1735-1955; bulk: 1809-1904

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of the McCleary family of Boston, primarily those of Samuel F. McCleary (1780-1855) and his son, Samuel F. McCleary, Jr. (1822-1901), both lawyers, justices of the peace, and the first and second city clerks of Boston, Mass.

Biographical Sketch

Samuel F. McCleary (1780-1855), son of Samuel (b. 1745) and Mary Luckis McCleary, was the first city clerk of Boston, from 1822 to 1852. Prior to that position he was a Boston lawyer and clerk of the State Senate. An active member of the Federalist Party, Samuel remained as city clerk until resigning on account of ill health. In 1819 he married Jane Walter (d. 1819). Following Jane's death, Samuel married her sister Maria Lynde Walter in 1821.

Maria Lynde Walter McCleary (1794-1881), born in Nova Scotia, was the daughter of Lynde (1767-1844) and Maria Van Buskirk Walter. She married Samuel F. McCleary in 1821. They had at least two children, Samuel F. McCleary, Jr. and Maria Louisa McCleary (b. 1825).

Samuel F. McCleary, Jr. (1822-1901), the eldest son of Samuel and Maria Lynde, was educated at the Boston Public Latin School and Harvard. Like his father, Samuel, Jr. first practiced law and then became the second city clerk of Boston after his father's resignation in 1852. Samuel, Jr. held the position of city clerk until 1883. Following his removal from office he managed the New York Equitable Life Assurance Society's Boston office. He retired in 1888. He served as treasurer of the Franklin Fund and president of the Bunker Hill Monument Association. In 1855, Samuel, Jr. married Emily Thurston Barnard (d. 1876) of Nantucket. They had five children, including Emily, Cornelia, Helen, and Samuel Foster (1865-1892).

Helen C. McCleary (b. 1873) was the daughter of Samuel, Jr. and Emily McCleary.

Thomas Luckis (b. 1722) of Boston was the maternal uncle of Samuel F. McCleary. He married Mary Lewis in 1748.

Collection Description

This collection consists of the papers, 1735-1955, of the McCleary family of Boston, including Samuel F. McCleary (1780-1855) and Samuel F. McCleary, Jr. (1822-1901), the first and second city clerks of Boston, respectively. The bulk of the collection is from 1809-1904.

The collection includes legal papers kept by both Samuel and Samuel, Jr., which contain appointments to administer estates, receipts, affidavits, depositions, indentures, real-estate papers, and deeds. It also contains the personal papers of father and son, including the elder Samuel's math notebook, French copybook, writing book with notes on the Federal Street Theater, and line-a-day diary. Samuel, Jr.'s personal papers include letters on family and personal matters, extensive correspondence with members of the Harvard Class of 1841 and his class papers, addresses and essays, notes on literature and history, and biographical information in an autobiography and a memorial. His scrapbook contains notes on the Franklin Fund and his time as city clerk.

Other family papers include a commonplace-book from Maria Lynde Walter McCleary, her letterbook, which consists of copies of correspondence from John Quincy Adams to his son George Washington Adams, a commonplace-book by Maria Louisa McCleary, and a school book from Thomas Luckis.

The papers of Helen C. McCleary include notes on McCleary genealogy. Helen donated the collection, and she occasionally penciled in remarks on family materials.

The McCleary family papers contain relatively few documents in relation to either Samuel or Samuel, Jr. as city clerk. There are a few letters to Samuel, Jr. as city clerk in his legal papers. Most of the materials on the McCleary's as city clerks were written after Samuel, Jr. was removed from office and are in his autobiography, scrapbook, and memoir.

