Nantucket Whaling Museum

This post is long overdue but worth the wait!

The seafaring Pinkhams sign

The seafaring Pinkhams

Back in June, I visited the island of Nantucket off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. On my last day I popped in the whaling museum for a short time. I was immediately captivated by an exhibit of letters from their archive! The museum recently acquired a collection of letters from a Nantucket whaling family. They have an excellent exhibit, displaying some of the letters, along with select transcripts (on panels), photographs and artifacts from the extended Pinkham family in an exhibit titled “Dear Absent Ones: The Seafaring Pinkhams.” This exhibit shared the human side of an island family at sea and waiting behind at home.

In the first part of the nineteenth century, Nantucket was at the forefront of the whaling industry. Ships sailed off to the Pacific in search of the mighty sperm whale returning with barrels full of spermaceti to turn into oil, candles and other products that would earn a fortune for those involved in the business.

Seth Pinkham letter

A long letter from a loving husband and father. I wonder if the water stains are sea water or happened later?

Captain Seth Pinkham (1786-1844), the family patriarch, was an early whaling captain, completing three voyages between 1815-1823 before retirement. He and his wife Mary (Brrown) Pinkham brought up a second generation of seagoing Pinkhams. After business failures, Captain Seth Pinkham returned to the sea, only to die at sea in 1844. Seth, Jr., age 9, most likely was eager to join his father at sea, but his mother put her foot down and insisted he was too young.

Seth Pinkham letter

Seth Pinkham letter -searching for whales

Captain Pinkham’s letters reveal a family man who missed his family but made up for his absence by writing as many letters as he was able to get home. These letters are full of long-winded advice to his son, such as “In order to be good children, good husbands, good fathers and good citizens, we must strive to be useful . . . I tell you these things while you are young for youth is the time to form the man.” (1841) The other letters continue in the same vein, encouraging thoughtful study, sobriety, enterprise and exemplary deportment in all endeavors.

He had strong opinions on laziness.

Seth Pinkham letter

“Never one to be lazy, Pinkham shares his strong opinion about occupying one’s time with useful tasks only.”

Seth Pinkham letter

Seth Pinkham, a self-professed Jeffersonian, held strong opinions about the role of government and citizens’ part in directing their own affairs. He emphasized each person’s duty to stay informed and reason for himself.

Other artifacts on display include a lady’s writing desk made for Seth Pinkham c. 1810. The desk is made from Mahogany with white pine and birch inlays. This is a very generous gift to Mary from her loving husband.

Mahogany and lightwood inlaid ladies' desk

Mahogany and lightwood inlaid ladies’ desk

The second generation of seagoing Pinkhams included Malvina Pinkham Marshall (1820-1885), the only one of Captain Seth and Mary’s 6 children to go on a whaling voyage. At seven months pregnant, she joined her husband, Joseph Marshall (1811-1879), on board the Sea Queen in 1851. Joseph Marshall began his whaling career at age 17 in 1821. Rising through the ranks quickly, he became first mate in 1841. In 1846 he married his second wife, Malvina Marshall, and took command of a ship the following year.

Malvina Marshall gave birth to her daughter Helen (1851-1939) while the ship was docked in the Azores. The Azorean women presented Malvina with gifts for her new baby. The Marshall family continued to sail throughout the Pacific for the next eight years before Joseph retired to Nantucket.

Helen Marshall

Helen Marshall, daughter of Joseph and Malvina (Pinkham) Marshall, born at sea.

The Marshalls kept photographs of her friends and family to remember them by. H

Photos from the 1860s and 70s compiled by Helen Marshall.

Photos from the 1860s and 70s compiled by Helen Marshall. The many pictures of her little cousins were gifts to her mother from her uncle Seth Pinkham, Jr. in San Francisco. The small children on the bottom are Helen’s nieces and nephews by her much older half brother.

