The papers consist of two series. Series one contains letters written to Nettie Spencer by William Barrett, a sailor on the bark Carrie Winslow. The letters describe Barrett's experiences on board the ship and at ports of call. They also describe the relationship between Spencer and Barrett. Several were written in 1884 and chronologically arranged; others are undated but were probably written at about the same time. Series two is a small scrapbook that contains programs of drama productions, musical and literary events, teachers institutes, Corvallis College commencements (1881 & 1882), and meetings of organizations. Most are from Corvallis and Portland and date from 1878 to 1897.
An addition to the Spencer Papers (Accession 2009:019) is made up of a primer in the Anglo-Saxon language (old English) that Nettie used as a student at Corvallis State Agricultural College. In addition to translations of words and passages written in the text by Spencer, the reader also contains sketches of flowers and plants and notations reflecting Nettie's colorful thoughts about her teachers, the class, the language itself, and her fellow classmates, whom she ranks according to "meanness."