March in the Archives: Part II

When I reviewed the catalog records from March, there were just too many worthy of being mentioned. This is a great problem to have! I therefore decided to split my report in two. If you missed the first part, about Civil War documents, you may read it here. Catalog entries for these, and many more collections, are in our online catalog.

Austin Kilbourn was a native of Glastonbury, Connecticut. His copy and memo books comprise three volumes and are filled with poetry; lists of things, such as English peers and mottoes; and many memorials. Subjects of the poetry range from the post office to temperance. The third volume (embossed with Eliza Kilbourn’s name) contains some longer writings, more short stories than poetry. Kilbourn also hand copied documents from when Lafayette visited the United States in 1825. One song, with music, is included in the third volume. Additionally, the third volume contains several time lines depicting leaders of nations. Kilbourn seems to have enjoyed studying British heraldry. Though not dated, the third volume also contains a mention of the California Gold rush having passed. (Ms 64637)

One of my personal favorites are the Dialegomenian Society records. The society was in the Greenfield Hill section of Fairfield, Connecticut. It appears to have been a debate society, but I am not entirely certain. I would love to learn more about it! (Ms 64772)

“The What-Cheer” was a student publication from the Tatnic Hill School in Brooklyn, Connecticut. Each of the three issues was edited by different combination of students. James W. Kimball and Hannah Robbins edited the 25-cent edition on February 3. The next week, the 37 1/2 cent issue was edited by Charles Webb and Jane L. Robbins. Editors James W. Kimball and Jane L. Robbins were joined by Associate Editors Francis Clark and Addie M. Robbins to compile the quarterly illustrated edition in March. It is completely hand written and drawn, with essays by fellow students. Each issue is tied together with colorful ribbons.

A variety of documents removed from the collections of the New Haven Colony Historical Society form this next collection. Removed because they lacked any connection to New Haven, Connecticut, the documents include correspondence, deeds, bonds, writs, summons, estate records, military commissions, and proprietors’ records.The earliest documents are proprietors’ records laying out the lands of Windsor, 1729, and the area west of Farmington and Simsbury, 1733. Within the correspondence are letters written to Daniel Sheldon of Litchfield, Connecticut, about the Revolutionary War battle at Kingsbury and the occupation of Washington by the British in 1814. Uriah Tracy was among his correspondents. Another body of correspondence was written to Charles Sherry of Norwalk, Connecticut, 1836-1844, from his brother MRS. The Brown family of Stonington, Connecticut, is well represented in the collection with estate records, distribution of property, deeds, financial records and receipts for shares in the Groton & Stonington Turnpike, 1827. Brown family members include Ichabod (several generations), Elias, Palmer and Nelson. Another body of records relates to the town of Huntington, Connecticut, and resident Samuel P. Mills. There are bonds, writs, land records with plot plans, and tax documents, 1811-1833. Similar materials exist for the Sanford family of Redding, Connecticut, specifically Lemuel, Jonathan R. and Thomas. Within their papers are three tickets to P.T. Barnum’s Museum. Of particular interest is a pamphlet entitled “Heads of Inquiry relative to the present state and condition of . . . Connecticut”, 1775. It was presented to Colonel John Trumbull by President John Adams, through the person of Josiah Quincy. Inside the pamphlet and affixed to the front cover is a receipt noting that Jeremiah Wadsworth purchased two prints by John Trumbull in 1788. The prints were the Battle of Bunker’s Hill and the Death of General Montgomery. Filed under D for Danforth is a bill of sale for pewter, 1814, sold by Samuel Danforth.

Reverend Samuel Peters, a native of Hebron, Connecticut and graduate of Yale College,  served as Rector of St. Peter’s Church in Hebron for several years. His correspondence is arranged chronologically, and begins in 1774, the year Peters fled to London because of his Loyalist sympathies. He returned to the United States in 1805 and was living in New York City when he died in 1826. Many of the letters are written to and by members of Peters’ extended family, including nephew John Samuel Peters. John Samuel Peters practiced medicine and held several political posts in Connecticut, including Governor. The elder Peters also corresponded with Rev. Benjamin Trumbull, a fellow Hebron native and a pastor in North Haven.

