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Upton Family Papers

Upton Family Papers

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Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 161 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-948-6012
Creator:Upton family
Title:Upton Family Papers
Quantity:4.5 linear feet (5 boxes, 1 flat file)
Abstract:This collection includes the papers of the Benjamin and John Upton branches of the North Reading, Massachusetts, Uptons.
Collection Number:MSS 686

Series List

SERIES I. Elijah Upton PapersSERIES II. Elijah Wood Upton PapersSERIES III. Richard Downing Papers
SERIES IV. John and Mercy Upton Family Papers
SERIES V. Other Family Papers

Scope and Content Note

This collection includes the papers of the Benjamin and John Upton branches of the North Reading, Massachusetts, Uptons. The papers represent three generations of Uptons, with the bulk of the papers being from Benjamin Upton’s son, Elijah Upton, and grandson, Elijah Wood Upton, along with Elijah Upton’s stepson, Richard Downing. The bulk of the papers from Elijah Upton Sr., Elijah Upton Jr., and Richard Downing are from 1824 to 1855, with the majority being from their respective businesses. The material has been organized into five series.

To respect original order, business invoices, receipts, and correspondence bundled with personal and family accounts by the creators were kept together so that the researcher will discover household accounts along with those of the business in both Elijah Upton Sr. and Elijah Wood Upton Jr.’s files. In some cases, there may be a letter of a more personal nature written by a supplier or business partner that appears after a business order, but on the same paper. Copies of newspaper clippings have been made; the originals are not available for viewing.

Series I. Elijah Upton Papers is divided into three subseries. Subseries A. Personal and Business Accounts, Bills, Receipts, and Business Correspondence includes business correspondence from Simpson and Otis dated 1831 to 1833. Box 1, folder 2 contains accounts pertaining to Elijah Upton’s second wife and her children including items purchased from Ruth’s late husband’s estate. Subseries B. Personal Correspondence is primarily from Elijah Upton’s sister-in-law Polly. Subseries C. Religious and Community Activities consists of correspondence from local and visiting clergy including John Shillaber and Sewall Harding, as well as notes of local committee appointments from John Procter.

Series II. Elijah Wood Upton Papers is divided into two subseries. Subseries A. Personal and Business Accounts, Bills, Receipts, and Business Correspondence includes correspondence from a New York partner, Peter Cooper, letters of inquiry and disputes. Box 1, folder 7 contains examples of tax forms and letters of audit from the Internal Revenue Services (IRS). Subseries B. Personal Correspondence consists primarily of letters between Elijah Wood Upton and his father.

Series III. Richard Downing Papers almost exclusively pertains to the omnibus business he started with two partners in Charlestown, Massachusetts, Speare, Downing & Company. There are several business agreements, loan agreements, repayment of debt notices, along with examples of tickets from early weigh stations for goods being transported.

Series IV. John and Mercy Upton Family Papers contains family correspondence, genealogy notes, and photographic materials. Included are letters from John Upton to his wife Mercy while at sea. Genealogy notes includes pages from a family book, potentially a family Bible along with handwritten notes from several family members. This information was used to verify information obtained from other sources for the attached family tree. The notes extend to the Wilbore/ Wilbur and Fenno families as John Upton’s granddaughter married into the Fenno family. Papers in box 2, folder 2 contain examples of U.S. citizenship documents, mortgages, wills and probates, and other legal documents. Also included in this series are three journals written by Kathrine Jackson Upton, and a leather bound journal from John Upton’s brother Samuel. The contents of the journal are housed in a separate folder with the original order maintained. Papers include letters, notice of apprenticeship hours fulfilled, and newspaper clippings. Photographic materials in this series include tintypes and cabinet cards of members of the Upton and Fenno families including several of Katherine Upton from childhood through adulthood.

Series V. Other Family Papers includes papers for Benjamin Upton, the Upton women, and others. Box 2, folder 3 includes a letter from a doctor describing Benjamin Upton’s gunshot wound injury during the war of 1812, along with prognosis and treatment, as well as the lease agreement for the family farm. Additional genealogical notes can be found in this folder as well. Box 1, folder 9 includes letters written to and from the Upton women, including a bounty land claim response letter, original poetry, and a ticket from the Boston Music Hall. Box 1, folder 10 contains personal correspondence as well as papers documenting legal proceedings. It is unclear how these papers are connected to the members of the Upton family.

