1658-1944; bulk: 1760-1890
Guide to the Collection
|Physical Description:||3 document
boxes, 2 bound volumes, and 1 oversize box
|Call Number:||Ms. N-1157
|Repository:||Massachusetts Historical Society
1154 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02215
This collection consists of the family and business
papers of the Murray and Robbins families, including correspondence; business
records; deeds, wills, and estate appraisals; genealogical and historical
documents; and printed material. The correspondence includes letters from
family members during the Siege of Boston and the Revolutionary War.
James Murray (1713-1781) was the son of John
Murray and Anne Bennet of Unthank, Scotland, and the brother of John Murray
(1721-1781) of Norwich and Elizabeth Murray (1726-1785), later Campbell, Smith,
and Inman. Murray emigrated to North Carolina in 1735, where he served as a
member of the North Carolina General Assembly. A merchant, he moved to Boston,
Mass. in 1765, also working in Milton, Mass. in the sugar business of his
sister's husband James Smith. Murray was a Loyalist who fled from Boston to
Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1776. He married Barbara Bennet in 1761, and his
daughter Elizabeth Murray (1756-1837) later married Edward Hutchinson
Elizabeth Murray (1726-1785), daughter of John
Murray and Anne Bennet, was born in Unthank, Scotland. In 1749, following in
the footsteps of her brother James Murray (1713-1781), she trained to be a
merchant, eventually keeping a shop in Boston selling millinery goods. She
subsequently trained other young women in the trade, including her brother
James's daughters Dorothy Murray and Elizabeth Murray, and her brother John's
daughters Mary Murray and Anne Murray. She also took care of the children of
her brother James, a Loyalist, when he left for Halifax during the Revolution.
She married first Thomas Campbell in 1755, and in 1760 she married 72-year-old
John Smith, a sugar refiner who owned an estate at Brush Hill in Milton, Mass.,
property that stayed in the Murray-Robbins family for generations. She became a
widow for the second time in 1769, marrying Ralph Inman in 1771. She died
without children in Milton, Mass. in 1785.
Dorothy Murray (1745-1837) was the daughter of
Scottish Loyalist James Murray (1713-1781). She was trained to be a shopkeeper
by her aunt, Elizabeth Murray Inman (1726-1785). In 1769 she married Rev. John
Forbes (1740-1783), a Loyalist who returned to England in 1783 and died the
same year. Dorothy and John had three sons: James Grant Forbes (1769-1825);
John Murray Forbes (1771-1831); and Ralph Bennet Forbes (1773-1824).
Mary Murray (born ca. 1754) was the oldest of the
twelve children of John Murray (1721-1792) and Mary Boyles (1730-1819) of
Norwich, England. In 1770 at the age of 16, she entered the shopkeeping trade
in Boston with her aunt, Elizabeth Murray Inman. She returned to Norwich in
1774 and kept up a regular correspondence with her aunt, Elizabeth Murray
Inman, and Edward Hutchinson Robbins, who married Mary's cousin Elizabeth
Murray in 1785.
Edward Hutchinson Robbins (1758-1829), son of
Nathaniel Robbins and Elizabeth Hutchinson, was born in Milton, Mass.
Graduating from Harvard College in 1775, he became a lawyer, a delegate to the
Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, and a state representative. After
serving as speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1793 to
1802, he became lieutenant governor of Massachusetts under Governor Caleb
Strong from 1802 to 1806. In 1811 he was appinted judge of probate for Norfolk
County. Robbins married Elizabeth Murray (1756-1837), daughter of James Murray
and Barbara Bennet, in 1785, and had five daughters and two sons, one of whom
was James Murray Robbins (1796-1885). He invested in the purchase and
settlement of lands in Passamaquoddy, now in Maine, and his name is perpetuated
in the town of Robbinston on the St. Croix River.
James Murray Robbins (1796-1885), son of Edward
Hutchinson Robbins and Elizabeth Murray, was born in Milton, Mass. He attended
Milton Academy, and in 1814 entered into partnership with his cousin John
Murray Forbes (1771-1831), U. S. Consul-General at Hamburg, Germany, and
conducted business in Europe. He also invested in real estate, buying 20,000
acres at Passamaquoddy (now in Maine) which he sold in 1834 for a large sum. He
married Frances Mary Harris, daughter of Abel Harris and Rooksby Coffin, then
bought the Brush Hill estate in Milton, Mass., where he lived for fifty years.
