Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of members of Gregg and Tileston families of Massachusetts, primarily those of Martha Gregg Tileston, Ruth E. G. Tileston and Laura E. B. Tileston. Included is family correspondence, personal papers, and printed material.

Biographical Sketches

Samuel Gregg (1799-1872) was born in New Boston, N.H. to Samuel Gregg and Jane Wilson Gregg. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1825 and established a medical practice in Medford, Mass. the same year. He began practicing homeopathy in 1838, moving his practice to Boston two years later. Gregg was one of the founding members of the American Institute of Homeopathy, the Massachusetts Homeopathic Society, and the Massachusetts Homeopathic Hospital, which opened in Jamaica Plain in 1871. He married Ruth Wadsworth Richards (1802-1853), the daughter of Luther and Ruth Wadsworth (Hooper) Richards, and the couple had nine children: Mary Josephine Waterman Gregg (1823-1838); Martha Dalton Gregg Tileston (1826-1902); Samuel Wadsworth Gregg (1827-1850); Caroline Augusta Gregg Stockbridge (b. 1829); Abbie Maria Gregg (1832-1836); Jane Anna Gregg Howard (b. 1834); Abby Trask Gregg Wooser (b. 1838); Franklin Hahnman Gregg (1841-1841); and Josephine Maria Gregg Dolliver (b. 1843). After Ruth's death, Samuel married the widow Sophronia Carter Hills. He died in 1872 in Amherst, Mass.

Edward Griffin Tileston (1825-1877) was born in Boston to Otis Tileston (1789-1837) and Laura Mitchell Tileston (1792-1855). He graduated from Chauncy Hall School in Boston in 1836 and worked as a commission merchant and steamship agent in New York and Boston. In 1863, Tileston received a law degree from Harvard University. A member of the Park Street Church in Boston, he was a committee member and vice president of the 1871 Temperance Convention. He published two books, Handbooks of the Administrations of the United States (1871) and Tileston’s Off-Hand Sketches of Boston Harbor (1876). Tileston married Martha Dalton Gregg (1826-1902), and they had three children: Ruth Etta Gregg Tileston (1852-1933); Laura Elise Bates Tileston (1856-1932); and Marion L. Tileston (1858-1864). He died in Quincy in February 1877.

Martha Dalton Gregg Tileston (1826-1902) was born in Medford, Mass. to Dr. Samuel Gregg (1799-1872) and Ruth Richards Gregg (1827-1853). From about 1841 to 1843, she attended two of the earliest institutions of higher education for women, Wheaton Female Seminary in Norton, Mass. and Bradford Academy in Bradford (now Haverhill), Mass. Martha married Edward Tileston (1825-1877) and had three daughters, Ruth Etta Gregg Tileston (1852-1933), Laura Elise Bates Tileston (1856-1932), and Marion L. Tileston (1858-1864). Following Edward's death in 1877, Martha and her daughters moved to Hampton, Va. where Ruth and Laura taught Native American children at the Hampton Institute. Martha ran Bright View, a hotel near Hampton, and later Dome-of-the-Rock in Castine, Maine until her death in 1902.

Ruth Etta Gregg Tileston (1852-1933), known to her family as Etta, was born in Boston to Martha Gregg Tileston and Edward Griffin Tileston. Following the death of her father in 1877, she moved to Hampton, Va. with her mother and her sister in order to teach at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. Originally founded in 1868 to educate formerly enslaved people, Hampton became the first boarding school in the eastern United States to teach groups of Native American children from the Sioux reservations of the Dakota Territory. In 1888, Etta and her sister Laura founded and served as principals of Tileston Hall at Old Point Comfort in Hampton. The college preparatory home and day school for girls specialized in languages, art, and music. After 1905, Etta lived with her sister in Washington D.C.

Laura Elise Bates Tileston (1856-1932) was the daughter of Martha Gregg Tileston and Edward Griffin Tileston. With her sister Etta, Laura taught Native American children at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, where she met Elaine Goodale Eastman (1863-1953). Eastman moved to the Dakota Territory and opened an industrial training school and community center on a Sioux reservation under the authority of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1885, the Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota and Dakota Territory gave Laura a commission as a "lady missionary" to assist Goodale with her school, which they established in Lower Brule with fifty children between the ages of six and sixteen. There she learned to speak fluent Lakota. Laura resigned her position in the summer of 1888 and returned to Hampton to open Tileston Hall, a college preparatory school for girls, where she served as principal with her sister, Etta. She moved with her sister to Washington, D.C. by 1905.

