Skip to main content

Finlay and Willis family manuscript collection

Identifier: MS 3225


This collection consists of approximately 50 letters of correspondence between the Finlay and Willis families


  • 1845 - 1920
  • Majority of material found within 1859 - 1869


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

The Willis family emigrated from England to America between the 17th and 18th centuries. Levan C. Willis (1792-1881) was born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In 1814, he married Eliza Orndorf, and the two settled on a 500-acre estate in Frederick Co., Maryland called Walnut Grove, later named Williston. Levan Willis was a Democrat and a slave-holder, and both he and his wife were members of the Methodist Protestant Church. Together they had 11 children.

William Lewis Willis (1831-1858), the son of Levan C. Willis and Eliza Orndorf Willis, was born at Herring Run, near Baltimore, Maryland. He studied medicine in Baltimore, where he later practiced. In 1852 he married Frances Ann Finlay, daughter of William and Catherine (Garretson) Finlay. Before her marriage, Miss Finlay attended Linden Hall School For Girls, an independent boarding school in Lititz, Pennsylvania. After their marriage, the couple moved to Frederick County, where Dr. Willis continued to practice medicine at his estate, Sunnyside. Dr. William Lewis Willis died at his home in June 1858 and was buried at Spesutia Church in Harford Co., Maryland. Frances Finlay Willis died in 1900 and was buried beside him.

Louis Orndorf Willis was born in 1857 on his family’s Sunnyside estate in Frederick Co., Maryland, the only living child of Dr. William Lewis Willis and Frances Finlay Willis. For the majority of his education, Louis O. Willis studied at a private school taught by Reverend William F. Brand in Harford Co., Maryland. In 1887, he married Miss Anna Mary Newkirk, and together they had nine children.


0.42 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged chronologically at the file level.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Susan Butler, October 2017.

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of 50 letters of correspondence between the Finlay and Willis families from 1845-1920. The families were joined by the marriage of Dr. William Lewis Willis and Frances Ann Finlay, and the subsequent correspondence between their relations reflects the domestic and societal obligations of the 19th century. Topics include the health and news of family members, progress with studies, and various social activities. Most of the correspondence is between Frances “Fanny” Finlay Willis and her son, Louis Orndorf Willis, who spent his youth and adolescent years at boarding school.

Guide to the Finlay and Willis family manuscript collection
Under Revision
Mallory Herberger
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020-09-24: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States