1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 Martin Family Papers

 Merchant family, of Providence, R.I.; Rehoboth, Mass.; and East Windsor, Conn.

 Papers, 1745-1864

 Size: 0.5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 999

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, April 1997

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            These papers all relate to Silvanus Martin Jr. (1748-1818) and his close relatives. Silvanus Martin Jr. was born in Rehoboth, Mass., and later settled in East Windsor, Connecticut. He finally settled in Providence, from whence he served in the Revolution as a lieutenant, and was later a representative to the R.I. General Assembly in 1790.

            Silvanus married Amey Brown (1749-1833) in 1774. She was the daughter of William Brown and Susanna Dexter, and was apparently not a close relative of the famous Brown brothers of Providence. She had ten children, and then outlived Silvanus by fifteen years.

            Among their children were four of interest to this collection: William B. Martin, John D. Martin (b.1778) , Amy (Martin) Richmond (b.1784), Stephen Martin (b.1784) and Henry Martin. John's wife Julia (Bowen) Martin left a diary to the collection.

            Two of Silvanus' brothers appear in the collection as well: Wheeler Martin (1765-1836) and Simeon Martin (1754-1819). Wheeler Martin's widow Rebecca (Sawin) Martin (b.1797, d. after 1880) appears. There are also some papers of their father Silvanus Martin Sr. (1727-1782) and their grandfather Edward Martin (1700-1745).

            In the younger generation, Silvanus Jr's granddaughters Sophia B. Martin (1835-1852) and Amey B. Martin (b. 1841, m. Andrew T. MacMillan) are represented by some papers.


Martin, Henry J. Notices: Genealogical and Historical, of the Martin Family of New England... (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1880), pages 114-138.

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Scope and content:

            This is an important collection of Revolutionary-era papers. Among the most interesting items are the Silvanus Martin Sr. journal from the march on Boston, and the tender war-era correspondence between Silvanuses Sr. and Jr. The following extract from Joseph Morris' letter to Silvanus Martin Jr. dated 4/27/1794 describes an ugly divorce case: "I have wrote to Howel to get a disvost from that amible madam, I hear she is up on a dog trot again about her dear husband but I am in hope the leter I shall send her will put a stop to that. I wish you to inform Howel how the marage was & if you can be of any service in giting the mater acomplist I wish you to Due it for I am determind Never to have any to Due with hur agin & if tha Should Pretend to apos the bil of Disvost til them if I ever hear any more of thair gow I shall inform the state aturny of thar Durty Action"

            There is also a wonderful 1799 diary by Julia Bowen Martin, which is the earliest known quality diary by a Providence woman, and discusses topics ranging from the wedding of leading Quaker Moses Brown, to frequent visits to the fortune-teller. Jane Lancaster’s annotated transcription of a portion of the diary can be found in Rhode Island History 57:3 (August 1999), 78-81. The diary is described in detail in an appendix to this inventory.

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            These papers were donated by Mrs. Arthur C. Nisula of Cohasset, Mass. in 1971. A single letter signed by Simeon Martin was added that had been purchased in 1958. One additional item, the original letter from Silvanus Martin Sr. to his sister Hopestill Thurber, dated 1782, arrived from the Gaspee Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1975. A manuscript copy of this letter had been part of the original accession. A few items from other accessions may also be mixed in.

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Processing note:

            These papers were processed in 1971, and a description of the collection was published in the National Union Catalog of Manuscripts Collections that same year. Circa 1980, the collection was broken up by the individuals represented. In 1997, these scattered papers were reunited as well as possible, as the inter-relationships among the family were deemed crucial in understanding the content of the papers.

            In particular, the 1799 woman's diary had been misidentified for many years. It was originally cataloged as "Diary kept by a female member of the Martin family", but when the collection was broken up it became necessary to assign a name to it, and it became known as the Susannah Martin Diary. Very careful research was done to prove that the author was indeed Julia Bowen, who later married John D. Martin. To determine who the author was, it was essential to know which Martin papers it was donated with, so the Martin Family Papers needed to be reconstituted. An added benefit is that one large collection is easier to catalog than ten small ones.

