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Harvard University. Corporation. Records of land and property owned by Harvard University, 1643-1835: an inventory

Harvard University Archives


Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: UAI15.750
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Title: Records of land and property owned by Harvard University
Date(s): 1643-1835
Quantity: 1 collection (8 cubic feet; (11 document boxes, 7 flat boxes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Harvard received numerous gifts of land and property from benevolent individuals as well as from the General Court of Massachusetts and the proprietors of several settlements in western Massachusetts. The Records of land and property owned by Harvard University contain records related to the land and property owned and managed by Harvard between 1643 and 1835 and include legal documents, leases and memoranda, surveyors' plans and appraisals of many of the properties, correspondence, bills, and other materials. Although management of the land holdings was largely the responsibility of the College Treasurer, these records demonstrate that Harvard's President and other staff were also actively involved in land-related concerns.

Acquisition information:

The documents in this collection are University records and were acquired in the course of University business. Four of the documents were donated to the archives by Charles Holt Taylor in 1924 and 1931; this provenance information is noted at the item level in the following folder list.

Processing Information:

These records were previously dispersed both physically and intellectually, and classified under numerous call numbers. Some of the records were glued into bound volumes and required removal and rehousing. All of the records were re-processed in 2010 and brought together as a single collection. Re-processing involved a collection survey, re-housing in appropriate archival folders, and the creation of this finding aid.
This finding aid was created by Laura Morris in August 2010.
Preservation and description of the Records of land and property owned by Harvard University was supported by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.

Researcher Access:

The Records of land and property owned by Harvard University are open for research with the following exceptions: materials in boxes 10, 11, 12, and 13 are closed to research due to their fragile state. These records have been severely damaged by mold, and some are so severely damaged that their contents are largely illegible (including all records related to Shawshin Farm in Billerica, Massachusetts). The contents of other damaged records are more clear and are listed in this finding aid.

Copying Restriction:

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Preferred Citation:

Harvard University. Corporation. Records of land and property owned by Harvard University, 1643-1835. UAI 15.750, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives
In the Massachusetts Archives


The collection is arranged in twenty-two series, according to geographic location: Records within each series are arranged chronologically, and undated records are located at the end of each series.

Scope and Content

The Records of land and property owned by Harvard University document the Harvard Corporation's management and oversight of the University's land and property holdings from the mid seventeenth century into the nineteenth century. These properties extended across New England, in what is now Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine, and also included revenue generated from the lease of an estate in England. Records include correspondence; leases, bonds, deeds, wills, and other legal documents; surveyors' plans and assessments of various lands; bills; statements of account; and memoranda. The records provide insight into land settlement in colonial New England; the challenges of marking boundaries and establishing legal ownership of land; economic difficulties in the colonies; and the legal, interpersonal, and financial challenges of managing extensive property holdings. Many of the records were created by these Harvard Treasurers: Thomas Danforth, Thomas Brattle, John White, Edward Hutchinson, Thomas Hubbard, John Hancock, Ebenezer Storer, Jonathan Jackson, John Davis, Ebenezer Francis, and Thomas Wren Ward.
It should be noted that some documents whose dates are between January 1 and March 25 in the years prior to 1752 have been cited with the double date convention, e.g. February 27, 1658/9. This convention has been followed only when the document itself indicates the date in such a manner. This convention was used in England and the North American colonies between 1582 and 1752. The first date refers to the year according to the Julian calendar, which began on March 25, while the second refers to the year according to the Gregorian calendar, which began on January 1.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2017 November 2.

Former call numbers

Former call numbers are noted throughout the finding aid at the item and/or series level.Materials formerly classified as UAI 15.775 Lands Records: Collection of records, 1704-1830, have been integrated into the appropriate series and are now found throughout the collection. They include records related to properties in Newton, Rutland, Lunenburg, Townsend, Ward's Island, Coggan's Marsh, Stoughton's Marsh, the Gridley Estate, Stoughton's Pasture, Winchendon,Granby, the Webb Estate, the Pennoyer Estate, Hayward's Pasture, and the Waltham farm (Rogers Farm).

Container List