59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum

A Finding Aid to the Verril Family and Martha W. Luce Collection, 1858-1880

Descriptive Summary

RepositoryMartha's Vineyard Museum, Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539
Call NumberRU 452
Creator Verril, Charles P., 1839- Verril, Sarah H., 1846-1880 Luce, Martha W., 1834-1910
TitleVerril family and Martha W. Luce collection
Date1858-1880, undated, bulk 1865-1868
ExtentPhysical Description:1 box + 1 oversize folder (0.529 cubic feet)
LanguageThe materials are in English.
AbstractThis collection contains 1864-1868 correspondence between Charles P. Verril, a mariner away at sea, and his wife, Sarah H. Verril of Tisbury, Massachusetts, and letters, 1858-1880, received by Martha W. Luce, also of Tisbury.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use and Reproduction Restrictions

Requests to reproduce material from this collection should be directed to museum staff. Reproduction fees may apply.

Preferred Citation

Martha's Vineyard Museum, RU 452, Verril Family and Martha W. Luce Collection.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Seth Goodhart, August 3, 2011. (Accession no. 2011.007). The donor purchased these letters at an island antique market in West Tisbury circa 2005.

Publication Information

Martha's Vineyard Museum

Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Insley Julier, July-August 2013. Machine-encoded by Nathaniel Janick April 2014.

 Creation of this finding aid was sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Related Materials

Related Materials

The University of Kansas holds a closely related collection, see: Luce and Swift Family Collection, MS 293, Department of Special Collections, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

Index Terms


  • Correspondence

Geographic Name(s)

  • Holmes Hole (Mass.)
  • Tisbury (Mass. : Town)
  • Massachusetts-\-History-\-Civil War, 1861-1865
  • United States-\-History-\-Civil War, 1861-1865

Personal Name(s)

  • Luce, Benjamin N., 1840-1912


  • Communicable diseases
  • Merchant ships
  • Seafaring life-\-Atlantic Ocean
  • Soldiers-\-Massachusetts-\-Correspondence

Biography/Historical Note

Sarah H. Swift Verril was born January 17, 1846 to Hannah V. Swift, 1823-1901 and Charles H. Swift, 1817-1884. She had seven siblings; Timothy, Elizabeth, Charles, Asa, Holmes, Mary and William. The family lived in Tisbury, Massachusetts, at that time called Holmes Hole. In 1864, Sarah H. Swift married mariner Charles Peter Verril. Charles Verril left the island to go to sea, while Sarah Verril remained in Tisbury, with her parents and daughter, Emma, 1866-. Born in Bangor, Maine in 1839, Charles P. Verril was employed on board various merchant vessels, including the schooner J. B. Brinkley, schooner Elvira A. Conant and the schooner Highland Queen. He spent significant amounts of time away from home. Between 1865 and 1868, he travelled largely along the eastern seaboard between United States port cities, including Boston, MA, New York, NY, Stonington, CT, Westport, ME, Philadelphia, PA and New Orleans, LA. He also ventured to foreign ports, such as, Halifax, Canada and Sagua la Grande, Cuba. Charles P. Verril was probably on the schooner Samuel Crowell out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, when it was lost in the gale of August 24, 1873. Sarah H. Verril died a widow in Tisbury on August 30, 1880.

Martha Washington Luce was born in 1834 to James Norton Luce, 1797-1868 and Martha N. Wilbur, 1814-1884. Martha W. Luce had nine siblings; James, Asa, West, Benjamin, Grafton, Charles, Theodore, Adriana and Fannie. While many remained on the island, several of her brothers travelled to other areas of the country. Luce's brother, Benjamin N. Luce, married a New Bedford, Massachusetts, woman, Mary Jane Devoll, 1840-1920, in 1859 and subsequently served in the Civil War. Benjamin and Mary J. Luce ultimately settled in Tisbury. Another brother, Grafton A. Luce, born 1842, married Alice Hazelton Pease, 1844-1872, and the couple resided in Indiana. Grafton Luce also served in the Civil War. In 1865 Martha W. Luce married a cousin Franklin Luce. They lived in Tisbury, Massachusetts, and had two daughters; Rhoda and Amelia. Martha W. Luce died in Tisbury on May 18, 1910 and her husband Franklin Luce predeceased her in 1868.

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection contains correspondence between merchant mariner, Charles P. Verril and his wife, Sarah H. Verril of Tisbury, Massachusetts, 1864-1868, written while Verril was away at sea and, 1858-1880 letters created by Martha W. Luce of Tisbury. The bulk of the correspondence received by Luce was written by her siblings and in-laws, and the collection includes several letters from her brother Benjamin N. Luce, who served in the Civil War.