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Folder 1. Amey (Brown) Martin (wife of Silvanus Martin Jr.)

            6 letters from family, 1775-1778 (father-in-law Silvanus Martin, sister Amey Brown)

            1 letter from Anne Russell of Brooklyn, Connecticut, 1804

Folder 2. Amey B. Martin (daughter of Stephen Martin, granddaughter of Silvanus Martin Jr.)

            Letter to parents, re wedding and honeymoon, 1864

            Letter from cousin Sophia Gavitt, undated

            Composition titled "Nature's Music", undated

            Report card from Benefit Street Grammar School, 1855

Folder 3. Edward Martin (father of Silvanus Martin Sr.)

            Will, dated in Rehoboth, 1745

Folder 4. Henry Martin (son of Silvanus Martin Jr.)

            Two letters received from parents, 1804, while visiting brother John in New York.

Folder 5. John D. Martin (son of Silvanus Martin Jr.)

            6 letters re mercantile trade, dated Gibraltar, 1816-1818, mostly from John Duguid.

            Ship's protest from Bermuda, brig Domestic, 1820

Folder 6. Julia (Bowen) Martin (wife of John D. Martin, daughter-in-law of Silvanus Jr.)

            Diary written before marriage, April 1 - September 15, 1799

            Formerly cataloged as the "Susannah Martin Diary."

Folder 7. Rebecca (Sawin) Martin (wife of Wheeler Martin, sister-in-law of Silvanus Jr.)

            Household account book, 1852-1853

            Eight miscellaneous deeds and bonds, 1841-1861

            2 miscellaneous receipts, 1843, 1844


Folder 8. Silvanus Martin Sr.

            Memorandum book, 1773-1776

            Includes journal kept on march to Boston, June 7 - June 21, 1775

            Also various accounts kept as captain.

Folder 9. Silvanus Martin Sr.

Contemporary copy of unsigned Revolutionary broadside dated March 29, 1774 beginning "The unhappy affairs of Boston now lye near my hart..." and copied June 11 1774. Letter to Solomon Porter of Norwich, Conn., January 12, 1777

            Memorandum dated East Windsor, October 25, 1776

            Order to Sgt. Alexander King, April 18, 1777 (backed by undated list of men)

Letter from son Silvanus Martin Jr., March 26, 1779, describing the sighting of "a uncomon Beast with Large Ears & a Short Tail & Remarkable for jumping", which was eventually killed after a long night's hunt. A small drawing of the beast follows the letter.

            Letter from brother Edward Martin Jr., April 10, 1779

Letter to sister Hopewell Thurber after the death of eldest son Edward Martin, April 14, 1782. original and contemporary manuscript copy.

            Will, 1782


Folder 10. Silvanus Martin Jr. - Correspondence

            From father, 2/7/1770

            From his betrothed, Amey Brown, 2/13/1774

            From "brother" Samuel Mason of Newport, 12/9/1774

            From parents, 2/13/1775

            From father re dream of Silvanus Jr.'s death, 11/12/1775

            From father, 1/29/1776

            From father, 12/6/1778

            From father, 8/14/1779

            From father, 9/26/1781

            Condolence letter from David Howell re death of father, 9/3/1782

            From brother Simeon Martin, 9/14/1783

            From Capt. B. Alger in Surinam, 4/28/1784, re Thurber & Martin mercantile voyage

            From brother Simeon Martin, 9/15/1784

            Description of two thieves (James Dennis and John Paine), 2/17/1787

            From Joseph Morris of Camden re divorce, 4/27/1794

            From son Elnathan Martin, 1/16/1797

            Draft of letter to Jacob Leonard, 8/20/1807

            Draft of newspaper advertisement re horse thief Abraham Warren, 5/1/1813

Folder 11. Silvanus Martin Jr. - Miscellaneous

            Deeds, accounts, will and estate records, 1781-1834

            Includes lease of shop, 1781; and signed deed from Moses Brown, 1793


Folder 12. Silvanus Martin Jr. - Account book, 1789-1806, mostly blank.

            3 pages of store accounts from 1789 (apparently kept by a William Martin)

            2 pages of inventory for dowry gift to daughter Abby Martin, 1797

            1 page of notes on dowry gift to daughter Amey Martin, 1806

Folder 13. Simeon Martin (1754-1819) (brother of Simeon Martin Jr.)

            Letter to Thomas Allen re militia parade, 1799

            Account book as guardian of William Burroughs, 1812 (with Rebecca Martin accounts)

            Fragment of letter to mother, after 1782.

            Six detailed lists of debts due, 1787-1815

Also unrelated letter found filed here, provenance unknown. Undated, unsigned, addressed to "Reverend Sir", who was son-in-law of the late Mrs. Mary Baker of Dedham, circa perhaps 1750-1800? Author was repaying old debt to Baker.

Folder 14. Sophia B. Martin (1835-1852, daughter of Stephen, granddaughter of Silvanus Jr.)

            Letter from sister Amey, 1848

            Letter to mother, 1849

            Two letters to father, 1846

Folder 15. Stephen Martin (son of Silvanus Martin Jr.)

            Two letters from Silvanus Allen of Fairhaven, 1854, re debts

            Quitclaim deed to Samuel N. Richmond re father's estate, 1832

Folder 16. Wheeler Martin (1765-1836) (brother of Silvanus Martin Jr.)

            Deeds, 1798-1835

            Justice commissions, 1791-1820

Folder 17. Wheeler Martin (brother of Silvanus Martin Jr.)

            Letter from Edward Martin (relation unknown), 1821

            Undated letter on politics from N. Brown

            Stock share in Blackstone Canal Company, 1829

            Miscellaneous petitions, insurance records, accounts, etc.

Folder 18. Wheeler Martin (brother of Silvanus Martin Jr.)

            Book of psalms, annotated by Wheeler Martin.

Folder 19. Account book of unidentified livery stable, 1802-1815

            Many pages of detailed entries on rentals of horses and chaises.

            For example: "April 3 Mack Farlin Horse to Attleborough 0-6-0".

Folder 20. Martin family genealogical records

"The Genealogy of the Family of Martins", by Wheeler Martin, dedicated to mother Martha Martin, 1816. Very fragile. This work was the basis for most of this branch's record in Notices of the Martin Family (see acknowledgment, p. 111)

            Martin family record pages. First written 1773, covering dates from 1693-1782.

            Epitaph for Joseph Martin, d.1799

            "Funiral fairwell" written by Silvanus Martin Sr. and copied by son, 1782

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xBowen, Julia

Bowen Family

Brown, Moses (1738-1836)

Connecticut - Social life and customs

Diaries - 1776

Diaries - 1799

Divorce - History - 18th century

Fortune-tellers - Rhode Island - Providence

Howell, David (1747-1824)

Martin, Amey (Brown) (1749-1833)

Martin, Amey B. (b.1841)

Martin, Edward (1700-1745)

Martin, Henry (b.1792)

Martin, John D. (1778-1835)

Martin, Julia (Bowen) (1779-1805)

Martin, Rebecca (Sawin) (b.1797)

Martin, Silvanus (1727-1782)

Martin, Silvanus (1748-1818)

Martin, Simeon (1754-1819)

Martin, Sophia B. (1835-1852)

Martin, Stephen (b.1784)

Martin, Wheeler (1765-1836)

Martin Family

Providence, R.I. - Social life and customs

Stables - Rhode Island - Providence

United States - History - Revolution, 1775-1783

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