MsC 45


Manuscript Register




Collection Dates: 1837 -- 1956

(Bulk Dates: 1900 -- 1940)
400 items, .5 linear feet


This document describes a collection of materials held by the
Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1420
Phone: 319-335-5921
Fax: 319-335-5900


Posted to the Internet: April 2002 


Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.


Photographs: Folder 5 (photo of George Burrier), 11 (Mrs. Oldaker)


Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.


Copyright:  Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on "Property Rights, Copyright Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials"


Use of Collections:  The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Use of Manuscripts Statement.


Biographical Note

Horace Amsden Fay was born in Lebanon, New Hampshire, in 1827. As an adult, he engaged in the retail crockery trade. He married Calista Darrah in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1857 and a few months later the newlyweds relocated to Clinton, Iowa. Shortly thereafter, they moved to DeWitt, Iowa, the county seat of Clinton County. In the early eighteen seventies, Horace joined C.E. Shattuck in business at the Clinton Chair Factory. In 1877, he assumed charge of the DeWitt business of the Clinton County Advertiser. He spent the remainder of his life in DeWitt, dying there on March 12, 1905.

Horace Fay had two sons, Clarence Fay, and Louis E. Fay. Louis, born September 21, 1861, started as an office boy in the DeWitt business of the Clinton County Advertiser in 1877, the same year his father was engaged by the paper.

In 1882, Louis E. Fay bought the newspaper, where, according to a contemporary account in the Muscatine Semi-Weekly News Tribune, "time, talent and energy zealously employed, served to develop it from a small weekly to one of the leading democratic daily papers of the state." At some point, Louis was apparently joined by his brother Clarence in ownership of the newspaper. Clarence also owned a jewelry store in Clinton.

At 4:30 on the morning of November 2, 1902, Clarence and his wife were roused from bed at gunpoint. A burglar stole thirty-one diamonds, worth $1300, from them. Louis used his own time and money to track down the burglars. A break came in the case in April 1904, when George Burrier, who was in jail for another robbery, confessed to being involved in the Fay burglary, and named the chief burglar in the case. Louis Fay's work on this case put five criminals behind bars and implicated Tom Denison, a wealthy "policy king" and gambler who had great power in Omaha politics. His work also helped to solve the Shercliffe diamond burglary in which $15,000 worth of diamonds had been stolen in 1892. One and a half years after they were stolen, the Fay diamonds were returned to Louis Fay in a meeting on a bridge between Omaha and Council Bluffs.

Scope and Contents

These papers cover several generations of the Fay family and contain several different threads.

Included are legal documents, deeds, land grants, stock certificates, insurance policies, and contracts in several names, Fay and Darrah among them. There are two books, one a printed book of poetry, the other a book of handwritten poetry written to Calista [Darrah]. There are two folders of materials from the Fay Diamond Incident, including statements from people involved, some exhibits from one of the trials, and letters from George Burrier and his mother.

There is also a folder on "Granny" Oldaker who, at 106, was the oldest living Iowan in 1946. There is a file containing a postcard of the old stone farmhouse in Clinton, which is called "the old Fay farm." This was a stop on the underground railroad, and there are four pictures of the cellar of the woodshed, which apparently served as a hiding place for escaped slaves.

Also included is a collection of 250 -- 300 colored postcards of various tourist sites.

Finally, there is a scrapbook with newspaper clippings of travel stories. There is no byline, but they are possibly from the Clinton County Advertiser and may have been written by one of the Fay brothers. In the middle of this scrapbook there are clippings pertaining to the Fay Diamond Incident.

Related Materials

For more information on Horace Amdsen Fay and his descendents, see



Book of verses composed for Calista. 1 item


Booklet, "Among the Birds," Dana Estes & Co., 1900. 1 item


Business Papers, 1837 -- 1922. Lands, attorney, and county recorder notes, miscellaneous. 17 items


Deeds (land), 1859 -- 1911 and insurance policy. 13 items


Fay Diamond Incident, 1899 -- 1916. Fay's correspondence and photograph of Geo. Burrier, including correspondence from Leslie M. Shaw. 28 items


Fay Diamond Incident: statements made to Fay (etc.); threats on John Conner's life, 1903. 20 items


Fay, Louis E., 1905 -- 1928; stock certificates. 5 items


Fay papers. 1 item


Greeting cards (1900 -- 1902), Easter and Valentine's Day. 3 items


Land grants -- U.S. Government, 1852 -- 1854; signed by Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce. 4 items


Mrs. Elizabeth Oldaker and photograph, 1943 -- 1947. 17 items


Postcards. 3 bundles


Underground railroad and photographs, 1955 -- 1956 (Old Fay Farm). 6 items



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