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David Watts Hulings papers

Identifier: MSS 0575

Scope and Content Note

The David Watts Hulings papers, spanning the dates 1796-1850, reflect the everyday business of a nineteenth-century lawyer and businessman in the quickly developing central valleys of Pennsylvania. The majority of the items housed in this collection are records relating to Hulings’s legal work in Lewistown (Mifflin County) and his business endeavors, including his involvement with the Hope Furnace iron works and the Mifflin Eagle. The collection is arranged in four series by document type: I. Correspondence, II. Financial Documents, III. Legal Documents, and IV. Miscellany.

The largest volume of material is housed within Series II. Financial Documents. The financial documents - bills, account statements, drafts, checks, promissory notes, and receipts - found in this series pertain not only to Hulings’s legal practice, but also to his outside business and personal activities. For example, within the two folders of "Bills, calculations, and accounts" (F3-4) there are many bills from a grocer for home goods such as eggs, pork, and sugar, as well as calculations of balances due to Hulings by the individuals for whom he had done legal work. In many instances, it is difficult to distinguish Hulings’s personal accounts from his business expenses. After Hulings purchased the Hope Furnace in 1830, for example, it became his duty to supply the Furnace with necessary operating materials. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether bills for lumber are a personal expense (for use at the Hulings homestead) or a business one (for use at the Hope Furnace). For this reason all bills have been kept together. This same logic has been applied to the other financial records in this series, grouping items by document type (promissory notes, checks, receipts, and drafts), rather than by their application.

A large collection of approximately 500 printed bank checks is also found within Series II. Financial Documents. The earliest of these checks are from 1831 and were issued by the Bank of Harrisburg. Also from 1831 is one check drawn from the Bank of the United States. Beginning in 1835 nearly all of the checks are drawn from the Bank of Lewistown, rather than the further-afield Bank of Harrisburg. From 1835 to 1844 the Bank of Lewistown checks went through many different changes of style and appearance, having been produced initially by B. Tanners Stereograph (Philadelphia) and then variously marked Hogan and Thompson Booksellers, Hogan and Thompson Stationers, and, finally, simply Hogan and Thompson (Philadelphia). The latest checks in the collection date to 1849 and are from Messrs. Longenecker, Grubb & Co., Bankers (Lewistown).

Of particular interest to the researcher is the first series, Series I. Correspondence, which contains two large folders of business correspondence documenting Hulings’s business ventures over time. Some examples of this correspondence are several letters listing the current output of iron at Hope Furnace, a letter from Hulings’s brother-in-law W. Patton advising him to sell the family homestead, and a letter of resignation from the editorship of the Mifflin Eagle. Additionally, these correspondence files include various letters from legal clients to Hulings about their cases. Not only do these letters illustrate the activities of David Watts Hulings, but they also, in many cases, touch on issues of great regional importance. For example, in one 1825 letter from Hulings’s brother Marcus, the issue of the ill-fated Pennsylvania Canal is raised. Marcus, who had moved to someplace in the South after reaching adulthood, urged his younger brother David "not to touch [the canal] yourself!" due to the difficulty of the route that a Pennsylvania canal would have to travel compared to that of the "New York" (Erie) Canal.

Series III. includes a variety of types of legal documents. Court documents, judgments, and trial notes make up the largest number of items in this series. Hulings handled a number of cases for outstanding debt or other financial matters, thus many of these documents are court notices for settlement costs levied against the guilty party in the case. Also included in this series are court depositions and summonses from Mifflin and Juniata counties. The great majority of these summonses are printed, though one hailing from Cumberland County is handwritten. A final folder within this series houses a variety of legal documents such as deeds, leases, agreements, insurance policies, and power of attorney declarations. The large number of deeds and indentures within the folder demonstrate to the researcher the number and variety of Hulings’s real estate holdings throughout central Pennsylvania. Most of the documents are handwritten, though some of the indentures and the insurance policy are printed. The insurance policy, issued by the Lycoming County Mutual Fire Insurance Company and printed at the offices of the Danville Intelligencer, insured a Lewistown dwelling that was owned by Hulings and valued at $300.

Of particular note in Series IV. Miscellany is a nine-page essay Hulings wrote and gave to his son Thomas on the occasion of his marriage. The essay presents Hulings’s advice on business, health, temper, age, cleanliness of person, and religious instruction.


  • Creation: 1796-1850


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce isrequired from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

David Watts Hulings (1793-1858) was a lawyer, land investor, and businessman. He became highly involved in the political and economic life of his long-time residence, Lewistown, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania.

David Watts Hulings was born in Perry County, Pennsylvania, in 1793 to Thomas Hulings and Elizabeth (Watts) Hulings. Hulings followed his uncle, David Watts, into the legal field and went into practice with him in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, following his graduation from Dickinson College in 1815. In 1818 Hulings moved from Carlisle to Lewistown, Pennsylvania, and was appointed deputy attorney-general of Mifflin County. David Watts Hulings married Maria Patton in 1820 and continued the practice of law in Mifflin County. By the year 1830 Hulings began purchasing a great deal of land in the county. In 1844 he took on ownership of the Hope Furnace iron works in Granville, which he subsequently leased to A.B. Long & Brothers in 1846. Sometime thereafter Hulings ceased the practice of law and retired to Baltimore, where he died in 1858.

Hulings became a prominent citizen in his adopted hometown of Lewistown. Aside from attaining the post of deputy attorney-general, he was president of the town council in 1820, publisher of the town’s paper, the Mifflin Eagle, from 1826 until publication of the paper was stopped in 1832, and a corporator of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. In 1846 Hulings sold twelve acres of his land to the newly incorporated Lewistown Water Company for the construction of a town reservoir.

David Watts Hulings and his wife Maria Patton Hulings had five children: Thomas, Maria, Ellen, Mary and Elizabeth (Lizzie). Their son Thomas also went into law and practiced in Baltimore before moving home to Mifflin County in 1859 after being elected to the post of district-attorney. Thomas remained district-attorney until the start of the Civil War when he enlisted. He was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. Hulings’s four daughters all married: Ellen and Elizabeth married men from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and Maria and Mary married men from Baltimore.

Egle, William Henry, A. S. Dudley, Harry I. Huber, and R. H. Schively. Commemorative Biographical Encyclopedia of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania: Containing Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens and Many of the Early Scotch-Irish and German Settlers. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: J.M. Runk & Co, 1896. Reproduced in RootsWeb. (accessed May 19, 2008).Ellis, Franklin. History of That Part of the Susquehanna and Juniata Valleys Embraced in the Counties of Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Union and Snyder. Philadelphia: Everts, Peck & Richards, 1886. Reproduced in RootsWeb. (accessed May 16, 2008).“Dickinson College Alumni, 1801-1825,” Encyclopedia Dickinsonia. (accessed May 29, 2008). Additional biographical information derived from the collection.


1 linear foot (circa 1700 items)


The business records of nineteenth-century lawyer, land investor, and businessman David Watts Hulings of Lewistown, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. In addition to legal documents - case judgments and settlements, depositions, power of attorneys, and summonses - the collection also includes deeds, leases, letters, and bank checks.


Gift of Anna D. Moyerman, 1972.

Shelving Summary

  1. Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons


Processed and encoded by Lora J. Davis, June 2008.

Finding aid for David Watts Hulings papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2008 June 10
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA