COLLECTION GUIDES

1641-1904; bulk: 1790-1870

Guide to the Collection


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection consists of correspondence, minutes, by-laws, incorporation papers, and donor list relating to the organization and acquisitions of the Dorchester (Mass.) Antiquarian and Historical Society.

Biographical Sketch

The Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society came to fruition when a group of local residents met at Deacon Ebenezer Clapp's house on January 27, 1843. These men were concerned that the history of Dorchester, Massachusetts needed to be recorded and remembered for future generations. In 1855, the incorporation of the society by the Massachusetts General Court insured its long-term stability.

During the early years following the society's incorporation, its members were primarily concerned with giving educational lectures on local Dorchester history, and with publishing scholarly materials, including: Memoirs of Roger Clapp (1844), James Blake's Annals (1846), Richard Mather's Journal (1859), and The History of Dorchester (1859). With the outbreak of the Civil War, interest in the society and its events declined, leading to its eventual dissolution in the 1880s. One of the original founders, William Blake Trask (1812 - 1906), deposited the society's library holdings and collections at the New England Genealogical and Historical Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In January of 1870 the town of Dorchester was annexed to the city of Boston and as the town grew in population, it slowly evolved into a burgeoning suburb of the larger city. After a brief hiatus, interest in local history rebounded leading to the reorganization of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society in 1891. This attempt to organize the society saw new changes such as the admittance of women, which nearly doubled its size. In 1893, the society was chartered with a goal of collecting, preserving, and publishing the history of the town of Dorchester and its parent city of Boston.

Since its original incorporation, the society remained homeless until the city of Boston offered a permanent home at the James Blake House (c. 1648) in 1895. However, the Blake House stood on property that the city had already devoted to something else so the building was moved across town to Richardson Park, near Edward Everett Square. This relocation of the house would mark one of the first times in history that preservation efforts were taken due to historic architecture. The structure is presently the oldest standing building in Boston, though it was not at the time of its relocation.

In 1945 the society acquired the William Clapp House and the Lemuel Clapp House through a trust fund established by Emma M. E. Reed, the wife of a Dorchester District Court judge and longtime resident. The Dorchester Historical Society, its current name, continues its goal of collecting, cataloging, and preserving the history of the town of Dorchester for present and future generations.

David Clapp was a Boston printer who apprenticed under the supervision of John Cotton in a Boston printing house during the years 1822-1824. He became junior partner and owner in 1831 and 1834 respectively. The firm of D. Clapp, Jr. & Co. was devoted to general book and job printing and publishing. David Clapp ran the firm for more than fifty years until 1874 when it was bought by a group of Boston medical men.

Collection Description

The Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society records consist of records of the Society as well as collected historical materials. The collection spans from 1641 - 1904, with the library holdings from 1641 - 1890, and the institution records spanning 1843- 1904. The collection is divided into two series: I. Institutional Records (1842-1904) and II. Collections (1641-1890).

The series in this collection represent the two purposes of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society. The first series represents the institutional records and includes correspondence between the acting secretary and members, records and minutes from society meetings, library donations and catalogs, the constitution and by-laws, copies of correspondence, records and minutes from society meetings, and account books. The second series represents historical materials collected by the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society arranged in three sub-series: loose papers, historical essays, and bound volumes.

Of particular interest to this collection are the letters and volumes that make up the library's holdings (located in series II. Collections). Prominent religious and Revolutionary leaders, and signers of the Declaration of Independence are represented in the library holdings. There are three letters from Robert Morris to Nathaniel Gorham discussing land speculation in Pennsylvania. Included are two letters, to and from President John Adams, regarding his foreign policy stance toward France (1798). Military commissions signed by governors of Massachusetts, the last will and testament of Rev. Richard Mather, and correspondence between Conn. and Mass. colonial governors regarding the incorporation of a mail service are also included. The bound volumes include a Massachusetts colonial tax book, an orderly book from the Massachusetts Militia, notebooks of David Clapp, containing prayers and sermons, and Samuel Proctor's almshouse receipt book.

Acquisition Information

Part of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society collection was donated by the estate of Henry G. Denny, a long-time member of the society and its last surviving member at the time of his death; William Blake Trask deposited the remainder at the MHS in the late 1880s.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society Institutional records, 1842-1904

A. Loose records,1842 - 1904

Arranged Chronologically.

These records cover a period from the incorporation of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society (DAHS) in 1842 to 1904. Included in these records are correspondence between Ebenezer Clapp, Jr., one of the founding members, and potential corresponding members of the DAHS. The DAHS was offered many donations by Dorchester residents, which are described in the letters. Also included are loose meeting minutes, receipts for donations and membership dues paid. There is also one small pamphlet containing meeting minutes, dues paid, and proceedings. The library records of the DAHS include donation lists with books titles, publishing dates, and donation dates. There are also library book catalogs describing the holdings of the DAHS library. Individual items to note include a signed list of members, and the incorporation certificate by the Massachusetts General Court in 1855.

Box 1Folder 1-9
Correspondence, 1843 - 1904
Box 1Folder 10-12
Administrative, 1842 - 1891
Box 1Folder 13-17
Library, 1843 - 1879

B. Bound records, 1843 - 1881

These eight bound volumes include the institutional records of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society.

Vol. 1
Constitution, by-laws, member list, 1865

Includes the Constitution, by-laws, a manuscript copy of the act of incorporation (originally located in box 1), and membership list of Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society.

