Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Childe Family Papers, 1733-1908

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, December 2011

Summary Information
Title: Childe family papers
Creator: Childe family
Inclusive dates: 1733-1908
Extent: 38 items
The Childe family papers contain correspondence and documents primarily related to Zachariah Child of West Boylston, Massachusetts, and his son John; John later used the surname "Childe." Early documents relate to the family's land ownership in Shrewsbury and Boylston, Massachusetts, and later correspondence reflects John's career as a railroad engineer, as well as his second wife's efforts to compile his biography.
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:

1993. M-2971.10.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

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


The collection is arranged chronologically, with two undated items placed at the end.


Zachariah Child (1763-1845), the son of David Child and Mehitable Richardson of West Boylston, Massachusetts, served in the Revolutionary War. He married Lydia Bigelow (1764-1849) in 1784, and they had several children: Cynthia, Annis, Dolly, Walter, Lydia B. (who died after 4 weeks), Marcus (b. 1792), David Lee (1794-1874), Levi Bigelow, Lydia Bigelow, Susan, John (1802-1858), and Lucretia. David Lee Child became a lawyer and married author Lydia Maria Francis in 1828; in 1841, they moved to New York, where they published the Anti-Slavery Standard. Marcus Child married Lydia Chadwick and moved to Stanstead, Quebec, where he became a partner in a pharmaceutical business and a Provincial Parliament representative. John Child, who later added an e to his surname, entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1823, graduated in 1827, and left the Army as a captain in December 1835. Following his military service, he became a civil engineer and worked for several railroad companies; most notably, he was chief engineer during construction of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. His first wife, Laura Dwight, died on the Arctic in 1854; he married Ellen Wills Healy in 1856. He and Laura had two daughters: Lelia Maria, who died with her mother on the Arctic , and Maria Dwight. He had one son with Ellen: John Healy Childe (b. 1858), who married Jessie Duncan Clark around 1887.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Childe family papers contain correspondence and documents primarily related to Zachariah Child of West Boylston, Massachusetts, and his son John; John later used the surname "Childe." Until 1844, most items relate to landholdings belonging to Zachariah and David Child in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, including three manuscript maps of tracts in Shrewsbury and Boylston, several official indentures, and two unofficial indentures made in 1822 between Zachariah Child and Dorothy Thurston, a widow. The collection also holds correspondence addressed to John Childe (formerly Child) in Troy, New York; West Boylston, Massachusetts; and Springfield, Massachusetts, in the mid-19th century. His brother Marcus, who lived in Stanstead, Quebec, discussed the family's farm in West Boylston, as well as other legal matters, and officially designated John Childe his attorney at law (April 25, 1844).

Later letters primarily concern John Childe's engineering career, including congratulations from William B. Trotter after a recent legal triumph (February 20, 1857) and a letter from Childe to Mobile & Ohio Railroad President Judge Hopkins about the effects of financial regulations on railroad construction in the West and Southwest (March 17, 1856). His second wife, Ellen Healy Childe, received several letters following his death, documenting biographical details of his life, for use in a biographical sketch. These cover his early life and time in the military and include a contribution from his brother, David Lee Child (July 22, 1859). John Healy Childe also received a letter from Henry Clark, who agreed that his daughter Jessie could marry Childe (August 5, 1889). An undated "Family Record" gives birth and death dates for the family of Zachariah and Lydia Bigelow Child, and a brief biographical sketch of John Healy Childe.

Subject Terms

    • Family farms--Massachusetts.
    • Family life--Massachusetts.
    • Mobile and Ohio Railroad Company.
    • Railroads--United States.
    • Real property--Massachusetts.
    • Shrewsbury (Mass.)
    • Stanstead (Québec)
    • West Boylston (Mass.)
    • Child, David.
    • Child, David Lee, 1794-1874.
    • Childe, John, 1802-1858.
    • Childe, John Healy, b. 1858.
    • Child, Marcus.
    • Child, Zachariah, 1763-1845.
    Genre Terms:
    • Indentures.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Manuscript maps.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   12, Small Collections  
    Childe family papers [series]
    Folder   30  
     February 13, 1733-November 18, 1822
    Folder   31  
     March 8, 1844-March 31, 1847
    Folder   32  
     May 16, 1850-August 6, 1859
    Folder   33  
     November 7, 1861-October 13, 1908, and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    Three surveyors' maps are housed in the Clements Library Map Division.

    Related Materials

    The Lydia Maria Child papers belonged to John Childe's sister-in-law.


    Child, Elias. Genealogy of the Child, Childs, and Childe Families, of the Past and Present in the United States and the Canadas, from 1630 to 1881. Utica, New York: Curtiss & Childs, Printers, 1881.