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Wheaton Family Collection

 Collection
Identifier: MC-001

Scope and Content

This collection documents the Wheaton Family and their involvement in the town of Norton, Massachusetts, their founding of and supporting Wheaton Female Seminary, establishing the Norton Public Library, funding alterations to Norton’s Trinitarian Congregational Church, and interactions with townspeople. The largest portion of the collection focuses on Judge Laban Wheaton, Laban Morey Wheaton, and Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton. Financial records and property deeds relating to the family and the Seminary constitute a substantial portion of the collection. The Wheaton family’s involvement in local businesses is evident in documents regarding the Wheaton Manufacturing Company as well as other manufacturing enterprises and investments.



The documents in the collection cover the years 1721-2009, but the bulk of the collection falls between 1779-1905. Documents include business and financial records, property deeds, ledgers, diaries, sermons, appointments, community involvement, correspondence, and images. Objects, ephemera and paintings are part of the collection. Of great importance is the extensive documentation of the support given to Wheaton Female Seminary by the Wheaton family.



Ironically, the main weakness of this collection is the lack of documentation on Elizabeth "Eliza" F. Wheaton Strong, in whose memory Wheaton Female Seminary was founded. Also lacking is documentation on some other family members, whose series may include only one document. In addition, many of Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton's diaries are missing from the collection, although they may exist. The collection also lacks many of the financial records of Judge Laban Wheaton. Personal correspondence is essentially absent from the collection.

RECORD SERIES

The collection is divided into 13 series: JUDGE LABAN WHEATON, LABAN MOREY WHEATON, ELIZA BAYLIES CHAPIN WHEATON, SAMUEL CHAPIN, MARY CHAPIN SMITH, H.G.WHEATON, FANNY MOREY WHEATON, ELIZA F. WHEATON STRONG, GEORGE WHEATON, WILLS, GENEAOLOGY AND BIOGRAPHY, FINANCIAL RECORDS, and PROPERTY.

Judge Laban Wheaton

The Judge Laban Wheaton series documents the years 1779-1846. The series’ strength lies in records that relate to his position as Justice of the Peace, including appointments and estate administration. Other documents relate to his death and memory. Subseries include: Appointments and Sermons, Business, Funerary, and Images, portraits, and memorabilia.

Laban Morey Wheaton

The Laban Morey Wheaton series covers the years 1815-1865. The series documents the business practices, community involvement and appointments of Mr. Wheaton. Of particular importance are two hand-written copies of a speech he gave when campaigning for Congress. Subseries include: Correspondence, Personal, Business, Community involvement, Funerary, and Images, portraits, and memorabilia.

Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton

The Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton series covers the years 1839-1905. Mrs. Wheaton’s records make up the bulk of the collection. A variety of correspondence covers her business and personal life. Of particular interest in this series are Mrs. Wheaton’s diaries, travel journal and ephemera, and detailed financial records. Subseries include: Correspondence, Business, Community involvement, Diaries and Travel, Funerary, and Images, portraits, and memorabilia.

Samuel Chapin

The Samuel Chapin series covers the years 1856-1888, and includes materials related to Eliza Baylies Wheaton's favorite brother. The series contains receipts for heating his house, funded by Mrs. Wheaton. Of particular importance are the correspondence and mortgage notes relating to the San Jose, Santa Clara County, California property purchased by Mrs. Wheaton but operated by Mr. Chapin.

Mary Chapin Smith

The Mary Chapin Smith series covers the years ca. 1905-ca. 1920. The series contains research about Mary Chapin Smith, Wheaton Class of 1873 and Mrs. Wheaton's favorite neice, including an hotel in Highlands, NC, purchased for her by Mrs. Wheaton, and a poem written by Mrs. Smith for the 75th Anniversary of Wheaton Female Seminary.

H. G. Wheaton

The H. G. Wheaton series covers the year 1856-1857. This series contains itemized lists of expenses for an account with the Wheaton Family.

Fanny Morey Wheaton

The Fanny Morey Wheaton series contains a portrait of the wife of Judge Laban Wheaton painted in circa 1834, and 1979 photographs of her gravesite.

Eliza F. Wheaton Strong

The Eliza F. Wheaton Strong series consists of the portrait painted in circa 1834 and 1979 photographs of her gravesite, needlework, and a family mourning painting.

George Wheaton

The George Wheaton series relates to the year 1774. The document is his appointment as Justice of the Peace, in the subseries Appointments.

Wills

The Wills series covers the years 1799-1907. Included are the wills of Judge Laban Wheaton, Laban Morey Wheaton, Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton, and Samuel Chapin, as well as detailed documentation of the execution of the estates.

Geneaology and Biography

The Geneaology and Biography series contains genealogical information about the Wheaton family. Of importance are two unpublished manuscript biographies of Judge Wheaton, one written by Eliza Baylies Wheaton, and the other by Taunton, MA, historian Jennie Copeland. An article written by a staff member of the Massachusetts Historical Society was prepared for the Harvard Necrology.

Financial Records

The Financial Records series covers the years 1830-1905 with the bulk from the years 1865-1905. Most of the extant records were kept by Eliza Baylies Wheaton after Laban Morey Wheaton’s death, and consist mainly of bills and receipts for purchases and services. The series also contains numerous ledgers and cashbooks kept by both Laban Morey Wheaton and Eliza Baylies Wheaton. Subseries include: Ledgers and Cashbooks and Receipts.

Property

The Property series covers the years 1721-2009. This large series contains the deeds for all the properties that are or have been held by the Wheaton family and Wheaton College. Of interest are deeds to the Winter Street property in Boston, Massachusetts, and property on Nantucket. Includes the subseries Deeds and Repairs.

