A prosperous family of merchants and landowners, the Brinleys were well ensconced among the social and political elite of colonial New England. Connected by marriage to other elite families in Rhode Island and Massachusetts -- the Auchmutys, Craddocks, and Tyngs among them -- the Brinleys were refined, highly educated, public spirited, and most often business-minded. Although many members of the family remained loyal to the British cause during the Revolution, the family retained their high social standing in the years following.
The Brinley collection includes business letters, legal and business records, wills, a fragment of a diary, documents relating to slaves, newspaper clippings, and a small number of paintings and artifacts. A descendent, Nancy Brinley, contributed a quantity of genealogical research notes and photocopies of Brinley family documents from other repositories. Of particular note in the collection is a fine nineteenth century copy of a John Smibert portrait of Deborah Brinley (1719), an elegant silver tray passed through the generations, and is a 1713 list of the library of Francis Brinley, which offers a foreshadowing of the remarkable book collection put together in the later nineteenth century by his descendant George Brinley.
The collection is open for research.
Englishmen and colonial Americans, Loyalists and Patriots, colonial Canadians and American citizens, the members of the Brinley family were a diverse group of characters, ranging from auditors to officers, businessmen, lawyers, legislators, book-collectors, historians, aristocratic ladies and housewives, devoted mothers, husbands, and fathers. A few were slave-holders. Yet through decades of tumultuous social and political change, the family maintained certain distinctive traits and traditions, clinging most notably to their strong ties to England and to the status quo at home. The Brinleys were wealthy, business-minded members of the colonial elite, profoundly Protestant, and most were highly educated and steeped in knowledge. Many became prominent public figures and many more served their respective nations in uniform.
The roots of the Brinley family extend back to England, where the common ancestor of the North American branch of the family, Thomas Brinley, served as Auditor of the Revenue for James I and Charles I. When Thomas' son Francis emigrated to Newport, Rhode Island, in the mid-seventeenth century, the family's wealth and prestige were transplanted with him, and many of the Brinleys or their relatives, such as the Auchmutys or Tyngs, rose to public office or wielded a sword under the colonial government, serving as judges or military officers from the time of King Philip's War to the French and Indian War.
Like many of their fellow colonists, the pre-Revolutionary Brinleys were also profoundly religious. Thomas Brinley helped found King's Chapel in Boston, and its cemetery bears the remains of many of his ancestors and descendants. The Brinleys wrote prayers and religious poetry, raised their children with Protestant ideals, purchased pews, and spared no expense in the education of their children, putting almost all of their sons through Harvard. Great education fostered even greater wealth, and under British rule, the family enjoyed great economic success. Thomas Brinley of Boston was a well-to-do merchant, as was his grandson, Edward. Colonel Francis Brinley opened a prosperous farm in Framingham, bequeathing it to his son Nathaniel. As the colonies grew in size and population, the Brinley's sold off parts of their extensive land-holdings, adding further to their wealth, and marriages with elite mercantile and landowning families such as the Malbones and Cradocks only strengthened their social standing.
Personal prosperity and public service forged a strong British identity in most of the pre-Revolution Brinleys, and with the onset of the American Revolution, they were often seen as patriots of a different feather, suffering accordingly for their loyalty. Brinleys were prominent among the Loyalists who petitioned Governor Thomas Hutchinson and General Thomas Gage, and when the fortunes of the empire turned, some fled to England or Nova Scotia, while others were imprisoned. At home, the Brinleys suffered the confiscation and sale of their properties, with little recompense.
Despite the hardships, the Brinleys who fled were graciously reabsorbed back into English and colonial Canadian society, while those who remained in America recovered their pre-war standing, even while remaining in contact with relatives overseas. In the new United States, the Brinleys continued as their ancestors had, enjoying the wealth and business opportunities afforded them by their religious affiliations, political offices, law practices, Harvard education, and military service. One Brinley became active in political circles in Boston, another assembled one of the grandest private libraries in 19th century America, and yet another served under Secretary of State Daniel Webster. This last Brinley, Francis Brinley, Jr., also continued the grand procession of Brinleys in uniform, serving three times as commander of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company.
Through the devastation of revolution and Civil War and transplantation from continent to continent, the members of the Brinley family kept alive a distinctive Brinley identity. This fact was not lost upon them, as one particular trait extends through three centuries: the need for Brinleys to know their ancestors. Perhaps George Brinley spoke for all of his family when he wrote: "There is an instinctive impulse in the breast of every human being, which prompts us to inquire not about ourselves... but to trace past generations, examine the family ties, and to ascertain from what nation we sprung, and whether our Forefathers held a distinguished rank in society, or were doomed through ages to enjoy a mediocrity."
