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Gilman Family Papers

Call Number: MS 240

Scope and Contents

The Gilman Family Papers consists of correspondence, diaries, writings, accountbooks, photographs, and newsclippings relating to the Gilman and Coit families, from the early eighteenth century to the first half of the twentieth century. In addition to the materials relating to the Gilman, Coit, and Bristol families, there are materials pertaining to some of the most prominent New England families, including the Trumbulls and Sillimans, with whom the Gilmans were related by marriage. There is also material pertaining to the history of Norwich, Connecticut. Most important is the correspondence and writings of Edward Whiting Gilman, brother of Daniel Coit Gilman (see Daniel Coit Gilman Collection, Yale University), who was a prominent clergyman in the Congregational Church and, from 1871 to 1900, the foreign secretary of the American Bible Society.

Edward Gilman of Norfolk, England, was the first of the Gilman family to emigrate to America, settling in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1638. Members of the family branched out through New England, settling in Exeter, New Hampshire and Norwich, Connecticut. William Charles Gilman moved to the latter town in 1816 and married Elizabeth Coit (1820), a descendant of one of the founders of Norwich. He became a partner in several business ventures, notably the Norwich Water Company, but due to the panic of 1837 suffered a series of financial reverses, causing him to move his family to New York City, where he died in 1844.

Edward Whiting Gilman, the oldest son of William Charles Gilman, was born in Norwich in 1823. He entered Yale College in 1839, and was graduated in 1843. In the autumn of that year he went to West Point, New York where he spent a year as an instructor in Professor Kinsley's school for boys. In November, 1844, he moved to New York City where he was engaged for several years as a teacher in private schools while attending lectures at Union Theological Seminary. In 1847 he accepted a tutorship at Yale College, a position he held for two years, while he attended lectures at the Seminary. In 1849 Gilman was ordained minister of the Congregational Church in Lockport, New York, serving from 1849 to 1856. This was followed by charges in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1856-1858), Bangor, Maine (1858-1863), and Stonington, Connecticut (1864-1871). In 1871 he accepted the position as foreign secretary of the American Bible Society where he remained until his death in 1900. In this capacity he made ex tensive trips to Europe and Mexico carrying on a lively correspondence with members of his family, especially his daughter, Caroline T. Gilman, pertaining to his experiences and observations.

The Gilman Family Papers are divided into four series: I. Correspondence; II. Coit Family; III. Diaries, Writings, Financial and Personal Papers of Gilman Family Members; and IV. Subject File.

CORRESPONDENCE, the greatest part of which is that of Edward Whiting Gilman, is arranged chronologically. It is preceded, however, by a selected list of important correspondents and includes a number of names prominent in nineteenth century education, politics, and religion. Among those listed are: Lyman Abbot, Leonard Bacon, Leonard Woolsey Bacon, James Bryce, Lewis Cass, Charles Anderson Dana, James Dwight Dana, Jeremiah Day, Timothy Dwight, John Charles Fremont, Arnold Guyot, Theodore T. Munger, James Ford Rhodes, Josiah Royce, William Henry Seward, Theodore Dwight Woolsey, and Benjamin Silliman, both father and son.

Series two, COIT FAMILY, consists of the papers of the Coit family and spans the years from 1659 to 1886. John Coit, the first member of the family to leave England for the colonies, arrived in Saybrook, Connecticut in 1630. In the course of the seventeenth century, members of the family settled in New London, Connecticut and finally in Norwich, Connecticut, where William Charles Gilman settled and married Elizabeth Coit on May 2, 1820. A majority of the series consists of correspondence, primarily that of Martha Coit to her mother, Mehetabel Chandler Coit, and to her sister, Elizabeth Gardiner. There is also considerable correspondence between Joshua Coit and his sister, Maria Coit Perit, and his father Daniel Lathrop Coit. A small group of diaries, biographical and genealogical materials, and memorabilia is filed at the end of the series.

Series III, DIARIES, WRITINGS, FINANCIAL AND PERSONAL PAPERS OF GILMAN FAMILY MEMBERS, consists primarily of personal and family materials, including diaries and account books, photos, scrapbooks, and memorabilia. There are, however, some writings, especially those of Edward Whiting Gilman, which relate to his studies at Yale College (1840-1843), his travels in Mexico (1878-1879), his travels in Europe (1880-1843), and a book he wrote while teaching in West Point, New York entitled, A Guide to West Point (1844). In addition, there are a number of articles written by Gilman while serving as foreign secretary of the American Bible Society from 1871 to 1900. The series also includes several diaries written by Gilman's daughter, Caroline, a journal containing family records (1874), and another on the family estate, "Coit Elms." Two journals kept by William Charles Gilman record his excursions in Pennsylvania in 1834 and the White Mountains in 1850. There is also a sketch of the Gilman family by Julia S. (Bristol) Gilman and a diary she kept while travelling in Europe in 1888 and again in 1926.

Series IV, SUBJECTS FILE, contains correspondence, photos, newsclippings, and an assortment of printed and manuscript materials pertaining to the following subjects:

  1. Abbot Collegiate Association
  2. Connecticut Indian Association
  3. Bible Society
  4. Boy's Meetings and Sabbath School
  5. Congregational Church
  6. Missionary Society
  7. Norwich, Connecticut
  8. Silliman Family
  9. Trumbull Family


  • 1659-1935


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for 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.


Arranged in four series: I. Correspondence. II. Coit Family. III. Diaries, Writings, Financial and Personal Papers of Gilman Family Members. IV. Subject File.


13 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Correspondence, diaries, writings, financial records, photographs, clippings, and other papers relating to the Gilman and Coit families of New England. The bulk of the collection relates to Edward Whiting Gilman (1823-1900), his family and his work as a clergyman and foreign secretary of the American Bible Society.

Biographical / Historical

Edward Whiting Gilman (1823-1900): in 1849 ordained a Congregational minister and served at the Congregational Church at Lockport, New York, from 1849-1856; later served in Cambridge, Mass., from 1856-1858, Bangor, Maine, from 1858-1863, and Stonington, Conn, from 1864-1871; secretary of the American Bible Society, 1871-1900.

Guide to the Gilman Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Manuscripts and Archives Staff
February 1972
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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