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Hillhouse family papers

Call Number: MS 282
Scope and Contents
The Hillhouse Family Papers document the lives of three generations of descendants of Judge William Hillhouse (1728-1816). The material spans the dates 1707-1943 with bulk dates of 1771-1938. Hildegarde Speyers Hillhouse and George Dudley Seymour donated the papers to Yale University between 1939-1943.

The papers are divided into sixteen series. Series I, CORRESPONDENCE AND DEEDS, has thirteen boxes of chronologically arranged correspondence and one box of deeds. Series II-VI and VIII-XV contain a variety of papers concerning family members. Series VII holds the records of James Hillhouse and Son, a New York City hardware business, while Series XVI, MISCELLANEOUS PAPERS, has materials on a number of additional people, some of whom were related to the Hillhouses.

The earliest correspondence (Box 1, folders 1-2), covering the years 1707-1765, concerns the Nelson and Lloyd families. Also included are letters of three Yale trustees to President Thomas Clap written in 1743, 1746, and 1750. Beginning in 1771 there is a series of letters between cousins Sarah Lloyd and Rebecca Woolsey, both of whom eventually marry James Hillhouse (1754-1832). One July 19, 1779 letter from Sarah to Rebecca describes the British attack on New Haven. This correspondence ends with the death in childbirth of Sarah Lloyd Hillhouse in November 1779. Correspondence between James Hillhouse and Rebecca Woolsey begins on November 8 and 9, 1779 as James describes the illness and death of his wife. The letters soon take on the character of courtship correspondence and the couple marry in 1782. The collection also includes a September 13, 1782 letter of Ezra Stiles informing Hillhouse that he has been elected treasurer of Yale College. There are a small quantity of of condolence letters in 1779, including one from Timothy Dwight, and letters of congratulations upon the marriage of James Hillhouse and Rebecca Woolsey in 1782. Most of the letters are written by relatives, the most important being James Lloyd (1728-1810), Henry Lloyd, and Ann Fitch.

In October 1791 Hillhouse took his seat in the Second Congress of the United States in Philadelphia and most of the correspondence between 1791-1810 (Boxes 1-2, folders 8-23) is generated by this separation. Family correspondents include James Hillhouse, Rebecca Woolsey Hill-house, Theodosia Woolsey, and children Sarah Lloyd, Mary Lucas, James Abraham, Augustus Lucas, and Rebecca Woolsey Hillhouse. Although primarily devoted to family concerns, James Hillhouse also discussed national affairs. A staunch Federalist, Hillhouse supported the Jay Treaty and desired friendly relations with Great Britain. He had tremendous admiration for President Washington and scarcely veiled contempt for President Jefferson. The section also includes a handful of letters written between 1798-1801 from President Timothy Dwight of Yale containing comments on national politics, copies of two 1798 letters of Governor Jonathan Trumbull (1740-1809) of Connecticut, a few brief Eli Whitney letters, and single letters from several prominent New England Federalists. Also included are several letters written to James Hillhouse's lawyer brother William Hillhouse from John Allen, Noah B. Benedict, Asahel Clark, Jr., and Calvin Pease. The bulk of the correspondence, however, is among family members and concerns relationships between husband and wife and parents and children and the growth of the five children. These letters also contain news of family and friends, reports on events in New Haven, and occasional comments on developments at Yale, particularly in 1802 and 1805.

James Hillhouse retired from the United States Senate in 1810 to take charge of the Connecticut School Fund. His children become major correspondents for the period from approximately 1809-1841 (Box 2-6, folders 27-63) and the overwhelming majority of letters are written to or by James Abraham Hillhouse (1789-1841).

James Hillhouse is represented in letters concerning the Connecticut School Fund, most of which were addressed to Zachariah Seymour. Also included are references to Yale finances in 1821 and 1826, the latter, on the subject of a subscription to purchase the "Gibbs Cabinet." Two 1830 letters from Chief Justice John Marshal and Chancellor James Kent comment favorably on Hillhouse's proposed changes in the Constitution concerning the method of electing the President. A January 1815 letter from Timothy Pickering discusses the Hartford Convention and several letters in the 1820s refer to the construction of the Farmington Canal.

Family concerns predominate in the correspondence of the Hillhouse children. The letters discuss a wide variety of personal matters, including career choices, courtship and marriage, and news of events in New Haven and Connecticut. Among the many relatives represented in the correspondence are John Borland, Sarah Borland, James Lloyd (1769-1831), Melancthon Lloyd Woolsey, Theodosia Woolsey, Nathaniel Hewit, Isaac Lawrence, and William Beach Lawrence. For example, a series of letters writeen in 1815-1816 from Plattsburgh, New York, by Theodosia Woolsey and Nathaniel Hewit discuss the engagement and marriage of Hewit to Rebecca Woolsey Hillhouse, the youngest sister in the family. Augustus Lucas Hillhouse travelled to Europe in 1816 for health reasons and remained in France for the rest of his life. Letters detail his activities in France, his financial difficulties, and family matters. The letters of Mary Lucas Hillhouse and Theodosia Woolsey are glimpses into the lives of single women in the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1822, prior to his marriage to Cornelia Ann Lawrence, James Abraham Hillhouse begins corresponding with Isaac Lawrence, Cornelia's father, concerning both business and family matters.

The papers also contain the professional correspondence of James Abraham Hillhouse. Included is correspondence concerning the hardware business in New York City (1815-1821) and some subsequent business correspondence. See also Series VII, Boxes 30-36 for additional information on this subject. The section also includes correspondence on the building of Sachem's Wood, his New Haven mansion; street construction in New Haven; and architecture, from John H. Coley, Samuel Cowls, Alexander J. Davis, E.C. Delavan, A. N. Skinner, William Strickland, and Daniel Wadsworth, among others. See also folio boxes one and two. James Abraham Hillhouse was a well-known poet, dramatist, and literary figure. The letters of such individuals as Henry Barnard, James Bowdoin, George Bethune English, Frederic S. Hill, Henry Pickering, and George Ticknor shed light on literary pursuits in the first half of the nineteenth century. James Abraham Hillhouse was also active in Phi Beta Kappa and from 1829 until his death in 1841 he delivered lectures on a variety of subjects at lyceums, young men's institutes, and rhetorical societies. Other correspondents of note during this period include Theodore Davenport, Nathaniel Jocelyn, Roger Minot Sherman, Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864), and George W. Strong.

The volume of correspondence diminishes sharply after the death of James Abraham Hillhouse in January 1841. Following a small group of condolence letters (Box 6, folder 68-69), there are just eight folders of correspondence between 1842-1882. Among the important correspondents are Nathaniel Hewit, Augustus Lucas Hillhouse, and Mary Lucas Hillhouse. Two 1853 letters of Augustus concern the donation of his property to Yale. The most important correspondent during this period is William Hillhouse, a young first cousin of James Abraham Hillhouse whose first wife was James' daughter. Other correspondents include H. M. Barbour, William Ingraham Kip, Joseph E. Sheffield, Wyllys Warner, Charles R. Whedon, a New Haven businessman, and Frances Julia Betts Hillhouse, the second wife of William Hillhouse. Both Hillhouse and Whedon were active in Democratic Party politics.

The largest section of correspondence in the Hillhouse Family Papers (Boxes 6-12, folder 79-157) concerns the children of William Hillhouse, the most important being James Hillhouse (1854-1938). William Hillhouse is, however, still represented and his most important correspondent is Charles R. Whedon, who in 1887 was working for the United States Indian Service at Ft. Bennett, Dakota Territory. Most of the letters of James' younger brothers Charles Betts and Francis Hillhouse date from the 1880s and 1890s at the time they were grain merchants in New York City with the firms of Hillhouse & Day and Hillhouse & Brooks.

