Title: PORTER FAMILY PAPERS
Date range:
Location: A.P84
Size: 14 boxes




The Porter Family Papers is a collection of over two thousand letters and other papers spanning four generations--from the late 1700s to the early 1900s-of the Porter and related Farley and Peck Families of Connecticut, Maine, Philadelphia, and Rochester. Seventy-two of the letters in the collection have been indexed in the Department's index to letters. A list of these letter writers is found in this register.

The collection focuses on the third generation and Samuel Drummond Porter (1808-1881), a native of Bristol, Maine. He came to Rochester in 1827 to work as a clerk in the book and stationery shop of his uncle by marriage, Everard Peck, who was at the time the publisher of the Rochester Telegraph and a figure already prominent in Rochester affairs. In 1834, Porter married Susan Farley (1811-1880) of Waldoboro, Maine, and brought her to live in Rochester. Later his sister, Laura G. Porter, became the wife of his brother-in-law, Joseph Farley, and they too made their home in Rochester. Everard Peck's first wife, Chloe Porter, died in 1830 and in 1836 he married Martha Farley, sister of Mrs. Porter and Joseph Farley. These three families--Peck, Porter and Farley--so closely related by marriage, were from the start actively engaged in the various movements for the betterment of Rochester and this is revealed in the papers.

Samuel D. Porter and his wife, Susan F. Porter, were active in the anti-slavery movement. Under Porter's guidance, slaves escaping to Canada were concealed in the barn on the property of his sisters, his own property being under constant surveillance. Letters written by Frederick Douglass (there are seven in the collection) indicate a close friendship between the two men and show Porter's assistance in Douglass' work. There are also eleven letters in the collection by Gerrit Smith during the 1840s and 1850s relating to the anti-slavery movement.

Mrs. Porter was an active member of the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society from its beginning and assisted in gathering material for its two anthologies, both titled Autographs for Freedom, which were issued in 1853 and 1854. A letter from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and one from Harriet Beecher Stowe relating to these works are found in the collection.

The Porter's older son, Samuel (1843-1881) was eighteen years old at the outbreak of the Civil War. Leaving the University of Rochester, which he had entered in 1859, he joined the army on August 9, 1862 with the rank of Second Lieutenant of Company F, 108th Regiment of New York State Volunteers and emerged from the war with the rank of Brevet Major. He was wounded at the Battle of Antietam, at Gettysburg and at Bristoe Station, and a fourth time during the Battle of the Wilderness. The bulk of his letters to the various members of his immediate family have been kept as a unit in the collection and are of particular interest and value, giving an almost daily account of the movements of the Company with which Porter was associated, and the conditions under which his men lived and fought, and first-hand observations on the war. As such, they form a coherent and fairly complete story of one man's experiences in the Civil War.

The final part of the collection is from the 1870s to the 1910s and is correspondence to and from Martha T. (Porter) Hopkins (1851-1924) (Mattie), the daughter of Samuel D. and Susan F. Porter. She kept in close contact with her Porter and Farley relatives as well as numerous friends and often corresponded with and visited them in Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York State. When away visiting, her family regularly wrote her relaying the news from Rochester.

The Porter Family Papers were the gift of Samuel Porter (U of R, Class of 1908) on August 24, 1950, January 14, 1965, and May 14, 1968 and of Mrs. Craig P. Cochrane on August 1, 1961. The donors were grandchildren of Samuel D. and Susan F. Porter and first cousins of each other.
Additional items related to Maria Porter were purchased in 2015.
The Department is also pleased to be able to provide the text of a lecture given by Robert Marcotte entitled "The University of Rochester and the Civil War: Three Heroes at Gettysburg," presented on December 17, 2002, which discusses the Civil War letters found in the Porter Family Papers.



Contents:

