Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of historical material collected by antiquarian and historian Frederick Lewis Gay, primarily related to Massachusetts and New England. It contains sermons; diaries, including those of Rev. William Smith of Weymouth; business records of the Dearborn family of Exeter, N.H.; Marblehead customs collector records; a memoir of Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy Waterston; and other papers and volumes.

Biographical Sketches

Frederick Lewis Gay (1856-1916) of Brookline, Mass. was an antiquarian, historian, and genealogist. Born in Boston on 28 October 1856, he was the eldest son of noted surgeon George Henry Gay (1823-1878) and Elizabeth Greenough Lewis Gay (1831-1907). Gay graduated from Boston Latin School and attended Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, later returning to Harvard to receive his degree in 1903. In 1887 he was a cashier in the treasurer's office of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in Chicago, but returned to Boston shortly after his marriage in 1889. A member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Massachusetts Historical Society, Gay researched and wrote about genealogy and the history of greater Boston and New England, and was a collector of books, newspapers, and English Civil War tracts. Gay married Josephine Spencer (1859-1941) in 1889, and the couple had a daughter, Josephine Gay (1890-1904). He died on 3 March 1916 in Brookline.

Collection Description

This collection, consisting of two document boxes and fourteen bound volumes, contains diaries, sermons, account books, reference works, and research material collected and compiled by historian and antiquarian Frederick Lewis Gay. Three almanac diaries kept by William Smith, pastor of the First Church of Weymouth, Mass. and father of Abigail Adams, written in 1758, 1768, and 1782, record his ministerial duties, daily activities, and personal finances, as well as occasional political and social commentary. Other diaries include that of Ebenezer Miller, whose 1726 almanac diary describes his voyage from Boston to London to study theology; Ebenezer Danton's 1786 almanac diary describing his daily farm activities; and Ezekiel Price's 1787-1788 diary describing life in Hadley, Mass. and his travels throughout New England. An 1886 memoir of Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy Waterston, youngest daughter of Josiah Quincy, describes her girlhood in Quincy and Boston in the 1820s, including visits with John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and James Monroe.

Benjamin Knight's volumes were kept in his capacity as customs collector for the port of Marblehead, Mass. from 1830 to 1838, including expense accounts, payments for fish, vessel abstracts, and tax records. One volume also contains the diary of Benjamin's son William Knight, who describes personal and political activities in Marblehead from 1844 to 1858.

A series of 19th-century volumes belonging to merchant and shopkeeper Freese Dearborn of Exeter, N.H. include various account books of the Folsom and Derbon [sic] Company. A later account book was also used as a diary and scrapbook by Freese's son George W. Dearborn, who records daily life and political events in Boston and Exeter, N.H. Other account books include those of an 18th century shop and warehouse on Boston's Long Wharf and the 1801-1804 medical accounts of Brookline physician William Aspinwall.

Original texts and reference works include 17th-century Salem (Mass.) physician Zerobabel Endecott's "Book of Remedies"; Boston teacher Daniel Staniford's "Introduction to the Art of Gunnery"; and British lawyer Joseph Bennett's 1740 "History of New England," which also describes his contemporary observations of New England. Manuscript sermons include those written by New England ministers William Adams, Samuel Willard, Joseph Baxter, Ebenezer Gay (1696-1787), Ebenezer Gay (1718-1796), Thomas Thacher, Thomas Prentiss, Horace Holley, John Pierce, and Joshua Bates. The collection also contains Harvard student John Lake's notebook containing a copy of Increase Mather's "Catechismas Logicus"; John Taylor's research for his 1816 book claiming British politician Philip Francis was the politically subversive author Junius; copies of documents and maps related to Cape Breton and the Battle of Louisbourg; a list and descriptions of British Royal Navy ships from 1774 to 1791; and the by-laws and 1814-1819 meeting minutes of the Linum and Duck Manufacturing Company, a textile factory in Lynn, Mass.

Acquisition Information

The bulk of this collection was the gift of Mrs. Frederick Lewis Gay, February 1924.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Loose papers, 1683-1843

A. Sermons, 1683-1843

Arranged chronologically.

This series contains manuscripts of sermons or sermon notes written by various New England ministers. Each is accompanied by Gay's brief biographical sketch of the author.

Box 1Folder 1
William Adams, sermon, 1683
Box 1Folder 2
Samuel Willard, sermon notes, ca. 1690
Box 1Folder 3
Joseph Baxter, sermon, ca. 1700
Box 1Folder 4
Ebenezer Gay (1696-1787), sermon, ca. 1720
Box 1Folder 5
Ebenezer Gay (1718-1796), sermon, ca. 1750
Box 1Folder 6
Thomas Thacher, sermon, 1779
Box 1Folder 7
Thomas Prentiss, sermon, 1792
Box 1Folder 8
Horace Holley, sermon, ca. 1810
Box 1Folder 9
John Pierce, sermon, 1825
Box 1Folder 10
Joshua Bates, sermon, 1843

B. John Taylor papers, 1816-1819

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

This subseries consists of the correspondence and research notes of John Taylor (1781-1864), author and partner in the publishing firm Taylor and Hessey of London. The papers are related to Taylor's research for his 1816 book The Identity of Junius with a Distinguished Living Character Established, in which he claims that British politician Sir Philip Francis (1740-1818) was the author of Letters of Junius, a series of letters published in British newspapers that were deeply critical of the administration of George III.

Box 1Folders 11-20

C. Miscellaneous papers, 1746-1796

Arranged chronologically.

Papers include bills, receipts, and accounts related to Simeon Stoddard, Samuel Welles, Andrew Oliver, and others; a 1762 letter from Timothy Allen regarding land grant petitions; and an undated survey of land lots near New Milford, Conn.

Box 1Folder 21

II. Bound volumes, 1677-1891

Arranged chronologically.

Zerobabel Endecott, Book of Remedies, 1677-1681

This small book of medical remedies was compiled by physician Zerobabel Endecott of Salem, Mass., the son of Gov. John Endecott. It contains remedies for various ailments including worms, sprains, kidney stones, scurvy, coughs, back pain, skull fractures, and breast cancer; and recipes for pills, balms, ointments, and the preparation of opium. A transcript of this volume was published in 1914 by George Francis Dow as Synopsis Medicinae: Or, A Compendium of Galenical and Chymical Physick, Showing the Art of Healing According to the Precepts of Galen and Paracelus. Fitted Universally to the Whole Art of Healing.

Box 1Folder 22

John Lake, "Catechismas Logicus" notebook, 1681

John Lake's student notebook contains a copy of Increase Mather's "Catechismus Logicus," a Latin logic catechism that Mather wrote in 1675 for Harvard students to copy and memorize. It also includes copies of the Ramist text "Aurea Delineatio Verd Logica Sine Dialectica Richardsono Ramea." Lake's attribution of the text to "C. M." (Crescentius Matherus) led a 19th-century owner of the volume to incorrectly attribute it to Cotton Mather.

Box 1Folder 23

Joseph Sewall, Latin copy book, 1702-1703

The copyist of this notebook of excerpts from Latin texts and verses was most likely Joseph Sewall (1688-1769), the son of Judge Samuel Sewall and later, minister of Old South Church in Boston.

Box 1Folder 24

Ebenezer Miller, almanac diary, 7 May-27 Nov. 1726

Entries describe Miller's journey from Boston to London, including winds and general sailing conditions, where he received his M.A. from Oxford and was ordained in the Church of England. Miller also notes the sermons he preached in London, his marriage to Martha Mottram on 16 November, and other memoranda. Miller would return to Massachusetts to become the minister of Christ Church in Braintree (now Quincy) in 1727.

Box 1Folder 12

Joseph Bennett, History of New England, 1740

Written by British lawyer Joseph Bennett about his visit to New England in 1740, this manuscript volume is entitled "An Abstracted Historicall Account of that part of America which is now called New-England, to which I have added the History of our Voyage there to Anno Domini 1740." The manuscript includes accounts of Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, and the Salem witchcraft trials, but also includes contemporary observations of Native American culture and dress, American food, buildings, and forms of government as well as a detailed description of Bennett's voyage from England to Boston. According to one of several annotations in the volume, it may have remained unpublished because of its mention of American political opposition to British government.

Vol. 1

Louisbourg papers and maps, 1745-1891

This volume contains manuscript copies of "documents from the Archives Coloniales, Paris, relating to Louisbourg," and consists of transcripts (written in French) of correspondence, manuscript maps, and accounts dated from 1745 to 1753. Included are a 1753 account of Isle Royal maritime commerce including the cod fishery and trade, as well as several 1891 printed maps of Cape Breton and Louisbourg.

Vol. 2

Long Wharf account books, 1756-1767

Written in several different hands, these folios contain accounts related to warehouses and shops on Long Wharf in Boston, including accounts for sundries, wine, rum, and hemp seed, as well as rental payments. Various notes and memoranda are also included.

Box 1Folders 26-27

William Smith, almanac diaries, 1758-1782

These three volumes consist of diary entries, personal accounts, and anecdotes kept in interleaved almanacs by Rev. William Smith (1707-1783), pastor of the First (Congregational) Church of Weymouth, Mass., and father of Abigail Adams. Entries include brief mentions of daily activities or events, accounts related to farming, and ministerial duties such as marriages performed. The 1758 volume includes a draft of a subscription to help his neighbor John Torrey rebuild his barn. The 1768 volume largely consists of stories and anecdotes related to politicians and religious figures. Also included is a copy of Smith's 1768 letter requesting payment for boarding the Weymouth schoolmaster.

The 1782 volume includes a memorandum on the national debt, records of Smith's 1782 salary, and a copy of Smith's letter to the First Parish of Weymouth asking that it honor his salary contract of 1734.

Box 1Folder 28
Diary, 1758
Box 1Folder 29
Diary, 1768
Box 1Folder 30
Diary, 1782

Hugh Vans bankruptcy settlement, 1758-1762

This volume contains the 1758 bankruptcy settlement of Hugh Vans (1699-1763), a prominent Boston merchant. It includes a list of Vans's household furniture and books and the amount received for each item in a bankruptcy sale.

Box 2Folder 1

List of British Royal Navy ships, 1774-1791

This volume contains a list of British Royal Navy vessels in service from 1774 to 1791, including the ships' dimensions, tonnage, the number of men and guns it carried, and where and when it was built. The list also includes information about captured French and Spanish ships, and ships that had been lost at sea. The list's compiler is unknown.

Box 2Folder 2

Ebenezer Danton, almanac diary, 1786

Written in an interleaved almanac, this diary includes accounts, a farm journal, memoranda about government securities, a recipe to prepare beef, and a mention of a small earthquake on 29 Nov. Danton also transcribed a newspaper article about inequality of representation versus taxation among the states. Several loose tax receipts found in the diary suggest that Danton may be from Braintree.

Box 2Folder 3

Ezekiel Price, diary, 1787-Feb. 1788

This diary was kept by Ezekiel Price, Jr. while living in Hadley, Mass. Entries describe sleeping and dining at friends' houses, church attendance, "tending store," travels to various towns in Massachusetts and to Dartmouth College, weather, and daily activities.

Box 2Folder 4

Daniel Staniford volumes, 1789

A Boston teacher, Daniel Staniford (1768-1820) was the author of textbooks including A Short but Comprehensive Grammar (1797), The Art of Reading (1802), The Elements of English Grammar (1815), and Practical Arithmetic and a Short System of Book-Keeping (1818). Staniford's volumes in this series include an English grammar notebook written at Harvard, where he graduated in 1790. It contains notes on the rules of English grammar, including parts of speech, rules for constructing pronouns, and conjunctions.

Staniford's "Introduction to the Art of Gunnery" contains mathematical definitions and sample problems for calculating altitude, elevation, and distance. It also includes tables of velocities, weights of various metals, diameters of French shot, information on making different kinds of fuses, calculations for artillery powder, and transportation for traveling forges and ammunition wagons.

Box 2Folder 5
English grammar notebook, 1789
Vol. 3
"Introduction to the Art of Gunnery," n.d.

Manuscript copybooks, ca. 1800-ca. 1820

Copybooks contain a manuscript copy of Cicero's Oration for Deiotarus, several speeches by Demosthenes, and an Italian manuscript entitled The Tragic Death of Sig. Perodi. The identification of the copyist is unknown.

Box 2Folders 6-8

William Aspinwall, medical account book, 1801-1804

This volume is the ledger of Dr. William Aspinwall of Brookline containing names and addresses of his patients and a description of medical services performed. Short notes on payments for visits or medicines are included.

Box 2Folder 9

Dearborn family volumes, 1806-1881

This series of volumes belonged to the family of Freese Dearborn (1778-1862), a merchant and shopkeeper of Exeter, N.H. Volume 4 is a day book listing the commercial transactions of the Folsom and Derbon [sic] Company, a general store that Dearborn owned with Thomas Folsom, selling tobacco, tea, eggs, lemons, rum, cloth, buttons, and other groceries and sundries. It includes lists of customers, their purchases, and their daily transactions. Volume 5 is also a day book, written in the same hand. In addition to sundries and dry goods, it also lists fees for boarding, labor, and taxes. Volume 6 is a ledger for Dearborn's business, listing individual customers, their purchases, and their payments.

Volume 7 was used for several different purposes. It is a day book for an Exeter, N.H. business from Jan. 1838 to March 1837, although not written in Freese Dearborn's hand. As a scrapbook it holds receipts, ephemera, and newspaper clippings dating from 1836 to 1881. Many later newspaper articles chronicle political, religious, and historical happenings, particularly in Boston, Salem, Mass., and Exeter N.H. Genealogical records include family vital statistics from 1657 to the 1850s. Finally, the volume contains the June to August 1881 diary of Dr. George W. Dearborn discussing daily life and activities in Exeter, as well as current events and the history of the region.

Vol. 4
Folsom and Derbon Co., day book, Dec. 1806-Apr. 1818
Vol. 5
Freese Dearborn, day book, Sep. 1822-Mar. 1862
Box 2Folder 10
Loose papers from day book, n.d.
Vol. 6
[Freese Dearborn], Ledger, Apr. 1835-Nov. 1841
Box 2Folder 11
Loose papers from ledger, n.d.
Vol. 7
Account book, diary, and scrapbook, Nov. 1835-Aug. 1881

Linum and Duck Manufacturing Co. records, 1814-1819

This volume includes a manuscript copy of the 1814 Act of Incorporation for the Linum and Duck Manufacturing Company of Lynn, Mass. and the company's bylaws. Also included are records of the meetings of the proprietors and stockholders from 1814 until 1819. Owned by Joseph R. Newell and Amos Binney, the company incorporated to spin flax and hemp with a machine called a "linum spinner."

Vol. 8

Benjamin Knight, Marblehead Collector's Office records, 1830-1858

This subseries contains account books, ledgers, and receipt books kept by Benjamin Knight (1767-1843) in his official capacity as customs collector for the Marblehead, Mass. district, which also included the port of Lynn. A portion of volume 12 includes the diary of Benjamin's son, William Knight (b. 1794).

Vol. 9
Marblehead Collector's Office, account book, Feb. 1830-Feb. 1838

This volume records fees and enrollments received by Benjamin Knight as customs collector. It also records office expenditures such as the monthly rent, fuel, and stationery. The back of the volume holds accounting notes on bonds sold for the town of Marblehead from 1837-1838 and a list of birth and death dates for the Knight family.

Vol. 10
Marblehead Collector's Office, account book, Feb. 1830-Feb. 1838

This volume contains receipts for store expenses, duty bonds, salaries for surveyors and other employees, bounties on pickled fish, allowances for fishing vessels, and other expenses paid by the Collections Office. The amounts and itemized notations suggest that this volume was used in conjunction with the Collections Office ledger (Volume 11).

Vol. 11
Marblehead Collector's Office, ledger, Mar. 1830-Feb. 1838

This ledger lists the expenses of the Collections Office, including salaries for surveyors and other employees, tonnage duties, duties on merchandise, store expenses, allowances for fishing vessels, bounties on pickled fish, cash accounts, accounts for bonds, and drawbacks on foreign merchandise.

Box 2Folder 12
Loose papers from ledger, n.d.
Vol. 12
Marblehead Collector's Office, vessel abstracts, Jan. 1831-Jan. 1838; William Knight, diary, 1844-1858

This volume records "abstracts of allowances" made by Benjamin Knight to ships employed in "the Bank and other cod fisheries." The accounts include date of payment, to whom the money was paid, vessel name and type, captain's name, number of seamen aboard, terms of employment, tonnage, rate of allowance per ton, and the amount of allowance paid. The last several pages of the volume contain "an Account of Fines, Penalties, and Forfetures received and distributed by Benj. Knight Collector for the District of Marblehead," including information of fines involving the United States government from 1830-1837.

The volume also contains the diary of William Knight (1794-1879), the son of Benjamin Knight, who served as a General Court representative in 1837 and intermittently as a Marblehead selectman from 1837 to 1854. Written from Jan. 1844 to Apr. 1858, the diary includes brief entries related to financial transactions, settlements of family estates (particularly that of Benjamin Knight), descriptions of Marblehead town meetings, local and national political events and elections, and political opinions, as well as entries on the weather and the writer's health. It also contains several drafts of letters concerning politics, slavery, and personal medical issues.

