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Fowler Family Papers, 1672-1913, undated

Identifier: MSS 672

Scope and Content Note

The Fowler Family papers contain the business, civic, and personal papers of shipwright Samuel Fowler (1748-1813), his son Samuel (1776-1859), grandsons Samuel Page (1800-1888) and Henry (1810-1881) Fowler, and great-granddaughter Harriet Putnam Fowler (1842-1901). Also included are papers of their wives and children, other relatives from the Fowler, Putnam, and Du Bois family branches, and miscellaneous items. The collection has been divided into seven series.

Series I. Samuel Fowler (1748-1813) Papers contains deeds and legal papers documenting his many land transactions in the Danvers area. Also found here are accounts and receipts, a bill of sale for the schooner Industry, estate papers, and an 1847 estate inventory for his wife, Sarah (Putnam) Fowler. Of note is a document listing the rate of exchange between paper and silver dollars from 1777 to 1781. Also included in this series is a sketch of Sarah Putnam Fowler (1755-1847) and papers belonging to John Fowler (b. 1778)

Series II. Samuel Fowler (1776-1859) Papers contains shipping, business, legal, and civic papers. The shipping papers include insurance policies, accounts, and receipts for vessels Fowler owned or on which he commissioned cargo, and correspondence from merchant houses. Insurance policies, correspondence, orders, and accounts for his mills and ships are located in the business papers. Also found there are accounts and receipts for Fowler's share in the Danvers-Beverly Iron Works and the New Hampshire Iron Factory. The correspondence includes pleas for assistance from Danvers citizens as well as business notes from H. Putnam. The bills and receipts include business, household, and personal transactions.

The legal papers contain land and pew deeds, maps, partnership agreements with Israel Hutchinson, Sr., Israel Hutchinson, Jr., and Ebenezer Putnam for ownership of grist and bolting mills, and indentures to hire workers for building a mill. The civic papers include Fowler's military papers, accounts with the Danvers school committee, papers recording Fowler's involvement with the First Baptist Church of Danvers, and petitions to build a road from Topsfield to Danvers. This series also includes school workbooks that belonged to Samuel's children, Clarissa, Rebecca, William, Eliza, and Augustus Fowler. These workbooks are mostly of penmanship, but there are a few of arithmetic.

Series III. Samuel Page Fowler (1800-1888) Papers documents Samuel's involvement in Danvers political and civic affairs. Included are Danvers school committee and selectmen records, religious and moral societal papers, fire club records, notes and minutes taken a secretary of civic groups, and his notes from addresses and lectures he gave or attended.

Fowler's correspondence discusses his civic and business activities. Samuel's other business papers include bankbooks which record his shares in local banks, a rent book, and accounts with a local grocer. The Fowler-Dorman trustee papers contain receipts for Fowler and Moses Dorman while they acted as corporation trustees. The personal correspondence includes a marriage proposal and letters from Samuel's father and wife. There is a folder with notes on the witchcraft trials and local history, and a miscellaneous folder with some legal and financial papers.

Also included in this series is Samuel's wife, Harriet Putnam Fowler's papers. These papers contain correspondence, the majority of which is to Mary C. Skerry, her will and miscellaneous papers. Samuel Page Fowler Jr.'s (1838-1915) papers are a part of this series, and include papers relating to his military service and correspondence.

Series IV. Henry Fowler (1810-1881) Papers contains papers from Henry, his wife Sally Herrick Putnam (b. 1816), and some of their children. This series has been divided into two sub-series. Subseries A. Papers of Henry and Sally contains the papers of Henry and his wife Sally. Henry's papers include a folder of school workbooks, correspondence, and financial papers. Subseries B. Papers of the Children of Henry and Sally contains correspondence of Henry and Sally's children. The children included in this series are: Henry Putnam Fowler (b. 1839); Addison Webb Fowler (b. 1841); Adelaide Fowler (b. 1843); Sarah Putnam Fowler (b. 1853); and Betsey Putnam Fowler (b. 1846); Eliza Page Fowler (b. 1849). The majority of Eliza Page's correspondence is from William M. Sanger.

Series V. Harriet Putnam Fowler (1842-1901) Papers contains one folder of correspondence, part of a newspaper article about Harriet's will, and 30 scrapbook volumes relating to genealogy and local history of Danvers and Salem, including family papers, research, photographs, and newspaper clippings, that Harriet donated to the Essex Institute. At the beginning of the series are three indexes to the volumes and a notebook containing a list of books belonging to the library of Harriet P. Fowler. It should be noted that the date(s) listed with the scrapbooks are the date(s) of when the scrapbook was compiled or presented, as noted in the scrapbook; it does not necessarily reflect the date(s) of the materials within the scrapbooks. Manuscripts relating to the Salem Witchcraft trials were removed from the volume "Book of Old and Rare Papers No. I" (box 22), and added to the Salem Witchcraft Trials Records (MSS 401). Photocopies of the manuscripts were placed as surrogates in Fowler's scrapbook.

