Collecting area: Antislavery

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New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Records

1633-2018
384.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 902

In 1661, less than a decade after the first Friends arrived in British North America, the precursor to the New England Yearly Meeting was organized as the Rhode Island Yearly Meeting. As one of approximately two dozen yearly meetings in the United States, the NEYM currently comprises eight quarterly meetings and approximately 85 monthlies, which are the basic unit of organization for the Society. Like many Yearly meetings, the NEYM has been diverse in spiritual practice, reflected in a history of separations and reunions. Most famously, Orthodox Friends in New England divided in the 1840s into the increasingly evangelically-oriented Gurneyites, who went by the name Yearly Meeting of Friends for New England (joining Friends United Meeting in 1902), and the Wilburites, sometimes called Conservative Friends. In 1945, the disparate branches formally reunited.

Consolidated beginning in the 1960s, the NEYM collection contains the official records of the New England Yearly Meeting from its founding in the seventeenth century to the present, along with records of most of its constituent Quarterly, Monthly, and Preparative Meetings and records of Quaker schools and trusts. As varied as the Quaker practice they document, these records include minutes of meetings for business; committee records; newsletters, financial records; some personal papers; printed books and serials; and an assortment of photographs, audiovisual materials, microfilm, and electronic records. Of particular note are the vital statistics recorded by the Monthly Meetings, including general information on births, deaths, marriages, membership, and obituaries, and specifically-Quaker information on removals (formal letters written as members moved from one meeting to another), denials, testimonies (beliefs and convictions), and sufferings (penalties suffered by Quakers for following testimonies). The Archives Committee of the NEYM is a partner in records management and on-going documentation of the Meeting and its constituent bodies. The collection also includes several thousand Quaker books and pamphlets, including the libraries of Moses and Obadiah Brown and several individual monthly meetings. The records of most monthly meetings in Maine are held at the Maine Historical Society, while important bodies of records are held at the Newport Historical Society (some Nantucket and Rhode Island Meetings) or at individual Monthly Meetings.

An overview of the NEYM collections and a comprehensive inventory and finding aid prepared by Richard Stattler in 1997 at the Rhode Island Historical Society are available online. Stattler’s inventory includes materials in the NEYM Collection at UMass, as well as NEYM materials held at other institutions. SCUA’s updated inventory will follow in 2017.

Subjects

Quakers--New EnglandSociety of Friends--New England--History
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Quaker History Collection

1783-1950
1 box 0.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 926

During the early twentieth century, the library at the Moses Brown School (formerly the Friends Boarding School) became an informal repository for Quaker manuscripts reflecting the history and work of the Society of Friends. Most of these materials were later transferred for custody to the school’s governing body, the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

This miscellaneous assortment of letters was apparently set aside by the staff at the Moses Brown School due to their historical content and preserved in the “vault.” Many of the letters appear to have been retained as good examples of Quaker expression of family and friendly bonds or as documentation about significant periods in Quaker history, particularly the Gurneyite-Wilburite controversy of the 1840s, and several touch on Quaker involvement in the antislavery and peace movements. Of special note are four interesting letters from the Quaker minister and social reformer, Elizabeth Comstock, written during and just after the Civil War; a series of nine lengthy letters from a visiting English minister Isaac Stephenson, traveling through New England meetings; a substantial series of letters from prominent Friend Samuel Boyd Tobey; and three letters from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Sarah F. Tobey regarding attempts to connect Stowe with Alexander T. Stewart in hopes of raising funds for her plans for the education of women.

Gift of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, 2016

Subjects

Antislavery movements--United StatesGurney, James JosephSociety of Friends--HistoryWilbur, John,

Contributors

Comstock, Elizabeth L.Stewart, Alexander Turney, 1803-1876Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896Tobey, Samuel Boyd, 1805-1867
Nichols, Reuben

Reuben Nichols, The adventures and ramblings of a sailor

1840
1 vol. 0.1 linear feet
Call no.: MS 901 bd

The son of a Revolutionary War veteran from Fairfield County, Conn., Reuben Nichols went to sea as teenager and spent a quarter of a century sailing the Atlantic aboard merchant ships and privateers. After rising to become master of the New York and Savannah packets Exact and Angelique in the 1830s, he retired to a life on shore near Bridgeport.

This vigorous account of a life on the antebellum seas runs Nichols’ childhood hardships through a series of adventures at sea in war and peace. An observant and effective writer, Nichols describes voyages to western and northern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and South America during and after the War of 1812. During a colorful career, he took part in the operations of warships and privateers, witnessed attempted mutinies and desertions, rescued the abolitionist John Hopper from a mob in Georgia, and was drawn into the struggles for colonial liberation. His experiences aboard the privateer Kemp and descriptions of Haiti, Cape Verde, Spain, Gibraltar, Turkey, and Argentina are particularly evocative.

