COLLECTION GUIDES

1757-1915

Guide to the Collection


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection consists of papers of the Byles family, primarily letters to Loyalist Mather Byles (1707-1788) and his daughters Mary and Catherine Byles in Boston from family and friends who fled to Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the American Revolution.

Biographical Sketches

Mather Byles (1707-1788)

Mather Byles (1707-1788), the son of Josias Byles (d. 1703) and Elizabeth Greenough Byles, was a clergyman, poet, humorist, and Loyalist. He graduated from Harvard College in 1725 and worked as minister of Hollis Street Church in Boston, from which he was expelled for his Loyalism. He was a founder of and contributor to The New-England Weekly Journal. He was married twice: first to Anna Noyes Gale in 1734 and second to Rebecca Tailer (d. 1779) in 1747. His children included: Mather Byles (1735-1814), Elizabeth Byles (1737-1763), Samuel Byles (1743-1764), Mary Byles (1750-1832), and Catherine Byles (1753-1837).

Mather Byles, Jr. (1735-1814)

Mather Byles, Jr. (1735-1814), the son of Mather Byles (1707-1788) and Anna Noyes Gale Byles, was a clergyman and Loyalist. He graduated from Harvard in 1751 and worked as minister of the First Church in New London, Conn., and Christ Church in Boston. In 1776, following the Siege of Boston, he removed his family to Halifax, Nova Scotia, with other Massachusetts Loyalists, where he served as chaplain to the garrison. He was married three times: first to Rebecca Walter (1739-1775) in 1761, second to Sarah Lyde (1746-1787) in 1777, and third to Susanna Lawlor Reid (b. 1750) in 1788. His children included: Rebecca "Becca" Byles (1762-1853), who married Dr. William Almon of Halifax, Nova Scotia; Mather Byles III (1764-1802), the commissary general at Grenada, British West Indies, who married Mary Bridgewater in 1797; Elizabeth Byles (1767-1808), who married William Scovil; Anna Byles (1768-1830); Sarah Byles (1770-1855); and Belcher Byles (1780-1815), who married Sarah Louisa Lyde (1779-1871) in 1808.

Elizabeth Byles (1737-1763)

Elizabeth Byles (1737-1763) was the daughter of Mather Byles (1707-1788) and Anna Noyes Gale Byles. She married Gawen Brown, a Boston clockmaker and Loyalist. Her son was Mather Brown (1761-1831), a portrait painter who studied with Gilbert Stuart and Benjamin West. Mather Brown was raised by his Boston aunts, Mary Byles (1750-1832) and Catherine Byles (1753-1837), following the death of his mother in 1763.

Mary Byles (1750-1832)

Mary Byles (1750-1832) was the daughter of Mather Byles (1707-1788) and Rebecca Tailer Byles, the sister of Mather Byles, Jr. (1735-1814), and the aunt of Mather Byles III (1764-1802) and Mather Brown (1761-1831). Like her sister Catherine Byles (1753-1837), she lived unmarried with her father in Boston and continued to live at their Boston house after his death. She remained a Loyalist until her death in 1832.

Catherine Byles (1753-1837)

Catherine Byles (1753-1837) was the daughter of Mather Byles (1707-1788) and Rebecca Tailer Byles, the sister of Mather Byles, Jr. (1735-1814), and the aunt of Mather Byles III (1764-1802) and Mather Brown (1761-1831). Like her sister Mary Byles (1750-1832), she lived unmarried with her father in Boston and continued to live at their Boston house after his death. She remained a Loyalist until her death in 1837.

Collection Description

The Byles family papers consists primarily of letters to Mather Byles, Mary Byles, and Catherine Byles in Boston from Loyalist family members and friends who fled to Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the American Revolution. Among the correspondents are Anna Byles, Elizabeth Byles (1767-1808), Mather Byles, Jr., Mather Byles III, and Rebecca Byles (1762-1853). Subjects include their health, travels, and activities in Halifax. Also included are letters of Mather Byles, Jr. from New London, Conn., about his ministry at the First Church there and problems with the followers of John Rogers, as well as letters written during his ministry in Halifax, 1782-1786; letters of Mather Byles III during his stay at Grenada, British West Indies, and a visit to London; letters of artist Mather Brown describing his art studies and painting in Paris and London; correspondence about claims to land in Amherst, N.H., by Mary and Catherine Byles; and some papers related to the Almon family. Volumes in this collection include an account book and estate inventory of Mather Byles, with a list of his personal library; a commonplace book of Mary Byles; and a line-a-day diary kept by Mather Byles, Jr.

