March in the Archives

March came in like a cataloging lion! Barbara and I managed to complete 177 records this month which, if not a record, is pretty close to it. Instead of lions and tigers and bears, however, please read on to learn about our collections related to governors and buttons and ships. Oh my!

Barbara worked with the collections of several governors this month. Governor Thomas Fitch led Connecticut during the waning years of the French and Indian War, and many of his petitions and letters to the King and to the Lords of Trade relate to the expenses Connecticut incurred and their efforts to receive reimbursement. He also requested more arms to help protect New England’s borders from the French and preserve the “rights and dominion” of Britain’s North American colonies. Reports to the Lords of Trade and various secretaries to the King included the success of raising troops for an expedition against France in Canada, the colony’s tax burdens, and the use of bounties and land grants to pay the soldiers. One document from the Earl of Egremont warned Fitch against disturbing the Shawnee and Delaware Indians by settling in the Susquehanna area. There were also references to Connecticut’s Mohegan Case. Several accounts are among the papers, and a letter critical of Samson Occum is a unique and unusual find. Fitch was also noted for being the governor when Britain imposed the Stamp Tax. (Ms Fitch)

The bulk of the documents in the collection of  Governor Jonathan Law relate to the activities surrounding King George’s War and the siege of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia. Many missives concern recruiting and provisioning troops. There are letters to and from Connecticut’s agent in England, Eliakim Palmer, from George Wyllys, Roger Wolcott, Spencer Phipps, William Pitkin, Andrew Burr, Massachusetts Governor William Shirley, Rhode Island Governor Greene, statesman and military commander Sir William Pepperrell, and British Admiral Peter Warren. Other documents relate to negotiations with the Six Nations, the capture of a French East India Ship, 1745, Indian attacks at the border, and a counterfeiting case.  Also of interest are several letters regarding the borders between Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and two letters from Thomas Wentworth of Kingston, Jamaica, about French activities in that area. (Ms Law)

A considerable number of documents in the collection of  Governor Joseph Talcott relate to setting boundaries between Connecticut and neighboring New York and Rhode Island and an equally significant number were between the Governor and Connecticut’s agents in London Jeremiah Dummer, Jonathan Belcher, and Francis Wilks. In addition to the boundary disputes, the colony dealt with two additional crises, the case of the Mohegan Indians against Captain John Mason, and the War of Jenkin’s Ear (Anglo-Spanish War) in which the colonies were expected to raise troops for expeditions to Cuba. Several documents written by Jonathan Law to Talcott explain colonial law in respect to intestate estates and taxes. Of interest are several documents concerning the education of Indian children and whether the Crown would help the colonies with their expenses. (Ms Talcott)

Lately I have been working predominately with account books. I must admit, there are times I feel that if I’ve seen one purchase of sundries, I’ve seen them all. But some do manage to have an interesting twist. Thomas Porter, a resident of Waterbury, Connecticut, kept an account book between 1825 and 1835. A quick glance at the pages of the book, such as the one below, yields little information.

Thomas Porter Account Book, 1817-1835, Ms 70562. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

However, Alfred Platt, for whom Porter was working, was a pioneer of  brass and copper wire manufacturing in Waterbury. For several years, Platt made all of the wire used by the Scovill and Benedict & Burnham Companies for making button eyes.  Buttons are such a part of Waterbury’s history, the Mattatuck Museum even has a permanent button display! Years later, Porter continued his work in the button industry, this time with William H. Hine.

Thomas Porter Account Book, 1817-1835, MS 70562. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Porter was spending his time cutting, casting, and backing gross after gross of buttons. (Ms 70562)

In another part of the state, the Schooner Charles Colgate was the last of the New London, Connecticut, whaling fleet. Built in Patchogue, New York in 1850, her last voyage was in 1884-1885. This particular logbook covers the August 1877 – April 1878 voyage toward the South Shetlands on a sealing voyage. Daily entries are generally short, mentioning wind direction and speed, course direction, and some details on blubber collection. Simeon Church was Master. Erastus Church, Albert Glass, and Nathan Church were Mates. More information about the Schooner may be found at Mystic Seaport. Additionally, Mystic has added images of the Schooner to Connecticut History Online.

Another log book that was enjoyable to work with is that of the Ship Holland. Missing its cover and several pages, this logbook was kept aboard ship while the Holland was participating in the Quasi War (or XYZ Affair) with France.  Entries often focus on weather and wind speed as well as location. There are several mentions of being near Spain. Encounters with other ships were recorded,  including British ships and the American ship, Industry. The entry for July 20, 1799 includes a list of ships and the number of guns they had.

Ship Holland Log Book

Ship Holland Log Book, 1799, MS 69657. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

All of these collections are available for research. Come visit!

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