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Issac Bullock (1800-1870) Papers

Issac Bullock (1800-1870) Papers

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ISSAC BULLOCK (1800-1870) PAPERS, 1853-1870, 1962

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:Bullock, Issac, 1800-1870
Title:Issac Bullock (1800-1870) Papers
Dates:1853/1870, 1962
Quantity:0.25 linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:The Isaac Bullock papers contain personal manuscripts, copies of correspondence, and a photograph of former Salem resident, Captain Nehemiah Haskell.
Collection Number:MH 50

Series List

SERIES I. Manuscripts
SERIES II. Correspondence
SERIES III. Captain Nehemiah Haskell

Scope and Content Note

The Isaac Bullock papers contain personal manuscripts, copies of correspondence, and a photograph of former Salem resident, Captain Nehemiah Haskell. The collection has been divided into three series.

Series I. Manuscripts contains a bound manuscript volume Notes and Reminiscences: Spunyarn of Rhythmic Sketches, Prose Notes, and Musings of an Old Salt. Subtitles to this manuscript include: Scraps of Voyaging, Mining, Travel, What a Sailor Sawand Thought, Like a Log Book-Brief and Pointed, Short Yarns to Spunyarn Wrought, By Knotting all Together, and To a Volume Brought. It contains several flyleaf pages, including a photograph of the author (page IXX), and several appendixes. The manuscript was originally bound April 1864, but contains many added notes and annotations dated until 1870. Bullock dated and attributed these notes and annotations to "IB" (Isaac Bullock) and frequently highlighted his comments regarding points in the text with "NB" (nota bene-note well). There are 101 chapters or sections in the volume dealing with subjects as diverse as the American Civil War, the Puritans, comments on flora and fauna, history, gold prospecting, travels, insights on Milton's Paradise Lost, etc. Included are numerous illustrations, photographs, and drawings, many by the author. These include ships on which he served, sketches of places, people, flora and fauna, as well as a colored drawing of the Trask homestead. As in Bullock's other manuscripts, this work contains both poetry and prose. Bullock commented that the work was put together during the last few years of his mother's life. At her request, he remained at home with her and occupied much of this time writing the volume. This series also contains a collection of nine leaves of manuscript poetry with quotes and adaptations, with ink illustrations; a commentary, and other notes on Isaac Bullock's family genealogy and the history of Salem, which were purchased separately.

Series II. Correspondence contains two typescripts of letters from Isaac Bullock to his mother written from the gold fields in 1851. The California Park Service found these typescripts in the pioneer files of Sutter's Fort, California, in Sacramento. The letters were transcribed and sent to Salem, Massachusetts' Chamber of Commerce in an effort to gain more information about the individuals associated with the material. The original letters are dated January 20, and March 25, 1851. In the first letter Bullock mentions several Salem men who were in the Salmon Fall area: Captain Nehemiah Haskell, James Phelps, James Chase, and William Russell. Additionally, he mentions the costs of provisions and the cost of getting his prospecting gear together. In the second letter he describes the scenery, as well as further comments on provisions. In each letter he informs his mother how much gold he had sent home to her. The gentleman at the California Park Service also copied an unsigned note that was attached to the letters when they were found. This note gives a brief biographical sketch of Isaac Bullock, particularly regarding his travels to California and getting started in prospecting; its original source is unknown.

Series III. Captain Nehemiah Haskell contains a photographic copy of a portrait photograph of Captain Nehemiah Haskell. The original photograph was copied from the family album of a granddaughter of one of Haskell's old friends and neighbor at Salmon Falls; this copy was included with the letters sent by the California Park Service.

Biographical Sketch

Isaac Bullock was born on April 13, 1800 in Danvers, Massachusetts, the only child of Isaac (1774-1800) and Martha (Trask) (1777-1866) Bullock. He followed his father's profession as a mariner, first going to sea aboard fishing vessels, then serving aboard the brig Louisiana for several voyages between Boston and New Orleans, beginning in 1821. Subsequently, Bullock sailed on voyages in the Mediterranean Sea, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. In 1830 he made the first of several voyages as chief mate aboard Joseph Peabody's brig Cambrian. During the California gold rush, he twice spent time prospecting and mining on the South Fork of the American River, first in 1850 at Salmon Falls, and then in 1852 at Mormon Island.

Bullock was extremely well read in classical literature, including ancient history. He mentions having a library containing some 300 volumes. His broad reading experience is reflected in both the text of his manuscript, Notes and Reminiscences, as well at its annotations. From his writings he appears to have has at least a fundamental knowledge of both Greek and Latin. He died of consumption on December 30, 1870, while living at 158 Boston Street in Salem, Massachusetts. Isaac Bullock never married, and thus was the last member of that branch of the Bullock family.

Captain Nehemiah Haskell, a former Salem, Massachusetts resident, was one of the founders of Salmon Falls, an early gold mining town.

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.

Haskell, Nehemiah
California--Gold discoveries
Salem (Mass.)--Maps


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

Issac Bullock (1800-1870) Papers, MH 50, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The manuscript Notes and Reminiscences was donated by Patricia Tudbury in 1976 (accession #21,114). The typescript letter and the photograph of Haskell were a gift from the California Park Service in 1962. A collection of nine leaves of manuscript poetry with quotes and adaptations, with ink illustrations; a commentary, and other notes on Isaac Bullock's family genealogy and the history of Salem was purchased in 2012 (accession #2012.017).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert Craig, June 1999. Updated by Hilary Streifer, March 2015.

Related Material

Vital Records of Salem, Massachusetts. Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1916.

Vital Records of Danvers, Massachusetts. Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1909.

The Salem Directory, 1866. Salem, MA: Whipple and Smith, 1866.

The Salem Directory, 1869. Salem, MA: Whipple and Smith, 1869.

New England Historic and Genealogical Register. 55 (1901): 325

New England Historic and Genealogical Register. 61 (1907): 275-276.

Map of Salem showing Traske's Mill Pond, Spooner's Point, and other localities, ca. 1750, by Isaac Bullock.

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