“Samuel Whitwell served as an Overseer for twenty-one years, a remarkable length of service and even more remarkable for the fact that he served most of that time in Ward 10. We can be sure that he knew the circumstances of most of the 200 or so households and the transient workers who were in Ward 10 at any time, and after years as an Overseer, his relationships with needy residents were personal and constant. The document is not part of the Overseers Manuscript Collection but is a separate and private document in the MHS collection. It is, nevertheless, a vital surviving evidence of the Overseers’ routine duties and management outside the institutional framework. Whitwell’s accounts show his regular personal disbursements to the poor in his ward, from his own resources and his claims to the town treasurer for reimbursement. What gives the document special value is that it is the only known surviving ledger of its kind, and while we assume that every Overseer kept some account of his “out of doors” contributions, it is disappointing that more account books cannot be found. So it is that Whitwell’s book takes on a special significance and can be seen speculatively as an example of every Overseer’s private relationships with the poor who did not end up in the Almshouse. It can be seen also in relation to the individual claims that appear in the Overseers Financial Records transcribed in this volume.”
Source: Samuel Whitwell’s Accounts, 1769-1792 (101.2 kB) in
The Eighteenth-Century Records of the Boston Overseers of the Poor (Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts). Edited by Eric Nellis and Anne Decker Cecere. Charlottesville: University Of Virginia Press, 2001.