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© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Call No.: HUC 1680.2
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: First Church (Boston, Mass.)
Title: Penn Scholarship disbursement records, 1717-1819
Quantity: .2 cubic feet (1 half document box)
Abstract: James Penn (d. 1671), a Boston church leader, bequeathed an annual scholarship for Harvard students that was distributed by the elders and deacons of the Boston First Church of Christ from the early 1700s until 1866. This collection contains handwritten orders of payment and receipts issued by the ministers, elders, and deacons of the Boston First Church of Christ to the Penn estate-holder Penn Townsend, and later to the Sale Family. The payment orders were issued by the Church leaders, and instructed the recipient to pay the scholarship sum to the designated Harvard student (or his guardian). Though Penn's will stipulated that the scholarship beneficiaries should be Harvard students, the selection of recipients and the fund disbursement occurred independently of the College.
The Massachusetts Historical Society holds the Records of the First Church in Boston, Mass., 1630-1882.
James Penn (d. 1671), a Boston church leader, bequeathed an annual scholarship for Harvard students that was distributed by the elders and deacons of the Boston First Church of Christ from the early 1700s until 1866.Elder Penn emigrated from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with John Winthrop in 1630. He joined Boston's First Church of Christ and served as a ruling elder from 1650 to 1671. The Church's governing structure included two ministers, the ruling elder, and a select number of deacons. Sometime between 1638 and 1643, Penn purchased 267 acres from William Aspinwall at Pullen Point, which is now part of North Chelsea and Winthrop, Mass. In his will, dated September 29, 1671, Penn bequeathed his farm at "Pullin Point" to his nephew Penn Townsend with the stipulation that "he pay Ten Pounds yearly, out of the Farm to my Overseers; and after their Death to the Elders and Deacons of the first Church of Christ in Boston, Successively forever by them to be disposed of for the maintenance of Such poore Scollar or Scollars at the Colledge as they shall see good." Colonel Penn Townsend paid the scholarship until his death in 1727, when the estate was bequeathed to his two daughters Sarah Thayer and Ann Sale; Ann's husband, John Sale, continued the payments.On May 22, 1712, the Church leaders noted their, "Neglect of entring in the Church book how the ten pounds per annum bequeathed by the part of Elder Penns will ... has been disposed of and to whom," and began recording the scholarship beneficiaries in the Church Book Volume I. The May 22nd entry notes that for the past seven years the scholarship sum was paid to Colonel Townsend's nephew Ebenezer Thayer (1689-1733; Harvard AB 1708), and identified the first annual recipients as Jonathan Pierpoint (Harvard AB 1714), Benjamin Webb (Harvard AB 1715), and Stephen Williams (Harvard AB 1713). The Church leaders continued to select annual recipients until April 1866, when the First Church released the Sale Family from the bequest for $600. The Massachusetts General Court authorized the transfer with a special resolve on April 12, 1866.
Colonel Penn Townsend (d. 1727), was a prominent Boston civic leader. Townsend served as a militia colonel, Justice of the Peace in 1692, and Speaker of the House in 1696 to 1697. From 1718 to 1727, he served as Chief Justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas for Suffolk County. Townsend died in 1727. Townsend's son, also named Penn Townsend (1674-1706), received an AB from Harvard College in 1693.
John Sale (1686/7-1763) was born on January 17, 1686/7 in Boston. Sale married Townsend's daughter Ann Sale on June 5, 1712, and around 1740, the Sales moved to the Pullen Point farm. The Sale's son, John Sale Jr. (1727-1803), took over payments of the Penn Scholarship around the time of his father's death in September 1763. On June 24, 1784, John Sale Jr. sold the farm to his own son, Colonel John Sale (1757-1834).
The collection is arranged in two series:
This collection contains handwritten orders of payment and receipts issued by the leaders of the Boston First Church of Christ to the Penn estate-holder Penn Townsend, and later, the Sale Family. The payment orders were issued by the Church leaders, and instructed the recipient to pay the scholarship sum to the designated Harvard student (or his guardian). Within the collection, there are also six receipts signed by scholarship beneficiaries acknowledging the payment. The documents are arranged chronologically in two series. Series I contains 18th century payment orders and receipts, and Series II contains three 19th century payment orders and an 1819 letter from William Emerson (son of the Reverend William Emerson, and brother of Ralph Waldo Emerson) requesting payment by John Sale.Though Penn's will stipulated that the scholarship beneficiaries should be Harvard students, the selection of recipients and the fund disbursement occurred independently of the College. But the First Church was not without its ties to the College, the ministers whose signatures appear in the collection, Benjamin Wadsworth (who served from 1696 to 1725), Thomas Foxcroft (served from 1717-1769), Charles Chauncey (served from 1727-1787), John Clarke (served from 1778-1798), and William Emerson (served from 1799-1811), were all Harvard alumni themselves, and Wadsworth resigned his ministerial position to become President of Harvard in 1725.The payment orders complement entries about the distribution of the Penn bequest recorded by the Church leaders between 1712 and 1853 in the "Legacies" section of Church Book Volume 1, microfilmed and published in the Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Volume 39.
This document last updated 2016 November 3.
- "The Records of the First Church in Boston, 1630-1868," in the Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts,Volumes 39-40, 1961.
- Chamberlain, Mellen, 1821-1900. A documentary history of Chelsea : including the Boston precincts of Winnisimmet, Rumney Marsh, and Pullen Point, 1624-1824. Boston: Printed for the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1908.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot. Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1936.