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Townsend family papers


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Samuel Townsend, businessman and prominent Delaware Democrat, was born on 31 October 1812 in St. George's Hundred, Delaware. He was the fifth child born to Samuel Townsend (1781?-1849) and Hannah Humphries Townsend (1782-1829), and his nine siblings included brothers John Townsend, Israel Townsend, and Edmund Townsend.

Samuel attended school until he was thirteen and left home at the age of seventeen to work on the Union Canal. After a brief career as a ship captain in the early 1830s, he returned to St. George's Hundred and began mining ore. He soon found more success in the timber industry and, with his brother John, began acquiring property in northern and central Delaware to further this business. Samuel married Ann Maria Hart (1816-1894) of Maryland in July of 1835, and the couple began raising a family. Between 1836 and 1854 they had six children, including twins Samuel Townsend (1836-1904) and James Townsend (1836-1836), Henrietta Townsend (1838-1858), Richard Townsend (b. 1839), Mary Ann Townsend Carter (1843-1928), and John Townsend (b. 1854). In the 1860s, Samuel refocused his business enterprises on the fruit industry and became a successful peach grower. He maintained orchards in Delaware and Kingston, Maryland, and exported canned peaches to New York.

Throughout his adult life, Samuel was a vibrant force in Delaware politics. In this respect historians have portrayed him as aggressive and public spirited, as well as a "cross for some Democrats to bear" (Hancock, p. 13). Samuel was outspoken and opinionated, submitting frequent editorials to Delaware newspapers and publishing political broadsides. He attended numerous state Democratic conventions and was a delegate to the national conventions in 1848 and 1852. In 1860, he was a key player in the controversy surrounding Delaware's delegation to the national convention in Charleston and Baltimore (see Hancock, p. 13-17). Throughout the Civil War he was an avid supporter of the Union cause, but did not advocate for the emancipation of slaves. During Reconstruction, Samuel helped found Delaware's White Man's Party, which fought to have the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments repealed. Samuel Townsend remained active in politics and business until shortly before his death on 5 December 1881. He was buried in the Friends Cemetery in Odessa, several miles north of Townsend, Delaware, which bears his name.

Much less is known about Samuel's three brothers, John, Israel, and Edmund Townsend. John and Samuel were business partners in the timber industry beginning in the 1830s and worked together for many years. They also did business with their brother Israel, an associate of Dover businessman Martin W. Bates. Israel also served briefly as a paymaster in the army in the early 1860s, but lost that job by January of 1863. After the Civil War he resettled in Capeville, Virginia. Edmund Townsend also served in the army as a quartermaster of the 3rd regiment of the Delaware infantry. He fought in several battles in Virginia in 1864. After his discharge, Edmund, his wife, and their children, including two daughters and a son named James, settled on a farm in Prince George's County, Maryland.

Hancock, Harold. Delaware During the Civil War, A Political History. Wilmington, DE: Historical Society of Delaware, 1961. Hiller, Amy M. "The Disenfranchisement of Delaware Negroes in the Late Nineteenth Century." Delaware History 13 (1968): 124-153. Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of Delaware. Wilmington, DE: Aldine Publishing and Engraving Company, 1882. Old Bible Records with Charts and Genealogical Sketches, Volume 9. Compiled by Cooch's Bridge Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, Newark, Delaware. University of Delaware Library, Special Collections. Richards, Mary Fallon, ed. Delaware Genealogical Abstracts from Newspapers, Volumes 1-3. Wilmington, DE: Delaware Genealogical Society, 1995-1997. Additional biographical material was derived from the collection.

The Townsend family (of Delaware) papers consist of letters, accounts, and other business records, spanning the years 1809-1920, with the majority of the material falling between 1834 and 1894. The collection mainly consists of business letters sent to Samuel and John Townsend, political and personal letters sent to Samuel Townsend, and family correspondence, including twenty letters written by Edmund Townsend during the Civil War. With the exception of some family correspondence and a few letter drafts, John and Samuel Townsend do not figure prominently as authors in this collection.

