Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William Jenks Collection, 1794-1884

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, December 2009

Summary Information
Title: William Jenks collection
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: 1794-1884
Bulk dates: 1794-1868
Extent: 1.5 linear feet
The William Jenks collection consists of letters, financial documents, prayer notes, and miscellaneous items related to the prominent New England Congregational clergyman, biblical and oriental scholar, and social reformer William Jenks.
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:

1935-2005. M-260, M-763, M-1240, M-1775, M-1898, M-2491, M-2662a, M-2701b, M-2713.2, M-2724.1, M-2747, M-2810, M-2828.2, M-2891, M-2921.1, M-3339, M-3342, M-3489, M-4089.1, M-4103.1, M-4118.1, M-4468.1.

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:

William Jenks Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized into five series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Receipts, Documents, Reports, and Notes
  • Series III: Prayer Notes
  • Series IV: Miscellaneous Notes
  • Series V: Printed Material

Each series is ordered chronologically with undated items in the end.


William Jenks, the noted American scholar and clergyman, was born in Newton, Massachusetts, to Samuel and Mary Haynes Jenks in 1778. He studied at the Boston Latin School and graduated from Harvard in 1797. Jenks held pastorates in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was ordained at the Congregational Church in Bath, Maine, in 1805. There he also served as an army chaplain for the Bath Light Infantry (1st Regiment, 1st Brigade, of the 11th Division) during the War of 1812 and was a professor of Oriental Language and English at Bowdoin College from 1812-1816. Jenks next returned to Boston where he taught privately and was active in a number of humanitarian reform efforts, such as founding a mission for seamen and opening the Mariner's Church on Central Wharf. Jenks was also the chaplain for the Massachusetts senate from 1827-1828.

Between 1826 and 1845, Jenks was the pastor for the Green Street Church; he augmented his ministry through his religious and political writings. His theses include the important Comprehensive Commentary on the Holy Bible, 6 vols. (1835-1838), the anti-Jeffersonian Memoir of the Northern Kingdom (1808), and Bible Atlas and Gazetteer (1847). Jenks received many honorary degrees, including a doctorate of divinity from Harvard Divinity School (1845). Although Jenks was best known for his biblical and oriental scholarship, his interests were far ranging. He was a founder of the American Antiquarian Society and the American Oriental Society, and a prominent member of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

Jenks married Betsey Russell (1783-1850) of Boston in 1799; they had 16 children: Elizabeth Russell, Theodore, Sarah Judith, Frederick Craigie, Joseph William, John Henry, Francis Haynes, Russell Edward, Harriet Newell, Mary Susanna, Mary Elizabeth, Lemuel Pope, Cornelia Hood, Nathaniel Frederick, Adeline Matilda, and Craigie Phillips. William Jenks died in 1866.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The William Jenks collection (972 items) consists of letters, financial documents, prayer notes, and miscellaneous items, related to the prominent New England Congregational clergyman, biblical and oriental scholar, and social reformer William Jenks. The collection includes 884 letters (122 undated), 37 official and financial documents, 37 prayer notes and miscellaneous items, and 14 printed documents.

The Correspondence series (884 items) largely consists of personal letters addressed to Jenks and his wife from friends, colleagues, parishioners, and family members. Religious themes are apparent throughout. Many of the earliest items are from Jenks' brothers John, Samuel, and Francis Jenks; other pre-1805 items from colleagues and concerned parents of students concern his teaching career in Cambridge. For example, Sarah Dunlap of Salem, Massachusetts, described a treatment for her son's "bad quincey" (swelling of the throat), so that Jenks could administer it while her son was under his care (June 4, 1800). Other ministry-related items include an invitation to "dance at the house of Mr. Lyman" from the Committee of the Congregational Society in Bath, Maine, received just before Jenks' move to Maine (December 17, 1805). While in Maine, Jenks received letters from his parishioners and other members of Bath society, as well as from his old friends and business colleagues in Boston and Cambridge. Jenks wrote a few of the letters in the collection, including a warm and affectionate letter to his wife (September 7, 1811). In another letter, dated April 15, 1812, Jenks implored someone to care for an African-American friend in need of assistance. Jenks also received a letter recommending John Gloucester (the first African-American ordained Presbyterian priest) as a possible leader of missionary work in Africa (January 31, 1815).