They have some older artifacts from the women on the homefront. Women on Nantucket supported each other through ties of friendship, kinship and community. The sign says “Running a household, caring for children, and maintaining a strict economy were necessary duties complicated by the uncertainty of the length and success of voyages and the difficulties of communication.”

Mary Brown's Sampler 1800

Mary Brown’s Sampler 1800

1850 wool blanket

Mary Brown Pinkham’s wool blanket, passed down to her granddaughter Helen Marshall

This is a wonderful exhibit that combines letters from the archive with museum artifacts to paint a more detailed portrait of a Nantucket seagoing family. The exhibit text does a great job of explaining the context of the items in terms of the time period and the whaling industry. It was wonderful to learn about a real life whaling family and more about the personal life of a whaling captain.

The rest of the part of the museum I saw focused on the whales and the spermaceti. (More on that in the next post).

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Maria Mitchell Association

MitchellHouse

Maria Mitchell Birthplace

While in Nantucket I visited the Maria Mitchell Association, a complex of four museums. There’s the natural science museum in the main building. This features animals (mostly dead) found on or near the local beaches. They have dolphin skeletons, butterflies, moths, taxidermy animals, live snakes and turtles and a discovery center.

The main focus of my visit was the Maria Mitchell birthplace. A typical Quaker house built in 1790, this house is the birthplace of America’s first female astronomer.

MariaMitchellHouse

Maria Mitchell Birthplace sign

The Mitchells acquired the home shortly before Maria’s birth in 1818. It is typical Nantucket architecture. It has an off-center front door and a small window above to let light in the hall when the door was closed. On the roof is a roof walk, which was actually for putting out chimney fires and fires on the roof. Could they have used it for other purposes? Yes, but that isn’t what it was built for.

William Mitchell had to add a new kitchen to the old house to make the house bigger. The new kitchen has a back staircase, a warming alcove and plaster walls painted to look like wood. The front room features the most exciting and unique artifact in the house-Maria’s telescope through which she discovered a comet. The front entryway has an amazing mural of “The Great Moon Hoax of 1835.” (Fake news is obviously not an Internet age problem).

Maria Mitchell was educated at a young ladies seminary and also taught by her father, an astronomer who rated chronometers for use by the Nantucket whaling fleet in celestial navigation. His Quaker belief in equality led him to educate his daughter in subjects normally taught to boys. At the age of 12, Maria assisted her father in calculating the position of their home by observing a solar eclipse. By 14 she trusted to calculate navigational computations for sailors leaving on whaling journeys.

Maria’s interest in science extended to teaching as well. After she finished her own formal education, she opened a school for girls to train them in science and mathematics- like an early STEM school.

At the age of 18 she became the first librarian of the Nantucket Atheneum, reading everything she could after hours. She worked there from 1836-1858.

HawdenHouse

Nantucket Atheneum

Her greatest accomplishment was yet to come. Avoiding a party at her family’s apartment above the bank one night in 1847, Maria went up to the roof to observe the sky through her father’s two-inch telescope. She lucked out that night, October 1, and discovered a comet! She was not only the first woman to discover a comet, she was the first in America to record her sighting.

PacificNationalBank

Pacific National Bank

Unfortunately, the next day there was a storm and ships couldn’t leave the island so the observations she sent off to Europe were delayed, allowing an Italian man to gain credit for the discovery. However, Maria prevailed and her careful notes revealed she sighted the comet earlier than the Italian. The King of Denmark awarded Maria Mitchell of Nantucket an International gold medal.

Maria then skyrocketed (pun intended) to fame.  “Miss Mitchell’s Comet,” as it became known, was featured in Elias Loomis’ The Recent Progress of Astronomy.

recentprogressofastronomy

Recent Progress in Astronomy

Maria became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1848, the only woman recognized for almost 100 years thereafter. She was also elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Philosophical Society and earned an annual salary from The U.S. Coastal Survey ($300/year) as a celestial observer. [1] She was also able to meet other women involved in the sciences on a Grand Tour of Europe in the 1850s.

Though Maria ultimately broke with the Quaker meeting, she retained some Quaker philosophies, such as equality and abolitionist principles. She always dressed in black silk, refusing to wear cotton as it was grown by slaves.

After her mother’s death, Maria was invited by Matthew Vassar to be the first female professor at his new women’s college, where she rebelled against the strict rule prohibiting women from going out at night. Her students adored her and even persuaded her to pose for a portrait. (Maria believed her plain looks would not appear to advantage on canvas or in photos). She did insist on appearing as she normally did, in her Quakerish black silk dress and plain hairstyle.

Maria Mitchell became involved in the emerging women’s rights movement, with fellow Nantucket Quaker Lucretia Mott, meeting the luminaries of the day and holding meetings in her observatory. Her famous friends later donated money to save her Vassar observatory. [2]

Though Maria Mitchell died in 1889, a year after her retirement from teaching, her legacy lives on. The Maria Mitchell Association also operates an observatory. Their website states “since 1908, the Observatory has been the site of research, lectures, and other programs . . .” [3]  That is smaller than the house!

MariaMitchellobservatory2

Normally they start outside but since it was rainy and overcast, we couldn’t see anything in the sky. We did look at a scale model to see how far the planets are in the solar system. That was very helpful. I don’t really understand or care for astronomy so much of it was lost on me. Inside there is a little museum where visitors can see Maria Mitchell’s influence on culture and science. She has asteroid and a crater named after her, among other things. I really liked it when they mentioned there is an archive. That would be fun to look at.

More on the history of Nantucket in my next post.

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Nantucket, Massachusetts

There once was a man from Nantucket . . . Or in this case, a woman visiting Nantucket. I’ve been too busy working in a museum to visit other museums. A family wedding brought me to the small island of Nantucket, off the coast of Cape Cod. For two and half days I crammed in as many museums and historical sites as I could.

I commenced with a self-guided walking tour up Main Street.

I found Thomas Turner Square with a dedication plaque dedicated to “Thomas Turner, son of Nantucket served on the ship Bon Homme Richard Killed in Action with H.M.S. Serapis September 23, 1779.” A reminder of Nantucket’s rich maritime history and how the locals honor their long history. The Bon Homme Richard was commanded by John Paul Jones and the battle with Serapis was when he uttered the famous line “I have not yet begun to fight.” Though the battle was won, the ship was lost and half the crew on both ships were killed. [1]

 

 

TurnerSquare
Thomas Turner memorial plaque

The plaque is on the side of the Pacific National Bank, which is a historic monument as well as a bank. The bank was incorporated in 1804 for the newly wealthy whalers. [2]

In 1830s William Mitchell served as bank cashier. The job came with living quarters on the second floor. William Mitchell moved in with his family, including his daughter Maria, a librarian at the Atheneum and astronomer. William and Maria set up a telescope on the roof, where she preferred to spend her evenings over boring dinner parties. In 1847 Maria discovered a comet and rocketed (pun intended) to fame. (More on her later).

PacificNationalBank

Pacific National Bank

Outside the entrance to the Mitchell’s apartment, William placed a stone marker to measure the angle of distance between true north and magnetic north.

TownsMeridanLine

Town’s Meridan Line plaque

TownsMeridanLine2

Meridan Line Stone

Just past the bank is a granite obelisk standing as a memorial to the Nantucket men who died in the Civil War. [3]

CivilWarMonument

Civil War Memorial

CivilWarMonument2

Civil War Memorial

The memorial was begun in 1874 using a stone from the recently demolished Round Top Mill. 73 Nantucket men died in the war, the first war Nantucket men participated in. Previously, the island was largely Quaker and the Quaker tradition of pacifism kept them out of previous wars. [4]

Slightly off the beaten path is the Fire Hose Cart House. I didn’t go in but I gather this is a museum of antique fire fighting equipment.

