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Burr family papers

Call Number: MS 303

Scope and Contents

The Burr Family Papers consist primarily of correspondence by and about members of the Burr family of Fairfield, Connecticut. The family is descended from Jehue Burr, who left England in the seventeenth century. Many members of the family have been prominent in New England trade, law, and politics; some fought in the War of Independence. About two-thirds of the material in the papers relates to Aaron Burr, third vice-president of the United States. There are letters from his sister, wife, and daughter and from his uncle and guardian, Timothy Edwards. There are two inquiries about the state of his soul from Ann Smith and Samuel Hopkins. The remaining letters are related to Burr's legal and political career, and to his trial for treason. Among the correspondents are: Major Roger Alden, Simeon Baldwin, Peter Colt, General Thomas Conway, Ogden Edwards, Pierpont Edwards, William Franklin, Albert Gallatin, Robert Goodloe Harper, Robert Lettice Hooper, General John Lamb, Luther Martin (his defense attorney at the trial), James Monroe, John Nicholson, General Peter Buell Porter, Augustine Prevost, Frederick Prevost, Caesar Augustus Rodney, and General James Wilkinson.

There is also a small group of correspondence of others which refers to Burr, e.g., the letters received by Ebenezer Foote, which discuss New York state politics and suggests Burr as a candidate for governor in 1795. Other letters relate to the trial: James McHenry to James Rose; William Caton to the Hon. Robert Smith; John Smith (also accused with Burr) to General S. Smith; Henry Dearborn to Edward Triffin reporting Burr's surrender; William Helms to Jonathan Rhea; and David Robertson, reporter at the trial, to Littleton Waller Tazewell. A letter from Alfred Edwards to Henry Waggaman Edwards mentions the duel with Hamilton.

In addition to correspondence, there are indentures, briefs, and other documents relating to Burr's work as a lawyer. There are also financial materials, including a deed, a list of library books, portraits, notes, and a journal extract made while Burr was in Europe. The collection contains a photocopy of a broadside denouncing Burr, and recollections of Burr by Lincoln Emerson and Benjamin Silliman. Material relating to the trial includes the testimonies of Joseph Hamilton Davies and James Wilkinson; a document affirming Burr's status as a lawyer; and the charge to the grand jury by Judge Rodney D. Thomas.

The papers are arranged alphabetically by the name of the family members as follows:

Theodosia (Burr) Alston (1783-1813)

Rev. Aaron Burr (1716-1757)

Aaron Burr (1756-1836)

Andrew Burr (1696-1763)

David Burr (1757-1825)

Elizabeth Isaacs Burr

Esther (Edwards) Burr

Gershom Burr and Thaddeus Burr

Josiah Burr (1753-1795)

Family members included in the papers are described on the following pages in alphabetical order. For a chart outlining the genealogical relations of the Burr family, please consult the Genealogical Chart. Further genea1ogical information may be found inThe Burr Family of Connecticutby Charles Burr Todd (1902).

NOTE: For additional materials relating to the Burr family, see theBidwell Family Papersand theReeve Family Papers

Theodosia (Burr) Alston (1783-1813)was the daughter of Aaron Burr (1756-1836). She supported her father throughout his trial for treason. In 1801 she married Joseph Alston, later governor of South Carolina. Correspondence includes letters to and from her husband, and from her father, often inquiring about her studies. A tragic letter to her father describes the death of her child, Aaron Burr Alston, in 1812.

Rev. Aaron Burr (1716-1757)scholar, preacher, author, and educator, graduated from Yale in 1735. Aaron Burr was pastor of a Presbyterian church in Newark, New Jersey. In 1748 he became second president of the College of New Jersey, later Princeton. In 1752 he married Esther Edwards, and had two children, Sarah (1754) and Aaron (1756). He wroteNewark GrammarandSupreme Duty of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Correspondence includes a letter (signed Fidelia) from Sarah Gill, a servant who continued to look after the children after the deaths of both Burr and his wife. There is also a letter to William Shirley, Governor of Connecticut, advising settlers to go to Ohio and not to the Susquehanna. A portrait and an extract about Burr from J. F. StearnsFirst Church in Newark. Historical Discourses relating to the First Presbyterian Church in Newark…(1853) are also included.

Aaron Burr (1756-1836), soldier, politician, and lawyer, was the third vice-president of the United States. Orphaned at an early age, Aaron Burr and his sister were brought up by their uncle, Timothy Edwards. Burr was tutored by Tapping Reeve and attended Princeton, graduating in 1772 at the age of 16. From 1775 to 1779 he was a soldier, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in General Putnam's army. In 1779 he resigned his commission and began to study law; early in 1782 he received his license as an attorney and couselor-at-law. In July of the same year, he married Mrs. Theodosia (Bartow) Prevost, the widow of an English officer with two sons. In 1788 he entered politics as an anti-federalist. He was elected to the Senate in 1791 and became vice-president in 1801, but his political career was ruined when he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804. In 1807 he was tried for treason for allegedly attempting to annex lands in the West. Although acquitted, he went into exile in Europe until 1813 when he returned to the United States and practiced law until his death in 1836.

