Little family papers


The Little family papers (1764-1984) were originally processed in December 2002 by Elisabeth Doucett. The papers came to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now Historic New England, Library and Archives in 1986 as part of Agnes and Amelia W. Little bequest of the Spencer-Peirce-Little farmhouse in Newbury, Massachusetts.

All of the papers in this collection come from the descendants of George Little, the founder of the Newbury family of this name, through his son Moses. The papers were arranged in series in chronological order by family member and represent the lives of multiple generations of the family. The papers of the wives of Little family members follow those of their husbands (e.g., the papers of Catherine Adams Little follow immediately after those of Edward Henry Little). Each series was further divided into subseries according to record type: correspondence, diaries, financial, inventory, legal, literary, miscellaneous and printed matter. The intern processor wrote brief biographical notes for each family member. The materials were organized in acid-free folders and stored in twenty-four legal-size document boxes.

Update: 2013-2014
In 2013-2014, through a National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant (Award Number: NAR13-RH-50051-13: "Family Manuscript Collections: Expanding Online Access to New England Heritage Project"), twenty-six Historic New England manuscript collections of family papers were re-evaluated and processed/reprocessed to meet current archival standards and "best practices;" corresponding finding aids were created/updated to be DACS-compliant and converted into electronic Microsoft Word document form; and the finding aids were made accessible/searchable online through the use of the Minisis M2A archival database of the Minisis Collections Management System. The Little family papers (MS016) were part of the grant project.

The collection was already well-organized and properly housed at the start of the grant period, so very few changes were made in terms of physical storage, but some minor changes to box and folder labels. The original processor had numbered the boxes in tens, thus Box 1 was originally Box 10, Box 2 was Box 20, and so on. It was determined that this numbering system would be misleading to outside researchers in cases where a person's papers spanned multiple boxes, so the boxes were renumbered simply, 1 through 24. The folders were originally numbered consecutively but the numbers 130-139 were used twice; therefore, folders were renumbered but the original order created by the processor was maintained (which is the reason behind the non-consecutive numbering present in Box 7).

NOTE: Processing/updating the collection and making the finding aid accessible online were made possible through grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (Award Number: NAR13-RH-50051-13), the Bedford Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor.


Descriptive Terms

estates (property)
financial records
historical archaeology
legal documents
military personnel
motion pictures (visual work)
real estate
world's fairs
family papers

Physical Description

10.01 linear ft. (24 file boxes)

Finding Aid Info

An electronic finding aid is available through Historic New England's Collections Access Portal. A paper finding aid is available in Library and Archives.

Custodial History

1986: Bequest of Amelia Worth Little (1892-1986) and Agnes Lawrence Little (1896-1982)
2013: Gift of Susan P. Little [calling cards] (#22.313)

Collection Code


Collection Name

Little family papers

Date of Acquisition


Reference Code



Biographical and genealogical material; financial records and associated notes; legal documents related to land transfers; wills; correspondence; recipes; photographic material; diaries; tax assessments; and printed material; reflecting the family lives, farming, and business activities of the Little family of Newbury, Massachusetts.

Acquisition Type


Credit Line

Gift of Amelia Worth Little and Agnes Lawrence Little


Haverhill (Essex county, Massachusetts)
Iowa (United States)
Newbury (Essex county, Massachusetts)
Newburyport (Essex county, Massachusetts)

Record Details


Little family

Material Type

family papers

Other People

Cook, Mary
Little, Abigail (Noyes), 1767-1842
Little, Agnes Lawrence, 1896-1982
Little, Albert Noyes, 1894-1976
Little, Amelia (Bradley), 1863-1903
Little, Amelia Worth, 1892-1986
Little, Catherine Adams, 1823-1923
Little, Daniel Noyes, 1858-1912
Little, David, 1760-1825
Little, Ebenezer, 1801-1887
Little, Edward Francis, 1853-1935
Little, Edward Henry, 1819-1877
Little, Eliza (Adams), 1803-1900
Little, Eliza Adams, 1861-1959
Little, Frances Eliza, 1890-1917
Little, Hector
Little, Henry, 1790-1848
Little, Henry Bailey, 1851-1957
Little, Isaac
Little, Josiah, 1747-1830
Little, Judith (Bailey), 1724-1764
Little, Katherine Rebecca, 1886-1907
Little, Margaret Bradley, 1888-1967
Little, Moses S.
Little, Nathaniel, b. 1818
Little, Phebe, 1798-1862
Little, Sarah (Adams), 1854-1921
Little, Sarah (Toppan), 1748-1823
Little, Stephen, 1719-1793
Little, Tristram, 1784-1872
Phister, Lispenard
Stekionis, Dorothy, 1900-1994
Stekionis, Jacob, 1891-1984
Willson, Mary Little