Biographical Sketch

Elijah Upton (1785-1860) was born to Benjamin Upton (1745-1827), a military captain, and Rebecca Putnam Upton (1752-1785) in Danvers, Massachusetts. He began working as a tanner in Salem, Massachusetts, and married his first wife, Phebe Wood (1787-1821) in 1809. A son, Elijah Wood Upton (1811-1881) was born in 1811, and in the 1840s, father and son founded the Essex Glue Company. Elijah Upton was heavily involved in religious and town affairs all of his adult life.

Shortly after Phebe died, Elijah married Ruth Downing. Ruth’s husband, Captain Downing died the same year as Phebe, leaving Ruth widowed with two younger children, Richard and Elizabeth. Elijah Upton financially supported both Downing children until his death. As an adult, Richard Downing moved to Charlestown, Massachusetts, and purchased an omnibus company, Speare Downing & Company, with two partners in 1852. Elijah and his son were continuously paying down Richard’s debt until, in 1854, Richard sold the company and all remaining assets.

Captain John Upton (1789-1824) was a marine captain for trade ships, and married Mercy Townsend (1796-1855). He died at sea in 1824. The couple’s three surviving children were Moses, Eliza Upton, and John Upton. Moses Townsend Upton’s (1822-1870) children sought to gather the family genealogy and claim to trace their lineage back to the House of Stuart in Scotland.

The Upton family home in North Reading was home to no less than eight generations as of 1906, when Henry A. Upton owned the home. The family farm was leased back in 1762.

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.

Cooper, Peter
Davis, Cornelius, 1758?-1831
Downing, Eliza
Downing, Richard
Fenno family
Harding, Sewall, 1793-1876
Nichols, Andrew, 1785-1853
Proctor, John W. (John Waters), 1791-1874
Putnam, Polly, 1784-1831
Shillaber, John
Upton, Benjamin, 1745-1827
Upton, Daniel Putnam, 1806-1875
Upton, Edmond Townsend, 1862-1889
Upton, Elijah Wood, 1811-1881
Upton, Elijah, 1785-1860
Upton, Eliza
Upton, John, 1789-1824
Upton, Katherine Jackson, 1856-1889
Upton, Mary Putnam
Upton, Mercy Townsend, 1796-1855
Upton, Moses Townsend, 1822-1870
Wilber family
Wildbore family
Wood, Phebe, 1787-1821
Essex Mutual Fire Insurance Co. (Salem, Mass.)
First Unitarian Church in Danvers (Danvers, Mass.)
Peter Cooper's Glue Factory
Salem Mutual Fire Insurance Co. (Salem, Mass.)
United States. Bounty Land Office
Cabinet photographs
Horse-drawn omnibuses
Letter writing
Ship captains
Andover (Mass.)
Charlestown (Boston, Mass.)
Danvers (Mass.)
Massachusetts--History--War of 1812
New York (N.Y.)
Philadelphia (Pa.)
Salem (Mass.)
Account books
Legal agreements
Personal correspondence


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Request 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

Upton Family Papers, MSS 686, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This collection was created from several different accessions. The Upton Family Papers, 1806-1906, (formerly Fam. Mss. 1050) and the first three items in box 2, folder 2 were donated in August 1972, by the estate of Hazel G. Fenno. The provenance of the Richard Downing Papers, 1852-1856, (formerly Fam. Mss. 268), Elijah Upton Papers, 1631-1896, (formerly Fam. Mss. 1048), and Upton Family Papers, 1780-1857, (formerly Fam. Mss. 1049) is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Tatiyana Bastet, November 2018.

Related Material U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Massachusetts, State Census, 1840 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Massachusetts, State Census, 1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

Vinton, John Adams. 1874. The Upton memorial: a genealogical record of the descendants of John Upton, of North Reading, Mass. ... together with short genealogies of the Putnam, Stone and Bruce families. Bath, ME: E. Upton & Son.

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Apollo (Brig) Logbook and Journal, 1820-1821. Log 157

Camel (Brig) Logbook, 1816. Log 1350

Francis Ellis Papers, Fam. Mss. 280

Helen (Schooner) Logbook 1812. Log 1076

Isaac P. Foster Papers, Fam. Mss. 330

Joseph G. Waters Papers, MSS 93

Maine (Ship) Logbook, 1824. Log 1178

Putnam Family of Danvers, MA Papers, 1780, 1792, 1832-1876. Acc 2013.020

Upton Family Papers, 1819-1945. MH 18

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