We end with a diary kept by General Lemuel Grosvenor of Pomfret, Connecticut. He began keeping the diary on April 17, 1775 and mentions three days later that six or eight of their men were at Lexington, but did not fight. The entries are generally only a sentence or two. The volume has been rebound and the pages conserved. Grosvenor received his commission as a second lieutenant, signed by Governor John Trumbull, on 10 June 1777. Lemuel Grosvenor advanced to the rank of Brigadier General of the Militia, and he served at Bunker Hill with his father-in-law General Israel Putnam. On 7 November 1789, General Washington visited Lemuel Grosvenor and appointed him the first Postmaster of Pomfret, with offices opening 1 January 1795. Lemuel Grosvenor served as Postmaster for nearly 40 years until his death on 19 January 1833.

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

March in the Archives: Civil War collections

It has been a while since I wrote a [Month] in the Archives post, but with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and the number of related collections we cataloged in March, it seems like a good time to return to the series. Scholars of the Civil War may already know of these collections; most of them have already been featured as part of our  Civil War Manuscripts Project. Much of the biographical information comes directly from that site. Thanks to our grant from the NHPRC, they can now be searched on our online catalog.

We begin with Hartford, Connecticut resident James Eldridge, who kept a diary during the Civil War and added notes ca.1893-1898. According to the notes, Eldridge enlisted on 11 August 1862, was promoted to Corporal on 6 October 1862 and was again promoted, to Sergeant, on 10 November 1862. He received the rank of Second Lieutenant on 12 September 1864 and First Lieutenant on 19 March 1865. He joined the 23rd U. S. Colored Troops, with the rank of Second Lieutenant, in September 1864. (Ms 64832)

The John G. Crosby Civil War collection consists of letters written by John Crosby to his wife, Abby J. Crosby. Also included are his discharge and muster papers; several later documents, 1863-1885, including minutes of a meeting of the 24th Connecticut Veterans in New Haven in 1868; and documents regarding his wife’s attempts to secure a widow’s pension, 1882-1883. Crosby enlisted on 8 September 1862 and was mustered-in as First Sergeant, Company D, on 18 November 1862. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant, Company H, on 6 April 1863 and mustered-out with his nine-months unit on 30 September 1863. At the time of his enlistment, Crosby was a 38-year-old barber. Crosby was a detailed correspondent. (Ms 64706)

Another general collection contains letters written by three individual soldiers. The first letter was written by J. Q. Adams in camp at New Haven, Connecticut, 1862 February 28, to his brother. Adams was with the 13th Connecticut Volunteers, and this letter was written on the regimental letterhead. The second letter was written from Morris Island by John Allen with the 10th Connecticut Volunteers. The final letter, dated 1863 July 11, was written from Yorktown, Pennsylvania, and was not signed. The author did indicate he was with the 16th Connecticut, and he also mentioned that he wanted the recipient to go back to Yorktown with him after the war to taste the berries, the best he had ever eaten. All of the letters described camp life, particularly food, and the movement (or non-movement) of their units. (Ms 84849)

John Chadwick wrote to his friend Matthew Murdock, of Westbrook, Connecticut, from Camp Thibodaux, Louisiana. The letter was written on letterhead illustrating the statue of Henry Clay in New Orleans. The cover bears an image of an eagle flying with an American flag. Chadwick described his trip to Louisiana, a battle in which four men were killed, and the improved quality of the food. (Ms 84960)

