Guide to the Birckhead collection of Redwood family papers, 1730-1866

(bulk 1730-1774)


Redwood Library and Athenaeum
50 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI 02840
Tel: (401) 847-0292
Fax: (401) 841-5680
email: redwood@redwoodlibrary.org

Published in 2013

Collection Overview

Title: Birckhead collection of Redwood family papers
Date range: 1730-1866, (bulk 1730-1774)
Creator: Birckhead family
Extent: 0.21 linear feet (1 half document case)
Abstract: This collection consists mainly of letters, receipts, and accounts relating to Abraham Redwood (1709-1788), the founder of the Redwood Library, and his business dealings in Newport, Rhode Island. Also included are documents concerning the Redwood Library, Abraham Redwood’s contemporaries in Newport, and later letters from David King, a former president of the Redwood Library.
Language of materials: English
Repository: Redwood Library and Athenaeum
Collection number: RLC.Ms.025

Scope & content

This collection consists mainly of letters, receipts, and accounts from 1730-1774 relating to Abraham Redwood (1709-1788), the founder of the Redwood Library, and his business dealings in Newport, Rhode Island. Also included are documents concerning the Redwood Library, Redwood’s contemporaries in Newport, and later letters from David King, a former president of the Redwood Library. The majority of these documents are addressed to Abraham Redwood, unless otherwise noted.

Papers relating to Abraham Redwood document his business activities, mainly in Newport, Rhode Island, but also in Antigua and other cities from 1730 through 1774, with various merchants and tradesmen. There are also correspondence and accounts with his family members including his step-mother, Patience (1687-1745), his half-brother, William (1726-1815), and son Jonas Langford Redwood (1730-1779).

Items of particular note include the following: the December 11, 1730, quitclaim deed from his step-mother, Patience Redwood (1687-1745), in which she signed over all of her rights to Cassada Garden and its black slaves. Cassada Garden was the plantation owned by her husband and Abraham’s father, Abraham Redwood (1665-1728) in Antigua. A February 1731/2 receipt with Edward Barker includes charges for an outsourced black worker to Redwood.

Documents concerning the Redwood Library include a letter Redwood received from John Thomlinson on November 23, 1748, in which Thomlinson acknowledged the receipt of 500 pounds sterling and a list of books that Redwood sent to him in order to start the collection at the Library. This particular letter is a copy of the original and also includes a copied letter from Thomlinson to Redwood dated February 11, 1748, which also concerns the selection of books for the Library. In addition, there are two promissory notes from 1756, which allowed patrons to borrow books from the Library for four weeks.

There are also papers relating to early members of the Library and Abraham Redwood’s contemporaries in Newport including George Gibbs (1755-1803), William Channing (1751-1793), and Aaron Lopez (1731-1782). These particular documents do not have a direct connection to Redwood, except for the fact that they were created during his lifetime. Of particular interest is a bond certificate from the Custom House in Rhode Island to Edward Wanton in which he insures one thousand pounds worth of cargo on his brig (whose name is indecipherable) bound for Africa. Peter Harrison, John Wanton, and John Nicoll signed this document as witnesses.

Papers in this collection from 1809-1866 were all addressed to David King (1812-1882), a former member of the Redwood Library, who served as president from 1849-1859. These particular letters concern the purchase of books for the Redwood Library, genealogical research, and the procedure for borrowing books from Harvard College Library. The receipt dated January 1, 1809, from J. Fraser to Christopher G. Champlin (1768-1840) was sent to King from George C. Mason and Son, Architects in Newport. The receipt and the envelope are all pasted onto one sheet of paper.

Lastly, the original index of the letters, “Birckhead Documents – The Redwood Library,” is also included and contains brief descriptions about each item.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in chronological order.

Biographical note

The Birckheads were descendants of many prominent local families in Newport, Rhode Island. Some members of this family are buried in the cemetery of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Christopher Birckhead (1910-1985) was born in New York City on June 1, 1910, the son of Reverend Hugh (1876-1929) and Caroline Minturn Hall Birckhead (1874-1972). He served in World War II and worked for the Department of the Interior. Birckhead died on April 23, 1985, in Silver Spring, Maryland. His brother, Hugh Birckhead, Jr. (d. 1944), died in action on November 13, 1944, in France during World War II.

