Oliver J. Tillson Family Papers (1787-1899)

Finding Aid Completed by Eric Roth, August 17, 1999
Last revised May 17, 2004
Volume: 0.5 cu. ft.
Acquisition: The papers were donated to the Huguenot Historical Society by Oliver J. Tillson II at various times between 1969 and 1977.
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

Oliver J. Tillson, cartographer [1] and fruit farmer, was born at Rosendale on December 20, 1831 to Timothy F. Tillson (1798-1879) and Phoebe Woodmansee (1802-1856). According to Sylvester, he received his education at the New Paltz and Kingston academies, where he focused on practical surveying. [2] At the age of twenty, Tillson published a map of Ulster County in connection with P.H. Brink and Jay Gould. In 1855 Tillson served as town supervisor at Rosendale. In 1858 he moved to New Paltz Landing (now Highland, in the town of Lloyd ) where he purchased the Adams Farm where he became a fruit farmer. Tillson married Mary M Synar on June 4, 1856, by whom he had three children: Sarah, Harry and Laura. Oliver J. Tillson died in 1895.

Collection Description

The papers chiefly document the business and agricultural pursuits of the Tillson Family in the towns of Rosendale and Hurley in Ulster County, NY. The bulk of the records fall between 1835 and 1899. Records include deeds, wills, bonds, quit-claim deeds, survey maps, mortgages, promissory notes, powers of attorney, court records, correspondence, receipts, and photographs. Of particular interest are: the letters testamentary and will of Catherine Woodmanse (1835); court pleas and rulings concerning lawsuits between the Tillson, LeFevre and VanWagenen families over land partitions in Hurley (1839-1841); title abstract of the property of William Krom (1871); and the will and letters of administration of Oliver J. Tillson (1894-1895). Also housed in the collection are receipts of Job Tillson (1787-1795); receipts of Oliver J. Tillson from Robert Pearsall Smith, Map and Book Publisher (1853-1857); a receipt for a watch and chain from the Van Keuren Brothers in Poughkeepsie, NY; and several interior and exterior photographs of the Lakeledge house in Highland, NY (1889-1954); and one daguerreotype of Oliver J. Tillson, dating from 1856. Also, a highly detailed and decorated Map of Ulster County, NY done by Oliver J.Tillson in 1853 is stored with the Huguenot Historical Society's Map Collection.

Although scattered, the correspondence chiefly documents the business and agricultural pursuits of Oliver J. Tillson. Three letters between Tillson and the American Art Union from 1852 discuss distribution and the publishing business. Briefly mentioned in this letter is a difficult lawsuit undertaken by the organization, and also the possibility of creating an abolition paper. Other letters concern the construction of printing presses by P.M. Avery (1856); the 1856 Presidential Election between Buchannan and Fillmore; and shipping furniture from New York City by barge (1864). One 1864 letter to Tillson from P.H. Brink of Glasco, NY describes difficulties in the strawberry farming business, comparing it to potato farming, which he claims is much easier and more lucrative.

Overall, the handwriting is quite legible and the condition of the papers is fair to good. Some documents are very weak and require special care during handling. The papers are organized into folders alphabetically by format. Within folders, the papers are arranged chronologically.

Folder/Item List

Correspondence (1846-1895 scattered)

Estate and Legal Papers:
(1795-1838) - oversize
(1839-1859 and undated) - oversize

Photographs, Lakeledge House, Highland, NY (1889-1954)

Receipts (1787-1884 and undated)

Watercolor, unidentified man (undated)


[1] The Huguenot Historical Society maintains several maps published by Tillson in the Society's Map Collection . Additionally, five books that belonged to Oliver J. Tillson are stored in the Society's Rare Book Collection . Objects such as furniture, a fruit basket, snuff box, tableware, clothing accessories, and mapmaking tools donated by Oliver J. Tillson II are maintained by the Society's curator of collections.

[2] Sylvester, Nathaniel Bartlett. History of Ulster County ..., Part Second. Philadelphia, Everts & Peck (1880): pp. 13, 235-236. Other genealogical information taken from The Tilson Genealogy: From Edmond Tilson at Plymouth , N.E. 1638-1911 with brief sketches of the family in England back to 1066 by Mercer V. Tilson, published by Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore (1982).