Other Organizations

Catholic Apostolic Church
Essex Agricultural Society (Mass.)
First Church of Newbury (Newbury, Mass.)
First Religious Society (Newburyport, Mass.)
Newburyport Choral Society
Newburyport High School
Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals


United States. History. Civil War, 1861-1865
United States. History. Revolution, 1775-1783


·This collection is available for research.

Description Level


Accruals Note

Accruals are not expected.

Preferred Citation

[Item identification.] Little family papers (MS016). Historic New England, Library and Archives.

Processing Information

·2002 December: originally processed by Elisabeth Doucett, intern, Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science
·2014 August: updated by Jennifer Pustz, museum historian, with assistance of Bridgette Woodall, project archivist

Rules and Conventions

Finding aid is DACS-compliant.

Historical/Biographical Note

Historical/Biographical Note

The Little family papers document multiple generations and two branches of the Little family, both of which descended from George Little (died c. 1694), who settled in Newbury, Massachusetts, after leaving England in c. 1640. The earliest papers in the collection are those of Stephen Little (1719-1793), a great-grandson of George Little. In 1743 he married Judith Bailey (1724-1764), whose twin sister Abigail Bailey (1724-1815) married Stephen's brother Moses Little (1724-1798). He was one of the grantees of Newbury, Vermont, in 1763 and also owned lands in Bath and Hampstead, New Hampshire, and in Cumberland and Lincoln Counties, Maine. Stephen Little also served as a representative to the legislature in 1776.

Stephen Little's nephew (and son of Moses and Abigail Little) Josiah Little (1747-1830) managed his father's real estate for many years. He was also engaged to a considerable extent in shipping, and was a large owner of real estate in the business portion of Newburyport. He married Sarah Toppan (1748-1823).

David Little (1760-1825) married to Abigail Noyes (granddaughter of Moses Little) who was born 1767 and died in 1842. He was a captain in the militia, held various town offices, served in the legislature, and was a large farmer and extensively interested in real estate in Newburyport and Newbury.

Ebenezer Little (1801-1887) Eliza Adams (1803-1900) in 1822. Ebenezer was a farmer in Newbury. His eldest child Catherine Adams Little married her cousin Edward Henry Little bringing multiple family papers with her. The oldest papers in the collection (Stephen Little) are from Catherine's side of the Little family. The most extensive collection of papers belongs to Edward Henry Little, Catherine's husband, who descended from Tristram Little's (1681-1765) branch of the family.

Edward Henry Little (1819-1877) was a very successful farmer and prominent in town affairs as a director of the Newburyport First National Bank and as a trustee of the Savings Bank and the Essex Agricultural Society. He was also a real estate investor, mortgage lender, bank officer and part owner in the 1870s of the ship Exporter. His obituary (Newburyport Herald, March 1, 1877) noted that he was "a man of good judgment, liberal toward the poor, and in a different sense of the word liberal in politics and in religion." Edward Henry started farming on the property now known as the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm as a tenant in 1851. Ten years later he purchased the farm and established it as the Little family's residence for the next century.

Catherine Adams Little outlived her husband by nearly fifty years and died at the age of ninety-nine. Remembered as a person of strong character by those who knew her, Catherine Little was the cornerstone of the extended family that occupied and visited the house in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Henry Bailey Little (1851-1957) was the oldest of the children of Edward Henry and Catherine Adams Little. He moved from the farm to Newburyport as a young man. There he became a legendary figure, acting as president of The Institution for Savings in Newburyport until he was 102, at which time he finally retired. He died at 106 in 1957. His wife was Fanny (Gray) Little (1855-1927).

