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Elijah D. and John Tompkins Social Services Account Book, 1843 - 1851

Identifier: SC MS 0209

Scope and Contents

The booklet measures19.5 cm x 16 cm x 1 cm with covers of green, pink, tan marbled paper on cardboard with leather spine in very poor condition. Faint blue lined pages are loose from spine with some missing. Different inks are used and different handwriting is apparent.


  • 1843-1851


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Biographical / Historical

In the booklet, Elijah D. Tompkins is listed as Overseer of the Poor in connection with Hanover Township, New Jersey. Elijah D. Tompkins and his wife, Margaret, were members of the First Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey as of December 3, 1847 but are listed from Parsippany. Their son is listed as John Tompkins, however, in 1855 he is listed with the church in Whippany. In the New Jersey Index of Wills, 1912, Elijah D. Tompkins’ will was posted in 1851. By 1852 Margaret Tompkins is listed in church records as having remarried to E. Stiles. John Tompkins possibly was born in 1806 and lived at 354 Beaufort Avenue, Livingston, New Jersey according to the 1939 New Jersey Writers Project WPA book.

The entries in the account book appear to have been made by an officer of the law perhaps a Township or County Clerk or a Sheriff. Prior to 1844 the county clerk was appointed by the governor but after 1844, the position was by election. Many entries reflect on the economic state of the township making note of the destitute, with removal of stragglers, poor Irish or persons of color, consulting lawyers, attending trials and arrangements made for indigent families, orphaned children, medical attention for the poor, funerals, sale of stray animals or confiscated items. In the 19th century public attitudes toward the poor were often uncharitable, but there were distinctions generally drawn between the so-called worthy or deserving poor and those considered unworthy and undeserving. This attitude is apparent in the entries of this account book. Financial records are entered for cost of examinations of indigent people paid for by the township. The resulting decisions apparently were to be worthy for admission to the County House or unworthy with the indigent person paid to leave the township with their property confiscated and subsequently sold to benefit the township.


1 volume ; 20 cm

Language of Materials



This account book is an interesting observation into 19th century social services or attitudes. The notations in the little account book indicate that Elijah D. Tompkins had the title of “Overseer of the Poor.” The entries seem to have been made by an officer of the local government whose job was to deal with the diverse problems of a New Jersey township believed to be Hanover Township. Many entries are made regarding dealing with the indigent and the 19th century attitudes toward the poor. The public attitudes toward the poor were often uncharitable. Distinctions were drawn between the so-called worthy or deserving poor and those considered unworthy and thus undeserving. Generally until 1900 there were no social welfare programs in place so each community dealt with the problem of the poor as best as they could. This manuscript is a fascinating insight into these matters.


The text is written in two directions: an untitled accounting of various expenses and a titled section – Elijah D. Tompkins administrator of John Tompkins which contains several pages of Debit and Credit notations. The untitled account begins July 9 unknown year and extends to April 4, 1851. Pages are missing therefore dates are interrupted. The debit and credit entries for the Estate of John Tompkins section of the booklet are dated April 13, 1843 to December 2, 1844. Following these entries are a few entries in pencil regarding August 4, 1888 for milk and bread.

Immediate Source of Acquisition



No additions anticipated.

Related Materials

History of the First Presbyterian Church, Morristown, N.J., Part II The Combined Registers, from 1742 to 1885; “Banner” Steam Print, 1885.

New Jersey Index of Wills, 1912. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969.

Shafer, Richard A. 1939. Livingston, The Story of a Community, New Jersey Writers Project WPA.

Physical Description

1 volume ; 20 cm


Finding Aid of the Elijah D. and John Tompkins Social Services Account Book, 1843 - 1851
William Ying
September 26, 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)