1717-1888; bulk: 1845-1862
Guide to the Collection
This collection consists of the legal papers of Peleg W. Chandler, a mid-nineteenth century Boston attorney. The legal papers include his work on road widening, development of wharves, and torts against the city due to the destruction of private property caused by municipal work. Chandler also did work for the First Church of Boston, and the Church of the Holy Cross on Devonshire Street, railroad nuisance cases, and family probate land disputes.
Peleg Whitman Chandler (1816 - 1889) was born and educated in Maine. He received his early education at Bangor Theological College, and he graduated from Bowdoin College in 1834. He studied at the Dane Law School at Harvard and read with Prof. Theophilus Parsons; he was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1837. That same year he married Martha Anne Bush of Brunswick, Maine. He was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for two terms, in 1844 and 1862. His practice handled civil cases primarily. He was known as an excellent litigator whose career in the courtroom was shortened due to increasing deafness.
The legal papers of Peleg Whitman Chandler consist of 5 document boxes, 1 narrow box, and 1 oversize box.
The bulk of the collection is legal papers, 1840-1861, including his work on road widening, development of wharves, and torts against the city due to destruction of private property caused by municipal work. Chandler also did work for the First Church of Boston, and the Church of the Holy Cross on Devonshire Street, railroad nuisance cases, family wills, land transfers, and deeds. The collection includes some published decisions from the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, and one from the Supreme Court. Chandler did most of his work on land cases and the collection contains many maps, including street layouts, wharf proposals and property lines. The collection also includes legal correspondence and addresses.
Although Chandler was a representative to the Massachusetts House and a Boston city solicitor, there are no papers pertaining to those positions in the collection.
The Massachusetts Historical Society acquired the Peleg W. Chandler legal papers from the Peabody Museum in 1943.
Due to mildew that resulted from water damage, some papers have been photocopied and discarded.
Detailed Description of the Collection
I. Commercial cases, 1825 - 1887
This series consists of papers related to the development of Boston's wharves and commercial water power. The cases concerned legal issues including ownership, land transfer deeds, land ownership. Water power companies that Chandler worked with include the Boston Water Power Company and the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation. He represented the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation in negotiations with the City of Boston in a dispute over land rights in Back Bay.
Chandler represented the proprietors of Long Wharf, Charles River Wharf, and T (Tea) Wharf, the Mercantile Wharf Corporation, Josiah Quincy concerning City Wharf, and the Boston Wharf Company.
A. Water power companies, 1854 - 1887
B. Wharf cases, 1825 - 1861
Most of the papers related to City Wharf are legal papers and correspondence involving Josiah Quincy.
II. Municipal cases, 1835 - 1861
This series includes cases involving Boston's streets. Chandler represented many land and home owners who lost frontage due to the widening of streets to accommodate increased traffic. Chandler also represented homeowners who lost property when a city improvement of a sewer caused flooding on Dover Street in 1856. The series also includes documents requiring the city to number houses in a development, South Cove, and care for the streets it improved; testimony from three men on the effect the railroad has had on the livelihoods of horse and stable owners; papers related to Chandler's involvement in elections, especially a disputed election of 1861; and records of clients he represented in cases against the cities of Boston and Roxbury.
A. Cases related to Boston streets, 1835 - 1859
B. Railroad case, n.d.
C. Elections, 1859 - 1861
D. Civil cases, 1849 - 1859
Papers show evidence of water damage and many are illegible.
III. Family cases, 1717 - 1862
This series consists of cases of families involved in probate to prove ownership in order to possess and sell land. Some wills and deeds proving ownership of property date back to 1717, but the bulk date from the 1850s and 1860s.
IV. Church cases, 1835 - 1860
This series includes papers related to street developments that impacted the First Church of Boston and the Church of the Holy Cross, both on Devonshire Street. It also includes records of the Hawes Fund, established for the First Church, and other papers associated with that church.
V. Legal papers, 1833-1887
This series consists of Chandler's legal notes, court decisions and pleadings, accounts, and other legal papers, including records of the Supreme Court case City of Boston vs. David R. Lecraw, 1851, records of several Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts cases, and a short codicil written for the Anti-Slavery Society, 1858. Many of the papers relate to miscellaneous land and property cases. Some of the papers are difficult to read due to water damage.
VI. Legal correspondence, 1850-1888
This series consists of Chandler's incoming legal correspondence. The correspondence relates to various cases and claims in which Chandler was involved. It contains correspondence and building plans, ca. 1888, from William Gibbons Preston, the Boston architect who designed the Chandler Building at 53 Devonshire Street. A letter from Preston has photographs of the roof of the building attached. For additional correspondence, see Series I-IV.
VII. Addresses, n.d.
This series consists of drafts of addresses given by Chandler, including speeches on the principles of American government and the laws of nations.
Peleg W. Chandler legal papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.