Enfield, Connecticut resident Walter Smithson‘s papers include two Civil War discharges, a Mason’s certificate, and a Grand Army Memorial record form, filled out by Smithson. He served as a Private in Company B, 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Smithson, born in England, listed his occupation as a farmer. His Master Mason’s certificate is from Doric Lodge No. 94, Enfield. Smithson received a gunshot wound in his left side at Cold Harbor, VA, on 3 June 1864 and was sent to the hospital in New Haven for treatment. His most intimate comrades were listed as Sergeant Henry Moody, Private John Harris (died 2 March 1864) and Sergeant Joseph Glover (killed 2 July 1864 at Petersburg, VA). Smithson enlisted on 18 September 1861 and was mustered-in on 27 September 1861. Surviving his wound at Cold Harbor, he was mustered-out on 12 December 1865. Smithson was present during engagements at: New Bern, NC, 14 March 1862; Siege of Fort Macon, NC, April 1862; Antietam, 17 September 1862; Fredericksburg, VA, 13 December 1862; and Fort Darling, VA, in May of 1864. (Ms 65522)

Next we have a collection of correspondence and military papers sent and received by Alfred Howe Terry, a native of Hartford, Connecticut. It includes letters sent to his parents and siblings in New Haven, Connecticut, while he was traveling in Europe in 1860. After his return, Terry enlisted to fight in the Civil War. During that time, and later, he wrote many letters to his siblings, including sister Harriet, brother Robert, and mother Clarissa. He enlisted on 22 April 1861 and was mustered-in as commander of the 2nd Connecticut Infantry on 7 May 1861. He was mustered-out of this three-month unit on 7 August 1861. Terry reenlisted in the 7th Connecticut Infantry on 20 August 1861 and was mustered-in as Colonel on 17 September 1861. He was promoted to Brigadier General (U. S. Volunteers) on 25 April 1862, to Brevet Major General (U. S. Volunteers) on 26 August 1864 and to Major General (U. S. Volunteers) and Brigadier General (U. S. Regular Army) on 15 January 1865. Terry was promoted to Brevet Major General (U. S. Regular Army) on 13 March 1865. Alfred Terry retired a Major General from the U. S. Army in 1888. Among the correspondence are many military telegraphs sent in 1864. A memo book contains some diary entries as well. (Ms 65598)

Letters written by William Winship to his mother in Farmington, Connecticut,  from various locations in the south, form the bulk of Winship’s collection. Other items include the fragment of a diary (March-May 1863) on paper from “a secesh house,” and two discharge papers. Winship, an unmarried farmer, enlisted on 8 September 1862. A member of the Twenty-Fifth Connecticut Infantry, Company K, Winship was mustered-in on 11 November 1862. He was mustered-out of his nine-months unit on 26 August 1863. According to his 1863 discharge papers, Winship was 19-years-old, had a light complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. (Ms 65847)

Slightly different is a short letter from Philip Smith to Donald L. Jacobus about an error Smith made in tracking pension records. The letter is accompanied by transcription of Civil War pension records for various men named Waterman. (Ms 56068)

The papers of Captain Leonard A. Dickinson contain a list of names of the soldiers of Company C, 12th Regiment,  along with the men’s rank, date of enlistment, and comments about promotions, desertions, deaths, discharges, and illnesses. According to Captain Dickinson, “This blank muster roll I found in Fort Jackson, La. when that fortification was taken in April 1862. It is a “Confederate” production. On it I have endeavored to keep the history of the men of my company since its organization for my own gratification + for future reference.” (Ms 101096)

Henry  Snow family corresponded with his family in East Hampton, Connecticut, including his mother Eunice, brother Rufus, and sister Lavinia. Lavinia died of scarlet fever in May 1863. Snow, an unmarried mechanic, enlisted on 15 August 1862 and was mustered-in a Private on 5 September 1862. Part of the Twenty-First Connecticut Infantry, Company H, Snow was promoted Corporal on 1 March 1865 and was mustered-out on 16 June 1865. Due to illness Henry did not participate in the battle of Fredericksburg, VA, in December 1862, although his regiment was present. (Ms 66721)

