Guide to the Collection
This collection consists of the papers of Unitarian minister and historian George E. Ellis, including correspondence; addresses, sermons, and lectures; research papers; diaries; records of the Harvard Church (Charlestown, Mass.); and other volumes and papers.
George Edward Ellis was a Unitarian minister and historian from Boston, Mass. The son of David and Sarah (Rogers) Ellis, he graduated from Harvard in 1833 and from Harvard Theological School in 1836. After a tour of Europe in 1838-1839, he preached at various churches in the Boston area until his ordination as minister of Harvard Church in Charlestown, Mass. in 1840. He served there for nearly 30 years, resigning in 1869. From 1857 to 1863, he was Professor of Systematic Theology at the Harvard Divinity School. He wrote and lectured on American history and religion and served as editor of the Christian Register and the Christian Examiner. He was also a member of several historical societies, a Harvard overseer, and a trustee of the Massachusetts General Hospital. He served as vice president of the Massachusetts Historical Society from 1877 to 1885, and as president from 1885 until his death in 1894.
Ellis married Elizabeth Bruce Eager in 1840. They had one child, John Harvard Ellis (1841-1870), before she died in 1842. Ellis remarried in 1859 to Lucretia Goddard Gould (1831-1869).
This collection consists of the papers of Unitarian minister and historian George E. Ellis, including personal and professional correspondence; manuscript addresses, sermons, and lectures; miscellaneous papers related to his research on Quakers, Count Rumford, and other subjects; diaries, including European travel diaries, 1838-1839; pew and parish records of the Harvard Church, Charlestown, Mass.; account books; school notebooks; scrapbooks and inventories; and other volumes. Many of the papers relate to his education and professorship at Harvard, his years as minister of the Harvard Church, and his work with the Massachusetts Historical Society. The collection also contains a diary of Ellis's second wife Lucretia Goddard (Gould) Ellis; a genealogy of the Ellis and Rogers families by his son John H. Ellis; pew deeds of New South (Sixth) Church; and manuscript writings of minister George W. Webster of Wheeling, W.Va.
Bequest of George E. Ellis, 1895.
Detailed Description of the Collection
I. Loose papers, 1769-1897
A. Correspondence, 1773-1895
This subseries consists primarily of the correspondence of George E. Ellis, as well as some financial and other miscellaneous papers and printed matter. The subseries is arranged in two chronological sequences, 1773-1895 and 1812-1894 (the second was formerly a bound volume of tipped-in manuscripts), but both sequences contain letters by many of the same individuals. Correspondents include Charles Francis Adams, Jr.; Henry W. Bellows; Andrew Bigelow; Charles Deane; F. Gordon Dexter; George N. Eaton; Edward Everett; Frederick A. Farley; Nathaniel L. Frothingham; Octavius B. Frothingham; Ezra Stiles Gannett; Ellen M. Gifford; George S. Hale; Thomas W. Higginson; George Frisbie Hoar; Oliver Wendell Holmes; Houghton, Mifflin & Co.; John Jay; Levi Lincoln; Samuel K. Lothrop; George H. Moore; George R. Noyes; Samuel Osgood; John G. Palfrey; Theodore Parker; Francis Parkman; J. Parkman; George Putnam; Eliza Susan Quincy; Josiah Quincy; Chandler Robbins; Cornelia Van Rensselaer Thayer; George Ticknor; Henry W. Torrey; Charles W. Upham; James Walker; Robert C. Waterston; Justin Winsor; Robert C. Winthrop; Alexander Young; Edward J. Young; and many others.
Among the family members represented are George's wife Lucretia Goddard (Gould) Ellis, son John H. Ellis, daughter-in-law Grace Atkinson (Little) Ellis, brother Rufus Ellis, brothers-in-law Benjamin Apthorp Gould and Horace McMurtrie, sisters-in-law Mary Apthorp (Quincy) Gould and Louisa Goddard (Gould) McMurtrie, and niece Lucy. Included are many letters from Lucretia Ellis to Mrs. Eager, probably Eliza Eager, the mother of George Ellis's first wife, as well as letters from Eliza Eager to George. The disbound volume also contains deeds for pews in the New South Meeting House and requests for prayers.
The subseries also contains a box of index cards (Box 13A) listing most of Ellis's correspondents, arranged alphabetically. Each card describes a single letter. Researchers looking for correspondence of a specific individual may want to consult these cards to find the dates of letters.
This box includes a letter to Ellis from Helen Keller, 27 Apr. 1891. Click here to view this letter online.
B. Addresses, sermons, and lectures, 1836-1875
This subseries contains manuscript addresses, sermons, and lectures by Ellis. Many of the sermons include annotations on when and where they were delivered.
C. Miscellaneous papers, 1769-1897
These papers relate to a dispute over the ownership of the Thomas Hutchinson papers at the MHS, originally donated by Alden Bradford. The Massachusetts legislature argued that the papers were state property, and the MHS ultimately lost their case and returned the collection to the state.
Included are drafts of poetry and prose writings by George Washington Webster (1823-1872). A note by Ellis reads: "These manuscripts were sent to me, to keep in charge, by the Rev. G. W. Webster, once Unitarian minister of Wheeling, Va. A man of much, but erratic, genius. He had received my help for his Family. He was deranged."
These papers relate to Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford (1753-1814), and consist primarily of correspondence of his daughter Sarah Thompson, Countess Rumford (1774-1852). Included are a number of letters from her to James Fowle Baldwin (1782-1862). Ellis wrote the Memoir of Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford (1871).
II. Volumes, 1819-1895
A. Diaries, 1833-1894
This subseries contains the diaries of George E. Ellis, kept primarily at Charlestown and Boston, including 8 line-a-day diaries in printed almanacs, 1833-1842; a volume entitled "Original Thoughts &c," 1835-1869; 7 volumes documenting his trip to Europe, 1838-1839; and 25 pocket diaries, 1858-1894. The line-a-day diaries contain brief entries, primarily noting various churches where he preached each week, but also including some entries related to his Harvard education and lectures attended. The volume entitled "Original Thoughts" is partly a memoranda book with notes on his reading and religious reflections, 1835. Diary entries in that volume date from 1836 and 1839-1869 and describe his daily activities, news of family members, etc. Ellis's trip to Europe, 1838-1839, is covered in 7 volumes, including 5 diaries, one memoranda book, and one manuscript sightseeing guide entitled "Sketch of a Tour thro. Europe." The 5 travel diaries contain detailed descriptions of sights seen in England, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and France. The 25 pocket diaries, 1858-1894, document Ellis's daily activities, social calls, news of family members, his writing work, and his participation in local organizations.
The subseries also contains one diary of Lucretia Goddard Gould before her marriage to Ellis, kept primarily in Roxbury and Boston, Mass. Entries describe Goddard and Gould family matters, social calls, lessons, her thoughts on sermons she heard, and her efforts at self-improvement. The volume also contains Latin exercises from Mr. Weisse's school, 1845, and miscellaneous memoranda.
Available on microfilm, P-306.
Available on microfilm, P-306.
Available on microfilm, P-306.
B. Harvard Church volumes, 1840-1873
This subseries consists of volumes related to the Harvard Church in Charlestown, Mass., where Ellis preached from 1840 to 1869. Included are two lists of pew owners, records of the Ministry at Large, 16 small paperbound volumes documenting Ellis's visits to members of the parish, and an undated list of parish members with some annotations.
This volume contains meeting minutes and reports of the Harvard Church Ministry at Large. Nathaniel S. Folsom was appointed minister at large in 1846, and Oliver C. Everett succeeded him in 1850.
C. Financial volumes, 1836-1894
D. School notebooks, 1830s-1860
This volume contains records of meetings of class members after graduation, details of their ordinations, and printed matter.
E. Scrapbooks, 1819-1893
F. Inventories, undated and 1895
G. Printed volumes, 1844-1895
H. Miscellaneous volumes, 1830s-1870
This manuscript volume, written in French in an unidentified hand and bound in vellum, was purchased by Ellis from a dealer, ca. 1873.
Included are Theodore Parker, Lydia Cabot, L. A. Ellis (probably George E. Ellis's sister Lucy), and George's first wife Elizabeth B. Eager.
This volume contains meeting minutes kept by Ellis during his tenure as Professor of Systematic Theology, as well as subjects of lectures and discussions.
This volume of George E. Ellis's son John contains a genealogy of the Rogers family, a biography of Sarah (Rogers) Ellis, a copy of the will of David Ellis, and other material.
The full title reads: "Sketches of the Late Count Rumford; mostly of which not before published. This collection begun and finished in 1851 at Concord New Hampshire, by his Daughter. Copied at the request of Mr. Joseph B. Walker, by Emma G. Burgum the 5th February 1870." Included is a biography and copies of correspondence.
George E. Ellis papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
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.
Materials Removed from the Collection
Photographs from this collection have been removed to the Ellis family photographs (Photo. Coll. 500.43).