FireCartHouseNantucketFireCartHouse

Built 40 years after the great fire of 1846, this was an important building. You can read about it at the Nantucket Preservation Trust website.

Wandering along, I noticed this house out of place among the mid-19th century mansions.

17thchouse

The plaque on this house says it was built in 1690 for Christopher Starbuck. The Starbucks were among the founding families of Nantucket. I was impressed this simple wooden structure survived the great fire of 1846!  This house is an example of a lean-to style house.

The wild Nantucket landscape as it must have looked centuries ago.

Nantuckethillsvillage

Nantucketview Wild Nantucket Landscape

Heading back down Main Street, near the center of town is an example of what new whaling money could buy-this opulent mansion.

HawdenHouse

Hawden House 96 Main Street

William Hawden, a whale oil and spermaceti candle manufacturer and silversmith built this Greek Revival mansion for his family during the golden age of whaling. More about him later on.

Back in the center of town is the Nantucket Atheneum. It was built in 1847 after the great fire burned the original. Maria Mitchell was the first librarian.

Atheneum

Nantucket Atheneum

The Atheneum has a rich history and the previous structure was the site of abolitionist meetings. In 1842 the Atheneum hosted the second Nantucket Anti-Slavery Convention and in 1850, Frederick Douglass spoke here. [5]

This concludes my initial walking tour but I will write about the rest of my trip in future posts.

 

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Museum of Newport History

While in Newport, I visited the Museum of Newport History in the Brick Marketplace. It was my first time visiting this little museum and I was quite impressed. Like most tourists, I usually visit the mansions and know quite a lot about Gilded Age history. Colonial Newport is new to me.

Newport was founded by seekers of religious toleration. From 1639 when the Newport charter was signed, Newport was home to Anabaptists, Antinomians, Quakers, Jews, and others could worship without fear of persecution.

Great Friends Meetinghouse (Quaker)

Great Friends Meetinghouse (Quaker) is the oldest surviving house of worship in Rhode Island, dating to 1699. This building was the largest and most recognizable building in town during the colonial period. It was expanded in 1705 and 1729.

Touro Synagogue, the oldest Jewish congregation in Rhode Island and one of the oldest in the U.S.A. It was dedicated in 1763.

Touro Synagogue, the oldest Jewish congregation in Rhode Island and one of the oldest in the U.S.A. It was dedicated in 1763.

By the beginning of the 18th century, Newport was a thriving seaport : one of five leading ports in America. Newport flourished as a center of business and cultural activity. Enslaved Africans contributed to this success and the museum does not shy away from discussing this difficult topic.

Newport was not only a thriving seaport, it was home to many types of businesses, including the newspaper business.

18th century Newport businesses

18th century Newport businesses

The Newport Mercury newspaper was founded by Benjamin Franklin’s brother James and continued by James’ wife Ann, after his death. The museum features an exhibit set up to look like an early printing office. This 17th century printing press was instrumental in passing along news to colonial Newporters and was also a source of income. This press was owned by James Franklin and was targeted by the British during the Revolutionary War and they used to print official documents and newspapers. It has survived for 4 centuries standing as a testament to the power of the written word.

A Colonial era printing press

Late 1600s printing press owned by James Franklin

Colonial newspaper (reproduction)

Colonial newspaper (reproduction)

Printed by Ann Franklin, the Copy of Some Queries was printed in 1739.

Printed by Ann Franklin, the Copy of Some Queries was printed in 1739.

By the middle of the 18th century, a new middle class had emerged in Newport. In the 1750s, the parlor symbolized a new concern with refinement and gentility. It was often remade in the latest style. This room is where guests were received and the family’s finest objects were displayed. This middle class parlor shows off a family’s locally made furniture. The c. 1750 table features drop-leaves to expand for use and put down for storage. The museum believes this piece was made in either the Townsend or the Goddard furniture shops. The provenance is traced back to Henry Marchant  (April 9, 1741 – August 30, 1796), a lawyer, judge, delegate to the  Continental Congress from 1777 to 1779, and signer of the Articles of Confederation for Rhode Island. Henry Marchant may have placed this table in his law office.

