Guide to the Collection
This collection consists of the business and family papers of the Boylston family of Boston and Princeton, Mass., and Bath, Bristol, and London, England, including letters, letterbooks, diaries, ledgers, and journals of merchants John (1709-1795), Thomas (1721-1798), Nicholas (1716-1771), and Ward Nicholas Boylston (1749-1828).
Thomas Boylston (1645-1696), son of Thomas Boylston (1615-1653), who emigrated to Massachusetts in 1645 and settled in Watertown, married in 1665 Mary Gardner (1648-1722).
Zabdiel Boylston (1679-1766), son of Thomas (1645-1696) and Mary (Gardner) Boylston (1648-1722), married Jerusha Minot (1679-1764) in 1706. A Brookline physician, he introduced inoculation for smallpox in 1721.
John Boylston (1709-1795), son of Zabdiel (1679-1766) and Jerusha (Minot) Boylston (1679-1764).
Thomas Boylston (d. 1739), son of Thomas (1645-1696) and Mary (Gardner) Boylston (1648-1722). A Boston saddler and shopkeeper, he married Sarah Moorcock (d. 1774) in 1715.
Nicholas Boylston (1716-1771), son of Thomas (d. 1739) and benefactor to nephew Ward Hallowell (1749-1828) upon the condition that he change his name to Ward Nicholas Boylston.
Thomas Boylston (1721-1798), a Boston merchant, son of Thomas (d. 1739) and Sarah (Moorcock) Boylston (d. 1774).
Rebecca Boylston (1727-1798), daughter of Thomas (d. 1739) and Sarah (Moorcock) Boylston (d. 1774), lived in Boston and married in 1773 Moses Gill (1734-1800), later lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.
Mary Boylston (b. 1722), daughter of Thomas (d. 1739) and Sarah (Moorcock) Boylston (d. 1774), married in 1746 Benjamin Hallowell (1724-1799), later a commissioner of customs at Boston.
Ward Hallowell (1749-1828), son of Benjamin (1724-1799) and Mary (Boylston) Hallowell (b. 1722), changed his name to Ward Nicholas Boylston to fulfill a condition of inheritance in the will of his uncle, Nicholas Boylston (1716-1771); married first Ann Molineaux (d. 1779) and second, Alicia Darrow.
Benjamin Hallowell (1761-1834), son of Benjamin (1724-1799) and Mary (Boylston) Hallowell (b. 1722), admiral in the British navy, changed his name to Carew.
Nicholas Boylston (1771-1839), son of Ward Nicholas Boylston (born Ward Hallowell) (1749-1828) and Ann Molineaux (d. 1779), married in 1794 Elizabeth Bentham (1778-1849).
John Lane Boylston (1789-1847), son of Ward Nicholas Boylston (born Ward Hallowell) (1749-1828) and Alicia Darrow, married Sally Brooks (b. 1791).
Ward Nicholas Boylston (b. 1815), son of John Lane Boylston (1789-1847) and Sally (Brooks) Boylston (b. 1791).
The Boylston family papers consist of 81 boxes of loose manuscripts, 5 boxes of volumes, 49 cased volumes, and 6 oversize containers and contain primarily the eighteenth-century personal correspondence, legal and business papers of the Boylston family of Boston and Princeton, Massachusetts, and London, Bristol, and Bath, England. Foremost in quantity are the thousands of letters, bills, receipts, wills, deeds, and inventories, together with scores of wastebooks, ledgers, journals, diaries, and letterbooks which detail the lives and commercial activities of Thomas (d. 1739), John (1709-1795), Nicholas (1716-1771), Thomas II (1721-1798), and Ward Nicholas Boylston (1749-1828), the last of whom changed his name from Ward Hallowell to fulfill a condition of inheritance from his uncle, Nicholas Boylston (1716-1771).
The collection documents the activities of the Boylston family in the American, Caribbean, and European trade, where they bought and sold miscellaneous dry goods, coffee, fish, potash, rum, sugar, wine, and whale oil. Of special note are the detailed accounts, inventories, price lists, and correspondence relating to the sugar and whale oil trade. Business partners included Timothy and Eliphalet Fitch, George Folger, Belcher Noyes, Joshua Pico, Samuel Sewall, William Smith, Benjamin Petty, Samuel Vaughn, and Jacob Wendell.
Also to be found in the Boylston family papers are letters, deeds, and other documents relating to the family's interests in Massachusetts, Maine, New Brunswick, New Hampshire, New York, and Nova Scotia lands. These include ventures in land speculation, as well as papers relating to Canadian land claimed in compensation for American property confiscated during the Revolution. Correspondents included John Erving, Thomas Goldthwait, James Lodge, James Swan, and Benning Wentworth.
