Porter-Phelps-Huntington Family Papers
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Family papers are a significant collection, because they document the continuous history of a large extended family over a period of more than 250 years. The collection's greatest importance is due to its connection with the family's ancestral home in Hadley, Massachusetts. The papers contain material of each member of the families who spent their lives or their summers in the house in Hadley. Not only are there documents of every person who ever lived in the house, also included, are papers of families whose daughters married the Porter, Phelps, and Huntington men. This creates a record of a large extended family, which includes a number of prominent men and women of early New England. Furthermore, the fact that the Porter-Phelps- Huntington House museum in Hadley displays objects owned and used by these families, within the walls of the house where they lived for 200 years, makes this a unique research collection.
Of particular interest in the collection is the correspondence between every member of this large family. Quite probably each person received at least one letter from every other relative who was alive at the time. This cross-generational family network provides a significant amount of information about family relationships.
This is an excellent resource for investigations of all areas of social history. For women's history, a large portion of the correspondence and diaries were written by women and provide a great deal of relevant information. Letters between mothers and daughters over more than five generations, provide a valuable source of information on these relationships. Of particular importance are the diaries of Elizabeth Porter Phelps (1747-1817) and her daughter Elizabeth Whiting Phelps Huntington (1779-1847). These are supplemented by a large number of letters by each woman, creating the possiblity for an in depth study of their lives. The letters of Lilly Barrett Huntington (1848-1926), her mother Lucy Stearns Barrett (1828-1916), and daughter Catharine Huntington (1888-1987) provide another opportunity for mother-daughter research.
Also of importance is the documentation provided in this collection on local Hadley history, as well as that of Massachusetts in general. The Porters, Phelps', and Huntington's and their relatives were prominent, upper middle class residents of New England and upper New York State.
Another strength of the Porter-Phelps-Huntington collection is its breadth. It contains papers of almost every person who ever lived in the house at "Forty Acres". Over the years the professions of key individuals included:
This collection provides information on people of a variety of professions and lifestyles, during a variety of time periods. The common links between these different individuals are the family connections and the house at "Forty Acres". The diversity of material is also important. The collection includes correspondence, journals, financial papers, legal papers, printed material, publications, school papers, professional manuscripts, and more. In addition, cased images and photographs of most family members exist.
Such a large collection of papers testifies to the fact that this family has always had a strong sense of their own history. Supplementing the original documents are numerous family stories that were handed down and recorded in several books written by family members. The perpetuation of this sense of history through the 20th century can be largely attributed to Dr. James Lincoln Huntington, founder of the Porter-Phelps-Huntington House museum. He pulled together all the old family papers and began researching them. To this documentation, he added to his knowledge of the family stories, to produce a fairly accurate history of the house and family.
James Lincoln Huntington was one of the pioneers in the historic preservation field, from the 1930s through the 1960s. These family papers contain the correspondence of his strugle to save his family home. This is a valuable collection for the historic preservation field, because is documents the founding of a small historic house museum and perhaps more importantly, the ideas and ideals behind it. Researchers interested in this area, should also see the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Foundation office files.
James Lincoln Huntington was not the only one interested in preserving the House's history, however. Over the years, the family has always maintained a great sentiment for the ancestral home, which was especially strong during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Frederic Dan and George Huntington, both Episcopal ministers, lived in their church rectories rather than owning their own homes. For their families, the summer house in Hadley was their real home. This strong sentiment for the house has manifest itself in several books written by family members about their summers there. In addition to James L. Huntington's Forty Acres of 1949, his aunts Arria Huntington and Ruth Huntington Sessions published Under a Colonial Rooftree and Sixty Odd in 1905 and 1936 respectively. Each of these books is available in this collection, as well as in many libraries.
The breadth and diversity of the Porter-Phelps- Huntington Family Papers, along with their connection to the house museum in Hadley, make this collection a rare research opportunity.
For additional genealogical and biographical information, see BOX 83. This contains material collected by James Lincoln Huntington about the family history. There is material about every branch of the extended family and is a valuable resource for family history information.
This collection is organized into eight series: