1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Inventory

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 Edwin M. Stone Papers

 Clergyman and historian, of Beverly, Mass. and Providence, R.I.

 Papers, 1822-1883

 Size: 0.5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 854

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, February 2003

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Edwin Martin Stone (1805-1883) was born in Framingham, Mass., the son of Martin Stone and Sally (Coolidge) Stone. The family moved to Vermont when he was eight, then to western Pennsylvania and Indiana. Upon the death of his father in 1821, he returned to Framingham, and then worked as a printer and journalist in Boston though his early adulthood. He became a Congregational minister in Beverly, Mass., serving from 1834 to 1847. He then moved to Providence in 1847 to serve with the Ministry at Large, in which he preached the gospel to the poor, serving through 1877. In Providence, Rev. Stone became close with elderly John Howland (1757-1854), a Revolutionary War veteran, amateur historian and civic leader, which led to Stone's appointment as the volunteer cabinet keeper (librarian) of the Rhode Island Historical Society from 1851 to 1880, the service for which he is best remembered today.

            Rev. Stone married Louisa M. Lane (1804-1888) and they had three children: Helen M. (Stone) Snell (1828-), Edwin W. Stone (1835-1879), and Henry S. Stone (1837-?).


Bartlett, J. Gardner. Gregory Stone Genealogy, 208, 361, 555. Boston: Stone Family Association, 1918.

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Scope and content:

            The collection includes three folders of Stone's correspondence, mostly letters Stone wrote from 1824 to 1829 to his grandparents in Framingham, Abner Stone and Persis (Moore) Stone, and letters between he and his wife Louisa. Also included is Stone's diary dating from 1845 to 1849, described below:


Date range of diary: September 24 1845 - November 20 1849. Only a few entries for 1845 and 1846. Fairly regular March to September 1847; February-March 1848; and September 1848 to July 1849.

Places written: Mostly in Providence from May 1847 onward. Beverly, Mass. in first few entries, and visits there August 2 to11 1847 (loose page); August 21 - October 3 1848; and May 21 - June 2 1849 (loose page).

Age range during diary: 40 - 44

Events discussed: Met a returning Mexican-American war vet who spoke at length in support of Gen. Winfield Scott [7/1/1847]. Swan Point Cemetery consecrated [7/2/1849]. Saw President Polk passing by on train in Fall River [7/6/1847]. At a party, Francis Wayland declared that the Mexican-American War was "wholesale murder... begun without justifiable cause, & prosecuted without reasonable excuse... for which, he feared, God had judgements in reserve." [2/11/1848]. Awakened by nearby fire at home of Anna Almy Jenkins [11/20/1849, loose page]

Persons frequently mentioned: Long note on death of Gen. Gideon Foster of Danvers, aged 96 [11/4/1845, loose page]. Mrs. Judge Eddy rendered senseless by head injury [9/21/1847] Long account of conversation with John Howland (1757-1854), including his reminiscences on founding the Providence public school system and Paul Revere; Stone offered to help write memoirs [10/31/1848]. Many other meetings with Howland, especially 4/28/1849, 5/2/1849. Heard lecture by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher on amusements [12/12/1848]. Attended lecture by Ralph Waldo Emerson on England, 2/26/1849. Elderly Mr. Wilkinson recalls an anecdote about Nicholas Cooke's nomination as governor during Revolution: "Well, he said, supposed if didn't succeed in Rev. struggle, the gov'r would be the first hung, & he supposed it might as well be him as another." [11/11, year unknown, loose page] Reminiscences of Mr. Wilkinson re the "Dark Day" and the 1766 Stamp Act [5/19 and 5/20, year unknown, loose page]

Religious content: Extensive religious content. Upon beginning ministry in Providence: "I yearn for a revival, not of fanatical excitement, but of an earnest, serious, & zealous engagedness in the cause of religion. I long to see men & women act more & more as though religion was a reality, & the salvation of the soul a work of unspeakable importance." [5/23/1847, loose page]

Social life: Long expression of self-doubt and perceived social ostracism [11/19/1849, loose page]

Family: Family remained in Beverly, Mass. during Stone's early ministry in Providence [8/2/1847]. Daughter married to William Snell of Beverly, Mass. [6/27/1849]

Childhood: Long reminiscence about Thanksgiving celebrations of his boyhood in Massachusetts [11/30/1848]

Aging: Long meditation on death occasioned by purchase of burial plot [4/27/1847, loose page]

Work: "This day has been one of extraordinary labor... I have walked about 8 miles today, & my vocal labors have been equal to preaching five sermons." [6/13/1847]. "Very weary after preaching three times... & not a little oppressed with doubt whether I am doing any good to the souls of my small company of hearers." [6/27/1847] Seems delighted at possibility of call to preach in Beverly, Mass. [10/2/1848] Helped catalog the books in the chapel library [10/16/1848]

Visited Allen & Son calico print works with Mr. Thurber: "For the first time in my life, I witnessed the entire process of manufacture, the method of preparing patterns, &c. The whole is curious, complicated, & hard to conceive of. No person, from reading, or hearing a description, can form any tolerably correct idea of the method by which prints are produced. in this establishment, the old black plan is abandoned, & all the printing is done by machinery - the patterns being engraved on copper cylinders. Improvements have recently been introduced into the bleaching & washing departments that save $90 worth of hand labor per week. The stock for the winter market is printed between march & October, & for the summer trade, between October & March." [5/31/1847, loose page]. Long description of the prosperous farm of Adam Anthony [9/14/1847]. Description of new steam engine shop of Nightingale & Co., 4/28/1849. Long description of new Evening School on North Main Street [11/5/1849, loose page] Toured Butler Asylum with Judge Burgess and John Carter Brown [11/7/1849, loose page].

"Turned cobler, & mended Edwin's shoes. This kind of work is so badly done, that I am sometimes strongly inclined to get a set of tools, & do my own cobling." [4/7/1849]

Food and drink: A drunken man and his wife found in the Stone family outhouse, taking shelter from the rain [7/22/1849]

Race/ethnicity content: "My report on Sabbath evening, I find, meets with less than unanimous favor. I mentioned in it, several cases of distress I had witnessed in Irish (catholic) families... There is diverse & strong feeling among the contributors - some saying that the Catholics should not be made the objects of my charity, & others declaring that no line of distinction should be drawn." [6/16/1847] More on this issue 6/21/1847; after long debate, Stone was directed to restrict charitable support to chapel attenders.

"Passing through Martin Street today, I saw two children - a negro & a white about four years old, walking very lovingly together each with an arm thrown over the other's neck. The scene suggested the inquiry, 'Is prejudice against color natural or acquired?'" [8/4/1848].

Labor/class relations: Describes visit to Children's Friend Society orphan asylum with directress Mrs. Tibbets [9/14/1847] First detailed reports on visits to the poor; furnishings and circumstances described for ten unnamed visitees: "No. 4. Room in garret, bed on the floor, child sick, woman separated from intemperate husband." [2/29/1848] More detailed reports on 12/1/1848, including long account of an abusive alcoholic husband.

Progress: Sat for daguerreotype portrait at Southworth's in Boston, 5/29/1847 (loose page).

Arts and culture: Long note inspired by the memoirs of Rev. Henry Ware Jr. [5/22/1847, loose page] Long tirade against clergymen who attend the opera, and against women who read novels and join reading circles. [6/14/1847]. Description of gardening activities of John J. Stimson (1798-1860) [6/14/1847]. "In the afternoon visited the Historical Society's Hall - a neat & convenient structure. The Society's collections are not large, but highly creditable to its active members." [6/17/1847] After reading Knowles' biography of Roger Williams: "Williams was a man of vigorous, though I think unequally balanced mind. His temperament was restless, & were he now living he would probably be a radical reformer." [6/17/1847] At Mr. H. Bowen's house, "saw an English Bible printed in 1608." [6/23/1847] Granted permission to use the Brown University library by Professor Jewett, soon to take charge of the Smithsonian. [9/17/1847] Given selected papers of the late Rev. Dr. Cutter by his son [8/21/1848, loose page]. Recounts John Howland's story of the loss of Stephen Hopkins' papers in the Great Gale of 1815; "How many other treasures are every day going the same way for the want of a just interest in their preservation!" [10/31/1848]. Attended annual meeting of the R.I. Historical Society with John Howland. "The walking was bad, and attendance thin, only about 280 present. But this was about as well as could be expected for a historical meeting." [2/1/1849] Read an account of the Providence public schools before fifteen members of the RIHS, and was asked to donate a copy [2/2/1849]. George Baker thanked Stone for collecting Howland's stories; "he thought how remarkable it was that a man should have come from Beverly to save this piece of Providence history." [2/13/1849] Conversation with John Howland about Rev. Hitchcock's papers, Rev. Manning, Capt. Power, and early schools, 4/28/1849. Recounts hearing a teenaged lad in a local bookstore asking for "pleasure books" like Fanny Hill: "how should such a boy be acquainted with books of this kind? Are they sold in this city? And if so, where? To what extent? Parents, I fear, have much cause for alarm." [4/28/1849]

