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Spear Family Papers

 Collection
Identifier: mss-153

Scope and Content Note

The Spear Family Papers contain an interesting array of manuscripts from the 1790s to the 1940s, which document four generations of a Vermont family.The majority of the manuscripts in the Papers came to the Wilbur Collection between 1978 and 1983. These acquisitions were part of the aftermath of a 1978 auction that dispersed the contents of the attic of Elhanan W. Spear's 1804 family homestead. This building, on Route 7 in Shelburne (just south of the Shelburne/South Burlington town line), is currently the headquarters of the Perry Restaurant Group. Additional materials in the collection, primarily Turrill family papers from the 1850s to the 1940s, were acquired in 1989, 1990 and 1996.

The collection consists of ten cartons, four oversize folders, and two oversize bound manuscripts. Collection contents, approximately ten linear feet, are divided into two series: Spear Family (1790s-1920s) and the Turrill Family (1850s-1940s), each approximately five linear feet in size. Subseries for each series consist of correspondence, financial papers, legal papers, family papers, photographs, and bound manuscripts. Correspondence is arranged chronologically, while all other subseries are in alphabetical order by title or description. Collection materials from both series include extensive correspondence, business papers, receipts & bills, deeds & mortgages, photographs, assorted writings, ephemera, songs & poems, and bound manuscripts, such as account books, diaries, notebooks, and schoolbooks. One map-case drawer contains four oversize folders; materials are primarily surveys and boat-building drawings by Orson S. Spear (1808-1890).

Cartons 2 and 7 contain some genealogical and biographical notes that may be useful in sorting out the Spears, Turrills, and other relatives. Researchers should also consult Verne R. Spear, The Descendants of George Spear who Settled at Braintree, Massachusetts 1642 - 1988 (West Hawley, MA, 1988), Wilbur Collection call-number CS 71 .S64 1988.

The Spear Family Papers include a bulk of papers concerning Elhanan W. Spear's (1782-1869) shoemaking and tanning operations, Orson S. Spear's (1808-1890) work as a land surveyor, housewright, and Lake Champlain steamboat and ship builder in the 1850s, and Clayton R. Turrill's (1849-1924) late nineteenth-century investments and business interests, particularly in Utah mining ventures. There are also a number of letters, postcards, and photographs that document Julius R. Turrill's (1876-1943) life in the U.S. Marine Corps in the early twentieth century. A scattering of Shelburne town records from the 1830s through the 1880s document some aspects of local government in the nineteenth century, particularly in regard to school management and finances. Numerous family letters, notebooks, and diaries detail the activities of four generations of Spears, offering a good look at the ties between those who stayed in Shelburne and those who moved away from the family homestead. The collection also contains an extensive selection of bills and receipts from the late 18th to the early 20th century; researchers interested in the financial papers of Spears and Turrills should also consult the bound manuscripts in each series. A small section of manuscript songs and poems sheds some light on popular music in early Vermont, while a comparably-sized section of schoolbooks and papers illuminate shifts in educational practices from the 1790s to 1910s.

Dates

  • 1793-1942

Creator

Physical Description

Eight cartons, two oversize bound volumes, four oversize folders

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

Richard Spear (1737-1788) moved to Shelburne, Vermont, from Braintree, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1783. He died five years later, but his sons Asahel (1778-1849) and Elhanan W. Spear (1782-1869) remained in Shelburne and raised families there. Elhanan W. Spear prospered as a shoemaker and tanner in the early nineteenth century, and he and several of his eleven children achieved some prominence in Shelburne and Chittenden County business and political affairs. One of his sons, Orson S. Spear (1808-1890) worked as a land surveyor, housewright, and Lake Champlain steamboat and ship builder in the 1850s—notably designing the steamboat Oakes Ames. Another son, Amos C. Spear (1814-1892) was a druggist in Burlington and member of the Boxer Engine firefighting company. The Spears married into a number of Chittenden County's leading families, such as the Pecks and Howards, creating an extensive family network that spread throughout northwestern Vermont during the course of several generations. Clayton R. Turrill (1848-1924) was from one such family, marrying Alice E. Spear (1852-1938) in 1875. Turrill graduated from Middlebury College and spent most of his career with the Vermont Life Insurance Company as the secretary and actuary until his retirement in 1905. Turrill’s son, Julius S. (1876-1943), served in the U.S. Marine Corps and fought in WWI, reaching the rank of Brigadier General before his death.

Extent

10.0 Linear feet (Eight cartons, two oversized bound volumes, four oversize folders)

Overview

Richard Spear (1737-1788) moved to Shelburne, Vermont, from Braintree, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1783. He died five years later, but his sons Asahel (1778-1849) and Elhanan W. Spear (1782-1869) remained in Shelburne and raised families there. The Spear Family Papers contain an interesting variety of manuscripts from the 1790s to the 1940s.

Physical Location

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

Acquisition Information

The majority of the manuscripts in the Spear Family Papers came to the Wilbur Collection between 1978 and 1983. These acquisitions were part of the aftermath of a 1978 auction that dispersed the contents of the attic of Elhanan W. Spear's 1804 family homestead.

Physical Description

Eight cartons, two oversize bound volumes, four oversize folders

Creator

Title
Spear Family Papers, 1793-1942
Status
Completed
Date
2003
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)