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Osborne Family Papers

Osborne Family Papers

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Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Osborne family
Title:Osborne Family Papers
Quantity:.5 Linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:This collection documents the business and personal dealings of the Osborne family of Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts, from 1733 to 1913.
Collection Number:MSS 357

Series List

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the business and personal dealings of the Osborne family of Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts, from 1733 to 1913. The papers elucidate the land holdings, personal possessions, and financial assets of a prosperous merchant family. They also refer to contemporary life, in particular, service in the military and the Civil War. The collection includes many clearly identified photographs of family members.

Folder 1 contains a single receipt signed by William Osborn in 1733. This presumably was William Osborn who lived from circa 1682 to 1771. William's son Stephen, yeoman, lived from 1712 to 1773.

The many deeds and estate papers in Folder 2 reflect the increasing prosperity of Stephen's son, Stephen Jr. (circa 1736-1808), shoreman, of Salem, Massachusetts. Documents describe purchases of land and a house, a pew in South Meeting House, Salem, the right to use the Salem pasture, and the division of his father's estate among the surviving heirs. These possessions and more are itemized in the papers following Stephen Jr.'s death in 1808. Three deeds in Folder 3 document the inheritance that Stephen's wife Mary Cook (circa 1731-1806) received from her mother in 1755-1756, prior to her marriage to Stephen.

There are two receipts belonging to Stephen's son, Henry (circa 1766-1810), in Folder 4. In Folder 5 is personal correspondence of Henry's sister, Mary (circa 1774-1851), and also papers concerning her death in 1851.

The next three folders contain papers of Henry's son, Stephen (1805-1869), a fur and hat merchant in Salem, Massachusetts. In Folder 6 are letters from Stephen to a business partner (1847), to his wife Elizabeth while visiting Washington, D.C. (1850), and to his son Nathan, who was serving in the Union Army (1861).

In Folder 7 are notes, drafts of letters and essays, and pages (many fragmentary and out of order) from journals kept by Stephen. There is a description of Camp Clifford, a military encampment in Salem in 1853, a description of an imaginary voyage from Liverpool to Boston and other fictional tales, and a copy of correspondence (1850) to and from Fanny Kemble of Boston from officers of the Salem Lyceum including Stephen Osborne. Of particular interest is the draft of a letter to Stephen's son, James Brace (circa 1831- ), in October 1860, when James was apparently a sheep rancher in California. Stephen writes "the wisdom and virtue of the framers of the Constitution of the U.S. always seems to me miraculous." He disagrees with James's preference for Breckinridge in the election and considers Mr. Lincoln "remarkable for wisdom, moderation and firmness." He also comments that "niggers [are] to be pitied rather than despised" and that "slavery will exist as long as it is profitable and no longer."

In Folder 8 are receipts and miscellaneous papers of Stephen's, including an advertisement for his hat, cap, and fur store on Essex Street in Salem and another for Lehmann and Osborne, "importers and dealers in hatters' and furriers' goods," in Boston, Massachusetts.

In Folder 9 are papers of Stephen's wife, Mary Elizabeth (Brace) Osborne, including correspondence to Elizabeth from a friend (1826) and from Elizabeth to her husband Stephen (1844). Also present is her obituary (1885) as well as that of her father, Captain James Brace.

The next generation is represented by a memorial tribute to Nathan Ward Osborne (1834-1895), the son of Stephen and Elizabeth Osborne, in Folder 10. Nathan was a career Army officer who was appointed a Captain in the 13th United States Infantry in 1861. He fought with gallantry at Vicksburg and elsewhere during the Civil War. Later he served on duty on the frontier and was promoted to Colonel 5th United States Infantry.

Folder 11 contains school papers from Stephen Osborne (1817), and his children, Elizabeth (undated) and Orville (1848), and also report cards (1884-1891) belonging to Elizabeth and Fannie Saunders, daughters of David Elwell and Jennie (Osborne) Saunders. Schools include the First Baptist Bible School, North Phillips School, Bowditch School, and Salem Classical High School.