See the Select List of Items below for detailed information on some of the items in this collection. Papers in Box 3 have not been microfilmed.

Acquisition Information

Acquired by purchase, 1970, 1983. The family record of Mather Byles, 1707-1832, was a gift of George E. Ellis, 15 Apr. 1886.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Loose papers, 1757-1915

Reel 1Box 1
Undated papers
Reel 1Box 1
1757-1784
Reel 1Box 2
1785
Reel 2Box 2
1786-1835
Box 3
1850-1915

The papers in this box have not been microfilmed. Included are letters from James Almon in San Francisco and Mexico to William J. Almon and "Bessie"; a book of ships' signal codes for naval operations in the Civil War; correspondence of Mary Dodson; and letters from John Lane and Arthur W. H. Eaton to William Adlington about Mather Brown's art, Byles family letters, and other subjects.

II. Bound volumes, 1759-1837

Reel 2Box 4
Account book of Mather Byles and Catherine Byles, 1759-1837

This volume contains accounts of Mather Byles for the years 1759-1785 and accounts of Catherine Byles for the years 1781-1837.

Reel 2Box 4
Commonplace book of Mary Byles, 1763
Reel 2Box 4
Copy book of Mary Byles, 1763
Reel 2Box 4
Copy book of Catherine Byles, 1763
Reel 2Box 4
Diary fragment of Mather Byles, Jr., 19 July-4 Sep. 1790

This line-a-day diary was kept by Mather Byles, Jr. during a visit to Boston to settle the estate of his father. Entries describe social engagements, including meetings with Jeremy Belknap. A fuller copy of the same diary in the hand of Rebecca Byles notes additional daily activities and preaching engagements.

Select List of Items

This list includes detailed information on some of the items in Series I of this collection.

Inventory of the estate of Mather Byles, including an inventory of the division of silver and an inventory of his library, undated
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (New London) to Mather Byles describing his favorable situation in New London, several cases of smallpox, incidents of counterfeiting, and the poor condition of Timothy Green's type, 21 Feb. 1763
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (New London) to Mary Byles about events at New London in connection with the Rogerenes attack, 26 June 1764
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (New London) to Catherine Byles describing his situation in New London, especially the disturbance of his church by a group of Quaker followers of John Rogers [Rogerenes], 8 Dec. 1765
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (New London) to Mary Byles about the truce with Rogerenes and news of his children, 7 May 1766
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. to Mary Byles about the gift of an almanac for his father, 16 Dec. 1766
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (New London) to Mary Byles about current songs, 18 Feb. 1768
Subscription of Christ Church, Boston, to send Mather Byles, Jr. to London for Episcopal ordination, 4 May 1768
Note from J. Walter (Halifax) to Mather Byles, Jr. with news of the 35th Regiment defeat, 2 Nov. 1776
Letter from Mather Brown (Peekskill) to Catherine Byles describing his trip to New York, Hessian prisoners at Worcester, and the devastation at Danbury, Conn., 3 Oct. 1777
Seven letters from Elizabeth Byles (1767-1808) to Catherine and Mary Byles describing the situation of Mather Byles, Jr.'s family in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St. John, New Brunswick, 1778-1795
Letter from Mather Brown (Hispaniola) to his aunt discussing the market for painting and describing Cape Francis and the island, 18 Apr. 1780
54 letters from Mather Byles III to Mary and Catherine Byles describing the situation of his family at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St. John, New Brunswick, 1781-1799
Letter from Mather Brown (Paris) to his aunt about the voyage from Newport, his art studies, a visit with Benjamin Franklin, Franklin's interest in helping him, and a trip to Versailles, 23 Mar. 1781
Letter from Mather Brown (London) to Catherine Byles about his art studies with Benjamin West, a visit to John Trumbull (1756-1843) in prison, and his activities in London, 10 Sep. 1781
Letter from Mather Brown (London) to his aunt describing his studies at the academy, 24 Feb. 1782
Report and distribution by regiment of Pioneers employed in the Engineers Department of the Continental army, 23 Apr. 1782
Letter from Mather Brown (London) to Catherine Byles describing his exhibition picture and public acclaim in London, 5 Aug. 1782
Note by Mather Byles, Jr. on his daughter Rebecca Byles's letter to Mary and Catherine Byles about his illness, 6 Aug. 1782
Letters from Mather Byles III to his family and Catherine Byles about his activities, primarily at Grenada, as secretary to the president and commissary general, 1783-1799
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (Halifax) to Catherine Byles about the pulpit at Halifax and family news, 14 July 1783
Letter from Mather Brown (London) to Catherine and Mary Byles about his comfortable situation in England and his fondness for Nancy Sheafe, 24 Aug. 1783
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (Halifax) to Catherine Byles about news and property values at Halifax and about confiscation of his property at Boston, 28 Oct. 1783
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (Pimlico) to Mary and Catherine Byles about a visit to England and the situation of Mather Brown, 21 June 1784
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (Pimlico) to his sister containing a journal of his visit to London, 24 July 1784
Letter from Mather Byles III to Catherine and Mary Byles describing Mather Byles, Jr.'s reasons for going to England and the establishment of New Brunswick as a Loyalist haven, 10 Sep. 1784
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (Halifax) to Mather Byles, Mary Byles, and Catherine Byles about his plans for the future, 1 June 1785
Letter from Mather Byles III to Catherine and Mary Byles describing his Loyalist circle of friends (Ward Chipman, Benjamin Marston, Jonathan Sewall, and Edward Winslow) and the construction and ascension of a balloon, 23 June 1785
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (Halifax) to Mary and Catherine Byles about news at Halifax, 1786
Letter from Mather Brown (London) to Catherine Byles about an exhibition, portraits painted, and work on theatrical subjects, July 1786
Letter from Mather Byles, Jr. (Halifax) to Mary and Catherine Byles about lightning rods and family news, 3 July 1786
Letter from Mather Byles III (Grenada) to Catherine Byles about daily life and affairs in the West Indies, 26 July 1792
Letter from Mather Byles III (Grenada) to W. J. Almon about war and the participation of black troops and his duties as commissary general, 14 Sep. 1797
Letter from Mather Byles III (London) to Catherine Byles about a visit to Mather Brown and the depressed condition of the art market, 11 Dec. 1799
Copy by Mather Byles, Jr. of the poems "The British Hero" and "To Mr. Almon," 1803
Receipt to Catherine Byles for a donation to the Boston Female Asylum, 1 Oct. 1812
Inventory of property belonging to Catherine and Mary Byles, 1814
Certificates for the Massachusetts Medical Society to William B. Almon and an honorary degree from the New Brunswick School of Medicine, 1827-1835

Preferred Citation

Byles family papers, 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:

Almon family.
Belknap, Jeremy, 1744-1798.
Brown, Mather, 1761-1831.
Byles, Catherine, 1753-1837.
Byles, Mary, 1750-1832.
Byles, Mather, 1707-1788.
Byles, Mather, 1735-1814.
Byles, Mather, 1764-1802.
Byles, Rebecca.
Rogers, John, 1648-1721.

Organizations:

First Church of Christ (New London, Conn.).

Subjects:

Account books--1759-1837.
American loyalists.
Clergy--Diaries.
Commonplace-books.
Congregational churches--Clergy.
Diaries--1790.
Grenada--Description and travel.
Halifax (N.S.)--Religious life and customs.
Inventories of decedents' estates.
London (England)--Description and travel.
Painters.
Paris (France)--Description and travel.
Poetry.
Private libraries.
Real property--New Hampshire--Amherst.
Women's commonplace-books.