Collection Description

The Gregg-Tileston family papers consist of three document boxes spanning the years 1831 to 1933. The collection has been divided into three series: family correspondence; personal papers; and printed material. The bulk of the collection consists of the correspondence of Martha Gregg Tileston with her parents, Dr. Samuel Gregg and Ruth Wadsworth Richards Gregg; her sister, Caroline Gregg Stockbridge; her husband, Edward G. Tileston; and her daughters, Ruth E. G. Tileston and Laura E. B. Tileston.

Family and personal correspondence discusses Martha's studies at Wheaton Seminary and Bradford Academy; the homeopathic practice of Dr. Samuel Gregg in Boston; the courtship of Martha and Edward Tileston; Tileston's early experiences as a traveling salesman in New York; and the journey of Samuel Wadworth Gregg, Martha's brother, to California during the California Gold Rush and his death from cholera there in 1850. Later correspondence describes the move of Martha, Ruth, and Laura to Hampton, Va. after Edward's death in 1877; Laura and Ruth's work with Native American students at the Hampton Institute; Laura's work with the Sioux in the Dakota Territory from 1886 to 1888; and the family's temperance and missionary activities with the Evangelical Congregational Church.

The collection also contains letters from Martha's friends at the Wheaton Seminary and Bradford Academy; two diaries kept by Edward Tileston, one as clerk in 1843 and 1844 and the other on a trip to Europe in 1849; letters from Laura's former Hampton students, including several in the Dakota language; newspaper clippings; and genealogical materials.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Nancy Meem Wirth, June 2015.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Family correspondence, 1837-1900

Arranged chronologically.

The bulk of the letters in this series consist of Martha Gregg Tileston's correspondence with her parents, Samuel and Ruth Gregg; her sister, Caroline Gregg Stockbridge; her husband, Edward Tileston; and her daughters, Ruth and Laura Tileston. Early letters are those written to Martha while she was a student at Wheaton Female Seminary (about 1841) and Bradford Academy (1842-1844). An April 1844 letter describes Ruth and Samuel's trip to New York and a meeting with other doctors in their homeopathic society.

Courtship letters between Edward and Martha begin in 1848. Edward describes his May 1849 trip to New York City, and in July, his trip to London and Manchester, England where he finds employment with a merchant house. (See Edward's diary about this trip in Series II C - Edward G. Tileston papers.) Edward later writes to Martha about his business selling fabric and flags throughout New England and the Midwest, discussing his job prospects, the fabric industry, Civil War preparations in New York City and Detroit, and freedom seekers going over the border at Niagara Falls.

Also in this series is the 1849-1850 correspondence of Martha's brother, Samuel Wadsworth Gregg, who went to Sacramento during the Gold Rush and died there during the cholera epidemic in 1850. Additional family correspondence is that of Martha's aunts Nancy Richards, Mary Fulton, and Abigail Richards Waters; Martha's mother-in-law, Laura Mitchell Tileston; Edward's sisters, Sarah and Eliza; and Martha's younger sister, Jane Gregg Howard, discussing family news and activities with occasional references to current events. Of note is Jane Gregg Howard's 1864 letter revealing that her husband, Joseph Howard, had been arrested as the perpetrator of the Great Civil War Gold Hoax. (A newspaper editor, Howard had circulated a false report that additional Union troops were being called up, thereby causing stocks to fall and the value of gold to rise.) An 1872 letter from Abby Gregg Wooser describes life in San Francisco and the development of Golden Gate Park. Letters also discuss the illness and death of Edward Tileston in 1877.

Later correspondence is that of Martha and her two daughters, Ruth and Laura, who, after Edward's death, moved to Hampton, Va. where Ruth and Laura worked with Native American students at the Hampton Institute. A January 1884 letter from Ruth to Laura describes the school and its teachers. Laura's 1886-1888 letters describe her work with Elaine Goodale Eastman in Lower Brule, Dakota Territory establishing an industrial trade school, and illustrate daily life on the reservation. An October 1887 letter from Martha to Ruth describes her visit to Laura at White River and her meal with "Mrs. Medicine Bull." A May 1888 letter describes the dissolution of the mission by the U.S. government.

Box 1
Box 2Folders 1-21

II. Personal papers, 1831-1933

This subseries contains the personal papers of Martha Gregg Tileston; Martha's father, Dr. Samuel Gregg; Martha's husband, Edward G. Tileston; and their daughters Ruth E. G. Tileston and Laura E. B. Tileston. It includes personal correspondence, Edward Tileston's 1843-1844 diary and 1849 travel journal; and genealogical records.

A. Samuel Gregg correspondence, 1831-1850

Arranged chronologically.

