Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the business and family papers of the Boylston family of Boston and Princeton, Massachusetts, 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).

Biographical Sketches

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).

Collection Description

The Boylston family papers consist of 86 document boxes, 59 cased volumes, and 6 oversize boxes and contain primarily the 18th-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.

Acquisition Information

A substantial part of the Boylston family papers was the gift of the estate of Barbara Boylston Bean of Auburn, Maine, in November 1976.

Other Formats

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

Box 1
Box 2

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.

Box 3
Box 4
1771-June 1772
Box 5
July 1772-June 1773
Box 6
July 1773-1774
Box 7
Box 8
Box 9
January-September 1779
Box 10
October 1779-June 1780
Box 11
July 1780-August 1781
Box 12
September 1781-1782
Box 13
1783-June 1784
Box 14
July 1784-May 1785
Box 15
June-October 1785
Box 16
November 1785-April 1786
Box 17
May-October 1786
Box 18
November 1786-May 1787
Box 19
June-October 1787
Box 20
November 1787-April 1788
Box 21
May-September 1788
Box 22
October 1788-March 1789
Box 23
April-August 1789
Box 24
September 1789-February 1790
Box 25
March-October 1790
Box 26
November 1790-May 1791
Box 27
June-December 1791
Box 28
January-August 1792
Box 29
September 1792-June 1793
Box 30
July 1793-May 1794
Box 31
June 1794-February 1795
Box 32
March-November 1795
Box 33
December 1795-July 1796
Box 34
August 1796-March 1797
Box 35
April-November 1797
Box 36
December 1797-1798
Box 37
Box 38
Box 39
January-August 1801
Box 40
September 1801-August 1802
Box 41
September 1802-1803
Box 42
Box 43
1806-February 1807
Box 44
March 1807-August 1808
Box 45
September 1808-1809
Box 46
Box 47
1811-April 1812
Box 48
May 1812-1813
Box 49
1814-May 1815
Box 50
June 1815-May 1816
Box 51
June 1816-June 1817
Box 52
July 1817-March 1818
Box 53
April 1818-March 1819
Box 54
April-December 1819
Box 55
Box 56
1821-August 1822
Box 57
September 1822-September 1823
Box 58
October 1823-October 1824
Box 59
November 1824-1825
Box 60
Box 61
Box 62
Box 63

B. Miscellaneous papers, 1744-1869

Box 64
Princeton Farm papers, 1811-1831
Box 65
Shipping papers, bills, receipts, and correspondence, 1770-1795
Box 66
Shipping papers, bills, receipts, and correspondence for the Amelia, 1796-1800
Box 67
Weston Farm (run by Solomon Houghton), 1810-1818
Box 68
Business correspondence between the Boylstons and Eliphalet Fitch & Co., 1768-1792
Box 69
Papers of the Thomas Boylston II estate, 1810-1839
Box 70Folder 1-5
Ward Nicholas Boylston, 1766-1825
Box 70Folder 6-9
Correspondence between Ward Nicholas Boylston and the Adams family
Box 70Folder 10
Documentation of Thomas Boylston's house sale ("Mansion House") and correspondence between Sewall and Boylston
Box 70Folder 11-13
Receipts from and correspondence between the Boylstons and various individuals, arranged alphabetically

1 unknown
Nathaniel Barnard, 3 May 1766 (2)
Thomas Lane Boylston and John Brooks (bill), 5 April 1824
W. C. Brandram to Ward Nicholas Boylston, 3 July 1812
E. Bridgham, 2 August 1771
Letter to Charles Bullfinch, 2 September 1800
George Lee and Thomas Latham to Charles Bullfinch, 20 June 1812
Edward Burbank, 14 November 1772
Andrew Eliot, 19 January 1774
John Elmsley, 29 July 1797
Benjamin Faneuil, 20 November 1778
Benjamin Hallowell, 12 May 1776
Ward Nicholas Boylston to Benjamin Hallowell, 24 April 1804
John Hancock (receipts and bill), 6 May 1771; 9 January 1771; 25 January 1771; 7 January 1773
Thomas Boylston II to Hutchinson, 11 April 1782
Thomas Boylston II to Thomas Jefferson, 11 November 1785; 10 November 1788
Thomas Boylston II to Marquis de Lafayette, March 1786; 8 July 1786
Lane, Son and Fraser, 18 September 1772
Ezra Lincoln (receipt), 24 April 1824
Joseph Warren (receipt), 1771
Thomas Boylston II to Joseph Willard, 4 August 1790
John Winslow, 14 October 1771

Box 70Folder 14
Correspondence between the Boylston family and Harvard University, 1790-1819
Box 70Folder 15-18
Letters from J. Nicholls to the Boylstons
Box 70Folder 19
Papers from the Office of the Inspector of Imports/Exports and the Register of Shipping
Box 71Folder 1
Correspondence, etc.

John Adams to Judge Dawes (copy), 9 March 1821
Charles Bullfinch to Ward Nicholas Boylston, 12 November 1799
George Folger Jr., bill of loading, 6 February 1787
Benjamin Hallowell, 10 January 1776
Inventory of goods and furniture left in the house of Benjamin Hallowell Edward Savage, 18 February 1820

Box 71Folder 2-10
Ward Nicholas Boylston, 1744-1818
Box 71Folder 11
Boylston notes, checks, and receipts
Box 71Folder 12-14
Shipping papers of the Orion, 1797-1799
Box 71Folder 15
Boston Marine Society, 1775
Box 71Folder 16
Business papers of dealings between Robert Cribb, Samuel Vaughn, and Benjamin Hallowell, 1753-1789
Box 71Folder 17
Autographs--Samuel Clap, Peter Farrar, Joseph Russell
Box 71Folder 18
Moses Gill accounts
Box 71Folder 19
Correspondence between Hallowell and Lane to Ward Nicholas Boylston
Box 71Folder 20
John Boylston accounts
Box 71Folder 21
Hallowell receipts (from John Stockdale, Wm. Tubb, E. Hoskins)
Box 72
John Quincy Adams's papers of the Ward Nicholas Boylston estate (Adams served as an executor), including one letter from Abigail Adams, 1783-1844
Box 73
Benjamin Hallowell (1760-1834) (Ward Nicholas Boylston's brother), including letters, accounts, and receipts, 1749-1821
Box 74
Asher Benjamin papers (Ward Nicholas Boylston's agent for the construction of the Princeton house), including correspondence, receipts, and accounts between Ward Nicholas Boylston and Asher Benjamin, 1815-1823
Box 75
Papers of the John Boylston (1709-1795) estate, 1794-1804
Box 76
Papers of the Ward Nicholas Boylston estate, including bills, receipts, and correspondence between executors, 1810-1828
Box 77
Ward Nicholas Boylston estate, 1829-1834
Box 78
Ward Nicholas Boylston estate, 1835-1869
Box 79
Trade cards (with receipts written on them)
Box 80
Printed material
Box 81
Papers of the Lady Lyttleton estate (Ward Nicholas Boylston was the executor), 1775-1800

II. Volumes, 1688-1979

Box 82Vol. 1
Wastebook, 1688-1708
Box 82Vol. 2
Wastebook, 1707-1716
Box 82Vol. 3
Ward Nicholas Boylston memo book from trip to Cairo, 1774
Box 82Vol. 4
Balance book, [1786]
Box 82Vol. 5
Expense book, 1787-1788
Box 82Vol. 6
Thomas Boylston II ledger at Langston's, 1788-1791
Box 83Vol. 7
Ward Nicholas Boylston receipt book, 1770-1792
Box 83Vol. 8
Thomas Boylston and Ward Nicholas Boylston (Boylston, Davies, and Boylston) receipt book, 1784-1785
Box 83Vol. 9
Thomas Boylston II and Ward Nicholas Boylston receipt book, 1786-1787
Box 84Vol. 10
Thomas Boylston II and Ward Nicholas Boylston receipt book, 1787-1789
Box 84Vol. 11
Thomas Boylston II receipt book, 1789-1791
Box 84Vol. 12
Alicia B. Boylston (wife of Ward Nicholas Boylston) autograph book, 1838-1846
Box 85Vol. 13
[Index of Boylston accounts], undated
Box 85Vol. 14
[Index of Boylston accounts], undated
Box 85Vol. 15
Samuel Moorcock sailing and navigational journal of trips to North Carolina and from Boston to the Bahamas, 1711-1713

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.