Dates

  • 1721-1994
  • 1779 - 1905

Creator

Access Restrictions

No restrictions. Open for research.

Copyright

Copyright is retained by the authors, or their descendants, of items in these papers as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biography

Judge Laban and Fanny Morey Wheaton

The Wheaton family first moved to Norton, Massachusetts, in 1749 when Dr. George Wheaton was head of the family. In 1754, George‘s wife, Elizabeth Morey, gave birth to a son, Laban Wheaton (1754-1846). Laban Wheaton graduated from Harvard College in 1774, receiving a degree in ministry. Following further study, Laban Wheaton began practicing law in Norton in 1788. He was able to purchase 32 acres of land in 1789, and in 1794 Laban Wheaton married his double cousin, Fanny Morey.

Together Laban and Fanny had four children, two of whom died at birth. Elizabeth "Eliza" F. Wheaton (1795-1834), who was her father's pride and joy, and Laban Morey Wheaton (1796-1865) survived into adulthood.

Laban Wheaton was appointed Justice of the Peace, and elected town moderator, and treasurer. As his prominence grew he was appointed chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas (1810), and Chief Justice to the Court of Sessions (1819). He was elected to the Massachusetts legislature (1803-1808, 1825), and to the United States House of Representatives (1809-1817).

As his life and career progressed, Laban Wheaton invested in real estate. His 1815 purchase of a 52-acre piece of property made him one of the major landholders in Norton. Due to his success as a businessman and investor, he was able to retire in 1827, at the age of 73. When the majority of the members voted to make the Congregational Church Unitarian in 1832, the Judge, his family, and other Norton residents founded the Trinitarian Congregational Church.

Eliza F. Wheaton Strong

The Judge was devastated when his only daughter, Eliza F. Wheaton Strong, died in 1834, at the age of 39. In 1826, she had married Woodbridge Strong (1794-1861), a graduate of Yale and prominent Boston doctor. Judge Wheaton purchased a house for the couple on Winter Street in Boston, on the site of Samuel Adams’ house. The Judge retained the deed to the house, and the sale of the property a century later formed the basis of Wheaton College's endowment.

In 1834, Eliza F. Wheaton Strong died after a long illness. Grief stricken at the loss of his beloved daughter, the Judge decided to erect a monument in her honor. However, his daughter-in-law, Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton (1809-1905), suggested a living monument in the form of a school for the higher education of women. With that idea Wheaton Female Seminary was born, and it consumed the remainder of the Judge’s life.

Laban Morey Wheaton

Judge Wheaton was not close to his son Laban Morey Wheaton, perhaps due to Laban Morey’s allegedly scandalous young life. Although Laban Morey graduated from Brown University in 1817, his father failed to continue his father's career in the law.

Laban Morey Wheaton held the office of Norton post-master from 1818-1845, and served as Justice of the Peace from 1828-1865. He was elected Norton's representative to the Massachusetts General Court from 1827-1828 and again in 1838. His neighbors also elected him Town Moderator, Tithing Man, and Town Surveyor. Laban Morey Wheaton served on the Governor’s Council in 1857 and 1858, and ran two unsuccessful campaigns for Congress on the Liberty Party ticket. He also invested in manufacturing enterprises such as the Wheaton Manufacturing Company. Laban Morey’s ambition may be attributed to his marriage to Eliza Baylies Chapin.

Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton

Eliza Baylies Chapin, of the Northbridge and Uxbridge familes of Chapin and Baylies, attended Uxbridge Academy and the Young Ladies High School in Boston. She married Laban Morey Wheaton in 1829, and they maintained a relationship of mutual respect and affection until his death in 1865. Together they became members of the Norton Temperance Movement and were actively involved in the church and community.

In addition to helping to found the Trinitarian Congregational Church in 1832, the family financed the structure's later remodeling. In 1834, the family planned and established Wheaton Female Seminary. After Laban Morey Wheaton's death, Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton continued her devotion to the community of Norton. She donated the public library in 1888, and in 1900, provided the land for Norton’s first public high school. Describing herself as an "entrepreneur", Eliza invested in local businesses, railroads, etc. Extremely careful with her money, she assisted her own family, investing in businesses that they managed. These included a hotel in Highlands, NC, for her niece Mary Chapin Smith, and an orchard in California, which was managed by her brother, Samuel Chapin.

However, Mrs. Wheaton's interest in Wheaton Female Seminary was paramount, and her contributions to it were exceptional. She funded buildings, renovations and scholarships, held parties for students and teachers, and gave bouquets from her own garden to each graduate. Most important to the institution's future, she agreed that the Seminary should become a college. The legacy of the Wheaton family is still visible at Wheaton College and in Norton today.

Extent

9.6 Cubic Feet (26 archival boxes Plus Two for Central Files (27-28))

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Wheaton Family Collection covers the years 1721-2009. The bulk of the collection relates to the years 1779-1905. The collection shows the activities of an affluent family in the small town of Norton, MA. Laban Morey Wheaton and Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton were both active in the community, and established Wheaton Female Seminary. Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton contributed a great deal to the town of Norton by helping to renovate the Trinitarian Congregational Church and building the Norton Public Library.

The majority of the collection focuses on Judge Laban Wheaton; his son, Laban Morey Wheaton; his daughter-in-law, Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton; and their relationship with the town of Norton and Wheaton Female Seminary. Included in the collection, however, are records relating to other members of the Wheaton family, including Fanny Morey Wheaton, Eliza Wheaton Strong, Mary Chapin Smith, Samuel Chapin and George Wheaton.

Title
Inventory of the Wheaton Family Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Jessica Chapman, Simmons College GSLIS Intern
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Marion B. Gebbie Archives and Special Collections Repository