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William Sherwood papers

Call Number: WA MSS S-1324
Scope and Contents

The William Sherwood Papers document the life of William Sherwood, judge and farmer of Southport, Connecticut, who mined for gold in California and Australia during the 1850s. The papers span the years 1808-1906, but the bulk of the material covers the years 1840-80.

The papers are arranged in two series. Series I, Correspondence, is housed in Box 1, folders 1-37, and is arranged chronologically. Series II, Personal Papers (Boxes 2-3, folders 38-75), concerns William Sherwood and the Sherwood family.

Series I, Correspondence , spans the years 1809-80, but most letters were written in the years 1847-55 and 1878-80. Major correspondents are William Sherwood, his wife Esther, children Sarah Esther and William Couch Sherwood, and his cousin Uriah Sherwood of Fairfield. The letters for 1809-12 concern Uriah Sherwood's business affairs and shipping. There is then a gap in the correspondence until 1821 when Uriah receives a letter from William Sherwood discussing family matters. An 1853 letter, from Henry Sturges, to William Sherwood discusses trading and shipping in St. Croix and includes a copy of shipping regulations. Letters from the 1841-43 concern family matters.

In November 1846 William Sherwood, a descendant of Joshua Jennings, was appointed to a committee investigating the claims of Jennings's descendants to the estate of William Jennings, who died in England in 1798. In December 1847 Sherwood went to England to trace all the possible descendants of Joshua Jennings and to find a connection to William Jennings. His research includes notes on the Chauncey and Couch families. Letters to his wife detail his journey across the Atlantic, while a letter from fellow committee member Augustus Jennings to Sherwood concerns letters of introduction. Sherwood remained in England until May 1848 and his letters describe his frustration tracing family members and his travels in England.

In 1849 Sherwood decided to seek his fortune in the California gold fields. In March 1849 he received a letter from the War Department concerning the acquisition of arms and ammunition for his emigration to California. In February 1850 Sherwood left New York for Panama aboard the mailship Cherokee. Letters to his family chronicle the voyage and his journey across the Isthmus of Panama. Three letters describe Panama and his stay there. Sherwood reached San Francisco in April 1850 and went to Stockton, then Mariposa. Letters to his family describe the difficulties of mining, prices, the lack of suitable mining lots, relations with other miners, wolves, poor living conditions, his health, poor relations with Indians, and the settlement of cousin Uriah Sherwood's estate, they also contain advice concerning the Southport farm. Sherwood remained in California until the end of 1851, when lack of success forced him to return to Connecticut.

In 1853 Sherwood attempted to mine gold in Australia with two companions, Barlowe Hill and Edgar Pemoyer. Sherwood arrived in Melbourne in October, and his initial letters describe his preparation for the expedition, including the purchase of equipment. Letters written during 1854 describe the difficulties of mining in Australia, frequent moves to find more lucrative sites, Sherwood's recurring ill health, and his poor financial state. Letters from his family contain family news and details concerning the family farm. Sherwood's lack of success forced him to return to the United States in January 1855, but he continued to correspond with Pemoyer and and Hill until 1857.

After a gap in the correspondence, Sherwood began to write to his grandchildren, Clarence Bradley, Edward and William Frost, and Lizzie Whitehead in 1871. The majority of letters concern such matters as the settlement of an uncle's estate, homesteading by Bradley in Stockton, Kansas, farming, crops, and general family news.

Series II, Personal Papers (Boxes 2-3), are the personal papers of William Sherwood, plus a few papers from other family members. The section devoted to William Sherwood contains material relating to his genealogical research, including Sherwood's notes on the descendents of Joshua Jennings, call slips from the British Museum Reading Room, family trees for various branches of the family, and a record of Sherwood's expenses in England. Other material includes his appointments as commissioner (1846), probate judge (1846), and notary public (1871), as well as papers relating to his Australian mining venture, such as his license to mine gold, and account books of farm and household expenses for the years 1840-72. Sherwood also kept diaries for the years 1853-55. The diary pages, bound into Middlebank's New England Almanac, chronicle daily activities on the farm. If Sherwood maintained a diary during his expeditions in California and Australia, it has not survived with the collection. The printed Material includes a notice enticing European emigrants to Texas in 1848 and a broadside for the mailship Cherokee,

The diaries of Sarah Sherwood are found in Box 3, folders 70-72. The first diary, 1847-48, was kept by Sarah during her father's absence in England and contains details about the family farm, the weather, her activities, and those of her brother William Couch Sherwood. Later diaries containing similar details were bound into Middlebanks New England Almanac. Other material includes the will of Uriah Sherwood, papers relating to the estates of William C. Sherwood and William J. Sherwood, and financial papers of the Sherwood family.

Oversize , Box 4, contains oversize correspondence, family trees, a copy of the Republican Farmer-Extra, ca. 1844, and a plan for an orchard on Sherwood property.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The William Sherwood Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase from Carroll A. Means, 1958.

1808 - 1906
Majority of material found within 1840 - 1880
3.25 Linear Feet (4 boxes)
Related Names
Sherwood, William
Language of Materials