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  • Notes on the Manuscript Collection Vol. 7 No. 6

    John B. Carney

    Published Date : December 1990

    MSS 183 (1 linear foot)

    This collection was deposited in 1949 at the Lowell Institution for Savings by descendants of John Corliss, and donated to the Society 6 November 1952.  Corliss, a carpenter at Haverhill, Mass., and later owner of a sawmill at Pawtucket Falls, married Sarah Ford, eldest daughter of Capt. John Ford, whose papers constitute Sub-group I of this collection.

    Capt. Ford, born at Haverhill, N.H. 3 August 1740, was active during the French and Indian War, and was at the siege of Louisburg in 1758. He served in the Revolution at Lexington and Concord, Cambridge, and Ticonderoga, distinguishing himself particularly at Bunker Hill, where he was commended by General Washington.  Ford was a farmer and later a small entrepreneur whose land extended from the Dracut side of the Merrimack River in Lowell (then Chelmsford) to Pawtucket Falls, where he erected sawmills and grist mills.  He died at Lowell, Mass. 6 November 1822, and is buried in the Pawtucket burying ground there.

    Capt. Ford’s grandson, Horatio G.F. Corliss (1813-1873) lived at Lowell, unmarried. He was a school comissioner in 1840, later an auditor of accounts and a lawyer; his papers compose Sub-group 11.

    Sub-group I contains Ford papers: military, business and political (1785-1862). Series A concerns the Revolution, with service statements, orderly book, and orders and receipts (1775-1785). Series B concerns Shays’s Rebellion and includes an arrest warrant, a list of prisoners, and testimony (1786-1787). Series C contains business papers, legal documents, and bills and receipts (1765-1862).

    Sub-group II contains Corliss papers: public, business and personal papers (1823-1862) of Horatio G.F. Corliss.  Series A contains public papers concerning Lowell treasurer’s accounts (1835-1839).  Series B holds business papers, including deeds, bonds, bills, receipts, etc. (1829-1862). Series C contains personal papers and family correspondence (1829-1862).  Series D (miscellaneous) contains receipts and docket books (1823-1842).

    Francis Apthorp Foster Papers

    MSS 26 (3 feet) (see also MSS 27, MSS 28)

    Francis Apthorp Foster (1872-1966), youngest of three children, was the son of Francis Charles Foster (1829-1915) and his wife Marion Padellord (1833-1923).  Raised in Cambridge, Mass., he attended Noble and Greenough School and was a special student at Haryard College’s Lawrence Scientific School (1891-92).  For the first fifteen years of this century he was active in Boston patriotic and historical societies, and became interested in his own genealogy, compiling data, commissioning professional research in England, and gathering family papers (see also MSS 28 and MSS 29 at NEHGS).  After his father’s death Foster moved to Martha’s Vineyard and discontinued most of his work for historical societies (except the Society of the Cincinnati).  He was active in town government at Edgartown in the 1920s but later moved to Vineyard Haven where he gradually withdrew from public life and developed his avocation as an ornithologist.  In 1927 he gave 600 acres on the island for a bird sanctuary.

    The papers comprise primarily a diary (1915-1963, continuous from 1921) in 46 volumes (Sub-group 1), mostly of interest to historians of ornithology and natural history.  Foster recorded the weather, his gardening activities, walks he took, birds he saw, and meetings he attended, but seldom his feelings.  There is little personal material other than membership and award certificates from patriotic and historical societies (Subgroups II [Personal] and III [Membcrships]); the [214] only autobiographical statement is an interview given at 91 to The Japan Times.

    Also in the collection (Subgroup IV) is genealogical material compiled by Foster or by J. Gardner Bartlett, who worked for him in England.  Among the data, left in the order Foster used, is information on his patrilineal Foster line (Edward Foster of Kent, at Scihitate, Mass., in 1635).  A handwritten volume compiled by Perley Derby of Salem, Mass., treats the descendants of Reginald Foster of Ipswich, Mass. (d. 1681). Photographs of Foster constitute the last group of records (Sub-group V). A folder of oversize material (membership certificates and some genealogical information) follows the main collection.

    Francis C. Foster Papers

    MSS 27 (3 feet) (see also MSS 26, MSS 28)

    The Francis C. Foster Papers contain diaries (1857-1915) and letters of Francis Charles Foster (1829-1915), son of Charles and Lydia (Geaubert) Foster of Boston.  A Harvard graduate of 1850, Francis C. Foster was responsible for the family investments, most importantly Foster’s Wharf in Boston.  His life was outwardly uneventful except for a three-year Grand Tour in Europe, on which he was sent by his father (1854-56).

