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The Ketcham family papers

Identifier: Collection 293

Scope and Contents

A considerable amount of material in this collection relates to Grand Rapid’s earliest pioneers. Several of the published books contain intimate details of these first settlers who were Emily Burton Ketcham’s parents and their relatives. The scrapbooks are filled with newspaper clippings of early settler’s obituaries and reunions. Photographs can be found of many of these individuals as well. EBK’s and her husband’s genealogy, including their descendants and ancestors, are well documented in sources throughout this collection’s series. An interesting tangent of the collection is a group of early material on the Partridge family. This is the family of EBK’s only child, Harry’s second wife (Sarah Partridge Ketcham).

The best source of information on Emily Burton Ketcham’s suffrage activity is the second scrapbook. Newspaper articles relate everything from an appearance at a meeting by EBK to a full text of a speech given by her. This scrapbook contains literature pertaining to other suffragists. Also found in this scrapbook is some personal correspondence to EBK from other suffragists, including Caroline Bartlett Crane. The best synopsis of EBK’s life is found in the booklet compiled by her friend, Mary Doe, on the occasion of EBK's death.


  • 1804-1999

Biographical / Historical

Emily Burton Ketcham was born July 16, 1838, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her parents, Josiah and Elizabeth (Freeman) Burton were among the earliest pioneers of Grand Rapids. The Grand Rapids Mirror reported, “When the Dexter Colony came from New York to Michigan in 1833, the Dexter family stopped off at Ionia, but the Burtons and the Guilds came on to Grand Rapids.” Josiah Burton settled in Walker Township in 1833. He helped organize the town of Walker and was elected its first Justice of the Peace. Albert Baxter noted that, “Josiah Burton, in the spring of 1834, cleared a small piece of ground on the east side of Division street, a little south of Blakely avenue, and there by a brook and a spring built a log house, and near by made a garden and planted corn.” Later in life, he lived on West Bridge Street. Emily Burton Ketcham’s brother, Lewis, was one of the first non-Native American children born in Grand Rapids. Josiah’s brother, Barney, and his wife, Harriet (Guild) Burton, were the first white couple married in Grand Rapids.

Emily Burton Ketcham attended public school in Grand Rapids as well as St. Mark’s College. She began teaching when she was only fifteen and taught several terms in the Grand Rapids area. She was married to her cousin, Augustus Canfield Norton in Grand Rapids on Oct. 2, 1861. He was buried in Pittsford, New York, Oct. 30, 1862. Emily moved to New York and enrolled at Henrietta Seminary. Subsequently she entered Mary B. Allen’s school for girls in Rochester. Sometime during her stay in New York she met Smith Germond Ketcham of Farmington, N.Y. They were married in Pittsford, N.Y. on May 2, 1867, and took up residence on the farm where Smith was born and raised. Here their only child, Harry Burton, was born. The following year the family accompanied Emily in a return to Grand Rapids, where they purchased the homestead of Emily’s parents.

While in Mary B. Allen’s school, Emily became personally acquainted with some of the most famous suffragists of the day, including Susan B. Anthony. She became active as a suffragist herself in 1873. In this year the state suffrage society had petitioned the legislature to bring to a vote an amendment to the State Constitution omitting the word “male” as a qualifier for voting. The amendment was voted down.

EBK subsequently helped form and maintain the Grand Rapids Woman’s Suffrage Association, The Political Equality Club, The Susan B. Anthony Club, The Woman’s Civic League and the Woman’s and Children’s Protective League. She was involved with the Ladies’ Literary Club, serving on its Science and Educational Committee and as its director.

She was a charter member of the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association that formed in Flint in 1884. She was on the Legislative Committee of this group in 1889 when they secured a majority for municipal woman’s suffrage in the House, which was not sustained by the Senate. She was elected President of this group in 1892 and again in 1893. During the latter year, the Municipal Woman Suffrage Bill became a law on May 27th. That October the law was declared not valid by the Supreme Court. She was elected President of this organization again in 1900. At the time of her death, she chaired the Constitutional Revision Committee of the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association.

EBK delivered an address entitled “Are Women Citizens and People?” at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. She took primary responsibility in inviting the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA / N.A.W.S.A) to hold their meeting in Grand Rapids in 1899 and served as chairman of the meeting’s Committee of Arrangements. She was elected to the Executive Board of the National American Woman Suffrage Association several times, including at the time of her death.

Emily and Smith moved to Detroit for his work in 1906. They had not been there six months when Emily died on January 13, 1907.

Emily’s son, Harry, was married to Ida Douglas Melon and they had five children; Earl Delos, Glenn Robert, Floyd Maxwell, Edith Douglas and Harold Melvin. Harry was subsequently married to Sarah Lura Partridge. Sarah Partridge’s parents were Azariah S. Partridge and Lura Clarissa Penoyer.


5.9 Linear Feet (14 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Ketcham family papers document the lives of this Grand Rapids, Michigan pioneer family and their descendants, in particular the suffragette Emily Burton Ketcham. The material focuses on the Burton family, who were among the earliest pioneers in Grand Rapids, and the Ketcham and Partridge families. Papers, scrapbooks, journals, letters, photographs and ephemera document early life in Grand Rapids and Emily's involvement with the suffrage movement. Some genealogical information is also included.

Custodial History

Textile items originally accompanying this gift have been transferred to the Public Museum of Grand Rapids for better conservation.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Margaret Ketcham, the Ketcham family. Accession number 2001.073.

Esther Ketcham Visser, Ruth Randall Hoch and Mary Lynn Randall, 2015.025.

Related Materials

Coll. 127 Grand Rapids Public Library Woman's Suffrage Collection

Grand Rapids Magazine article RE Emily Burton Ketcham and the Ketcham Family materials by Jo Ellyn Clarey

Michigan Women's Hall of Fame

Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council

Western Michigan University’s Caroline Bartlett Crane Collection

Are We Citizens and People? / Mrs. Emily Burton Ketcham.

Ketcham family sites

Finding aid for the Ketcham family papers
including Emily Burton Ketcham
Jen Morrison
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Rapids History Center Repository

Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids Michigan 49503 USA