Guide to the Microfilm Edition

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of Timothy Pickering, Revolutionary army officer and statesman, and includes correspondence, business and legal documents, and other papers, as well as some papers of Pickering's sons John, Henry, and Octavius.

Biographical Sketch and Timeline

Biographical Sketch

Timothy Pickering (1745-1829) spent his youth on his family's farm in Salem, Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard in 1763, he returned to Salem, where he became a prominent figure in the town, holding a variety of local offices. As colonel of the local militia, he set out to improve troop discipline. He argued with a local doctor over his management of smallpox inoculation in the town, and the doctor challenged him to a duel. He also criticized the theological conservatism of the local minister and eventually withdrew from his church. In all these controversies, Pickering defended his position in the local newspaper.

When the Revolution broke out, Pickering was well prepared. Though his militia arrived too late to fight in the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, he took an active part in the defense of the New England coast and, late in 1776, led a contingent to join George Washington's army in New York. For the most part, however, Pickering's career during the war was in administration rather than on the field of combat. He attracted Washington's attention and was appointed adjutant general. He then served on the Board of War and, in 1780, became quartermaster general. Before he left the post in 1785, he had prepared comprehensive plans for a peacetime military establishment.

In 1783, Pickering had sided with the instigators of the "Newburgh Revolt" and resented the charges made against them. By the end of the Revolution, weary of public service and its insufficient pay, he left the quartermaster generalship and began a trading operation with his friend Samuel Hodgdon, a merchant in Philadelphia. By 1785, he had acquired a large speculative interest in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania. When that area was organized as Luzerne County, with its seat at Wilkes-Barre, Pickering secured a blanket appointment to the county offices. Charged by the state authorities with settling conflicting land claims and establishing order, he found himself in the middle of the dispute between the Connecticut and Pennsylvania claimants. On one occasion, he was kidnapped by the Connecticut faction and kept prisoner in the woods. Unable to convince Pickering to recognize their claim, they let him go after twenty days.

In 1790, with the removal of the capital to Philadelphia, Pickering, who was having some difficulty supporting his family as a farmer, applied to Washington for a position in the federal government. One of the most significant problems facing the new government was establishing and maintaining diplomatic relations with North America's sovereign Indigenous nations, and the president asked Pickering to undertake negotiations with the Seneca Nation in western Pennsylvania. Pickering, an able negotiator with an interest in developing a more humane policy towards Native American nations, successfully concluded negotiations, as well as a later diplomatic mission to the entire Haudenosaunee Confederacy which culminated in the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua. These successes led Washington to name him postmaster general, then secretary of war, and finally secretary of state. As postmaster general, Pickering increased the efficiency of the postal system, and as secretary of war, he oversaw the build-up of the navy that would prove so important in the undeclared war with France a few years later.

Pickering's career as secretary of state, however, was less auspicious. Having played a leading role in the dismissal of Edmund Randolph, his predecessor, Pickering served as acting secretary of state, as well as secretary of war, while Washington searched for a permanent appointment. After an unsuccessful search, Washington asked Pickering to step down as secretary of war and accept the state position on a permanent basis. As secretary of state, Pickering supervised the implementation of Jay's Treaty, which he did so effectively that when John Adams succeeded Washington as president, Pickering was asked to remain at his post. He held the office until just before Adams left office.

The major diplomatic issue during Pickering's tenure as secretary of state was Franco-American relations. Pickering was strongly opposed to the French Revolution and the pro-French Jeffersonians. He quarreled with the French minister Pierre-Auguste Adet, helping to bring about the minister's recall and the rupture of diplomatic relations with France. He had a similar quarrel with the Spanish minister Carlos Martinez de Yrujo y Tacon. After the failure of the XYZ mission--a move he had opposed--Pickering was angry at Elbridge Gerry for remaining in Paris and quarreled with President Adams over the question of censuring Gerry. With the publication of the XYZ dispatches and the ensuing war fever, Pickering became one of the main architects of the Federalist policy that sought war with France, as well as a strong supporter of the Alien and Sedition Acts. More and more estranged from John Adams, he opposed the president's nominations of William S. Smith and Henry Knox as adjutant general and second-in-command of the army. When Adams proposed a new mission to France, Pickering tried to block the program. He secretly conferred with Alexander Hamilton and other leading Federalists, reporting to them what went on in cabinet meetings with the president. Because of Pickering's continued opposition, Adams dismissed him from office in May 1800.