As prominent Boston merchants, the Boylstons inevitably joined in the growing dispute over Parliamentary regulation and taxation of American commerce and goods. Both the business papers illustrating this traffic and the letters of friends and associates such as William Cooper, Harrison Gray, Benjamin Hallowell, Daniel Leonard, Daniel Lisle, and Charles Paxton, reflect the mounting opposition to British authority and policy. The correspondence contains discussions of the revenue acts of the 1760s and 1770s, the arrival of British troops in Boston, the battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, the subsequent progress of the war, and the impact of the war on life and conditions in Massachusetts and Great Britain.
Both John and Thomas supported the Crown in the dispute and, as a result, removed to England following the outbreak of hostilities. Both re-established their trading houses--John in Bristol and Bath and Thomas in London. Ward Nicholas Boylston, who left Boston in 1773 for a tour of Europe and the Middle East, joined them in London in 1775. Their letters and careers in England provide a vivid account of the fate of the Massachusetts Loyalists: Thomas died insolvent after attempting for nearly a quarter of a century to recover his American property; John died a lonely bachelor; and Ward returned to his native Massachusetts in 1800, settled in Roxbury and Princeton, and continued to press the family claims. Among his correspondents are John Adams, Moses Gill, Charles Bulfinch, Thomas Pelham, and Sir John Wentworth.
A substantial part of the Boylston family papers was the gift of the estate of Barbara Boylston Bean of Auburn, Maine, in November 1976.
Digital facsimiles of the logs of the sloops Sea Flower and William are available on Life at Sea, a digital publication of Adam Matthew Digital, Inc. This digital resource is available at subscribing libraries; speak to your local librarian to determine if your library has access. The MHS makes this resource available onsite; see a reference librarian for more information.
Detailed Description of the Collection
I. Loose manuscripts, 1704-1919
A. Correspondence, 1704-1919
Includes folders from the early 1800s, letters from John Lowell to Ward Nicholas Boylston, Weston Farm account notes, and a history notebook of Eliza Smith.
B. Miscellaneous papers, 1744-1869
Nathaniel Barnard, 3 May 1766 (2)
Thomas Lane Boylston and John Brooks (bill), 5 Apr. 1824
W.C. Brandram to Ward Nicholas Boylston, 3 July 1812
E. Bridgham, 2 Aug. 1771
Letter to Charles Bullfinch, 2 Sep. 1800
George Lee and Thomas Latham to Charles Bullfinch, 20 June 1812
Edward Burbank, 14 Nov. 1772
Andrew Eliot, 19 Jan. 1774
John Elmsley, 29 July 1797
Benjamin Faneuil, 20 Nov. 1778
Benjamin Hallowell, 12 May 1776
Ward Nicholas Boylston to Benjamin Hallowell, 24 Apr. 1804
John Hancock (receipts and bill), 6 May 1771; 9 Jan. 1771; 25 Jan. 1771; 7 Jan. 1773
Thomas Boylston II to Hutchinson, 11 Apr. 1782
Thomas Boylston II to Thomas Jefferson, 11 Nov. 1785; 10 Nov. 1788
Thomas Boylston II to Marquis de Lafayette, Mar. 1786; 8 July 1786
Lane, Son and Fraser, 18 Sep. 1772
Ezra Lincoln (receipt), 24 Apr. 1824
Joseph Warren (receipt), 1771
Thomas Boylston II to Joseph Willard, 4 Aug. 1790
John Winslow, 14 Oct. 1771
John Adams to Judge Dawes (copy), 9 Mar. 1821
Charles Bullfinch to Ward Nicholas Boylston, 12 Nov. 1799
George Folger Jr., bill of loading, 6 Feb. 1787
Benjamin Hallowell, 10 Jan. 1776
Inventory of goods and furniture left in the house of Benjamin Hallowell Edward Savage, 18 Feb. 1820
II. Volumes, 1688-1979
Digital facsimiles of this item are available on Life at Sea, a digital publication of Adam Matthew Digital, Inc. This digital resource is available at subscribing libraries; speak to your local librarian to determine if your library has access. The MHS makes this resource available onsite; see a reference librarian for more information.
III. Oversize material, 1758-1799
Boylston family 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
Metal and glass sign bearing name of "Dr. W.N. Boylston" [Ward Nicholas Boylston (b.
2 metal spirals
Smaller red wallet with notebook
Small round wooden box, 2-inch diameter
Large wooden box, 8" x 12"
[Ward Nicholas Boylston (b. 1815)], carte de visite, Philadelphia, Broadbent & Co.
Photographs from this collection have been removed to the Boylston family photographs. Photo. Coll. 500.22.