Acquired from William Reese, Mar. 2016

Subjects

Abolitionists--GeorgiaArgentina--Description and travel--19th centuryAruba--Description and travel--19th centuryGibraltar--Description and travel--19th centuryHaiti--Description and travel--19th centuryHopper, John, 1815-1865Merchant ships--ConnecticutMutinyPrivateeringSailors--ConnecticutSpain--Description and travel--19th centuryStratford (Conn.)--HistoryTurkey--Description and travel--19th centuryUnited States--History--War of 1812--Naval operations

Types of material

AutobiographiesMemoirs
Obear, Clark H.

Clark Hopkins Obear Diaries

1845-1888
4 vols. 0.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 601

A resident of New Ipswich, N.H., Clark Obear was an ardent supporter of the temperance and antislavery movements, and was deeply involved in the affairs of his church and community. A teacher in Hillsborough County schools, Obear also worked as a farmer and insurance agent, and served in public office as a deputy sheriff, a Lieutenant Colonel in the militia, a fence viewer and pound keeper, and for several years he was superintendent of schools. Obear and his wife Lydia Ann (Swasey) had two children, Annabel and Francis.

The four diaries in this collection contain brief, but regular entries documenting Clark Obear’s daily life in New Ipswich, N.H. during the middle years of the nineteenth century. Despite their brevity, the diaries form a continuous coverage of many years and offer details that provide a compelling sense of the rhythms of life in a small New Hampshire village. Of particular note, Obear carefully notes the various lectures he attends in town and the organizations of which he is part, including reform movements like temperance and antislavery.

Acquired from Benjamin Katz, Apr. 2009

Subjects

Abolitionists--New HampshireAntislavery movements--New HampshireNew Ipswich (N.H.)--HistoryTemperance--New Hampshire

Contributors

Obear, Clark H.

Types of material

Diaries
Peck Family

Peck-Sisson-White Family Papers

1772-1975 Bulk: 1830-1875
2 boxes 0.75 linear feet
Call no.: MS 933

Perez Peck (1786-1876) and Asa Sisson (1815-1893) of the village of Anthony (Coventry), R.I., were innovative machinists and manufacturers of cotton looms. Active members of the Society of Friends, they were supporters of the antislavery struggle and sent their children to the Friends Boarding School in Providence, R.I.

Although the Peck-Sisson-White family collection spans three families and three generations, the bulk of material is concentrated on the lives of Asa Sisson and his wife Mary Ann (Peck) and their daughter Emily, who married Willis H. White, with an emphasis on their poetry and their time at the Friends Boarding School in Providence, R.I. The family also copied verse from other writers, including works from George Miller (not otherwise identified) extracting Anthony Benezet and “Remarks on encouraging slavery” and a “lamentation over New England” which touches on the execution of early Quakers in Massachusetts Bay.

Gift of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, 2016

Subjects

Antislavery movements--Rhode IslandDeath--PoetryFriends Boarding School (Providence, R.I.)Quakers--Rhode Island

Contributors

Peck, Perez, 1786-1876Sisson, Asa, 1815-1893Sisson, Mary Ann, 1816-1882White, Emily Sisson, 1856-1945

Types of material

DiariesPoetry
Providence Society for Abolishing the Slave-Trade

Providence Society for Abolishing the Slave-Trade Minute Book

1789-1827
1 vol. 0.2 linear feet
Call no.: MS 935

Founded in 1789, the Providence Society for Abolishing the Slave Trade was an early antislavery organization forged in the unique political and social climate of post-Revolutionary Rhode Island. An interdenominational organization with a membership comprised largely of Quakers, the Society served as a self-appointed watchdog for violations of the act abolishing the slave trade and they provided funds to prosecute violators and to support African Americans fighting for their rights in state courts. The Society lay essentially dormant from 1793 to 1824 , when it was revived as an all-purpose antislavery organization, and it appears to have ceased operations in 1827.

The minute book of the Providence Society for Abolishing the Slave Trade are an essentially complete record of the organization’s formal meetings. The volume begins by laying out the organization’s constitution and includes listings of officers and members and summary records of their activities.

Gift of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, 2016

Subjects

African Americans--Rhode IslandAntislavery movements--Rhode IslandProvidence (R.I.)--HistoryQuakers--Rhode Island

Contributors

Brown, Moses, 1738-1832Howell, David, 1747-1824

Types of material

Minute books
South Kingstown Monthly Meeting (Society of Friends)

South Kingstown Monthly Meeting (Society of Friends) Records

1740-1943
12 vols., 2 boxes 3.75 linear feet
Call no.: MS 902 S556

The South Kingstown Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends was the home meeting of John Wilbur and as such, the epicenter of the Wilburite separation of 1845. A part of Rhode Island Quarter, the meeting became a locus for the Wilburite separation of 1845 when the membership at South Kingstown rebuffed efforts to discipline Wilbur. After being suspended from 1842 to 1847, the Gurneyite South Kingstown Monthly Meeting was laid down in 1899.

