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Samuel Farmar Jarvis Family papers

Identifier: Samuel Farmar Jarvis Family papers

Scope and Contents

The Samuel Farmar Jarvis family papers consist of about 37 manuscript letters. It includes twenty letters from Samuel Farmar Jarvis (1786-1851) to his son Samuel Fermor Jarvis (1825-1910); four letters from Samuel Farmar Jarvis to Harriette Dobson Jarvis; one letter combined with response between Jeanette Margaret Hart and Samuel Farmar Jarvis; one combined letter from Jeanette Hart Jarvis and Samuel Fermor Jarvis, to Sarah McCurdy (Hart) Jarvis; three letters from Antoinette Jarvis to Samuel Fermor Jarvis; three letters from Christine Jarvis to Samuel Fermor Jarvis; and four letters between Samuel Farmar Jarvis and other correspondents. A small slip of paper containing a letter-copy from Samuel Farmar Jarvis to an unknown correspondent is enclosed within the November 22, 1819, letter of Samuel Farmar Jarvis to Harriette D. Jarvis.

Correspondents include: Samuel Farmar Jarvis, Samuel Fermor Jarvis, Harriette Dobson Jarvis, Jeanette Margaret Hart, Sarah McCurdy (Hart) Jarvis, Antoinette Jarvis, Christine Jarvis, Tillotson Bronson, Jonathan W. Wainwright, James F. DePeyster, and Mrs. Bishton.


  • March 26, 1811-September 3, 1850

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the John M.K. Davis Reading Room of the Watkinson Library, Trinity College Library, Hartford, Connecticut. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws when using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Digital surrogates may be provided to researchers, in accordance with the duplication policy of the Watkinson Library.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information (e.g. social security numbers) in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.

Biographical / Historical

Born on January 20, 1786, in Middletown, Connecticut, Samuel Farmar Jarvis graduated from Yale College in 1805. Son of Reverend Abraham Jarvis (who was also Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut), Samuel was ordained a priest in April 1811 in New Haven. He taught biblical learning at the General Theological Seminary in 1819-1820, then served in Boston as rector of St. Paul's Church until 1826. He was in the High Church faction of the Episcopal faith.

In 1826, Reverend Samuel Farmar Jarvis loaned his library of 4,000 or so volumes of leading recent authors to Washington College (later Trinity College). Then he and his family left for Europe. Over the next decade Jarvis would assist in the purchase and donation of books to Washington College, which grew its book collection to 14,000 volumes by 1837, outranking Yale's stash of 10,000 books. In 1828, the college honored these bibliophilic actions by establishing for Jarvis a Professorship of Oriental Languages and Literature. The Trustees seem to have expected that one day, upon his return to America, Jarvis would fill this post, from which he would teach Hebrew and pursue his ecclesiastical history. He was listed for seven years in the school's Catalogues before he started teaching, thereby contributing to the idea that the faculty was larger than it actually was.

And it was not until 1835 that Jarvis returned from Europe and he did so while in the midst of his wife trying to divorce him for physical abuse. Still, he arrived in Hartford and occupied rooms in Jarvis Hall (named after Samuel's father). That fall he taught a non-credit course of Hebrew three nights a week to twenty upperclassmen, taught two French classes, and also instructed on Lord Kames' teachings on the scientific pursuit of artistic and literary criticism. He helped found the Natural History Society of Hartford.

In the summer of 1836, Jarvis also troubled matters when he sent a missive to the Washington College Trustees asking them to account for books missing from the personal library he had deposited at the college. Jarvis' antagonism to President Wheaton may have contributed to the latter's departure from the post early the next year, according to historian Glenn Weaver.

On August 2, 1837, Dr. Jarvis resigned his faculty professorship at Washington College and took the rectorship of Holy Trinity Church in Middletown, from which he continued to teach theology to several graduates of the college. Jarvis' views on the importance of conforming to the Prayer Book during worship led him to take the side of the High Churchmen who feared that Washington College had succumbed to a "Low Church Party." He became historiographer of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Leaving Hartford, Jarvis took a honorary law degree from Washington College with him, as well as his library (totaling about 8,000 of the volumes out of the 14,000 volume collection at the college). This removal was a major setback, as it took ten years for Washington College to once again proudly report its book total. Even then, in 1847, the Trinity collection amounted to only 9,000 volumes.

The animosity between Jarvis and the college waned. In 1841, he was elected to the college's Board of Trustees and became a Fellow four years later. In August 1844, the rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, Arthur Cleveland Coxe, wrote to Jarvis to demonstrate his determination "that Trinity College Hartford shall be made a college worthy of the Church and an example to the country." In 1846, he helped organize the "American Society" or "Ecclesiological Society" with Coxe, with the hopes of encouraging the formal study of liturgy among students and alumni of Trinity College. His continued machinations may have led to President Totten's departure from Trinity in August 1848.

Samuel Farmar Jarvis died on March 26, 1851.

His son, Samuel Fermor Jarvis (1825-1910), served as Trinity College's first independently-serving Librarian from 1852 to 1854.


4 Folder(s) (1 small flat archival box) ; 10.25 x 12 inches

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged first by correspondent, then by chronological order within each folder.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated as a gift by Robert Johnson between August 2, 2001, and August 16, 2001. A set of 11 letters written to Rev. Samuel F. Jarvis was purchased in December 2020 from Michael Brown Rare Books, LLC. A set of 23 letters, miscellaneous financial and legal documents, and a printed sermon was purchased from Common Crow Books in January 2021.

Related Materials

Rare Books

The book collection of Samuel Farmar Jarvis, placed on loan with Trinity College Library during the 1820s and removed in the 1830s, has been scattered. However, the occasional book with a Samuel Farmar Jarvis bookplate does exist in the Watkinson Library, such as:

Paterculus, Velleius. C. Velleii Paterculi quae supersunt ex Historiae Romanae voluminibus duobus : cum integris animadversionibus doctorum. Lugduni Batavorum: Apud Samuel. et Joann. Luchtmans, 1779.

A few Jarvis-owned books exist in other libraries, such as:

Molière. Œuvres de Moliere, avec des remarques grammaticales, des avertissemens et des observations sur chaque piéce. Paris, Compagnie des libraires associés, 1788. Available at Olin Library, Special Collections and Archives, Wesleyan University.

Printed Ephemera

Many of the sermons and addresses of Samuel Farmar Jarvis were published in his day. Printed copies of some of these may be discovered in the collections of the Watkinson Library.

Archival Material

Jarvis family papers, Connecticut Historical Society.

Samuel F. Jarvis correspondence, Miscellaneous Manuscripts, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division.

Samuel F. Jarvis papers, New York Public Library.

Samuel Farmar Jarvis papers, Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut.


Weaver, Glenn. The History of Trinity College: Volume One (Hartford: Trinity College Press, 1967).

Processing Information

In 2020, the letters acquired in 2001 were finally arranged by correspondent, then placed in chronological order. No original order was detected. The additional accretions of 2020 and 2021 will be added to the folder structure based on correspondent and chronology. The printed materials received in the 2021 purchase will be catalogued separately.


Guide to the Samuel Farmar Jarvis family papers
College Archivist Eric C. Stoykovich
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Watkinson Library Manuscripts Repository

Trinity College Library
300 Summit St.
Hartford Connecticut 06106