The correspondence of James Hillhouse begins in the mid-1860's with letters written to him by his mother and school friends Frazier Davenport Head and John Addison Porter. Porter continues to correspond with Hillhouse in his adult years primarily on the subjects of the future of Yale College and Republican Party politics. Among the family correspondents of James Hillhouse are his parents, his brothers, his wife Hildegarde Speyers Hillhouse, George Frederic Betts, and Samuel Rossiter Betts. Courtship correspondence between Hildegarde Speyers and James Hillhouse begins two years before their 1894 marriage. Many other relatives from the Speyers family are represented and the correspondence is both personal and business in character. The business correspondence concerns family land holdings and other investments mostly in New Jersey, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Duluth, Minnesota. Major family correspondents are Henry Livingston Rogers, Laura Speyers Moale, Philip R. Moale, Albert Willoughby Speyers, Clarence Livingston Speyers, and Selina L.Speyers. See also Box 78, folder 488. Non-family correspondents writing on the same subjects include E. P. Alexander, Jr., E. H. Carmick, A. J. Kelly, Frank L. Lent, J. S. Stanton, and R. A. Tichenor. Also included is a series of 1883-1887 letters from James W. Perkins, an officer in the New York and New England Railroad Company. See also Series XIII, Boxes 65-66, for letterpress copies of Hillhouse's business and legal correspondence.

James Hillhouse was admitted to the New York bar in 1878 and until 1905 practiced law in New York City. The collection contains a great deal of correspondence from lawyers, mostly in the New York City area. Correspondents include: Samuel R. Betts, Daniel H. Chamberlain, Adolph Cohen, Harry R. Danner, D. J. Dean, Sherman Evarts Fergus Kernan, William H. Law, John F. Monehan, Edward Scudder, Henry W. Taft, Abraham Van Santvoord, and Thomas P. Wickes. Hillhouse was also active in New York City Republican Party politics during the 1890s and supported benevolent causes. He belonged to the Church of the Ascension whose minister was Percy S. Grant, taught Sunday school, and served as secretary of the Ascension Mission Association. (See also Box 73, folders 450-452.) Also included is correspondence concerning his teaching appointment at New York University, 1896-1899.

Hillhouse retired in 1905 and consistent with the wishes of his aunt Isaphene Hillhouse he moved in Sachem's Wood. Correspondence concerning business activities continues but at a diminished rate. From 1914 until his death in 1938, the bulk of the letters concerns his book collecting activities. Hillhouse maintained an extensive correspondence with a number of booksellers in the United States and Great Britain. Among these booksellers are: Garrett T. W. Blanchfield of Hartford, Christian Gerhardt of New York City, and Meredith Janvier of Baltimore; P. M. Barnard, C. Howes, and Thomas Thorp of London; William Dunlop of Edinburgh; and Edward Howell of Liverpool. Also included are occasional letters regarding family genealogy and two short 1908 notes from William Howard Taft.

Series I concludes with a box of undated correspondence and a box of deeds and other legal papers. The legal papers in Box 14 primarily concern James Abraham Hillhouse (1730-1775), Mary Lucas Hillhouse (1733-1822), James Hillhouse (1754-1832), Mary Lucas Hillhouse (1785-1871), James Abraham Hillhouse (1789-1841), and William Hillhouse (1820-1906).

Series II consists of one box of business and legal account books kept by James Abraham Hillhouse (1730-1775) Entries covering the period 1776-1791 concern the settlement of his estate. Series III, JAMES HILLHOUSE (1754-1832), fills Boxes 16-17 of the Hillhouse Family Papers. It consists of bills and receipts, farm accounts, two daybooks concerning the Farmington Canal Company (folders 175 and 178), estate papers, legal and military papers which include two commissions signed by Governor Jonathan Trumbull (1710-1785), papers relating to the Connecticut School Fund, and a folder of writings devoted to his proposed Constitutional amendments. Box 18 holds bills and receipts, legal papers, and notebooks of William Hillhouse (1757-1833), plus a handful of papers concerning his father William Hillhouse (1728-1816).

