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Aug/Sept '99
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Papers of Legendary Hoar Family Come to the Concord Library

By Leslie Perrin Wilson Curator of the Special Collections of the Concord Public Library.

Squire Samuel HoarSitting down to review a proposed gift of Hoar family papers with donor Virginia Hoar Frecha this past March, I was astonished by the extent and richness of the material offered to the Special Collections. It was impossible to hide my excitement as Mrs. Frecha--great-great-granddaughter of Squire Sam Hoar of Concord--handed me wonderful things: papers reflecting the Squire's involvement in the antislavery movement and in the formation of the Republican Party in Massachusetts; presidential letters from Ulysses S. Grant to Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, one of the Squire's sons and Attorney General of the United States in Grant's cabinet; unpublished Emerson and Hawthorne letters; a moving letter from Florence, Italy from Daniel Chester French to Concord's Committee on General Invitations for the 1875 celebration of the centennial of the Concord Fight, in which French regrets his inability to be present at the unveiling of his Minuteman statue; and poignant Civil War letters from Ebenezer's son Sam to family members back home in Concord.

The collection consists of papers dating from 1738 to 1958 (most between 1815 and 1935) of five generations of Hoars. It includes: papers of lawyer Samuel Hoar (the Squire, pictured at right) and his wife Sarah Sherman Hoar; papers of the Squire's son lawyer and judge Ebenezer Rockwood (known familiarly as "Rockwood"); letters to E.R. Hoar's daughter Caroline as a child and young woman; papers of his son Samuel (also a lawyer) and of Samuel's wife Helen Putnam Wadleigh Hoar (including letters and keepsakes from Helen's young granddaughters Cynthia and Virginia Hoar); papers of lawyer Samuel, son of E.R. Hoar's son Samuel and father of Cynthia, Virginia, and Samuel; and miscellaneous papers collected by the family.


  • Concord, Mass. Birth, marriage, and death records, 1850-ca. 1935 (unpublished; transcribed from original vital records; housed in the Concord Free Public Library Special Collections).

  • Concord, Mass. Concord, Massachusetts Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1635-1850 ([1895]).

  • Concord, Mass. Historical Commission. "158 Main Street: Samuel Hoar House," pages [365]-[369] in Survey of Historical and Architectural Resources, Concord, Massachusetts, Volume II (1994).

  • Concord, Mass. Historical Commission. "194 Main Street: Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar House," pages [399]-[403] in Survey of Historical and Architectural Resources, Concord, Massachusetts, Volume II (1994).

  • Concord Free Public Library. Special Collections. Obituary and events scrapbooks, with indexes.

  • Emerson, Edward W. "Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar," pages [1]-130 in Memoirs of Members of the Social Circle in Concord, Fourth Series (1909).

  • French, Allen. "Two Concord Laymen: John and Samuel Hoar," reprinted from Proceedings of the Unitarian Historical Society, Vol. V, Pt. I ([1936]).

  • Haynes, George H. "Hoar, Ebenezer Rockwood," in Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 10, pages 86-87.

  • Haynes, George H. "Hoar, Samuel," in Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 10, pages 89-90.

  • Hoar, Ebenezer Rockwood. "Samuel Hoar," pages [30]-53 in Memoirs of Members of the Social Circle in Concord, Third Series (1907).

  • Hudson, Woodward. "Samuel Hoar," pages [265]-293 of Memoirs of Members of the Social Circle in Concord, Fourth Series (1909).

  • Lincoln, Mass. Vital Records of Lincoln Massachusetts to the Year 1850 (1908).

  • Newbury, Egbert S., Jr. "Samuel Hoar," pages 141-163, Memoirs of Members of the Social Circle in Concord, Sixth Series (1975).

  • Nourse, Henry Stedman. The Hoar Family in America and Its English Ancestry: A Compilation from Collections Made by the Hon. George Frisbie Hoar (1899).

  • Storey, Moorfield, and Edward W. Emerson. Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar: A Memoir (1911).

  • The Hoars of Concord and Lincoln descended from John Hoare of Gloucester, England, and his wife Joanna Hincksman Hoare. John Hoare died in 1638. About 1640, Joanna came to New England with five of their children. Their son John settled in Scituate, sold his land there in 1659, and came to Concord. He exchanged the land he first owned (near what is now MCI Concord) for land on the Bay Road (now Lexington Road), on the present Orchard House site. He housed the "Christian Indians" in Concord during King Philip's War, and succeeded in ransoming Mary Rowlandson (wife of the minister of Lancaster, Massachusetts), who was held captive by the Native Americans after the attack on Lancaster in February, 1675/6.

