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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 589

Bourne family Massachusetts military papers


Military papers relating to the Bourn family of Massachusetts concerning colonial expeditions to capture Canada.


  • 1744-1764

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


.5 linear feet (1 box)

Includes military orders, commissions, muster rolls, letters, financial records, and other military documents.

Biographical / Historical

Papers primarily concern members of the Bourne family (Bourn) of Massachusetts and their military associates including:

  1. Silvanus Bourn, 1694-1763: Bourn, the son of Colonel Melatiah and Desire (Chipman) Bourn, was born in Sandwich, Mass. and was a merchant engaged in business in Barnstable and Sandwich. He was a colonel in the militia, member of the Governor's Council, Register of Probate, and Judge of Probate. His wife was Mercy Gorham of Barnstable. They had ten children. Bourn died at Barnstable in 1763.
  2. Melatiah Bourn, 1722-1778: Bourn, the son of Silvanus and Mary (Gorham) Bourn, was born in Barnstable, Mass. He became a merchant and went into partnership with Joseph Freeman in Boston. He also served as Overseer of the Poor in Boston, was Town Auditor, and served in the militia. He married Mary Bowdoin Bayard and had four children. He died in Barnstable in 1778.
  3. Silvanus Cobb, 1710-1762: Cobb was born in Plymouth, Mass. and was a mariner and military officer. He raised a company of soldiers in Plymouth, Mass. for the New England expedition against Louisbourg (1746) and for a brief time worked out of Annapolis Royal under the command of Paul Mascarene; was master of the sloop York; was hired by Governor Edward Cornwallis for government service and to aid in transport of New England settlers to Nova Scotia (1750-1760); owned a farm at Fort Lawrence, near Amherst, Nova Scotia; and died during a siege at Havana, Cuba in 1762.

During the fall and winter of 1744-1745, Governor William Shirley, of colonial Massachusetts, campaigned to convince New Englanders that an attack on the fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia was practical. On February 5, 1745, the Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a plan to move against French-held Louisbourg in conjunction with the other British colonies. The colonies quickly raised a land force, Massachusetts being in the lead with seven regiments. William Pepperrell became the expedition's commander. In April of 1745 the troops embarked for Nova Scotia and by May had laid seige to the fortress, which surrendered on June 17.

These papers document various other colonial Massachusetts military expeditions to Canada continuing until 1760 when the French surrendered Montreal to the British, thus ending the French and Indian Wars in North America.


Arranged in chronological order.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Judge Joseph M. Day, Barnstable, Mass.; received: 1896 Apr. 29.

Note in original bound volume: "These papers were found among the Bourne Mss. A gift of Judge Day of Barnstable, to Harvard College Library, 1896."

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Papers were originally received in bound format. Upon recataloging in 2004, items were found loose inside volume covers and were removed and rehoused.

Bourne family. Bourne family Massachusetts military papers: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

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Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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