A middle-class room

A middle-class room

The chest-on-chest may have been made by John Townsend (1732–1809) for Peleg Clarke, a merchant in the tea trade working in Newport and Boston. The Townsends were the most well-known cabinet makers in Newport. They made cabinets, chairs, and other furniture. Job Townsend (1699–1765) and his brother Christopher (1701–1787) started the family furniture business.  John Townsend (1732–1809), the son of Christopher Townsend and Patience (Easton) Townsend is belived to have made this chest-on-chest. Chest-on-chests were often showcased in a family’s parlor serving as repositories for linens, papers, and other important items.

The lovely portraits on the walls are Captain Isaac Stelle (1714-1763) and Penelope Godson Stelle, his wife. Captain Stelle was a merchant, chandler, Warden of Trinity Church, and Captain of the Newport County Regiment. Captain Stelle was an active participant in the Triangle Trade. The portraits were done by Robert Feke (c.1705 or 1707 – c.1752), one of the best known portrait makers in colonial America. He lived in Newport for a short time before his death in 1742 and painted only nine paintings.

There was also a section on the French in Newport. This French map shows the defenses in Narragansett Bay where the allied forces were in January 1781. The red line shows where the French took advantage of the natural geography of Newport harbor to fire on the British.

In 1778, the French sent an expeditionary fleet under the command of Comte D’Estaing to aid the Americans, arriving in Newport on July 29, 1778.The plan of action included simultaneous naval and land engagements. The plan failed, due to the arrival of British reinforcements and a freak storm that damaged D’Estaing’s ships. Aquidneck remained in the hands of the British until 1779.

French map showing the defenses in Narragansett Bay.

French map showing the defenses in Narragansett Bay.

Charles-Henri Hector d’Estaing (1729-1794)

Charles-Henri Hector d’Estaing (1729-1794)

Charles-Henri Hector D’Estaing was from a noble French family who had ties to the Crown. Following the recognizance of American independence, the Crown appointed d’Estaing as first commander of the fleet sent to aid American forces in New York and New England. Arriving in Narragansett Bay on July 29, 1778, d’Estaing decided to engage the British fleet offshore. This was a costly error. He should have added to the land forces prior to the Battle of Rhode Island. D’Estaing’s made one strategic blunder after another and was recalled back to France in 1780.

Diorama depicting the arrival of the French in Newport.

The arrival of Rochambeau and his troops. Diorama by Mme. Fernande Metayer, Paris, 1976.

The French returned victorious on July 11,1780 under the command of Comte Rochambeau.  They found a city destroyed after three years of British occupation.  Newport in 1780 was no longer a prosperous port. Newporters were weary of the long British occupation and welcomed the French with parades, proclamations and parties. Until June 1781, French officers were quartered in the homes of Newporters, living beside the people of Newport and becoming integral to the social tapestry in the city.

Newport's Liberty Square

Newport’s Liberty Square

Near the Brick Marketplace is Liberty Square. Dating back to the colonial period, this park was donated to the Newport Magistrates in the mid-18th century. Members of the Newport Artillery donated the square for the purpose of establishing a “Mustering Place,” where free men would assemble and speak freely .The square belonged to the people of the city; free from ownership by any corporation or individual. It remains a small reminder of how Rhode Island and Newport were at the forefront of establishing the freedoms we take for granted today.

Illuminating the American Revolution / French in Newport

Several weeks ago, a Revolutionary War reenactment was held at the Colony House in Newport, RI to welcome the tall ship Hermione.

One of five rotating capitals in early Rhode Island.

Newport was one of five rotating capitals in early Rhode Island.

The date: July 10, 1780. Newport had been occupied by the British for three years since December 1776 until the fall of 1779. The British brought chaos and destruction and over half of the town’s population fled. From July-August 1778 French forces under the command of of the comte d’Estaing attempted to help American troops and planned a siege of Newport from the British. First they miscalculated and then a large storm blew in so the French were forced to retreat. They tried again two years later. On July 11, 1780, the Marquis de Lafayette arrived on the Hermione with 5500 French troops to march with the Comte de Rochambeau.

Reenactors in the guise of townspeople gathered at Newport’s Colony House for a day of events. I tried to aim for the reading of the Town Council Proclamation, but due to getting carsick on the bus, had to sit down in the Visitors’ Center for awhile before walking over to Colony House. (Carsickness also prevented me from taking a water taxi to Fort Adams to see L’Hermione).

Newport citizens mingled with each other and guests speaking about the Revolutionary War time period in Newport from the perspective of their character.

Reproductions of colonial newspapers helped visitors get a feel for what was going on in New England at the time. The articles on the French arrival in Newport are especially fun to read.

click to see the full size picture and read the articles.

click to see the full size picture and read the articles.

click to see the full size picture and read the articles.

click to see the full size picture and read the articles.

colonialnewspaper3The “townspeople” distributed candles to all the guests and led an illuminated procession across the square to the Brick Marketplace gift shop/museum. The candles managed to stay lit despite the ocean breeze.

“Three cheers for King Louis!”

In addition to the reenactment, Colony House had a display of archival material and museum pieces relating to the French in Newport. I especially liked seeing the original handwritten documents. It was amazing to read the actual documents that helped contribute to the formation of the United States.

A promissory note from the War department of the American Army of Rochambeau 26 August 1782

A promissory note from the War department of the American Army of Rochambeau 26 August 1782

Col. Henry Sherburne’s Military Logbook, 1778 displays an entry from August 8, 1778, the eve of the Battle of Rhode Island. Sherburne was in Tiverton, Rhode Island, the headquarters for the American troops. He recorded the hierarchy of command, including which regiments will be under Lafayette’s control. His handwriting is surprisingly easy to read for a time period when spelling was creative and handwriting vastly different from our own.

click to see full size photo and read Sherburne's log.

click to see full size photo and read Sherburne’s log.

click to read

click to read

A letter from Gen. Rochambeau to an unknown correspondent. 27 June, 1782

A letter from Gen. Rochambeau to an unknown correspondent. 27 June, 1782

The sign states :  “This letter describes the movement of the French and American troops and artillery along the York River in June 1782. . . . Writing from Williamsburg, this letter demonstrates Rochambeau’s concern for new defenses at Yorktown and a reinforcement of troops along the seaboard in the event of another British offensive.”

Reproductions of maps from the Library of Congress provide a better idea of what the city looked like in 1780, where the defenses were and where troops were located.

French map showing locations of French troops in Newport.

French map showing locations of French troops in Newport.

French map showing French squadron entering Newport under battery fire and forcing its way through on Aug. 8, 1778.

French map showing French squadron entering Newport under battery fire and forcing its way through on Aug. 8, 1778.

French map showing the different operations of the French fleet and American Troops commanded by Major Gen. Sullivan against the English land and sea forces from Aug. 9, 1788 to the night of Aug, 30-31when Americans made their retreat.

French map showing the different operations of the French fleet and American Troops commanded by Major Gen. Sullivan against the English land and sea forces from Aug. 9, 1788 to the night of Aug, 30-31when Americans made their retreat.

Colony House also had an exhibit of items from the Newport Historical Society, such as this silver spoon.

Rochambeau spoon

1730-1750. Sterling silver. L. 12-1/4 in. Acquired from Mrs. May H. Bowen, 1964.3.

