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Little Family Papers

Little Family Papers

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Processing of this collection was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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:Little family
Title:Little Family Papers
Quantity:5 linear feet (11 boxes, 2 volumes)
Abstract:The Little Family Papers include correspondence, business papers, military papers, and legal papers of Colonel Moses Little (1724-1798); correspondence, business papers, and legal papers of Colonel Josiah Little (1747-1830) and his relations; correspondence, business and legal papers of Josiah (1791-1860) and Sophronia (1793-1872) Little; personal and business papers of Edward Little (1773-1849); personal and business papers of Captain David Little (1760-1825); personal papers of Doctor Moses Little (1766-1811); and miscellaneous Little family personal, business, and legal papers.
Collection Number:MSS 67

Series List

SERIES I. Colonel Moses Little (1724-1798) PapersSERIES II. Colonel Josiah Little (1747-1830) PapersSERIES III. Josiah Little Jr. (1791-1860)
SERIES IV. Edward Little (1773-1849)
SERIES V. Captain David Little (1760-1825)
SERIES VI. Doctor Moses Little (1766-1811)
SERIES VII. Miscellaneous Little Family Papers
SERIES VIII. Miscellaneous Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Little Family Papers include correspondence, business papers, military papers, and legal papers of Colonel Moses Little (1724-1798); correspondence, business papers, and legal papers of Colonel Josiah Little (1747-1830) and his relations; correspondence, business and legal papers of Josiah (1791-1860) and Sophronia (1793-1872) Little; personal and business papers of Edward Little (1773-1849); personal and business papers of Captain David Little (1760-1825); personal papers of Doctor Moses Little (1766-1811); and miscellaneous Little family personal, business, and legal papers. The collection is arranged into eight series.

Series I. Colonel Moses Little Papers is divided into four subseries. Subseries A. Correspondence includes letters from business associates of the Pejepscot Company. Also included are letters from Colonel Little to his son Josiah, written during his service in the Continental Army. Subseries B. Business Papers include three account books, one of which was begun by the Colonel's father, and two books dealing with real estate. Subseries C. Military Records includes letters and notices, including a record of soldiers killed and wounded in Colonel Little's regiment at Bunker Hill, a transcript of the Colonel's orderly book from June 26 to October 20, 1775, and his original orderly book from June 1 to October 21, 1776. Subseries D. Legal Papers includes estate papers of Moses Little and various papers.

Series II. Colonel Josiah Little is arranged into four subseries. Subseries A. Correspondence shows how members of his family were involved in his land dealings. An interesting letter from grandson Josiah Stover Little tells about the Maine legislature in 1830. Also of interest are letters from members and local leaders of the Federalist Party. Subseries B. Business Papers consists of several account books, one containing shipping records of the brig Sarah, which Josiah partially owned. Another book of interest is the land inventory book of 1825 listing the real estate owned by Josiah Little in that year. Subseries C. Legal Papers include tax records, deeds, and estate papers. Subseries D. Miscellaneous Relations Papers include Moses Little Jr. papers, a genealogy book, miscellaneous papers related to William Atkinson, and Thomas Hale.

Series III. Josiah Little Jr. Papers contains primarily the correspondence to Josiah from members of his family, including brothers Edward and Moses, sister Mary, and brothers-in-law William Atkinson and Thomas Hale. One letter from Atkinson dated July 23, 1815 congratulates Josiah on the "return of the peace" after the War of 1812.

Series IV. Edward Little Papers includes legal and business correspondence along with personal letters. There is a copy of the original incorporation papers of the Bath Slate Factory, of which Edward was a trustee. Included with his legal papers is a list of interrogation questions that Edward asked Stephen Longfellow and others in a court case.

Series V. Captain David Little Papers contains many account books. There are two farm product books in which he kept records of his large farm in Newbury. As Overseer of the Poor for Newbury, Captain Little was faced with helping people who were in financial trouble, as shown in a letter to him from Elisabeth Russel dated July 26 (no year). Included in his miscellaneous papers are his discharge papers from the Massachusetts militia, an inspection roll from his militia company, and a genealogy of his family.

Included in this series are the papers of David's brother, Doctor Stephen Little. He was a loyalist in New Hampshire during the Revolution and was exiled from this country in 1777. Of note is a paper dated May 3, 1777 which gave his wife, Sarah, power of attorney and a letter he wrote to her dated August 27, 1792 from London, where he died in exile in 1800.

Series VI. Doctor Moses Little Papers contains correspondence, Harvard bills, and his copy book dated 1782, which he used to study mathematics as a young boy.

Series VII. Miscellaneous Little Family Papers contains papers of Captain William Little who was killed at sea by a mutinous crew, and his brother Michael, who served as an attaché to the French Embassy when Thomas Jefferson was ambassador.

Series VII. Miscellaneous Papers include papers for the Balch and Follansbee families, lawyer's papers, and Newbury town records and plans.

Biographical Sketches

Colonel Moses Little was born on May 8, 1724, the son of Moses and Sarah Little of Newbury, Massachusetts. He married Abigail Bailey on June 5, 1743. She was the daughter of Joshua and Sarah Bailey, also of Newbury, and the sister of General Jacob Bailey, who served in the French and Indian, and Revolutionary Wars.

During his lifetime, Colonel Little acquired a great deal of land in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. He originally became interested in acquiring land when he served as the Surveyor of the King's Woods in the 1750s. Little was one of the original proprietors of the Pejepscot lands in Cumberland County, Maine, then a territory of Massachusetts. He eventually bought a large portion of the Pejepscot land, which remained in the Little family for about eighty years. After his death, his estate was valued at $62,356, a considerable fortune for the period.

