When it comes to archival collections offered for donation to the Annapolis Heritage Society, some are interesting, some very interesting and, on rare occasions, some are spectacular. Yesterday evening I received a phone call from Ian Lawrence, one of our board members, telling me that he had been invited to see a collection of family papers at a local house. The house in question has been owned by members of the Cronin family since it was built in the 1780s. When he arrived at the house Ian was directed to the attic where he discovered piles and boxes of old documents. The paper was definitely old. Some of it had been damaged by water, insects or mice. Other bits were crumpled or torn. To someone who is disinterested, this would have looked like piles of fairly useless decomposing paper. As Ian began to read through the material, he quickly realized that this was far more than what it appeared. The more he read, the more excited he became.
While we have not yet even come close to looking at all of the documents (we have approximately three banker's boxes full), we have learned that most of the material was written between 1800 and 1820. Included in the collection are ledgers, journals, ship's manifests, school lists, letters and countless IOUs and debit receipts. Most, if not all, of these documents chronicle life along the Granville shore of the Annapolis Basin. It is this sort of information which is invaluable to a local museum. These first person records not only allow us to gather and preserve more information about our community, they change and improve the stories that we can tell. It is truly hard to describe just how important these sorts of collections are.
I am including a couple of scans of images from this collection. These two, which were randomly selected, are not even the tip of the iceberg for what documents are available. The first is an 1807 letter to Darby Croneane (Cronin) where Colonel Milledge explains that he will be unable to assist him with an appointment which he was seeking. The second document is a simple list of materials purchased by William DeLancey on July 31, 1804. This is a seemingly random debit note but it clearly illustrates what sort of material was available for sale in 1804. As we process this material, I will include information on some of the highlights.
All for now,