Access & Use

Access to the collection: Access is open to members and researchers at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
Use of the materials: This collection is owned by the Redwood Library and Athenaeum. Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the Special Collections Librarian of the Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
Preferred citation: Birckhead collection of Redwood family papers, RLC.Ms.025, Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
Contact information: Redwood Library and Athenaeum
50 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI 02840
Tel: (401) 847-0292
Fax: (401) 841-5680
email: redwood@redwoodlibrary.org

Administrative Information

ABOUT THE COLLECTION  
Acquisition: These materials were purchased by Ralph E. Carpenter, Mrs. Elizabeth Morris Smith, and F. Dale Crabtree for the Library on August 29, 1985, from an auction sale of the estate of Christopher and Hugh Birckhead, Jr.
Processing information: These papers were received by the Library in 1985, and were numbered according to a list included with the donation. This list details the date of the document, the parties involved, and a brief description of its contents. It is not apparent if this numbering system and the list were prepared by the Birckheads, the auctioneers, the donors, or the Library itself. Another version of the list, titled “Birckhead Documents – The Redwood Library,” was made sometime after the papers were housed in the Library. Besides this numbering system, the papers were not in any other discernible order, so during the November 2013 processing of this collection, the papers were rearranged into chronological order. Researchers familiar with the list and looking for a document with a specific number may use the list in folder 31 to find the item’s date. Prior to November 2013, these papers were housed in the Library’s steel cabinet drawers (Drawer 4, Folder 10). They were removed at this time, placed in a separate archival document case, and assigned a new collection number – RLC.Ms.025.
ABOUT THE FINDING AID  
Author: Finding aid prepared by Elizabeth Delmage.
Encoding: Finding aid encoded by Elizabeth Delmage 2013 November 20
Descriptive rules: Finding aid based on Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Sponsor: Funding for processing and cataloging this collection was provided by the van Beuren Charitable Foundation.

Additional Information

Related material:
  • The Holy Bible containing the Old Testament and the New (Abraham Redwood family bible), BS 185 1690 .L5, Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
  • Abraham Redwood family bible, l315 +1769, Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
  • William Redwood family bible, l315 +1693, Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
  • Collection of Redwood family papers, RLC.Ms.029, Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
  • Elinor A. Leonberger collection of Redwood, Ellery, and other related families, RLC.Ms.026, Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
Bibliography:
  • Lippincott, Bertram, III. Genealogy of the Redwood family. Newport, RI: Redwood Library and Athenaeum, 1993.
  • Inventory


    Box 1, Folder 1 Quitclaim deed from Patience Redwood
    1730 Dec 11
    Box 1, Folder 2 Receipt from Edward Barker
    1731/2 Feb
    Box 1, Folder 3 Receipt from Samuel Holmes
    1732 Feb 7
    Box 1, Folder 4 Letter from Azariah Dring
    1733/4 Feb 25
    Box 1, Folder 5 Letters from John Tomlinson
    1734 Sep 19, 1748 Nov 23
    Box 1, Folder 6 Letter from James Bouhneau
    1735 May 24
    Box 1, Folder 7 Receipt from Jeremiah Eddy
    1742 Nov 10
    Box 1, Folder 8 Receipts from Philip Wanton
    1747 Jan 4, 1756 Oct
    Box 1, Folder 9 Letter from William Redwood
    1747 Dec 9
    Box 1, Folder 10 Accounts with William Redwood
    1750 May 26
    Box 1, Folder 11 Receipt from William Tweedy
    1751 Sep 14
    Box 1, Folder 12 Accounts with Paris Hendren
    1751 Dec 30
    Box 1, Folder 13 Promissory notes
    1756 Mar 18, Nov 11
    Box 1, Folder 14 Agreement between Benjamin Hazzard and Nicholas Easton
    1756 Oct 13
    Box 1, Folder 15 Accounts between Thomas Rumreill and Stephen Ayrault
    1762 Apr 26
    Box 1, Folder 16 Letter from Abraham Redwood to Thomas Oliver
    1764 Jun 21
    Box 1, Folder 17 Bond to Edward Wanton from the Custom-House Rhode-Island
    1765 May 14
    Box 1, Folder 18 Order from Benjamin Greene to Aaron Lopez
    1766 Nov 3
    Box 1, Folder 19 Receipt from Solomon Southwick
    1769 Feb 27
    Box 1, Folder 20 Receipt from John Mawdsley
    1771 Oct 4
    Box 1, Folder 21 Receipt from Thomas Vernon
    1772 Aug 21
    Box 1, Folder 22 Receipt from John Tracy
    1772 Sep 29
    Box 1, Folder 23 Letter from William Channing to Aaron Lopez
    1773 Aug 5
    Box 1, Folder 24 Receipts from William Coggeshall
    1774 Oct, Nov 29
    Box 1, Folder 25 Account with Jonas L. Redwood
    1774 Nov 17
    Box 1, Folder 26 Letter from George Gibbs to Thomas Hornsby
    [17--] Mar 10
    Box 1, Folder 27 Receipt from J. Fraser to Christopher G. Champlin
    1809 Jan 1
    Box 1, Folder 28 Letter from Thomas H. Webb to David King
    1847 Dec 23
    Box 1, Folder 29 Letter from John Langdon Sibley to David King
    1856 Mar 1
    Box 1, Folder 30 Letter from Edwin M. Stone to David King
    1866 Dec
    Box 1, Folder 31 "Birckhead Documents - The Redwood Library"
    undated