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Samson, Smallwood, and Kenrick families papers

Identifier: MS2365-UA

Scope and Contents

This collection comprises the contents of a small box of correspondence, photographs, and documents preserved intact by George and Elizabeth Samson's descendents until their gift to the archives in 2017.

The oldest materials in the collection are related to Abisha Samson's vocation as a Baptist minister, and include his certificate of ordination as well as letters of recommendation he received from churches he was affiliated with. This portion of the collection also contains correspondence between Abisha and his wife, Mehetabel, and her father, John Kenrick; and with her brother, Enoch B. Kenrick, about the estate of John Kenrick after his death. A later set of correspondence to Abisha Samson dates from the time he spent living with his son and daughter-in-law in Washington D.C. following Mehetabel's death.

The first materials in the collection directly related to George W. Samson are a complete set of bills sent to Abisha Samson for George's education at Brown University from 1835 to 1839. An interesting cluster of correspondence dates from his time shortly after that, when he was studying at Newton. During this time, he corresponded with friends and family, including his father, Abisha, who updated his son on his activities and successes in spreading the Baptist faith. Another set of documents of potential interest to historians of Baptism in the United States are some partial notes about meetings that George Samson took while serving as minister of the E Street church. Finally, the George Samson materials include several copies of a studio photograph of him from later in his life, as well as memorial tributes from Brown and the E Street Baptist Church, and letters of condolence written to his widow, Elizabeth.

George Samson and Elizabeth Smallwood courted by letter for about two years before their marriage in 1844, and they continued corresponding during times of separation in 1844, again in 1847-1848 (while George Samson was apparently traveling abroad), and in 1853. Their correspondence is unfailingly loving; during a period of physical separation after their marriage, George wrote Elizabeth a poem included in this collection that touches on themes of both love and religion. In a letter in 1848, Elizabeth writes to George about the birth of their second son, George, and her move from Washinton to New York when he was six weeks old.

This collection contains a significant amount of correspondence to Elizabeth Smallwood dating from the years prior to her marriage to George Samson. While at her parents' home in Newton, she corresponded with numerous cousins and friends, and while she was abroad at her father's ancestral home in Macclesfield, Cheshire, her correspondence also heavily featured her sisters, Emma Smallwood (later known as Mrs. Dr. S.C. Smoot) and Matilda (later known as Matilda Linden), and her brothers Edwin, George, and John Boden, called "J.B." The correspondence from her friends and family continues into the early years of her marriage, heavily featuring Emma as well as her father, Thomas Smallwood. The collection also includes a newspaper from 1881 that includes a story with a biography and tribute to Thomas Smallwood as a citizen of Newton.

The collection also includes carte de visite photographs of Elizabeth Smallwood's aunt and cousin, Mrs. John Smallwood and her daughter Catharine Smallwood, both of Macclesfield, as well as a photograph of an unidentified woman, all of which were loose in the box.

Finally, the collection includes several scraps of unattributed writings, including a eligious autobiography which discusses, among other things, the death of a young daughter; an essay; and a transcription of a Smallwood family a gravesite, likely located in Cheshire.


  • 1805-1896


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All materials in this collection are free from U.S. copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

George Whitefield Samson served as president of Columbian College (what is today George Washington University) from 1859 to 1871. Born in 1819 in Harvard, Massachuesetts, Samson was the son of Baptist minister Abisha (sometimes recorded as Abishai, though generally addressed in correspondence as Abisha) Samson and his wife, Mehetabel Samson née Kenrick.

George W. Samson graduated from Brown University in 1839, and later from Newton Theological Institution. In 1843, he married Elizabeth Smallwood and subsequently they both moved from New England to Washington D.C., where he served as minister at the E Street Baptist Church and became involved in the governance of Columbian College (then a Baptist institution). In 1859, Samson left E Street to become president of Columbian, which he successfully shepherded through the Civil War. Following his presidency at Columbian, Samson moved to New York City, where he was twice president of Rutgers Female College. He died in 1896.

Samson's wife, Elizabeth Samson née Smallwood, was also born in Massachusetts, in 1817. She was the dauaghter of Thomas Smallwood, a noted Newton cabinet maker, and Dorothy Bowden, who died when Elizabeth was 15 years old. Thomas Smallwood's second wife, whom he married within a few years, was named Lavinia.

From around 1835 to 1837, Elizabeth Smallwood stayed with her paternal grandparents, Joseph and Martha Smallwood, in their home in Macclesfield, Cheshire, England. Martha was Joseph's second wife; his first wife, Elizabeth, who was Thomas Smallwood's birth mother, died when Thomas was only a few years old. Following her return to the United States, Elizabeth Smallwood spent some time in Brooklyn, New York.


1.5 Linear Feet (3 document boxes)

Language of Materials



George Whitefield Samson served as president of Columbian College (what is today George Washington University) from 1859 to 1871. This collection includes materials, primarily correspondence, but also a few photographs and other documents, from his parents, Abisha Samson and Mehetabel Samson née Kenrick; the Kenrick family; George Samson and his wife, Elizabeth Samson née Smallwood, and the Smallwood family.


The collection is arranged in a single series, with materials organized by individual and family. When they were received in the archives, most of the correspondence was organized into bundles tied with cotton twine or cloth. These groupings have been retained in the organization here, and whenever it was more than a simple piece of twine, the binding used to wrap the letters is retained in the folder with the letters.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Duncan D. Aukland, President Samson's great-great grandson, 2017 (Accession 2017-037)

Related Materials

Additional materials donated by the Samson family, related to George W. Samson and his descendents, can be found in Series 1 Sub-series 5 of RG0002, the Office of the President records.


Biographical information about the Samson, Smallwood, and Kendrick families was gleaned from the correspondence in this collection, as well as Tim Dowling's Family Tree hosted online at

Processing Information

When this collection was received, it was stored in a 19th- or very early 20th-century cardboard box with most of the letters folded, grouped, and tied together in small bundles.

Physical processing for the collection consisted of partially unfolding the letters, stabilizing the particularly fragile ones (the ones sent by Elizabeth Smallwood Samson overseas to George Samson in 1846-47) for storage by placing them in two-sided mylar envelopes, and rehousing the entire collection in archival-quality boxes and folders. When a bundle had been tied with something other than plain twine, the fabric tie was retained in the folder with the bundle's contents. The box and plain twine ties were discarded.

The arrangement of the letters in their bundles was largely preserved in the collection. Only a very few loose or highly unusual items were put in newly-designed groups.


Guide to the Samson, Smallwood, and Kenrick families papers, 1805-1896
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America