    Samuel Hoar, the great-great-grandson of the first John Hoare in Concord and the father of Squire Sam, was born in 1743, in what would become Lincoln in 1754. He served as a lieutenant of the Lincoln company at the Concord Fight on April 19, 1775. He was later a Massachusetts representative and senator. Like his father (John), grandfather (Daniel), and great-grandfather (Daniel), he was a farmer.

    During the nineteenth century, the Hoar family was tremendously influential not only in Concord life and politics, but in state and national government as well. Squire Sam Hoar (1778-1856), born in Lincoln, was one of the great 19th century lawyers of Massachusetts, a man of principle, integrity, directness, and wide-ranging legal expertise. He graduated from Harvard College in 1802, studied law with Artemas Ward in Charlestown, Mass., was admitted to the bar in 1803, and practiced law in Concord from 1805. He was a powerful presence in the bar of Middlesex County.

    Samuel Hoar married Sarah Sherman, daughter of Roger Sherman of Connecticut, in 1812. With their six children, they made their home on Main Street, in what is now #158.

    Politically, he was a Federalist, later a Whig, and a founder of the Free Soil Party. He served as a delegate to the Massachusetts constitutional convention of 1820, and several times as a member of the state senate. From 1835 to 1837, he represented the Middlesex District in the 24th Congress of the United States. During his tenure in Washington, he upheld the power of Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia.

    In 1844, accompanied by his daughter Elizabeth (earlier engaged to marry Ralph Waldo Emerson's brother Charles, who had died in 1836), he went to South Carolina to test the constitutionality of that state's law, under which free black Massachusetts sailors were seized, imprisoned, and sometimes sold into slavery. Threatened with mob violence, he was forced to leave South Carolina.

    In 1845, Hoar was elected to the Massachusetts Governor's Council. He became a state representative in 1850. In 1854, he chaired a committee appointed to call a meeting at the American House in Boston (July 7, 1854) in order to form a new party and to call a state convention. Precipitated by anger over the Kansas-Nebraska bill, this convention (held in Worcester September 7, 1854) resulted in the formation of the Republican Party of Massachusetts out of the Free Soil Party.

    Sam Hoar was active in Concord town and church government and as an advocate of temperance and education. He served many times as moderator of town meeting. He was an overseer of Harvard College and a member of the Social Circle in Concord.

    Two of Samuel Hoar's sons, Ebenezer Rockwood (right) and George Frisbie, also had distinguished public careers.

    The Squire Samuel Hoar papers presented to the Concord Free Public Library in March include letters (among Hoar's correspondents Ralph Waldo Emerson's brother William Emerson, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Lyman, Josiah Quincy, Lemuel Shaw, and Daniel Webster), responses to the 1854 circular sent by the committee chaired by Hoar to organize the American House meeting that proved to be so significant in the history of the Massachusetts Republican Party, and manuscript items (for example, a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court docket for the October, 1816 term). The Sarah Sherman Hoar papers include correspondence and financial papers.

    ER HoarLike his father, Judge Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar (1816-1895) was a lawyer, a key member of the Middlesex Bar, and a public servant at the local, state, and national levels. A cultivated and sociable man with a good sense of humor, he was as comfortable among members of the Saturday Club as he was in a court of law.

    He graduated from Harvard College in 1835, began the study of law in his father's office, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1839. In 1840, he married Caroline Downes Brooks, daughter of Lincoln-born Concord lawyer Nathan Brooks and his first wife Caroline Downes Brooks. (Mrs. Hoar's half-brother was George Merrick Brooks, a lawyer and probate judge.) In 1845, Hoar built an impressive Greek Revival house on Main Street (now #194), near his parents' home. E.R. and Caroline Hoar had seven children.

    E.R. Hoar was a Whig, a Free Soiler, and a Republican. He was a judge of the Court of Common Pleas from 1849 to 1855, a justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from 1859 to 1869, United States Attorney General in the cabinet of Ulysses S. Grant (below, second from left on April 19, 1875 in front of 194 Main Street) from 1869 to 1870, and a representative in the United States Congress from 1873 to 1875.

    He was a proponent of abolition. In 1859, when United States Marshal's deputies attempted to arrest F.B. Sanborn for his involvement in John Brown's raid on the United States arsenal at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, E.R. Hoar issued the writ of habeas corpus that prevented them from doing so.

