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Mahlon and James Batten 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

Mahlon H. Batten was born in 1819 in Pencader Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware, the son of Henry and Elizabeth (Foster) Batten. He operated a mill and a dairy farm in Pencader Hundred. He became politically active as a Republican after the party’s organization in the 1850s, and he served as tax assessor for Pencader Hundred in 1864. He married Harriet Mercer of Elkton, Cecil County, Maryland. The couple had four children, including James H. Batten, born May 25, 1851, in Elkton, Maryland. Mahlon Batten died in 1888.

James H. Batten attended schools in Pencader Hundred, and continued his studies at the Newark Academy. In the third volume in this collection, Batten noted that he attended school in “Harmony School District No. 55, New Castle County, Del.,” which later became the Newark School District. Batten saved much of his school work, which is included in this collection. He became a farmer in Red Lion Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware. In 1878, he married Emma Cleaver, daughter of Peter and Sarah Cleaver of Red Lion Hundred. As noted in the memorandum that is part of this collection, he attended Red Lion Methodist Episcopal Church. James H. Batten died August 3, 1925.

Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware. Chambersburg, PA: J.M. Runk and Co., 1899. United States Bureau of the Census, Census Records of 1860 and 1900 for New Castle County, Delaware.Greenleaf, Benjamin. Introduction to the National Arithmetic, on the Inductive System, Combining the Analytic and Synthetic Methods. Boston: Robert S. Davis & Co., 1876.Mowrey, Roger C. Delaware School District Organization and Boundaries. Dover, DE: Delaware State Department of Public Instruction, 1974.Information derived from the collection.

This collection consists of four volumes containing tax assessments, mathematical exercises, accounts, memoranda, and school compositions created by Mahlon and James Batten of Pencader Hundred, Delaware, between 1832 and 1874.

Volume 1 in this collection is a duplicate record of the “true copy of the assessment of Pencader Hundred,” kept by Mahlon H. Batten between 1864 and 1865. The volume consists of an alphabetical list of all the taxpayers in the Pencader Hundred for the year 1864, including the assessed value of their property, the county, road, and poor taxes, and an assessment of fifty cents for each dog owned by a taxpayer. Batten added a “P” to the left-hand margin for tax bills that were paid in full. The names of taxpayers were segregated by race. The taxpayers in the first grouping were not identified as white, but those on the second list were identified as “Negroes.” Unlike the white taxpayers, the African-American residents of Pencader Hundred were not assessed a school tax. Notations by the names of several African-American taxpayers suggest that they were serving in the army. Batten’s assessments were certified by a Clerk of the Peace, who added a raised seal. The volume also contains receipts of Batten’s payment of collected taxes to state commissioners. The second half of the volume consists of a “memorandum of labor” kept by James H. Batten between January 1868 and March 1870. Following a short essay entitled “Our Country,” James Batten wrote entries describing the weather, work performed, the activities of family members, and attendance at Red Lion Methodist Church.

Volume 2 is entitled “Record of James H. Batten’s School Composition,” and was kept by James Batten between 1869 and 1874. Batten wrote brief essays on a wide range of topics, including influence, the beauties of nature, American liberty, and Napoleon III. He also copied short verses, biographical information on important historical figures, and useful medicinal recipes. Batten included an index of titles at the end of the volume.

Despite being titled “James H. Batten Geology,” Volume 3 consists primarily of mathematical problems and their solutions. On the verso of the front flyleaf is the inscription “Key to Greenleafs introduction,” suggesting that Batten was using Benjamin Greenleaf’s mathematical textbook

Introduction to the National Arithmetic. Batten completed exercises in this book between 1865 and 1867, during which time he seems to have been in the Harmony School District of New Castle County, Delaware, and at Oak Grove Academy, possibly in Cecil County, Maryland. Batten recorded mathematical rules and solved problems to reinforce lessons on profit and loss, annuities, compound interest, and the measurement of surfaces.

Volume 4 is identified as the “Property of Mahlon Batten” and was used between 1832 and 1853. The volume includes solutions to numerous mathematical problems, most of which focused on the calculation of compound interest, discounts, custom house allowances, United States duties, and ship tonnage. At the back of the volume there are both double-entry and single-entry financial accounts involving various people, most likely Batten’s neighbors and business associates. These accounts date from 1840-1844 and 1850-1853. Two receipts and a promissory note from the 1850s have been laid into this volume.

Volume 1 is bound in black leather with a tab closure on the fore edge that slides through a loop on the front cover. The words “PENCADER/HUNDRED” are gilt-stamped just above this tab on the fore edge. On the inside of the front cover, there is a rectangular label that reads “Norman L. Reynolds” in black print. James H. Batten inscribed his name on the inside of the front cover. The first page reads “Duplicate for Mahlon Batten Collector of Pencader Hundred Jan. 17, 1862 A. Domini New Castle County” in handwritten text. The second page identifies the book as “The Property Mahlon Batten Collector of Pencader Hundred for the Year 1864 & 1865.” The volume contains 112 leaves of lined wove paper with handwritten text in black and blue ink and pencil.

Volume 2 features one-quarter binding with black paper over the covers and red cloth on the spine. On the inside of the front cover, there is a rectangular label that reads “Norman L. Reynolds” in black print. The front flyleaf reads “The Property of James H. Batten Red Lion Delaware Aug. 17, 1874” in black ink. Another inscription reads “Record of James H. Batten’s School Composition, June 27, 1869.” The volume contains 83 leaves of lined wove paper with handwritten text in black, blue, and red ink.

Volume 3 is bound with marbled paper covers and a light blue cloth spine. On the inside of the front cover, there is a rectangular label that reads “Norman L. Reynolds” in black print. This same label is attached to the inside of the back cover. The front flyleaf reads “James H. Batten Geology” and “James Henry Batten Harmony School Del.” The volume contains 59 leaves of lined wove paper with handwritten text in black and blue ink.

Volume 4 features one-quarter binding with marbled paper over boards and a brown leather spine. There are traces of handwriting in ink on the front cover. On the inside of the front cover, there is a rectangular label that reads “Norman L. Reynolds” in black print. An inscription on the inside of the front cover reads “Mahlon Battens Book January 15th 1835 AD/Wrote by Wm. L. Barney the above date.” The first page reads “Property of Mahlon Batten November 25th 1832.” The volume contains 73 leaves of unlined wove paper with handwritten text in black ink.

Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes (3 inches)

Purchase, November 2016

Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, August 2017.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2017 August 8
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 isrequired from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

True copy of the assessment of Pencader Hundred, kept by Mahlon H. Batten, Vol. 1, 1862-1870.
Box 1 Folder 1
Physical Description

1 volume

Record of James H. Batten’s School Composition, Vol. 2, 1869-1874.
Box 1 Folder 2
Physical Description

1 volume

James H. Batten, Geology, Vol. 3, 1865-1867.
Box 1 Folder 3
Physical Description

1 volume

Property of Mahlon Batten, Vol. 4, 1832-1859.
Box 1 Folder 4
Physical Description

1 volume

Print, Suggest