Processing was done as a directed study for
graduate work in American History at Salem State College.
The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Perley Family Papers
4.5 linear feet (9 boxes, 1 volume)
The Perley Family Papers trace
the history of the Perley family of Boxford, Massachusetts, and Bridgeton, Maine,
and the development of those towns from pre-Revolutionary days through the
SERIES I. Enoch Perley (1749-1829) Papers SERIES II. Thomas Perley (1746-1831) Papers
A. Legal Papers
B. Financial Records
C. Correspondence and Memoranda
D. Sarah (Wood) Perley (1765-1854) Papers
SERIES III. Perley Family Papers
A. John Perley (1779-1851) Papers
B. John Perley (1788-1874) Papers
C. Asa Perley (1793-1845) Papers
D. Thomas Perley (1747-1856) Papers
E. Huldah Perley (1805-1843) Papers
F. Miscellaneous Perley Family
G. Relatives' Papers
SERIES IV. Boxford Town Records
Scope and Content Note
The Perley Family Papers trace the history of the Perley family of Boxford,
Massachusetts, and Bridgeton, Maine, and the development of those towns from
pre-Revolutionary days through the mid-nineteenth century. The collection is
organized into four series.
Series I. Enoch Perley (1749-1869) Papers, 1773-1829,
contains letters written by Enoch from Bridgeton, Maine, to his brother Thomas in
Boxford, Massachusetts, and the accounts on timberland in Maine owned jointly by the
two men. The papers record experiences of early settlers in the Maine wilderness,
the founding of Bridgeton, and development of the logging industry.
Series II. Thomas Perley (1746-1831) Papers ranging from
1743-1851 include his legal papers, accounts, personal correspondence and memoranda
as well as letters received by his wife Sarah (Wood) Perley from relatives. The bulk
of the legal papers contain estates and vendues of clients. Of interest are the
letters of Abigail Wheeler (1741-1826) seeking alimony payments from her husband
Rufus. Miscellaneous legal papers of the Perley family, for whom Thomas acted as
attorney, can be found in Series III.
Thomas' memoranda, 1787-1831, include the 1787 certificate for election of a
Massachusetts state representative, an undated copy of President John Adams' deeds
to the town of Quincy, an undated catalog of the books in Boxford, a copy of the
1703 mulatto and negro slave law, the 1787 inventory of Massachusetts products and
goods, the 1787 list of Massachusetts exports, the 1801 act for regulation of
weights and measures, toasts given at a Boxford celebration July 4, 1801, lists of
Massachusetts electors, notes on a meeting of the Federal Republicans in Salem in
1806, a description of railroad construction from Boston to Albany, specifications
and drawings for construction of a house, and prescriptions to cure disease in man,
animals, and plants.
Thomas' correspondence includes copies of his letters to or on behalf of his
brothers, 1785-1827, and his diaries, 1799-1803. Letters to Thomas from his brother
Enoch and nephew John Perley of Bridgeton, Maine, are located with their papers. Of
interest in the letters to Thomas Perley are several from the Massachusetts
Congressman Jeremiah Nelson reporting on political activities in Washington D.C.,
1806-1820, and a 1823 letter from nephew Edward Ballard describing his journey from
Hopkinton, New Hampshire, to New York City, and thence Elizabethtown, New Jersey. A
series of letters in 1825 presents doctors' diagnoses and prescriptions for the
illness of Sarah (Wood) Perley.
Series III. Perley Family Papers, 1766-1881, contains
mostly personal correspondence of family members. John Perley's (1779-1841) papers
include information on real estate and financial matters in Bridgeton, Maine, and
notes on the legislature in Portland. The papers of John Perley (1788-1874) of
Salem, Massachusetts, concern domestic matters. Thomas Perley (1788-1874) papers
include letters from his cousin Thomas Perley (b. 1783) regarding Maine State
politics and elections, land and timber sales, and a detailed description of logging
with six ox teams, December 20, 1839. Also included here are Augustus Perley's
comments on the Tyler-Van Buren presidential campaign and election. Asa Perley's
(1793-1845) papers relate the experiences of a mentally-ill man, 1819-1845, and his
time as a patient at McLean Asylum, with descriptions of the environment,
activities, care, and staff. The poetry collection of Huldah Perley (1805-1843)
indicates the romantic sentiment of her time with pieces on '"woman," "home,"
nature, friendship, and death.