The Townsend family papers were given to the University of Delaware Library in 1956. The letter to Samuel Townsend from J. M. Barr, dated 6 November 1963 (see Folder 22), was purchased separately in 1979. Unfortunately, all of the papers were then arranged chronologically, taped to loose sheets, and bound into two volumes. In 2002, the papers were removed from the volumes and divided into five series: Business Papers, Personal and Political Correspondence, Family Correspondence, Civil War Letters, and Miscellaneous Legal and Personal Papers. Additional papers from the same family, received as a gift in 1987, were also integrated into this collection.

The Townsend family papers offer researchers a window into the business practices of an ambitious, nineteenth-century Delaware entrepreneur. Samuel Townsend, at times in partnership with his brother John, built a sizable fortune in the timber and fruit industries. Incoming correspondence, accounts, and real estate documents reveal the inner-workings of both of these businesses. Business papers from 1833 to 1864 focus on John and Samuel's partnership as timber merchants. In this period they collaborated with their brother, Israel, who worked with Delaware businessman Martin W. Bates. Letters received from Israel Townsend and Bates provide thorough descriptions of the Townsend's timber business, including details on accounts, orders, and manual labor. After 1864, the business papers focus on Samuel's involvement in the fruit industry, particularly his peach and berry orchards in Kingston, Maryland. Papers include letters from New York fruit merchants, an account book from 1864, and numerous letters from G.H. Dennis, manager of the Kingston orchard, describing daily operations there.

Personal letters received by Samuel Townsend make up another significant aspect of the collection. Of particular interest are the many letters he received from colleagues involved in Delaware and national politics. An active member of the Democratic Party, Samuel was a dynamic presence in Delaware politics throughout the mid-nineteenth century. His correspondents include many Delaware politicians, such as Gove Saulsbury, who was a state Senator before serving as Governor from 1865-1871; James A. Bayard, United States Senator from 1851-1864 and 1867-1869; and Benjamin T. Biggs, who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1869-1873 and was Governor from 1887-1891. The letters pertain to subjects such as state elections and appointments, Democratic conventions and other party activities, the local press, national politics, railroads, Reconstruction, and the White Man's Party.

A final noteworthy segment of the Townsend family papers is the Civil War letters of Edmund Townsend, who served as a quartermaster in the third Delaware infantry. The Civil War series also contains several letters to Samuel Townsend from other people serving in the army. In twenty letters home, Edmund vividly describes his duties as a quartermaster, his experiences in battle, his concern about affairs at home, and his thoughts on the war. Edmund, along with Delaware soldier Mordica Hendrex who also writes to Samuel, expresses significant resentment that by 1863 the Civil War had become a fight for slave emancipation. There are also colorful descriptions of his conflicts with superior officers who had him arrested on several occasions. In a final letter to Samuel, Edmund describes leaving the army, settling his affairs, and returning to his family to establish a new farm and iron ore mine in Maryland.

  1. Boxes 1-2: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes
  2. Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (24 inches)

A digital copy of material in this collection is available at the University of Delaware Digital Institutional Repository.

Gift, 1956; gift of Mrs. Joseph Carson, 1987; and purchase, 1979

Processed by Carrie L. Foley, November 2002. Encoded by Lora J. Davis, October 2010. Additional encoding by John Caldwell, September 2019.

The University of Delaware Library has several individually cataloged broadsides by Samuel Townsend, which can be located by searching DELCAT.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2010 October 08
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Scope and Contents

Letters, documents, accounts, and receipts related to the business ventures of Samuel and John Townsend, including their partnership as timber merchants; papers related to Samuel Townsend's work in the fruit industry; and various real estate transactions. Also includes a few business papers of their descendant, John Townsend.

1833-1841 August.
Box 1 Folder F1
Scope and Contents

Includes two land leases, dated 1834 and 1835, allowing John and Samuel Townsend to mine iron ore and cut timber on the land of Auly Lore; a similar 1839 land lease with Isaac Walker; and an 1841 deed between John and Samuel Townsend and Samuel Williams signed by the mayor of New York City, Robert Morris (removed to SPEC MSS oversize boxes (24 inches)). Also includes a business agreement between John and Samuel Townsend and Martin W. Bates, several letters from Bates, and other documents, bills, and letters pertaining to real estate, financial, and business matters.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1833-1841 August
1841 September-1841 December.
Box 1 Folder F2
Scope and Contents

Includes letters, mostly from associates Israel Townsend and Martin W. Bates, regarding hauling and selling timber. Israel also discusses other business ventures, such as coal and whiskey. (For other letters from Israel Townsend, see Series III.)

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1841 September-1841 December
Box 1 Folder F3
Scope and Contents

Contains letters from Martin W. Bates and Israel Townsend. Also contains a letter from Thomas Janvier, President of the Farmers Bank in New Castle, Delaware, and a draft of Samuel Townsend's reply, both of which illustrate his confrontational personality. The correspondence relates to a dispute over an unpaid debt.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1842-1843
Box 1 Folder F4
Scope and Contents

Includes letters from Martin W. Bates; accounts; orders for timber with sketches, including several from Vaughan & Lynn; a receipt for a subscription to the

Blue Hen's Chicken; letters from William B. Hazell regarding real estate; and other business letters.
Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1844-1847
Box 1 Folder F5
Scope and Contents

Includes a variety of letters and legal documents concerning unpaid accounts, taxes, timber purchases and orders, and other business matters.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1848-1849
Box 1 Folder F6
Scope and Contents

Includes letters regarding timber orders, taxes, the purchase of the sloop

Hannah Barrat, and the purchase of a farm from T. H. Bedloe. Includes a contract for Samuel Townsend's purchase of an indentured servant, "a certain coloured boy named Henry," for eight years. Also contains a jury summons, a letter from Edmund Townsend regarding business, and many other contracts and business letters.
Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1850-1864
Account of Sales of Peaches Sold for Samuel Townsend, Delaware, by James Vermilyea and Co., New York, 1864.
Box 1 Folder F7
Box 1 Folder F8
Scope and Contents

Includes letters and receipts regarding taxes, banking, farming, railroads, unpaid accounts, the Convention of Peach Growers, and other matters related to peach farming. Also includes a letter to Samuel Townsend from a Mr. Smith regarding a dispute over an order of peaches and a draft of Samuel's angry reply. Also three letters from Judge George Purnell Fisher regarding the purchase of some peach trees and the use of railroads in shipping peaches.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1865-1874

Box 1 Folder F9
Scope and Contents

Contains thirty letters from G. H. Dennis regarding the daily operations of Samuel Townsend's fruit orchard in Kingston, Maryland. Also contains letters and receipts from New York Merchants Hilliard & McMulkin regarding peach sales, and a few other business letters.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1875
Box 1 Folder F10
Scope and Contents

Includes receipts, accounts, and letters regarding furniture, railroads, banking, real estate, peach sales and farming, and other business matters. Also includes additional letters from G. H. Dennis regarding Samuel Townsend's orchard and documents related to the estate of John Townsend, who died circa 1876-77.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1876-1881
1884-1895, undated.
Box 1 Folder F11
Scope and Contents

Miscellaneous business papers of John Townsend, possibly the son of Samuel Townsend. Also includes three unmatched envelopes to Townsend, one undated bill from John and Samuel Townsend to John Jester, one spring 1895 price list of the Camden and Wyoming Avenue Nurseries of Wyoming, Delaware, and an information sheet about the "Jackson apple."

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1884-1895, undated

Scope and Contents

Contains mostly incoming letters to Samuel Townsend regarding Delaware politics or personal matters. Also includes several drafts of outgoing letters by Samuel, a few broadsides and newspaper clippings, and one letter to Mrs. [Ann Maria] Townsend.

Box 2 Folder F12
Scope and Contents

Includes letters from S. G. Laws and others regarding local Democratic Party strategies, elections, and controversies; a letter from Martin W. Bates providing advice as Samuel Townsend seeks the office of Inspector of Revenue; and two drafts of letters to the

Delaware Gazette from Samuel, asking for the names of two editorialists.
Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1843-1847
Box 2 Folder F13
Scope and Contents

Includes correspondence between Samuel Townsend and William P. Chandler of the

Delaware Gazette regarding conference delegations, elections, and articles for the Gazette. Also contains several letters, including one from Daniel M. Bates, regarding the signature of John Rice, a Whig candidate for Sheriff, on an antislavery petition.
Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1848
Box 2 Folder F14
Scope and Contents

Includes letters from Henry B. Fiddeman, [S. R.?] Paynter, Jesse Sharpe, George Read Riddle, William Hemphill Jones, William H. Ross, S. G. Laws, and others regarding Delaware legislation, elections, and politics.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1849-1850
Box 2 Folder F15
Scope and Contents

Includes letters from Jesse Sharpe, William G. Whiteley, William P. Chandler, Albert O. Newton, James A. Bayard, and S. M. Harrington, Sr., regarding local politics, elections, conventions, legislation, and the railroad. Also includes a broadside by Samuel Townsend, entitled "To the Voters of Delaware," encouraging voters to not ratify the revised state constitution of 1853.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1851-1855
Box 2 Folder F16
Scope and Contents

Includes letters from S. G. Laws and Elias S. Reed regarding the presidential election of 1860 and the Democratic convention. Also includes letters from John K. Jarvis, [Caleb S.] Layton, John H. Bewley, Gove Saulsbury, and others regarding local politics.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1860-1863
Box 2 Folder F17
Scope and Contents

Includes letters from Elias S. Reed, Henry Ridgely, Thomas B. Bradford, Benjamin T. Biggs, George W. Smith, Gove Saulsbury, and others regarding local politics, railroads, Democratic conventions and meetings, Reconstruction, and other political matters. Also contains letters from [Joseph P.] Comegys and Henry Eckel, regarding the formation of the White Man's Party. Includes three letters from George Purnell Fisher on personal and political matters, a letter from Thomas F. Bayard thanking Samuel Townsend for peaches, and one letter from William Hemphill Jones regarding Israel Townsend. Also contains a letter asking for Samuel Townsend's assistance in getting an orphaned girl her father's Civil War pension.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1866-1871
Box 2 Folder F18
Scope and Contents

Includes letters from Stiles Kennedy, William H. Ross, James Ponder, [George W.] Cummins, Jr., Elias S. Reed, R. Ferguson, Custis W. Wright, Albert O. Newton, and others about Delaware and national politics and the White Man's Party. Contains a draft of Samuel Townsend's reply to Newton and two letters between Samuel Townsend and S. N. Robbins of New York. Also includes a letter from the

Middletown Transcript, requesting information about John Tilcox; a published announcement of political meetings; and two personal letters from W. G. Hopkins of Washington, D.C., seeking Samuel Townsend's help in finding information on a Mr. L. N. Graves.
Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1872-1873
Box 2 Folder F19
Scope and Contents

Includes political and personal letters from James P. Hayes, George Gray, H. Todd, James Williams, Ignatius C. Grubb, William H. Ross, J. O'Byrne, John A. Jones, John W. Houston, John W. Hall, Eli Saulsbury, George H. Bates, Edward L. Martin, George W. Cummins, and others. Also includes a manuscript copy of "An act to divide Appoquinimink Hundred in two hundreds," 1875, and an announcement for a meeting on the proposed division. Also contains a letter to Mrs. [Ann Maria] Townsend from Helen B. [Newhouse].

Materials Viewable Online
  1. 1874-1885
Box 2 Folder F20
Scope and Contents

Includes letters from Frederick O. Prince, [W. C. France], [S. Broadbery], and others. Also includes a draft of a letter from Samuel Townsend to the Herald, and a list of resolutions related to the state Democratic convention in Samuel Townsend's hand.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. undated

Scope and Contents

Letters between Samuel, John, and Israel Townsend and other relatives. (For additional Townsend correspondence, see Series I and IV.)