Series V-IX contain a variety of papers on the children of James Hillhouse. Series V has two boxes of materials of Mary Lucas Hillhouse (1785-1871). In addition to an account book, legal papers, and two scrapbooks, the series includes notebooks for The New Haven Book Club 1847-1862 and the Society for the Promotion of Knowledge and Industry 1835-1837. Series VI, JAMES ABRAHAM HILLHOUSE (1789-1841) fills Boxes 21-29 of the Hillhouse Family Papers. It contains a variety of account books, commonplace books, notebooks, and scrapbooks. These provide considerable information on personal and family finances, gardening and farming, family history, and they include notes on ancient history, Bibical history, medicine, Indian history, and cloth manufacturing. Two other notebooks (Box 28, folder 281) concern the building of Sachem's Wood. Also included are two folders of writings and a copy of a published biographical sketch of James A. Hillhouse by Rufus Wilmot Griswold. Series VII, Boxes 30-36, holds the papers of James Hillhouse and Son, a New York City hardware business, established in 1815. The firm lasted just one year and in 1816 James A. Hillhouse went into partner-ship with Henry King and they formed King & Hillhouse. This partnership was dissolved in 1819. Series VII, therefore, contains account books, day books, legal papers, and letterbooks of James Hillhouse and Son, King & Hillhouse, and the business career of James A. Hillhouse 1819-1831. Papers of Augustus Lucas Hillhouse (1791-1859) are found in Series VIII, Boxes 37-41. The bulk of the material, much in French, consists of commonplace books containing notes on government, geography, philosophy, literature, and politics, plus stories and anecdotes. Box 41 contains writings of Augustus Lucas Hillhouse. Series IX has one box of material of Cornelia Ann Lawrence Hillhouse (1802-1874), the wife of James A. Hillhouse.

Series X, WILLIAM HILLHOUSE (1820-1906), is located in Boxes 43-47 of the Hillhouse Family Papers. It contains account books, bills and receipts, notebooks, notes, scrapbooks, and writings. William Hillhouse was a physician and material in Box 46, folders 319-320 and Box 47, folder 326, concerns his medical career. Also included are notebooks and notes on mathematics and two folders of material documenting his involvement in Democratic Party politics during the Civil War (Box 43, folder 302 and Box 46, folder 325). The series concludes with two folders of material of Cornelia Lawrence Hillhouse (1825-1851), the first wife of William Hillhouse. Box 48 houses an account book, an autograph collection, commonplace book, minute book of the Missionary and Benevolent Society of Trinity Church in New Haven 1871-1873, and writings of Mary Hillhouse (1828-1874), daughter of James A. Hillhouse. She was a poet and the writings consist of English translations of German and Latin hymns and songs. Series XI, Boxes 49-50, contains the papers of Isaphene Hillhouse (1830-1904), the youngest daughter of James A. Hillhouse In addition to commonplace books, notebooks, and scrapbooks, the series includes estate papers (Box 50, folder 338). They consist of a 1904 inventory of the contents of the stable and her 1897 will which contains detailed instructions mandating that Sachem's Wood be torn down, unless her younger cousin James Hillhouse (1854-1938) moved to New Haven and lived in the house. Her reasons are explained in an 1897 letter to James. See also Series XV, folder 487 for records on the demolition of the house following the death of Hildegarde Speyers Hillhouse in 1942.