For the rest of Pickering's public career, as senator and representative, he remained a fervent anti-Jeffersonian. He was dismayed by the election of Thomas Jefferson and by Republican control of Congress, and he strongly opposed the Louisiana Purchase, fearing that as western states multiplied in number, New England would lose significance on the national stage. Pickering even considered secession, borrowing the basic principle of Jefferson's own "compact theory" to justify the move. Though he could find little support for his separatist movement in 1804 and was forced to lay it aside, his opposition to Jefferson continued. In a famous letter to Governor James Sullivan in 1808, Pickering wrote a powerful attack on the Embargo Act.

When the War of 1812 broke out, Pickering urged the New England states to refuse to cooperate with the federal government or to supply any troops or money to the war effort. Once again, he weighed the possibility of secession, but his position was too extreme, even for his supporters, and the Treaty of Ghent and the battle of New Orleans put to rest any lingering hopes of a separate union.

Pickering's last years were spent in Salem as one of the town's leading citizens. He pursued his life-long interest in agriculture and encouraged scientific farming, agricultural fairs, animal husbandry, and the development of a new type of plow. In his spare time, he began to assemble documentary material from which he planned to write a history of the Revolution and the early days of the Republic, but he didn't live to complete the project. He still occasionally became involved in political controversy. When letters between John Adams and William Cunningham were published in 1824, Pickering wrote a rebuttal of many of the statements made in them. And in 1828, when John Quincy Adams was running for re-election, Pickering endorsed his opponent Andrew Jackson.

Biographical Timeline

17 July 1745
Born in Salem, Massachusetts.
Graduated from Harvard College.
Admitted to the bar.
Held several offices in Salem, including membership in the Committee of Correspondence.
Elected colonel in the Essex County militia.
8 Apr. 1776
Married Rebecca White.
Appointed adjutant general.
Nov. 1777
Appointed to the Board of War.
Quartermaster general.
Entered partnership with Samuel Hodgdon, merchant of Philadelphia.
Began land speculations in Pennsylvania.
Appointed clerk, recorder, and judge of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.
Moved to Wilkes-Barre.
United States commissioner to treat with the Seneca Nation.
Appointed postmaster general.
Mission to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
United States commissioner to treat with the Iroquois.
Appointed secretary of war.
Aug. 1795
Acting secretary of state.
Dec. 1795
Permanent secretary of state.
12 May 1800
Dismissed from office. Moved to Easton, Pennsylvania.
Returned permanently to Massachusetts.
United States senator.
United States representative.
Governor's councillor.
Retirement. Gathered material for a history of the American Revolution. Letters and articles on agriculture and the political struggles of the Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison administrations.
29 Jan. 1829
Died in Salem.


Clarfield, Gerard H. Timothy Pickering and American Diplomacy, 1795-1800. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, c1969.

McLean, David. Timothy Pickering and the Age of the American Revolution. New York: Arno Press, 1982.

Pickering, Octavius, and Charles Wentworth Upham. The Life of Timothy Pickering. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1867-1873.

Prentiss, Hervey Putnam. Timothy Pickering as the Leader of New England Federalism, 1800-1815. New York: Da Capo Press, 1972.

Professor Edward H. Phillips of Austin College, whose sketch of Pickering appears on reel 69 of this collection.

Collection Description

The Timothy Pickering papers consist of 69 microfilm reels of family and general correspondence; business and legal papers concerning land speculations at Wyoming Valley, Pa., western Virginia, Stokes and Surry Counties, N.C., and concerning the Potter Land Company; military papers; agricultural papers; papers (1786-1809) concerning Pickering's missions to Native American nations; correspondence, official documents, and historical notebooks collected for a proposed history of the United States during the Revolution; political notebooks and journals; account books (1780-1784) of the quartermaster general's office; pamphlets; news clippings; legal papers (1777-1799) of Pickering's son Octavius; and papers of his sons, John and Henry, and their families. Pickering's chief correspondents were his wife Rebecca and his eldest son John.

Acquisition Information

The bulk of this collection (vol. 5-62) was a gift from Henry Pickering in 1874. Additional gifts were made in 1941 (by Mrs. Richard Y. Fitzgerald) and in 1953. Four volumes of family letters (vol. 1-4) were loaned by John Pickering of Salem, Mass. for this microfilm edition.

Other Formats

Black and white digital images of this collection--produced from the microfilm edition--are available as part of History Vault: Revolutionary War and Early America, a digital resource from ProQuest. This resource is available at subscribing libraries; speak to your local librarian to determine if your library has access. The MHS also provides access onsite to the Society's contributions to this resource; see a reference librarian for more information.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Note: Documents in this collection have been microfilmed based on their prior arrangement into bound volumes. Each of the 69 volumes has been microfilmed onto a separate reel, so reel numbers in this guide correspond to volume numbers. For example, reel 1 contains volume 1, reel 2 contains volume 2, etc.

I. Correspondence, 1760-1829

This series is divided into four subseries: A. Letters from Timothy to Rebecca Pickering; B. Letters from Rebecca to Timothy Pickering; C. Letters from Timothy to John Pickering; and D. Timothy Pickering correspondence.

A. Letters from Timothy to Rebecca Pickering, 1775-1827

Reel/Vol. 1

Beginning with four letters of courtship, this volume documents several long separations during Pickering's service in the Revolution as a militia colonel, adjutant general, member of the Board of War, and quartermaster general. Most of the letters were written from headquarters in Pennsylvania and New York, where Pickering recorded random glimpses of the war, but official duties are mentioned only briefly. One letter includes a map of Howe's operations on the Delaware and a description of the defenses around the city (p. 66). Another recounts the army's reaction to news of the victory at Saratoga (p. 68). And a long series, beginning on page 215, describes the Yorktown campaign in some detail. A group of letters written at Valley Forge and originally bound with the volume have apparently disappeared.

The majority of the correspondence is devoted to personal matters. Pickering frequently urged his wife to pull up stakes and follow him. In a series of letters in the summer of 1778, he proposed the removal of the family from Salem to Philadelphia, and letters dated November 1780 include instructions and lists to help them in another move, this time from Philadelphia to Newburgh. A long letter of March 25, 1783, discusses Pickering's plans to establish himself as a merchant in Philadelphia at the end of the war.

Reel/Vol. 2

This volume begins with letters describing Pickering's efforts to develop his land in the Wyoming Valley and his two excursions to Philadelphia to attend the state conventions of 1787 and 1790. Problems of frontier government and the Connecticut claims are mentioned only briefly, one exception being Pickering's description of his abduction in 1788 by partisans of John Franklin (p. 39). Letters from two of Pickering's missions to Native American nations include criticism of the U.S. government's policy and remarks on the defeat of St. Clair in 1791 (p. 137 ff.). The rest of the volume covers the first months of Pickering's term as postmaster general, 1791-1792; his mission to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in 1793 and the negotiations at Canandaigua the following year; his visits to his property at the Great Bend of the Susquehanna in 1800 and 1801; a journey to Massachusetts in February 1801; and the beginning of his first session in the United States Senate in 1803.

The following subjects are not covered in this volume: Pickering's business partnership with Samuel Hodgdon, his land investments, and his terms as secretary of war and secretary of state.

Reel/Vol. 3

Most of the letters in this volume were written from Washington, D.C., during Pickering's twelve years in the Senate and the House. However, this volume contains no letters from the fall of 1804; these, along with most of the 1805, 1808, and 1809 letters, and several from 1806 and 1807, are located in volume 4(i).

The mental illness of his son William formed a major theme in Pickering's correspondence between 1804 and 1807. Pickering also wrote about his land speculations and his desire for a farmer's life in a letter of March 29, 1806. Other subjects discussed in these letters include: Pickering's political opinions, particularly his opposition to Jeffersonian foreign policy; many events of the Jefferson and Madison administrations, including the Burr conspiracy, the Chesapeake incident, Pickering's public letter to Governor Sullivan, his censure by the Senate in 1811, and his "address to the people of the U. States," written in March of the same year; the War of 1812 and war expenditures; the Hartford Convention and New England's mission to oppose the war (p. 185 ff.); and the British attack on New Orleans (p. 195 ff.).

Following the war, Pickering's correspondence becomes more personal, especially his letters regarding the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to Hammond Dorsey, a relative of Pickering's friends the Hansons and Ridgeleys of Maryland. A group of letters written in 1821 and 1822 cover the long negotiations in Philadelphia to settle the affairs of the Potter Land Company.

Reel/Vol. 4(i)

Most of the letters in this volume date from 1782, 1796, and 1804-1810, filling gaps in the previous volumes. Pickering's Revolutionary letters, written from Philadelphia and the Hudson River, deal primarily with family matters. A recurring theme, expressed in letters dated September 6, 1782 and February 10, 1805, is Pickering's desire to leave public life and enjoy the "ease and tranquility of a private citizen." Among the correspondence dealing with the illnesses of the Pickering children is a letter from Benjamin Rush discussing Timothy Pickering, Jr.'s cancer treatment. Letters throughout the volume, such as one dated December 20, 1806, contain Pickering's criticisms of Jefferson and the Embargo policy. Other topics include the trial of Justice Chase and the Burr conspiracy.

The letters of Pickering's Congressional career are not arranged in chronological order. This volume also contains a series of letters with uncertain dates (p. 184 ff.), the earliest of which was apparently written in 1777.

B. Letters from Rebecca to Timothy Pickering, 1780-1817

Rebecca Pickering's letters to her husband contain family news and details of domestic life, including child rearing, coping with servants, managing the farm, and dealing with the severe mental illnesses of two of her sons. The letters were written from the many locations in which the family settled: Salem, Philadelphia, Newburgh and New Windsor, the Falls of Schuylkill, Wilkes-Barre, and several towns in Massachusetts. This volume also contains several letters to Mrs. Lois Gooll and others.

Reel/Vol. 4(i)

C. Letters from Timothy to John Pickering, 1786-1829

Beginning with a single letter to George Williams, this volume primarily consists of Timothy Pickering's correspondence with his closest confidant, his eldest son John. The early letters contain advice, encouragement, and suggestions for John's education in Massachusetts, especially during his years at Harvard. The letters from 1797-1801 were written to John Pickering at Lisbon, where he was secretary to the American minister William Smith, and at London, where he lived with Rufus King. The main topics are American foreign policy, particularly the French negotiations, and John's plans for a future career. A long letter of May 27, 1800, describes Pickering's dismissal from the Department of State and analyzes President Adams' motives. A letter of June 7 contains some bitter criticism of the president, as well as Pickering's plans for settling on his property in northeastern Pennsylvania.

After 1803, the bulk of the correspondence consists of Federalist sentiments and strategy, covering nearly all the important political and legislative issues of the period. In addition to constant attacks on Jefferson and Madison, the letters contain trenchant comments on Aaron Burr (p. 368), Senator Robert Wright (p. 439), John Randolph (pp. 443, 818), John Adams (p. 675), and Elbridge Gerry (p. 806). Important documents include an extract of a letter allegedly written by John Adams to Josiah Dean, stating his preference for the embargo rather than war (p. 642); a letter of March 3, 1810, detailing Pickering's thoughts on the character of George Washington, the authorship of Washington's farewell address, and Hamilton's influence over Washington; a memorandum on impressment (p. 741); copies of letters to George Cabot (p. 567) and Governor Caleb Strong (p. 828); and a letter of January 8, 1815, describing the consequences of a British victory at New Orleans.

Reel/Vol. 4(ii)

D. Timothy Pickering correspondence, 1760-1829

This subseries consists of letters from and to Timothy Pickering in alternating chronological sequences: letters from Pickering, 1772-1829; letters to Pickering, 1773-1829; letters from Pickering, 1763-1828; and letters to Pickering, 1760-1829. Note: Documents have been microfilmed based on their prior arrangement into bound volumes.

Letters from Timothy Pickering, 1772-1829

Reel/Vol. 5
Reel/Vol. 6
Reel/Vol. 7
Aug.-Dec. 1797
Reel/Vol. 8
Jan.-June 1798
Reel/Vol. 9
July-Nov. 1798
Reel/Vol. 10
Dec. 1798-Apr. 1799
Reel/Vol. 11
May-Aug. 1799
Reel/Vol. 12
Sep.-Dec. 1799
Reel/Vol. 13
Reel/Vol. 14
Reel/Vol. 15
Reel/Vol. 16

Letters to Timothy Pickering, 1773-1829

Reel/Vol. 17
Reel/Vol. 18
Reel/Vol. 19
Reel/Vol. 20
Reel/Vol. 21
Reel/Vol. 22
Jan.-July 1798
Reel/Vol. 23
Aug.-Dec. 1798
Reel/Vol. 24
Jan.-June 1799
Reel/Vol. 25
July-Dec. 1799
Reel/Vol. 26
Reel/Vol. 27
Reel/Vol. 28
Reel/Vol. 29
Reel/Vol. 30
Reel/Vol. 31
Reel/Vol. 32

Letters from Timothy Pickering, 1763-1828

Reel/Vol. 33
Reel/Vol. 34
Reel/Vol. 35
Reel/Vol. 36
Reel/Vol. 37
Reel/Vol. 38

Letters to Timothy Pickering, 1760-1829

Reel/Vol. 39
Reel/Vol. 40
Reel/Vol. 41
Reel/Vol. 42
Reel/Vol. 43
Reel/Vol. 44
Reel/Vol. 45

II. Notebooks, clippings, and miscellaneous papers, 1756-1859

This series consists of printed matter and miscellaneous papers, including notebooks in which Pickering wrote about politics, prominent contemporary and historical figures, agriculture, and other topics.

For other clippings and pamphlets, see Series VII (Miscellaneous volumes).

Reel/Vol. 45
Agricultural papers, 1780-1828
Reel/Vol. 46
Timothy Pickering's notebooks, Volumes A-E, ca. 1817-1828

"Miscellaneous observations and notes" on politics, agriculture, and other subjects.

Reel/Vol. 47
Timothy Pickering's notebooks, Volumes F-H, 1828-Jan. 1829

"Miscellaneous observations and notes" on politics, agriculture, and other subjects.

Reel/Vol. 48
Five pamphlets by Timothy Pickering, 1808-1814
Reel/Vol. 48
Newspaper clippings, 1808-1813
Reel/Vol. 49
Two pamphlets by Timothy Pickering, 1811, 1814
Reel/Vol. 49
Newspaper clippings, 1809-1859
Reel/Vol. 50
Political notebooks, ca. 1820s
Reel/Vol. 51-52
Political and historical notebooks, ca. 1820s
Reel/Vol. 53
Miscellaneous notebooks and clippings, 1756-1801
Reel/Vol. 54
Miscellaneous political papers, 1798-1812
Reel/Vol. 55
Miscellaneous political papers, 1813-1829
Reel/Vol. 56
Military papers, 1767-1792

For records related to Pickering's tenure as quartermaster general, see Series VII (Miscellaneous volumes).