Dwight Peck was born and lived in North Windham, Connecticut, although he appears to have tried his hand at teaching in Ohio. His collection consists of a letter from a friend about a war meeting in Ohio in 1856; several chatty letters to friends, 1859; letters in 1860 about the presidential election  and possible candidates, the state elections, his activity in the campaign, and a ballot of the Union Party in Connecticut. Also a series of letters while Dwight was serving in Virginia with the 21st Connecticut Infantry Regiment in 1862, in which he described to his family his activities, politics, the effectiveness of the Emancipation Proclamation, and his opinion of the commanders of the Union Army. In January 1863 there were  a series of letters from fellow soldiers and his commanding officer to his parents about Dwight’s death in the hospital of typhoid fever. One letter contained  advice about how to get Dwight’s body back to Connecticut. The collection also includes his military promotion to Corporal, an account of his pay and clothing, and correspondence to his parents from the federal government about Dwight’s back pay which was due to them. Finally, there is an essay about Windham that appears to be written by Dwight, a poem about Dwight’s death written by a cousin, and bills to Dwight’s father Pearl Peck, 1846. (Ms 87160)

Dictated or typed by Albert Peck in 1906, the pages of his reminiscences recall his service as captain with the 17th Connecticut Volunteers, Company D, during the Civil War. He was in the militia in Bridgeport, Connecticut, before answering the call for soldiers in 1862. A significant portion of the memoir relates his involvement in the battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. (Ms 86269)

There are a few more non-war related records we created last month that will be the subject of my next post. In the meantime, search our online catalog for any Connecticut history topic and come research with us!

October in the Archives

The Connecticut Historical Society’s website is Please visit to learn more about us! (Due to circumstances beyond our control the site is not currently listed on Google)

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging…

The temperatures are dropping, which means it’s a great time to warm up in the Research Center with some manuscripts. Another 130+ records will be making their way into our online catalog in the next few days. Some interesting, or at least out of the ordinary, items cataloged in October include:

Insurance company documents (Ms 55835) This is a collection of assorted insurance policy documents from various Connecticut companies. The companies represented include The Hartford Fire Insurance Co., Travelers Insurance Co., Connecticut Mutual Insurance Co., Hartford County Mutual Fire Insurance Co., and Windham County Mutual Fire Insurance Co. Unusual policies include those issued by the Hartford Live Stock Insurance Co. for race horses and a dog. The collection has some correspondence as well.

Edgar Welles autograph book (Ms 30237) Edgar Welles of Hartford, Connecticut kept an autograph book that contains signatures from people around the country. These include Lydia Sigourney of Hartford, Washington Irving, Theodore Woolsey of Yale College, John Underwood of Clarke Co., Virginia and J.R. Doolittle of Racine. Some are in Asian characters.

Edwin Parker sermon (Ms 31342) Ties to England have always been strong in this country, as evidenced by the sermon Rev. Edwin Parker gave in Hartford, Connecticut on the death of England’s Queen Victoria.

Samuel Pease diaries (Ms 33866) The diary entries kept by Samuel Pease, a farmer in Enfield, Connecticut were sewn into almanacs, one page per month. Pease noted weather conditions, some social occasions and town events. Even without the diary entries, the almanacs would be a worthy collection. Included are The New-England Almanac by Anson Allen (Hartford: Andrus and Judd), Middlebrook’s Almanac by Elijah Middlebrook (New Haven: S. Babcock), Green’s New England Almanack by Nathan Bowditch (New London: Samuel H. Green and Hartford: Gurdon Robins, Jr.), and The Farmer’s Almanack by Robert Thomas (Boston: Jenks & Palmer).

Frederick Stanley correspondence (Ms 32252) A collection of letters, most of which were sent to Frederick Stanley of New Britain, Connecticut. Correspondents include New Britain native, philanthropist, and social activist Elihu Burritt and well-known entertainer P.T. Barnum. Stanley is known for founding The Stanley Works.

Hartford Public High School class day book (Ms 35620) This notebook contains the Hartford Public High School’s Class of 1872 class history, by Hattie Bissell and Emma Tarbox; class poem, by Jeannie Stickney; class essay, by Louise Rowles; class prophecy, by James Bryant; class oration, by William Hyde; programs from the class day exercises and anniversary exercises; and a listing of classmates, their addresses, and occupations in 1876. With the exception of the programs, everything was handwritten.