He served as justice of the peace as well as a Massachusetts state
representative and senator, and died in 1885 with no children.
The Murray-Robbins family papers consist of three document boxes, two cased
volumes, and one oversize box spanning the years 1658-1944, with the bulk of
the material dating from the 1760s to the late 1880s. The collection contains
the papers of the interrelated Murray and Robbins families, including
correspondence, business and financial papers, legal papers, genealogical and
historical papers, and printed material. Family correspondence is the largest
series and contains letters (removed from a bound volume) of Mary Murray (born
ca. 1754) to her aunt Elizabeth Murray Inman (1726-1785) and to her cousin
Edward Hutchinson Robbins (1758-1829); James Murray Robbins (1796-1885) to his
parents while he conducted buisines in Europe; and Dorothy Murray Forbes
(1745-1837) to various family members. A second bound volume "Legends and
Letters," contains biographical information, excerpts from Elizabeth Murray
Inman's 1770 journal, copies of letters from Christian Barnes to Elizabeth
Murray Inman, and copies of letters from Elizabeth Murray Robbins (1756-1837)
to her sister Dorothy Murray Forbes. Letters from 1775 to 1785 chronicle the
Loyalist family's financial struggles as they face property impoundments and
imprisonments, and as they strive to stay in contact with each other in
Massachusetts, Florida, England, and Scotland. Several letters mention slaves
and slavery in St. Augustine, Florida (1769) and in London (1771).
Business and financial papers include shipping records related to the
business interests of Edward Hutchinson Robbins (1758-1829), such as port
clearances and inventories of trading ships. Bills, receipts, and accounts are
also primarily those of Edward Hutchinson Robbins, but a small volume contains
an account of Dorothy Murray's expenses from 1763-1773, and other bills list
payments for goods and services provided.
Legal papers consist of wills and estate appraisals; deeds, particularly of
the Brush Hill property in Milton, Mass.; various appointments to office;
warrants for payments, and summons to appear in court.
Genealogical and historical papers contain genealogical notes, biographies,
and memoirs of the Bennet, Hutchinson, Murray, and Robbins families. Memoirs of
James Murray, James Murray Robbins, and Elizabeth Murray Inman comprise much of
Printed material consists of political pamphlets about Massachusetts
governor Caleb Strong, under whom Edward Hutchinson Robbins served as
lieutenant governor, as well as the issues of slavery and the Union. Other
pamphlets relate to the Brush Hill estate in Milton, Mass., including a speech
given by James Murray Robbins on the 200th anniversary of the town of
The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) holds the following collections
related to the Murray-Robbins family papers:
James Murray Robbins family papers, 1638-1899; bulk: 1750-1858 (Ms. N-801)
(This collection contains typescripts of several of the letters in the
Murray-Robbins family papers.)
James Murray papers, 1732-1781 P-141, (2 reels microfilm, Ms. N-571)
Dorothy Murray Forbes papers, 1768-1811 (Ms. N-49.65)
Gift of Margaret Ewing, June 2010.
The collection is organized into the following series:
|I. Murray-Robbins family correspondence, 1758-1908
|II. Business and financial papers, 1658-1849
|A. Shipping records, 1658-1804
|B. Bills, receipts, and accounts, 1763-1849
|C. James Murray Robbins letterbook, 1818-1823
|III. Legal papers, 1679-1887
|IV. Genealogical and historical papers, 1828-1912
|V. Printed material, 1711-1944
|I. Murray-Robbins family correspondence,
A large component of this series is a volume of approximately 85 letters
that have been removed from the volume due to their fragile condition. The bulk
of these letters are from Mary Murray (born ca. 1754) to her aunt, Elizabeth
Murray Inman (1726-1785), her cousin Edward Hutchinson Robbins (1758-1829), and
other family members. The disbound volume also includes correspondence between
Dorothy Murray Forbes (1745-1837), her father, James Murray (1713-1781); her
sister Elizabeth Murray Robbins (1756-1837); her aunt, Elizabeth Murray Inman;
and her sons James Grant Forbes (1769-1825), John Murray Forbes (1771-1831),
and Ralph Bennet Forbes (1773-1824). Early letters discuss shopkeeping and
other financial affairs, as well as family news, descriptions of social events,
and news of neighbors and friends. Beginning in 1775, the correspondence
chronicles the increasing difficulties the family faces as Loyalists in Boston
and Milton, Mass. as they first debate options to return to England and later
face property seizures and imprisonment. Many letters describe the family's
struggles to stay in touch with one another in Massachusetts, Florida, England,
and Scotland, and their continuing efforts to feed and clothe the family.
