This collection will be featured at our 2019 Open Archives on June 27.

We are delighted to announce that the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati has generously provided funding to digitize the Cambridge Historical Society’s Serjeant Family Letters (1769-1840) (formerly the Winwood Serjeant Letters) and make them accessible to the public on our website and in person at the historic Hooper-Lee-Nichols House.

Winwood Serjeant (c.1730?-1780) was born in England and ordained in 1756. Following his ordination, he was sent to South Carolina as an Anglican Missionary. In 1767, Serjeant became the third rector of Christ Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While there, Serjeant resided near Brattle Street, an area that was home to many loyalists during the Revolutionary Era and the current home of the Cambridge Historical Society. Though not markedly outspoken, he supported the crown, a stance shared by the majority of congregants at Christ Church.

Mary Browne Serjeant hailed from Portsmouth, New Hampshire and wed Winwood Serjeant in 1765. She authored some of the letters contained in the collection, and all but one were written to her sister, Elizabeth Browne Rogers. The content of these letters ranges from gossip to politics. Details of family life are intertwined with spiritual advice and news of the impending war. Winwood Serjeant’s last letters voice his growing concern about the political strife:

“Boston is in a terrible situation, & will be much more so if they do not submit to government before the Fall…” [15 June 1774]

“The provincial Congress that met last week at Concord is adjourned to meet at Cambridge this day…their resolves run so high that something dreadful is soon expected at Boston” [17 October 1775]

These letters offer insight into the life of a Loyalist in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War and illuminate the connections between family and religion during this fascinating era of American history. Though the letters once piqued the interest of historian and author Samuel Batchelder, there has been little additional scholarship on this rich collection.  

The Cambridge Historical Society is indebted to the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati for making possible increased access to this rare historical collection, and for its past assistance in providing funding for our website, cell phone guided tours, digitization, and online exhibitions.

Update: View the collection on our website or on Flickr.