Andrew Burr (1696-1763)was a lawyer and colonel in the Revolutionary War as well as a deputy, judge and sheriff of Fairfield County, Connecticut, and Clerk of the Lower House and Speaker and Member of the Upper House. The collection includes his letter of commission as Colonel of the Fourth Regiment of Horse and Foot in Connecticut in 1750.

Andrew Burr (1724-1788)the son of Andrew Burr (1696-1763), was a merchant. He lived in Tortola in the West Indies from 1747 until his death. He married Lydia Smith who bore him two children, Josiah and Grace. A number of interesting letters from Josiah to his father discuss the state of trade, and the fact that Josiah did not hear from his parents for about six years after their departure for the West Indies.

David Burr (1722-1773)lawyer and government official, graduated from Yale in 1743. The only item in the collection is a letter dated 1772 from Josiah Burr about the death of his father. However, his information was incorrect as Andrew Burr did not die until 1788; his uncle, John Burr, died in 1772.

David Burr (1757-1825)the son of David Burr (1722-1773) was a clerk in Fairfield County Court for 46 years. The only item in the papers is a printed form signed by him stating judgement against Mary Silliman of Fairfield.

Esther (Edwards) Burr, (d. 1758)was the daughter of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), wife of Rev. Aaron Burr (1716-1757), and mother of Sarah and Aaron. The only item in the collection is a copy of a letter sent to her father; enclosed in a letter from Ann Smith to Aaron Burr (1756-1836). (*) It should be noted that there is an important and extensive diary kept by Esther (Edwards) Burr in the Beinecke Library.

Gershom Burr (1744-1774)lived in Fairfield, married Priscilla Lothrop and had four children. His death is recorded in a photocopy of a newspaper extract.

Josiah Burr (1753-1795), son of Andrew Burr (1724-1788) and Lydia Smith, was a merchant trading with the West Indies. He established the first linen factory in New Haven with Jeremiah Wadsworth and was the owner of large tracts of land in New York State.

The collection includes letters (already described) to his father, and one in reply bringing about a reconciliation. There are letters from Aaron Burr (1756-1836); his cousin, Zebulon Stow, telling of his father's death in Tortola; Charles Carroll of Carrollton discussing trade; and from Josiah to Captain Luther Stoddard and James Van Horne.

Lydia (Smith) Burr (d. 1794)was the wife of Andrew Burr (1724-1788). The only item is a letter from Josiah Burr, her son, describing a military expedition.

Thaddeus Burr (1735-1801)of Fairfield, married Eunice Dennie. They had no children, but seem, by the manner of their correspondence to have "adopted" Sarah and Aaron Burr. A robbery of Thaddeus Burr's house is reported in a photocopy of a newspaper extract.

Sturges Burr (1760-1796)married into the Baldwin family. There is no material relating to him in the papers [illegible], but there is considerable correspondence in the papers of the Baldwin family.

The source of the materials in the papers is indicated by a letter which appears in the top right hand corner of each item, as follows:

B. - Baldwin

Betts - Betts Autograph Collection

J. - Annie Burr Jennings

K. - Knollenberg

Misc. - Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection

P. - Park Family Papers

Pen. - Penniman Collection

S. - Stokes Autograph Collection

W. - Wetmore Family Collection.


  • 1750-1890


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.


1 Linear Feet (3 boxes, 1 folio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Correspondence and other papers relating to members of the Burr family of Fairfield, Conn. Principal figures represented in the papers include Aaron Burr (1756-1836), soldier, politician and third vice-president of the United States; and his father, the Reverend Aaron Burr (1716-1757), scholar, clergyman, and second president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton). These papers were formerly part of the Annie Burr Jennings Memorial Collection (MS 687). See also the Bidwell Family Papers (MS 79) and the Reeve Family Papers (MS 686).

Biographical / Historical

The Burr family of Fairfield, Connecticut is descended from Jehue Burr, who left England in the seventeenth century. Many members of the family have been prominent in New England trade, law, and politics; some fought in the War of Independence. Aaron Burr (1756-1836) was the third vice-president of the United States. In 1804 his political career came to an abrupt end when he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. In 1807 he was tried for treason for allegedly attempting to annex lands in the West. His daughter, Theodosia Burr (Burr) Alston (1783-1813), married Joseph Alston, who later became governor of South Carolina.

For a chart outlining the genealogical relations of the Burr family, please consult the Genealogical Chart.

Guide to the Burr Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by the staff of Manuscripts and Archives
September 1973
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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