David and Pierce Catlin Family Papers (1767 - ca. 1890)

Finding Aid Completed by Eric Roth, September 27, 1999
Last revised April 12, 2001
Volume: 0.25 cu. ft.
Acquisition: The papers were probably donated to the Huguenot Historical Society by Reuben Crispell sometime between 1965-1972. These papers were originally part of an aggregation of papers documenting the family line of Reuben Bernard Crispell, known invariably as the Crispell Collection, or the Reuben Crispell Collection. The two other collections from this original aggregation are the Reuben Bernard Family Papers (1837-1922) and the Dr. Abraham Eltinge Crispell Papers (1845-1865).
Access: Unrestricted.
Copyright: Request for permission to publish materials from these records should be discussed with the Archivist and Director of the Huguenot Historical Society.

Biographical Note

David Catlin, Revolutionary War officer and landowner at Litchfield, Connecticut, was born on April 6, 1747 to John Catlin and Margaret Seymour. He married first Ann Peck, and second Ann Parmelee, by whom he had at least five children, David, Pierce, Emily, Elvira, and Nancy.[1] In 1783, David was appointed Captain of the “11th Company on Trainband in the 17th Regiment” in Connecticut. At Litchfield, David apparently “belonged to a local company of horsemen, commanded by Catlin Moses, Legionnaire, which was ordered to N.Y. city under Major Elisha Sheldon of Salisbury Conn….” According to genealogical papers stored in the collection, David “resided in Litchfield, Conn. until 1839 when he removed to Kingston, Ulster Co. N.Y. to live with his son Pierce and a daughter (Nancy) both in good circumstances, the remainder of his life.” David Catlin died on October 13, 1839.

Pierce Catlin was born on September 3, 1789. On June 11, 1820 he married Ann Winegar (1794-1838) and later Sarah (maiden name unknown), who is listed as Pierce’s widow in the Kingston City Directories as late as 1889. [2] Pierce had at least two children. A son, Amos P. Catlin received his law license at Kingston “shortly after 1840; and practiced here a few years, when he removed to California, and is now a prominent lawyer in that State.” [3] A daughter, Jane Ann (1830-1904), married Kingston physician Abraham Eltinge Crispell (1823-1881).

At various times in his life Pierce Catlin owned a wagon making business, a farm, and a grist- mill. An 1831 advertisement in a local newspaper provides evidence that Pierce Catlin owned a Carriage and Wagon Making Business in Kingston.[4] A letter from his son Amos P. Catlin stored in this collection mentions that Pierce sold a farm (presumably near Kingston) and purchased a grist mill in Rhinebeck in ca. 1852. Pierce is also listed as a founding trustee of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the town of Kingston in 1830, and a founding officer of the Kingston chapter of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York in 1850. [5] Pierce Catlin died on July 31, 1872.

Collection Description

The records in this collection document approximately 130 years of the Catlin family of Litchfield, Connecticut, and Kingston, Ulster County, New York. Records include letters, deeds, wills, bills of sale, receipts, leases, insurance papers, and genealogical research materials. The major subjects represented in the collection involve the acquisition and management of the family's land holdings primarily in Litchfield, attempts by David Catlin to recover the assets and financial interests of his deceased son who died in the Caribbean, an unspecified construction project in Kingston undertaken during the 1870's and 1880's, and the history and genealogy of the Catlin family. The collection also contains brief references to mining and business speculation in California in the early 1850's, and scattered notes about family news, schoolteaching, and slavery.

The collection is comprised of four broad record types: Correspondence, Estate and Legal Papers, Genealogical Research Materials, and Receipts. The main informational wealth of the collection lies chiefly in the 17 letters written by and to members Catlin family from ca. 1810 to 1852. These correspondences are unusually descriptive in comparison with other letters from this time period and cover a range of subjects, including family news, financial and legal business ventures, and mining and business speculation in California. The first batch of correspondence consists of letters chiefly written to David Catlin concerning his efforts to recover financial assets of his recently deceased son, also named David, who died in the Caribbean. One undated later written by son to father provides perhaps the last communication between them. In this letter, David, the younger, informs his father of his preparations to set sail to Barbados and also mentions some legal arrangements regarding "a deed of a piece of land with a store and barn in Dummerston (Vermont) worth at least Seven Hundred Dollars." Letters to the father by several family members and legal agents from 1810-1818 discuss various problems in recovering the lost son's assets. In one letter written to David Catlin in 1814, his nephew Lynde Catlin of New York writes that he "Sincerely lament(s) that this unhappy War has prevented our obtaining what is justly due you in the West Indies. The present prospect of Peace will I hope soon enable us to make another effort to recover it." Additional letters from Lynde and others from this period mention business contacts in Martinique, Philadelphia, Roseay, and Dominica, and discuss numerous difficulties encountered when trying to collect payments from the deceased son's debtors.

Four letters written between 1826 and 1829 primarily discuss family news. One letter from 1826 discusses the death of Phenias Catlin, who died of a fatal illness caused by a minor wound that went untreated. Two letters written to Daniel Roberts while a student in Middlebury College in Vermont in 1828 and 1829 provide detailed information on various family members and their daily lives. Emily Catlin of Litchfield writes in 1828, that "I am teaching a school of about thirty scholars a business which I am quite tired of should you come to Litchfield in the course of a year or two you may or may not find me in the same employment." This same letter contains several paragraphs written by Emily's sister Elvira, who writes that "I suppose that you have heard that I am in a school this summer it is so perplexing that I have a mind to say I shall never undertake it again." Elvira also mentions the marriage of her sister Emily, although unfortunately the name of the husband is illegible.

Another letter to Daniel from an unidentified aunt residing in Philadelphia is unusually detailed and descriptive in comparison with other letters from this time period. In it she offers moral and religious advice, urges Daniel to study for the ministry, and gives opinions regarding of churches and preachers in Philadelphia, including Grace Church and St. Andrews Church. The letter's author also discusses her living situation and her feelings about married life, saying that she "is very pleasantly situated, excepting being so far distant from my dear friends, yet I have a dearer friend, with me, that makes up in a considerable degree the loss of their society, I wear no chain, but the "Joyful Chain and that you know must be easy, I perhaps have as little care as any married lady can expect we board, as it is not so expensive as house keeping, and frees me from the care, that would devolve upon me if we were to keep house. Therefore that I may be as free from care as possible, my dear Husband has given me my choice to do which I please, I have plenty of time to read and write." As to life in Philadelphia, she writes that she "enjoy(s) the many inestimable privileges which I could not had I not remained in Litchfield we are not rich in this worlds goods neither are we very poor we have enough to enjoy life comfortably, and that is all we need."

Three letters written to Pierce Catlin of Kingston by his son A.P. (Amos P.) Catlin in 1851 and 1852 discuss the son's activities as a miner and speculator in California during the Gold Rush period. The son mentions that he left Sue City because of a cholera outbreak and is currently located on Mormon Island near San Francisco. He discusses prices of goods and property, and mentions that he is interested in pursuing work in mining quartz veins, speculating in damming and water companies, and a steam saw mill. He also discusses his wish to return home but will not return until he has made enough money to live upon. He also expresses surprise at learning of his father's recent move to trade his farm (presumably near Kingston) for a gristmill at Rhinebeck.

The Estate and Legal Papers from 1767 to 1821 primarily consist of deeds, survey bills, receipts, and other legal records of David Catlin concerning land in Litchfield and Dummerston from 1767-1808. Other documents include the will of John Catlin (1769); a military commission of David Catlin (1783), a sale of a slave by John Crispell to Thomas Crispell (1790); a court document relating to the estate of Mary Tarmele of Litchfield (1798), and a document from 1821 releasing to Catlin "so much of the old High-way in this Town of Litchfield in the Society of Milton, to his use and improvement with liberty to enclose the same." There is also a Revolutionary War pension claim filed by David Catlin from 1832, and an 1847 summons to the Surrogate court in Kingston concerning the will of Mary McLeon. Papers from 1875-1883 concern the estate of Pierce Catlin, who died intestate. Among these documents are letters of administration, certificates of fire insurance, a lease between Sarah Catlin and A.N. Childs.

The Genealogical Research Papers include handwritten notes tracing the Catlin family back to Thomas Catlin, who settled in Hartford, Connecticut in 1646. There are also some notes written on 1890's letterhead of plumber A.H. Catlin of Peekskill, Putnam County, New York regarding the military service of members of the Catlin and Guernsey family, primarily during the Revolutionary War. Also among the genealogical papers is an 1828 certificate of marriage between Andrew Dickinson and Elmira Catlin at the Reformed Dutch Church in Kingston.

Also in this collection are receipts of Pierce and Sarah Catlin dating mainly from the 1870's and 1880's relating to taxes, fire insurance, domestic goods, and construction and repair work. These latter receipts relate to payments made at several stores in Kingston for coal, bolts, screws, lath, nails, cement, mortar, posts, planks, brick, and turpentine. Many of the receipts also detail unspecified construction work, although work involving laying floors and painting rooms is mentioned. Three receipts from 1864-1865 relate to payments made to Janet Freer for tombstones.

In addition to this collection, the Huguenot Historical Society also maintains a family bible of Pierce Catlin, which includes family records. This bible stored maintained with Bible and Religious Book Collection and is listed as Bible #95. Transcriptions of the family records from the Bible are available upon request.

The papers are filed into folder by type, and arranged chronologically within folders. The papers are very fragile and must be handled with the utmost care. Because of this reason, requests to photocopy some of the documents may be denied. The handwriting throughout the papers is legible, with the exception of one letter from 1828, which is very difficult to decipher.

Folder/Item List

Correspondence (1810-1852 and undated)

Estate and Legal Papers:

Receipts (1864-1865, 1871-1889)

Genealogical Research Materials (1828-ca. 1890)


[1] The majority of the information in the biographical sketches of David and Pierce Catlin is taken from the Genealogical Research Materials stored in this collection. Unless otherwise noted, all genealogical references are drawn from this source.

[2] Annual Directory of the City of Kingston for the years 1888-1889, containing a business and street directory and an appendix of useful information. Thompson and Breed, Newburgh, NY, p. 47.

[3] Sylvester, Nathaniel Bartlett. History of Ulster County, New York, with Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers, Part First. Philadelphia, Evans & Peck (1880): p. 107.

[4] “The Ulster Palladium, Wednesday, May 11, 1831”. Newspaper #29, The Early American Newspaper Collection. Special Collections, Huguenot Historical Society, New Paltz, NY.

[5] Sylvester, pp. 233, 267.