1717-1888; bulk: 1845-1862

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


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.

Biographical Sketch

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.

Collection Description

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.

Acquisition Information

The Massachusetts Historical Society acquired the Peleg W. Chandler legal papers from the Peabody Museum in 1943.

Processing Note

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

Box 1Folder 1-4
Hayden v. City of Roxbury, 1854 - 1858
Box 1Folder 5
Commonwealth v. City of Roxbury, 1857
Box 1Folder 6
Boston Water Power Co. v. City of Roxbury, 1858 - 1859
Box 1Folder 7-8
Taylor v. Boston Water Power Co., 1858 - 1860
Box 1Folder 9
Sewall v. Boston Water Power Co., 1860
Box 1Folder 10
Boston Water Power Company cases, 1860
Box 1Folder 11
Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation records, 1883 - 1887

B. Wharf cases, 1825 - 1861

Box 1Folder 12
Long Wharf, 1825
Box 1Folder 13
Mercantile Wharf, 1827 - 1831, 1854
Box 1Folder 14
Charles River Wharf, 1841, 1846
Box 1Folder 15
T (Tea) Wharf, 1860 - 1861
Box 1Folder 16-17
City Wharf, 1852 - 1855

Most of the papers related to City Wharf are legal papers and correspondence involving Josiah Quincy.

Box 1Folder 18
Boston Wharf Company, 1852
OS BoxFolder 1-2
Wharf plans and maps, 1852 - 1854

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

Box 2Folder 1
Parks Commission statement on Back Bay Park, n.d.
Box 2Folder 2-3
Papers of the South Cove Development Corp. (Kneeland St), 1835 - 1846
Box 2Folder 4
Orders compelling the City of Boston to number and widen streets, 1851 - 1861
Box 2Folder 5-7
Streets, declaration of City to widen, 1852 - 1858
Box 2Folder 8-25
Dover Street flooding cases 1857 - 1859
Box 2Folder 26
Rhodes v. City of Boston (490 Tremont Street), 1858

B. Railroad case, n.d.

Box 3Folder 1-4
Testimony from horse and stable owners about effect of railroad on business, n.d.

C. Elections, 1859 - 1861

Box 3Folder 5
Election law, 1859
Box 3Folder 6
Paul v. Wilson, Ward 12 disputed election, 1861

D. Civil cases, 1849 - 1859

Box 3Folder 7
White v. City of Boston, 1849
Box 3Folder 8
Wheeler v. City of Boston, 1859
Box 3Folder 9
Sargent v. City of Boston, 1859

Papers show evidence of water damage and many are illegible.

Box 3Folder 10-11
Joseph Stevens v. City of Boston, 1859

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.

Box 4Folder 1-2
Background deeds, 1717 - 1806
Box 4Folder 3-5
Pertaining to Joseph Rowe, 1816 - 1857
Box 4Folder 6
Hall v. Thayer, 1849
Box 4Folder 7
Hall v. Thayer, 1859
Box 4Folder 8
Wight v. Thayer / Stetson v. Thayer, 1849
Box 4Folder 9
Thayer wills and papers, 1822 - 1854
Box 4Folder 10
Thayer wills, 1850 - 1851
Box 4Folder 11
Copied Supreme Judicial Court decisions, 1855 - 1860
Box 4Folder 12
John Ware, 1857
Box 4Folder 13
Winslow v. King, 1858
Box 4Folder 14
Sumner v. Evans, 1859
Box 4Folder 15
Israel Thorndike, 1860 - 1861
Box 4Folder 16
Codman v. Evans, 1860 - 1862
Box 4Folder 17
Cases involving James Beebe, 1861
Box 4Folder 18
Estate papers of Benjamin Adams and Frances P. Winthrop, 1859-1861
Box 4Folder 19
Deeds and lease agreements, 1854 - 1862

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.

Box 5Folder 1-3
First Church papers, 1835 - 1856
Box 5Folder 4
Hawes Fund (First Church), 1848 - 1849
Box 5Folder 5-6
First Church notes, 1857
Box 5Folder 7-8
Devonshire Street widening case, 1860
OS BoxFolder 3
Bishop John Bernard Fitzpatrick, Devonshire Street deed, 11 July 1860

V. Legal papers, 1833-1887

Arranged chronologically.

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.

Box 6Folder 1-7

VI. Legal correspondence, 1850-1888

Arranged chronologically.

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.

Box 6Folder 8-10

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.

Box 6Folder 11

Preferred Citation

Peleg W. Chandler legal papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

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.


Preston, William Gibbons.
Quincy, Josiah, 1772-1864.


Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation.
Boston Water Power Company.
Boston Wharf Company.
First Church (Boston, Mass.).
Long Wharf (Boston, Mass.).
Mercantile Wharf Corporation.
South Cove Corporation (Boston, Mass.).
T Wharf. Proprietors.


Real estate development--Massachusetts--Boston.
Real property--Massachusetts--Boston.
Back Bay (Boston, Mass.).