This series also contains a number of photographs of places, items, and people. Originally part of Fam. Mss. 337, these images appear to have been collected by Harriet as part of her research, as most of them have detailed descriptions, and reference to specific scrapbook volumes. The photographs have been divided into places and things, and gravesites and people; both of which have been organized by the family with which they are associated. If the image is associated with multiple families, it has been organized according to the first family's name that is listed in the description.

Series VI. Other Family Papers contains business, legal, and personal papers of individuals related to the Fowlers included in the above series. Included in this series are business and legal papers of John Fowler (1778-1827), and correspondence to or from Fowler family members whose identity could not easily be determined, and some Fowler family account books. Also included in this series are business, legal, and personal papers of Fowler in-laws from the Putnam, DuBois Proctor, and Page families. The folder of Proctor and Page family papers (box 33, folder 8) contains photocopies of two items; it is unclear where the original items are. Also included in this series is a typescript of Alexander Edison Du Bois' diary; it is unclear where the original item is or if this is a complete volume.

Series VII. Other contains a number of miscellaneous items that were found in the various collections, that appear to somehow relate to the Fowler family or their relatives. Included in this series are Danvers civic and legal papers, such as deeds, records of town and selectman meetings, real estate valuations, property lists, pamphlets, and printed works. In the folder titled "Papers about various individuals" there are memorials, portraits, and biographical notes about various people. Of note are letters, legal, estate, and financial papers of Peter Clark, minister of the First Baptist Church of Danvers. This series also contains pamphlets and newspaper clippings.


  • Creation: 1672-1913, undated


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketches

Samuel Fowler, a Danvers, Massachusetts, shipwright was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, January 9, 1748, to Joseph (1715-1807) and Mary (Prince) (1725-1771) Fowler. He left Ipswich in 1765, and became one of the settlers of the Danvers New Mills, later called Danversport. As a shipwright, Samuel assisted in the building of many vessels, including those he owned. His ships engaged in trade in the West Indies (Rantoul 6). Samuel was a minuteman in Capt. Jeremiah Page's company when it marched to Lexington on April 19, 1775.

In 1773, Samuel married Sarah Putnam (1755-1847), the daughter of Archelaus and Mehitable (Putnam) Putnam. They had four children who lived to adulthood: Samuel (1776-1859), married Clarissa Page; John (b. 1778), married Martha Page; Sarah (b. 1783), married Robert Hooper Stimpson; and Mary (b. 1787), married John Page. Samuel died April 20, 1813.

Samuel Fowler, a Danvers tanner and mill owner, was born September 15, 1776, to Samuel (1748-1813) and Sarah (Putnam) Fowler. He began his tannery and currier business in partnership with Israel Hutchinson and Ebenezer Putnam. Besides his tanning operations, Fowler owned three coastwise vessels. In 1799, Samuel married Clarissa Page (1779-1854), the daughter of Samuel and Rebecca (Putnam) Page. They had nine children who lived to adulthood: Samuel Page (1800-1888), married Harriet Putnam; Clarissa Page (b. 1802); Rebecca Putnam (b. 1804), married Aaron Eveleth; William Putnam (b. 1807); Henry (1810-1895), married Sally H. Putnam; Augustus (1812-1894), married Emily Putnam; Sally Page (b. 1815), married James D. Black; Eliza Page (b. 1818); and Maria Louisa (b. 1822). Samuel died in 1859.

Samuel Page Fowler, a Danvers politician, was born April 22, 1800, the first son of Samuel (1776-1859) and Clarissa (Page) Fowler. Born in Danvers, he learned the trades of tanning and currying from his father. His interest in civic and political affairs developed early in life. Samuel served as an overseer of the poor (1843-1880), a selectman and assessor (1835-1840), a member of the Constitutional Convention (1853), and a member of the state legislature (1857-1859). Fowler became the first deacon of the Maple Street Church and was active in the formation of the Walnut Grove Cemetery. He was one of the first trustees of the Danvers Savings Bank, a fire warden for the Danvers Fire Department, and a trustee of the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers. One of the organizers of the Essex Natural History Society, he also became the curator of Natural History and later a vice-president of the Essex Institute. Samuel was also very interested in Danvers local history. He wrote The Life and Character of the Rev. Samuel Parris and edited Salem Witchcraft by Robert Calef. For a more detailed list of his publications, see Robert Samuel Rantoul's "Memoir of Samuel P. Fowler" in Historical Collections of the Essex Institute.

He married Harriet Putnam (1806-1891), the daughter of Moses and Betsey (Cross) Putnam, in 1833. They had three children: Clara Putnam (b. 1836), married George E. Du Bois; Samuel Page Jr. (1838-1915); and Harriet Putnam Fowler, 2nd (1842-1901). Samuel died in 1888.

Henry Fowler was born in Danvers on September 15, 1810, to Samuel (1776-1859) and Clarissa (Page) Fowler. He married Sally Herrick Putnam (b. 1816), the daughter of Captain Eben and Betsey (Webb) Putnam. They had seven children together: Henry Putnam (b. 1839), married Elizabeth M. Ryder; Addison Webb (b. 1841), married Anna C. Fletcher; Adelaide (b. 1843); Betsey Putnam (b. 1846); Eliza Page (b. 1849); Sarah Putnam (b. 1853); and Rebecca (1859-1859). Henry died in Danversport on February 12, 1881.

Harriet Putnam Fowler was born July 25, 1842 to Samuel Page (1800-1888) and Harriet (Putnam) (1806-1891) Fowler, in Danvers, Massachusetts. According to her will, Harriet suffered an injury, while visiting her grandmother Betsey Putnam, which left her an invalid for the rest of her life. Betsey Putnam gave Harriet $4000 to repay her for her suffering, almost all of which Harriet would later donate in her will. In her will, Harriet gave the majority of the $4000 to the Essex Institute, to go towards part of a salary of an assistant librarian, and for the care of scrapbooks that Harriet donated. Harriet, who was also known as Hattie, was a writer and a poet. Some of her works included: Our Smoking Husbands, and What to do With Them; Vegetarianism: the Radical Cure for Intemperance; and My Sleeping Father's Lovers. She died July 28, 1901.


19.25 linear feet (39 boxes; 1 flat file)

Language of Materials



The Fowler Family papers contain the business, civic, and personal papers of shipwright Samuel Fowler (1748-1813), his son Samuel (1776-1859), grandsons Samuel Page (1800-1888) and Henry (1810-1881) Fowler, and great-granddaughter Harriet Putnam Fowler (1842-1901).

Series List

SERIES I. Samuel Fowler (1748-1813) Papers

SERIES II. Samuel Fowler (1776-1859) Papers

SERIES III. Samuel Page Fowler (1800-1888) Papers

SERIES IV. Henry Fowler (1810-1881) Papers

  • A. Papers of Henry and Sally
  • B. Papers of the Children of Henry and Sally
SERIES V. Harriet Putnam Fowler (1842-1901) Papers

SERIES VI. Other Family Papers


Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


This collection is an integration of Fowler Family Papers (Fam. Mss. 336), Harriet P. Fowler Papers (Fam. Mss. 337), Fowler Family Papers (Fam. Mss. 341), and Samuel Fowler Family Papers (MSS 178). Fam. Mss. 336 was found in the collection. Fam. Mss. 337 was donated to the Essex Institute by Harriet P. Fowler 2nd. Fam. Mss. 341 was found in the collection. The Rebecca Putnam Fowler friendship album was purchased from James Gray Booksellers with funds from the Herbert Offen Memorial Fund, on August 16, 2021 (Acc 2021.033).

MSS 178 was a reorganization of documents originally mounted into scrapbooks as part of the Harriet Putnam Fowler Collection. The documents were donated on May 2, 1900, by Miss Fowler. All original locations are located on the verso of each manuscript and recorded in the Fowler Separation Sheet. Also integrated into the collection are papers from the Fowler Family Papers, 1710-1894. The materials in Box 3, Folders 5 through 8 were removed from the Essex County Collection in November 1992. MSS 178 was processed by Nancy B. Barthelemy in March 1985, with additions by Jane E. Ward in November 1992, and updates by Tamara Gaydos in February 2016.

Bibliography U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

Rantoul, Robert S. "Memoir of Samuel P. Fowler," Historical Collections of the Essex Institute 26, (1889): 81-89.

Stickney, Matthew Adams. The Fowler Family: A Genealogical Memoir of the Descendants of Philip and Mary Fowler, of Ipswich, Mass.: Ten Generations, 1590-1882. Salem, MA: Printed for the Author, Salem, 1883.

Related Collections

Correspondence of Fowler/Black family, 1792-1887, MSS 0.670

Flint Family Papers, 1663-1793, MSS 0.100

Henry Fowler Papers, 1831-1846, MH 102

Salem Witchcraft Trials Records, 1691-1693, MSS 401

Samuel Page Papers, 1777-1871, MSS 177

Processing Information

Collection processed by Hilary Streifer, May 2018.


Processed by: Hilary Streifer; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan; updated by Hilary Streifer.
Language of description
Script of description
Conservation and processing of MSS 178 was funded by a grant from Mrs. Edwin O. Norvell and Mrs. Richard Rendleman.

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA