Holcomb Family,
Papers 1805-1889
SC11335

Quantity: 6 boxes (2 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research.
Acquisition: See Provenance Note
Processed by: Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts and Special Collections, December 2005.

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Genealogical Note

The Holcomb family first settled in Stephentown, Rensselaer County, New York, during the 1780s when Josiah Holcomb (1717-1805) moved here with his family from Simsbury, Connecticut. Josiah Holcomb leased Stephentown farm lot 24, comprising 59 acres on 6 December 1786. This lease was transferred to his second eldest son, Beriah Holcomb (1748 -1827), on December 28, 1789. (Copies of the original leases are found in the Rensselaerwyck Manor Records). Beriah Holcomb married Lucretia Pease (1751-1937), who bore six children.

George Holcomb, the youngest son of Beriah and Lucretia Holcomb, was born February 13, 1791 in Stephentown, where he resided most of his life working the farm and peddling goods in the surrounding area. He married Lucinda Wylie (April 15, 1790-January 29, 1863) at New Lebanon, New York, April 15, 1819. He died May 12, 1856, at Stephentown. George and Lucinda had six children: George J. (1819-1820), Charlotte (1821-1891), Angeline, (1823-1842), George Pease (1825-1883), John Franklin (1827-1894), and Sarah Orilla, (1829-1877). Sarah married George W. Long, April 28, 1864.

A more complete genealogical record of the Holcomb and allied Wylie and Morton families is found in Appendix B of this guide.

Scope and Content Note

These papers consist chiefly of the detailed personal diaries kept by George W. Holcomb (1791-1856) from June 13, 1805 to March 21, 1856. On the pages of these diaries is the complete record of daily work, life, and bookkeeping of a farmer from sunup until sometimes well after midnight. He also writes of his many dealings as a peddler of sundry goods and the many journeys to Pittsfield, Massachusetts and Albany and Troy, New York, where he bargained with local merchants. His life-long struggle with “salt rheum” and other health problems are mentioned in considerable detail in regards to medical treatments and medicine available at the time. The lives and activities of family, friends, and relatives were recorded in such detail that it now has significant genealogical value. The people and events relevant to the history of Stephentown, New York, and vicinity were meticulously recorded, too. Political sentiments of George Holcomb are often mentioned, particularly his support for Jacksonian Democrats in several elections during the 1820s and later, during the 1840s, his involvement in the anti-rent movement. As a frequent traveler, these diaries contain many tidbits of information on the transportation infrastructure of the first half of the 19th century, particularly roads and turnpikes. Travels via the Erie Canal and early railroads are mentioned too. Religious life and activities are often discussed, especially his observations of Shaker communities at Hancock, Massachusetts, and Mount Lebanon, New York. Altogether the factual and anecdotal information recorded on the pages of George Holcomb’s diaries provide a truly significant documentary of the history, culture, society, and life in rural New York State during the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War.

These papers also include personal letters addressed to George Holcomb and his wife Lucinda, and their daughters, Charlotte and Sarah, from 1812 to 1889. Much like the diaries, these letters contain tidbits of factual as well as anecdotal information relative to routine activities and experiences of daily life. In the early years the letters were written primarily by the siblings of George Holcomb or his wife, Lucinda. The pattern of families moving westward to establish homes on the frontier is evident in letters posted from central and western New York State and then Ohio, Illinois, Louisiana, and California. In later years, the transition from rural areas to urban areas is apparent, too. Complete details regarding the content of individual letters in found in Appendix A: Calendar of Holcomb Family Correspondence.

Provenance Note:

The diary was a gift of Mildred Holcomb of Garfield, New York, September 18, 1941; correspondence and other papers were received from Frank Thomas, [1941]. The group received from Frank Thomas also included printed monographs (books) that were catalogued and added to the New York State Library’s book collection. Both groups of manuscripts were accessioned by the New York State Library in June 1944. Correspondence was originally accessioned as SC11336, and collated with SC11335, December 2, 2005. The postal covers (envelopes) found in Box 6, Folder 12 were not retained with the original letters when initially processed during the 1940s.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Diary of George Holcomb

Box Folder Description of Contents
1 1 Diary of George Holcomb, 1 January 1805 – 17 July 1813 (pp. 1-190)
1 2 Diary of George Holcomb, 18 July 1813 – 31 December 1816 (pp.191-410)
1 3 Diary of George Holcomb, 1 January 1817 – 4 July 1819 (pp. 411-636)
1 4 Diary of George Holcomb, 5 July 1619 – 31 January 1821 (pp. 637-814)
1 5 Diary of George Holcomb, 1 February 1821 – 3 July 1822 (pp.815-1008)
1 6 Diary of George Holcomb, 4 July 1822 – 12 April 1824 (pp. 1009-1200)
1 7 Diary of George Holcomb, 13 April 1824 – 22 December 1825 (pp. 1201-1354)
2 1 Diary of George Holcomb, 23 December 1825 – 16 December 1827 (pp. 1355-1590)
2 2 Diary of George Holcomb, 17 December 1827 – 24 June 1830 (pp. 1591-1860)
2 3 Diary of George Holcomb, 25 June 1830 – 26 December 1832 (pp. 1861-2084)
2 4 Diary of George Holcomb, 27 December 1832 – 6 September 1835 (pp. 2085-4048)
2 5 Diary of George Holcomb, 7 September 1835 – 12 April 1838 (pp. 4049-7024)
2 6 Diary of George Holcomb, 13 April 1838 – 21 May 1840 (pp. 7025-8108)
3 1 Diary of George Holcomb, 22 May 1840 – 2 May 1843 (pp. 8109-9198)
3 2 Diary of George Holcomb, 3 May 1843 – 19 April 1846 (pp. 9199-10054)
3 3 Diary of George Holcomb, 20 April 1846 – 14 May 1849 (pp. 10055-10226)
3 4 Diary of George Holcomb, 15 May 1849 – 17 February 1852 (pp. 10227-10556)
3 5 Diary of George Holcomb, 18 February 1842 – 8 March 1854 (pp. 10557-10750)
3 6 Diary of George Holcomb, 9 March 1854 – 20 February 1856 (pp. 10751-10951)

Transcript of the Diary of George Holcomb, 1805-1856, by Elizabeth McClave, former Stephentown Town Historian, 1982; revised by Warren F. Broderick, 2005.

Box Folder Description of Contents
4 1 1805-1812
4 2 1813-1817
4 3 1818-1820
4 4 1821-1823
4 5 1824-1826
4 6 1827-1829
4 7 1830-1832
4 8 1833-1835
5 1 1836-1838
5 2 1839-1841
5 3 1842-1844
5 4 1845-1847
5 5 1848-1850
5 6 1851-1853
5 7 1854-1856
5 8 Biographical, genealogical, and historical notes compiled Elizabeth McClave
5 9 Items from the Journal of George Holcomb, Stephentown, N.Y. compiled by Ella May Roraback, 1936. 43 p. (formerly #10638)
5 10 Holcomb and Wylie Family genealogy, compiled by Warren F. Broderick, 1980

Holcomb Family Correspondence, 1812-1889 (See Appendix A for complete list of items)

Box Folder Description of Contents
6 1 Correspondence, 1812-1829
6 2 Correspondence, 1830-1839
6 3 Correspondence, 1840-1844
6 4 Correspondence, 1845-1849
6 5 Correspondence, 1850-1854
6 6 Correspondence, 1855-1859
6 7 Correspondence, 1860-1862
6 8 Correspondence, 1863-1864
6 9 Correspondence. 1865-1879
6 10 Correspondence, 1880-1889
6 11 Miscellaneous Papers (includes parts of letters)
6 12 Postal covers (envelopes) detached from the letters, ca. 1860-1889
Last Updated: June 1, 2010