Civil War letters and diary Civil War material is always popular with CHS researchers, even more so with the approach of the 150th anniversary. This month I cataloged letters by Lucien Dunham (Ms 38335)  to his brother, Dwight, in Warehouse Point, Connecticut, and to his sister Ellen.
Orra B. Bailey (Ms 40880) sent letters from Beaufort and Morris Island, South Carolina, Fernandina, Florida, and Washington, DC. Bailey enlisted and was mustered-in a Private on 23 August 1862. He was transferred to the Sixth Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps, Company A, on 27 January 1864 and was discharged 3 December 1864.
Elizur Belden diaries (Ms 41878) Belden, of Rocky Hill, Connecticut kept these diaries while serving in the Civil War with the Sixteenth Connecticut Infantry, Company C . An unmarried farmer, Belden enlisted 11 August 1862 and was mustered-in 24 August 1862. He was captured 20 April 1864 at Plymouth, NC, and died in captivity at Florence, SC, on 2 November 1864.

Weather records It was hardly a coincidence that I mentioned weather as I introduced this post. Often local weather personalities quote highs, lows, and other significant figures from official records. Here we have some of the un-official records.
Trinity College records of precipitation (Ms 31343) were kept in part by Samuel Hart. The records cover 1871-1899.
The Battell family weather records (Ms 35955) are temperature records, taken three times a day in Norfolk, Connecticut. They include occasional notes on wind speed and precipitation. Per a note attached to the first volume, the records were begun by Mrs. Joseph Battell and continued by her son Robbins, daughter Anna, and later granddaughter Mrs. Carl Stoeckel.
In Hartford, the Hoadley weather records (Ms 36119), kept by Jeremy and Charles Hoadley, recorded temperatures at sunrise, noon, and sunset. Also noted were the wind direction and general remarks about the day’s weather.
Lastly, we have the William Collins weather records (Ms 38144). Collins, of Hartford, Connecticut diversified his entries with newspaper accounts. In later years his entries are in regard to the Civil War.

All of the above are available for research. Come visit!

Though all the material in our collections is exciting in one way or another, I admit the piece I will “sign off” with the one that excited me the most this past month.

John Hancock signature, Morris Family papers, 1732-1834, Ms 34744. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

More to the story

We have a very extensive and well known collection of Civil War-related diaries and correspondence, so we made the decision last year to collect selectively in this area. So, why did we recently add to the collection the correspondence of Joseph H. Cummings of Waterbury, Connecticut? What makes this particular set of letters exciting and worth acquiring is that it was accompanied by two photographic images. The first image is cased and shows Joseph in his Connecticut State Militia uniform, complete with epaulets and a busby (big furry hat). We assume that he wore  this uniform even after he enlisted in the army. No wonder he wrote to his Uncle William about getting new United States uniforms! The second photograph was taken while Joseph was serving with the 1st Regiment, Connecticut Heavy Artillery and shows him in a much less dramatic uniform, with some pistols in his belt, and a knit cap that the men frequently wore in camp.

The value of photographs to research on the Civil War led to our current volunteer project to match portraits of Civil War soldiers in our photograph collections with manuscript materials in the library and keep that information in a database. Reading about someone’s exploits in the war becomes much more meaningful when one can put a face to a name. This will be an invaluable research tool for our visitors.

The rest of the story of Joseph H. Cummings is that when he joined the army, he had been working as a clerk in his uncle’s grocery store. He proudly stated that his regiment was called the Double Quick because of their stamina on long marches.  Joseph rose through the ranks to Sargent, and also served as secretary and commissary for unit. Evidently he was well liked by his men, as evidenced in the letter written by his commander, informing Uncle William of Joseph’s death. He did not die from fighting, but from “malarial dysentery”. Such is the story of many young men who served during the Civil War.

You can access this collection at the CHS library by asking for Ms 100912.