Box 1: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. Indexed Letters, 1820 - 1845 (See list)
  2. Indexed Letters, 1846 - 1848
  3. Indexed Letters, 1849 - 1851
  4. Indexed Letters, 1852
  5. Indexed Letters, 1853 - 1862
  6. Indexed Letters, 1863 - 1880
  7. Civil War Letters, 1862
  8. Civil War Letters, January- March 1863
  9. Civil War Letters, April- June 1863
  10. Civil War Letters, July- November 1863
  11. Civil War Letters, January- May 1864
  12. Civil War Letters, June- December 1864
  13. Civil War Letters, 1865
  14. Civil War Records, Diary & Typescripts of Letters
Box 2: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. 1785 - 1804
  2. 1805-1806
  3. 1807
  4. 1808
  5. 1809
  6. 1810
  7. 1811 - 1813
  8. 1814
  9. 1815
  10. 1816
Box 3: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. 1817 - 1819
  2. 1820
  3. 1821
  4. 1822 - 1827
  5. 1828 - 1829
  6. 1830 - 1832
  7. 1833 - 1837
  8. 1838 - 1839
Box 4: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. 1840
  2. 1841 - 1842
  3. 1843
  4. Scope and contents: Included in this folder is an autograph receipt signed by William W. Allcott to Maria Porter, Rochester, New York, April 20, 1843. Allcott acknowledges Porter's gift of fifty dollars toward the building of the Unitarian Church. The program for the dedication of the First Unitaran Church, March 9, 1843, as well as the program for the November 26, 1903 Thanksgiving Service are also housed in this folder.
    Provenance: The items described in the Scope and contents note above were purchased as part of a May 2015 accrual.
  5. Folder 4 1844
  6. 1845 - 1846
  7. 1847
  8. 1848
  9. 1849
  10. 1850-1857
  11. Scope and contents: One of the letters in this folder is written to "My Dear Secretary," or Maria Porter from Julia Wilbur, Alexandria, Virginia, May 12, 1863. Portions of this letter are quoted or paraphrased in the 12th and 13th Annual Reports of the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society's "Contraband Aid Society" for 1863.
    Provenance: This letter was purchased as part of a May 2015 accrual.

    Transcribed text.

    Scope and contents: The October 7, 1856 letter from William J. Watkins in Rochester, New York served as a receipt for monies received of Maria Porter for fugitive slaves. Watkins writes: "Recvd. Of Ms. Maria Porter $7.50 for fugitives, $3.00 advanced by Mrs Wm. Oliver, Sept. 29th and $4.50 by W. J. Watkins. WJW."
    Provenance: This letter was purchased as part of a May 2015 accrual.
    Scope and contents: Autograph receipt signed by William J. Watkins for monies spent for Underground Rail Road activities, Rochester, New York, July 24, 1857. Watkins writes: "Miss Porter, $29.00 (including $4.00 brought me by Mrs. Rhoads.) This has been thus expended: 5 Men to London. C. M. sundry times $17.50, 4 Men and one Boy to Toronto $13.50, 1 Woman to Hamilton, $3.50 and 1 Man to Chatham $4.00 . . . Rochester July 24 (22 crossed out) 1857, W.J. Watkins."
    Biographical note: Watkins was a black Underground Railroad conductor who moved from Toronto to Rochester in 1853 to become an associate editor of Frederick Douglass's newspaper. A free black, active in abolitionist politics in Baltimore, Watkins first moved to Canada in 1852, where he had a successful grocery. It is not clear how the money Watkins refers to was spent. $17.50 would not pay for passage for five men.
    Provenance: This letter was purchased as part of a May 2015 accrual.
Box 5: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. 1858 - 1859
  2. 1860
  3. 1861-1864
  4. Scope and contents: Included in this folder is a letter from Sarah Clapper to Maria Porter. Bristol, England, April 24, 1862. This letter conveys a draft for 140 pounds for the use of the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society, which at this time was devoting its efforts to contraband relief. Clapper was a member of a corresponding Bristol Ladies Anti-Slavery group.
    Provenance: This letter was purchased as part of a May 2015 accrual.
    Scope and contents: In the May 2, 1862 letter addressed to the Ladies' Contraband Aid Association in Rochester, New York, care of Mrs. Susan Porter, the unknown writer describes articles needed by the contrabands in Leavenworth, Kansas.
    Provenance: This letter was purchased as part of a May 2015 accrual.

    Transcribed text.

  5. 1865
  6. January - September 1866
  7. October 1 - 12, 1866
  8. October 13 - 20, 1866
  9. October 2 1- 31, 1866
  10. November 1 - 11, 1866
  11. November 12 - 22, 1866
  12. November 23 - 30, 1866
  13. December 1 - 11, 1866
  14. December 12 - 21, 1866
  15. December 22 - 31, 1866
Box 6: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. January 1 - 10, 1867
  2. January 11 - 22, 1867
  3. January 23 - 31, 1867
  4. February 1 - 13, 1867
  5. February 14 - 28, 1867
  6. March 1 - 10, 1867
  7. March 11 - 20, 1867
  8. March 21 - 31, 1867
  9. April 1 - 10, 1867
  10. April 11 - 30, 1867
  11. May 1 - 10, 1867
  12. May 11 - 17, 1867
  13. May 18 - 22, 1867
  14. May 23 - 31, 1867
  15. June 1 - 7, 1867
  16. June 8 - 19, 1867
  17. June 20 - 30, 1867
Box 7: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. July 1 - 8, 1867
  2. July 9 - 31, 1867
  3. August - October 7, 1867
  4. October 8 - 15, 1867
  5. October 16 - 24, 1867
  6. October 25 - 31, 1867
  7. November 1 - 11, 1867
  8. November 12 - 19, 1867
  9. November 20 - December, 1867
Box 8: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. January 1 - 14, 1868
  2. Folder 2 January 15 - 22, 1868
  3. January 23 - 31, 1868
  4. February 1- 10, 1868
  5. February 11 - 20, 1868
  6. February 21 - 29, 1868
  7. March 1 - 11, 1868
  8. March 12 - 20, 1868
  9. March 21 - 31, 1868
  10. April 1 - 23, 1868
  11. April 24 - 30, 1868
Box 9: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. May 1 - 10, 1868
  2. May 11 - 21, 1868
  3. May 22 - 30, 1868
  4. June 1 - 12, 1868
  5. June 13 - 22, 1868
  6. June 23 - 30, 1868
  7. July 1 - 12 1868
  8. July 13 - November, 1868
  9. December 1 - 22, 1868
  10. December 23 - 31, 1868
Box 10: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. 1869
  2. January - May 20, 1870
  3. May 21 - 31, 1870
  4. June 1 - 16, 1870
  5. June 17- 30, 1870
  6. July, 1870
  7. August,-,October 23, 1870
  8. October 24 - 31, 1870
  9. November - December, 1870
Box 11: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. 1871
  2. January - June 19, 1872
  3. June 20 - July 12 ,1872
  4. July 13 - 31, 1872
  5. August 1 - 22, 1872
  6. August 23 - 31, 1872
  7. September 1 - 12, 1872
  8. September 13 - 22, 1872
  9. September 23 - 22, 1872
  10. October 1 - 17, 1872
  11. October 18 - 31, 1872
  12. November - December 1872
Box 12: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. 1873 - 1874
  2. January - June 5 1875
  3. June 6 - 22, 1875
  4. June 23 - December, 1875
  5. January - June, 1876
  6. July - December, 1879
  7. 1878 - July 1879
  8. August - December 1879
  9. January - April 15 1880
  10. April 16 - 30, 1880
  11. May - September 24, 1880
  12. September 25 - 30, 1880
  13. October 1 - 7, 1880
  14. October 8 - 31, 1880
  15. November - December, 1880
Box 13: Correspondence

Folder:
  1. January - March 7, 1881
  2. March 8 - 23, 1881
  3. March 24, 1881 - 1886
  4. January - July 13, 1887
  5. July 14 - 23, 1887
  6. July 24, 1887 - 1888
  7. 1889 - 1912
  8. Scope and contents: One of the items included in this folder is a printed birthday poem sent from Newton M. Mann to Maria Porter on her 88th birthday, in October of 1893.
    Provenance: This letter was purchased as part of a May 2015 accrual.
  9. undated letters
  10. undated letters
  11. undated letters
Box 14:

Folder:
  1. Invitations, 1873 - 1876; undated
  2. Incomplete Letters and Autographs
  3. Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society, Constitution
  4. Address, re: Chattel Slavery and the Scriptures
  5. Miscellaneous
  6. Memorabilia
  7. Will of Noah Griswold, March 26, 1787
  8. Land Surveys, 1824; undated
  9. Poems of Isabella J. Porter
  10. Business Papers of Joseph Farley Jr., 1884 -1895
  11. Business Papers of Porter Farley, 1870 - 1889
  12. Financial Papers, 1777 - 1854
  13. Receipts, 1843 - 1880
  14. Legal Documents, 1776 - 1799
  15. Legal Documents, 1800 - 1841
  16. Wills of Samuel Porter II, and related papers, 1810 - 1840
  17. Cabinet card portrait of Maria Porter, ca. 1880s
  18. Scope and contents: This photographs has the inscription: "aunt Maria Porter" on the back. The photograph was taken by J. W. Taylor on 152 East Main Street, Rochester, New York.
    Provenance: This letter was purchased as part of a May 2015 accrual.