Box 85Vol. 16
[Thomas Boylston] ledger, 1711-1713
Box 85Vol. 17
Invoice book, 1730s
Box 85Vol. 18
Ward Nicholas Boylston letterbook, 1770-1773
Box 85Vol. 19
Ward Nicholas Boylston diary of travels to Europe and the East, 1773-1774
Box 85Vol. 20
Ward Nicholas Boylston diary of travels to Europe and the East, 1774-1775
Box 85Vol. 21
Expense book, 1776
Box 85Vol. 22
N[icholas] Bolyston expense book, 1777
Box 85Vol. 23
List of sugar refiners in London, 1779
Box 85Vol. 24
Thomas Boylston II wastebook (London), 1781-1783
Box 86Vol. 25
Thomas Boylston II wastebook (London), 1783-1787
Box 86Vol. 26
[Thomas Boylston II] ledger, "Cash General," 1784-1786
Box 86Vol. 27
[Thomas Boylston II] ledger, "Cash at Langston's," 1784-1786
Box 86Vol. 28
Ward Nicholas Boylston sugar ledger, 1785-1786
Box 86Vol. 29
Ward Nicholas Boylston and Thomas Boylston II sugar account book, 1786-1787
Box 86Vol. 30
Ward Nicholas Boylston and Thomas Boylston II sugar account book, 1787-1788
Box 86Vol. 31
Ward Nicholas Boylston ledger/accounts, 1791-1807
Box 86Vol. 32
Thomas Boylston II letterbook (letters to Moses Gill), 3 January 1792-10 September 1798
Box 86Vol. 33
"Ripley Book," 1795
Box 86Vol. 34
Balance book, 31 October [17]96
Box 86Vol. 35
"Petty Expenses and Charges paid for Benjamin Hallowell," 1796-1797
Box 86Vol. 36
Balance book, 30 April 1798
Box 86Vol. 37
Estate of Benjamin Hallowell, 1799-?
Box 86Vol. 38
Estate of Thomas Boylston II, 1799-1817
Box 86Vol. 39
Journal of trip from London to Boston of the Galen, Capt. Seward, March-April 1800 (1 vol. and folios)
Box 86Vol. 40
Ward Nicholas Boylston ledger ("Brandram-Templeman account"), 1806-1836
Box 86Vol. 41
"New Stores on Milk Street" wastebook, 1834-1836
Box 86Vol. 42
Account book, 1879
Vol. 43
[Thomas Boylston] ledger, 1697-1722
Vol. 44
[Thomas Boylston] wastebook, 1700-1721
Vol. 45
[Thomas Boylston] ledger and wastebook, 1704-1729
Vol. 46
Thomas Boylston ledger, 1712-1715
Vol. 47
[Samuel Moorcock] (Thomas Boylston's father-in-law) ledger, 1714-1716
Vol. 48
Thomas Boylston wastebook, 1715-1725
Vol. 49
Thomas Boylston wastebook, 1715-1726
Vol. 50
Thomas Boylston ledger, 1716-1725
Vol. 51 (XT)
Thomas Boylston ledger, 1716-1735
Vol. 52
Thomas Boylston ledger, 1720-1725
Vol. 53 (XT)
Thomas Boylston wastebook, 1725-1733
Vol. 54 (OS)
Thomas Boylston wastebook (Boston), 1731-1735Stored in Oversize.
Vol. 55
[Thomas Boylston] wastebook, 1732-1734
Vol. 56 (OS)
[Thomas Boylston] wastebook (Boston), 1735-1738Stored in Oversize.
Vol. 57 (XT)
[Thomas Boylston II] ledger, 1735-1767
Vol. 58
[John Boylston] ledger, 1735-1795
Vol. 59 (XT)
Thomas Boylston wastebook, 1736-1738
Vol. 60 (XT)
[Thomas Boylston II] wastebook (Boston), 1738-1767
Vol. 61
John Boylston ledger, 1745-1758
Vol. 62
Thomas Boylston II ledger, 1753-1766
Vol. 63
[Ward Nicholas Boylston] wastebook, 1754-1759
Vol. 64
Thomas Boylston II wastebook, 1757-1767
Vol. 65
Thomas Boylston II ledger, 1760-1771
Vol. 66
Thomas Boylston II wastebook, 1766-1770
Vol. 67
[Daniel Lisle] letterbook, 1768-1773; [Ward Nicholas Boylston], letterbook, 1790-1793
Vol. 68
John Boylston letterbook, 1768-1789
Vol. 69 (XT)
[John Boylston] wastebook (London, Bath), 1768-1793
Vol. 70 (XT)
[John Boylston] ledger, 1768-1793
Vol. 71
Thomas Boylston II ledger, 1769-1777
Vol. 72
John Boylston ledger, 1769-1778; letterbook, 1789-1794
Vol. 73
[Thomas Boylston II] wastebook, 1770-1778
Vol. 74
[Thomas Boylston II] wastebook, 1770-1773; Ward Nicholas Boylston receipts and accounts, 1808-1811
Vol. 75
[Thomas Boylston II] wastebook, 1770-1789
Vol. 76
Ward Nicholas Boylston wastebook (London), 1771-1796
Vol. 77
Thomas Boylston II wastebook, 1772-1778
Vol. 78
Ward Nicholas Boylston deed book, 1773-1807
Vol. 79
Book of correspondence between Thomas Boylston II and Moses Gill, 1780-1799
Vol. 80 (XT)
[Ward Nicholas Boylston] wastebook (London), 1784-1786
Vol. 81 (XT)
[Ward Nicholas Boylston] wastebook (London), 1784-1786
Vol. 82 (XT)
Ward Nicholas Boylston sugar account book (London), 1786-1787
Vol. 83 (XT)
[Ward Nicholas Boylston] wastebook (London), 1786-1788
Vol. 84 (XT)
[Ward Nicholas Boylston] wastebook (London), 1786-1788
Vol. 85 (XT)
[Ward Nicholas Boylston] ledger, 1786-1788
Vol. 86
[Ward Nicholas Boylston] ledger (West India and Charleston accounts), 1786-1795
Vol. 87
[Thomas Boylston II] account book (overdue accounts), 1787
Vol. 88
Thomas Boylston II wastebook (London), 1787-1791
Vol. 89
[Thomas Boylston II] petty cash book, 1787-1793
Vol. 90
[Ward Nicholas Boylston] ledger, 1787-1800
Vol. 91
Thomas Boylston II wastebook (London), 1788-1791
Vol. 92
Thomas Boylston II ledger, 1788-1793
Vol. 93
Thomas Boylston II account book, "Warehouse Book" (London), 1790-1792
Vol. 94
Ward Nicholas Boylston, estate of Benjamin Hallowell, 1791-1810
Vol. 95
Ward Nicholas Boylston letterbook, 1796-1800
Vol. 96
[Ward Nicholas Boylston] ledger, 1800-1806
Vol. 97
Ward Nicholas Boylston ledger, 1802-1811
Vol. 98
[Ward Nicholas Boylston] farm journal (at Princeton Farm), 1825-1827
Vol. 99
Letterbook for the estate of Ward Nicholas Boylston, 1828-1851
Vol. 100
"Preliminary Architectural-Historical Analysis of Ward Nicholas Boylston House, ca. 1818-1819, Princeton, MA," by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, November 1979
Vol. 101
Blue binder of Boylston genealogical information