Travel: Visit to Newport, 4/23/1849.

Geographical/architectural: "Called upon Mrs. [Ruth (Owen)] Abbot, living near the north line of the city on the street leading to Pawtucket. A part of her house is 200 years old. The chimney, built of stone, is the original one... The house was built by a Whipple." [6/24/1847] Quotes John Howland on this house: "The oldest house in town. I suppose the house was built after the Indians burnt the north part of town. Had it been erected before, they would have destroyed it." [4/28/1849]

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            The bulk of this collection arrived in two gifts. Dorothy S. Curtis donated most of the correspondence, along with other papers, in 1986. Nancy Smith donated the diary, loose diary pages, and other memoranda in 2003.

            Stone donated his "Recollections of William Wilkinson" in 1849. Charles Gorton donated the history of Beverly in 1884. The Roger Williams note was donated with the papers of Samuel Austin by his heirs, probably in 1898. The 1830 letter to Eliza rice was purchased from the Current Company in 1974.

            Autographs from Stone's personal autograph collection were also donated in 1986 by Dorothy Curtis. They can presently be found in Mss 9008, the Autograph Collection.

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Folder 1. Correspondence, with grandparents in Framingham, 1824-1829

Folder 2. Correspondence, with wife Louisa, 1823-1882

Folder 3. Correspondence, miscellaneous, 1830-1883

Folder 4. Diary, 1847-1849, in volume with the constitution and minutes of the Massachusetts Association of Universalist Restorationists, 1833-1838

Folder 5. Diary pages, 1845-1849

Folder 6. Historical - "History of Beverly," 1843

Folder 7. Historical - "Memoir of Roger Williams," undated

Folder 8. Historical - "Recollections of William Wilkinson," 1849

Folder 9. Memoranda, 1822-1849 and undated:

            Memorandum book, 1822

            "A List of the Principal Towns Between Framingham and Columbia (Indiana)", undated

            "Sunday School Pic Nic - Providence", 1847

            Drawing of frontier homestead, probably of Indiana circa 1821, by Stone

            "Closing Hymn," undated

            Notes on Sunday schools in Massachusetts, circa 1830s

            Four receipts re daughter Helen Snell's wedding gifts, 1849

Folder 10. Newspaper clippings found in diary, 1847-1849

Folder 11. Pocket wallet

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Allen, Philip & Sons

Beverly, Mass. - History

Butler Hospital (Providence, R.I.)

Clergy - Rhode Island - Providence

Congregationalists - Rhode Island - Providence

Cooke, Nicholas, 1717-1782

Diaries - 1845-1849

Howland, John, 1757-1854

Jenkins, Anna (Almy), 1790-1849

Massachusetts Association of Universalist Restorationists

Mexican-American War

Ministry at Large (Providence, R.I.)

Padelford, Seth, 1807-1878 1866

Providence Children's Friend's Society

Providence, R.I. - Social life and customs

Rhode Island Historical Society

Stone, Abner, 1751-1829

Stone, Louise M. (Lane), 1804-1888

Stone, Persis (Moore), 1758-1837

Wilkinson, William, 1760-1852

Williams, Roger, 1604-1683

Woodbury, Augustus, 1825-1895 2 1866

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