Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of the Bigelow family of Brighton, Mass., mostly correspondence of real estate investor Samuel Bigelow and his children and siblings.

Biographical Sketches

Jonathan Bigelow, second son of John and Molly (Melvin) Bigelow, was born in Ashburnham, Mass. in 1773 and died in Conway, Mass. in 1818. He married in Conway in 1796 to Susanna Brooks, daughter of Abner and Anna (Hobart) Brooks of Groton, Mass. Susanna (Brooks) Bigelow died in Conway in 1861. Their children, all born in Conway, were: Huldah (b. 1798), who married in 1821 Wilder Truesdale; Jonathan Brooks (1800-1879), who married Relief Newhall; Mary (b. 1801); Washington (1803-1805); Anna (b. 1804), who married in 1821 Zebulon Paine; Sullivan (1806-1851), who married in 1837 Prudence Augusta Dyer; Samuel (1807-1901?), who married in 1834 Anna Jane Brooks; Jane (b. 1809), who married William Warren; Harvey (b. 1810), who married Sarah Jane Brooks; Esther (b. 1813), who married Nathan Emerson; Sumner (b. 1815), who married Hannah [ ]; and Amos (b. 1817), who married Mary Ann Curtis.

Samuel Bigelow was born in 1807 at Conway, Mass. and died probably in 1901. He married in 1834 Anna Jane Brooks (d. 1883), daughter of Samuel Brooks of Brighton, Mass. Their children were: George Brooks (1836-1901), Samuel Augustus (b. 1838), John (1841-1917), Anna Jane (1842-1911), Charles (1845-1925), William Lawrence (b. 1846), and Frank Herbert (1857?-1887). Samuel Bigelow seems to have made his money by real estate investments in Brighton, Boston, Chelsea, Charlestown, and Conway, Mass.

Samuel Augustus Bigelow (b. 1838) married in 1867 Ella H. Brown (1846-1893) of Concord, N.H. He was president of the Bigelow & Dowse Co. of Boston and connected with the hardware business for many years. George B. Bigelow (1836-1901) was a lawyer in Boston. John Bigelow (1841-1917) was a Civil War officer who served in the 2nd Battery, Massachusetts Light Artillery, 1861; the 1st Battalion, Maryland Light Artillery, 1861-1862; and the 9th Battery, Massachusetts Light Artillery, 1863-1864, when he was wounded at Gettysburg. He moved to Minneapolis, Minn. later in life.

Collection Description

This collection consists of the papers of the Bigelow family of Brighton, Mass., mostly correspondence of Samuel Bigelow and his children and siblings, as well as some correspondence with family members in Conway, Mass. Subjects include mining in Michigan; travel and trade in Japan, 1868-1870; the hardware business in New England; the textile industry and retail sales in Massachusetts and New York City; farming in Conway, Mass.; and real estate transactions in the Boston area, particularly in Charlestown and Chelsea. The collection also contains real estate deeds and agreements, financial papers, Bigelow family diaries, miscellaneous memorabilia and ephemera, Civil War correspondence and papers of John Bigelow, and a list of pupils at the Brighton Centre School in 1824. Family members include Anna Jane Bigelow, Anna Jane (Brooks) Bigelow, Frank Herbert Bigelow, George Brooks Bigelow, and William Lawrence Bigelow.

Acquisition Information

Removed from the M. B. Forbes papers, 1991.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Family correspondence, 1824-1916

Arranged chronologically.

This series contains family correspondence about the activities and work of Samuel Bigelow's children and siblings in business, including the textile industry in western Massachusetts and the textile retail trade in New York City, mining in Michigan, trade in Japan (1868-1870), farming in Conway, Mass., the hardware business in New England, and real estate transactions in the Boston area. Also included is the personal Civil War correspondence of John Bigelow (1841-1917).

