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Peirson Family Papers

Peirson 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:Peirson family
Title:Peirson Family Papers
Quantity:4 Linear feet (5 boxes)
Abstract:This collection contains papers of four generations of the Peirson family of Salem, Massachusetts.
Collection Number:MSS 487

Series List

SERIES I. First Generation
SERIES II. Second Generation
SERIES III. Third Generation
SERIES IV. Fourth Generation
SERIES V. Related Families
SERIES VI. Photographs, Newspapers, and Ephemera

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains papers of four generations of the Peirson family of Salem, Massachusetts. It includes personal correspondence, business papers, legal documents, military correspondence and records from the United States Civil War, diaries and sketchbooks, medical notebooks, obituaries and memorials, news clippings, and many photographs of the Peirson family. The collection also contains papers from the Caron, Hill, Langmaid, Lawrence, Page, and White families, all of whom were related to the Peirsons.

Series I. First Generation contains the papers of Samuel Peirson, including personal correspondence with family members, military and family records, a pocket book with a notice of his wife Sally's death in 1802, and a lengthy memorial following Samuel's death in 1852.

Series II. Second Generation contains the papers of Samuel's sons, Samuel Page, John, and Abel Lawrence Peirson, the obituary of his youngest daughter Sarah P. White, and one medical notebook belonging to T. Perkins Shepard. Samuel Page Peirson's letters describe his adventures as a young seaman until shortly before his last voyage in 1805. John Page Peirson's letters span his life from 16 years of age until his death at sea in 1826. His obituary and a description of his accidental drowning off the coast of Florida are included. Abel Lawrence Peirson's papers include a long letter to his son Abel Lawrence Jr., a tribute to his late father Samuel, and the writings Temperance and On Life. Also present in the collection are five of his medical notebooks, including one written while in Europe in 1832, one physicians [sic] visiting list, and a small red leather purse. Finally, there are memorial tributes written upon his death in 1853.

Series III. Third Generation contains the papers of Abel Lawrence Peirson's sons, Edward Brooks, Abel Lawrence, and Charles Lawrence Peirson, and their wives, Ellen Perry Peirson, Elizabeth Sutton Peirson, and Emily Russell Peirson. Also present are letters to Abel Lawrence Peirson's daughter, Abigail, from Dr. James Jackson and a memorial to James Jackson Peirson. Edward Brooks Peirson is represented by personal correspondence and three physicians visiting lists. From his wife Ellen Elizabeth Perry Peirson there are family letters, a diary of a European trip with samples of dried flora, sketches, and a writing case, most if not all dating from before their marriage in 1857. Abel Lawrence Peirson's papers include personal correspondence, business, and legal papers. From his wife Elizabeth Treadwell Sutton Peirson there are personal correspondence and also guardianship papers for their son Abel Lawrence Peirson.

Series III. Third Generation also contains extensive papers of Charles Lawrence Peirson documenting his service in the Union Army from 1861 to 1865. Charles wrote in great detail of his years as an officer in the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, including preparation for battle, victory and defeat in battle, prison life, and the general state of the army. Included with the military correspondence are documents from his commanding officers, tributes to Col. Paul Revere of the 20th Regiment, who died from wounds received at Gettysburg, and maps of Petersburg, Virginia. Later papers from Charles Peirson document his activity in veteran groups and specifically his efforts to raise funds for a Twentieth Regiment Monument. Other papers describe the early days of the Clifton Baseball Club.

Series IV. Fourth Generation contains papers from three members of the fourth generation. From Ellen Peirson Benson, the daughter of Edward Brooks Peirson, there is an album and two diaries (one with dried flora) kept on a trip to Europe in 1884-1885, before her marriage to Frank Benson in 1888. From Harriet L. Peirson, daughter of Abel Lawrence Peirson, there is correspondence with her parents, and from Abel Lawrence Peirson, son of Abel Lawrence Peirson, there are business and legal papers, including settlement of a French spoliation claim regarding capture of the schooner Polly in 1798.

Series V. Related Families contains wills, deeds, obituaries and memorials, genealogical notes, personal correspondence, and other papers from six families related to the Peirsons including the Caron, Hill, Langmaid, Lawrence, Page, and White families.

Series VI. Photographs, Newspaper, and Ephemera contains tintypes of brothers Charles F. Williams and George W. Williams (also a lock of George William's hair) and about 100 photographs of the Peirsons and others. Also present is a copy of the Salem Gazette from January 12, 1847.

Biographical Sketches

Samuel Peirson was born on February 22, 1759, in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Cox) Peirson. Following six months service in the Continental Army in 1777, he went into business in Salem, Massachusetts, and later in Portland, Maine. In about 1792 he relocated to Biddeford, Maine, where he resided until his death on May 12, 1852. Samuel married Sarah Page in 1776 by whom he had ten children, and in 1803 he married Sarah Hill by whom he had seven children.

Abel Lawrence Peirson was born on November 25, 1794, in Biddeford, Maine, the son of Samuel and Sarah (Page) Peirson. He graduated from Harvard College in 1812 and studied medicine at the Harvard Medical School. He practiced as a surgeon in Salem, Massachusetts, and served as a consulting surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He married Harriet Lawrence in 1819 and they had six surviving children, Edward Brooks, Abigail Lawrence, Abel Lawrence, Harriet Lawrence, James Jackson, and Charles Lawrence. Abel Peirson died in a train accident in 1853.

Edward Brooks Peirson was born in Salem, Massachusetts on January 22, 1820, the first son of Abel and Harriet (Lawrence) Peirson. He graduated from Harvard College in 1840 and Harvard Medical School in 1844. He was a physician in Salem, Massachusetts, who volunteered his services to assist the wounded at Fredericksburg, Virginia, after the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864. He married first Catherine Saltonstall (1823-1852) and second Ellen Elizabeth Perry (1828-1903). By his second wife he had five children: Catherine, Margaret Daisy White, Ellen Perry, Edward Lawrence, and Horatio Perry. Edward Peirson died in Salem on November 19, 1874.

Charles Lawrence Peirson was the youngest son of Abel and Harriet (Lawrence) Peirson. He was born on January 15, 1834, in Salem, Massachusetts. Charles studied at the Lawrence Scientific School, Harvard, and was a civil engineer. He served as a 1st Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 20th Regiment of the Massachusetts Infantry and as a Lieutenant Colonel of the 39th Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War. Charles was taken prisoner at the Battle of Ball's Bluff in October 1861 and was imprisoned for three months in Richmond, Virginia. He was severely wounded at the battles on the Weldon Railroad in August 1864 and was discharged with the rank of Colonel in January 1865. Following the war he was in the iron business in Boston. He died on January 23, 1920, in Beverly, Massachusetts.

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.

Benson, Ellen Peirson, 1860-1959
Hill family
Lawrence family
Page family
Peirson, Abel Lawrence, 1794-1853
Peirson, Abel Lawrence, 1824-1871
Peirson, Abel Lawrence, 1869-after 1940
Peirson, Charles Lawrence, 1834-1920
Peirson, Edward Brooks, 1820-1874
Peirson, Elizabeth Treadwell, 1822-1892
Peirson, Ellen Perry, 1828-1903
Peirson, Harriet Lawrence, 1853-1873
Peirson, Samuel, 1759-1852
White family
Williams, Charles Frederick, 1842-1862
Williams, George Washington, 1838-1905
Star (Bark)
Salem (Mass.)
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865


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

Peirson Family Papers, MSS 487, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


Four volumes of Ellen P. Peirson's and Ellen P. Benson's diaries were donated by Sylvia Benson on March 21, 1957. The provenance of the rest of the collection is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Lee Jacoby, November 2015.

Related Material

Dr. Edward Brooks Peirson (1820-1874) Papers, 1844-1874, 1917-1923. MSS 79

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