Skip to main content

The Brooker Collection - Spring 2004

daniel r. coquillette rare book room - boston college law library

The Robert E. Brooker III Collection of American Legal and Land Use Documents: 1716-1930

This exhibit features highlights from a very special gift of documents and manuscripts recently donated to the Boston College Law Library by Robert E. Brooker, III. The Library is deeply grateful to Mr. Brooker for developing such a unique and comprehensive collection and for sharing it with us.

The collection, which Mr. Brooker painstakingly acquired over many years, features approximately 2,500 documents and manuscripts. Focused primarily on Boston and the New England area and spanning two centuries, the Brooker Collection provides abundant opportunity for the study of early American land use and transfers, law and legal systems, town governance, family matters and daily life.

Documents include deeds of land and other property, contracts for goods and services, legal documents such as complaints, deposition testimony and wills, business papers such as invoices and receipts, and evidence of everyday life as glimpsed in letters and estate inventories. The exhibit features items from all of these categories and is loosely organized by themes: The Land, The Law, Commerce and Contracts, The Community, Living and Dying, and Odds and Ends.

Below are a few highlights from the exhibit. A catalog describing the entire exhibit is available here. The exhibit was curated by Karen Beck, Curator of Rare Books and Legal Information Librarian, and will remain on view through May 2004. From time to time, additional items from the Brooker Collection will be added to the website.


Isaac Harris Property Deed

Click on image to see a larger view

#1013 Property Deed
This beautiful deed, the oldest in the collection, was signed in October 1738 by Isaac Harris. In it, Isaac deeded his property in Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, to his son Arthur, "in consideration of the Paternal Love & Affection which I do bear towards him." Isaac reserved for himself the "possession and improvement" of the land during his natural life, which ended shortly thereafter. The boundaries are described by such landmarks as a "small maple tree" and a "white oak stake & heap of stones." A transcription of the deed is available; click the small box that appears in the lower right of the document to view the transcription clearly.

Gift of Robert E. Brooker III.


Pages from Robert Huston Legal Notebook

Robert Huston Legal Notebook - cover

Click on images to see a larger view

#2351 Legal Notebook
Robert Huston's legal record book provides a fascinating glimpse into the daily workings of the legal system of 1811 Bristol, Massachusetts (later Maine). An attorney, Selectman and Justice of the Peace for the town of Bristol, Huston appears to have been something of a pillar of the community. His name appears in numerous documents in the collection and pops up throughout this exhibit as well.

In this record book, Huston describes a variety of legal actions that were brought before him, as well as their outcomes. This information is especially valuable and rare, since most court documents provide no hint of the ultimate outcome of a case. This notebook shows us that, then as now, most legal actions disappeared before they ever made it to trial.

Gift of Robert E. Brooker III.


Indentured Servant Contract - front Indentured Servant Contract - back

Click on images to see a larger view

#2019 Indentured Servant Contract
This attractive document is one of three indentured servant contracts in the Brooker Collection. Written in 1797, apparently by mutual agreement of the town's Overseers of the Poor and the county's Justices of the Peace, it bound four-year-old Benjamin Evans, "a Pauper apprentice to Nicholas Hoffman" of Shawangunck, New York.

Gift of Robert E. Brooker III.


Measles Epidemic Letter - front Measles Epidemic Letter - back

Click on images to see a larger view

#1260 Letter
In this letter dated June 27, 1821, William Galloway writes movingly of a measles epidemic that swept through Boston in the spring and summer of that year.

Gift of Robert E. Brooker III.