The bulk of the letters related to Betsey Jenks are from her sister, Sally Belknap Russell (later married to a man named Pope). Sally discussed the sickness and death of their father Ezekiel Russell, life in Boston, and other personal matters. Particularly after 1808, various brothers, sisters, cousins, and the Jenks children wrote many of the family letters. Though these are warm and affectionate, they also contain news of the deaths of parents, siblings and spouses. For example, the June 24, 1810, item is from Jenks’ sister Abigail Dana describing her husband's suicide. Also of note are three letters regarding a servant who was trying to hide from her abusive husband (October 6, 1807; November 12, 1807 Nov 12; and November 1807).

Letters from the 1820s through the 1840s contain materials related to various speaking engagements in Massachusetts and invitations to the meetings of area historical societies. Also present are business letters and circulars from the many societies and churches in which Jenks held memberships; these concern diverse topics, such as staffing issues and library collections. During this time, Jenks also maintained correspondence with his children and siblings. His son wrote several letters in 1831 about travels in Spain, Marseilles, Malta, and Sicily. Also of note is a letter in which Jenks discussed a sinking ship near the North Pole (December 3, 1829), and another that contains notes on the "correct" version of the English language Bible (July 17, 1835). Jenks discussed Cotton Mather's Wonders of the Invisible World, referring to it as being "published immediately after the Witchcraft Excitement in 1693" (June 26, 1841).

Many of the items from the late 1840s through the 1860s, and almost all of the letters written after Jenks' death in 1866, are related to Jenks’ son Lemuel. In one, Lemuel described in detail a religious festival in Manzanas, Cuba (April 5, 1848). In another, Craigie Jenks described his service in the 7th Regiment of the Kansas Militia during the Civil War (October 25, 1864). Five items dated after Jenks' death are addressed to William Jenk's daughter, Sarah Judith Jenks, who married Jerome Merritt.

The Receipts, Documents, Reports, and Notes series (37 items) contains Jenks’ business documents, speeches, and financial papers.

Included are reports for social societies in which Jenks was with a member, such as:

  • Society for promoting historian knowledge (1816)
  • Boston Society for the Religions and Moral Instruction of the Poor (1821)
  • Massachusetts Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (1825)

The series contains addresses delivered to the Delta Young Mens Athenaeum by E. Maxwell Seal (1839) and the Bath Society for the Suppression of Public Vice (undated). This series also holds a copy of the law enacted by the Massachusetts state congress to bring William Jenks and others into the Society for the Religious and Moral Instruction of the Poor (1820) as well as 8 receipts, largely of payments to William Jenks for services rendered. Another item of interest is an 1852 list of Massachusetts church congregations (various denominations) noting increasing numbers of attendance from March 8 and April 12 because of added converts.

The Prayer Notes series (20 items) consists of small slips of paper with prayer requests for sick or recently departed family members of the church community. The minister usually read these during the church service. Though most of the notes are undated, one item is from 1815, when Jenks was at the Bath Congregational Church, and several others are from 1821, when he was at the chapel on Central Wharf.

The Miscellaneous Notes series (17 items) contains a variety of written and visual material. One item is a drawing of the Manana ("Mananas") Island Petroglyph (writing carved in stone by early Native Americans) with a description of the location and the inscription. Another is a two-page description of "Monhegan Island and of the inscription found there" (1851). Other notes include items in Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, and one other language that may be Phoenician or Aramaic. The genealogical item traces the line of Nathan Webb of Charlestown, starting with John Webb of Shrewsbury, England, 1531. Images include a plan of houses to be built on Atkinson St. [Boston] (1825), a sketch of a thatched roof cottage drawn by A.M. Jenks (1882), and a drawing of the Manana Island Petroglyph on a rock. A four-page account of travel to Russia, particularly St. Petersburg, is also noteworthy for its description of Russian landmarks and tourist attractions (undated).

