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Thompson Family Papers


Identifier: 1929-01-0

Scope and Contents

The personal papers of the Thompson family (1929-01-0, 3 linear feet) consists of correspondence, notes, personal manuscripts and newspaper publications of various writings of Esther H. Thompson on various topics pertaining to the history of Litchfield, including her childhood recollections of troops mustering for the Civil War on the town green. Also included is information on botany and other topics relating to the Village Improvement Society. Additionally, the collection contains personal and business correspondence from and to William H. Thompson, as well as a variety of legal documents and receipts. Several letters include information on William Grimes, author of "The Life of William Grimes," the first book-length autobiography by a fugitive American slave. Other material relates to other members of the Thompson family and includes correspondence, literary compositions, legal documents, bills and receipts, and copy books.


  • Creation: 1786-1929
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1802-1929


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has been transferred to the Litchfield Historical Society for materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

The first Thompsons to arrive in Litchfield were William H. Thompson and his brother Hezekiah in the early 1800s. Their parents, Zachariah and Sarah (Punderson) Thompson, were farmers in Bethlehem, CT. In 1802, William was sworn in as Litchfield Post Master by Moses Seymour, Justice of the Peace. In 1823, William was involved as a middleman in purchasing the freedom of William Grimes, and enslaved man, along with Abel Catlin. The Thompsons were involved in the business of dairy farming. Every summer William brought cheese and butter to Savannah, GA to sell, and by 1823, he also traded in Augusta, GA. William seems to have been involved in this business most of his life, as the range of business records in this collection reaches 1864, the year of his death.

William’s sister, Elizabeth “Betsey” Thompson was born in Bethlehem. She married Judge Tapping Reeve on April 30, 1798 after the death of his first wife, Sally (Burr) Reeve, the sister of Aaron Burr, the year before. Elizabeth had been Sally’s companion and housekeeper since 1794. When she married Reeve, he was thirty years her senior. She inherited an 18 year old stepson who referred to her as “Dear Mama” in his letters. A sister, Anna Thompson, lived with her while she attended the Litchfield Female Academy, though she died in 1800. Elizabeth had a pin with a braid of her sister’s hair, which was eventually passed down to Esther Thompson. Her brother William was the executor of her estate when she passed on April 30, 1842. Through Elizabeth, the Thompson family inherited many of Tapping Reeve’s papers and possessions, many of which were later left to the Litchfield Historical Society.

Hezekiah Thompson purchased Tapping Reeve’s farm property in 1816 for $200, and in 1821 William H. Thompson purchased more of the land from Reeve, which notes buildings on the property. It appears that the land was sold in 1869 to Charles Baldwin Webster by George W. Thompson. Webster later sold part of the property to the White family, where Misses Caroline and Eliza White, first cousins to Alain White, lived in summers. Later, this house was given to Jennie (Wooster) and Wilbur Webster, though it was torn down around 1931 when taxes became too burdensome due to the Great Depression. Part of the land may have become part of White Memorial. At some point, the area was named “Arethusa Farm” for the rare wild orchids which grew on the property. While this name was in place by the time the Websters held the land, it is unclear who in fact named it; it may have been Charles Webster.

Hezekiah’s son George was a carpenter according to the 1860 and 1870 censuses, and owned real property in Litchfield. In the mid 1840s, he built a house on South Street. One of his three daughters was Esther Thompson.

Esther Harriet Thompson was the youngest daughter of George and Harriet Roberts, and she was born and died in the South Street house her father had built. She was not part of the aristocratic class in town, a fact which was only in part due to financial standing. Although the family was connected to Tapping Reeve, it was through his second marriage to the daughter of farmers, which lacked a certain level of prestige. Though aware of her difference from others in town, she firmly grouped herself with the Litchfield natives as distinct from the Summer Colony visitors, seeming to hold a bias against newcomers to town.

Esther attended public schools in Litchfield as well as the Wilbraham Academy. In the 1870s, she and her sister Sarah ran a private school on West Street, which had previously been run by a Miss Saltonstall (now Mrs. Charles Biglow). Esther was a member of the Methodist Church, and her papers reflect her involvement in that institution. Botany was one of Esther’s special interests and is revisited often in her writing. As a result of this interest, Esther was a founding member of the Village Improvement Society, and served as that organization’s treasurer for many years. Other organizations she was active in include the Needle and Bobbin Club of Litchfield and the Litchfield Chapter of the Red Cross,the latter where she served as the treasurer throughout World War I in spite of her ill health.

Esther also documented a great deal of the history of Litchfield, much of it collecting anecdotes from her own memory, as well as that of others in town and written accounts of events. There was a personal touch in her writing, with an emphasis on recalling emotions. A woman with a sharp memory for anecdotes and minor details, her obituary said that her writings had “a character entirely their own.” Many of these manuscripts and notes are included in her papers, including her childhood reminiscence of soldiers mustering on the Litchfield town green during the Civil War. Several of these manuscripts, many of which were presented at various meetings, were printed in several area newspapers, including the Waterbury American and the Litchfield Enquirer. Although Esther was viewed as one of the experts on Litchfield history, Alain White was selected to write History of Litchfield in the mid-1920s, a decision which angered her friend Alice Street. Still, Esther H. Thompson wrote about Litchfield history until her death in 1929. She is buried in East Cemetery. An active member of the Litchfield Historical Society, she bequeathed her papers to the organization.

Below is a list of four generations of the Thompson Family. The first Thompsons arrived in Litchfield in the second generation listed here.

Generation 1: Zachariah Thompson (1749-1816) married Sarah (Punderson) Thompson (1746-1831)

Generation 2: Sarah “Sally” (Thompson) Hubbard (1772-1862) married General John Hubbard (1751-1837) in 1812. Elizabeth “Betsey” (Thompson) Reeve(1774-1842) married Tapping Reeve (1744-1823) on April 30, 1798 after the death of his first wife. Reeve was 30 years her senior. Hezekiah “Kier” Thompson (1776/1777-1838) married Mabel (Roberts) Thompson (d. 1854) Zachariah J. Thompson (1779-1829) married Phebe (Wycoff) Thompson (1792-1868) William H. Thompson (1786-1864) Anna Thompson (d. 1800) lived with her sister Elizabeth Reeve. Margaret Thompson (no known dates).

Generation 3:

Children of Hezekiah and Mabel (Roberts)Thompson: George William Thompson (1816-1891) married Harriet (Roberts) Thompson (1816-1892). Anna P. Thompson (1814-1894) Sarah E. Thompson (1817-1885)

Children of Zachariah and Phebe (Wycoff) Thompson Edward P. Thompson (no known dates) William Henry Thompson (no known dates) of Ohio. Eliza R. (Thompson) Woodruff (no known dates) of Litchfield. Her uncle, William H. Thompson, was her guardian (presumably after the death of her father). She was married to Rueben Morris Woodruff (1811-1849).

Generation 4:

Children of George William Thompson and Harriet (Roberts) Thompson Sarah A. Thompson (1843-1916) Mary E. Thompson (1849-1894) Esther Harriet Thompson (1851-1929)


3 Linear Feet

7 boxes

Language of Materials



The personal papers of the Thompson family (1929-01-0, 3 linear feet) consists of correspondence, notes, personal manuscripts and newspaper publications of various writings of Esther H. Thompson on various topics pertaining to the history of Litchfield, including her childhood recollections of troops mustering for the Civil War on the town green.


The Thompson Family Papers are arranged in the following series:

Series 1: Esther H. Thompson

Series 1: Esther H. Thompson

  1. Correspondence
  2. Writing & Research (Sub-series: 1-Manuscripts, 2-Notes, 3-Published Writings)
  3. Schools
  4. Miscellaneous

Series 2: William H. Thompson

Series 2: William H. Thompson

  1. Correspondence (Sub-series: 1-Business, 2-Personal)
  2. Legal & Financial (Sub-series: 1-Bills & Receipts, 2-Business, 3-Property - Deeds & Estate)
  3. Lyon, NY

Series 3: Other Family Papers

Series 3: Other Family Papers

  1. Correspondence (Sub-series: 1-Hubbard, Sarah (Thompson) & General John, 2-Thompson, George & Harriet (Roberts), 3-Thompson, Mary E., 4-Thompson, Sarah A., 5-Thompson, Zachariah & Phebe (Wycoff), 6-Miscellaneous)
  2. Legal & Financial (Sub-series: 1-Bills & Receipts. 2-Deeds, 3-Estate)
  3. Miscellaneous

Content Description

The Thompson Family Papers (1929-01-0) were originally accessioned under the numbers 3565-3570.

The Esther Thompson Notebook (2011-42-0) is boxed seperately and is intact and in good condition. It was originally accessioned on 2011-05-12.

The George William Thompson memorandum book (2011-86-0) and the George W. Thompson Copy Books (2011-82-0) have been incorporated into series 3-3.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Esther H. Thompson bequeathed the Thompson Family Papers to the Litchfield Historical Society after her death in 1929.

Related Materials

Catlin, Dr. Abel; White, Alain Campbell, 1880-1951; Abel Catlin letter; Woodruff family collection

Thompson Family Papers
Jeanne Lowrey
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Litchfield Historical Society Repository

7 South Street
P.O. Box 385
Litchfield CT 06759
860-567-3565 (Fax)