1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 Mary Elizabeth Potter Papers

 Papers, 1834-1891.

 Size: 0.25 lin. ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 629 SG 7

 Processed by: Robin Flynn, May 1999

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Mary Elizabeth Potter was the only daughter and youngest child of Elisha Reynolds Potter and Mary (Mawney) Potter. She was born in Kingston in 1820 and died in 1901. Mary never married nor had children. It appears she lived most of her life at Kingston with her brother, Elisha Reynolds Potter, Jr., who also never married.

            Mary may have traveled occasionally to New York, where she had relatives and friends (probably the Hagadorn and Wells families), seeking to improve her health. It appears she traveled abroad at least once with the Francis family. She was involved in running the Potter home at Kingston, managing some of the internal affairs of the house and entertaining visitors. Some idea of her social activity and personality can be gleaned from reading her brief diary and also her letters to her brothers, especially Thomas, which can be found in subgroups 3 through 6 in MSS 629.

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Scope and content:

            This very small collection is comprised of one folder of letters which are primarily from Mary's brothers William and Elisha; a brief diary, circa 1864-1865; and one folder loose accounts. The diary contains comments about Mary's social life and companions, with occasional references to her brothers' whereabouts and perhaps one or two cursory references to the Civil War. Some pages in the diary have been partially torn out.

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            The papers in this subgroup were probably part of a 1968 transfer from the University of Rhode Island Library to the RIHS, comprised of over 2000 documents from several Washington (King's) County families, the foremost of which are the Reynolds, Potter, Gardiner, Hagadorn, Wells, and Davis families. The papers had formerly been in the private collection of historian William Davis Miller, a descendant of the Davises, and were given through bequest to the university upon Miller's death in 1959.

            A smaller portion of his collection had gone to the Rhode Island Historical Society the same year; this portion is divided primarily between MSS 629, subgroups 2 and 3, the papers of Elisha Reynolds Potter and his son, Elisha Jr.

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Processing note:

            The documents in this collection had been mingled in chronological arrangement with the papers of other South Kingstown families in a collection known as the "Potter Papers", which was a merging of William Davis Miller's 1959 gift to the RIHS and the 1968 University of Rhode Island transfer, along with several other smaller gifts from various parties. In 1998, the Potter Papers were sorted into several family subgroups under a single collection number. The largest subgroups are numbers 2 and 3, the papers of Elisha Reynolds Potter Sr. and Jr., respectively.

            After separation from the rest of the collection, Mary's papers were arranged by type and put into upright acid-free storage.

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Box 1, folder 1. Correspondence, 1834-1891 and undated.

Box 2, folder 2. Diary, 1863-1865.

Box 3, folder 3. Loose accounts, 1834-1869 and undated.

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Diaries - 1863-1865

South Kingstown, R.I. - Social life and customs

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