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Rockwell Family Papers

 Collection
Identifier: mss-141

Scope and Content Note

The Rockwell Family Papers consist of two cartons of letters, business papers, bound diaries and account books, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other papers. The chronological span of the collection is from 1854 to 1972, with the great majority of the papers dating from the 1850s to 1929. The organization of the collection is largely chronological within three main groups: correspondence and miscellaneous papers, bound manuscripts, and photographs.

Most of the materials in the Rockwell Family Papers relate to Ell B. Rockwell's years of service on Lake Champlain. There are letters and financial papers concerning his work for the Champlain Transportation Company and other employers, and a fair amount of documentation of the CTC's promotion of him as a tourist attraction for its steamboats in the 1920s. An interesting subsection of the collection (carton 1, folders 11-17) documents in detail the planning and construction in 1881 of the steamboat Reindeer, a project for which Rockwell served as supervisor. The Rockwell steamboat material complements quite nicely the corporate records of the Champlain Transportation Company in the Wilbur Collection's manuscript holdings.

Although the strength of the Rockwell Family Papers is definitely in Ell B. Rockwell/steamboat manuscripts, there are some other noteworthy materials in the collection as well. A few of the bound manuscripts contain municipal records and accounts for the Town of Alburg. Some of the papers in the collection shed light on the lives of Ell B. Rockwell's wife, Lucy A. McElroy Rockwell (m. 1856), and their two daughters, Jane and Ethelyn. The Papers also include a series of interesting letters from Barnard McElroy (carton 1, folder 2), Ell B. Rockwell's brother-in-law, that he sent home to his family in the Champlain Valley while serving on several Massachusetts whaling vessels in the Indian Ocean between 1854 and his death at sea in 1861.

The Wilbur Collection acquired the Rockwell Family Papers by purchase in 1987 from the Basin Harbor Maritime Museum (now the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum), Basin Harbor, Vermont. The BHHMM, which received the papers from the owner of the Rockwell homestead in Alburg, retained a small group of non-paper Rockwell and Lake Champlain steamboat memorabilia for its display collections.

Dates

  • 1854-1972

Creator

Access

Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

The Rockwell family settled in Lake Champlain Islands in the early 1780s, when Revolutionary War veteran Jabez Rockwell (1761-1818) moved from Hartford, Connecticut to South Hero, Vermont. Jabez' son Merritt Rockwell (1790-18 ) served in the War of 1812, and various members of the family became prominent in local government in the Islands in the nineteenth century.

Ell Barnum Rockwell, the son of Merritt and Nancy (Grant) Rockwell, was born at North Hero, Vermont, on February 18, 1830. He began his career on Lake Champlain at the age of 12 as a cabin boy on the schooner Cynthia, serving on various lake sloops and schooners until becoming first mate on the steamboat Canada in 1853. Rockwell served on Lake Champlain steamboats more or less continuously for the next 75 years, working for the Champlain Transportation Company and other lake-traffic firms as pilot, mate and captain. He became something of a celebrity on the lake in his later years, as his advancing age and increasing length of tenure as a steamboat man brought him considerable attention and publicity. Ell B. Rockwell died in St. Albans, Vermont, on December 3, 1928, at the age of 98 years, 9 months, 14 days.

Extent

2 Linear Feet (2 cartons)

Abstract

The Rockwell Family Papers consist of two cartons of letters, business papers, bound diaries and account books, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other papers. The chronological span of the collection is from 1854 to 1972, with the great majority of the papers dating from the 1850s to 1929. Most of the materials in the Rockwell Family Papers relate to Eli B. Rockwell's many years of service on Lake Champlain steamboats.

Location

Library Research Annex; contact uvmsc@uvm.edu for access.

Creator

Title
Guide to the Rockwell Family Papers
Status
Completed
Date
August 1987
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)