III. Wyoming Valley papers, 1755-1804

For other documents related to Pickering's land speculations, see Series V (Business and legal papers).

Reel/Vol. 57
Reel/Vol. 58

IV. Papers of Pickering's diplomatic missions to Native American nations, 1786-1809

Reel/Vol. 59
Reel/Vol. 60
Reel/Vol. 61
Reel/Vol. 62

V. Business and legal papers, 1731-1848

This series contains a variety of documents and correspondence that deal primarily with Pickering's land speculations.

For other documents related to Pickering's land speculations, see Series III (Wyoming Valley papers).

Reel/Vol. 63

The volume begins with a small number of pre-Revolutionary vouchers, powers of attorney, and other papers of the Pickering family, followed by a miscellaneous group of papers of the quartermaster general's office (1778-1789), including requisition lists, salary receipts, bills of lading, and a series of documents related to the mustering out of Massachusetts officers in 1783 and 1784. The rest of the volume details Pickering's extensive land speculations. Documents include tax lists, receipts, and lists of property holdings in several states. Pickering's speculations with Samuel Hodgdon in western Virginia are mentioned in a letter from William Lambert and in tax lists for 1789-1790 (p. 293). His more important investments in Pennsylvania--where he joined Hodgdon, Tench Coxe, Duncan Ingraham, Jr., Andrew Craigie, and Miers Fisher in the Potter Land Company in 1785--are summarized in several lists of holdings on pages 272, 285, and 499. Correspondence on the subject includes letters from Putnam Catlin, Samuel Hodgdon, Matthias Hollenback, Samuel Andrew Law, and Peter Muhlenberg.

Pickering's purchase of large tracts in Stokes and Surry Counties, N.C., is documented in thirteen letters from the seller, Gottlieb Shober, to Pickering, and three from Pickering to Shober. Other papers include several summaries of this correspondence (pp. 364, 367); survey reports and descriptions, scattered from pages 333 to 437; and a large number of receipts. Letters include: one from Samuel Andrew Law discussing the market for southern land; one from Pickering to Theodore Lyman; another from Pickering to George Williams, summarizing his land transactions; and one from Zachariah Maclin describing an altercation with Native Americans in Tennessee.

Included in this and subsequent volumes are legal papers of Pickering's son Octavius, most of them related to the estate of Alexander Shepard, Jr., of Newton. The earliest of Octavius Pickering's documents, a grant of land in Cumberland County, Maine, dates from 1777 (p. 20).

Reel/Vol. 64

The volume begins with a series of receipts for food, lodgings, and services related to Pickering's improvements to his Pennsylvania land. Title disputes with squatters and with the rival Delaware Company are described in letters from Ebenezer Bowman, Tench Coxe, Anne Francis, Thomas Harris, Samuel Hodgdon, and Richard Peters, as well as three from Pickering to Mrs. Francis. Litigation arising from these disputes is described in papers dated 1802 (pp. 119, 120, 133). Other documents include tax lists (pp. 111, 225); a summary of the partners' holdings in 1808 (p. 355); a series of letters to the heirs of Alexander Hamilton (p. 180); Pickering's instructions for the survey of land on Snake Creek (p. 75); powers of attorney to Samuel Hodgdon (pp. 115, 163, 165) and Putnam Catlin (p. 426); and several papers dealing with the selection of a seat for Susquehanna County (pp. 388, 407, 409).

Subjects discussed in the letters include: Pickering's business in North Carolina, his failure to profit from the land, his relations with Gottlieb Shober, his speculations in Ohio, his investment in Kentucky, and land taxes in Virginia. Among the correspondents are: Shober, William Davie, Joseph Lord, Thomas Worthington, Hugh Boyle, Theodore Foster, Lewis Cass, General John Adair, and Edward Carrington. This volume also contains two bank statements from Timothy Williams of Boston that document Pickering's financial situation in 1802 and 1803 (pp. 130, 146).