III. Oversize material, 1758-1799

Box OS 1
Parchments, deeds of saleStored in Extra Oversize.
Box OS 2
Thomas Boylston II business records, invoices, legal dispute case records, contracts, 1767-1793; 3 copies of last will; insurance policies, business records, 1767-1775, that bear the name John Boylston
Box OS 3
Correspondence, accounts, deeds, broadsides, certificates, shipping papers, plans, printed maps, and hand-drawn maps; Ward Nicholas Boylston papers; Benjamin Hallowell accounts, 1758-1762
Box OS 4
Wills, diplomas, correspondence, printed material, legal and business papers, invoices, deeds, and estate papers; contracts involving Thomas Boylston II
Box OS 5
Accounts, legal and business papers, papers on rice experiment; 1799 will of Thomas Boylston II (in a decorative blue case)
Box OS 6
Copy of a Massachusetts State Act, business and legal papers, bankruptcy papers, estate papers, accounts, deeds, and printed material

Preferred Citation

Boylston 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.


Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848.
Benjamin, Asher, 1773-1845.
Boylston, John, 1709-1795.
Boylston, Nicholas, 1716-1771.
Boylston, Thomas, 1721-1798.
Boylston, Ward Nicholas, 1749-1828.
Fitch, Eliphalet.
Folger, George.
Gill, Moses, 1734-1800.
Hallowell, Benjamin, 1724-1799.
Paxton, Charles, 1708-1788.
Smith, William.
Vaughan, Benjamin, 1751-1835.
Vaughan, Petty, 1788-1854.
Vaughan, Samuel.
Wendell, Jacob, 1691-1761.


Account books.
American loyalists.
Bath (England)--Commerce.
Bristol (England)--Commerce.
Coffee industry.
Family history--1750-1799.
Family history--1800-1849.
London (England)--Commerce.
Princeton (Mass.).
Rum industry.
Sugar trade.
Potash industry and trade.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Causes.
Whale oil trade.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Museum Objects

Metal and glass sign bearing name of "Dr. W.N. Boylston" [Ward Nicholas Boylston (b. 1815)]
Small padlock
2 metal spirals
Brown wallet
Black wallet
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.