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Smith Family Papers

Identifier: 1965-0001

Scope and Content

The papers include correspondence, both business and personal, business and financial records, ledgers, account books, daybooks, and printed materials collected by the family.


  • Creation: 1774-1981


The collection is open and available for research.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from the owner(s) of the copyright.


The Smith family of Canterbury, CT, owned and operated a number of mills in the section of Hanover from the mid-eighteenth century until the 1940s. The original site on Little River, north of Hanover and Woodchuck Hill Roads, became the home to five successive generations of Smiths.

The earliest record of the family in Canterbury can be traced to the mid-eighteenth century when Eliezer Smith (1737-1813) owned and possibly established a sawmill and carding mill at the location on Little River. At the time of his death in 1813, ownership of the mills was transferred to his son Eleazer (?-1843).

At the time of Eleazer's death in 1843, his land was divided among his seven children and his widow, Elipha. One half of the mill property was bequeathed to Elipha, and one half was put up for sale to pay for a creditor's charge ($985.55). In 1844, Eleazer's son, Eleazer (1797-1882) bought the property for $990.00 and was given control of Elipha's property as well. Details of the property divisions and sales can be found in the Canterbury Probate records at the Canterbury Town Hall.

According to Allen Lincoln's History of Windham County, five mills were in operation at this time; a carding and spinning mill, a second mill, which ran a picking machine, a grist mill, a saw mill and a shingle mill.

In 1882, at the time of Eleazer's death, all five mills were transferred to his son Lester (1842-1898). Shortly after, several of the mills were destroyed by fire, but were soon rebuilt in addition to a new grain mill. When Lester died in 1898, the ownership was transferred for the final time to his son, Frank. The mills remained in operation until the 1940s, around which time they fell into disrepair and were abandoned.

The remains of the mill have been left at the site, which has since become overgrown and is accessible only by foot. The rocks of the dam, the head and tailraces, and the main shaft from the turbine are all clearly evident. Also, the Smith home, built in the eighteenth century, remains, and is being restored by its present owners.

A close relationship between the Allen and Smith families is evident from the papers. Apparently, this friendship was encouraged by two factors: the Allens owned nearby woolen mills and fostered a business tie and Lester Smith married Imogene Allen in the 1860s.

[Sources: Canterbury Town Hall: Probate and Tax assessor Records. Connecticut State Library: Barbour Collection, Census records, church records, family and Bible records, Headstone inscriptions and probate records. Allen B. Lincoln, A Modern History of Windham County: A Windham County Treasure Book. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1920.]


19.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Smith family of Canterbury, CT, owned and operated a number of mills in the section of Hanover from the mid-eighteenth century until the 1940s. The original site on Little River, north of Hanover and Woodchuck Hill Roads, became the home to five successive generations of Smiths.


The Papers are divided into two series.

Series I: Family papers (undated, 1790-1923) contain papers and records of the family members and those persons with whom they corresponded. The papers are arranged alphabetically by name and further divided by the type of material in chronological order. The major portion of the series includes the papers of seven members of the Smith family and five members of the Allen family, related to the Smiths by marriage. Papers of personal friends and business associates of the two families comprise a small portion of the series. Unidentifiable company records and family correspondence are located in Box 8.

Because of the difficulty of distinguishing precisely between the papers of the two Eleazer Smiths, all records dated before the 1843 death of the elder Eleazer have been presumed to be his. All records after 1843 have been associated with the younger Eleazer (1797-1882). It is possible, therefore, that some of the early papers of the son may have been placed with those of his father.

The major types and their inclusive dates are: Family Correspondence (1807-1889); Personal Correspondence (1793-1895); Business Correspondence (1814-1923); Business records (1790-1913); Ledgers (1813-1905); Account books (1796-1895); Day books (1901-1912); Saw books (1802-1827); Grindstone books (1810-1819). Other materials include a school English composition, workbook, private school register, accounts of two estates, a will, correspondence from the Humboldt Club and a fire insurance policy.

Series II: Printed materials (undated, 1809-1981) includes printed materials collected by the family, records relating to the town of Canterbury and related items. Types of materials include almanacs, business cards, advertisements, a Norwich newspaper, and pamphlets. Records of the town of Canterbury date from 1809 to 1877 and include notices of town meetings, military exercises, selectmen's' meetings, tax and school district matters. Also included in this series are unidentifiable company records and family correspondence, paint chip samples, photographs of the Smith family home and mill site taken in May 1981, poems, writings and a school work book.

Acquisition Information

The majority of the Smith papers were donated by a descendent of the families circa 1965. Additional Smith family materials were added in 2003 and the Lassell family materials in 2017.

Smith Family Papers
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Revision Statements

  • 2017 July: Donation of a significant quantity of Lassell Family Papers and demonstrates the relationship between the two families.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US