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Spofford Family Papers

Spofford 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:Spofford family
Title:Spofford Family Papers
Quantity:3.5 linear feet (6 boxes)
Abstract:The Spofford Family Papers contain material of the immediate family of Dr. Jeremiah Spofford Jr. (1787-1880) of Rowley, Georgetown, Bradford, and Groveland, Massachusetts.
Collection Number:MSS 327

Series List

SERIES I. Dr. Jeremiah Spofford Papers
A. Medical Papers
B. Business Papers
C. Education papers
D. Writings
E. Political Papers
F. Civic and Religious Papers
G. Personal Papers
H. Mary Ayer Spofford Papers
I. Laura Ayer Spofford Papers
J. Charles Wilton Spofford Papers
K. Herschel Ainsworth Spofford Papers
L. Cecilia Peabody Spofford papers
M. Aphia Tenney Spofford Papers
SERIES II. Family Papers
A. Abner Spofford and Descendants Papers
B. Daniel Spofford and Descendants Papers
C. Eliphalet Spofford and Descendants Papers
D. Miscellaneous Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Spofford Family Papers contain material of the immediate family of Dr. Jeremiah Spofford Jr. (1787-1880) of Rowley, Georgetown, Bradford, and Groveland, Massachusetts. The collection is divided into two series.

Series I. Dr. Jeremiah Spofford Papers is divided into thirteen subseries. Subseries A. Medical Papers includes medical certificates, records of the Essex North Medical Society (1842-1871), and Spofford's notes on medical texts. Most notable are Spofford's medical case journals and medical account books which document in great detail an Essex County general medical practice, which spanned the years 1813 to 1871.

Subseries B. Business Papers includes agreements, deeds, receipts, correspondence, and legal papers. In addition, four items document Spofford's connection with the Haverhill Gazette. Subseries C. Educational Papers contains records that document Spofford's brief early career as a schoolmaster from 1810-1811. Subseries D. Writings consists of 38 bundles of lecture notes. Subseries E. Political Papers documents Spofford's career in local and state government, as well as general activities of town and county governments. There are also papers documenting Spofford's service in the Massachusetts Senate (1838-1839), including a diary of his activities on Beacon Hill. Also included in this subseries are town and county government documents that are incidentally related or unrelated to Spofford. Subseries F. Civic and Religious Papers includes civic society records, membership certificates, and church documents. Most notable is a declaration of religious faith made by Spofford in 1810 and confirmed in 1845, 1850, and 1865.

Subseries G. Personal Papers includes correspondence with family member and four diaries. Two diaries are a record in prose and short vignettes of a trip Spofford made by railroad and steamship to New Hampshire, Vermont, New York (Albany and New York City), as well as Rhode Island in 1832. Two other diaries were kept from 1868 to 1880 and chronicle the daily life of a retired country doctor.

Subseries H. Mary Ayer Spofford Papers includes an undated letter from Mary to her son Charles and five bundles of pages from a diary that Mary kept from 1810 to 1813. Subseries I. Laura Ayer Spofford Papers consists of an autograph book signed by local friends of Laura from 1826 to 1834 and an 1838 burial permit for Laura's husband, Moses P. Atwood. Subseries J. Charles Wilton Spofford Papers includes three letters and an undated manuscript history of Groveland, Massachusetts.

Subseries K. Herschel Ainsworth Spofford's Papers consists of four mercantile account books. Subseries L. Cecilia Peabody Spofford Papers contains correspondence. Subseries M. Aphia Tenney Spofford Papers contains three letters to Aphia from distant cousins who were assisting her with the revision of her father's genealogy of the Spofford family. Also included is a manuscript biography of her Aphia's father and a transcript of the 1678 inventory of the estate of John Spofford of Rowley.

