Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Noah Phelps Papers, 1733-1790

Finding aid created by
Rachel K. Onuf, January 1998

Summary Information
Title: Noah Phelps papers
Creator: Phelps, Noah, 1740-1809
Inclusive dates: 1733-1790
Extent: 125 items
Abstract:
The Noah Phelps papers consist primarily of materials relating to Phelps' service as a Continental Army Captain during the American Revolution, but also contain documents from his work surveying, and as justice of the peace in Simsbury, Connecticut.

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: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1997. M-3373.1.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Noah Phelps papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biography

The Phelps family were early settlers of Simsbury, Conn. Noah Phelps, born on January 22, 1740, was the fourth of David and Abigail Pettibone Phelps' nine children. David, who was the son of Joseph Phelps and his third wife, Mary Case (daughter of Richard), had married Abigail on April 25, 1731. David died of smallpox December 9, 1760, and his widow did not remarry until January 1, 1772, when she wed Deacon David Strong of Bolton. Noah did marry and have children, but the names of his wife and offspring are not known.

Noah was involved in the American Revolution from the very first days, as a "chief projector and principal actor" of the "Committee of War for the expedition against Ticonderoga and Crown Point." The Committee was formed in Hartford in late April 1775, and decided that the capture of Fort Ticonderoga was the best way to protect the northern perimeter and acquire much-needed stores. About 160 men, led by Ethan Allen, journeyed up to Lake Champlain. Although the victorious attack on the fort on May 10 is well-known, not many know of the crucial role Phelps took in the enterprise. Two days earlier, Captain (later General) Phelps had entered the fort as a spy: "Pretending that his object was to get shaved, he avoided suspicion, and had an opportunity to ascertain the construction, strength, and force of the garrison. And he had the good fortune to elude detection, though as it afterwards appeared, his presence had began [sic] to excite mistrust before he left the garrison." (History of Simsbury, Granby and Canton ..., 94-95) Phelps continued to serve for the duration of the war, and was promoted to Colonel. His brother, Captain Elisha Phelps, was a Commissary in the army until his death in 1776.

Noah Phelps was clearly a leader within the Simsbury community. He chaired the town meeting that passed the articles of confederation in January 1778, and in November of 1787, the meeting picked him and Daniel Humphrey Esq., as delegates for the Convention of the State of Connecticut, set to convene in Hartford in January and vote on whether or not to adopt the federal constitution. They were directed to oppose it, but "one of the delegates though voting as instructed by the town, took occasion to state that his personal convictions led him to favor the proposed constitution." (Stowe, 23). This might or might not have been Phelps. He held a variety of important positions, including Surveyor of lands in 1772 and 1783, Justice of the Peace for Hartford County in 1782, Judge of Probate in 1787, and Major-General of the Militia, 1796-1799. He died in 1809.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Noah Phelps papers consist primarily of materials relating to Phelps' service as a Captain during the American Revolution. There are bills for "refreshment of his company," "victualing and Liquor," and lodgings for his troops and horses, as well as a few receipts relating to Capt. Elisha Phelps, Noah's brother. There is an abstract of payment to soldiers of Capt. Noah Phelps' Company of Light Horse in Major Bull's Regiment for August 1777, as well as requests that Phelps "put up the pork" in Simsbury, and return all guns and bayonets to Governor Trumbull of Connecticut. There are accounts of loads of flour carted from Sharon to Simsbury, and an account of the quantities of pork and beef bought by Phelps. There are also a couple documents concerning mutinous soldiers.

There are two notebooks kept by Phelps when he was a surveyor. One from 1772 lists his travel expenses, and the other is an undated notebook filled with measurements he took in the greater Simsbury area. Several documents concern complaints he heard as Justice of the Peace. There are also copies of court records, including the case of Hezekiah Phelps Viets, who was charged in 1779 by Charity Hills of Windsor for "begetting her with child in fornication." There is also a document signed by the proprietors of Victory, Vt., naming Col. Noah Phelps as their legal agent in 1784.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Court records.
    • Fort Ticonderoga (N.Y.)--Capture, 1775.
    • Surveyors.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    Genre Terms:
    • Judicial records.
    • Land surveys.
    • Military records.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   1  
    Noah Phelps papers,  1733-1790 [series]:
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Bibliography

    Phelps, Noah Amherst. History of Simsbury, Granby and Canton, From 1642 to 1845. (Hartford : Press of Case, Tiffany and Burnham, 1845).

    Record of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution, War of 1812 and War with Mexico. (Hartford : Adjutant-General's Office, 1889).

    Stowe, Rev. Charles E. Simsbury's Part in the War of the American Revolution. (Hartford : Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1896).