Reel/Vol. 65

This volume consists of documents related to the Potter Land Company, including letters from Pickering to Hugh Brady, John Denniston, Peter S. Du Ponceau, Samuel Hodgdon, and Thomas Peters. Nine letters from Du Ponceau, beginning with his appointment as the company's attorney, describe attempts to keep Tench Coxe under control and to dispose of the company's land. An exchange between Pickering and James A. Hamilton refers to the holdings of the Hamilton trust and includes a recollection of a conversation with John Adams on the president's rejection of Alexander Hamilton as commander-in-chief in 1798 (p. 219).

Correspondence related to a suit against Gottlieb Shober includes letters from Shober, Peter Browne, William Gaston, and Robert Williams. Pickering's business in Virginia is discussed in correspondence with his agent William Prentiss and the state auditor, James E. Heath, as well as in letters from John G. Gamble and Charles F. Mercer. Other significant items include: papers from Ohio related to a title dispute with Abel D. Chase; an exchange between Samuel Hodgdon and Chase; two memoranda from Hodgdon and a deposition from Chase (pp. 225, 230, 352); a group of letters from Hodgdon's attorney and agent Allen Latham; and letters from John Fowler, Peter Mills, and Benjamin P. Putnam.

Among the small number of Octavius Pickering's letters located in this volume are letters to his client in the Shepard case, Charles A. Jackson, and a long memorandum on the duties of a court reporter (p. 133). This volume also contains several letters related to George Joy's business before the Court of Reclamation in London. A misplaced paper (p. 250) refers to the settlement of Timothy Pickering's estate in the early 1830s.

Reel/Vol. 66

This short volume consists of records of the Potter Land Company up to Pickering's death in 1829. Among the correspondence are letters from Peter S. Du Ponceau, Andrew Gregg, James A. Hamilton, Ralph Peters, and William W. Potter. Other documents include a power of attorney authorizing Du Ponceau to negotiate with the trustees of William Bingham (p. 152); Pickering's depositions in a suit between Alexander Hamilton, Jr., and Henderson and Cairns of New York (pp. 279, 282); and an agreement between Nicholas Fish, last surviving trustee of Alexander Hamilton's estate, and the heirs of Timothy Pickering (p. 289).

This volume also contains business papers of Henry Pickering, including accounts with J. Webb and Company (Leghorn), Dana and Fenno (Boston), and Bancroft and Pope (Salem). Papers of the brief partnership of Pickering, Kendall and Pope (New York) consist of two agreements for the liquidation of the firm (pp. 211, 217) and six letters from one of the partners, Isaac C. Kendall. The volume also includes letters from Humphrey Devereux and Frederick Parker, the latter describing commercial conditions in Genoa.

VI. Papers of John, Henry, and Octavius Pickering, 1780?-1927

This volume contains miscellaneous papers of Timothy Pickering and his sons John, Henry, and Octavius. Among several documents of the quartermaster general's office are six account books dated 1781-1784. Other Timothy Pickering papers include two letters to his daughter Elizabeth, a copy of an advertisement for the Potter Lands (1785?), a contract with the Richmond merchant William Prentiss (1821?), and several undated maps and papers related to Pickering's land speculations. Documents dealing with the Pickering estate include a letter from Henry Chester on the future of the Potter Land Company and several contracts, dated 1831 and 1838, with the heirs and trustees of Alexander Hamilton.

Among the papers of Pickering's sons is the will of Timothy Pickering, Jr., dated April 18, 1807. John Pickering's papers include an opinion on a case involving Maine land claimed by Lord Stirling (Aug. 29, 1829) and a number of letters written to him in his capacity as city solicitor of Boston. The papers of Henry Pickering deal mainly with business affairs, especially the liquidation of the firm of Pickering, Kendall and Pope in 1827. A letter from Henry to Octavius, dated April 1, 1828, and a memorandum of April 4, describe his dispute with Isaac Kendall. This volume also contains several undated documents, including manuscript poems and notes on composition, diagrams of an old Dutch house in New York, and various business papers.

