Skip to main content

Mabel Townsley papers

Identifier: MS-158

Content Description

The bulk of the materials concern the time the family spent in Vermillion, South Dakota.

The Townsley papers consist of seven series: Correspondence, Manuscripts, Photographs, Printed Materials, Scrapbooks, Typescripts, and Ephemera.

The Correspondence series includes letters from the novelist J. Hyatt Downing in response to Mabel Townsley’s letters, to Mabel Townsley’s friend Helen Myers during her teaching at the Hartford country school, and two letters from Samuel S. Townsley to one of his sons and his grandson Burton Townsley French.

Mabel Townsley wrote all of the items in the Manuscripts series. Included is a narrative of her 1906 European tour, a handwritten draft of her USD Master’s thesis and an unpublished, handwritten short story about plains life.

The Photographs series is divided into four sub series: Native Americans, People, South Dakota Towns and University of South Dakota. The People sub series is exclusively made up of Townsley family photographs, with the exception of Theresa Swezey who was a college classmate of Mabel Townsley’s. Included in Edna Townsley Pinkley family pictures are several photos from their home in Arizona and the Casa Grande ruins.

The Printed Materials series contains booklets by several of the Townsley relatives and newspaper clippings. The booklets are sorted by author. The booklets concern Townsley genealogy, the Casa Grande National Monument, the Mission of San Jose de Tumacacori, Country School Legacy (which contains an article on Mabel Townsley), and the University of South Dakota. The clippings cover several events in the Townsley family such as Paul Townsley’s involvement in World War II, Mabel Townsley’s articles in the USD Volante and several obituaries. The clippings are organized by newspaper title and then by date.

The Scrapbooks series contains two scrapbooks. The inscription on one of the scrapbook covers is “S.S. Townsley presented by sister Lucy July 20, 1887”. It contains news clippings and photographs of Vermillion and family history. Mabel Townsley’s photo Album is from her teaching Days in Keystone, SD, USD and Vermillion.

The Typescripts series contains writings of Mabel Townsley’s and Edna Pinkley, Townsley’s sister. Included is a short biography of Edna Townsley Pinkley. Also included is Pinkley’s narrative of a trip through the Southwest entitled “Motoring over Padre Serra’s Trail” and a poem by Edna Pinkley describing Rain using Hopi Indian imagery. Mabel Townsley’s poem was presented at her USD Graduation ceremony and was recognized as the Class Poem.

The Ephemera series consists of memorabilia collected by Mabel Townsley during her years at the University of South Dakota. These items are also organized by date. There are several programs from various University of South Dakota events, dance cards with pencils, and Mabel Townsley’s Commencement program. Especially interesting in this series are the two silver spoons, one of which is engraved with the likeness of Old Main.


  • Creation: 1887 - 1968


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research without restrictions. Researchers are advised to contact the Archives and Special Collections prior to visiting. Advance notice may be needed to retrieve items for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers must obtain a signed Permission to Publish Form if they wish to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information from published and unpublished works held by ASC. Permission to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information materials from ASC does not constitute permission from the holder of copyright or literary rights. The researcher is responsible for securing permission from the copyright holder to publish or reproduce content from materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Mabel Townsley French was the daughter of Samuel S. and Margaret Eliza (Leech) Townsley. They had five children: Mabel, John Boyd, Lucy Edna, Arthur, and Paul. Mabel Townsley was born May 30, 1877 in Brighton, Iowa at the home of her Grandmother Delzell. Townsley attended the University of South Dakota from 1894-1899. She taught Country School in Hartford, SD from 1899 to 1900 and spent 1901 – January 1903 teaching in Keystone, SD. Townsley then became an English Instructor at the University of South Dakota from 1906-1910. In 1908-1909 she also served as the University’s Registrar. On September 3, 1910, Townsley married Dr. Harley Ellsworth French (1872-1961). French served as a USD Professor of Anatomy and Bacteriology from 1906-11. The couple had two children: Mary Margaret (Mrs. Richard E. Frank) and Burton Townsley. Mabel Townsley French died in 1945.


1.25 Linear Feet (3 document boxes)

Language of Materials



The bulk of the materials concern the time the family spent in Vermillion, South Dakota.


The Townsley papers consist of seven series: Correspondence, Manuscripts, Photographs, Printed Materials, Scrapbooks, Typescripts, and Ephemera.

Mabel Townsley papers
Anne Hinseth
2000 June
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USD Archives and Special Collections Repository