Founding Fathers

I have been unnaturally quiet recently, working feverishly on cataloging at least 900 collections before September 2010.  I am not doing this alone, however.  I am ably assisted by Project Archivist Jennifer Sharp, several volunteers, and CHS’s Assistant Archivist Cyndi Harbeson.  Since September 1 we have created more than 150 catalog records.  We are off to a good start.

For my part of the project, I decided to tackle two of what I considered our most important collections, although until I actually went through them I had no idea just how important.  The first was the papers of Jeremiah Wadsworth, who is one of the unsung founding fathers.  He was responsible for provisioning Washington’s troops against amazing odds–no teamsters to hire, no farmers willing to sell the bulk of their crops to the army, no money to pay the farmers, etc.  Eventually Jeremiah resigned as Quartermaster General, but shortly after his resignation, he was appointed agent for the French troops who were stationed in Newport, Rhode Island.   One of his responsibilities was obtaining provisions. As you may imagine, he ran into some of the same problems he had previously.  What I find most amazing, however, is his very active role in re-establishing trade with France after the close of the Revolution and his role in establishing the US bank.  His correspondents reads like a who’s who of the Revolution–Rochambeau, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the list goes on.

The second collection was the papers of William Samuel Johnson.  He was a lawyer from Stratford, Connecticut, and is credited with being the “Father” of the Connecticut Bar.   An Anglican, at one point he was arrested by the government of Connecticut as a loyalist, but was later excused. His attachment to Great Britain came in large part from his five years there representing the colony before the Privy Council in the Mohegan Case.  The evidence and testimony from this trial form a large portion of Johnson’s papers and include original deeds signed by Uncas and other Indian leaders, and documents signed by John Mason.  Johnson corresponded with people like Jared Ingersoll, Roger Sherman, Jeremiah Wadsworth, Eliphalet Dyer and Matthew Griswold on this side of the Atlantic and with Richard Jackson and Benjamin Latrobe from across the sea.

I can only scratch the surface of these two collections, but I can see several theses or a dissertation coming from either of them.  Once they are fully cataloged, I hope researchers make their way to these two extremely rich collections.

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