Colonel Little played an active role in the Revolution. He represented Newbury at the Ipswich Convention in September, 1774, which met to discuss the implementation of the Massachusetts Government Act. He led a militia force from Newbury on the day that his town received word of the battles of Lexington and Concord. Little was already an experienced soldier, serving as a Captain during the French and Indian Wars. He received the commission of Colonel in the Massachusetts Militia on June 15, 1775, after several captains requested to be put under his command. The Colonel proved his leadership abilities at the Battle of Bunker Hill, where he was under constant gunfire, and also at the Battle of Long Island. In 1777, he resigned from service, due to bad health, and in 1779 refused a commission of Brigadeer General for the same reason.

Colonel Little suffered a stroke in 1781, which left him almost speechless. He still remained active in local and state government for many years until his death on May 27, 1798.

Colonel Josiah Little, the son of Colonel Moses and Abigail Little, was born on February 16, 1747. He married Sarah Toppan, the daughter of Edward and Sarah Toppan of Newbury, on March 23, 1770.

Josiah went into business with his father, and later took control of his father's real estate, most of which he eventually inherited. He also became one of the leading proprietors of the Pejepscot Company, which invested in Maine lands, and had to deal with boundary disputes and squatters on several occasions. He remained active in overseeing his property until he was past eighty years old. Josiah was also involved in shipping in Newburyport with his cousin Jacob Little.

Josiah was an active member of the Federalist Party, and served as a representative to the General Court for twenty five years, nineteen in succession. He was also an early supporter of Bowdoin College, where his son Josiah attended. He died on December 26, 1830 as a result of complications from a broken thigh.

Josiah Little Jr. was born on January 13, 1791. He was educated at Bowdoin College, graduating in 1811. On January 24, 1814, he married Sophronia Balch, the daughter of John and Eunice Balch of Newburyport.

Josiah was an extensive land owner, inheriting much of the land in Cumberland County, Maine, first acquired by his grandfather Moses. He was also involved in manufacturing of various kinds. He served two terms in the Massachusetts State Senate, and was one of the founders of the Newburyport Public Library in 1854. He held the position of Overseer of Bowdoin College from 1847 to 1858, and while there he established a professorship of Natural Science. He died without any children on February 5, 1860.

Edward Little, the son of Colonel Josiah Little, was born on March 12, 1773. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1797, and studied law under Chief Justice Theophilus Parsons in Newburyport. On January 10, 1799 he married Hannah Brown, who died on August 1, 1828. On June 21, 1831, he married Hannah Chase, the widow of Tappin Chase of Portland, Maine.

Edward practiced law for many years as a county attorney and represented the Pejepscot Company in several legal matters. He published law reports for the Commonwealth and was a delegate to the General Court from 1805 to 1807. In 1811, Edward moved to Portland, Maine, where he became involved in the book trade. He involved himself in new industries, such as the Bath Slate Factory, in community activities, and had a particular interest in temperance reform. In 1826, he moved to Auburn, Maine, where on September 21, 1849 he died.

Captain David Little was born on April 6, 1766. His father was Stephen Little, the brother of Colonel Moses Little, and his mother was Sarah Bailey, Abigail Bailey Little's sister. He married Abigail Noyes on March 24, 1785.

David was a soldier in the Newbury militia for almost eight years, resigning his commission in 1802. He held various town Offices, such as Town Coroner an Overseer of the Poor. He also served in the State Legislature. He owned land in Newbury and Newburyport, including a large farm. He died on January 1, 1825.

Doctor Moses Little was born in Newbury on July 4, 1766. He was the son of Richard and June Little. He attended Harvard College, where he befriended John Quincy Adams, also a student there. He married Elizabeth Williams, the daughter of George Williams, a well-known merchant from Salem, on April 17, 1799.

After graduating in 1787, Moses studied medicine under Doctor Jonathan Swett of Newburyport. He settled in Salem, and had a very successful practice there. He died on October 13, 1811 of pulmonary tuberculosis, as did his wife and children.

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.

Atkinson, William
Follansbee Family
Hale family
Hale, Mary Little, 1786-1871
Hale, Thomas, 1773-1836
Little, David, 1760-1825
Little, Edward, 1773-1849
Little, Josiah Storer, 1801-1862
Little, Josiah, 1747-1830
Little, Josiah, 1791-1860
Little, Moses, 1691-1780
Little, Moses, 1724-1798
Little, Moses, 1766-1811
Little, Sarah Toppan
Little, Sophronia Balch, 1793-1872
Little, Stephen, 1800
Lunt family
Toppan, Sarah
Bath Slate Factory
Mayhew Turnpike Corp.
Overseers of the Poor (Newburyport, Mass.)
Proprietors of the Township of Brunswick
Sarah (Brig)
Account books
Marine insurance
Cumberland County (Me.)
Newbury (Mass.)
Newburyport (Mass.)
United States--History--French and Indian War--1755-1763
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

Little Family Papers, MSS 67, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


One account book was purchased from Robert W. Lull in 1949. Several account books were donated by Russell Leigh Jackson. The rest of the collection is from an unknown source.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Thomas Curran, August 1982. Updated by Catherine Robertson, December 2014.

Related Material

Coffin, Joshua. A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury. Hampton, New Hampshire: Peter E. Randall, 1977.

Currier, John J. History of Newburyport, 1764-1905. Somerworth: New Hampshire, 1978.

Jackson, Russell Leigh. The Physicians of Essex County. Salem: The Essex Institute, 1948.

Little, George Thomas. The Descendants of George Little. Maine: George Thomas Little, 1882.

Tagney, R.N. A County in Revolution. Manchester, Massachusetts: The Cricket Press, Inc., 1976.

Hale Family Papers, 1760-1855, MH 113.

Hale Family Papers, 1784-1915, MSS 117.

Pejepscot Proprietors Papers, 1635-1885, MSS 338.

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