The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Townes Family Papers
0.25 Linear feet (1 box)
The Townes Family Papers
consists primarily of the correspondence of this African-American family living in
Newburyport, Massachusetts, in the early part of the 20th century.
Scope and Content Note
The Townes Family Papers consists primarily of the
correspondence of this African-American family living in Newburyport, Massachusetts,
in the early part of the 20th century. The collection includes letters from Moses
and Eliza Townes, letters to their families living in Virginia, Maine, and Harlem,
New York, as well as overdue bills, letters from creditors, and other financial
Moses Prophet Townes was an African-American man born in
Virginia of parents who were both Virginians. He was probably born in 1862. Based on
correspondence in the collection, he had at least one brother, Walter, and two
sisters, Amanda and Robertha (sic). There may have been other siblings, as there was
an extended Townes family residing not only in Newburyport, Massachusetts, close to
Moses and Eliza, but also in Finchley, Pennsylvania, and also in the Harlem
neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. By 1892, according to the Newburyport
directory, Moses was employed as a porter at the Wolfe Tavern in Newburyport and
boarding at the Tavern. In about 1899 or 1900 he married Eliza A. (nee unknown).
Moses had a young son, Thomas, at the time of his marriage to Eliza. There is no
information about a previous marriage. Moses remained a porter the Wolfe Tavern at
least until 1946-1947. At about the time of his marriage he moved from the tavern
where he boarded to a house at 3 Titcomb Street in Newburyport, where he lived with
his family for the remainder of his life. The date of his death is not readily
available, but it was between 1946 when he was still listed in the directory as a
porter and 1953, where Eliza is listed as a widow.
Eliza A Townes was an African-American woman born in
Massachusetts, in or around 1890. Her father was born in Maine and her mother in
Virginia. She was a music teacher and bore two children who, by the time of the 1910
United States Federal Census, had died.
Thomas Townes, the son of Moses Townes, was born in
Massachusetts in 1897. The 1910 United States Federal Census lists his age as 13. By
1916, Thomas had moved to Harlem, New York, and was boarding with his relatives
there. He apparently held several different jobs. Information about his life after
1919 is not readily available.
The Townes family had several boarders that lived with them throughout the
years; one was Donald Jones who boarded with the family
for several years, and other boarders were Louise Gaines
and her younger sister, Josephine Gaines who both seem to
have resided at 3 Titcomb Street with the family in the 1910s.
It should be noted that Townes family members as well as their various boarders
all worked in the shoe manufacturing industry at one time or another as the shoe
industry was still thriving in Newburyport in the early years of the 20th century
before it faded out in the middle of the century.
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.
Townes, Eliza A.
Townes, Thomas, 1887-
African American families--Massachusetts--Newburyport
African American farmers--Pennsylvania--Finchley
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