The records of South Kingstown Monthly Meeting contain an extensive set of minutes, though sparse in the post-separation years, along with vital records, records of meeting disciplinary cases, certificates of manumission for people enslaved by members of the meeting, and miscellaneous other content.

Gift of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, April 2016

Subjects

Quakers--Rhode IslandSociety of Friends--Rhode IslandSouth Kingstown (R.I.)--Religious life and customs

Contributors

New England Yearly Meeting of FriendsWilbur, John, 1774-1856

Types of material

EpistlesMinutes (Administrative records)
Storrsville (Mass.) Lyceum Debating Society

Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society Minutebook

1842-1846
1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 016 bd

Club that met weekly or bi-weekly in Storrsville, Massachusetts, to debate questions of local, national, and international interest including religion, abolition and slavery, human nature, penal reform, the lure of the West, intemperance, and war and peace. Single minutebook includes two versions of the constitution, proposed and debated questions, the teams, the outcome, and notations of any additional activities that took place during the formal meetings.

Subjects

Ciceronean Debating Club (Dana, Mass.)Dana (Mass. : Town)--Intellectual life--19th centuryDebates and debating--Massachusetts--Dana (Town)--HistoryStorrsville (Dana, Mass. : Town)--Intellectual life--19th centuryStorrsville Lyceum Debating Society (Dana, Mass.)--Archives

Types of material

Minute books
Thacher-Channing families

Thacher-Channing Family Papers

1757-1930
3 boxes, books 22.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 1005
Depiction of Stephen Thacher, ca.1853
Stephen Thacher, ca.1853

A graduate of Yale, failed schoolmaster, and politically-connected customs collector in eastern Maine during the antebellum period, Stephen Thacher raised a large family with grand intellectual ambitions. Thacher’s sons made the most of their collegiate educations in their careers in law and the ministry, his eldest daughter Mary married Thomas Wentworth Higginson, while a granddaughter Alice Thacher married the Harvard historian Edward Channing, son of William Ellery Channing and nephew of Margaret Fuller.

These relics of a prominent New England family contain nearly 150 letters, dozens of photographs and other visual materials, and a large assortment of books from three generations of Thachers and Channings. The letters are a rich resource for understanding the life of Stephen Thacher from the uncertainty of youth in Connecticut to political and financial success in the ports of eastern Maine. Assembled by Stephen’s son Peter, the collection includes a number of noteworthy items, including an excellent letter from Timothy Goodwin in July 1775, describing his experiences during the failed expedition on Quebec and the retreat to Crown Point, and a series of letters from Congressman Martin Kinsley on the major issues of the day, including the extension of slavery to the territories and formation of the state of Maine.

Gift of Ben Forbes and Fran Soto, 2017

Subjects

Channing familyMaine--Politics and government--19th centuryMassachusetts--Politics and government--19th centuryThacher family

Types of material

AmbrotypesDaguerreotypesPhotographsSilhouettes
Turner, Abel

Abel Turner, The Life and Travels of Abel Turner

1839
451p. 0.2 linear feet
Call no.: MS 708 bd

As a young man in Foxcroft, Maine, Abel Turner was caught up in the evangelical revivals and converted to Free Will Baptism, becoming a minister by the age of 21. Beginning in the backwoods settlements, Turner spent the better part of a decade attempting to “convert sinners” in Piscataquis and Penobscot Counties and the in the Burned-Over District of New York state, from Utica to Penn Yan and Cattaraugus County.

Written for his wife, Abel Turner’s long and detailed autobiography is a remarkable record of a young Free Will Baptist minister’s labors during the Second Great Awakening. Beginning with his childhood in Maine and his conversion experience, the manuscript provides insight into Turner’s experiences preaching in the rough-hewn interior settlements of Maine and the Burned-Over District of New York from roughly 1821 through 1839. In addition to some wonderful commentary on evangelical religion in the heart of the Awakening and on Turner’s own spiritual development, the memoir includes fascinating descriptions of the towns and people he met along the way.

Subjects

Free Will Baptists (1727-1935)--ClergyMaine--History--19th centuryNew York (State)--History--19th centurySecond Great Awakening--Maine--HistorySecond Great Awakening--New York (State)--History

Contributors

Turner, Abel

Types of material

Autobiographies
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