Family correspondence, 1830-1880.
Box 2 Folder F21
Scope and Contents

Contains a letter from Samuel Townsend's brother, Richard, to their father, Samuel Townsend (1781?-1849), regarding Richard's employment and ill health, 1830; three letters to Samuel Townsend from his cousin, [J. T.] Humphries, 1840-1849; nine letters to Samuel and John Townsend from Israel Townsend, 1861-1872, including an 1868 exchange in which John expresses his disgust that Israel, then living in Virginia, was nominated for political office by local blacks, a charge that Israel quickly denies; two letters to Samuel Townsend from his nephew William E. Hart, 1851 and 1865; a letter to Samuel Townsend's wife, Ann Maria, from her niece, Sarah R. Hart, 1862; a letter to Samuel Townsend from John Townsend sharing family news, 1863; a letter to Samuel Townsend from his nephew, James Townsend (possibly the son of Edmund), requesting financial help for his family, 1869; three letters, dated 1871 and 1876, from W. H. Townsend to his father (possibly John Townsend) from the Townsend orchard in Kingston; one letter to Samuel Townsend from his eldest son, Samuel, asking for advice on peach growing, 1878; a letter to Samuel Townsend from his grandson, Samuel, in New York regarding peach sales, 1879; and a letter to Samuel Townsend from his nephew, W. H. Townsend, 1880.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. Family correspondence, 1830-1880

Scope and Contents

Letters from Edmund Townsend to his brothers and several other letters to Samuel Townsend. (For additional Townsend correspondence, see Series I and III.)

Civil War letters, 1862-1865.
Box 2 Folder F22
Scope and Contents

Contains twenty letters from Edmund Townsend to his brothers regarding business at home and describing his experiences in the 3rd regiment, Delaware infantry, stationed in Maryland and Virginia. Letters from 1862 mainly concern his duties as a quartermaster and business at home. Letters from 1863 relate to his clash with several officers, his subsequent arrest and legal troubles, and the hardships he and his family experienced as a result. By 1864, Edmund's regiment had moved into battle in Virginia. His letters describe the battle of Second Cold Harbor, the siege of Petersburg and the mine explosion there, the fighting at Globe Tavern and Weldon Railroad, and the battle of Boydton Plank Road. He also describes being arrested again while on leave, and writes of a trip to Wilmington, Delaware, for provisions. By the end of 1864 he is looking forward to being mustered out of the army. He writes to his brother in January of 1865 describing his final affairs in the army and relating news of his new farm in Maryland.

Also includes a letter to Samuel Townsend from Mordica Hendrex encamped at Yorktown, Virginia, 1863; a letter from J. M. Barr asking for Samuel Townsend's help in securing a military promotion, 1863; and a letter from Joseph Gibbs in McDougall Hospital, Fort Schuyler, 1865.

Materials Viewable Online
  1. Civil War letters, 1862-1865

Miscellaneous personal and legal papers, 1809-1920.
Box 2 Folder F23
Scope and Contents

Contains a manuscript map of land purchased by Edward Tilghman from Daniel Hart, 1809 (removed to SPEC MSS oversize boxes (24 inches)); a list of legal judgments involving William Hart, 1821-1825; a letter from Pierson Hurd of New York to Peter D. Vroom of New Jersey discussing the Delaware peach industry, dated September 27, 1844; printed copy of "Defense of Americanism," a speech given by Augustus Sollers in the House of Representatives, circa 1854; Petition of William Lyon, requesting compensation for property taken from him during the Civil War, 1866; three letters to "Ella," one of which is from Katie Deakyne, dated 1877 and 1885; a letter sent from the Townsend House, in Townsend, Delaware, 1883; several letters regarding the genealogy of the Naudain family, 1884; a receipt and jury summons to Andrew J. Collins, 1888.

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