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COLLECTION Identifier: HUM 314

Caleb Gannett collection

Overview

Caleb Gannett (1745-1818), Harvard College Steward from 1779 to 1818, was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He received an AB from Harvard in 1763 and an AM in 1766. Gannett was a member of the Pembroke Church and studied theology with Ebenezer Gay (1696-1787; Harvard AB 1714). The collection consists of seven manuscript notebooks, dated circa 1758 to 1785. There are two letter books; three mathematical and astronomical notebooks, mostly compiled while Gannett was a student at Harvard College; a partial manuscript copy of Harvard professor Samuel Williams’ 1785 article “Observations and conjectures on the earthquakes of New England,” published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1785; and a commonplace book that contains extracts on subjects such as scripture, the aurora borealis, the history of the game of chess, and the invention of printing.

Dates

  • circa 1758-1785

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Extent

.17 cubic feet ( (1 document box))
The collection consists of seven manuscript notebooks, dated circa 1758 to 1785. There are two letter books; three mathematical and astronomical notebooks, mostly compiled while Gannett was a student at Harvard College; a partial manuscript copy of Harvard professor Samuel Williams’ 1785 article “Observations and conjectures on the earthquakes of New England,” published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1785; and a commonplace book that contains extracts on subjects such as scripture, the aurora borealis, the history of the game of chess, and the invention of printing. Six of the volumes have a printed engraving adhered to the front cover: three show the same pastoral scene while the others each depict an English monarch.

The letter books, which date from April 25, 1770, to March 30, 1774, include correspondence from Gannett while he was a pastor in Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia, and after he returned to Massachusetts, addressed to other ministers, politicians, and merchants, as well as family members and friends. The bulk of his letters refer to his ongoing dispute with John Eagleson, a Church of England missionary, over glebe lands. Gannett was granted five hundred acres in 1768 as the first settled minister for the Congregationalists in Fort Cumberland, but Eagleson arrived in 1771 and attempted to claim the lands through a lawsuit. Membership of Gannett’s parish began to decline, leading him to return to Massachusetts in 1771, although he continued to monitor the ongoing lawsuit through correspondence with Jotham Gay, his agent in Nova Scotia.

The student notebooks contain transcriptions of mathematics and astronomy texts and hand drawn diagrams. One notebook was handed down to Gannett by Harvard student Lewis Vassall, who created it in 1758.

Biographical note on Caleb Gannett

Caleb Gannett (1745-1818), Harvard College Steward from 1779 to 1818, was born August 22, 1745 in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He received an AB from Harvard in 1763 and an AM in 1766. Gannett was a member of the Pembroke Church and studied theology with Ebenezer Gay (Harvard AB 1714). In June 1768, Gannett traveled to Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia, and served as a Congregationalist minister there until September 1771. He returned briefly to Massachusetts in October 1768 to be ordained as the Cumberland minister by Gay. In 1773, the Harvard Corporation appointed Gannett a tutor of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics. In May 1775, he left Harvard to be inoculated for smallpox and then returned to aid the College in its relocation to Concord, Massachusetts, due to the Revolutionary War. During the War, Gannett served regularly as a preacher in nearby towns. In 1779, the Corporation asked Gannett to succeed Jonathan Hastings as the College Steward; he accepted and remained in the position until his death in 1818.

On January 17, 1781, Gannett married Katherine Wendell, and after her death on July 25, 1798, he married Ruth Stiles, the daughter of Yale President Ezra Stiles, on January 19, 1800. Gannett was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County in 1804, and was involved in many local civic organizations; he was a founder of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Friendly Fire Society, and the Humane Society of Cambridge. His wife Ruth died in June 1808, and Gannett died on April 25, 1818. Gannett had five children: John Mico (Harvard AB 1802), Katharine Brattle Bascomb, Thomas Brattle (Harvard AB 1809), Elizabeth Latham Andrews, and Ezra Stiles (Harvard AB 1820).
Biographical note on Lewis Vassall Lewis Vassall (1741-1777) was the son of Lewis Vassall (1709-1743; Harvard AB 1728) of Braintree, Massachusetts and Dorothy Macqueen (-1746). After his father’s death in 1743, Vassall and his sister were placed under the guardianship of their uncle, Colonel Henry Vassall of Cambridge. He received his Harvard AB in 1760. By 1766, he was settled on a family plantation in Jamaica. Vassall married Eleanor Dove, and they had four children. He was buried in Jamaica in August 1777.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, 2018; Accession 2018.481.

Related Materials

Collections in the Harvard University Archives
  1. Gannett, Caleb, 1745-1818. Papers of Caleb Gannett 1768-1820 (HUG 1411): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua02011
  2. Harvard University. Steward. Early records of the Steward, 1649-1812 (UAI 71): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua19010
  3. Harvard University. Harvard Commons Records, 1686-1829 (UAI 15.250): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua09011
  4. Harvard University. Corporation. Harvard College Papers, 1st series, 1636-1825, 1831 (UAI 5.100): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua62011
  5. Harvard University. Corporation. Corporation papers, 1st series, supplements to the Harvard College Papers, circa 1650-1828 (UAI 5.120): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua09012
  6. Harvard University. Corporation. Corporation papers, 1st series, supplements to the Harvard College Papers, Volumes 3-7, 1785-1826 (UAI 5.115): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua10018
Collections in Houghton Library
  1. Gannett, Caleb, 1745-1818. Diary : manuscript, 1774 (MS Am 516.2): http://id.lib.harvard.edu/aleph/009835555/catalog
  2. Gannett, Caleb, 1745-1818. Diaries : manuscript, 1777-1782 (MS Am 516): http://id.lib.harvard.edu/aleph/009835514/catalog
  3. Gannett, Caleb, 1745-1818. Diaries : manuscript, 1776-1777 (MS Am 516.3): http://id.lib.harvard.edu/aleph/009837140/catalog

Inventory update

This document last updated 2020 September 14.

Processing Information

This finding aid was created by Brooke McManus in February 2018.

Titles were assigned by the archivist unless otherwise noted.

Preservation and description of the Caleb Gannett collection were supported by the Colonial North America at Harvard Library Project.
Link to catalog
Title
Gannett, Caleb, 1745-1818. Caleb Gannett collection, circa 1758-1785: an inventory
Status
completed
Author
Brooke McManus
Date
2018-02-28
Description rules
dacs
EAD ID
hua11018

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
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