Woodbury Family Papers, 1833-1887 – MS094

Woodbury Family Papers, 1833-1887 – MS094

Provenance: The Woodbury Family Papers were a bequest of the estate of Joseph Frost in 2008.

Citation: Woodbury Family Papers, (MS094), Portsmouth Athenaeum

Size: 1/2 Hollinger boxes [3 linear inches]

Processed by: Susan Stowe Kindstedt in 2009

Scope and Content

The Woodbury Family Papers is largely correspondence and has been broken down into two sections of correspondence. The first are letters written from Charles Levi Woodbury to his father Levi Woodbury. These letters, written while both were often away from Portsmouth, discuss personal health as well as political and financial matters. The second group of letters are from other individuals. These letters range from letters from family members, discussing family health and personal matters, to letters to the law office of Rantoul, Woodbury and Upham. The letters in this section are rather disjointed. There are several letters reflecting on the 1851 death of Levi Woodbury. The second part of the collection includes manuscript travel writings and an index of published and unpublished works by Levi Woodbury. There are also materials related to the death and estate of Levi Woodbury.

Related Materials

MS014 Charles Levi Woodbury Papers

Biographical Notes

Levi Woodbury (2 Dec 1789-1851) was born in Francestown, NH in Dec. 2, 1789. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1809. He studied law with numerous prominent lawyers including Jeremiah Smith of Exeter. He opened a practice in Francestown in 1812 and was chosen clerk of the New Hampshire Senate in 1816. At the young age of 26 he was appointed justice on the New Hampshire Supreme Court. In 1819 he moved to Portsmouth after marrying Elizabeth Clapp. He lived in a large mansion on what is now Woodbury Ave (the house was demolished in the 1960s and is now occupied by an elderly housing complex). He left the supreme court in 1823 when he was elected governor. He later served as a United States Senator, Secretary of the Navy and Treasury Secretary. He was also an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1844 and 1848. He died in Portsmouth in 1851.

Charles Levi Woodbury (22 May 1820 – July 1898) was born and educated in Portsmouth. He studied at Georgetown University and was admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia at the age of eighteen. Woodbury never married. After passing the bar, Woodbury studied law in Hayneville, Alabama, for several years. In about 1845 he settled in Boston and began to practice law with the firm Rantoul, Woodbury and Upham. A Democrat, he apparently had no political ambition for office, declining a foreign mission to Bolivia offered by President Franklin Pierce in 1853. He did attend conventions and campaigned for the Democratic party throughout his life. Woodbury held several judicial position in Massachusetts. He was admitted to the bar of the supreme court in Boston on a motion by Daniel Webster; from 1858-61 he served as U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts. He was an avid student of history and law, writing for magazines on such subjects as reciprocity with Canada and the decay of U.S. navigation. In 1852 he edited the writings of his father Levi; he also researched his family genealogy, published after his death by his sister Ellen. He was involved as a Mason in Massachusetts, and was a proprietor of the Portsmouth Athenaeum. He inherited his father’s library and was active as a book collector. In 1872 the great fire of Boston destroyed a large portion of his books, about half of which were rare books and incunabula. He bequeathed his library to the Athenaeum in 1899. The Woodbury mansion in Portsmouth was the family’s summer home until Levi Woodbury’s death in 1851. Elizabeth Woodbury inhabited the home until her death in 1873, after which it was not used by the family. Charles Woodbury died in Boston in 1898 and was buried in the family plot at Harmony Grove.

Folder List

Folder 1 Correspondence from Levi Woodbury to Charles Levi Woodbury

1833 April 18 from Memphis, Tennessee describes his travel through rural Tennessee and Arkansas, along the Mississippi River and references goods to be sold in New Orleans

1843 March 26 written while Charles Levi was in Hayneville, Alabama

1843 June 10 written while Charles Levi was in Hayneville, Alabama and Levi was in Portsmouth, discusses politics, the state convention

1849 Feb 11 written while Charles Levi was in Boston

1849 May 1 Charles Levi is in Boston, Levi discusses his poor health

1843 May 14 discusses business in Portsmouth including prominent figures

1850 January 7 discusses family in Portsmouth and Levi’s poor health, Charles Levi Woodbury is still in Boston

1850 February 26 written while Levi was in Washington, DC

1850 December 22 discusses “the President’s message” and politics, Charles Levi is in Boston, Levi is in Washington, DC

1850 December 14 written while Levi is in Washington, DC discusses the president and politics, as well as the “Episcopal Fever”

1850 December 25 authorizes Charles Levi to represent Levi Woodbury in financial matters related to his stock investments [3 items]

1851 February 8 discusses politics, written from the “Supreme Court Room” in Washington, DC

Folder 2 Other Correspondence 1842-1850

1842 July 15 C W Woodbury to Levi Woodbury

1844 April 22 H [?] Smith to Charles Levi Woodbury, regarding collection of money owed

1845 Sept 26 Elizabeth Hipsley (West Boylston, MA) to Rantoul and Dustin, regarding disputes in settling the estate of Mr. Creed

1845 Oct 7 Robert Charles Mannus to Robert Rantoul (Boston, MA), regarding money paid to him through his lawyer Theodore Otis in Boston

1846 May 6 Sylvestor Smith to Rantoul, Woodbury and Upham, regarding a disputed legal matter

1847 Nov 13 A P S to Charles Levi Woodbury, regarding the writings of Levi Woodbury

1847 Dec 16 B F Butler to Charles Levi Woodbury, regarding the US District Court case vs. Charles H. Parsons

1848 Feb 18 T. O. Barnes [brother in law of Hon. Levi Woodbury] to Charles Levi Woodbury, discusses the nomination of P. R. George, the Admiralty Bill and politics

1849 Dec 28 Asa Clapp (A L E Clapp is Charles Levi’s cousin) to Charles Levi Woodbury, Asa is writing from the Isle of Malta in the Mediterranean, discusses his voyage from Liverpool to London, Paris, and Malta

1849 Dec 29 A L E Clapp to Charles Levi Woodbury, Bill of Lading for one cask of wine

1850 Levi Woodbury to S F Putnam, instructs not to go to pilot boat without coming to see Rantoul first

1850 May 11 F [?] J Smith to Charles Levi Woodbury, request to forward testimony from Dr. Jackson

1850 May 21 Mrs. Levi Woodbury to Charles Levi Woodbury

1850 Nov 4 Edmund Rouke [?] to Charles Levi Woodbury

Folder 3 Other Correspondence 1851-undated

1851 Nov 30 Mrs. A H Lowery to Charles Levi Woodbury, family matters and the safe arrival of family for a visit

1851 Sept 6 Caleb Stark to Charles Levi Woodbury, condolences on the death of Levi Woodbury

1851 Dec 16 Sidney Webster to Charles Levi Woodbury, regarding the city of Washington and politics

1852 Nov 9 George T. Wright to Charles Levi Woodbury, condolences and reflections on the life of Levi Woodbury

1853 March 15 M. Blair to Charles Levi Woodbury, condolences on the death of Levi Woodbury

1853 Aug 15 Montgomery Blair to Charles Levi Woodbury, regarding the monument in honor of Levi Woodbury

1853 Sept 8 — Petty (Mrs. Fox) to Charles Levi Woodbury, regarding financial matters of Elizabeth Woodbury

1854 Feb 14 Francis W Upham to Charles Levi Woodbury, regarding travel in Europe (starting in Liverpool)

1854 Dec 19 A Clapp to Charles Levi Woodbury, regarding recruiting Thomas H. Benton to speak at the Portland, Maine Mercantile Library Association

1854 Dec Charles Levi Woodbury to Augusta Woodbury, congratulations on recent marriage

1855 June 2 Mrs. Fox to her brother Charles Levi Woodbury, regarding a property legal matter

1855 June 18 George Marey to Charles Levi Woodbury, “I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter…relative to foreign enlistments by British Agents within the United States.”

1855 Aug 13 Mrs. Fox (sister of Charles) to Charles Levi Woodbury, family matters and social

1863 Jan 16 James Hale to Charles Levi Woodbury,

1880 March 9 Serena D. Nickerson to Charles Levi Woodbury, regarding a redesign of the state seal

1887 Feb 16 Woodbury Blair to Charles Levi Woodbury, family and financial matters

Undated Mrs. Levi Woodbury to Charles Levi Woodbury, illness in the family and other family matters

Folder 4 Secretary of the Navy Materials

1832 Aug 20 [handwritten copy] Correspondence regarding an order from Commodore Henley to pay off the Crew of the Vincennes

1832 Oct 30 Regarding pay request from ship carpenter J. A. Dickason and James Davis (sailmaker)

Undated Letter cover addressed to Lieut. Henry K. Thatcher

Undated fragment with small hand drawn portraits

Folder 5 Travel Writings 1833

Manuscripts, some written as letters to his wife, dated 1833 during travel in Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama and other locations in the middle of the country. Letters discuss the wilderness qualities of the area and the people he is in contact with as he travels by steamboat.

Folder 6 Cruise of the Baltic

Handwritten manuscript titled: “For the Knickerbocker – Cruise of the U.S. Schooner Baltic”

Folder 7 Writings of Levi Woodbury

Handwritten manuscript titled: “An Index to the Writings of Hon. Judge Levi Woodbury. Divided into Political, Judicial and Literary”

Folder 8 Levi Woodbury Memorial Materials

Folder 9 Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous receipts and fragments