The Topsfield, Massachusetts,
town records contain select records from the town of Topsfield from the seventeenth
through the early twentieth centuries, including town offices and committees, town
and military records, private business records, materials about individuals' deed
and houses, and some other miscellaneous topics.
SERIES I. Town Offices and Committees
C. Town Clerk
F. Finance Committee
SERIES II. Town Records
A. Tax Records
B. Demographic Records
C. Pauper Registry/ Overseers of the Poor
D. Charters and Writs
F. Highways and Roads
G. Telephone Poles and Electricity Records
SERIES III. Town Military Records
A. Revolutionary War
B. Civil War and World War I
SERIES IV. Private Businesses
A. General Store Records
B. Mortgage Records
C. Trust Funds
SERIES V. Individual Deeds and Houses [WPA
Transcripts] SERIES VI. Other
Scope and Content Note
The Topsfield, Massachusetts, town records contain select records from the town of
Topsfield from the seventeenth through the early twentieth centuries, including town
offices and committees, town and military records, private business records,
materials about individuals' deed and houses, and some other miscellaneous topics.
All of the volumes in this collection have maintained their original number from the
donor and lender; the following volume numbers do not exist: 10, 62, 76, 90, 92, 93,
94, and 95. Some of the material is available on microfilm. A portion of the
collection has mold on it. While most of the mold appears to be inactive, there is
some black mold on items found in the flat files, and while the moldy items have
been sleeved, individuals with sensitivity to mold should use caution while working
with this collection. This collection has been divided into six series.
Series I. Town Offices and Committees contains
materials on the various town offices that make up the government of Topsfield,
which include selectmen, treasurer, town clerk, schools, assessors, and finance
committee. Some of the materials appear to have been bound in a binder together, as
they have two uniform holes at the tops of them; these items have been filed in the
appropriate place. This series has been divided into six subseries. Subseries A. Selectmen contains correspondence, town
warrants, petitions, perambulations, receipts, insurance policies, and bonds. These
papers were originally arranged in packages without an identifiable order, so a
chronological order was imposed on them. Also included in this subseries are record
books and payment authorization books. Subseries B.
Treasurer contains materials from the office of the town treasurer,
including office holder bonds, treasurer's orders, receipts, and correspondence.
Also included in this subseries are account and record books, records of payments,
and other logs. Subseries C. Town Clerk contains bound
transcripts of the town clerk books for 1809 through 1850, which were originally
transcribed by the Conservation Works Administration in 1933 under the supervision
of George Francis Dow. At the time, it was not possible to publish the material in
1933, so a surviving carbon copy was typed to provide a few reading copies. These
transcripts are divided into two volumes. Also included in this subseries is
correspondence, notices, voter and ballot information, and record books. Subseries D. Schools contains teacher recommendations,
school committee reports, expenditures, and other miscellaneous papers. There are
also school committee record and meeting minute books. Subseries
E. Assessors contains assessed values and requests for assessments of
properties and other related materials. Also included in this subseries are two
assessors' books, and property appraisals and census information for tax returns.
Subseries F. Finance Committee contains a town
finance committee report for 1944, and a log book from the committee.
Series II. Town Records contains the records from
various town activities, such as tax and demographic records, pauper
registry/overseers of the poor, charters, proprietor records, highways and roads,
and telephone pole records. This series has been divided into seven subseries. Subseries A. Tax Records contains tax warrants, invoices
bills, and statements. Volumes in this subseries include tax lists, tax books, and
collection books. Subseries B. Demographic Records
contains the records of marriage intentions and certificates, communicable and
contagious diseases, and death certificates. Also included in this subseries is a
verbatim transcript of the first book of town records of births, marriages, and
deaths from 1645 to 1740, which was transcribed in 1878. Within the marriage
certificates is a folder with marriages of Topsfield residents from the 1700s who
were married in other towns, but that were recorded in Topsfield the mid-1800s.
Subseries C. Pauper Registry/ Overseers of the Poor
papers contain account and record books from the Overseers of the Poor, pauper
registries, and other related papers. Included in this subseries is correspondence
to the Overseers of the Poor, poor house records, and records binding children to
service. Volumes include an account book of the supervisor of the poor farm,
overseers' notebook and records, and pauper registries. Subseries D. Charters and Writs contains charters granted by King
William and Queen Mary, a volume of perpetual laws of Massachusetts, a journal of
the House of Representatives, and writs. Subseries E.
Proprietor contains account books for Topsfield, Stickey Meadows, and
Common Land. Subseries F. Highways and Roads contains
highway limits, taxes, and a highway book. Subseries G.
Telephone Poles and Electricity Records contains materials relating to
the installation and relocation of telephone poles, electric wires, and lights. This
includes requests from the telephone companies to the town clerk and board of
selectmen to install and/or relocate telephone poles and wires, and requests or
notices that repairs are going to be performed. Also included in this subseries are
blueprints of streets and proposed telephone pole locations, the installation and
repair of lights and electric wires for telegraphs and railroads, pole locations,
Series III. Town Military Records contains materials
from the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, and World War I. This
series has been divided into two subseries. Subseries A.
Revolutionary War contains materials from the American Revolutionary War.
The majority of the materials have "'Rev"' with a number in pencil written on the top
right corner; these materials were once part of a scrapbook; the items have been
left in numerical order. For a detailed inventory of the items removed from the
scrapbook, see Appendix I. Subseries B. Civil War and World War
I contains pension books and family support books from the Civil War, and
personnel books from the Civil War and World War I. It also contains transcribed
civil war records of enlistments and deaths of Topsfield men; it is not known where
the originals are located. Also included in this subseries is a broadside listing
the names of men subject to the draft.
Series IV. Private Businesses contains records from
some privately owned stores, sales, mortgages, and trust funds. This series has been
divided into three subseries. Subseries A. General Store
Records contains general store record books and a day book. Subseries B. Mortgage Records contains personal property
mortgage books, and loose mortgages and deeds. Also included in this subseries are
pew rights. Subseries C. Trust Funds includes a trust
fund book and journal.
Series V. Individuals, Deeds, and Houses [WPA
Transcripts] contains materials on individuals, personal deeds, land, and
houses. The majority is a collection of transcripts that appear to have been created
by Works Progress Administration workers (WPA) during the Great Depression, probably
as part of the Historical Records Survey. The original materials are most likely
located with the town of Topsfield. The transcripts are of deeds and other land
related materials, with some family histories, and have been arranged according to
family name. At the end of the series is a folder labeled "'Bi monthly project
inspection report"' which contains what appear to be notes about the project and the
families whose papers were included in the project.
Series VI. Other contains histories of the town of
Topsfield, common lands books, burial ground family plots, Sunday school attendance
records, a liquor agent book, records on dogs, and an index of instruments. Also
included are wills and deeds for the Lamson family of Topsfield, newspapers with
mentions of the town of Topsfield in them, and some Kodachrome slides of what appear
to be a scrapbook.
In 1643, the town of Salem, Massachusetts, was ordered to send people to create a
town near Ipswich in the New Meadows land. In 1648, the town was given the name
"Toppesfield", later spelled Topsfield. Two years later it became a distinct
community. The first selectmen of the town were appointed in 1661. The first school
was created in 1694, and the first school house was built in 1740.
Topsfield supported the Revolution due to its residents viewing slights of
injustice at the hands of the courts and tariffs to be oppression. The town had a
troop of minute men, some of which were veterans from the French and Indian War.
Topsfield also supported the abolitionist movements; 132 men served in the Civil
War, 22 of which did not return.
The town had multiple shoe factories in the 1800s. The earliest of these were
"Ten-footer shops". In 1867, there were four major shoemakers in town and several
other smaller shops around. The four were Charles Herrick & Company, Bailey,
Saunders & Company, Towne, and Fredrick Stiles. The trade suffered in the
economic depression after the civil war. Trade and communication improved with the
creation of turnpikes in the area around 1803; the Newbury Turnpike was completed in
1805, connecting the town with the seaport. Hotels began to immerge in the area with
this improvement, along with the traditional inns. The town hosted the first
Topsfield Fair in 1818 for the Essex Agricultural Society to "'promote and improve
the agricultural interests of farmers and others in Essex County"'. The fair
continues to be held annually, except for six exceptions when it was canceled by
In 1854 the Georgetown and Danvers Railroad Company and the Danvers Railroad
Company finished the two-year construction of a rail line that took ten years to put
into fruition. The line ran until 1950, four years short of its centennial, when
Today, Topsfield no longer has factories or inns. The town is mostly
residential, a characteristic that began the 1900s as it filled with estates. Its
population increased after World War II as people moved out of the cities, and
created the town's now suburban characteristics.
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.
Contracts for deeds--Massachusetts--Topsfield
Essex County (Mass.)--History
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
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
Two boxes of transcriptions of Topsfield town records are from an unknown source, but
were transcribed by Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers. There are six
folders of original materials within the transcripts: mortality list from 1850 to
1860, a letter about continental tax during the American Revolution, a verbatim
transcript of town records from 1645 to 1750, a highway book from 1861, and two
folders of miscellaneous materials from 1726 to 1872. The miscellaneous items
include town valuation records from 1869, 1870, and an unknown year, a selectmen's
account from 1867, school expenditures, and miscellaneous tax papers. Within the
transcripts, a folder labeled "'Bixbys #33 & 33A"' has a note that it was a gift
from the American Antiquarian Society N12, 1854—it is possible that the original
materials, presumably located with the town of Topsfield, were a gift.
The rest of the material was donated by James Long, acting as an agent for the
Town Clerk of Topsfield, Massachusetts, in 2010 (accession #2010.001, 2010.002,
2010.003, 2010.004, 2010.005, 2010.006, 2010.007, 2010.008). In 2002, the following
volumes were placed on loan from the Topsfield Town Clerk: book #96, book #97, book
#98, book #99, book #100, book #101 (accession #2002.053).
Collection processed by Bryanne McArdle, August 2014, Hilary Streifer and Tamara
Gaydos, June 2015.
Dow, George Francis. History of Topsfield Massachusetts.
Topsfield: The Perkins Press, 1940.
The Topsfield, Massachusetts, town records contain select records from the town of Topsfield from the seventeenth through the early twentieth centuries, including town offices and committees, town and military records, private business records, materials about individuals' deed and houses, and some other miscellaneous topics.
Account books; Essex County (Mass.)--History; Topsfield (Mass.)--History; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865; United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783; Charters--Massachusetts--Topsfield; Contracts for deeds--Massachusetts--Topsfield; Highway departments--Massachusetts--Topsfield; Poor--Services for--Massachusetts--Topsfield; Populations, Human; Public welfare--Massachusetts--Topsfield; Selectmen--Massachusetts--Topsfield; Taxation--Massachusetts--Topsfield; Town clerks--Massachusetts--Topsfield; Writs--Massachusetts--Topsfield
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.
Two boxes of transcriptions of Topsfield town records are from an unknown source, but were transcribed by Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers. The rest of the material was donated by James Long, acting as an agent for the Town Clerk of Topsfield, Massachusetts, in 2010 (accession #2010.001, 2010.002, 2010.003, 2010.004, 2010.005, 2010.006, 2010.007, 2010.008). In 2002, the following volumes were placed on loan from the Topsfield Town Clerk: book #96, book #97, book #98, book #99, book #100, book #101 (accession #2002.053).