Pearson family business records, 1684-1799

About this Collection

Pearson family.
Account books.Ledgers (account books).
Collection Title
Pearson family business records, 1684-1799
.5|Copies: 1 microfilm reel.
Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
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Pearson family
Pearson, John
Pearson, Jeremiah
Pearson, Stephen
Pearson, Silas
Barter accounting
Textile finishing--Massachusetts
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Content Notes

Two account books, dated 1684-1799, kept by members of the Pearson family of Newbury and Rowley, Massachusetts, who operated fulling, grist, and saw mills on the Mill River. Volume one, dated 1681-1711, is a ledger of fulling mill entries of John Pearson, Sr. (1616?-1693), and his sons, John (1644-1723), Jeremiah (1653-1737), and Stephen (1663-1706) showing yards of cloth fulled and payment in cash and in kind. Customers in Newbury, Salisbury, Amesbury, and nearby towns also offered labor, such as spinning, as payment. There is an index to names in the front of the volume, including Peter Cheney, who later built his own fulling mill, and other Newbury residents like Tristram Coffin, Aquila Chase III (1652-1720), Captain Richard Dummer, Jr. (1650-1689), John Hale, Thomas Hale, Sr., and Thomas Hale, Jr., and Nathan Parker, possibly the stepson of Mary Parker, who was hanged during the Salem witch trials. Additional accounts include one of Newbury’s founders, Reverend Nicholas Noyes (1615/16-1701), and his sons, Timothy Noyes (1655-1718), Thomas Noyes (1663-1695), John Noyes (1645-1691), and Cutting Noyes (1649-1734).|The second volume is an account book, dated 1714-1799, kept by Jeremiah Pearson’s son John (1685-1781), and John’s son Silas (1724-1804). John was a carpenter and cabinetmaker in Stonington, Connecticut, before he returned to Massachusetts to manage the family mill complex. Entries from 1714 to 1724 show debits for carpentry work that John completed, sometimes with the assistance of hired men or his apprentice, Zebediah Mix, as well as money he lent to others. Also included are accounts of John’s payment for personal items such as shoes, 60 acres of land, and legal counsel during a lawsuit. John Pearson moved back to Newbury before 1739, and entries after that date pertain chiefly to the Pearson saw and gristmills. There are additionally accounts of his other sons, including Jeremiah (1718-1797), who purchased boards for his shop, John (1725-1814), for his labor at a prison and at home, and Thomas (1723-1819), for an ax and caulking irons. Silas Pearson’s mill accounts date from about 1750 to 1799. Entries also show charges to the town of Newbury related to assistance for the poor, and notes on meetings of a town committee for the selection of a new pastor, and of the Newbury overseers. Later entries may be of his son Silas (1757-1848), who also was a miller.

Biographical Notes

The Pearson family, of Newbury and Rowley, Massachusetts, operated fulling, grist, and saw mills on the Mill River from 1643 into the 19th century. John Pearson (1616?-1693) built the first known fulling mill in the English colonies, and he expanded the business to include additional fulling mills, and grist and saw mills, employing his sons, John (1644-1723), Jeremiah (1653-1737), and Stephen (1663-1706), to assist in running them. The mills were later operated by Jeremiah’s son John (1685-1781), who was succeeded by his son Silas (1724-1804). Silas Pearson, Jr. (1757-1848), may have been the last family member to oversee the mills.