The Brinley collection documents the changing fortunes of a wealthy, educated, and prosperous Anglo-American family from the early eighteenth through the late nineteenth century, and their genealogical interests since. Though varied in scope, the collection offers a valuable reflection on social status in America, from the enjoyment of ties to the highest elite during the colonial period to the sufferings of upper-class Loyalist, and the lifestyle and career choices of wealthy Americans during the nineteenth century. The collection is divided into four series:
The papers of the colonial-era Brinleys speak of finances and conveyances, and are a great source of insight into entrepreneurship and land transactions in early America, with some information on the Brinleys in the British colonial establishment. Among the highlights are a remarkable folio list of the extensive personal library of Francis Brinley of Newport, 1713, which included dozens of standard works on law and imperial ambitions along with dozens more from the most radical religious sects of the day -- Familists, Ranters, Seekers, and Diggers among them. Religious records and poetry offers glimpses into the minds, hearts, and day to day lives of the privileged stratum in New England, and particularly the life of Colonel Francis Brinley.
The colonial records come to an end with the shot heard round the world, when the American Revolution wreaked havoc on the fortunes and fate of the Brinley family. Although the collection does not document their emotional duress, it does chronicle the extensive damage to their purses, and can be useful in understanding the impact of the Revolution on landed Loyalists. A number of letters in the collection were written by expatriate Brinleys seeking help from their relatives in the new United States in reclaiming their abandoned (or confiscated) American property.
The other side of the Loyalist story is covered by collateral relatives, the Putnams, whose most prominent representative was Major-General Israel Putnam, a hero of the Battle of Bunker Hill. The collection includes a copy of the sermon given at Putnam's funeral, as well as publications by Putnam's son Daniel in 1818 defending Putnam's role at Bunker Hill, and responding to Major-General Henry Dearborn's self-serving history of the battle.
The papers of the next generation of Brinleys describe their lives in the early Republic, as well as the lives of those family members who returned to England or resettled in what is now Canada. These items speak of the strength of family bonds even as political realities rent the family apart. Like their predecessors, the papers of this generation demonstrate moneyed interests, but they also betray a shift into more political thinking. Francis Brinley, Sr., was especially excited about politics, writing newspaper editors on everything from body snatchers to slavery, canals, and the price of milk. His documents are a fine source on the politics of early republican America in general and of the city of Boston in particular. Also notable are several detailed letters concerning the education of Francis, Jr., both before and during his attendance at Harvard, which have much to say about university education in the early nineteenth century; Robert Brinley's passport to France under the Directory; a copy of The Newport Herald, ripe with details of the world in the year in 1788; and the arithmetic book of George Brinley, useful in understanding the history of education in America during the early Federalist period.
The generation that came of age in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, is represented by letters of Francis "Frank" Brinley, Jr., and of George Brinley the book collector, two upper-class men who led very different lives. Frank, like his father, was a public figure who served in several political and military offices. His papers represent, in many ways, the highest ideals of New England society at this time, building a life around erudition and service. Frank's cousin George was more of a private man, and one of the great book collectors of his time. While both cousins took an interest in history, they pursued their interests in different ways: while Frank led and contributed to several historical societies, George gathered an immense personal library, but reportedly allowed only one other person access to it. Almost all of the materials in the collection pertaining to George deal with the auction of that library after his death, and may be useful to the researcher interested in book-collecting and in American library history. An autobiography of George Brinley, Sr., is of particular value.
In addition to the Brinleys, four other branches of the family are substantially represented in the collection: the Auchmuty, Cradock, Tyng, and Putnam families. A few letters from a member of the Malbone family are also included. Married to Brinleys, all of these families seem to have had common business and political interests.
The Brinley collection also includes some miscellaneous materials, in which the connection to the Brinleys is unclear. There are letters, business, papers, songs and poems, and newspaper clippings. Some of the names appearing here are Blake, Bowers, Moore, Murphy, and White. Notable items include a certificate of service for Isaac Bowers in the War of 1812 and a certificate from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Finally, the collection also contains a wealth of Brinley family genealogical research notes assembled primarily by Nancy Brinley. These materials include copies of Brinley family documents held at other repositories, publications, notes and correspondence. Photographs and art work representing family members literally bring the Brinleys to life as do treasured family objects such as a silver salver and fish knife, which were passed down the generations.
Original letters and documents relating to the Brinley family and collateral relatives. The series is organized by family, and then by writer and generation, in roughly chronological order. Although there is some correspondence among family members, particularly during the later generations, the collection includes a good number of legal documents, obituaries, clippings, and other miscellaneous material.
Photocopies of letters and documents held in other repositories, most of which were collected by Nancy Brinley in the course of genealogical research. The series is focused primarily on Daniel Putnam and the Malbone family, with a few items relating to Francis Brinley.
Genealogical notes and correspondence, mostly by Nancy Brinley, relating to the history of the Brinley and Malbone families, and particularly early generations of the American family (e.g. Col. Francis Brinley).
Paintings and photographic portraits of several members of the Brinley family, along with two intriguing pieces of eighteenth-century silver owned by the family. Noteworthy are an early nineteenth century copy by Charles U. Bond of a 1729 John Smibert portrait featuring Deborah Lyde Brinley and her infant son Francis, and a silver salver from 1741, which descended from generation to generation in the family.