Folder 12 contains four papers belonging to David E. Saunders Jr., including his appointment as Sergeant in the Massachusetts Infantry (1862) and a reissue of his pension certificate (1913).

In Folder 13 is a pamphlet celebrating the centennial of the Salem Light Infantry, whose first commander in 1805 was Captain John Saunders. This volunteer company was celebrated as having "won distinction in both civil and military life." It participated in local ceremonies and parades, and during the Civil War it was mustered into service three times. Members of the Infantry also served honorably in many other regiments during the war. The Infantry was mustered for a fourth time during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Folder 14 contains newspaper clippings from the Salem Gazette (1803), Boston Recorder (1820), and Essex Register (1838). The last contains an advertisement for "splendid fur goods" from Stephen Osborne at 183 Essex Street, Salem. Reprints of two Civil War-era poems (1864-1865) are also present.

In Folder 15 are five miscellaneous papers, including a receipt of Paul Osborne's (1798), a deed dividing land and buildings on Essex Street between William S. Gray and Benjamin H. Hathorne (1811), and a wedding invitation for Jennie Abbot Ward Eaton (1893).

Folder 16 and 17 contain one silhouette and numerous photographs of Osborne and Saunders family members. Remarkably, practically all the items are clearly identified. The earliest are photographs of portraits of Henry Osborne (1766-1810) and his wife, Mary Ward Osborne (1770-1835). At least 16 members of the Osborne and Saunders families are represented among a total of 45 photographs. Other subjects include actors, actresses, and friends.

Biographical Sketches

Documents in this collection span seven generations of the Osborne family, who resided primarily in Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts. A few of the family members are listed below, and a partial genealogy of the family is attached in Appendix I.

Stephen Osborne Jr. was born in 1736, the son of Stephen and Sarah (Douglas) Osborne. His occupation was described as shoreman. He married Mary Cook (1731-1806) in 1765, and their children included Henry, William, Mary, and Sarah. He died in 1808 in Salem, Massachusetts.

Henry Osborne, son of Stephen and Mary (Cook) Osborne, was born circa 1766. He married Mary Ward in 1796, and their children included Mary Jane, Harriet, Stephen, Hannah Ward, and Henry. He died in 1810 in Salem, Massachusetts.

Henry's son, Stephen Osborne, was born in 1805. He married Mary Elizabeth Brace in 1827, and they had eight children, Stephen Henry, James Brace, Mary Ward, Nathan Ward, Elizabeth, Orville, Sarah Jane (Jennie), and Frederick. He died in Salem in 1869.

Stephen's daughter, Sarah Jane (Jennie) Osborne (1843-1929), married David Elwell Saunders Jr. in 1867. They had three daughters, Mabel, Elizabeth, and Frances.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Osborn, Henry, circa 1766-1810
Osborn, Mary (Cook), circa 1731-1806
Osborn, Stephen, circa 1736-1808
Osborn, William, circa 1682-1771
Osborne family
Osborne, Mary Elizabeth (Brace), circa 1809-1885
Osborne, Mary, circa 1774-1851
Osborne, Nathan Ward, 1834-1895
Osborne, Stephen, 1805-1869
Saunders family
Saunders, David Elwell, Jr. b. 1842
Massachusetts. Militia. Salem Light Infantry
Land titles
Salem (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Osborne Family Papers, MSS 357, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


One part of the collection was donated by John W. Kimball on December 1, 2005 in memory of Elizabeth M. Foster (acc #2005.013). A second part was donated at an earlier unknown date.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Lee Jacoby, January 2007.

Related Material

Vital Records of Salem, Mass., to the End of the Year 1849, 6 vol. Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute, 1916-1925.

David Elwell Saunders, Jr. Papers, 1856, 1862-1863. Contains one memo written by Saunders and several letters to Saunders from friends and siblings while he served in New Orleans during the Civil War. Some letters mention his sweetheart, Jennie Osborne. Fam. Mss. 913

Appendix I - Partial Osborne Family Tree

Appendix I - Partial Saunders Family Tree

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