The largest series in the collection, Series XIII, houses the papers of James Hillhouse (1854-1938). Filling twenty-seven boxes, it consists primarily of materials documenting his legal career and includes case files, letterpress copybooks, notebooks containing student notes taken at Columbia University School of Law, and notes on law. The copybooks (Boxes 65-66) contain copies of outgoing business and legal correspondence covering the period 1882-1906. Incoming correspondence is found in Series I. A copy of Hillhouse Avenue: From 1809 to 1900 by Henrietta Silliman Dana is found in Box 69. Boxes 70-72 contain scrapbooks of business files on the American Steel and Wire Company of New Jersey and on rents collected for Hildegarde Speyers Hillhouse in Duluth, Minnesota. Boxes 73-76 consist of topical files devoted to the Church of the Ascension, the Ascension Mission Association, library accessions and library catalogues, religious and charitable organizations including a folder on the New Haven Orpahn Asylum, Republican Party politics, and Yale University. The files on Yale largely concern the encouragement of debating at Yale in 1895-1896. Correspondents include Samuel M. Alvord, Roger S. Baldwin, Walter H. Clark, Herbert Parsons, Gifford Pinchot, and John Addison Porter.

Box 77 contains papers of Charles Betts Hillhouse (1856-1937). Series XV, HILDEGARDE SPEYERS HILLHOUSE (1866-1942), is housed in Box 78. The material consists of an autograph album, estate records, a letterbook, and notebooks. The estate records (folder 487) include a copy of her will and papers devoted to the demolition of Sachem's Wood. The letterbook contains copies of outgoing letters and the notebooks have material on her benevolent and religious activities.

The final series, MISCELLANEOUS PAPERS, is housed in Boxes 78-86 of the Hillhouse Family Papers and has been divided into two sections; Papers of Others and Miscellaneous and Unidentified. The first section features correspondence and other papers of George Roberts Blanchard, assistant to the president of the Erie Railroad; a 1786 poem on slavery by Jupiter Hammon, a slave owned by John Lloyd of Long Island; material relating to several members of the Hewit family; papers of William In-graham Kip; estate records, a notebook, and letterbook of Henry Livingston Rogers; "Recollections of the late Augustus Lucas Hillhouse" by Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864); and legal papers of Matilda Livingston Rogers Speyers, the mother of Hlldegarde Speyers Hillhouse. The greatest volume of material in Series XVI, however, concerns Charles R. Whedon (Boxes 81-86, folders 515-546). Included are bills and receipts, correspondence, justice of the peace docket books, legal papers, and a folder of material on Democratic Party politics (Box 86, folder 546). The Miscellaneous and Unidentified sections has genealogies, obituaries, biographical information on a number of family members and a small group of writings. Included among the writings are a January 1779 poem commemorating the marriage of James Hillhouse (1754-1832) and Sarah Lloyd, school exercises, and three sermons, the earliest written in 1762.

The collection also has two folio boxes of oversize materials. Most of the papers are architectural drawings, maps, blueprints, and other papers concerning Sachem's Wood, many by Alexander Jackson Davis, William Strickland, and Ithiel Town. Additional oversize material includes insurance policies, deeds, genealogical papers, and miscellaneous other drawings and plans. Cross references to much of this material are found in the Hillhouse Family Papers.
Language of Materials
The papers are primarily in English with a minimal amount of French.
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright status for collection materials is unknown, though much of the material in this collection is likely in the public domain. 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.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Mrs. Hildegarde Speyers Hillhouse and George Dudley Seymour, 1939-1943.
Arranged in sixteen series. I. Correspondence and Deeds, 1707-1938. II. James Abraham Hillhouse, 1753-1791. III. James Hillhouse, 1776-1905. IV. William Hillhouse, 1781-1834. V. Mary Lucas Hillhouse, 1789-1871. VI. James Abraham Hillhouse, 1794-1853. VII. James Hillhouse and Son, 1815-1831. VIII. Augustus Lucas Hillhouse, 1805-1859. IX. Cornelia Ann Lawrence Hillhouse, 1822-1874. X. William Hillhouse, 1832-1905. XI. Mary Hillhouse, 1834-1874. XII. Isaphene Hillhouse, 1835-1941. XIII. James Hillhouse, 1868-1938. XIV. Charles Betts Hillhouse, 1868-1894. XV. Hildegarde Speyers Hillhouse, 1888-1943. XVI. Miscellaneous Papers, 1762-1931.
49.5 Linear Feet (91 boxes, 2 folios)
Related Names
Hillhouse family
Language of Materials