Thomas Brinley (1591-1661) the Auditor was the common origin for the Brinleys in England. An Esquire and an Auditor of the Revenue for two English kings, Thomas was an esteemed and landed member of English society, though his strong allegiance with Charles I and II led to a four year exile. Nevertheless, he returned to England in 1660. His will provided his eldest son Francis with tenements in the town of Newcastle upon Tyne, and two-thirds of his manor in Wakerfield. Buried in the church at the town of Datchett in Buckinghamshire, his tomb inscription read:
Here lieth the body of Thomas Brinley, Esq., who was one of the auditors of the Revenue of King Charles the First and of King Charles II. Born in the City of Exeter. He married Anne, youngest daughter of Wm Ware of Petworth, in Sussex, gent., who had issue by her five sons and seven daughters. He dyed the 15th day of October in the year of our Lord 1661.
Francis Brinley (1632-1719), though the seventh child of Thomas Brinely and Ann Wase, was born Thomas's inheritor after his older brother Richard died young. Despite receiving generous lands from his father in England, Francis Brinley left his homeland for the New World. He emigrated first to Barbados and then to Rhode Island, arriving there by 1652. He acquired considerable property in Boston and in Newport, Rhode Island, and married Hannah Carr in 1657. A man well-esteemed in colonial society, Francis served as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas in Rhode Island. In addition, he collected books, and by 1713 his library had over 200 works, a good number for a colonial library. His son Thomas Brinley of Boston (1661-c.1693), was a prominent merchant in the city and a founder of King's Chapel, and when Francis died in 1719, he elected to be buried in the church's graveyard. Two of Francis' grandchildren appear in the collection, Colonel Francis Brinley and Elizabeth Brinley Hutchinson.
Colonel Francis Brinley (1690-1765) was born in England the son of Thomas Brinley of Boston and the grandson of Francis Brinley of Newport. In 1710 he came to Newport, Rhode Island, with his siblings and widowed mother to live with his grandfather, and became his grandfather's heir. In 1718 he married Deborah Lyde, and sometime after the elder Brinley's death the next year, Francis moved the family to Roxbury, Massachusetts and built a house modeled after the family's ancestral home at Datchett, England. From there he managed his considerable estates and his farm in Framingham, Massachusetts, which employed, clothed and fed many workers (including some slaves), and churned out profits through Indian corn and cheese especially. Despite these successes, Francis struggled with alcoholism for a great part of his early life, though he appeared to have finally overcome it by 1738. During this period he was also Colonel of the Roxbury militia and filled the office of deputy surveyor-general of Massachusetts.
In the wintry month of 1748 the Colonel narrowly escaped death in an accident while crossing the ferry to Newport; it was a dangerous time in colonial New England, and as Colonel of the Roxbury militia, Brinley was one of its guardians. A few weeks after Major George Washington's Battle of the Great Meadows in modern-day Pennslyvania sparked the beginning of the French and Indian War, he wrote to the Governor of Massachusetts, William Shirley, furious over disorder in the ranks. Doubtless he maintained correspondence with the Governor and may have even contributed to Shirley's northern expedition against French holdings in modern-day upstate New York in 1755. He was a deeply pious man, as evidenced from his written prayer (A Prayer for the Morning) and his dues for his pew-seat in King's Chapel, and he also maintained strong ties with England (he includes the King of England in his morning prayer). He also had an interest in poetry, and he turned to it as a vehicle for his grief when his wife, Deborah Lyde Brinley, perished on March 15th, 1761. Through his lines we see the shape of a man trying to reconcile human grief with his faith in a Christian heaven:
Transcendent Bliss without alloy, Vertue's reward Angellick joy. Then why should I mourn or complain,Seeing my loss to her is Gain.
The last few years of his life, as gathered from the few scraps of his diaries, show a leisurely life of paying workers, buying supplies, calculating business figures, relaxing at home, going to Church, and paying visits to friends. It was during this tranquil time of life that his grandson Thomas Brinley died two days after Christmas of an unknown illness in the winter of 1764. Thomas' grandfather died the next year. He and his wife Deborah Lyde Brinley had many children, including Deborah Brinley Murray, Catherine Brinley, Thomas Brinley, Francis Brinley, Jr., Edward Brinley, Nathaniel Brinley, Francis William Brinley, George Brinley, and Elizabeth Brinley.
Lists conveyances of land to Francis Brinley during the period 1693 to 1769.
Elizabeth Brinley Hutchinson was a daughter of Thomas Brinley of Boston and a sister of Colonel Francis Brinley. Born in England, she emigrated to America and married William Hutchinson. In November of 1707, a certain Benjamin Newberry wrote his daughter that "Francis Brinely's Grandaughter has bine published in the Church 3 times to Young Hutchinson, Suppose are or will be Marryed Suddenly they Intend a very private wedding"
Elizabeth and William had three sons: Eliakim, Shrimpton, and Francis, who would latter graduate from Harvard College in 1736.