Vol. 2
Correspondence, 23 January 1843 - 5 November 1860

Includes copies of correspondence between Ebenezer Clapp, Jr., corresponding secretary, and newly elected corresponding members. Letters received and sent by the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society are copied into this volume, including a manuscript copy of the constitution and bylaws. The volume also includes records and minutes of DAHS meetings.

Vol. 3
Administrative, 28 April 1843 - 3 November 1865

Includes minutes and records from Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society meetings, discussions about date, time and location of meetings and the election of officers. Also included is a manuscript copy of the constitution and by-laws, signed by the eight founding members.

Vol. 4
Administrative, 16 February 1854 - 19 January 1872

Includes records of Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society meeting minutes. Present in this volume are a manuscript copy of the DAHS constitution and by-laws and a passage about the collections and preservation of the library.

Vol. 5
Administrative, 19 January 1872 to 30 December 1881

Includes records and minutes of Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society meetings. This volume is a continuation of volume four.

Vol. 6
Financial, 2 Jan. 1843 - 30 Dec. 1881

Account book of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society updated annually with entries for membership dues paid, donations, and purchases.

Vol. 7
Library records, 22 May 1871

A selection of titles, arranged alphabetically, from the catalog of the library of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society in need of paramount preservation.

Vol. 8
Library records, 23 November 1855 to 4 November 1870

Library logbook of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society containing patron names and title and dates of book checked out and returned.

II. Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society collections, 1641 - 1890

A. Loose records, 1641 - 1855

Arranged Chronologically.

These papers encompass the manuscript collection of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society. Papers in this sub-series were collected from Dorchester residents or donated by them to the DAHS. Many of the papers do not directly relate to the town of Dorchester; rather they focus on a broader aspect of American History. Included in this series are wills, commission appointments, correspondence, and town records.

Individual items to note include two letters to President John Adams and responses from him regarding foreign policy with France (1798); three letters from Robert Morris to Nathaniel Gorham discussing land speculation and sale; correspondence from Gov. Francis Lovelace to Gov. John Winthrop concerning the establishment of mail service between New York and Boston; the last will and testament of Reverend Richard Mather; the deed of sale of land to Josiah Quincy; Royal commissions signed by Governors William Stoughton, Joseph Dudley, William Phips, and the Earl of Bellomont; Robert Auchmuty's appointment as the judge co-missionary deputy of the Court of Vice Admiralty by Francis Bernard and a document allowing Boston to annex Thompson's Island.

Box 1Folder 18-26

B. Historical essays, 1840 - 1890

This sub-series is composed of compiled histories, biographies, and genealogies of Dorchester residents, prominent people, and events in American history. These histories were written for the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society to preserve the history in an institution that would acknowledge its importance. Individual items to note in this series include: Richard and John Mather's influence in the Westminster Abbey assembly, a history of Plimoth Plantation, and the history of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Dorchester.

Box 1Folder 27-31

C. Bound volumes, 1703 - 1881

These bound volumes were collected by the society with the intent on preserving the past and disseminating historical information to the future. A receipt book recording colony taxes in the Mass. Bay from 1772-1775 includes resident's name, date tax was paid, and how much was owed. The author of the book is unknown and there are sporadic entries for different years with no discernable order. Volume 10, 31 March 1790 to 12 February 1793 is an orderly book of the 6th regiment, 1st Militia Brigade of Massachusetts. The Brigade was commissioned on 6 May 1789 led by Captain Ebenezer Clarke. Listed in the orderly book are general orders, regimental and division orders, a court martial list, and lists of supplies. Also included in this volume are a list of the 1772 and 1774 Militia companies of Ward 7 commonly called the New Boston Company and a list of fines paid by militiamen.

Three volumes of David Clapp's include his prayer book (30 May 1703-27 July 1707), and two sermon notebooks (1740's and 1742 - 1758) containing passages from the Bible and written sermons, and the almshouse receipt book kept by Samuel Proctor, 20 September 1756 - 17 May 1761 is also included here as it was formerly attributed to David Clapp. The Clapp and Proctor volumes are available on microfilm (P-680, 1 reel).

Vol. 9
Massachusetts Bay Colony Receipt Book, 1772 - 1775.
Vol. 10
The 6th Regiment, 1st Militia Brigade of Massachusetts orderly book, 31 March 1790 to 12 February 1793.
Vol. 11
David Clapp prayer book, 30 May 1703 - 27 July 1707.

Available on microfilm, P-680.

Vol. 12
David Clapp sermon notebook, 1740.

Available on microfilm, P-680

Vol. 13
David Clapp sermon book, 1742 - 1758.

Available on microfilm, P-680.

Vol. 14
Samuel Proctor almshouse receipt book, 20 September 1756 - 17 May 1761.

Available on microfilm, P-680.

Preferred Citation

Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Cotton, John, 1584-1652.
Mather, Richard, 1596-1669.
Stoughton, William, 1632-1701.
Adams, John, 1735-1826.
Clapp, David, 1806-1893.
Lovelace, Francis, 1621-ca.1683.
Morris, Robert, 1734-1806.
Winthrop, John, 1606-1676.

Organizations:

Massachusetts. Militia. Regiment, 6th (Suffolk County)--Order-books.
Methodist Episcopal Church (Dorchester, Mass.).
Westminster Assembly (1643-1652)

Subjects:

Almshouses--Massachusetts--Boston.
Postal service--History.
Prayer-books.
Orderly books.
Sermons--1703-1758.
Dorchester (Boston, Mass.)--History.
France--Foreign relations--United States.
Plymouth (Mass.)--History.
Thompson's Island (Boston, Mass.).
United States--Foreign relations--France.
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