Of particular significance are a 1769 letter from Dorothy Murray Forbes
describing the sale of a slave woman in St. Augustine, Florida, and a 1771
letter from Henry Barnes in London discussing his slave Prince, and his
intention to bring him to America. Also of note are a 26 July 1775 notice from
Loyalist James Murray to his sister Elizabeth Murray Inman and daughter Dorothy
Murray Forbes announcing that he has obtained permission from General Howe to
visit them in Charlestown, Mass.; Dorothy Murray Forbes's 12 Dec 1775 letter to
the Mass. General Court pleading with them to return the family's seized Brush
Hill estate; and a 12 Aug 1776 letter from Elizabeth Murray Inman describing
the reading of the Declaration of Independence in church.
Also within this series are letters from James Murray Robbins (1796-1885) to
his parents Edward Hutchinson Robbins (1758-1829) and Elizabeth Murray Robbins
containing accounts of his journey to Europe and his description of the seizure
of the Spanish vessel on which he was traveling, as well as letters from Europe
where he was a business partner with his cousin John Murray Forbes (1771-1831).
Robbins' letters from Hamburg discuss the imminent resumption of war upon the
escape of Napoleon Bonaparte from exile.
The volume entitled "Legends and Letters" is a letterbook copied in several
hands. It contains genealogical narratives of Elizabeth Murray Inman and
Loyalist James Murray that were compiled by Sarah Lydia Robbins Howe
(1787-1862). The volume also contains copies of letters from Christian
Arbuthnot Barnes, a friend and fellow shopkeeper of Elizabeth Murray Inman,
written in large part to Inman from 1768 to 1781. It also contains copies of
letters from Barnes to her cousin and niece in 1784-1785. The letters discuss
family matters such as engagements, marriages, and children, references to
Prince, a slave who painted her portrait, and pre-Revolutionary War accounts of
conditions in Marlborough, Mass. Copies of letters from an unnamed niece of
Christian Barnes from Cambridge in April 1775 includes an eyewitness account of
the Siege of Boston, and copies of June 1776 letters from Elizabeth Murray
Inman to her sister Dorothy Murray Forbes describe the effects of the war in
Boston. Also included in this volume are a series of hand-drawn silhouettes,
excerpts from the 1770 journal of Elizabeth Murray Inman, and an 1854 letter of
James Murray Robbins.
|Box 1||Folders 1-7||1758-1908
|Vol. 1|| "Legends and Letters,"
|II. Business and financial papers,
Arranged chronologically and by record type.
|Box 2||Folders 1-3||A. Shipping records,
This series contains shipping records, including a copy of a 1658 survey of
landing places. Other shipping records are primarily those of Edward Hutchinson
Robbins (1758-1829), largely to and from Passamaquoddy, now a part of Maine.
Some of the the Passamaquoddy region later became the town of Robbinston, named
after Edward Hutchinson Robbins. Among these are ships' cargoes, ship repair
records, fire and marine insurance contracts and payments, and permission to
sail from various ports. The most frequently mentioned goods imported are rum,
sugar, meat, coffee, building materials, tea, and molasses.
|B. Bills, receipts, and accounts,
This series consists primarily of the bills, receipts, and accounts for
services done and goods received by Edward Hutchinson Robbins. A small volume
contains an account of Dorothy Murray's expenses from 1763-1773.
|Box 2||Folder 4||Dorothy Murray account book,
|Box 2||Folders 5-10||1779-1849
|Vol. 2||C. James Murray Robbins letterbook,
The letterbook of James Murray Robbins (1796-1885) contains copies of
letters and accounts which he kept for his trading business in Copenhagen,
Havana, and St. Petersburg.
|Box 2||Folders 11-16||III. Legal papers,
Included in this series are wills, estate inventories and probate records
for John Phillips (1763), Isaac How (1769), James Murray (1781), Edward
Hutchinson Robbins (1830), and James Murray Robbins (1885). Deeds and leases,
comprising the largest category of legal documents, date from 1679 and relate
largely to the Brush Hill farm in Milton, Mass., which became the family home
for the Murrays in 1760. Appointments to office include Edward Hutchinson
Robbins as chief justice of the court of common pleas of Norfolk County and as
justice of the peace, James Murray Robbins' appointments as justice of the
peace, and certificates of James Murray Robbins' election as a state senator in
1840. Many of the items in this series, especially land records and
appointments to office, are housed in the oversize box.