Not much is known about the Hutchinson family, except that Elisha Hutchinson was a citizen of Boston who sued Thomas Aives for squatting on his land in Naggaransett Country in early 1704. According to Professor Richard S. Dunn, Narragansett Country was a "tract of roughly four hundred square miles which now comprises the southwestern third of the state of Rhode Island. Because of the Indians who lived there, and the rocky and marshy terrain, it was one of the last sections of the New England seaboard to be occupied by the English." Shrimpton Hutchinson was a son of Elizabeth Brinley Hutchinson.
Edward Lyde was a Boston Loyalist who was banished after the war. In September of 1775, three months after the Battle of Bunker Hill, Lyde wrote to his cousin M:rs Mary Gerrish about agricultural affairs. He has an unknown relationship to the family, but may be related to Deborah Lyde Brinley, the wife of Colonel Francis Brinley.
Deborah Brinley was the first daughter of Colonel Francis Brinley and his wife, Deborah Lyde. She married a British colonel named John Murray and together they retreated to Nova Scotia during the American Revolution. Not long after the war, at a time when the new United States Government was seizing and selling Loyalists properties, the Murrays turned to their American relatives for help in receiving a fair share of Deborah's inheritance. In February of 1794, in New Brunswick, the Murrays made Deborah's American brothers Edward and Nathaniel Brinley their lawyers to "Tell and Convey the most they can Get for the Same One Undivided ninth part of all the lands holder by her said late Father deceased."
Thomas Murray was the son of Deborah Brinley Murray and John Murray. When his father died in August of 1794, Thomas shouldered the responsibility for his mother's property in America. At the end of September he wrote Edward and Nathaniel Brinley that he had found "a witness to the due execution of the power so that an assidavit made by him before a Juge of your Supreme Court will I suppose be suffificent to prove that the necess:ary requisites of signing sealing and delivery were actually performed by my mother."
Francis Brinley, Jr. (1729-1816) was born in 1729 as the second son of Colonel Francis Brinley and Deborah Brinley. In a 1749 letter to an unknown recipient in Newport, Francis writes of the tediousness of riding home to Boston alone. In November of 1754 he was married to Aleph Malbone, daughter of the Honorable Godfrey Malbone.
A copy of a fall, 1788 Newport Herald newspaper is included in his folder and reveals the world of Francis Brinley, Jr. Together with an ad posted by Francis Brinley and John Malbone announcing the sale of his father-in-law's 800-acre property on Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay, are articles announcing "inoculation for the Small Pox," as well as a hair-raising account of Greek piracy in the Ionian sea, and a translation of a letter of Nuncomar, an Indian official executed for forgery, a controversial decision known throughout the English-speaking world.
In addition, Francis Brinley, Jr.'s three letters, one written when he was twenty, the other unknown, and the last in 1797, display a great evolution of penmanship in the 18th century, vividly reflecting the changing styles of the period.
Edward Brinley (1730-1809) was the third son of Colonel Francis Brinley. He was a Boston merchant, who, for a time, worked with his brother-in-law, Godfrey Malbone. In March of 1762, he married Sarah Tyler and by her had seven children, including Sarah Jones, William, Edward, Thomas, Francis Brinley, Sr., and George Brinley. Two years after the Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution, Edward wrote his brother Thomas Brinley, who had fled to London, asking for the exact price of their father's house in Roxbury that the Legislature could sell it. Edward died in 1809, and joined his ancestors in King's Chapel Burying Ground.
Nathaniel (1733-1814), the fourth son of Colonel Francis Brinley, grew up in Roxbury and was a Boston native. On April 17th, 1770 Nathaniel married his cousin and the daughter of George Craddock, Catherine Cradock, whom he affectionatley referred to as "Caty" in his letters. The couple had only one son, Robert. Nathaniel ran the family farm in Framingham, where he employed at least fifteen black workers, possibly slaves. It is also reported that Daniel Shays, the leader of the 1786 rebellion, worked on the Brinley farm.
As tensions between American patriots and their British governors grew to mammoth proportions, it was clear to all where Nathaniel's loyalties lay; in 1774 he signed an address of welcome to General Thomas Gage when the latter arrived from abroad to manage the ruly colony. Just before the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, he moved his family to Boston and to the protection of the British army. When it finally abandoned Boston on March 17th, 1776, Nathaniel found himself in jail, but a court of inquiry returned him to Framingham under bond of good behavior. The local committee of correspondence later charged him with disloyal speeches and consorting with traitors. In defense, Brinley reportedly said only, "I am a gentleman, and have done nothing to forfeit that character."
Despite the uncertain economic situation, he retained at least some of his wealth. In 1779, with the hurricane of revolution moving South, Brinley bought the Tyng/Winslow estate in Dunstable, later Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. That same year he purchased a "Negro Man named Cuff" for "Forty Ponds Sterling money of Great Britain" from William Hutchinson, the husband of Elizabeth Brinley Hutchinson. But Nathaniel Brinley and his Framingham farm were not free from financial burdens. In the early summer of 1789, he wrote his sister in Brooklyn that she might "know the true situation of the Mills which we think is very unfortunate indeed."
In 1808, one year after the death of his wife, he sent locks of hair to an unknown recipient after another barrage of deaths: "Inclosed are Locks of my Brother ... Brinley's & his Son Tommy's Hair---Also my most dearly beloved Son Tommy's Hair. Also sundey paper relative to my Brother Toms death &c" Nathaniel met his own end on February 10th, 1814.
Catherine Cradock Brinley was the wife of Nathaniel Brinley. She is represented by a single item in the collection, a letter to her son, Robert Brinley. In it she reveals her desire that he be well educated, as well as her willingness to sacrifice the pleasure of seeing him so that he can attend a good school.
Robert Brinley (b. 1774) was the son of Nathaniel Brinley and Catherine Cradock Brinley. In 1802, he married Elizabeth Pitts Brinley, and he lived with his wife Elizabeth in the town of Tyngsborough, Co. Middlesex, Massachusetts. Robert appears to have been closely associated with business, possibly James Lloyd and Company, though it is not exactly clear. In 1796, shortly after the establishment of the French Directoire (Directory), he traveled to France, and his passport described him as being in his twenties, about five feet, four inches, with chestnut hair, blue eyes, and an ordinary nose.
In 1818 he sold fifty acres of land in Winthrop, Co. Kennebec, Mass. to William Thornton for $125 dollars. Twenty-eight years later he donated four volumes to the Public Library of Harvard University, the receipt of which was signed by Harvard's president, Edward Everett, who would be called upon to deliver the main address at the dedication ceremony for Gettysburg National Cemetery in 1863. After a two hour oration by Everett, President Lincoln stood to offer a few remarks.
One last document in the Robert Brinley collection is an undated advertisement proclaiming the "let" of "a large House, admirably situated for a first class Boarding School...." It even includes a little illustration.
Elizabeth Pitts Brinley was the wife of Robert Brinley. The couple had only one son, named Nathaniel Brinley. An 1834 letter from Nathaniel Lawrence reveals that Elizabeth came from a distinguished family of Tyngs, including Elizabeth's grandfather, whom Lawrence calls, "Judge Tyng."
Thomas Brinley (1726-1784), another son of Colonel Francis Brinley, was born in 1726. He graduated from Harvard in 1744 and established himself as a merchant and distiller in Boston. He married Elizabeth Cradock Brinley, daughter of George Craddock; there were no children.
As tensions between colonists and English government began to boil over, he signed loyal addresses to both Governor Thomas Hutchinson and to General Gage. Like many Northeastern Loyalists, Brinley and his wife fled in March of 1776, first to Nova Scotia, and then to England. He was officially banished by the new American government and his property forfeited in 1781. What followed was a long attempt at retrieving the value of his property, and his Memorandum of the certificates to be procured by me provides a glimpse into that process.
One year before his death, he wrote his brother George about family finances, including the sale of his home in America and the settling of their father's estate. In addition, the letter discusses the settling of a balance of £16, 15 shillings for Scipio, a slave whom Thomas writes as of being purchased by George, though a volume of Boston Marriages notes the marriage of a "Scipio, svt. of Edward Brinley, Roxbury, & Judy Oliver, free negro" on February 16th, 1769. Thomas died at the age of fifty-eight in 1784.
Elizabeth Cradock Brinley was the wife of Thomas Brinley, and together they lived in London after fleeing the American Revolution. After her husband died in 1784, Elizabeth applied to the commission adjusting Loyalist claims to American property. She claimed 2500 pounds and was awarded 803 pounds. In 1791, one year after the death of her sister (who died without a will), she composed her own. In it, she gives all that she owns to George Lyde and to her nephew Wentwirth Brinley.
The birthdate of George Brinley (d. 1809), another son of Colonel Francis Brinley, is unknown. Like his brother Thomas, he became a merchant in Boston. He also signed the addresses to Hutchinson and Gage, leading to banishment in 1778. He fled first to Nova Scotia and then to England. There he served as Deputy Commissary General. In 1779 he returned to Nova Scotia as Commissary General of British forces in America. Brinley died there in 1809.
The son of Francis William Brinley and a grandson of Colonel Francis Brinley, William was an officer in the British Army. In 1784, he wrote his uncle Nathaniel Brinley in Boston for he was "anxious to have Tiket in the Lottery or your Country..." He died in Halifax.
Wentworth Brinley was a son of Francis William Brinley and a brother of William Brinley. He was a Barrister in London associated with Lincolns Inn, an ancient Inn of Court in the city. In August of 1797 he wrote his cousin Robert Brinley about financial matters, and the letter shows that the Brinley family is still very much financially intertangled. Wentworth also writes of his pleasure "to hear of your having had so pleasant a voyage after you sailed from the Channel..." It was a reference perhaps to Robert's return trip from France. On the latter topic he adds a casual line about international diplomacy: "I am sorry to find that the difference between the United States & France is stile unadjusted." France and the United States would fight an undeclared naval war the next year. Wentworth would die childless in London.