    In later life, he lived at Cambridge, where he took a large part in diocesan affairs of Christ Church, Episcopal.  He and his wife, Marion Padelford of Savannah, Georgia, had three children: Leonard Foster (1857-1884); Caroline Padelford Foster (1861-1928) who married C. Bors lshdal; and Francis Apthorp Foster (1872-1966); none left descendants.

    The papers in this collection, in four sub-groups, are mainly diaries kept from 1857 to just before Foster’s death in 1915, a meticulous account of weather, personal expenses and unobtrusive charities, with little indication of personal feeling (Sub-group I).  Most of the letters date from 1854-56, when Foster was touring Europe; a few are from his father, and some were written at other periods of his life (Sub-group II).  There is also some material on Foster’s Harvard career (Subgroup III), and the photographs (Sub-group IV) are of himself, his wife and their children. An oversize file contains material concerning Foster and his son Leonard.

    William Foster, Jr. Papers

    MSS 28 (3 linear feet) (see also MSS 26, MSS 27)

    The William Foster, Jr. Papers, originally part of the Francis Apthorp Foster Papers (see above), were separated when the collection was cataloged in 1981.  This collection consists primarily of letters written by William Foster, Jr. (1777-1863) and members of his family. Foster was a Jacobin in youth and a democrat for the rest of his life as a Boston merchant.

    William Foster, Jr. was the eldest son of William Foster (1746-1821), also a Boston merchant, and his wife Grace Spear (1751-1816).  At fourteen, William, Jr. was sent by his father to Cadiz, Spain, to study languages and learn business methods.  Moving to France in 1794, William, Jr. married Marie Hortense Perron (1779-1838), daughter of a French merchant, and settled in Normandy. Several of his in-laws (especially General Jean-Victor-Marie Moreau, brother of his brother-in-law) were involved in La Vendée, a civil war fought in France during the Revolution, and Foster served with them in the Republican army.

    In 1809, he returned to Boston with his wife and two daughters, Melite (1796-1843) and Virginia (1797-1884).  Melite never married, but Virginia married James E. Coppinger and lived in France for the rest of her life.  William, Jr.’s third daughter, Fanny (1813-1892), married in 1844 Henry James Tudor, brother of Frederic Tudor, the “Ice King;” Fanny’s husband’s papers are in MSS 29 at the Society.

    William Foster, Jr. spent much of his time attacking aristocratic tendencies in American society which he considered dangerous to democracy. He wrote voluminously to newspapers under the nom de plume Franklin, proposing a Franklin Institute of Political Studies and also an agricultural training school.  He and his brothers obtained patents on various inventions.  The William Foster, Jr. Papers also include papers from other members of the Foster family, as noted below.

    The collection is divided into ten sub-groups. The first seven pertain to members of the Foster family (descendants of William Foster, Sr. [1746-1821], arranged by order of birth).  The eighth is concerned with the family real estate holdings, and the ninth contains material on the Spear family of William, Jr.’s mother, Grace [Spear] Foster [1751-1816]).

    Sub-group I: William Foster, Sr. (1746-1821); Sub group II: Sally (Foster) Otis (1770-1836), her husband Harrison Gray Otis (1765-1845), their daughters Elizabeth (Otis) Lyman (1791-1824) and Sophia (Otis) Ritchie (b. 1799) and her husband Andrew Ritchie; Sub-group III: William Foster, Jr. (1777-1863), his wife Marie Hortense Perron (1779-1838), and daughters Melite Foster (1796-1843), Virginia (Foster) Coppinger (1797-1884) an Fanny (Foster) Tudor (1813-1892); Sub-group IV: Grace (Foster) Apthorp (1774-1795), her twin sister Mary Spear (Foster) Apthorp (b. 1774) and John T. Apthorp, successively the husband of both sisters; Sub-group V: Charles Chauncy Foster (1785-1874); Sub-group VI: Leonard Foster (1787-1855) and son William Leonard Foster (1837-1915); Sub-group VII: Charlotte (Foster) van Rensselaer (1792-1833) and husband Jeremiah van Rensselaer (1793-1871); Sub-group VIII: Foster family real estate; Sub-group IX: Nathan Spear, Jr. (d. 1800); Sub-group X: Paintings and drawings; Oversize: one account book (Sub-group VIII and two folders of plans from Sub-groups III and VIII.

    John B. Carney, a long-time volunteer in the Society’s Manuscripts Department, has been a NEXUS contributor since 1984.  His article, “In Search of Fayerweather: The Fayerweather Family of Boston,” continues in the January 1991 issue of the Register.

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