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Joseph Brinton Family Papers

Identifier: SFHL-RG5-233

Scope and Contents

The collection consists primarily of the journals of Joseph Brinton, his correspondence, and that of his wives, Mary H. and Anna H. Brinton. Although the latter spans the entire period, the bulk is from two time periods, 1857-68 and from the later 1880's to about 1900.

Joseph's journals document his experiences and religious philosophy. The earlier books, 1848-49 and 1849-50, focus on his early time at Westtown and other local schools, including a detailed chart of hours spent in sleep, study, and "idleness." The 1850-56 manuscript includes his daily bible readings. The later journals are rich in details of the Wilburite separations, with comments on personalities, events, and justification of his own actions. There are in-depth accounts of the General Meetings of Primitive Friends at Fallsington and Baltimore, including description of meetings for worship. The last journal, 1878-1916, relates contemporary events but also includes Joseph's reflections on the earlier events in his life.

Of particular interest in Series 2 is the communication between Joseph and other Wilburite Friends in New England in the 1850's and 1860's. This correspondence stops after Joseph's disownment in 1867 from Nantucket Monthly Meeting (Conservative). The year before Joseph himself was disowned two "dear Friends," Thomas Lamborn, a Wilburite minister from Poplar Ridge, and James Kite from Fallsington (Primitive), were also disowned. Joseph W. Maule and a portion of Ohio General Meeting ceased communication with Fallsington, Poplar Ridge, New England, and Nottingham as many of the Wilburite groups splintered. Joseph Brinton continued to hold a meeting for worship in his own home for family and friends.

Letters written between 1882 and 1884 from George Pollard and David C. Henderson, both of Norwich Monthly Meeting in Canada, describe some of the difficulties of Canadian Friends during this period.

There is a particularly long series of letters from Jacob Dingee, Jr. Dingee was granted a certificate from New Garden Monthly Meeting in Pennsylvania to Linn Monthly Meeting in Iowa in 1857. While there, he had particularly public marital problems, culminating in a letter from his Quaker neighbors to Joseph Brinton documenting his side of the dispute. By 1876 he was back in Pennsylvania where he was disowned in 1877 for "getting divorced from his wife; also marrying her again in a manner not according to our discipline; and is lately separated from her again; and has contracted debts."

Series 3 contains documents which relate to the Wilburite struggle, primarily in New England. Letters and other writings were contained in two envelopes marked "Letters of T.B.Gould" and "New England Friends - John Wilbur etc." In the 4th series, Charles Brinton's Creamer account book includes detailed information on the residents of the area around Ercildoun: births & deaths, schooling, and data about employment and land ownership.

Organization: Arranged into series: 1. Journals; 2. Correspondence; 3. Other Writings; 4. Financial records; 5. Miscellaneous.


  • Creation: 1758-1931


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Friends Historical Library believes all of the items in this collection to be in the Public Domain in the United States, and is not aware of any restrictions on their use. However, the user is responsible for making a final determination of copyright status before reproducing. See

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Brinton, an outspoken member of the Society of Friends from southeastern Pennsylvania, was active in the Wilburite schisms of the 1850s and 1860's in New Englnd. Born in 1828, the son of William and Gulielma Cooper Brinton of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, he attended Westtown School from 1837 and was an assistant teacher there in 1849. Brinton moved to Newport, Rhode Island, in 1851; he lived in the household of Thomas B. Gould, a prominent Wilburite minister, and was employed in his mill.

Joseph was appointed Clerk of Rhode Island Monthly Meeting (Conservative) in the early 1860's, but returned to Pennsylvania in 1863. He continued to meet for worship and business in his own home and retained the records of the Meeting until after 1867. He was disowned by Nantucket Monthly Meeting in 1866 although he disputed the authority of the Annual Meeting in New England which had laid down Rhode Island into Nantucket.

Before he moved south, Joseph married Mary Homans Howland in a Friends ceremony in Newport. Mary was the daughter of David P. and Anna Robinson Howland of Vassalboro, Maine. Mary H. Brinton died in 1870 after the birth of her fifth child. A year later, Joseph married her sister, Anna M. Howland, despite initial disapproval by his own family; Joseph and Anna had five children of their own. The family first lived near Gap in Lancaster County and then at Spring Hope near Ercildoun, in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He was a dairy farmer and operated a mill. Joseph rejoined Friends at Ercildoun from 1882 with a certificate from South Kingston Monthly Meeting, but resigned again in 1896 due to the fact that he felt Philadelphia Yearly Meeting was too conciliatory to the Gurneyites. He died of a stroke in 1917 at the age of 89.


6 linear ft. (10 boxes)

Language of Materials



Joseph Brinton, an outspoken member of the Society of Friends from southeastern Pennsylvania, was active in the Wilburite schisms of the 1850s and 1860's in New England. His family papers include his own journals, as well as his extensive correspondence. This collection also includes the correspondence of his two wives, Mary H. Brinton and Anna H. Brinton.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Libraries' online catalog:

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Christopher Brinton, 2002, 2003, 2008.

Christopher Brinton is a direct descendent of Joseph Brinton.

Separated Materials

Family bible. Trenton, NJ: Isaac Collins, 1791. Originally owned by Joseph and Susannah Brinton, later by Joseph Brinton.

Processing Information

Correspondence was enclosed in the original envelopes although it was clear that a few of the letters had been misplaced in different envelopes. Occasional comments in the journals by later family members.

Joseph Brinton Family Papers, 1758-1931
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Find It at the Library

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