John Atkinson papers  1742-1876 (bulk 1812-1840)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains business and personal papers of John Atkinson and his family, with the bulk of the items documenting their postwar business ventures in commercial trade, land speculation, and investments in the Bellows Falls Canal Company. Since Atkinson lived in New York City until 1819, the collection contains many detailed reports on the financing and operations of the canal company.

Business correspondence (includes letters to and from):

  • Alexander Fleming (1790-1867), husband to Atkinson’s daughter, Emma Seton
  • Francis Green, husband to Caroline Francis, cousin to Elizabeth Atkinson, and business partner with Alexander Fleming
  • Isaac and Richard Smith, business associates of John Atkinson
  • Charles Storer, Elizabeth's brother, who managed many of Atkinson's interests in Vermont and was the clerk of the canal corporation between 1804-1814
  • Joshua Wentworth, Atkinson's shipping agent stationed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Family letters (include personal and business correspondence to and from):

  • Betsy, John’s wife
  • John's brothers, Francis and Hodgson Atkinson
  • Daughters Mary Ann, Eliza, Emma, Caroline Francis
  • Sons John Jr., George, and William
  • George Atkinson, nephew of John

Beyond letters documenting Atkinson's business activities, this collection also accounts contemporary reactions of British merchants before, during, and after the Revolution. Letters from Joshua Wentworth, Atkinson's agent in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, describe difficulties procuring ships and transporting goods, before the war. John Atkinson, Jr. wrote several letters from New York City in the spring of 1813, in which he mentions events in the War of 1812, including the city's reception for the crew of the frigate United States , the blockading of the Atlantic coast, and seizure of coasters by the British. Many letters also contain domestic and social information written by Atkinson family women.

The Documents and Deeds series consists of various contracts, bills, inheritance documents, and land transfers. Included in this series are thirteen oversized items, all of which document the sale of land. Atkinson purchased land along the Delaware River in New York State; in Middle Island Creek in Ohio County, Virginia; in Ulysses, Pennsylvania; along the Cacapon River in Hampshire County, Western Virginia; and in Columbia Territory, Maryland. He sold land in Ontario, New York, and Bellows Falls, Vermont, to his son-in-law Alexander Fleming. The 1830 item is a deed recording the sale of Bellows Falls land by Fleming to his business partner Henry Green. These items not only document the transaction, but often describe the land's dimensions, characteristics, and previous ownership.

The Printed Documents series consists of four newspaper clippings.

The Miscellaneous series holds one item: a detached book front cover with J. Atkinson's name printed on the inside.

The Letter Books series contains three volumes of carbon copy letters concerning the management of George Atkinson’s property in America, including the canal company. They describe the toll that railroad traffic took on Bellows Falls Canal use. The first and second books, (October 10, 1836-September 17, 1840 and November 3, 1840-February 27, 1847, respectively) have alphabetical indexes of names mentioned in the books, while the third volume (March 12, 1847-September 15, 1849) has no index and is only ¼ full. The diary pages are extremely fragile and the texts are typically impressions from carbon paper copying except for the page numbers, which are in ink or pencil. The second and third volumes were kept by a J.L. Stackpole.

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