Series II. Family Papers is divided into four subseries. Subseries A. Abner Spofford and Descendants Papers includes the 1773 will and 1777 burial permit of Abner Spofford; records and receipts of Abner' son, Eleazer; and a letter written by Eleazer's grandson to his first cousin Aphia Spofford regarding Spofford family history. Subseries B. Daniel Spofford and Descendants Papers contains documents such as a 1758 receipt of Daniel Spofford; a letter and the will of Daniel's son, Moody Spofford, Sr.; documents of Moody's son, Moody Spofford, Jr.; two medical account books of Amos's son, Moses Dole Spofford; and medical society correspondence of Amos's son, Richard. Subseries C. Eliphalet Spofford and Descendants Papers contain a tax warrant signed by Eliphalet and his 1777 estate inventory; a permit to bury the body of Jonathan Hale, deceased husband of Eliphalet's daughter Eunice; and a letter written by Eliphalet's granddaughter, Elizabeth "Betsey" (Adams) Chapman. Subseries D. Miscellaneous Papers includes receipts of Abraham Spofford (a distant Essex County cousin of the Spoffords described above). Other items name people of probable but unknown relation to the Spofford family, including people named Fortune, Pilsbury, Wood, Clark, Burrill, Ridelle, Hardwicke, Atwood, and Wittington. Of interest is the 1770 manumission of Amos Fortune, slave of Joseph Reed of Cambridge the estate of Icabod Richardson of Woburn.

Biographical Sketches

Dr. Jeremiah Spofford Jr. was born on December 8, 1787, in New Rowley (now Georgetown), the son of Jeremiah and Temperance (Spofford) Spofford. After a course of medical studies under Drs. Whiton and Parkhurst of Winchendon, Massachusetts, Spofford was licensed to practice medicine in June 1813. In 1817, he moved to Bradford (to a section of the town which is now Groveland) to assume the medical practice of the deceased Dr. Ebenezer Jewett. Spofford practiced medicine in that place for the next fifty-four years. During that time he was a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Essex North District Medical Society.

In addition to his medical profession, Spofford was an educator. In 1810 and 1811 he served as a schoolmaster in New Rowley, and in 1821 he was a founder of the Merrimack Academy in Bradford, an institution that he remained affiliated with until at least 1872. Throughout his working life, Spofford lectured at Merrimack Academy and in front of school and civic groups across Essex County on politics, history, science, and philosophy. From 1821 until 1880 Spofford was connected with the Haverhill Gazette in several capacities, including part-time owner, editor, and columnist. In another business venture he was involved with two partners (William Balch and Nathaniel Ladd) in a real estate enterprise that dissolved in a financial dispute over rents owed and interest due on notes. The legal dispute, called the "Corporation Case," lasted from 1853 to 1855 and was finally removed from the courts and resolved in an ecclesiastical council of the local church. Spofford also held posts in local government and was active in enhancing railroad and steamship service to towns of western Essex County. Spofford's political leanings evolved from Federalist, to Whig, to Republican (as the political parties realigned and changed). In 1838 and 1839 he represented the region in the Massachusetts Senate.

The study of local and family history occupied Spofford's leisure time. He collected data on the Spofford family and authored A Family Record of the Descendants of John and Elizabeth, His Wife (Haverhill: E. G. Frothingham, 1851 and 1869). The book was updated and expanded by his daughter Aphia, and republished as Aphia Spofford, editor, A Genealogical Record [of the] Descendants of John Spofford and Elizabeth Scott by Dr. Jeremiah Spofford, Jr. (Boston: Alfred Mudge and Son, 1888).

On September 14, 1813, Spofford married his second cousin, Mary Ayer Spofford (1789-1876), the daughter of Eleazer and Mary (Flint) Spofford of Jaffrey, New Hampshire. The newly married couple resided in Hampstead, New Hampshire, for three years and then moved to Bradford (now Groveland), Massachusetts, where they resided for the remainder of their lives. The couple had nice children: Laura Ayer Spofford (1814- ), Charles Whiton Spofford (1816- ), Charlotte Eustis Spofford (1819-1888), Hershel Ainsworth Spofford (1825-1904), Mary Putnam Spofford (1823-1856), Cecilia Peabody Spofford (1826-1886), Morris Spofford (1829-1884), Lucy Tenney Spofford (1831-1833), and Aphia Tenney Spofford (1834- ). This collection also includes papers of members of the extended Spofford family of Essex County. The bulk of these are papers that document the lives and descendants of three sons of John Spaffard/Spofford (1678-1735) and his two wives, Dorcas Hopkinson (1676- ) and Sarah Poor. Those sons are Abner, Daniel, and Eliphalet Spofford.

The first son of John Spaffard/Spofford represented in this collection, Abner Spofford (1705-1777), was a millwright of Georgetown. Abner's son, Eleazer Spofford (1739-1828), was a millwright and road-builder of Georgetown and Bradford, Massachusetts, and Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Abner's great-grandson, Ainsworth Rand Spofford (1751-1872) of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Washington, D. C., served as Librarian of Congress from 1864 to 1897.

The second son of John Spaffard/Spofford, Daniel Spofford (1721-1803), was an architect and builder of Georgetown and served as a colonel in the Essex County militia during the American Revolution. Daniel's son, Moody Spofford Sr. (1744-1828), was an architect of Georgetown who served as a lieutenant during the Revolution. Moody Sr.'s son, Moody Spofford Jr. (1776- ), was of Georgetown also. Another son of Daniel, Amos Spofford (1751-1805), was a physician of Georgetown from 1771 to 1805. Amos's sons (and Daniel's grandsons), Moses Dole Spofford (1773-1832) of Georgetown and Richard S. Spofford (1787-1872) of Newburyport, were physicians.

The third son of John Spaffard/Spofford, Eliphalet Spofford (1725-1776), of Georgetown, Massachusetts, and Charlestown, New Hampshire, was a captain in the American Revolution who died of fever during the war. Eliphalet's daughter, Eunice (Spofford) Hale (1794-1847), was the wife of Johnathan Hale of Groveland. Eliphalet's granddaughter (through his daughter Lucy [Spofford] Adams), Elizabeth "Betsey" (Adams) Chapman (1794-1847), was the wife of Eliphaz Chapman of Gilead, Maine.

The collection also includes papers of Abraham Spofford (1717- ), an Essex County cousin of the Spoffords described above, and an unidentified Ebenezer Spofford.

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.

Chapman, Elizabeth Adams, 1794-1847
Spofford, Abner, 1705-1777
Spofford, Abraham, b. 1717
Spofford, Ainsworth Rand, 1825-1908
Spofford, Amos, 1751-1805
Spofford, Aphia Tenney, b. 1834
Spofford, Ceclia Peabody, 1826-1886
Spofford, Charles Wilton, b. 1816
Spofford, Daniel, 1721-1803
Spofford, Eleazer, 1739-1828
Spofford, Eliphalet, 1725-1776
Spofford, Herschel Ainsworth, b. 1821
Spofford, Jeremiah, 1787-188
Spofford, Laura Ayer, b. 1814
Spofford, Mary Ayer, 1789-1876
Spofford, Moody, 1744-1828
Spofford, Moody, b. 1776
Spofford, Moses Dole, 1773-1832
Spofford, Richard S., 1787-1872
Merrimack Academy (Bradford, Haverhill, Mass.)
Letter writing
Bradford (Mass.)
Georgetown (Mass.)
Groveland (Mass.)
Rowley (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

Spofford Family Papers, MSS 327, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The papers in this collection were said by H. Cooke in 1978 to "represent the combining of several groups of manuscripts," though only two original manuscript groups were identified in the Cooke finding aid. One group of manuscripts was purchased on June 29, 1950 (these items are marked in pencil, apparently a labeling that was done at the time of purchase). A second group of two items, the wills of Moody Spofford (1744-1828) and Abner Spofford (1705-1777), were the gift of the Rev. Russell Dewart, April 10, 1978. The origin of the other items in the collection is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by H. Cooke, December 1978. Reprocessed by Hobson Woodward, April 2003. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, June 2015.

Related Material

Aphia Spofford, editor, A Genealogical Record [of the] Descendants of John Spofford and Elizabeth Scott by Dr. Jeremiah Spofford, Jr. (Boston: Alfred Mudge and Son, 1888).

Aphia Spofford, "Dr. Jeremiah Spofford, Biographical," unpublished manuscript (see Box 2, Folder 17 of this collection). Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Accessed on May 28, 2015.

Papers relating to the "Corporation Case," 1832-1855, MSS 0.417

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