Vol. 13
Marblehead Collector's Office, receipt book, Jan. 1832-Sep. 1836

This volume contains copies of pre-printed receipts from the Collector's Office to captains or owners of fishing vessels. The completed forms provide date, location (Marblehead or Lynn), amount of money paid, name of the vessel, and number of tons "ployed in the Bank and other Cod fisheries during the fishing season."

Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy Waterston, memoir, Apr. 1886

This volume is an 1896 manuscript copy of the memoir of Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy Waterston (1812-1899), which she wrote in April 1886. The youngest daughter of Boston mayor, U.S. representative, and Harvard president Josiah Quincy, and the wife of Boston clergyman Robert Cassie Waterston, Anna authored several books and pamphlets including Verses (1863). She begins her memoir with vivid and detailed childhood memories in Quincy, Mass., including frequent visits from John Adams and John Quincy Adams and a visit from President James Monroe. She recalls attending the funeral of John Adams, as well as family trips to Niagara and New York, as well as books she read. The memoir ends with a description of her first ball on 31 Dec. 1829 at the Exchange Coffee House in Boston. Editor Beverly Wilson Palmer refers to this autobiographical sketch in the introduction to A Woman's Wit and Whimsy: The 1833 Diary of Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy (Boston, 2003).

Vol. 14

Prayer book, n.d.

This volume is a bound prayer book or language exercise book by an unidentified writer. Psalms I-VII are written in Hebrew and translated into English, with notations and explanations of the Hebrew alphabet and language for use in translation.

Box 2Folder 13

III. Printed material, 1787-1876

Arranged chronologically.

Printed material includes loose pages from the 1787 edition of Low's Almanac and Richard Henry Dana Jr.'s copy of a private proof of the statutes proposed for Harvard University in 1876.

Box 2Folders 14-15

Preferred Citation

Frederick Lewis Gay collection, 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, William, 1650-1685.
Aspinwall, William, 1743-1823.
Bates, Joshua, 1776-1854.
Baxter, Joseph, 1676-1745.
Bennett, Joseph.
Danton, Ebenezer.
Dearborn, Freese, 1778-1862.
Dearborn, George W., 1815-1847.
Endecott, Zerobabel, d. 1684.
Francis, Philip, 1740-1818.
Gay, Ebenezer, 1696-1787.
Gay, Ebenezer, 1718-1796.
Gay, Frederick Lewis, 1856-1916.
Holley, Horace, 1781-1827.
Knight, Benjamin, 1767-1843.
Knight, William.
Mather, Increase, 1639-1723.
Miller, Ebenezer, 1703-1763.
Pierce, John, 1773-1849.
Prentiss, Thomas, 1747-1814.
Price, Ezekiel.
Smith, William, 1706-1783.
Staniford, Daniel, 1768-1820.
Taylor, John, 1781-1864.
Thacher, Thomas, 1756-1812.
Waterston, Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy, 1812-1899.
Willard, Samuel, 1640-1707.


First Church (Weymouth, Mass.).
Folsom and Dearborn Company (Exeter, N.H.).
Great Britain--Royal Navy--History--18th century.
Harvard College (1638-1780)--Students.
Linum and Duck Manufacturing Company (Lynn, Mass.).
Long Wharf (Boston, Mass.).
United States. Collector of Customs (Marblehead, Mass.).
Weymouth (Mass.) First Precinct.


Account books--1756-1767.
Account books--1801-1804.
Account books--1806-1862.
Almanacs--18th century.
Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
Cape Breton Island (N.S.)--History.
Cape Breton Island (N.S.)--Maps--Early works to 1800.
Congregational churches--Clergy.
Customs administration--Massachusetts--Marblehead.
Exeter (N.H.)--Social life and customs.
Fish trade--Massachusetts--Marblehead.
Hadley (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
Louisbourg (N.S.)--History--Siege, 1745--Maps.
Marblehead (Mass.)--Officials and employees.
Marblehead (Mass.)--Politics and government.
Medical fees.
Medicine--Formulae, receipts, prescriptions.
Merchants--New Hampshire--Exeter.
New England--Description and travel--18th century.
New England--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
Physicians--Massachusetts--Salem--17th century.
Physicians--Massachusetts--Brookline--19th century.
Quincy (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
Tax collection--Massachusetts--Marblehead District.
Textile factories--Massachusetts--Lynn.
Voyages and travels.
Weymouth (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
Weymouth (Mass.)--Statistics, Vital.