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Papers of Charles Russell Codman (1784-1852)

Description

The papers of Charles Russell Codman pertain largely to three areas: the Ogden family, founders of Ogdensburg, New York; the Lincoln estate; and the William Vans case involving his uncle Richard Codman. The family of Charles’ second wife, Sarah Ogden, lived in New York. There are letters in this series which Charles received from his in-laws during the 1840s. His brother-in-law, William Roebuck, husband of Susan W. Ogden (1810-1892), wrote from Ogdensburg about his steam engine, noting his intention to use it for "the cording of wood and making country cloth." His sister-in-law, Mary E. (Ogden) Newbold (1805-1853) wrote from Newbold Lodge in Westchester on the always important topic of family health and the impending visits of the Codman children. Key times in the history of the Lincoln estate are covered here. A small notebook outlines the ownership of the land from 1671 and describes its confiscation during the turmoil of the Revolution. A copybook of "Letters relating to the Lincoln estate copied from an old account book marked estate of Chambers Russell... and letters of John Codman" includes a letter of John Codman III, dated 29 December 1797, stating that he was "determined to settle the estate myself according to my own ideas of rectitude." John Codman III thus made decisive moves to straighten out the confusion of its status following the death of Chambers Russell in 1790. Unlike his father, Charles Russell Codman was not determined to retain the estate. In October 1807, he wrote to his brother, John, chastising him for lack of communication and enclosing "a letter from my mother which no doubt contains all the news that will interest you. I know of none myself. You no doubt heard that I have sold the Lincoln farm. I found that instead of bringing in an income it would cost considerable [sic] for repairs... and tho' sold much under its real value... the increase of my expenses made it necessary that I should raise money." His dedication to business may be questioned, as the sale most likely served to support his sojourn in Europe during the next four years.

Along with his brothers John and Francis (1797-1859), Charles Russell Codman had been involved in the lawsuit brought against their family by William Vans. Van's pursuit of the Codmans had spanned over three decades. Included in Charles Russell Codman's papers are legislative reports of the Massachusetts House of Representatives on the case. Supplementing this is a copy of a letter in the Massachusetts Historical Society from Charles Russell Codman to William H. Gardiner, the family's lawyer in the suit. It is dated 25 February 1836 and summarizes many aspects of the case. There are also copies of selected pages from his Notes and Reminiscences reflecting on this case. Other material in the legal series includes estate papers of his aunt, Abigail Codman (1756-1832). Related material may be found in Box #118 (transcripts of correspondence, Charles Russell Codman).

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Details

Collection Name
Codman family papers
Collection Code
MS001
Dates
1800-1848, undated
Collection Type
Manuscripts
Description Level
Series
GUSN
293739
Reference Code
MS001.08

Historical/Biographical Note

Charles Russell Codman was the son of John Codman III (1755-1803). While growing up, his winters were spent in his father's house on Hanover Street in Boston and summers at the family estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts. When Charles Codman was nineteen years old, he inherited the Lincoln estate from his father. After his schooling in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, he entered the family counting house. His business included commercial property he had inherited on Kilby and Lincoln streets. Cora Codman Wolcott described him as "socially inclined... and somewhat unwilling to settle down to the routine of an office" (The Codmans of Charlestown and Boston, 1637-1929, Brookline, 1930, p. 31). Codman sold the Lincoln estate in 1807. His son Ogden repurchased it in 1863. He spent the years between 1808 and 1812 in Europe; travelling seems to have been one of his greatest interests. Codman spent some of this time in Tours learning French and engaging in the wine business. He also visited his uncle, James Russell, in Bristol, England. His family had been concerned about his intention to go to Europe. In 1805, his older brother John (1782-1847) wrote to their uncle, William Codman (1765 -1816): "A young man going to Europe without an express object is in the greatest temptation" (Codmans., p. 31). Back in Boston, he purchased a house at 29 Chestnut Street in 1817. In 1825, he married his first wife, Anne Macmaster (1797-1831). She was the daughter of James and Anne Van Buskirks Macmaster of Sherburne, Nova Scotia. The Macmasters and Van Buskirks had been New York loyalists during the Revolution, and with other loyalists, founded Sherburne after the war. Soon after the death of their two daughters in January 1829, Charles and Anne traveled to Europe. Initially they traveled in England and Scotland, but they later settled in France in time for the birth of Charles Russell Codman II (1829-1918) in October 1829. Socializing seems to have been their chief occupation, and their circle included such luminaries as Sir Walter Scott and General Lafayette. Anne died soon after the birth of James Macmaster Codman (1831- 1917). She was buried in Paris in the famous Pere La Chaise Cemetery. Soon after her death, Charles Russell Codman returned to Boston, and in 1836, he married Sarah Ogden (1799-1844). Codman was a member of Trinity Church in Boston and served as Senior Warden there. The Massachusetts Historical Society has a copy of Charles’ will, dated 6 July 1850.

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