Two of Catherine and Edward Henry Little's younger sons, Daniel Noyes Little (1858-1912) and Edward Francis Little (1853-1935) developed a business of importing draft horses from Iowa by train. Generations of Newbury residents remembered the horses being driven up High Street from the station. Daniel Noyes Little lost his life in a tragic accident in 1912. As he was getting off the train from Boston late at night, the train started up and he was crushed under the wheels. Daniel's wife Amelia (Bradley) Little had died of tuberculosis in 1903. Eliza Adams Little (1861-1959), the only daughter of Edward Henry and Catherine Adams Little, stayed at the farm and helped raise her nieces Katherine Rebecca Little (1886-1907), Margaret Bradley Little (1888-1967), Frances Eliza Little (1890-1917), and Amelia Worth Little (1892-1986) and her nephew Albert Noyes Little (1894-1976). She was active in the First Church in Newbury, and was the initiator and co-editor of the history of the church prepared for its tercentenary in 1935.

Daniel and Amelia's eldest daughter Katherine Rebecca Little died of tuberculosis in 1907. The next oldest, Margaret Bradley Little (1888-1967), pursued a career in education. For many years she divided her time between Detroit, where she taught at a private school, and Newbury, where she spent her summers. She was described as a birder and a great baseball fan.

Margaret's sister Frances Eliza Little (1890-1917) was known for her intellectual achievements. She was the valedictorian of her high school and a leader in her class at Radcliffe College, from which she graduated. She taught briefly before dying of tuberculosis at the age of 27.

Youngest sister Amelia Worth Little (1892-1986) was a dietitian in the Groton School, Groton, Massachusetts, from 1945 to 1960. She had previously worked at the Lincoln School in Providence, Rhode Island, and the Junior League in Boston. She was a member of the Historical Society of Old Newbury, the League of Women Voters, Merrimac Pines Watershed Council ,and the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now, Historic New England). She was also a member of the First Church of Newbury and was a devoted Sunday school teacher to teenagers. Miss Little was the last surviving owner of the Spencer-Peirce-Little farmhouse; upon her death in 1986, the property came to Historic New England.

Agnes Lawrence Little (1896-1982) was also one of the donors of the Spencer-Peirce-Little farm. She was the only daughter of Edward Francis Little and Sarah Adams. She graduated from Smith College in 1918 and became a highly respected teacher of German and mathematics in the Newburyport High School where she faithfully kept in touch with her students.


George Thomas Little, The Descendants of George Little who came to Newbury, Massachusetts in 1640 (Auburn, Maine, 1882).
Historic New England research files

Material in Other Collections

Material in Other Collections

Little family papers, 1773-1853. M 108. Bowdoin College Library, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives. Papers of Josiah Little, Jr. (1791-1860), son of Colonel Josiah Little and Sarah (Toppan) Little.



The collection is arranged in twenty-five series as follows: Series I. Papers of Stephen Little (1719-1793), 1746-1802, undated; Series II. Papers of Josiah Litte (1747-1830), 1801-1809; Series III. Papers of David Little (1760-1825), 1793-1811; Series IV. Papers of Tristram Little (1784-1863), 1844-1894; Series V. Papers of Abigail Noyes Little (1767-1842), 1838-1843; Series VI, Papers of Nathaniel Little (b. 1818), 1847; Series VII, Papers of Henry Little (1790-1848), 1803-1866; Series VIII, Papers of Phebe Little (1798-1862), 1850-1855; Series IX, Papers of Hector Little (dates unknown), 1848; Series X, Papers of Ebenezer Little (1801-1887), 1820-1884, undated; Series XI, Papers of Eliza Adams Little (1803-1900), 1864-1891, undated; Series XII. Papers of Edward Henry Little (1819-1877), 1825-1877, undated; Series XIII. Papers of Catherine Adams Little, (1823-1923), 1728-1903; Series XIV. Papers of Henry Bailey Little (1851-1957), 1867-1888; Series XV. Papers of Edward Francis Little, (1853-1935), 1866-1900; Series XVI. Papers of Daniel Noyes Little (1858-1912), 1879-1881, undated; Series XVII. Papers of Amelia Bradley Little (1863-1903), 1882-1903; Series XVIII. Papers of Eliza Adams Little (1861-1959), 1842-1902, undated; Series XIX. Papers of Moses S. Little (dates unknown), 1868-1873; Series XX. Papers of Isaac Little (dates unknown), 1870-1871; Series XXI. Papers of Frances Little (1890-1917), 1908-1910, undated; Series XXII. Papers of Margaret Little (1888-1967), 1893-1912, undated; Series XXIII. Papers of Agnes Little (1896-1982), 1921-1976; Series XXIV. Papers of Amelia Worth Little (1892-1986), 1900-1985, undated; Series XXV. Photographs, 1885-1993, undated