Miscellaneous family papers include correspondence among the Perley and Ballard
(Hopkinton, New Hampshire) cousins, Aaron Perley's undated treatise on
"horsemanship," and his description, 1818, of planting an orchard in 1803.
Relatives' papers include the letters of William Neale Cleaveland (1799-1872) to his
son James Putnam Cleaveland (1838-1892), a student in New York City circa 1851, and
letters from James' young friends in Topsfield, Massachusetts. Of interest is a
document exempting James from military service in 1864. A title abstract traces the
Perley-Cleaveland farm in Boxford from 1666 to 1882. The Palmer papers, 1861-1874,
include bills from Amherst and Harvard Colleges, and copies of undergraduate
Series IV. Boxford Town Records, 1703-1869, contains
military papers, church records, school records, correspondence with selectman, and
notes of town meetings. The military papers contain lists of Boxford's Minutemen and
foot soldiers in the Continental Army, Thomas Perley's (1746-1831) history of
raising a militia in Boxford up to 1788, and several petitions opposing conscription
during the Revolutionary War. Church Records, 1703-1823, include membership lists,
1703-1825, notes of minsters' salaries, 1768, notes on a singing school, 1805, and a
history of the First Congregational Church, April 30, 1838. The bulk of the church
records contains the documents pertaining to the schism under Reverend Briggs,
1818-1825, and of construction of a new meeting house in 1836. School records,
1795-1841, include: letters from prospective teachers; lists of scholars, 1795-1800,
1832, 1836, 1837; rules and regulations of school, 1796; and a list of repairs to
the schoolhouse, 1803. Other school issues are located in correspondence with
selectmen and notes of town meetings.
Correspondence with selectmen and notes of town meetings, 1780-1863, includes:
lists of town officers from the 1700s; petitions against assessments and for
warrants; a petition against "lewdness," 1794; drawings of plans for woodlots and
roads, 1800-1802; the town treasurer's reports, 1799-1803, deal primarily with costs
of buildings and repairing roads, and providing for the poor. Particularly
interesting is the life history of the black itinerant Mars, born in Africa, who
died in Boxford in 1806, and valuation lists for tax assessments that include
individual estates, the town as a whole, and other towns in Essex County.
Miscellaneous correspondence, 1818-1832, includes a treatise by Thomas Peabody
on the American Indian, February 14, 1840, and several open letters, undated to the
Enoch Perley (1749-1829) was born in Boxford,
Massachusetts, son of Thomas Perley (1704-1795) and Eunice (Putnam) Perley
(1710-1787), sister of General Israel Putnam. Enoch was one of Boxford's 50
Minutemen who marched to Lexington April 15, 1775 and thence to Boston. In 1776 he
moved to the Maine wilderness where he settled on land laid out in 1760 by an Essex
County, Massachusetts, company. His clearing eventually became the center of the
town of Bridgetown and he the leading citizen, serving as town moderator and justice
of the peace. His large tracts of timberland made Enoch Perley the wealthiest man in
the region where he was known as "Squire Perley." He married Anna Flint (1753-1823)
and fathered five children, among them General John Perley (1779-1841) and Captain
Thomas Perley (b. 1783).
Thomas Perley (1746-1831), born in Boxford,
Massachusetts, was the son of Thomas Perley (1704-1795) and Eunice (Putnam) Perley
(1710-1787). A tailor as a young man, he had wide-ranging interests and a keen
historical consciousness. He kept notes on political, social, and economic matters
of his day, and maintained a broad correspondence. Thomas Perley served Boxford as
town clerk, selectman, assessor, surveyor of highways, and member of the school
committee. He was town moderator for 21 years, trustee of public school funds for 30
years, an attorney and justice of the peace for 40 years. He was on committees to
regulate prices of labor and goods, to examine the state constitution, and to review
relations with Great Britain. He represented Boxford at the General Court in Ipswich
and Boston, and received votes for senator, lieutenant governor, and governor of
Aaron Perley (1755-1832), the last of eight children of
Thomas Perley (1704-1795) and Eunice (Putnam) Perley (1710-1787), was born in
Boxford where he served briefly as assessor and selectman, and was active in the
First Congregational Church. He inherited his father's farm and became wealthy on a
large stock of cattle and oxen, extensive orchards and a cider mill. He married
Mehitable Wood (1761-1853), sister of Sarah (Wood) Perley, and had ten children,
including John, Thomas, Asa, and Huldah.
John Perley (1779-1841), born in Bridgeton, Maine, was
the son of Enoch Perley (1749-1829) and Anna (Flint) Perley (1753-1823). He was a
productive farmer in Cumberland County, selectman, town treasurer, school and church
trustee, and justice of the peace in Bridgeton. He was a general in the
Massachusetts and Maine Militias, member of the House of Representatives, and was
active in reform causes.
John Perley (1788-1874) of Salem, Massachusetts, was born
in Boxford, the son of Aaron Perley (1755-1832) and Mehitable (Wood) Perley
(1761-1853). He had a shoe store at 252 Essex Street in Salem, and flower gardens
widely known for beauty and abundance.
Asa Perley (1793-1845), son of Aaron Perley (1755-1832)
and Mehitable (Wood) Perley (1761-1853), lived in the family home throughout his
lifetime except for those periods when mental illness confined him to McLean Asylum
Thomas Perley (1797-1856), born in Boxford, was the son
of Aaron Perley (1755-1832) and Mehitable (Wood) Perley (1761-1853). He inherited
his father's farm and was an active member exhibitor and committeeman of the Essex
Agricultural Society and the Massachusetts Agricultural Society.
Huldah Perley (1805-1843), daughter of Aaron Perley
(1752-1832) and Mehitable (Wood) Perley (1761-1853) lived at the family farm for the
duration of her life. She wrote and collected poetry.
William Neale Cleaveland (1798-1872), son of Nehemiah and
Experience (Lord) Cleaveland of Topsfield, married Harriet Perley (1803-1879),
daughter of Aaron and Mehitable (Wood) Perley (1761-1853). He was a cotton
manufacturer, businessman, and a selectman in Topsfield, 1824-1845. He moved to the
Perley family farm in 1856, and thereafter administered and settled estates.
James Putman Cleaveland (1838-1892), son of William N.
Cleaveland (1799-1872) and Harriet (Perley) Cleaveland (1803-1879), was born in
Topsfield and attended school in New York City. He inherited his father's estate and
became a progressive farmer. He married Anna J. Palmer, daughter of Asher and Anne
Folson Palmer, but had no children.
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.
Cleaveland, James Putnam, 1838-1982
Cleaveland, William Neale, 1799-1872
Perley, Asa, 1793-1845
Perley, Enoch, 1749-1829
Perley, Huldah, 1805-1843
Perley, John, 1779-1851
Perley, John, 1788-1845
Perley, Sarah Wood, 1765-1854
Perley, Thomas, 1746-1831
Perley, Thomas, 1797-1856
First Congregational Church (Boxford, Mass.)
McLean Asylum for the Insane
Estates, administration of
Itinerancy (Church polity)
Medicine--Formulae, receipts, prescriptions
United States--Maine--Politics, practical
United States--Politics and government
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
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
The Perley Family Papers are a reorganization and integration of 10 scrapbook
volumes, several diaries, and one account book. The collection is believed to have
been donated to the Essex Institute by Harriet Cleaveland (1837-1903), of Salem,
Collection processed by Heather Pentland, April 1984. Updated by Catherine Robertson,
Perley, Sidney. The Dwellings of Boxford. Salem,
Massachusetts: Essex Institute, 1893.
Perley, Sidney. The History of Boxford. Boston:
Franklin Press, 1878.
The Perley Family Papers trace the history of the Perley family of Boxford, Massachusetts, and Bridgeton, Maine, and the development of those towns from pre-Revolutionary days through the mid-nineteenth century.
First Congregational Church (Boxford, Mass.); McLean Asylum for the Insane; Boxford (Mass.); Bridgeton (Me.); United States--Maine--Politics, practical; United States--Politics and government; Cleaveland, James Putnam, 1838-1982; Cleaveland, William Neale, 1799-1872; Perley, Asa, 1793-1845; Perley, Enoch, 1749-1829; Perley, Huldah, 1805-1843; Perley, John, 1779-1851; Perley, John, 1788-1845; Perley, Sarah Wood, 1765-1854; Perley, Thomas, 1746-1831; Perley, Thomas, 1797-1856; Account books; Afro-Americans; Diaries; Divorce; Estates, administration of; Itinerancy (Church polity); Lawyers; Logging; Lumber trade; Medicine--Formulae, receipts, prescriptions; Poetry; Tailoring; Church buildings--Massachusetts--Boxford
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.