Deborah Brinley Hazen was a cousin of Robert Brinley'S. Her remaining letters show a marked attempt to keep in contact with her relatives, a pattern represented in her three temporally-diverse letters. The first, written in 1782 to her uncle Nathaniel Brinley, the second, to Robert Brinley in 1822 (in which she writes of her "extreme dislike to ship-board will I fear prevent my ever seeing any of my dear relations in N. England, but I shall always preserve for them the most sincere friendship & affection"), and in 1853 she writes from New York City to an unidentified relative enquiring information about their family. She also mentions that she met with George Brinley, Senior in St. John five years before, but has not heard from the correspondee's family since then.
Not much is known about Elizabeth Harris Brinley; she married a Brinley, possibly Francis Brinley, Sr., and and had at least three children, including Ed and Miss Elizabeth Brinley. She was a very pious woman, and wrote her sister in 1784, writing, "I hope you examine your self every night now you have spent the day, and hope you visit the throne of grace daily...."
James Winthrop Harris was the son of the Reverend Thaddeus Mason Harris, who was the uncle of Francis Brinley, Jr., making James Francis' cousin.
Like many Brinleys, Miss Elizabeth Brinley was fascinated by her family. Perhaps in fond memory, she sent her brother Ed a letter of her mother's (whom she referred to as "my Sainted Mother") in October of 1859. She died in Hartford, Connecticut on September 28th, 1862. A poem published in a local newspaper reveals her identity as a relation of Colonel Daniel Putnam:
Her couch is in the ancestral tomb
With Putnam's honor'd dust,
The true in word, the bold in deed,
A bulwark in his Country's need,
A tower of strength and trust.
Francis Brinley, Sr. (1772-1838) was born on March 26th, 1772, a son of Edward Brinley and Sarah Tyler. He married Elizabeth Henshaw-Harris in 1795, and together they had four children: Sarah, Francis, Jr., Edward, and Catherine Putnam, whose relationship to Colonel Daniel Putnam is unclear, except that the Colonel was at the least Catherine's cousin's grandfather.
Francis Brinley Sr. was an active and vocal contributor to state politics who was unashamed to express his opinion. The collection includes ten articles written by him for publication in newspapers, with many addressed to Benjamin Russell, the editor of The Massachusetts Centinel. One year after the death of his wife Elizabeth in 1814, he sent the first such letter in the collection to The Mercury and the New England Palladium, raging against a twelve-cent hike in the price of milk.
"25 cents a Gallon has always been considered a fair price," he writes, and urges his fellow Bostonians to join him in a boycott against the "regular milkmen." In his argument he appeals to the compassion of his listeners by asking what the price jump means for the poor: "Boston is renowned for its Innate as well as publice charites---the poor are never forgotten." Francis Brinley took great pride in his publications; on the back of the document has been written the word "published" in proud, dark ink.
A trustee of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Francis was a powerful observer of religion in the early American state. In a letter to the Centinel concerning his concern over a speech made by Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, Isaac Parker, he writes:
It has been the illiberal policy of Christians to speak of Atheists & Deists, as Birds of the same feather, & we regret that his honor shou'd so nearly have assinuated them---As to Atheists; like Mermaids, they are a creature of the imagination; often talked of, but never seen or heard, (at least in this Country).
Another letter of note was dated May 26th, 1821, once again addressed to Mr. Russell, tirades against the legality of imprisonment for debt and proposes a bankruptcy law. "Their Country affords them no relief," Francis writes of debtors, and posits "many are the vents of this life, which are governed by no known laws…adverse events, shrouded in futurity, beyond the reach of human ken...often intervene...while Love holds out the Golden Bowl of Joy, 'ere it can reach his lips, 'tis dash'd with gall...." However, the most interesting point of his argument comes when he turns his fury against the Congress, who had just rejected a prosal for instituting a national bankruptcy law:
With all their sympathies excited, and all their powers of eloquence & argument display'd & exercised for the freedom of slaves of the South, they left cold heartedly in worse than Algerine slavery several hundred thousand of their white Brethern of the North & eslewhere.
Another article of interest reveals: "I believe I am the first man whoever proposd Canal to Con River & the Hudson. It was disregarded---but I see by the extract from Russel & Gardners' paper, heresowithe that it may been Noticed---. Rail Roads were then unkown."
Aside from public politics, Francis Brinley, Sr. devoted much thought to education, taking care to watch over his son, Francis "Frank" Brinley, Jr.'S career at Harvard Colledge, even setting up a suitable "chum" or roomate at the College. Two of his first letters in the collection deal exclusivley with young Francis' education and preparedness, or lack thereof, for entering Harvard. It is also worthwhile to note that many of his personal documents contain references to maritime life in such a way as to postulate that Francis may have once been significantly involved with the sea.
After his first wife died, Francis sought a new wife and found the object of his search in Jerusha Cooper. Together they had two children, Maria Louisa and Charles Henry. Francis Brinley, Sn. died on March 1st, 1838. He was sixty-five years old, just missing his sixty-sixth birthday later that month.