Of particular interest is a ca. 1769 proposal from James Murray (1713-1781)
to attorney John Hancock on behalf of John Mein regarding the lawsuit
Longman v. Mein.
|Box 2||Folders 12-33||IV. Genealogical and historical papers,
This series includes a typescript copy of the 1783 property inventory of
Loyalist James Murray (1713-1781); handwritten and typescript copies of an 1839
memorial of James Murray (1713-1781); a 1901 handwritten memoir and a biography
of James Murray Robbins (1796-1885); a 1910 lecture on Milton Academy by Edward
Hutchinson Robbins (1758-1829); undated genealogical notes on the descendants
of John Murray (1720-1792), founder of Norwich hospital and brother to James
Murray and Elizabeth Murray Inman; an undated handwritten memorial of Elizabeth
Murray Inman; and undated genealogical notes on the Hutchinson and Bennet
Additional genealogical and historical accounts of James Murray and
Elizabeth Murray Inman can be found in Volume 1, "Legends and Letters", in
|IV. Printed material,
Arranged chronologically and by size.
Consisting largely of pamphlets and memoirs, this series also contains a
1771 sermon by Increase Mather for John Foster, great-grandfather of Edward
Hutchinson Robbins, a 1762 sermon by Joseph Sewall, and an oversize 1796 map of
Some of the 1803-1806 pamphlets relate to Massachusetts governor Caleb
Strong, under whom Edward Hutchinson Robbins served as lieutenant governor.
Others relate to Milton, Mass., including an 1809 pamphlet about small pox
inoculation in Milton and an 1862 speech delivered by James Murray Robbins on
the 200th anniversary of that town. Other pamphlets dated from 1819 to 1832
demostrate the family's interest in slavery and abolition.
Some genealogical information can be found in several 1885 memorials of
James Murray Robbins as well as an 1885 printed copy of his will; a 1901
pamphlet on Anne Hutchinson, and a 1914 article "Hutchinson Ancestry and
Descendants of William and Anne Hutchinson" in The New
York Genealogical and Biographical Record.
|Box 3||Folder 1||Increase Mather. Sermon,
|Box 3||Folder 2||Joseph Sewall. Sermon,
|Box 3||Folders 2-19||1762-1944
Murray-Robbins family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in
the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers
desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should
search the catalog using these headings.
|Barnes, Christian Arbuthnot.
| Forbes, Dorothy Murray, 1745-1837.
| Forbes, James G. (James Grant),
| Forbes, John Murray, 1771-1831.
|Forbes, Ralph Bennet, 1773-1824.
|Murray, Elizabeth, 1726-1785.
| Murray, James, 1713-1781.
|Murray, Mary, b.1754.
|Robbins, Edward Hutchinson,
|Robbins, Elizabeth Murray, 1756-1837.
| Robbins, James Murray, 1796-1885.
|Napoleanic Wars, 1800-1815.
|Transatlantic voyages--19th century.
1775-1783--Confiscations and contributions.
A framed silhouette of James Smith, Esq., husband of Elizabeth Murray
(1726-1785) has been removed to the Massachusetts Historical Society silhouette
Photographs and Engravings Removed
Photographs of portraits and engravings from this collection have been
removed to the Massachusetts Historical Society photographic archives.
Printed Materials Removed
Book of Common Prayer and Sacraments. Includes
James Murray's bookplate.
Bevans, William and United States Circuit Court (Massachusetts).
Sketch of the Trial of William Bevans, for the Murder of
Peter Lunstrum on board the United States' Ship Independence on the 6th of
November, 1816. Boston:
Dean, John Ward. History of the Gerrymander. In
The New England Historical and Genealogical Register:
Shattuck, George O. Brush Hill and Hyde Park.
Teele, A. K. Five Reasons Why Brush Hill Should Not be
Set Off From Milton, to the Proposed Town of Hyde Park. 186[?]