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Marianna Nixon Papers

Identifier: MS-512

Scope and Contents

The collection primarily documents the life of Marianna Nixon and her family, through photographs, memorabilia, and correspondence. There is a large amount of historic correspondence from Marianna Nixon’s ancestors and prominent families in the Dayton area. Correspondence dates from 1799-1901, with the bulk being from 1820-1860. Photographs date from 1900-1990, with the bulk from 1940-1990. These records provide insight into life in the Dayton area from a wide range of dates, from Marianna’s time (1940-1990), to her ancestors (1820-1900). They document the fashion, architecture, local history, and opinions of the time. This collection can also provide insight to a number of families, including the Best, Drill, McKnight, Lawton, Nixon, Van Cleve, and Dover families.

Series I, Correspondence, is organized into six main groupings: Milton Wright Papers, Financial and Legal, Compliment Cards, Family Correspondence, Postcards and Undated Correspondence, and Personal Correspondence of Marianna Nixon. The correspondence is an excellent view into life in the Dayton area in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The letters cover a range of topics like family news, gardening, travels, and condolences. Correspondence is primarily between the Dover, McKnight, Lawton, and Donovan families. Other family names that appear less frequently are Van Cleve, Best, Simpson, and Drill. The Milton Wright papers are all related to common genealogy between Anna McKnight and Milton Wright. All items are organized chronologically within folders.

Series II, Photographs, is divided into three subseries. The majority of the photographs were already divided into photographs created by Marianna and photographs created by her family. This allowed them to be grouped in date ranges. Some family members (Roger Nixon and Corine Irwin) show up in both sections. When possible photographs were filed in the group already provided by the creator. The photographs are organized chronologically. Many of the photographs are labeled on the back with some variation of place, year, and person.

Series II, Subseries IIA, Marianna Nixon Family Photographs, 1877-1937, focuses on the family of Marianna McKnight. Frequently represented are E.E. McKnight, Anna Dover McKnight, and their children, Fay Louise, Ida, Leroy. This subseries documents Marianna’s childhood. Included are card-mounted photographs, pages from a scrapbook, and many black and white photographs.

Series II, Subseries IIB, Marianna Nixon Personal Photographs and Videos, 1938-2009, is comprised of the photographic collection of Marianna McKnight. These photographs document her adult life.

Series II, Subseries IIC, Dr. Gary Nixon Photographs, circa 1970-2010, predominantly documents Gary Nixon’s fishing trips to Alaska. Also included are photographs of his time spent in Amsterdam, various trips, and a booklet of his gravesite.

Series III, Printed and Published Materials, 1882-2008, were saved typically only when they involved family history or local history that impacted her family, such as the Dayton Flood. She also collected several recent newspapers (2008) about German Baptists in the area. Included in this series are newspaper clippings, periodicals, local histories, advertisements, prints, and commencements. Objects of note are an edition of Delco Doings which feature photographs of Ida McKnight and NCR Factory News which feature an article about Anna Dover and Benjamin Van Cleve as well as a small prayer book previously owned by Ida McKnight.

Series IV, Genealogy Documents, 1976-2008, is comprised of four main sections. Marianna’s maternal genealogy (Kirchner/Irwin), Marianna’s paternal genealogy (McKnight/Van Cleve), miscellaneous genealogy documents, and bound copies of her maternal genealogy. Janis Bigelow Pahnke was primarily responsible for compiling the genealogical information.

Series V, Personal Papers and Memorabilia, 1936-2007, includes high school drama awards, Miami Valley School of Nursing documents, two of Roger Nixon’s war communications, and miscellaneous personal papers.


  • Creation: 1799 - 2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1880 - 1990


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biography of Marianna Nixon

Marianna McKnight was born on November 11, 1919 to Fay McKnight and Mary Corine Irwin. She was the only child to the couple. Her father, Fay, died in 1921 after contracting the flu during the Flu Epidemic of 1918-1920. This left her mother to raise Marianna on her own. As a child, Marianna spent much of her time with her father’s family, E.E. McKnight, wife Anna Dover McKnight, and their children. Marianna attended high school and was active in the drama club, performing in a production of Jane Eyre in 1936. Marianna went on to graduate from Miami Valley Hospital School of Nursing in 1940. She was a nurse for 33 years. In her later years, Marianna enjoyed visiting friends and family in Washington state. She died in 2010.
Marianna met Roger Omer Nixon when they were both young and they later married in August of 1940. Roger was active in the ROTC and received training at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. After this, he went into the Coast Artillery in the Army. He and Marianna moved to Newport, Rhode Island where Roger served, but at the start of World War II he was sent abroad. He served primarily in the Pacific Theatre of the war, in the Palau Islands. Roger died in 1983.

Marianna and Roger had two children, Gary and James. Gary (1944-2007) was a research physicist and fly fishing enthusiast. His passion for fishing is evident by his many trips to Alaska. James (b.1948) served in the Navy for six years and later became a contractor.

Marianna was an avid amateur genealogist and retained correspondence and photographs of her ancestors. From these documents, Marianna’s deep roots to prominent families in the Dayton area are evident. Marianna’s paternal grandparents, E.E. and Anna (Dover) McKnight had four children: Fay, Louise(a), Ida, and Leroy “Roy”. Anna’s parents, Louisa Donovan and Thomas Dover (1829-1881), married in 1857. Thomas Dover was a local pharmacist. Tragically, Thomas fell off a ladder in his shop and died in 1881. Louisa died fifteen years later in 1896. Thomas Dover was the son of Samuel Best Dover and Henrietta Van Cleve. Henrietta was the daughter of Benjamin Van Cleve, Dayton’s first school teacher and postmaster. The Dover’s are related to the Wright family through the Van Cleve line.

On her mother’s side Marianna is descended from the Irwin, Kirchner, and Spreen families.


3 linear feet (8 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials



Marianna McKnight Nixon was a lifelong Daytonian and descendant of several prominent families of the Dayton area, including the McKnights, Dovers, and Van Cleves. The collection is primarily comprised of photographs of Marianna’s life and family, as well as correspondence, genealogical information, and printed materials such as newspaper clippings, brochures, and periodicals.


The collection is arranged in 5 series:

  1. Series I: Correspondence
  2. Series II: Photographs
  3. Series III: Printed and Published Materials
  4. Series IV: Genealogy Documents
  5. Series V: Personal Papers and Memorabilia

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated to Wright State University, Special Collections & Archives, by Laurie Ruscillo in March, 2014.


No further accruals are expected.


Obituaries for both Marianna Nixon and Dr. Gary Nixon were found online and are included in the collection.

Guide to the Marianna Nixon Papers (MS-512)
Kristina Richey
2016 April 26
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA