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John Cleaveland (1722-1799) Papers

John Cleaveland (1722-1799) Papers

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JOHN CLEAVELAND (1722-1799) PAPERS, 1742-1881

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:Cleaveland, John, 1722-1799
Title:John Cleaveland (1722-1799) Papers
Quantity:4 linear feet (3 boxes)
Abstract:This collection reflects a wide variety of the activities of the Reverend John Cleaveland.
Collection Number:MSS 204

Series List

SERIES I. Personal Papers
SERIES II. Church Papers
SERIES III. Family Papers

Scope and Content Note

This collection reflects a wide variety of the activities of the Reverend John Cleaveland. The collection is divided into three series.

Series I. Personal Papers includes biographical papers as well as correspondence John wrote to his wives, family, and friends. Of particular interest in John's biographical papers is a journal kept of his years at Yale College; his confession given to the "Reverend Rector and tutors of Yale;" and the document expelling John and Ebenezer from that school. Also included are a fragment of John's autobiography; a document confirming John as chaplain to Colonel Bagley; and John's will and personal account records.

John's correspondence with his wives includes his marriage proposal to Mary Dodge, letters exchanged while John was Chaplain to Colonel Bagley during the French and Indian War, and letters to Mary (Neale) Foster from Prospect Hill during the American Revolution. His family correspondence includes letters between John's parents and their children, between John and his brothers, and between John and his children. John's correspondence with his friends is primarily religious exhortations.

Series II. Church Papers consist of sermons and testimonials, correspondence, and church administration. The sermons and testimonials are primarily stories of individual conversion to Christianity, as well as replies to criticism of the separatist group in particular. The correspondence consists of letters between various separatist churches and letters defending the separatist view to those in other denominations. Of special interest is a rebuke given to John Cleaveland for ministering in a church without the pastor's consent, and the invitation to and response of John Cleaveland to pastor the "New Gathered Church of Christ at Chebacco in Ipswich". Church administration papers include formal religious doctrinal writings of the separatist churches, covenants uniting the Second and Fourth Churches of Ipswich into one Congregational Church, and records of church committee meetings.

Series III. Family Papers include correspondence written by John's family, genealogical information on the Cleaveland family, legal papers from John's wife, parents and siblings, Mary (Dodge) Cleaveland's diary, and the remainders from a scrap book. Also included are diplomas, appointments, and membership certificates for multiple generations of the Cleaveland family as well as a poster guide of short hand from 1823.

The collection was originally bound as a 4-volume scrapbook, but has since been dismantled. Many documents are adhered with wax to groups of other letters based on an original order established in the scrapbook.

Biographical Sketches

John Cleaveland (1722-1799), the seventh child of Josiah (1690-1750) and Abigail (Pain) Cleaveland (1686-1762), was an early leader in the "separatist" Christian movement. His career can be traced to a conflict with the administration of Yale College, at which John and his brother, Ebenezer Cleaveland (1725-1805), were students. Refusing to repent for attending a separatist congregation, both brothers were expelled from the college in 1745.

Shortly following his expulsion, John Cleaveland served two years as a minister to a separatist society in Boston before settling in Ipswich, Massachusetts, to pastor a new separatist church at Chebacco, Ipswich. He served in the French and Indian War as a chaplain to Colonel Jonathan Bagley, travelling to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and to Louisburg, Nova Scotia. During the American Revolution, he was a chaplain of an Essex County Regiment, commanded by Colonel Cogswell.

John Cleaveland was married to Mary Dodge (1723-1768) soon after his ordination in 1747. They had seven children, including Mary (1748-1804), John (1749-1815), Parker (1751-1826), Ebenezer (1754-1780), Elizabeth (1757-1828), Nehemiah (1760-1837), and Abigail (1762-1824). Following Mary's death in 1768, John married Mrs. Mary (Neale) Foster (1730-1810) in 1769. John passed away in 1799, having pastored the Chebacco Church for 52 years.

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.

Cleaveland, Ebenezer, 1725-1805
Cleaveland, Ebenezer, 1754-1780
Cleaveland, John, 1722-1799
Cleaveland, Mary, 1730-1810
Cleveland, Mary (Dodge), 1723-1768
Cleveland, Nehemiah, 1760-1837
Cleveland, Parker, 1751-1826
Yale University
Church correspondence
Church history--18th century
Congregationalism--History--18th century
Courtship--United States
Dissenters, Religious
Great Awakening
Military chaplains
Chebacco (Mass.)
Ipswich (Mass.)
Massachusetts--Church history
Massachusetts--Social life and customs--To 1775
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783


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

John Cleaveland (1722-1799) Papers, MSS 204, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The provenance of this collection is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Hope Foster, May 1986. Updated by Heather Mumford, December 2010.

Related Material

Cleveland, Edmund James. The Genealogy of the Cleveland and Cleaveland Families. Hartford, Connecticut: 1899.

Original Ms. number was MS 62-3387. Microfilmed--see microfilm no. 43, 93

John Cleaveland Sermons, 1752-1792, SER 24

First Congregational Church of Essex, Mass. Records, 1681-1984, MSS 256

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