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Adele Shepard Collection of Edwards and Dwight Family Papers

Call Number: RG 329
Scope and Contents

The papers consist of correspondence, writings, sermons, financial and legal documents, photographs, and other memorabilia of Jonathan Edwards and Timothy Dwight and their descendants. This collection of Edwards and Dwight family papers was inherited and compiled by Adele Shepard, a descendant of the families. The papers focus primarily on the individuals in Shepard's line of descent, including Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), Edwards' grandson Timothy Dwight (1752-1817) and his wife Mary Woolsey Dwight, great-grandson William T. Dwight and his wife Elizabeth Bradford Dwight, great-great-grandson Henry E. Dwight and his wife Laura Lehmann Dwight, and other descendants. The collection also includes other materials of historical interest with direct or tangential relation to the Edwards and Dwight families. The Shepard Collection complements other papers held at Yale, including the Dwight Family Papers (MS 187), Jonathan Edwards Collection (GEN MSS 151), and Andover Newton Theological Seminary Collection of Jonathan Edwards (GEN MSS 1542).

The collection includes original documents by Jonathan Edwards, including a manuscript notebook containing descriptions of the ecstatic experiences of his wife Sarah Pierpont Edwards (1710-1758). Versions of this narrative were published by Jonathan Edwards in Some Thoughts Concerning the Revivals (1743) and by Sereno Edwards Dwight in The Works of President Edwards (1829) but these were altered so as to conceal Sarah's identity or the extent and intensity of her experiences.

Many of the most interesting documents in this collection are by or about women, including Jonathan Edwards sister Mary Edwards' memorial of their sister Jerusha and extensive correspondence of Elizabeth Bradford Dwight, wife of William T. Dwight. Of particular note is a letter written from Montreal by Ester (Esther/Hester) Ingersoll Gurley Jones (1665-1705) after she had been taken captive by the French and Indians from a village near Northhampton, MA during Queen Anne's War.

The collection includes letters from a number of notable correspondents, including John Adams (1735-1826), Lyman Beecher (1775-1863), John Trumbull (1756-1843), and George Washington. The active intellectual exchange of Timothy Dwight (1752-1817) with other figures in the U.S. and Europe is reflected in the correspondence. Letters from Dwight to his wife Mary Woolsey Dwight during the Revolutionary War document his work as an army chaplain while letters to and from his sons, particularly William T. Dwight (1795-1865) and Sereno Edwards Dwight (1786-1850), reflect the close ties of the family.

In Series I, the correspondence of Edwards and Dwight family members is arranged according to generations, with a focus on the particular branches of the families most thoroughly documented in this collection. This section is followed by correspondence of other individuals, not to or from Edwards or Dwight family members, which was collected by the families.

Series II, Writings and Notes, is also divided into two sections: writings and notes of Edwards and Dwight family members, and items authored by non-family members. Sermon notes of Jonathan Edwards' father Timothy Edwards (1669-1758) are included as well as unpublished writings of Timothy Dwight (1752-1817) and Sereno Edwards Dwight (1786-1850), who was pastor of the Park Street Church, Boston from 1817 to 1826 and president of Hamilton College from 1833 to 1835 before resigning because of ill health due to accidental mercury poisoning. A number of the published sermons by others in this Series relate to the issue of whether a man can marry his deceased wife's sister or his brother's widow, issues that had been addressed by Sereno Edwards Dwight when he was practicing law, prior to becoming a minister.

Series III, Financial, Legal, and Church Records, contains an eclectic group of documents dating from 1685 to 1867, including materials related to the work of Timothy Dwight (1694-1771) as a Justice of the Peace in Massachusetts. Also included is a receipt for the sale of an enslaved boy named Titus to Jonathan Edwards by Hezekiah Griswold.

Series IV, Biographical Documentation, includes extensive genealogical information regarding the Edwards and Dwight families, compiled by Adele Shepard and others, as well as collected documentation arranged by individual.

The Photographs and Artwork of Series V include a very interesting collection of family portraits in evolving photographic formats, including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, and cartes-de-visite as well as photographic prints.

Series VI, Collected Materials and Artifacts, contains an eclectic mix of documents and items collected by the Dwight family, including a 1780 printed broadside in which New Haven native and former Continental Army leader Benedict Arnold explains why he has decided "to join the King's arms," regarding the revolutionary leaders as "Usurpers" and "criminals" who are serving their own interests.

Conditions Governing Access

The material is open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Adele Shepard, 2018


Arranged in six series: I. Correspondence, 1705-1929. II. Writings and Notes, 1705-1859. III. Financial, Legal, and Church Records, 1685-1867. IV. Biographical Documentation, 1750-1954. V. Photographs and Artwork. VI. Collected Materials and Artifacts, 1741-1947.

1685 - 1954
Majority of material found within 1720 - 1860
9 Linear Feet (20 boxes, 1 oversize)
Language of Materials