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Topsfield Historical Society Collection, 1661-1973

Identifier: MSS 231

Scope and Content Note

The Topsfield Historical Society Collection contains civic, military, legal, personal, and business papers of individuals and organizations in Topsfield, Massachusetts. Also included are papers from individuals not living in Topsfield. The collection has been organized into three series.

Series I. Public Records contains records generated from governmental activities (primarily local, but also state or county). Within the civic records (B1 F1), documents may be found which reflect official activities of the town of Topsfield, including state election returns for 1799, 1810, and 1812; a 1758 petition to separate a group of families from the Ipswich parish and join Topsfield; a circa 1828 list of scholars at the North School; petitions for building new roads, appointments of Zaccheus Gould as field driver and Samuel McKenzie as sealer of weights and measures and as measurer of wood and bark; an 1833 return of the town poor which lists name, age, occupation, and ailment; disbursements of aid to disabled soldiers and widows; and the number of church members in 1772. Also included are warrants to collect taxes, personal tax receipts (B1 F2), and tax lists (B1 F3). The common land records (B1 F4) contain agreements, warrants, and accounts of its division into lots.

The bulk of the military records (B1 F5-6) concern the Topsfield Warren Blues. These include a muster list, rules and regulations, and newspaper clippings on the history of the company. Other military documents consist of letters, orders, and notes from Topsfield-related troops.

The folders of legal documents (B1 F7-11) contain correspondence on a case of larceny against Henry E. Lake; a petition to widen the road to Boxford; correspondence regarding the case of Mrs. Francis D. Peabody; an unidentified book of legal cases; notice of appointments for estate administrators (1886-1893); and petitions to the Land Court regarding Ipswich land.

Series II. Private Papers consists of correspondence, diary fragments, personal papers, business and financial records, and genealogical notes of Topsfield residents. The bulk of this series was removed and separately cataloged (see separation sheet). Records which remain include a series of 1842 letters from the Topsfield Academy class of R. Putnam to the editor of the Register about a math puzzler; an 1876 letter discussing the election of Dr. Loring; a letter from Abigail Adams to her granddaughter; an 1832 diary fragment which discusses the writer's activities as a school teacher, events in the town, and political elections; an 1859 diary attributed to Deacon Bixby regarding cutting of lumber; shoemaking (?) production accounts of Rebekah Gould, Mehitable Peabody, and Anna Brown, 1837; land and produce inventory of Samuel Bradstreet's farm; a eulogy of Isaac Averill Jr.; and a poem by Ellen Moody Dole.

The folder on music (B2 F2) includes manuscript music of Jacob Kimball and an unidentified author; the constitution and by-laws of the Beethoven Society; a newspaper article by Henry K. Oliver; and clippings about Kimball. The Revolutionary War-era accounts (B2 F3) contain mostly unidentified mathematical calculations. The genealogical notes (B2 F4) include lists of Topsfield residents in 1865, and notes on births, deaths, and marriages. Within the broadside scrapbook (Volume 1) are an array of broadsides, tickets, programs, and advertisements for Topsfield local businesses, theater and concert events, meetings and lectures, and celebrations.

Box 3 contains 3 reel-to-reel tapes containing interviews with Topsfield residents conducted from 1967 to 1973. The interviewees include Alice Lake, R.N., Charles Pethybridge, Elizabeth Smith, Ruth Houston, Horton Bradstreet, and Herbert Town.

Series III. Non-Topsfield Documents consists of correspondence, petitions, deeds, wills, and legal and financial records of people from Boston, Middleton, Salem, Danvers, Boxford, and Newburyport.


  • Creation: 1661-1973


Restrictions on Access

Box 3 is restricted, the format cannot be accessed. The rest of the collection is open for research use.

Historical Sketch

The Topsfield Historical Society was incorporated in 1894. Its mission has been the study and preservation of the history of Topsfield, Massachusetts, and the preservation and publishing of the records contained in the Town Hall archives. Much of this material was published in the early volumes of the Society's Historical Collections. The society is also organized to preserve the historical artifacts of Topsfield history, in particular, the 1683 Parson Capen Historical House and the Gould Barn.


3 linear feet (4 boxes; 1 volume)

Language of Materials



The Topsfield Historical Society Collection contains civic, military, legal, personal, and business papers of individuals and organizations in Topsfield, Massachusetts.

Series List

SERIES I. Public Records

SERIES II. Private Papers

SERIES III. Non-Topsfield Documents

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


This collection of 35 volumes, 1 scrapbook, and 4 boxes was placed on permanent deposit by the Society under a contract of November 11, 1969. Portions of the collection have been removed and are separately cataloged (see separation sheet).


"Topsfield Historical Society." Topsfield Historical Society. Essex National Heritage Commission, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Prudence K. Backman, December 1987. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, October 2015.

Processed by: Prudence K. Backman; Updated by: Tamara Gaydos; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description
Processing and rehousing of this collection were funded by a grant from the Topsfield Historical Society.

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA