Caulkins, Frances Manwaring

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CAULKINS, Frances Manwaring

Born 26 April 1795, New London, Connecticut; died 3 February 1869, New London, Connecticut

Daughter of Joshua and Fanny Manwaring Caulkins

Frances Manwaring Caulkins centered her literary attention on two radically different areas of concern: the religious education of young people and local history. She began her work in the 1830s writing for the American Tract Society, which published a wide range of her work over the next 30 years, including The Child's Hymn Book (1835), Children of the Bible: as Examples and as Warnings (1842), and Eve and Her Daughters of Holy Writ (1861). Representative of her religious educational work was The Bible Primer (1854), also issued under the title Youth's Bible Studies. In the six short volumes, Caulkins gave brief practical lessons, utilizing question-and-answer techniques, narrative, and inspirational material. She addressed herself particularly to the individual student seeking "self-cultivation." Accordingly, she deliberately omitted "what is bulky, heavy or wearisome" and utilized biblical texts rather than commentaries.

Caulkins's major achievements as a writer, however, came in the area of local history. She wrote first The History of Norwich, Connecticut, from Its Settlement in 1660 to January, 1845. A second, revised edition carried the history to 1866. She also wrote The History of New London, Connecticut (1852), with a second edition continuing to 1860.

In the early sections of both works, Caulkins dealt with the local Indian tribes, their leadership conflicts, and their relationships with the new English settlers. In her view, "the providence of God" had prepared the way for peaceable settlement, for the tribes, weakened by conflict, eagerly sought new allies. Her perspective on the Indians is sympathetic, although at times condescending, and she stresses their dependent qualities. She underscores what she sees as the paternalistic concern of Norwich leaders for the Indians.

Caulkins stressed the early religious focus of town life, the decline of fervor in the late 17th century and the impact of the 18th-century Great Awakening. She stressed the work of Tennent, Davenport, and Whitefield, citing the positive impact of revivalism as well as the problems of church division and separatism. She also noted in New London the role of the Rogerene sect, typical of religious extremists in their "determination to be persecuted."

While her primary focus is on political and religious history, Caulkins also has a sound grasp of local, social, and economic history. She noted the close hold on town leadership by descendants of the early town fathers; not until the end of the 18th century was there substantial expansion in the Norwich leadership ranks. Her history of New London concentrated on the pre-1815 period, with an account of the expansion of the whaling industry in the 19th century. The Norwich history dealt in some detail with 19th-century events, including the expansion of manufacturing in Norwich itself and neighboring valley towns. Caulkins underscored the towns' roles in the various wars, particularly the Revolutionary War. In the revised edition of the Norwich history, she paid tribute to the town's role in the Civil War.

Of the two histories, that of New London has the more localized view, stressing personalities and incidents often of purely local concern. In both histories, Caulkins takes the view that events of local history "illustrate classes of men and ages of time." She writes with ease; her tone is at times romantic. While she does not escape totally the self-congratulatory notes of the native, she does attempt to evaluate events within a broader historical perspective. Though the material differs sharply, there is a common denominator in her two types of writing. Both in her writing for the American Tract Society and in her histories, Caulkins has in mind young people and their concerns. A sense of God's providence informs both types of works and she seeks to arouse through history "a more affectionate sympathy for your ancestors."

Other Works:

The Tract Primer (circa 1848). Memoir of the Rev. William Adams, of Dedham, Mass., and of the Rev. Eliphalet Adams, of New London, Conn., and Their Descendants, with the Journal of William Adams, 1666-1682 (1849). Bride Brook, A Legend of New London, Connecticut (1852). Ye Antient Buriall Place of New London, Conn. (1899). The Stone Records of Groton (edited by E. S. Gilman, 1903).


Haven, H. P., "Memoir," in History of Norwich (1874). Trumbull, H. C., A Model Superintendent: A Sketch of the Life … of Henry P. Haven (1880). Wilcox, G. B., In Memoriam, Miss Frances Manwaring Caulkins (1869).

Reference Works:

NAW, 1607-1950 (1971).

Other reference:

New London County Historical Society Records (1890-94).