Francis "Frank" Brinley, Jr. (1800-1889) was born in 1800, the second child and the first son of Francis Brinley, SN., and Elizabeth Henshaw Harris. Two of the early letters in his father's collection deals exclusively with young Francis' education and preparation for entering Harvard. At first his teacher, Mr. Pemberton, thinks him ready for college, but Francis' uncle the Rev. Dr Thaddeus Mason writes to Francis Sr., one month later indicating that Mr. Pemberton "speaks less confidently of Francis's preparation for adMission into college, particularly in respect to "making Latin."" His father himself worries that his son is always at home, alone, and studying.
Francis Brinley's latter life reflects his early studiousness. An erudite man, he graduated from Harvard University in 1818, studied law with the Hon. William Sullivan, and became a lawyer, though he soon grew disillusioned with the industry and moved back to Boston to live with his uncle, the Rev. Dr Thaddeus Mason Harris. He joined the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in 1828, and was associated with the order for the rest of his life, achieving such positions as Major and Commander. In 1833, he married Sarah Olcott Porter (Sarah Brinley) in New York City.
Over his life he served the public in many capacities, especially in the state legislature and during the state constitutional convention of 1853, in the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company as three times the Commander, and in Washington as a law clerk under the leadership of Secretary of State Daniel Webster. During the American Civil War he offered his rhetorical skills to the cause of the Union, lecturing throughout the North.
Eventually, he came to live in Newport, Rhode Island, and took an active interest in the historical societies both of the city and the state in which he lived. One obituary article would claim that "Major Brinley at the time of his death probably possessed the finest private library in New England."
Yet though old age found him as smart and witty as in years past, it would finally catch up with him, first taking his eyesight. On the night of June 14, 1889, Francis Brinley, Jr., passed from the world after a comparatively brief illness.
Francis Brinley's scrapbook is an assortment of genealogical research and a prime resource for Brinley primary documents that have been pasted onto the pages.
Sarah Olcott Porter married Francis Brinley, Jr. in 1833. In August of 1861, she went south to visit her husband in Washington, days after George B. McClellan was named commander-in-chief of the Army of the Potomac. Note that her passport is signed by Lincoln's Secretary of State William H. Seward. Sarah Olcott Brinley would survive her husband when the latter died in 1889, and she kept a close relationship with her brother-in-law George P. Brinley.
George P. Brinley lived in Montreal for a time as an insurance agent, and has an original photograph in Series IV.
Nathaniel Brinley, Jr. was the son of Nathaniel and S. E. Brinley of Tynsborough, assachusetts. During the American Civil War, he served with the Massachusetts First Heavy Artillery, but was captured in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House and perished in the infamous Confederate prison of Andersonville, Georgia, in 1864.
George Brinley was the father of George The Book Collector. He married Catherine Putnam, the daughter of Daniel Putnam and Katerine Hutchinson, and lived in Hartford. In 1840 he wrote an article for the Connecticut Courant concerning the loss of the steamboat the Lexington on January 13, 1840. The boat was carrying eighteen thousand dollars worth of gold and silver and was bound from New York to Connecticut when it was overtaken by a fire and sunk, with the loss of nearly all persons and articles aboard. Three years later, at the bequest of his daughter Elizabeth, he penned down an autobiography in 1843, which is included in the collection, and dedicated it to her. Near the end of his life, he didn't like leaving his "quiet fire side and warm chamber, for a frozen atmosphere & cold rooms of a Hotel---An Octogenarian should be cautious in exposing the sluggish current of his blood to the Cold-". In addition to his autobiography, he has three letters, a newspaper article he wrote, a poem by L. H. S. commemorating his passing, and his ciphering book.
A "ciphering" book was an arithmetic workbook used by American school children in the late 18th century. George Brinley used his workbook circa 1790, and fashioned pages from the documents of other family members as binding, and was likely to have been the author of a few rough poems elegantly inscribed on the binding as well as here and there between math assignments In his schooling, George Brinley learned tables for multiplication, addition of English Money, Troy weights, and cloth measure, as well as rules of reduction, the rule of three in decimals, and other general mathematical concepts of the era.
Born in Boston in 1817, George Brinley (1817-1875) the Book Collector was precisley that, and he was one the best, if not the best, collectors in late 19th century America. One writer in the New York Daily Tribune, on covering the first part of the Brinley book sale, wrote that "he was known to the bibliographic elect as a bold, shrewd, and determined buyer in the auction-room, where he was always represented...but the catalogue of his library is at once the cause of astonishment and surprise." As such, he was frequently turned to as a reference, receiving questions from as close as Albany, NY, and as far away as England.
Aside from George himself, "the only person who had access to its volumes," reported the Hartford Daily Courant, "and who is everywhere an accepted authority on American history," was Dr. J. Hammond Trumbull, who, after George's death, catalogued the library and played an integral part in its sale.
The collection itself was largely composed of valuable editions concerning early American history, and after only five days of bidding, the New York Daily Tribune tallied the profits at $43,604.81. The same paper added that "the estate will undoubtedly get back more than the books originally cost Mr. Brinley. Collectors see in this fact a new confirmation of their familiar claim, that ancient books as money investments pay better than the average railroad, oil well or silver mine." After all the auctions for each of the five parts of George Brinley's library, the total sale was $127,138.12.