    In 1871, Hoar agreed to serve on a joint commission to frame a treaty to settle the Alabama claims against Great Britain for damage done during the Civil War by Confederate warships built in Liverpool. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish negotiated the Treaty of Washington.

    E.R. Hoar was a member of the famed Saturday Club and of its offshoot the Adirondack Club, an overseer and member of the corporation of Harvard College, a member of the Social Circle in Concord and of Concord's School Committee, chairman of the Concord Town Library Committee and president of the Concord Free Public Library Corporation (1873-1894), and was active in the American Unitarian Association. He was a member of the Committee on General Invitations for the 1875 celebration in Concord of the centennial of the Concord Fight. In 1894 (the year in which Patriots' Day was made a Massachusetts holiday), Hoar delivered the April 19th address at the First Parish in Concord.

    The papers of Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar represent the most extensive and significant part of Mrs. Frecha's gift to the Library. They include some two hundred letters to Hoar, reflecting his friendships, political associations, and family relationships. Among his many distinguished correspondents: Charles Francis Adams; Louis Agassiz; John A. Andrew; George Bancroft; James G. Blaine; Phillips Brooks; Thomas Carlyle; James Freeman Clarke; George William Curtis; Ralph Waldo Emerson; William M. Evarts; Edward Everett; Hamilton Fish; John Murray Forbes; Frederick T. Frelinghuysen; Daniel Chester French; James A. Garfield; Ulysses S. Grant; Edward Everett Hale; Hannibal Hamlin; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Rutherford B. Hayes; Thomas Wentworth Higginson; Oliver Wendell Holmes; Andrew Johnson; John Lothrop Motley; Charles Eliot Norton; Charles W. Palfray; William T. Sherman; William Wetmore Story; Charles Sumner; Booker T. Washington; John G. Whittier.

    The Concord Free Public Library has long had the records of the Committee of Arrangements for the 1875 celebration in Concord of the centennial of the Concord Fight. These records include many responses to the formal invitations sent out by the Committee on General Invitations. E.R. Hoar clearly kept some of the responses (including those from Samuel L. Clemens, Frederick Douglass, Daniel Chester French, William Lloyd Garrison, and Oliver Wendell Holmes) with his personal papers rather than incorporating them into the records of the celebration. They have now come into the Library as part of this amazing collection.

    There are also a number of manuscripts in the E.R. Hoar papers, among them a charming biography of her brother by Elizabeth Hoar, lamenting the deterioration of young Rockwood's character.

    Following in the family tradition, Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar's son Samuel (1845-1904) and grandson Samuel (1887-1952) were also lawyers, both deeply involved in the municipal affairs of Concord and in town life. Among their papers in the recent gift, there is a remarkable sequence of his son Sam's Civil War letters home. In 1862, eager to serve, Sam enlisted without parental consent in a Maine regiment, in Portland. E.R. Hoar had him transferred to Company E of the 48th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, which left Massachusetts for New York on December 27, 1862, moved on to New Orleans, and, after several months of camp duty in Baton Rouge, was involved in the attack on Port Hudson. Port Hudson was surrendered July 8, 1863. Sam's papers include over forty detailed letters home, recording his military experiences and his observations on the local landscape and people--a valuable resource for historians of the Civil War.

    Sam's son Sam (Mrs. Frecha's father) was an avid outdoorsman. In 1944, he donated to the federal government multiple parcels of meadowland on the Concord River, which became the nucleus of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. As a hunter and an observer of wildlife, he loved Concord's Great Meadows. He had devoted considerable thought and energy to enhancing the meadows as a resting place for migrating birds, and over the years had bought up parcels from individual owners. His gift to the government was later supplemented by subsequent acquisitions, extending the refuge beyond Concord into Bedford, Billerica, Carlisle, Lincoln, Sudbury, and Wayland.

    Having donated the Great Meadows for the benefit and enjoyment of all, the great-grandson of Squire Hoar moved to Stow, where his daughter Virginia now lives. Another daughter, Cynthia Hoar Fisk, died in 1991. His son lawyer Samuel Hoar lives on the North Shore.

    For close to three hundred years, the Hoars helped to shape Concord's history. Their legacy to the town lives on in this gift of family papers to the Concord Free Public Library. A curator's delight and the essential raw material of scholarship, the collection is now fully processed and ready for researchers to use.

    Text: ©1999 Leslie Perrin Wilson.
    Photos: Courtesy of the Special Collections of the Concord Public Library.
    Art: Kathi's Home Page.

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