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Adams family collection


Identifier: 1970-35-1

Scope and Contents

The personal papers of the Adams Family, including Joseph Adams (1767-1856); his son, Charles Adams (1805-1883); children of Charles Adams, including Julia Adams How Wessells (1842-1904), Mary Adams Wheelock (1838-1895), and Charles Adams Jr. (1845-1864); other family members; and friends and business associates. The collection consists primarily of correspondence. The collection consists primarily of correspondence received by Joseph Adams from family members and members of the Litchfield community with legal or other matters involving him and correspondence among the immediate members of the family of Charles Adams, in particular, two daughters of Charles Adams, Mary Adams Wheelock and Julia Adams How Wessells. The correspondence is mostly personal in nature, relating to family news and concerned with matters of health, births, deaths, and visits. This was a traveling family, all generations, so there is an occasional glimpse glimpse of the trials of stage and canal travel. There is a pervasive religious awareness in the letters, perhaps most expressed by Charles to his father in the 1820s. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the collection related to the early career of Joseph Adams as a cabinet maker nor of publishing activities of Henry Adams and Charles Adams in Litchfield. Although domestic topics predominate in the letters, correspondents sometimes address local or national topics of interest. Joseph's correspondence includes letters from or news about two men who were at one time or another leading business figures in Boston: Amos Lawrence (1786-1852), who was married to Joseph's niece, and Giles Richards (1754-1829), who was Joseph's brother-in-law. For example, Lawrence's 1845 Feb 1 letter offers a personal philosophical expression of a wealthy and successful merchant. Letters from members of the family who moved to the South, particularly from Amos Adams (who owned a plantation and slaves), have a few references to business conditions. A nephew of Joseph Adams, Henry Adams Bullard, wrote twice (1832-1833) to Joseph from Washington when he was a Congressman. Benjamin Tallmadge (1754-1835), another Congressman, wrote Joseph five letters (1814-1826) from Washington, where he was acting for Joseph in financial matters. Four of the letters written while Tallmadge was serving in the House of Representatives. Some of the papers relate to the Civil War. Charles Adams (1845-1864), the son of Charles and Julia Hinman Adams, enlisted in the 19th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers in 1862 following the outbreak of the Civil War. On June 11, 1864, he died of wounds received on June 1 during the Battle of Cold Harbor. During the war, Adams regularly wrote letters to his parents and sisters. He recorded his thoughts about Generals McClellan, Burnside, and Grant, and President Lincoln; life in camp (maintaining and outfitting tents, sleeping arrangements, food, prayer meetings, entertainments and lectures, snowball battles); support for the Emancipation Proclamation; his belief in the cause; postings, guard duty, inspections, and drills; encouraging enlistment; speculation about duration of war and upcoming military activities; his cousin, Charles Hinman Graves, and other relatives he sees; the 40th N.Y. and Bull Run; African-American dock and government stores workers; guarding “contrabands” (freed or former slaves) from Virginia and Maryland; news of other Litchfield residents; politics in Connecticut; and the weather. The collection contains letters written relative to his death by Representative John H. Hubbard and Marie Barton Greene, who served with the Sanitary Commission. Charles Adams Jr. is not the only Adams family member serving in the Civil War to be documented in the collection; correspondence from Anna Adams (1814-1906) relates to the death of her brother Joseph Henry Adams (1843-1861) during battle on Santa Rosa Island, Fla.


  • created: 1798-1928
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1798-1877
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/06/1970


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of copyright holders. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright holders. Responsibility for any use rests with the user.

Biographical or Historical Information

Adams family members were descendants of Henry Adams of Braintree and distant cousins of the famous Adams family of Massachusetts. Joseph Adams was a fourth cousin of President John Quincy Adams. Living contemporaneously in Litchfield was the family of Judge Andrew Adams (1736-1797), which descended from Samuel Adams of Stratford, Conn., and not related to the family of Joseph Adams. Joseph Adams moved to Litchfield from Roxbury, Mass., in 1790 and established himself as a cabinet maker. With advertisements in issues of the Litchfield Monitor for June 1790 he introduced himself to Litchfield residents as a cabinet maker from Boston and solicited their business. He advertised frequently in the 1790s for apprentices, but sold his shop in 1802. He was Litchfield borough clerk, 1818-1823 and 1824-1838 and borough president 1839-1842. He also served as constable for six years, lister or rate-maker (functioning as assessor) for twelve years, grand juror for six years, a director of the Litchfield Savings Bank, and a surveyor. He married Deborah Marsh in 1792 and they had eight children. Two of the children, Henry Adams (1794-1842) and Charles Adams (1805-1883), established themselves in the newspaper business. The early interest of Joseph in journalism is evidenced in a letter he received from his nephew, Charles Chauncey Adams (1788-1814)  in 1807, in which he acknowledges information regarding the status of newspapers published in Litchfield. After working in Huntsville, Ala., in the 1820s, where he was associated with newspapers there, Henry Adams purchased the Litchfield County Post in 1829, changing the title to The Litchfield Enquirer with his first issue, January 29, 1829. He continued to publish the newspaper until his death by accidental drowning in 1842. In the early 1820s, Charles Adams moved to New Haven and apprenticed with the printer Thomas Collier, formerly of Litchfield, and worked in the office of Sherman Converse. Adams established a printing business in 1825 and published The New Haven Chronicle in 1827 and then founded the New Haven Palladium in 1829. In the early 1830s, he moved to Bath, N.Y., where he published The Constitutionalist beginning in 1834. He also published the Corning and Blossburg Advocate. When his brother Henry died unexpectedly in 1842, Adams returned to Litchfield and continued publication of The Litchfield Enquirer until 1845, when it was sold to Payne Kilbourne. Twice Adams assumed editorship of the paper until it was sold to James Humphrey in 1859. After 1845, Adams was elected judge of probate court, a position he held for fourteen of the next twenty years. He was a deacon of the Congregational Church; a director of the Litchfield Savings Bank, the Litchfield Female Academy, and the Litchfield County Historical and Antiquarian Society, and a member of the Board of Visitors of the Elm Park Collegiate Institute. With the exceptions of Henry Adams and Charles Adams (who returned from Bath, N.Y.), all of the children of Joseph and Deborah Marsh Adams left Litchfield: Sarah Adams Peck (1792-1877) to Bristol, Conn.; Betsey Adams May (1796-1877) to Bath, N.Y.; Amos Adams (1798-1859) to Baton Rouge, La.; John Marsh Adams (1801-1853) to Augusta, Ga.; Kezia Adams Rogers (1811-1899) to Buffalo; and Thomas William (1814-1848), to Augusta, Ga.

Note written by


2.00 boxes

Language of Materials



The personal papers of the Adams Family, including Joseph Adams (1767-1856); his son, Charles Adams (1805-1883); children of Charles Adams, including Julia Adams How Wessells (1842-1904), Mary Adams Wheelock (1838-1895), and Charles Adams Jr. (1845-1864); other family members; and friends and business associates. The collection consists primarily of correspondence.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged in four series:

1. Correspondence 2. Other papers 3. Photographs 4. Albums

Source of Acquisition

Margaret and Dorothy Baldwin

Method of Acquisition

The bulk of the collection (1970-35-1) was donated in 1970 (by Margaret and Dorothy Baldwin, great-granddaughters of Joseph Adams (1767-1856) and Deborah Marsh Adams (1773-1857). Three autograph albums (1974-42-29, 1974-42-30, 1974-42-31) were a gift of George Baldwin in 1974. A photograph album is presumed to be part of the same gift.

Existence and Location of Originals

Transcriptions are available for some documents.

Related Materials

Adams family collection (2010-119-0)

Photographs of some Adams family are in Photographs, Portraits: Adams and Baldwin files.

Louisiana State University Libraries, Special Collections. Freemasons St. James Lodge No. 47 (Baton Rouge, La.) records (Mss 2860).

Massachusetts Historical Society Amos Lawrence Papers.

Separated Materials

Four silhouettes cut from paper (two portraits on one sheet and two on two separate sheets) have been removed from the Adams Family Collection and added to the museum collections.

Other Descriptive Information

This collection was processed with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).


Adams family collection
Leith Johnson and Stephen Powell
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)