This is a spoon engraved with the Rochambeau crest and presented to Jabez Bowen, the deputy governor of the new state of Rhode Island and his family by Rochambeau to commemorate Rochambeau’s stay in Providence. It look just as beautiful as it must have in 1780. It must have been a great treasure for Mr. Bowen to save and pass down with the wonderful story. (Spoon, Joseph Gabriel Agard (French), ca. 1730-1750. Sterling silver. L. 12-1/4 in. Acquired from Mrs. May H. Bowen, Newport Historical Society1964.3.)

Panel displays also explained more background information. A sign displaying quotations from the diary of Baron Louis de Closen, an aide de camp to Rochambeau, was especially interesting. The Baron noted many differences between French and American manners. He saw Americans as more uncouth than the French, except for the women, of course! The courage of American men is also duly noted, despite their indifferent appearance and more slovenly manners.

Newport Through French Eyes

Thousands of French soldiers came to occupy the city. Many Newporters were excited to welcome the liberating strangers, but others worried the French would be a repeat of the British – bad guests. Those who were happy about the arrival of the French held an evening illumination in which citizens of Newport put candles in their windows on all the streets leading out of town. These quartering notices inform Newporters of the French occupation.

Quartering notices for citizens to house the French Army during the winter 1780-1781.

The French stayed in Newport until 1781. In March 1781, George Washington arrived in Newport and met with General Rochambeau to plot out their next move. Rochambeau and his troops left Newport and met up with Washington and his troops in Yorktown, Virginia, ultimately securing a victory over General Cornwallis and the British. Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown marked the beginning of the end of the Revolutionary War.

Boston University’s Howard Gottlieb Archival Research Center

A week ago I had the pleasure of visiting Boston University’s Howard Gottlieb Archival Research Center located in BU’s Mugar Library. The staff was very friendly and accommodating. The Howard Gottlieb operates a little differently from the archives I am used to. They do not publish finding aids online but they do have descriptions of collections. Upon arriving at the Howard Gottlieb patrons are assigned an archivist to work with them. The archivist is responsible for bringing down the materials into the reading room and assisting researchers. My companion requested her materials in advance, knowing exactly what she wanted to look at. I was given a folder containing the inventory list of the collection I wished to look at Bortman, Mark and Llora and Foxcroft and Mayhew Family Papers. I wanted to look at some manuscripts from the Mather family and from John Eliot, important colonial ministers.
Appletons' Eliot JohnJohn Eliot is best known for his missionary work with the Indians and translating the Bible into the Algonquin language.

Some of my ancestors were followers of John Eliot and others related to the Mathers.Cotton Mather

There were two important letters by Cotton Mather and John Eliot about converting Indians to Christianity and the success of the program. The letters reveal sincere attempts to reach out to the Indians and make them understand Christianity. The letters sounded respectful of the so-called “praying Indians” and condemned the British who provided the Indians with liquor, making them unfit for anything. Eliot’s handwriting was very tiny and difficult to read due to the size but the script of the time was not difficult to decipher. A typescript helped me to read the letter. The most successful Indian conversation program was in Natick, which coincidentally I happened to visit the next day!

I also discovered that a distant cousin, Eleazar Wheelock, whose great-grandfather Rev. Ralph Wheelock was my 12-greats grandfather, founded Dartmouth College. A biographical booklet of him was a nice surprise.
Also included in this collection are numerous important documents on the events leading up to the Revolutionary War, the war and the aftermath. There was even a memoir of someone who witness the Battle of Lexington and Concord first hand. Too bad he was 80+ years old when he wrote it but according to him, his memories were clear. As I looked through the folders I discovered signatures of none other than John Hancock, George Washington, Samuel Adams and the Marquis de Lafayette! Even my companion was impressed!

My companion looked at the papers of popular 20th century writer V.C. Andrews and will summarize her findings for online fan groups. This writer is outside my field of expertise and interest but my companion was excited to read unpublished material by her favorite author and view a draft of a novel. We both had a successful visit we won’t forget. I am sure I will be back there soon to look at something else.