It is not known if this collection is a natural accumulation of papers with the same provenance, or an artificial collection assembled by a previous custodian. However, the materials have been retained together because their immediate source of acquisition is the same and it is possible that they share the same provenance. There is a family connection between the Verrils and the Luces. Sarah Verril's brother, Holmes A. Swift, was married to Martha Luce's daughter Rhoda.


  • Series I: Verril Family, 1864-1868, undated
  • Series II: Martha W. Luce, 1858-1880, undated

Collection Contents

Series I. Verril Family, 1864-1868, undated 

Scope and Content

Series I contains correspondence between husband, Charles P. Verril, a mariner, and his wife, Sarah H. Verril of Tisbury, Massachusetts, 1864-1868. Many of the letters are undated. The pair wrote to each other regularly, often every few days, and the letters frequently express their lonesomeness and desire to be together. Letters written by Sarah Verril mention the comings and goings and health of various members of the family, the baby (daughter Emma), attendance at "meetings" and social calls from friends. Letters written by Charles Verril contain queries regarding the health of friends and family at home, describe his whereabouts and occasionally, mention noteworthy events on his voyages, such as bad storms and damage or repairs to vessels. He also notes when he has sent money home and how much. His letters are sent from numerous United States port cities including; Boston, MA, New York, NY, Stonington, CT, Westport, ME, Philadelphia, PA and New Orleans, LA. Verril also wrote from Halifax, Canada and Sagua la Grande, Cuba. When in Boston, Charles Verril frequently received correspondence care of Charles F. Eaton, Long Wharf No. 45, a wholesale grocer and provisioner of ships. The series also contains two letters addressed to Sarah H. Verril's mother, Hannah V. Swift, from her daughter, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ames and her granddaughter, both sent from Rockland, Maine.


The series is arranged chronologically. Materials with no year identified have been filed by port at the end of the series. Miscellaneous envelopes and letters addressed to Hannah V. Swift are filed last.


Correspondence, 1864-1865 


Correspondence, 1865 February, June-July 


Correspondence, 1865 August-September 


Correspondence, 1865 October-December 


Correspondence, 1866 January-February 


Correspondence, 1866 July-August 

OS GEN 429

Correspondence, 1866 December 


Correspondence, 1867 March-June, December 


Correspondence, 1868 January-May 


Correspondence from Boston, undated 


Correspondence from Gloucester, Newport and Stonington, undated 


Correspondence from Westport, Winter Harbor Hill and Unidentified, undated 


Envelopes, undated 


Correspondence to Hannah V. Swift from Elizabeth Ames, 1879 August 


Series II. Martha W. Luce, 1858-1880, undated 

Scope and Content

Series II consists of letters addressed to Martha W. Luce of Tisbury, Massachusetts, 1858-1880 and undated. Most of the letters are from members of the Luce family, but there are also a few letters from friends, including, Mary N. Pease and Ellen E. Whitten. Martha Luce's brother Grafton and his wife Alice wrote from Pleasant Grove, Indiana after moving there from Massachusetts, and later from Brazil, Indiana. During the Civil War, Benjamin N. Luce, a member of the 20th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company I, wrote from Camp Benton, Maryland and the hospital after he was wounded at Fredericksburg, Virginia. In his letters Benjamin Luce describes his condition and thanks the family for sending him supplies. He also attempts to resolve discord between his wife Mary Jane Devoll, and his sister Martha Luce. A letter to Martha Luce from her cousin, Sarah M. Marsh, describes a North Brookfield, Massachusetts epidemic of dysentery and typhoid which killed Marsh's husband and sickened many others. There are a few letters addressed to Frank, possibly Franklin Luce, discussing Luce relatives, island residents and the war, and one seemingly unrelated naval service discharge for Charles Watson.


Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by sender with miscellaneous and unidentified materials filed at the end of the series.


Devoll, Mary Jane, 1858-1859 


Luce, Benjamin N., 1861-1862 


Luce, Franklin, undated 


Luce, Grafton A. and Alice Hazelton Pease Luce, 1866, 1880 


Marsh, Sarah M., 18--? 


Pease, Mary N., 1875-1877 


Whitten, Ellen E., 1866 March 07 


Letters to Frank and Miscellaneous, 1862-1863 


Unidentified Correspondent, 1877