Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Farley Family Papers, 1761-1902

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, October 2009

Summary Information
Title: Farley family papers
Creator: Farley family
Inclusive dates: 1761-1902
Bulk dates: 1781-1856
Extent: 0.5 linear feet
The Farley family papers contain the letters and legal documents of a well-educated Boston family during the first half of the 19th century. Among the family letters are items from Henry Wise Farley, living in Louisiana and Texas, that provide an interesting case of a northerner from a family with anti-slavery slavery sentiments becoming increasingly supportive of the southern slave labor system. The few letters from the period of the War of 1812 reflect the family's Federalist, anti-war sympathies.
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:

1992-1997. M-2813, M-2871, M-3359.11.

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.

Preferred Citation:

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


This collection is organized into three series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Documents
  • Series III: Miscellaneous.

The series are ordered chronologically with undated material at the end.


During the first half of the 19th century, the well-educated Farley family lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where they had ties to the shipping trade.

Major General Michael Farley held several public offices: he was active in the Massachusetts General Court; he served as a delegate to the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts (1774-1775); he was the sheriff of Essex; and he was a member of the State House of Representatives. During the Revolutionary War, Farley fought for the Continental Army and was appointed to major general of the Militia of Massachusetts in 1777. He died on June 20, 1789, at age 70.

Michael Farley's son, Jabez Farley (c.1755-1836), lived in Ipswich and had two wives and nineteen children. His first wife Lucy Rogers, daughter of Nathaniel Rogers, died in childbirth in 1788. His second wife was Susanna Swasey (c.1768-1843), daughter of Major Joseph Swasey (d. 1817). Jabez fought with the minutemen in the Revolutionary War.

Henry Wise Farley was born in 1795 to Jabez and Susanna Farley. He studied medicine at Harvard and graduated in 1815. Shortly thereafter, Henry moved west, settling successively in Ohio, Arkansas, and Louisiana. He eventually gave up his medical practice, having found a surplus of physicians in the west. Between the mid-1820s and 1830s, he ran a sugar plantation in Louisiana, originally using only free labor, in keeping with the anti-slavery sentiments of his family. As time went on, however, he became an increasingly vehement defender of slavery. He migrated to the Republic of Texas, where he briefly served as surgeon to the Republican army. He died in 1892.

Henry's sister, Susan Charlotte (1809-1858), remained in Boston until 1834, when she, too, migrated to the west, settling in Michigan. Susan Farley was an observant, highly literate woman, who commented extensively on both political and family matters. Among the 19 Farley siblings were Jabez Farley Jr., Amy Farley (who lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts), and Lucy Mary Farley (who was living in Boston by 1821). Also mentioned in the letters are James A. Farley, who was a nephew of Henry, and Tacy Anna Bevan Stacey (1774-1831), sister-in-law of Susanna Swasey Farley. Many members of the Farley family were buried in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Farley family papers contain the letters and legal documents of a well-educated Boston family during the first half of the 19th century. The collection consists of 153 letters, 128 legal documents, and 3 miscellaneous items. Though the collection contains a few documents relating to Jabez and Susanna Farley, the focus of the collection, particularly the letters, are their children Susan and Henry.

The earliest items in the Correspondence series are addressed to "Sukey" (Susanna) Swasey and her brother Joseph Swasey from several people: their uncle George Stacey living in Newbury Park, Massachusetts; their sister-in-law Mrs. Tacy Anna (Bevan) Stacey, who was living in Chester, Pennsylvania; and from friend Judith Foster.

Henry's earliest letter is from 1810; it was written to his father Jabez Farley, while Henry was living away from his family and working for a Mr. Safford. He mentioned having Thanksgiving on November 22, 1810 (Tuesday). The bulk of Henry's letters, however, are addressed to his brother Jabez. Henry Farley's letters include a small number concerning his medical practice in the west, and are a fine resource for the study of a northern migrant to the Deep South. His letters from both Louisiana and Texas provide information of the social life and economy of the South, and document an interesting case of a northerner from a family with anti-slavery slavery sentiments becoming increasingly wedded to the slave labor system. Susan Farley's letters provide a literate and occasionally witty commentary on politics, social life, and family life in Boston. The few letters from the period of the War of 1812 reflect the family's Federalist, anti-war sympathies.

The Documents series (1761-1902) contains 128 legal documents, including a large number of Ipswich deed transfers. The items between 1761 and 1782 primarily involve General Michael Farley's land transactions. The 1782-1808 items record the transactions of Joseph Swasey and Jabez Farley. A contract from 1813 verifies an agreement for mill work between Jabez Farley and Joel Smith. Many of the early 19th century documents concern Jabez Farley's role as justice of the peace and assistant assessor for the district of Ipswich, and his various appointments, including that of notary public. The documents from 1829-1834 are primarily shipping inventories and receipts of the Brig Quill and the Schooner Eagle , created by Master of Accounts Thomas Farley.

The Miscellaneous series includes a family record for the Kilton family (c.1850), a typed record for Lucas Kelton from the Revolutionary rolls in the War Department, and an undated document from Sylvanus Butten describing the faults of Benjamin W. Ford.

Subject Terms

    • Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
    • Conveyancing--Massachusetts.
    • Eagle (Schooner)
    • Justices of the peace--Massachusetts.
    • Louisiana--History--1803-1865.
    • Louisiana --Social life and customs--19th. century.
    • Medicine--Practice.
    • Real property--Massachusetts--Ipswich.
    • Shipping--Accounting.
    • Slavery--Economic aspects--Southern States.
    • Southern States--Commerce.
    • Southern States--Economic conditions.
    • Southern States--Social life and customs.
    • Texas--History--Republic, 1836-1846.
    • Texas--Social life and customs--19th. century.
    • Thanksgiving Day.
    • United States--History--War of 1812.
    • Whites--Southern States--Attitudes.
    • Butten, Sylvanus.
    • Farley, Henry Wise, 1795-1892.
    • Farley, Jabez.
    • Farley, Michael.
    • Farley, Susan Charlotte, 1809-1858.
    • Farley, Thomas.
    • Foster, Judith.
    • Kelton, Lucas.
    • Stacey, George.
    • Stacy, Tacy Anna Bevan.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Military records.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folder   1
     May 17, 1781-May 2, 1792
    Box   1 Folder   2
     October 29, 1792-July 4, 1798
    Box   1 Folder   3
     November 7, 1800-April 17, 1802
    Box   1 Folder   4
     January 15, 1809-May 2, 1812
    Box   1 Folder   5
     November 12, 1813-December 2, 1814
    Box   1 Folder   6
     September 29, 1815-December 29, 1817
    Box   1 Folder   7
     March 3, 1818-May 23, 1821
    Box   1 Folder   8
     October 4, 1821-November 24, 1822
    Box   1 Folder   9
     January 4, 1823-November 15, 1824
    Box   1 Folder   10
     February 16-December 11, 1825
    Box   1 Folder   11
     February 26-December 28, 1826
    Box   1 Folder   12
     April 4, 1827-August 18, 1829
    Box   1 Folder   13
     April 21, 1830-November 24, 1831
    Box   1 Folder   14
     January 7, 1832-August 16, 1833
    Box   1 Folder   15
     August 26-December 31, 1833
    Box   1 Folder   16
     January 16-March 20, 1834
    Box   1 Folder   17
     May 13-September 13, 1834
    Box   1 Folder   18
     November 1, 1834-December 10, 1835
    Box   1 Folder   19
     May 6, 1836-May 3, 1838
    Box   1 Folder   20
     January 20-November 26, 1839
    Box   1 Folder   21
     June 26, 1840-September 3, 1841
    Box   1 Folder   22
     February 19, 1842-May 23, 1843
    Box   1 Folder   23
     January 26, 1844-June 23, 1848
    Box   1 Folder   24
     December 2, 1854-August 7, 1856
    Box   1 Folder   25
    Documents [series]
    Box   1 Folder   26
     July 4, 1761-March 8, 1779
    Box   1 Folder   27
     August 18, 1780-October 29, 1792
    Box   1 Folder   28
     [February 27, 1796]-[1808]
    Box   1 Folder   29
     December 29, 1809-September 3, 1814
    Box   1 Folder   30
     August 28, 1815-June 1, 1819
    Box   1 Folder   31
     June 28, 1821-June 10, 1826
    Box   1 Folder   32
     April 30, 1829-February 28, 1831
    Box   1 Folder   33
     March 29-May 23, 1831
    Box   1 Folder   34
     August 12, 1831-September 28, 1832
    Box   1 Folder   35
     October 2-November 13, 1832
    Box   1 Folder   36
     November 13, 1832-April 24, 1833
    Box   1 Folder   37
     June 21, 1833-April 18, 1834
    Box   1 Folder   38
     April 21, 1834-January 1, 1841
    Box   1 Folder   39
     February 21, 1854-1902
    Box   1 Folders   40-41
    Miscellaneous [series]
    Box   1 Folder   42
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    The following map is housed in the Clements Library Map Division:

    Smith, Ammi. This plat of lands belonging to Jabez Farley esq contains thirty square rods and was taken from a scale of two rods to one inch. Ipswich, Massachusetts, 1818.

    Related Materials

    The Milne Special Collections at the University of New Hampshire Library has a collection of Farley Family letters.