Howe Family Papers

Personal, business and legal papers of the Howe family of Enfield and Dana, Massachusetts including correspondence between family members, genealogies, account books and printed materials. Account books record transactions of various family members whose occupations included general storekeeper, minister, printer, postmaster, telephone exchange and gas-station owner, and document the transactions of community businesses and individuals, some of whom were women involved in the beginnings of the local palm leaf hat and mat industry.

See similar SCUA collections:

Biographical Note

Donald Howe was a descendent of the John and Solomon Howe, the best known printers in the Quabbin region during the nineteenth century. Based in the relatively remote towns of Greenwich and Enfield, the Howes built a vibrant practice, printing almanacs, songs and occasional poems, pamphlets and small books for a popular audience.

A graduate of the Cushing Academy and one-time student at Bates College, Donald Howe was treasurer of Ware Coupling Co., and owner of the Quabbin Book House and Radio Station WARE. In 1951, he wrote Quabbin, The Lost Valley, one of the first personal accounts of the evacuation and inundation of the towns Greenwich, Enfield, Dana, and Prescott, as the Swift River Valley was dammed up to create the Quabbin Reservoir to provide Boston with water.

Family history

Generation A

Generation B

Generation C

Generation D

Generation E

Generation F

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Howe Family papers, collected by family members over two centuries, are important not only for biographical or genealogical purposes, but also are useful for reconstructing the social history of Enfield and the Swift River Valley in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Especially when used in conjunction with other collections in the Special Collections and Archives Department and with public records, they reveal much about the society and culture of the area from 1800 to the 1930s when the Quabbin Reservoir flooded the valley.

The collection is organized into the following series, including Correspondence, 1840-1940, Legal Documents, 1809-1892, Howe Genealogy, 195?, Account Books, 1730-1920, and Printed Memorabilia and Clippings, 1884-1955.

The most interesting correspondence in the collection is that of Henry Clay Milton Howe and his wife Theodocia Johnson Howe, letters from 1840-1877. These letters reflect the lives of some of the more well off residents of rural Enfield. Theodocia's letter from her sister Charlotte tells of the 1840 revivals in New Salem, for example. Other letters are from her Johnson relatives who are rising entrepreneurs and state representatives in nearby Dana (folder 2). H.C.M. Howe stayed in Enfield having inherited the family store and farm, but his brothers wrote home to him from the gold fields of California (folder 3) and from Philadelphia. The Philadelphia brother wrote to his small-town capitalist brother about radical criticism of the Civil War, and about the death of Abraham Lincoln (folder 4).

The taking of Enfield and Howe family land is documented in letters and clippings about the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir of interest to researchers of that era (folders 11 and 31).

The deeds and other legal documents are from 1809 when the Howes first bought land in Enfield and began their farming and storekeeping there. These documents help to show the status of the Howes in the community.

The set of bound account books that the Howes kept from 1730-1920, (with large gaps) shows the growth of rural society from a barter economy to a very commercial one, with the accompanying change in the Howe family males' occupations from storekeeper, to minister-printer, to printer-storekeeper, to storekeeper-postmaster, to storekeeper-postmaster-telephone exchange owner to storekeeper-postmaster-gas station owner. Incidentally the account books show the professionalization of bookkeeping methods in the nineteenth century. The early books were used to record sales, but also deaths, even poems. Later books are more specific in use. The 1796 book is not an account-book, but relatedly, the childhood arithmetic exercise book of John Milton Howe who kept the 1821 book for his store in Enfield. The first page of the exercise book admonishes, "Arithmetic . . . the knowledge of which is so necessary that scarcely any thing in life, and nothing in trade can be done without it."

The account books record credits and debits with many of the other people in the small community and outside of it. Careful reading of the accounts can unfold a rich lode of information. For example, Samuel Fowler Dickinson of Amherst was buying hundreds of board feet of lumber in 1821, at exactly the time he was helping to get Amherst College built (folder 24). John Howe was taking braid in trade early in the 1820's from women in the community who were the beginning of the palm leaf hat and mat industry (folder 24). Mrs. Hannum's bill was paid for by the town of Greenwich, and was being picked up by an S. Peebles--rum, flour, tea, and mackeral . . . a woman on welfare? (folder 24).

The accounts of the estate of John Milton Howe, who died in 1845 but whose estate was not settled until the 1850s, show that Howe had accumulated quite a large amount of money which was being lent out to various individuals and businesses and even to the town (folders 25 and 26). Later accounts show the growing complexity of life in Enfield. In use with other documents from Enfield and the Quabbin region, MS 19 should prove to be an invaluable source for a wide variety of researchers.

