Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of the Cary family of Chelsea, Mass.; St. George's, Grenada; and Vassalboro, Maine; primarily the correspondence of Samuel Cary (1773-1810) and Robert Cary.

Biographical Sketches

Samuel Cary (1742-1812) was born in Charlestown, Mass. on 20 Sep. 1742, the son of Capt. Samuel Cary and Margaret Graves Cary. After his father's death in 1769, Samuel bought out his brothers and became the sole owner of his family's property in Chelsea, Mass. In 1772, he purchased a sugar plantation in Grenada and moved there to actively manage it, returning to Chelsea in 1791 to expand and improve his house and farm. The 1795 insurrection in Grenada, as well as the failure of his Chelsea farm, caused financial difficulties in the later years of his life.

Samuel married Sarah Gray (1753-1825), the daughter of Ellis Gray and Sarah Tyler Gray, on 22 Oct. 1772. After the birth of her first child in 1773, Sarah joined Samuel in Grenada until their return to Chelsea in 1791. Their children included Samuel Cary (1773-1810), Margaret Graves Cary (1775-1868), Charles Spooner Cary (1778-1866), Lucius Cary (1782-1825), Sarah Cary Tuckerman (1783-1838), Henry Cary (1785-1857), Ann Montague Cary (1787-1882), Edward Cary (1789-1808), Harriet Cary (1790-1873), Thomas Graves Cary (1791-1859), George Blankern Cary (1792-1846), Robert Howard Cary (1794-1867), and William Ferdinand Cary (1795-1881).

Samuel Cary (1773-1810) was born in Chelsea on 7 Oct. 1773, the son of Samuel Cary (1742-1812) and Sarah Gray Cary. Raised by his maternal grandmother, Sarah Tyler Gray, after his mother joined his father in Grenada shortly after his birth, Samuel spent his early years in Chelsea before attending school in England. By 1789, he was living in Grenada with his parents and siblings, traveling as an export agent between London and the West Indies and managing his father's Grenada sugar plantation once his family returned to Chelsea in 1791. Unmarried, Samuel died at sea in Nov. 1810 sailing from Martinique to Marblehead, Mass.

Robert Howard Cary (1794-1867) was born in Chelsea in 1794, the son of Samuel Cary (1742-1812) and Sarah Gray Cary. He graduated from Harvard College in 1816 and Harvard Medical School in 1820, serving as a doctor in Vassalboro, Maine. Robert married Harriet Wing Hussey (1805-1852), and the couple had five children: Samuel J. Cary (b. 1830), Margaret Cary (b. 1837), Charles S. Cary (1837-1854), Harriet Ann Cary Montague (1841-1919), and Helen Maria Cary Montague (1849-1885). Robert died in Chelsea on 26 Oct. 1867.

Collection Description

The Cary family papers contain correspondence of Samuel Cary (1773-1810) in Grenada from 1789 to 1803, mainly with his father at Chelsea, Mass. and with other members of his family, describing his early business training as an apprentice with export houses in St. George's (Grenada) and Trinidad, his subsequent independent export trade activities, travels in the islands, and beginning in 1791, his work managing his father's Grenada sugar plantation. Letters exchanged with his father from 1795 and 1796 describe events related to Fédon's rebellion, an uprising against British rule with the intent to create a Black republic in Grenada, which resulted in widespread destruction of many plantations, including the Carys'.

Letters of Samuel Cary (1742-1812) to his wife in 1797 describe his return to Grenada to rebuild his plantation and his attempts to restore the property to a profitable basis. Also included are 1798-1802 accounts with John Campbell and Co. in Glasgow, showing sugar consignments and sales. A 1798 letter from Charles Cary describes his interest in making a career at sea and chronicles a voyage to Calcutta. 1799 letters recount Samuel, Sr.'s ventures in shipping cargoes of meat and fish to the West Indies from Boston, with information on the uncertainty of markets and prices. Letters of William F. Cary describe his life and establishment as a merchant in New York City from 1815 to 1819.

The bulk of the collection consists of the correspondence of Robert H. Cary dating from 1811 to 1852, primarily with family members. Included are letters from his brother-in-law Rev. Joseph Tuckerman from 1825 and 1826 on family matters, as well as letters from Robert's son Samuel Cary describing his early schooling in Chelsea and Waterville, Maine, from 1841 to 1848, and at Harvard in 1850. Other correspondents include James L. Child of Portland and Jason Reed of Marblehead. Of interest are a Mar. 1839 letter from Dr. John Collins Warren on medical matters and a Dec. 1836 letter written by medical student R. W. Lawson describing the teaching methods of Drs. Warren and Ware in surgical lectures in Boston.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. Dabney Wellford, Nov. 1972.

Box List to the Collection

Box 1
Box 2
Box 3
Box 4

Preferred Citation

Cary 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.


Cary, Robert Howard, 1794-1867.
Cary, Samuel, 1742-1812.
Cary, Samuel, 1773-1810.
Tuckerman, Joseph, 1778-1840.
Warren, John Collins, 1778-1856.


Great Britain--Colonies--West Indies.
Sugar growing--Grenada.
Sugar trade--Grenada.
West Indies.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photograph of Harriet de Lesdernier Prescott [Mrs. William Pepperell Prescott] removed to Portraits small (Photo. 9.23).