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Two letters were brought to our attention yesterday by our volunteer, Raquel, who is processing the Rowland Family letters, 1764-1860 (Ms 66917). The collection measures 1.5 linear feet (3 boxes) and contains correspondence to and from several members of the family.

In November 1827, Mary Elizabeth Rowland (1805-1845), living in Exeter, New Hampshire, wrote a letter to her cousin Frances “Fanny” Bliss Rowland in Windsor, Connecticut. Mary Elizabeth started off apologizing for the length of time between letters. It had been a long summer. She was having trouble attracting and keeping household help, and lamented being stuck in the house as much as she had been. The situation, though, was starting to improve.

We had a day or two ago a little boy + little girl added to our family in the capacity of servants. The damsel is a genuine blackey. She is nine years old and we take such a fancy to her we think of changing her name (Maria) to Rosetta. She is sprightly + we are most in love with her and if our patience is not spent soon we intend to educate her to suit us.

Apparently Mary Elizabeth’s patience did not run out. Thirteen years later Fanny received a letter from Rosetta, then attending Rev. Hiram H. Kellogg’s Young Ladies’ Domestic Seminary in Clinton, New York. These two letters do not provide any indication as to how Fanny and Rosetta met, though, Rosetta had just spent some time at Fanny’s and felt comfortable addressing the letter, “Affectionate friend.”

Rosetta wrote of learning to play the piano.
Miss A[ddington] is the young lady that gave me lessons on the piano forte. If you should have happen to have been there, you might have thought  it strange to see white, and [colored] in the parlor [together]without the least controversy. My Dear Miss A. I shall always love, ‘while memory lives in the heart.’ She has done much for me and I trust I shall ever be [grateful] for it. The further we go, we meet with different people. But, O!! when will this monster sin: prejudice be done away with.
Rosetta has encountered prejudice in both Connecticut and New York and, understandably, did not enjoy it in either state.

The letter ends with Rosetta writing that while she had been considering moving to the west, she had finally decided against it. “I cannot go where I have to get free papers. If I cannot live in free air, I do not wish to live at all.”

Welcome home, Willie!

“…if I do get home alive I shall expect to see you in Hartford to see us when we land & when I come out to Manchester on the cars I shall expect to see you standing on the platform at Buckland with a little note for me with some little love message in it…”

Cpl. William L. Norton letter to Jennie E. Annis, March 25, 1863, MS 100767. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Connecticut.

Corporal William L. “Willie” Norton, Company B, 10th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, missed his sweetheart. Jennie E. Annis was home in Buckland (Manchester), Connecticut.  Willie was fighting in the South with the Union Army. Recently CHS acquired two letters written by Willie to Jennie. The first was written in March 1863 from Island St. Helena, South Carolina,  and the second was written from Seabrook Island, South Carolina in July 1863.

In March Willie wrote about the snakes and lizards living on the island, as well as an alligator that was recently shot. He missed Jennie, and having lost her photograph, requested a new one.  As indicated by the excerpt above, Willie longed for his homecoming. Additionally, Willie reminds Jennie to send him the results of the gubernatorial election.

When Willie wrote on July 6, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg had ended three days earlier. “We have heard,” he wrote, “that [the Confederate troops] are within 15 miles of Philadelphia & that when the rebs advanced on Harrisburg the militia run without firing a gun! Shame on them.” He was obviously unaware of the entire story. He still missed Jennie, and continued to lament the loss of her photograph.

We do not know if Jennie was waiting at the Buckland platform, but Willie did return home to her. They married, and are listed on the 1880 census in Northampton, Massachusetts. When the letters returned to Connecticut last month they joined another item in the CHS collection, a history of Company B, 10th Regiment written by William L. Norton (MS 88894). Penned in 1884, the history contains extracts of letters from the Civil War years, including the two letters just acquired.

William L. Norton and Jennie E. Annis Norton are both buried at Buckland Cemetery in Manchester, Connecticut. She died in 1885 at age 44. Willie lived until 1921, dying at age 79.