George Brinley's health had begun to decline in the early 1870s. He moved first to Florida and then to Bermuda, where he died in 1875. Beginning in early 1879, the American library of George Brinley was auctioned off in several parts, each part divided by subject matter and by geography, the first part relating to general America, the British colonies, New France, and New England. The sale was eagerly tracked by the press and many of newspaper clippings included here cover it.
His letter of 1744 bears reference to the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) in Europe. Zachary was living in England at the time.
Robert Auchmuty, Jr. (1725-1788), was a prominent citizen of Boston and an equally prominent Loyalist. He married a daughter of George Craddock and was thus the brother in law of Thomas and Nathaniel Brinley. He was born in 1724, the son of Robert Auchmuty, a Boston lawyer. He attended schools in Boston, including the Latin School. Auchmuty followed his father into law. He became a well known lawyer in Boston, and in 1767 he was appointed Judge of the Vice Admiralty Courts in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. With John Adams and Josiah Quincy, he defended the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre in 1770. He and his wife fled Boston in 1776, settling in London. His American property was declared forfeit and sold in 1779. Auchmuty remained in London until his death in 1788.
Edward Tyng was born in Dunstable, England, in 1610. In 1639 he emigrated to Boston, where he established himself as a merchant. He became an important man in the city, serving on the General Court and as Colonel of militia. In 1660 he bought 3000 acres of land in Dunstable, though the area was still a wilderness. This tract was the basis of the Tyng estate in Dunstable and Tyngsborough. Tyng left this estate to his eldest son Jonathan when he died in 1681.
Colonel Jonathan Tyng, born in 1642, was the first white settler in Dunstable. He remained there through King Philip's War, when the rest of the settlement fled. He asked the General Court for reinforcements, insisting that the settlement should be held. After the war Colonel Tyng became a guardian for local peaceful Indians. In compensation he received Wicausuck Island on the Concord River. Indians also sold him property. This land, together with his inheritance, gave Jonathan Tyng the largest estate in the area. He was obviously a man of importance in Dunstable and in the colony. He served on the Governor's Council, in the General Court, and as Colonel of the Middlesex County militia. Colonel Tyng died in 1723 (note that this date is disputed; an item in the folder hold his death date to be 1702). His large estate was divided amongst his children. In 1779 a Tyng heir sold part of the estate to Nathaniel Brinley. Nathaniel's son Robert married another Tyng heir, Elizabeth Pitts. With this most of the Tyng estate came to the Brinley family.
Major-General Israel Putnam (1718-1790) was a famous American general who had fought with distinction in the French and Indian War and in the Revolutionary War, particularly at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. After his death, his son Daniel vigorously defended his memory and his deeds.
A son of Major-General Israel Putnam, Daniel Putnam denounced Major General Henry Dearborn's account of the Battle of Bunker Hill, calling it "void of truth in some of its most prominent parts," in an open letter to Dearborn published as a booklet and in American Friend in 1818.
The Brinley collection also includes some miscellaneous materials, for which there is no clear connection to the family. There are wills, letters, business papers, songs, poems, and newspaper clippings all ranging from the early 18th century to the 1950s. Items of interest include a certificate concerning the military service of Isaac Bowers in the War of 1812, a document from the Archbishop of Canterbury, a newspaper article that mentions Edward Lyde, and a blank example of 18th century laid paper. Some of the names appearing in this folder are Blake, Bowers, Moore, Murphy, and White.
Brindley family newsletter.
Computer disks containing files created by Nancy Brinley during her genealogical research.
Ledger containing files names of documents stored on computer disks.
Copy of an original by John Smibert in 1729, now a part of the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Includes photographs of George Brinley III, Mary E. Carter, painting of Colonel Daniel Putnam, Charles Augustus Brinley, Mary Goodrich Frothingham, Israel Putnam, George Brinley (1774-1857), and Catherine Putnam Brinley.
Framed silhouette of the daughter of Colonel Francis and Deborah Lyde Brinley.
Engraved on reverse "From Godfrey Malbone of Newport. Obt. Nov 1787 to his daughter Elizabeth Hutchinson Obt. 1756, to her daughter Catherine Putnam, to her daughter Catherine Brinley, obt. Oct. 1842, to her son George Brinley, Jr., Obt. May 1875, to his son, George Brinley Tertius, Obt. August 24, 1892, to his son George Brinley, Obt. May 6, 1835, to his nephew Edward Charles Brinley, Jr." Also engraved Malbone/Scott coat of arms on top. Dated 1741-1742 with the touch mark "RA" for Robert Abercromby.
Engraved blade shows central image of a fish and a monogram "M", "h", "RH" marks.
The collection was acquired from Cedric Robinson in June 1987. Additions to the collection were made by Edward "Ned" and Nancy Brinley in 2004-2006.
Collection processed by Lisa May; re-processed with additions by Mike Verney, 2008.
Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:
Brinley Family Papers (MS 161). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.