Acquisition Information

This collection was acquired through several gifts of Helen C. McCleary in February 1921, May 1934, September 1952, and May 1953. The 1813 line-a-day diary of Samuel F. McCleary was donated by Samuel F. McCleary, Jr. in March 1899.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Samuel F. McCleary papers, 1791-1846

A. Legal papers, 1809-1846

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries consists of papers kept by Samuel F. McCleary as an attorney and property owner. Legal papers include affidavits, deeds, libels for divorce, appointments to administer estates, assignments of debt, receipts, certificates of appraisal, and letters regarding real-estate transactions. Extensive correspondence with the William Marsh family concerns both the legal services provided by McCleary to Marsh and the sale of Marsh's Apple Island in return. Also included is an indenture agreement between Joseph Dudley and Harrison Gray Otis, and a list of persons warned against voting in Boston Ward No. 3 because of a failure to pay taxes.

Box 1Folder 1-7

B. Personal papers, 1791-1844

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains the personal papers of Samuel F. McCleary, including a copy of a speech, excerpts from two 1884 newspaper articles on the Whig Party, and a letter on religion. The volumes consist of a 1791 math notebook, a 1796 writing book with notes on the Federal Street Theater, an 1802 French copybook, and an 1813 line-a-day diary.

Box 1Folder 8
Math notebook, 1791
Box 1Folder 9
Writing book with notes on the Federal Street Theater, 1796
Vol. 1
French copybook, 1802
Vol. 2
Line-a-day diary, 1813
Box 1Folder 10
Personal papers, 1844

II. Samuel F. McCleary, Jr. papers, 1816-1904

A. Legal papers, 1843-1882

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries consists of legal papers kept by Samuel F. McCleary, Jr. It includes appointments of execution and mortgage, demands for debt collection, receipts, depositions, a number of indentures, leases, and papers related to real-estate transactions in Boston, Metheun, and Medford. It also contains a letter signed by Samuel, Jr. as justice of the peace and a few letters written to him as city clerk.

Box 2Folder 1-4

B. Personal papers, 1816-1904

Arranged chronologically by format.

This subseries consists of the personal papers of Samuel F. McCleary, Jr. It includes private correspondence, notes on literature and history, public addresses and essays, a brief autobiography, notes on the Franklin Fund, and a memorial to him following his death. There is an extensive collection of materials related to his time at Harvard and classmates in the Class of 1841. Many of the manuscripts were written on the back of city clerk or City of Boston scrap paper.

The essays and public addresses include a letter concerning proposed renovations to the Bunker Hill Monument, a draft of a published article on the effects of the Fifteenth Amendment, and remarks on the function of the Boston Public Library. There are also two addresses on municipal charters and memorials to Harvard classmates Dr. Alexander Rice and William Henry Thayer.

The Harvard materials include Samuel, Jr.'s class papers and manuscripts printed by Harvard on admissions, dress code, tuition, class songs, exhibition performances, and commencement. Later materials include extensive correspondence with the Harvard Class of 1841 in order to collect biographical information on class members, and a biography of Charles Coffin Harris, chief justice and chancellor of the Hawaiian Kingdom. See also public addresses and essays for memorials to classmates.

Samuel, Jr.'s autobiography details his service to the City of Boston and his 1883 removal as city clerk. It includes letters of condolence on his removal and letters regarding an earlier removal attempt in 1868.

The scrapbook contains newspaper clippings on Samuel, Jr.'s removal from office, articles on the Franklin Fund, and a published letter from Samuel, Jr. on voting reform. A loose letter, Samuel, Jr.'s farewell to the city clerk's office, has been removed to his personal correspondence.

Box 2Folder 5
Franklin Fund notes, n.d.
Box 2Folder 6
Pocket book, 1816, 1845

Contains the signatures of Samuel F. McCleary and Samuel F. McCleary Jr., and one entry for interest due.

Public addresses and essays, 1836-1897

Box 2Folder 7
Essay, "The Value of Trifles," and related notes, n.d.
Box 2Folder 8-10
Public addresses and essays, 1836-1853, 1869-1887, 1890-1897

Harvard materials, 1833-1892

Box 3Folder 1-2
Class notes and memorabilia, 1837-1841
Vol. 3
Index to class notes, 1838
Box 3Folder 3-4
Harvard Class of 1841: correspondence and notes, 1877-1892
Box 3Folder 5-6
Literary and historical notes, 1839-1893
Box 3Folder 7-8
Personal correspondence, 1848-1887
Box 3Folder 9
Autobiography and related papers, 1868-1883
Box 3Folder 10
Scrapbook, 1874-1903
Box 3Folder 11
Memorial, 1901-1904

Includes a remembrance from the Harvard Class of 1841, printed obituaries, and sketches of his life.

III. Family papers, 1735-1955

A. Thomas Luckis school book, 1735

This subseries consists of a 1735 school book of Thomas Luckis, uncle of the elder Samuel F. McCleary (1780-1855).

Box 4Folder 1

B. Maria Lynde Walter McCleary papers, 1811-1832

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries consists of an 1825 letterbook dedicated by Maria to her children containing copies of eleven letters from John Quincy Adams to his son, George Washington Adams, written from 1811 to 1813, and an 1832 commonplace-book with entries including "Explanation of my Creed on Articles of Faith," "The Idea of a perfect wife," and "Domestic Economy." The connection between Maria Lynde Walter McCleary and John Quincy Adams is unclear.

Box 4Folder 2
Letterbook, 1811-1825
Box 4Folder 3
Commonplace-book, 1832

C. Maria Louisa McCleary commonplace-book, 1857-1870

This subseries consists of an 1857-1870 commonplace-book written by Maria Louisa McCleary, daughter of Samuel F. McCleary and Maria Lynde Walter McCleary. Contains an essay on Napoleon and other commonplace-book entries.

Box 4Folder 4

D. Helen C. McCleary papers, 1891-1955

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries consists of the personal correspondence of Helen C. McCleary, her notes on the family papers along with some brief genealogical notes, and a poem. The personal correspondence includes a letter from Charles G. Smith of the Massachusetts Historical Society following her father's death, and letters from William Henry Thayer to her regarding family matters.

Box 4Folder 5

IV. Printed materials, 1843-1924

Arranged chronologically by format

This series consists of newspaper clippings, printed ephemera, and an 1843 pamphlet titled "Small Sins" by Rev. Henry Ware. The newspaper clippings include articles on the lives of Samuel F. McCleary and Samuel F. McCleary, Jr., the Franklin Fund, and Cornelia Wells Walter, sister of Maria Lynde Walter McCleary.

Box 4Folder 6
"Small Sins" by Rev. Henry Ware, 1843
Box 4Folder 7
Newspaper clippings, 1896-1924
Box 4Folder 8
Printed ephemera, 1901

Photographs Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the McCleary family photographs, ca. 1921. Photo. Coll. 500.73.

Preferred Citation

McCleary family 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.


Clarke, James Freeman, -- 1810-1888.
Cobb, Samuel C. -- (Samuel Crocker), -- 1826-1891.
Luckis, Thomas, -- b. 1722.
McCleary, Helen C., -- b. 1873.
McCleary, Maria Louisa, -- b. 1825.
McCleary, Maria Lynde Walter, -- 1794-1881.
McCleary, Samuel Foster, -- 1780-1855.
McCleary, Samuel Foster, -- 1822-1901.
Otis, Harrison Gray, -- 1765-1848.
Rice, Alexander Hamilton, -- 1818-1895.
Sumner, Charles, -- 1811-1874.


Boston (Mass.). -- City Clerk.
Harvard College (1780- ). -- Class of 1841.
Harvard University -- Students.


Family history -- 1800-1849.
Family history -- 1850-1899.
Family history -- 1900-1949.
Justices of the peace -- Massachusetts -- Boston.
Lawyers -- Massachusetts -- Boston.
Real property -- Massachusetts -- Boston.
Real property -- Massachusetts -- Medford.
Town clerks -- Massachusetts-- Boston.
Women's commonplace-books.