Gregg's correspondence includes his 1831 letter to Dr. Walter Channing concerning his educational certification, an 1841 letter from Wheaton Female Seminary discussing admissions policies, and an 1850 letter describing the illness and death of Samuel Wadsworth Gregg in Sacramento.

Box 2Folder 22

B. Martha Gregg Tileston papers, 1841-1900

Arranged chronologically.

Martha's papers largely consist of personal correspondence with her classmates from Wheaton Female Seminary and Bradford Academy, from ca. 1841 to 1843. Also included are many letters related to the death of Martha's father in 1872, as well as genealogical correspondence.

Box 2Folders 23-27

C. Edward G. Tileston papers, 1843-1876

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

Included in this subseries is Tileston's 1843-1844 diary, kept when he was eighteen years old, describing his duties as a clerk, his social engagements, the travel schedules of family and friends, and his trips to New York City, with several illustrations. A travel journal, written from March through August 1849, chronicles Edward's work in New York City as a clerk, a trans-Atlantic voyage, and his travels to England, Ireland, and France. He gives detailed descriptions of the sights and people in the cities he visits, particularly New York City, Paris, and London. He also discusses economic and political events of the day, his deeply held religious beliefs, and his discomfort with interacting in a secular society. Several sketches illustrate the journal. An 1873 letter describes family discord over the settling of Samuel Gregg's estate. Tileston's Off-Hand Sketches of Boston Harbor, which he published in 1876, includes sketches of popular buildings and scenes in and around Boston Harbor.

Box 2Folder 28
Diary, 1843-1844
Box 2Folder 29
Travel journal, 1849
Box 2Folder 30
Letter, 1873
Box 2Folder 31
Tileston's Off-Hand Sketches of Boston Harbor,1876

D. Ruth E. G. Tileston papers, 1873-1933

Arranged chronologically.

The bulk of this subseries is personal correspondence, including letters from Native American students at Hampton Institute (1881-1883) and an 1886 letter from a former Hampton teacher at Shawneetown, Indian Territory, thanking her for supplies and describing their new school. A bound volume documents the 1933 settlement of Ruth's estate.

Box 3Folders 1-3

E. Laura E. B. Tileston papers, 1878-1906

Arranged chronologically.

Papers in this subseries include 1886-1888 letters to Laura in the Dakota Territory from former Hampton students describing their work experiences. Several letters written to Laura from her students are in the Sioux language, as is an undated report about the reservation and an undated "Squirrel Lullaby" in Laura's hand. Letters from various Native American agencies from 1887 to 1890 ask for donations and thank Laura for her gifts.

Box 3Folders 4-5

F. Miscellaneous material, 1844-1894

Arranged chronologically.

Papers include an account of the death of medical student Edward Southwick in 1844, undated school papers, handwritten recipes, and poems.

Additional undated material includes genealogical information about the Gregg, Tileston, Mitchell families, and related families.

Box 3Folders 6-8

III. Printed material, 1874-1917

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

The bulk of printed material is newspaper clippings with topics including religion, politics, Boston news, and the temperance movement. A series of 1917 clippings concern Boston doctors serving in World War I.

Box 3Folders 9-15
Newspaper clippings, 1874-1917
Box 3Folder 16
Ephemera, 1902, n.d.

Preferred Citation

Gregg-Tileston 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.


Gregg, Samuel, 1799-1872.
Gregg family.
Tileston, Edward G. (Edward Griffin), 1825-1877.
Tileston, Laura Elise Bates, 1856-1932.
Tileston, Martha Gregg, 1826-1902.
Tileston, Ruth Etta Gregg, 1852-1933.
Tileston family.


Bradford Academy--Students.
Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (Va.)--Faculty.
Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (Va.)--Students.
Wheaton Female Seminary (Norton, Mass.)--Students.


Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
California--Gold discoveries.
Dakota Indians.
Dakota language.
Dakota Territory--Description and travel.
Dakota Territory--Social life and customs.
Europe--Description and travel, 1800-1918.
Family history, 1800-1849.
Family history, 1850-1899.
Hampton (Va.)--Social life and customs.
Indian reservations--Dakota Territory.
Indians of North America--Cultural assimilation.
Indians of North America--Education--Dakota Territory.
Indians of North America--Education--Virginia.
New York--Description and travel.
Voyages and travels--Diaries.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the MHS Photo Archives, Photo. Coll. 500.157.

A small portrait of Martha Gregg Tileston has been removed to MHS Portraits.

Tileston's Off-hand Sketches in Boston Harbor: Pen and ink drawings, Centennial 1876 (Boston: E. G. Tileston, 1876) has been removed to MHS Printed Material.