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into five series:

Collection inventory
Series 1. Correspondence

Letters and essays of Theodocia Ann Johnson prior to her 1848 marriage to Henry Clay Milton Howe.
Box 1: 1
Letters to H.C.M. Howe and Theodocia (Johnson) Howe Enfield from her Johnson relatives prominent in Dana.
Box 1: 2
Letters to H.C.M. Howe from his brother, Fenelon Warren Howe, of California.
1856, 1872
Box 1: 3
Letters to H.C.M. Howe and Theodocia Howe from his brother Solomon Bolivar Howe and wife (2) Mary.
Box 1: 4
Other correspondence, H.C.M. Howe and family
Box 1: 5
Miscellaneous Howes Correspondence
Box 1: 6
Papers of Edwin H. Howe (1859-1943)
Box 1: 7
Letters, postcards to Donald W. Howe (1892-196?)
1912, 1913
Box 1: 8
Correspondence of Donald W. Howe on land-taking from family for Quabbin Reservoir
Box 1: 9
Series 2. Legal Documents
Deeds, indentures, power of attorney, receipts Solomon (1750-1833) and John Milton Howe (1783-1845)
Box 2: 10
Deeds, Wills - Howe Family
Box 2: 11
Deeds, maps, pew deeds, Nathaniel Chickering.
Box 2: 12
Series 3. Howe Genealogy
Genealogy, 1871 Howe Family Gathering
Box 2: 13
Genealogy collected by Annie (Williams) Howe
Box 2: 14
Clippings about Howe Family weddings
Box 2: 15
Series 4. Account Books
Sudbury, MA. Accounts of John Howe.
c. 1730
Box 2: 16
Marlboro, MA. Arithmetic Exercises of John Howe. The last pages have Howe and Williams births and deaths
Box 2: 17
Accounts of the late John M. Howe. Pages in back are Howe and Williams Family birth and death records.
Box 2: 18
Accounts of the late John M. Howe. Pages in back are day labor time sheets.
Box 2: 19
Loan receipt book of Nathaniel Johnson of Dana father of Mrs. H.C.M.
Box 2: 20
Accounts of John Milton Howe, Enfield, MA. store
Box 3: 21
Edwin H. Howe, Enfield, MA., Accounts.
Box 4: 22
Edwin H. Howe, Enfield, MA., Accounts.
Box 4: 23
Edwin H. Howe, Enfield, MA., Accounts.
Box 5: 24
Edwin H. Howe, Enfield, MA., Accounts.
Box 5: 25
Series 5. Printed Materials and Clippings
Memorabilia of Edwin H. Howe and Annie (Williams) Howe.
Box 6: 26
Clippings: Quabbin area, Post Office Closings
Box 6: 27
Clippings: Miscellaneous
Box 6: 28
Clippings: Reviews of Quabbin the Lost Valley, by Donald W. Howe.
Box 6: 29
Memorabilia of Donald W. Howe (1892-196?)
Box 6: 30
Epitaphs collected by Donald W. Howe
Box 6: 31
Scrapbook of Annie Williams Howe
Box 6: 32

Administrative information


The collection is open for research.




Acquired from Donald W. Howe of Ware, Mass., 1960.

Related material

Solomon Howe's Hymn Book, ca.1790, is housed at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester.

The Jones Library, Amherst, Mass., includes two useful items for reference:

  • Nason, Elias, The Howe Family Gathering (Thursday, August 31, 1871 at Framingham), 1871.
  • Richards, Charles. Enfield Deaths, 1842-1899, and Enfield Marriage and Births, 1820-1890.


Biographical Review: The Leading Citizens of Hampshire County, Boston, 1896.

Chapman George T., Sketches of Alumni of Dartmouth College 1771-Present, 1867.

Greenwich Vital Records

Hampshire County Registry of Probate 1845 Will and Inventory, John M. Howe, Box 74 #48.

Hampshire County Registry of Deeds

Howe, Donald W., Quabbin, The Lost Valley, 1951.

Howe, John Milton (or Silas Warren Howe), Howe's Genuine Almanac, 1804-1821. In SCUA.

Hudson, Charles, History of the Town of Marlborough, 1657-1861. 1862

Processing Information

Processed by Ruth Owen Jones, 1985.


Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: Howe Family Papers (MS 19). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Search terms


  • Bookkeeping--History--Sources.
  • Enfield (Mass.)--Biography.
  • Enfield (Mass.)--Economic conditions--Sources.
  • Enfield (Mass.)--Genealogy.
  • Enfield (Mass.)--History--Sources.
  • Enfield (Mass.)--Social conditions--Sources.
  • Enfield (Mass.)--Social life and customs--Sources.
  • Moneylenders--Massachusetts--Enfield--History--Sources.
  • Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--History--Sources.
  • Swift River Valley (Mass.)--History--Sources.
  • Swift River Valley (Mass.)--Social conditions--Sources.
  • Swift River Valley (Mass.)--Social life and customs--Sources.

Link to similar SCUA collections


  • Howe family.
  • Howe family--Genealogy.
  • Howe, Donald W. (Donald Wiliam), 1982-1977.
  • Howe, Donald W. (Donald William), 1892-1977.
  • Howe, Edwin H., 1859-1943.
  • Howe, Edwin H., 1859-1943.
  • Howe, Henry Clay Milton, b. 1823.
  • Howe, Henry Clay Milton, b. 1823--Correspondence.
  • Howe, John M.
  • Howe, John M.
  • Howe, John, 1783-1845.
  • Howe, John, 1783-1845.
  • Howe, Theodocia Johnson, 1824-1898.
  • Howe, Theodocia Johnson, 1824-1898--Correspondence.

Genre terms

  • Account books.
  • Business records.
  • Deeds.
  • Genealogies.
  • Indentures.
  • Scrapbooks.
  • Wills.