The Printed Material series contains 14 items related to the religious, genealogical, and antiquarian societies with which Jenks was involved. Included are the rules and bylaws of the Eastern Society in Bath, Maine (1811); two religious pamphlets encouraging prostitutes to turn to Christianity (1824); a report of the "Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries to its British and American Members" (1836); a poem entitled The Worker, written by Jenks (1857); and The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 5, Number 4 (October 1851), pages 375-486. Images of William Jenkins and Alpheus Hardy, both undated, are also part of the series .

Subject Terms

    • African American missionaries--Africa.
    • African Americans--Education.
    • Antiquarians.
    • Bath (Me.)
    • Bereavement.
    • Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
    • Boston Society for the Moral and Religious Instruction of the Poor.
    • Bowdoin College.
    • Congregational Churches--Clergy.
    • Congregational Churches--Maine.
    • Congregational Churches--Massachusetts--Boston.
    • Brookfield (Mass. : Town)
    • Cambridge (Mass.)
    • Christian education.
    • Church management.
    • Concord (Sloop of war)
    • Congregational Church in Green Street (Boston, Mass.)
    • Congregational churches.
    • Death.
    • Education--Massachusetts--Cambridge.
    • Education--Parent participation.
    • Family life.
    • Fasts and feasts--Cuba--Manzanas.
    • Gloucester, John, 1776 or 7-1822.
    • Hardy, Alpheus, 1815-1887.
    • Kansas, Militia. Regiment, 7th.
    • Leavenworth (Kan.)
    • Manana Island (Me.)
    • Massachusetts Peace Society.
    • Massachusetts Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
    • Mediterranean Region--Description and travel.
    • Missions--Societies, etc.
    • Moline (Ill.)
    • Monhegan Island (Me.)
    • Orientalism.
    • Preaching.
    • Private libraries.
    • Religious education.
    • Sailors--Religious life.
    • Saint Petersburg (Russia)--Description and travel.
    • Suicide.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Vice control.
    • Women--Abuse of.
    • Brown, Oliver, 1760-1843.
    • Ellingwood, John W. (John Wallace), 1782-1860.
    • Jenks, Betsey, 1783-1850.
    • Jenks, Craigie, b. 1827.
    • Jenks, Francis.
    • Jenks, John Henry.
    • Jenks, Joseph William, 1808-1884.
    • Jenks, Lemuel, b. 1819.
    • Jenks, Mary, 1819-1838.
    • Jenks, Samuel.
    • Jenks, William, 1778-1866.
    • Pope, Sally.
    • Pratt, Josiah, 1768-1844.
    • Russell, Judith.
    • Russell, Nathaniel.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Notes.
    • Prayers.
    • Receipts (financial records)
    • Reports.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folder   1
     August 28, 1794-[Spring] 1800
    Folder   2  
     June 4, 1800-August 23, 1801
    Folder   3  
     October 17, 1801-May 31, 1802
    Folder   4  
     June 19, 1802-June 29, 1804
    Folder   5  
     July 30-December 3, 1804
    Folder   6  
     December 13, 1804-January 29, 1805
    Folder   7  
     May 28, 1805-March 12, 1806
    Folder   8  
     March 16-August 9, 1806
    Folder   9  
     August 27, 1806-January 18, 1807
    Folder   10  
     February 02-June 12, 1807
    Folder   11  
     July 12, 1807-January 10, 1808
    Folder   12  
     January 18-September 30, 1808
    Folder   13  
     October 7, 1808-July 8, 1809
    Folder   14  
     July 15, 1809-April 15, 1810
    Folder   15  
     June 7, 1810-May 21, 1811
    Folder   16  
     July 15-December 11, 1811
    Folder   17  
     February 4-October 22, 1812
    Folder   18  
     October 28, 1812-June 16, 1813
    Folder   19  
     July 8, 1813-July 4, [1814]
    Folder   20  
     July 18, 1814-[undated, 1814]
    Folder   21  
     January 2-April 30, 1815
    Folder   22  
     May 4-September 6, 1815
    Folder   23  
     September 20-December 17, 1815
    Folder   24  
