay, Elizabeth Clay, James P. Clay and Ursula Stone. These letters contain economic and domestic information about frontier farming in Minnesota. A teacher friend, W. A. Worthen, of Laurel, Maryland also wrote several letters to Isaiah Lang describing his new life in the "South" and providing information about Isaiah Lang's uncle, David M. Sanborn.

Family History

Isaiah Sanborn Lang, a farmer, was born in 1823 and lived in Candia Village, New Hampshire. Isaiah Lang married Martha Ladd in 1848, and they had several children. During the 1860s, he farmed the old family homestead with its "stony" ground, while many of his relatives moved to the Minnesota frontier, where one wrote that the "soil is deep and rich - there are no stones and the land don't need manureing." Isaiah Lang's farming activities included raising sheep and making maple syrup. He was also involved in selling real estate and preparing tax returns.

Isaiah Lang corresponded with many of his relatives, particularly cousins and his maternal uncle, David Marston Sanborn of Baltimore, Maryland. Sanborn was born in New Hampshire in 1801 and became a physician after graduating from Bowdoin College. His first wife, Esther, died in the late 1850s. They had one daughter, Martha Sanborn Hood. In 1863, Sanborn married a twenty-year old woman, Amanda Jester, forty years his junior. After several years, they drifted apart, and Jester spent prolonged periods of time with her family in Delaware. Sanborn was a landowner in Baltimore City and Howard County, owning at one time five houses in the city and two farms in Howard County. Federal Census records show that in 1860 Sanborn enslaved a 38 year old woman and in his letters, he writes of Eliza, a woman he enslaved; however, it is not certain if they are the same person or if these were two separate women he enslaved. He died after a prolonged illness on July 24, 1873 and was interred at Elkridge Landing.

Before David M. Sanborn's death, he turned over the deeds and title to everything he owned to Isaiah S. Lang, and named him executor of his estate. When Isaiah Lang arrived in Baltimore, Sanborn's widow and daughter thought that he had come to help them with the affairs of the estate. They were surprised to learn that Isaiah Lang intended to assert his claim and dispose of the property. Amanda Jester Sanborn and Martha Sanborn Hood hired an attorney who brought suit against Isaiah Lang on behalf of Amanda Jester Sanborn and Martha Sanborn Hood asking that the deeds be declared invalid and that the doctor's property be restored to his widow and daughter. In February 1874, the Circuit Court of Baltimore City handed down a decree denying the claims of Jester Sanborn and Sanborn Hood upon the estate of Dr. David Sanborn. Justice Pinckney expressed his condemnation of Dr. Sanborn's acts but went on to say that the deeds were bona fide and within the law and were therefore valid. This decision was appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals. On July 1, 1874, the Court of Appeals of the State of Maryland, after having read the proceedings of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City and hearing the arguments of both attorneys, overturned the decision of the lower court (Court of Appeals of Maryland 41 Md. 107; 1874). They found that a husband could strip himself and his wife of all his possessions at will but he could not do so with the sole and fraudulent intent to deprive her of the property and to keep her from his estate.

Isaiah Lang died in 1904.


The collection is organized as two series.

Series 1
Series 2
Business Records

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland College Park Libraries purchased the Isaiah S. and Martha Lang papers from Carmen D. Valentino in 1989.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital copies of the letters in this collection are available at in the University of Maryland's Digital Collections.

Related Material

Information about the court case between Amanda J. Sanborn and Isaiah S. Lang may be found in Maryland. Court of Appeals, Reports of cases argued and determined in the Court of Appeals of Maryland. Baltimore, Md.: John Murphy, 1869-1950. Citation: 41 Md. 107; 1874.

Processing Information

Two series have been created from the papers. All envelopes have been discarded. Paper clips have been removed and replaced with plastic clips. The materials have been put into acid-free folders in an acid-free box.

Guide to the Isaiah and Martha Lang papers
Processed by Jonathan Jeffrey.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2003-01: Revised by Jennie A. Levine.
  • 2007-04-15: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Jennie A. Levine.
  • 2017-07-17: Finding aid checked and verified following ArchivesSpace migration by Nancy Harrison Gage.
  • 2018-04-03: Finding aid reviewed and minor edits made by Caitlin Rizzo.
  • 2021-05-04: Hannah Frisch added information to the scope and content and family history notes about David M. Sanborn's history as an enslaver. She also made minor updates to language regarding enslavement and gender.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742