Box 1
Correspondence and papers, 1824-1855
Box 2
Correspondence and papers, 1856-1861
Box 3
Correspondence and papers, 1862-1865
Box 4
Correspondence and papers, 1866-1867
Box 5
Correspondence and papers, 1868-1872

Included in this box are letters, 1868-1870, written by William L. Bigelow from Japan, where he went in search of lucrative business prospects. He ended up working for the Japanese government as a military trainer.

Box 6
Correspondence and papers, 1873-1909
Box 7
Correspondence and papers, 1910-1915
Box 8
Correspondence and papers, 1916 and undated

II. Miscellaneous papers, 1851-1865

Box 8
John Bigelow military papers, 1861-1865
Box 8
J. S. Cenas papers, 1852-1853

Included are letters and Harvard financial papers of James S. Cenas of New Orleans, La., roommate of George B. Bigelow at Harvard, who died after his first year there. The papers were apparently kept by Bigelow.

Box 8
Calling cards
Box 8
Miscellaneous printed business cards
Box 8
Brighton High School reports of John Bigelow, 1851-1856
Box 8
Miscellaneous printed matter
Box 8
Box 8
Non-manuscript letter enclosures

III. Samuel Bigelow financial and legal papers, 1793-1872

This series contains deeds, bills, agreements, etc. Included are papers of the estate of Mary Bigelow; papers of the estate of Sullivan Bigelow, who was murdered in California (where he had gone for the Gold Rush) in 1851; and many other financial papers and deeds, most if not all pertaining to Samuel Bigelow and his various real estate and financial transactions.

Box 9

IV. Volumes, 1851-1878

Box 10Folder 1-6
Samuel Bigelow diary, 1 Jan.-31 Dec. 1852Loose folio sheets, numbered 1-59.

Included are diary entries describing daily business and personal activities, financial accounts, and weather observations.

Box 10Folder 7
Samuel Bigelow bank book, 1856-1869
Box 10Folder 8-18
Samuel A. Bigelow diary, 6 Jan. 1851-20 June 185211 soft-bound notebooks.

Entries in this diary, kept at Brighton, Mass., describe daily activities, school, play, church, and family activities, including a vacation to Moosehead Lake, Maine, in August 1851.

Box 10Folder 19
Samuel A. Bigelow personal accounts, undated
Box 10Folder 20
Samuel L. Bigelow diary, 11-12 Apr. 1878

This diary, kept while Samuel L. Bigelow was a child, describes two days' activities.

V. Oversize papers, 1803-1898

This series contains Boston newspapers, with a set of articles on Peter Faneuil and the Faneuil family; a sample of oriental block-printed paper; and "Names of the scholars who have attended this school with their different ages & studies annexed," a manuscript list of pupils at the Brighton Centre School created by Lucy D. White, 12 Mar. 1824, illuminated with watercolors. One of the pupils on the list is Anna Jane Brooks, who later married Samuel Bigelow. The series also contains oversize deeds and agreements removed from Box 9 and three broadsides.

Box OS

Preferred Citation

Bigelow 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.


Bigelow, Anna Jane, 1842-1911.
Bigelow, Anna Jane Brooks, -1883.
Bigelow, Frank Herbert, 1857-1887.
Bigelow, George Brooks, 1836-1901.
Bigelow, John, 1841-1917.
Bigelow, Samuel, 1807-1901?
Bigelow, Samuel Augustus, 1838-
Bigelow, Samuel Lawrence, 1870-1947.
Bigelow, William Lawrence, 1846-
White, Lucy D.


Brighton Centre School (Brighton, Mass.).
Confederate States of America. Army. Maryland Artillery Battery, 1st.
United States. Army. Massachusetts Light Artillery Battery, 2nd (1861-1865).
United States. Army. Massachusetts Light Artillery Battery, 9th (1861-1865).


Brighton (Boston, Mass.)--History.
Family history--1800-1849.
Family history--1850-1899.
Hardware--New England.
Japan--Description and travel.
Maine--Description and travel.
Mines and mineral resources.
Real property--Massachusetts--Boston.
Real property--Massachusetts--Charlestown.
Real property--Massachusetts--Chelsea.
Textile industry.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives.
Voyages and travels--Diaries.