Most of the documents in the volume belong to Octavius Pickering and include contracts, bills of sale, leases, accounts, court orders, and memoranda related to the estate of Alexander Shepard, Jr. The volume contains many letters to Octavius, including a letterbook of correspondence with Shepard's heirs written in 1819 and 1820, notes written during Octavius' sojourn in England in the 1840s, and a series of business reports from his nephew Edward Pickering.

Other items in this volume include a list of accounts related to George Joy's business before the Court of Reclamation in London, dated September 27, 1819, and a series of letters from Charles Pickering to his cousin Mary Orne Pickering describing two voyages: one to South America and the South Pacific and another to the Mediterranean and the coast of East Africa. Among the undated material at the end of the volume are a short notebook on family genealogy belonging to Octavius Pickering and an account book with the New England Bank belonging to Nathaniel Goddard.

Reel/Vol. 67

VII. Miscellaneous volumes, 1781-[1811]

This series contains two volumes kept by Pickering as quartermaster general and three volumes of printed matter.

For other clippings, pamphlets, and military papers, see Series II (Notebooks, clippings, and miscellaneous papers).

Reel/Vol. 68
Account book, 1781-1783
Reel/Vol. 68
Receipt book, Jan. 1782
Reel/Vol. 68
Two bound volumes of annotated newspaper clippings

Both volumes contain an index.

Reel/Vol. 68
Bound collection of three of Pickering's pamphlets, [1811]

Pamphlets included in this volume are: the Boston edition of A Letter from the Hon. Timothy Pickering...exhibiting to his Constituents a View of the Imminent Danger of an Unnecessary and Ruinous War. Addressed to His Excellency James Sullivan (Boston, 1808, 16 pp.), with a note and three additional letters in Pickering's hand; a copy of Interesting Correspondence between His Excellency Governour Sullivan and Col. Pickering (Boston, 1808, 32 pp.); and an unauthorized London edition of some of Pickering's newspaper articles entitled Letters addressed to the People of the United States of America, on the Conduct of the Past and Present Administrations of the American Government, towards Great Britain and France (1811, 168 pp.), with Pickering's corrections and an additional letter.

VIII. Addenda

Reel/Vol. 69
Index of names in volumes 5-62

This index was described by Mr. Edward J. Lowell in a report made to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1890 as follows: "There are in the Pickering Papers a great many names mentioned but briefly and incidentally, or appearing in lists of members of military companies, in pay-rolls, petitions, etc. It was not thought best to include these in the general index. We owe, however, to the diligence of Mr. McCleary [Samuel F. McCleary] a complete separate index of them all. This index contains about eleven thousand cards, giving the full name of all persons mentioned in the fifty-eight volumes, with the exception, sometimes, of those which appear in the general index."

Reel/Vol. 69
Biographical essay on Timothy Pickering by Professor Edward H. Phillips of Austin College


Reel/Vol. 69
Calendar of the unindexed papers in volumes 1-4 and 63-66


Preferred Citation

Timothy Pickering 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.


Pickering family.
Pickering, Henry, 1781-1838.
Pickering, John, 1777-1846.
Pickering, Octavius, 1791-1868.
Pickering, Rebecca, 1754-1828.


Potter Land Company.
United States. Army. Quartermaster General.


Account books--1780-1784.
Indians of North America--Government relations--1789-1869.
Real property--North Carolina--Stokes County.
Real property--North Carolina--Surry County.
Real property--Pennsylvania--Wyoming Valley.
Real property--Virginia.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Equipment and supplies.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Personal narratives.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the Timothy Pickering photographs (unprocessed). Photo. Coll. 500.58.