University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Townsend Family

1809 - 1920

(bulk dates 1833 - 1894)

Manuscript Collection Number: 445
Accessioned: Gift, 1956, and purchase, 1979
Extent: .6 linear ft.
Content: Letters, business records, account of sales, receipts, bills, deeds, lease agreements, indenture agreement,
newspaper clippings, broadside, published speech, manuscript map, jury summons, manuscript petition
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: November 2002 by Carrie L. Foley

for reference assistance email Special Collections
or contact:

Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

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 original, 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 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.


Biographical material was derived from the collection.

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.

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.

Richards, Mary Fallon, ed. Delaware Genealogical Abstracts from Newspapers, Volumes 1-3. Wilmington, DE: Delaware Genealogical Society, 1995-1997.

Scope and Content Note

The Townsend family papers consist of .6 linear feet 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, with the exception of one letter, 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.

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 Townsends’ 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.

Related Collections:

Ms 402, Waples Family Papers, contains two letters and a broadside by Samuel Townsend.

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

Series List

I.   Business Papers, 1833 – 1894

II.  Personal and Political Correspondence, 1843 – 1885

III. Family Correspondence, 1830 – 1880

IV.  Civil War Letters, 1862 – 1865

V.   Miscellaneous Personal and Legal Papers, 1809 – 1920

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

          Series I.  Business Papers, 1833 – 1894
               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.

1    F1   1833 – 1841 Aug
          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.  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.

     F2   1841 Sep – Dec
          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.)

     F3   1842 – 1843
          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

     F4   1844 – 1847
          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.

     F5   1848 – 1849
          Includes a variety of letters and legal documents
          concerning unpaid accounts, taxes, timber purchases and
          orders, and other business matters.

     F6   1850 – 1864
          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.

     F7   Account of Sales of Peaches Sold for Samuel Townsend,
          Delaware, by James Vermilyea and Co., New York, 1864.
     F8   1865 – 1874
          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.
     F9   1875
          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.
     F10  1876 – 1881
          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.
     F11  1884 – 1894, undated
          (There were no papers dated 1882-1883)  Miscellaneous
          business papers of John Townsend, possibly the son of
          Samuel Townsend.  Also includes one undated bill from
          John and Samuel Townsend to John Jester.
          Series II.  Political and Personal Correspondence, 1843 – 1885
               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]

2    F12  1843 – 1847
          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

     F13  1848
          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

     F14  1849 – 1850
          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

     F15  1851 – 1855
          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.

     F16  1860 – 1863
          (There are no letters dated 1856 – 1859.)  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.

     F17  1866 – 1871
          (There are no letters dated 1864 – 1865.)  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.

     F18  1872 – 1873
          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 in Washington, D.C., seeking
          Samuel Townsend’s help in finding information on a Mr.
          L. N. Graves.

     F19  1874 – 1885
          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].

     F20  Undated
          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.

          Series III.  Family Correspondence, 1830 – 1880
               Letters between Samuel, John, and Israel Townsend
               and other relatives.     (For additional Townsend
               correspondence, see Series I and IV.)

      F21 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,
          Series IV.  Civil War Letters, 1862 – 1865
               Letters from Edmund Townsend to his brothers and
               several other letters to Samuel Townsend.  (For
               additional Townsend correspondence, see Series I
               and III.)
     F22  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,

          Series V.  Miscellaneous Personal and Legal Papers, 1809 – 1920

     F23  Contains a manuscript map of land purchased by Edward
          Tilghman from Daniel Hart, 1809 (in oversize); a list
          of legal judgments involving William Hart, 1821 – 1825;
          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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