Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Sears Family Papers, 1767-1848

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, April 2010

Summary Information
Title: Sears family papers
Creator: Sears family
Inclusive dates: 1767-1848
Extent: 0.75 linear feet
The Sears family papers contain the financial records and correspondence of Peter Sears, who owned a general store in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and his adopted son, Peter, who settled in Dexter, Michigan.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1973. M-1635, M-1636.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Alternate Format:

The collection has been microfilmed.

Preferred Citation:

Sears Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Sears family papers are arranged into five series:

  • Correspondence
  • School Compositions and Writings
  • Documents
  • Account Books
  • Financial Records and Receipts


Captain Peter Sears was born July 29, 1743, in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, the son of Lieutenant Zachariah Sears and his wife, Mehitable Crowell. He married Thankful Howes on January 12, 1769. Childless, they adopted a nephew, Peter Sears (1787-1867), son of Rowland Sears of Ashfield, Massachusetts. The elder Sears worked in the whaling industry before retiring from the sea and running a general store dealing in rum, salt, and other items. In 1789, he served as selectman for Yarmouth. Around 1800, the Sears family moved to Ashfield, Massachusetts, and the elder Peter Sears died there two years later, on July 22, 1802. Young Peter Sears held the rank of lieutenant in the Massachusetts militia for several decades. He married Lucy Fuller in 1808 and left Ashfield in the early 1820s, moving first to Boston and, by 1826, to Dexter, Michigan, where he ran a large and successful farm. The couple had eight sons and two daughters.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Sears family papers contain 31 letters, 21 account books, 20 legal documents, 9 school writings, and 360 receipts, spanning 1767-1848.

The Correspondence series primarily covers two periods of time: 1771-1806 (21 letters) and 1832-1842 (10 letters). Relatives of the elder Peter Sears and his wife Thankful wrote many of the letters dating to the earlier period, concerning family news and health. An early undated letter, written by Salley Sears during the Revolutionary War, conveys the news that one of Peter Sears' brothers had been captured and transported to Charleston, South Carolina. On September 12, 1802, Joseph Sears wrote a letter to Thankful, acknowledging Peter Sears' death and expressing sympathy. Several other letters of this period contain orders for salt from Peter Sears' store. The younger Peter Sears is the recipient of all of the later correspondence; relatives who had settled across the Midwest, in towns such as Kalamazoo, Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Perrysburg, Ohio, wrote to him with updates on their new lives. A common theme in the letters is the hardships they faced as early settlers.

The Documents series contains 20 items ranging in date from 1770-1853, including three wills, several legal documents relating to land in Washtenaw County, and two items relating to the younger Sears' service in the Massachusetts Militia. The Account Books series encompasses records for Peter Sears' store in Yarmouth from 1768-1794, which list items that he bought for himself, as well as orders that he placed for others.

The Receipts and Financial Records series is by far the largest, and spans 1770-1849. Records from 1770 to 1802 show the types of items that Peter Sears stocked in his store, as well as well as his network of suppliers. After 1802, the financial materials relate to the younger Peter Sears; they document his purchases, payment of taxes, sale of land prior to leaving for Michigan, and debts.

Subject Terms

    • Ann Arbor (Mich.)
    • Ashfield (Mass.)
    • Decedents estates--Massachusetts.
    • Dennis (Mass.)
    • Dexter (Mich.)
    • Frontier and pioneer life--Michigan.
    • Frontier and pioneer life--Ohio.
    • General stores--Massachusetts--Yarmouth.
    • General stores.
    • Kalamazoo (Mich.)
    • Massachusetts. Militia.
    • Massachusetts--Commerce.
    • Merchants--Massachusetts.
    • Perrysburg (Ohio)
    • Shipping--Massachusetts.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Prisoners and prisons.
    • Wills--Massachusetts.
    • Yarmouth (Mass.)
    Genre Terms:
    • Financial records.
    • Legal documents.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Correspondence [series]
     June 7, 1771-November 19, 1842 (6 folders)
    Box   1  
    School compositions and writings [series]
    ca.  1840s
    Box   1  
    Documents [series]
     October 1770-1853 (5 folders)
    Box   1  
    Account books [series]
     1768-1794 (7 folders)
    Receipts and financial records [series]
    Box   1  
     April 1770-December 1779 (8 folders)
    Box   2  
     June 18, 1800-January 31, 1849 (11 folders)
     Undated (3 folders)