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 They do not publish finding aids online but they do have descriptions of collections.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.
John Eliot is best known for his missionary work with the Indians and translating the Bible into the Algonquin language.
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.