     [undated, 1815]-September 24, 1816
    Folder   25  
     October 2, 1816-August 16, 1817
    Folder   26  
     September 12, 1817-January 16, 1818
    Folder   27  
     January 22-December 10, 1818
    Folder   28  
     December 10, 1818-January 31, 1820
    Folder   29  
     February 8-December 16, 1820
    Folder   30  
     Undated, 1820-December 28, 1821
    Folder   31  
     January 4-December 7, 1822
    Folder   32  
     December 29, 1822-October 30, 1823
    Folder   33  
     November 14, 1823-July 17, 1824
    Folder   34  
     August 3-November 27, 1824
    Folder   35  
     December 4, 1824-June 16, 1825
    Box   2 Folder   1
     July 7, 1825-July 31, 1826
    Folder   2  
     November 8, 1826-May 17, 1827
    Folder   3  
     July 7, 1827-July 15, 1828
    Folder   4  
     September 3, 1828-March 24, 1829
    Folder   5  
     April 8-September 4, 1829
    Folder   6  
     October 8, 1829-February 10, 1830
    Folder   7  
     March 13-September 21, 1830
    Folder   8  
     October 23, 1830-June 25, 1831
    Folder   9  
     July 3-November 5, 1831
    Folder   10  
     January 9-April 17, 1832
    Folder   11  
     May 17, 1832-November 3, 1833
    Folder   12  
     December 19, 1833-July 17, 1835
    Folder   13  
     August 11, 1835-June 28, 1836
    Folder   14  
     July 13, 1836-April 11, 1838
    Folder   15  
     May 25, 1838-September 5, 1840
    Folder   16  
     October 7, 1840-April 21, 1841
    Folder   17  
     May 3-October 23, 1841
    Folder   18  
     January 8, 1842-January 21, 1843
    Folder   19  
     February 11-August 12, 1843
    Folder   20  
     August 31, 1843-April 30, 1844
    Folder   21  
     April 1844-April 1, 1845
    Folder   22  
     May 2, 1845-February 5, 1847
    Folder   23  
     August 11, 1847-April 5, 1848
    Folder   24  
     May 23, 1848-June 20, 1849
    Folder   25  
     June 30, 1849-February 6, 1851
    Folder   26  
     July 2, 1851-June 29, 1852
    Folder   27  
     August 26, 1852-August 3, 1853
    Folder   28  
     September 26, 1853-May 23, 1854
    Folder   29  
     June 16-November 8, 1854
    Folder   30  
     December 19, 1854-May 28, 1855
    Folder   31  
     June 8, 1855-June 19, 1856
    Folder   32  
     July 14, 1856-July 28, 1858
    Folder   33  
     October 12-November 23, 1858
    Folder   34  
     November 24, 1858-May 30, 1859
    Folder   35  
     June 11, 1859-November 30, 1860
    Folder   36  
     December 20, 1860-January 29, 1862
    Folder   37  
     February 3, 1862-November 5, 1863
    Folder   38  
     November 10, 1863-November 25, 1864
    Box   3 Folder   1
     January 2-December 31, 1865
    Folder   2  
     January 25, 1866-January 4, 1868
    Folder   3  
     February 1, 1868-July 4, 1884
    Folders   4-13  
    Receipts, Documents, Reports, and Notes [series]
    Folder   14  
     October 19, 1816-October 17, 1821
    Folder   15  
     January 14, 1823-November 12, 1828
    Folder   16  
     December 31, 1830-April 12, 1852
    Folder   17  
     May 1855 January 1, 1859, and  Undated
    Folder   18  
    Prayer Notes [series]
    Folder   19  
    Miscellaneous Notes [series]
    Folder   20  
     December 11, 1807-January 1822 and  undated
    Folder   21  
    Printed Materials [series]
    Folder   22  
     1811-June 2, 1854
    Folder   23  
    Folder   24  
     October 1851
    Folder   25  
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    The following broadside is held in the Clements Library's Book Division:

    Smith, Samuel Francis. "America", the first printing of the national hymn and the very copy used by Pastor William Jenks ... July fourth, 1831: A broadside printed as program... [Merion station, Pa.]: The American autograph shop, 1936.

    Related Materials

    The Clements Library has 10 books authored by Jenks and published in his lifetime (search for Jenks in Mirlyn, the University's online catalog).