John A. Rockwell Papers mssRO

Gayle Richardson
The Huntington Library
September 2020
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Business Number: (626) 405-2191


Finding aid last updated on October 10, 2022 by Melissa Haley.

Contributing Institution: The Huntington Library
Title: John A. Rockwell papers
Creator: Rockwell, John A. (John Arnold), 1803-1861
Identifier/Call Number: mssRO
Physical Description: 43.59 Linear Feet (39 boxes)
Date (inclusive): 1770-1871
Abstract: A collection of professional and personal material related to John Arnold Rockwell, American lawyer, author, and politician.
Language of Material: Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for use by qualified researchers and by appointment. Please contact Reader Services at the Huntington Library for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item]. John A. Rockwell papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from George D. Smith Book Company, March 1925.

Biographical / Historical

John Arnold Rockwell (1803-1861) was an American jurist, Whig politician, and businessman. A native of Norwich, Connecticut and a graduate of Yale University, class of 1822; he married Mary Watkinson Perkins on September 28, 1831. Rockwell was a member of the Connecticut State Senate in 1839, and the judge of the New London County Court in 1840. He represented the state, as a Whig, in the Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth United States Congresses. Rockwell served as the chairman of the Committee on Claims in the Thirtieth Congress, and was the Chief Founder of the Court of Claims in Washington (established 1855). Having lost his re-election bid in 1848, Rockwell practiced law before the Court of Claims of the United States until his death in Washington, D.C. on February 10, 1861. Rockwell and his brother Charles William Rockwell were actively involved in various enterprises having to do with the westward expansion, including land development, railroads, transportation, and banking. In 1836 they founded the Rockwell Land Company with the purpose of land development in La Salle County, Illinois.

Scope and Contents

A collection of approximately 3000 items from 1770 to 1871, it consists of the personal and professional papers of John Arnold Rockwell, chiefly his incoming and outgoing correspondence. The papers document Rockwell's legal career; the development of the U.S. Court of Claims; politics; the Constitutional Union Party of 1860; land development, particularly in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan; transportation, including land grants in aid of canals and railroads such as the Illinois Central and the projected Pacific Railroads; mining; and banking. Correspondents include, among others, John William Allen, Reverdy Johnson, Charles William Rockwell, and Dixwell Lathrop, who was a member of the Rockwell Land Company and one of the founders of Rockwell Colony in La Salle, Illinois. Also included are a letter book, plats, Dixwell Lathrop's notebooks, newspaper clippings, and the 1857 legal brief in the case of the United States, appellants vs. Charles Fossatt, regarding the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines. The earliest portion of Rockwell's correspondence includes letters from his father Charles Rockwell and brother Charles William Rockwell who had moved to Savannah, Georgia in 1817 to run a shipping business. The post-1861 part of the collection consists mainly of the incoming correspondence of John A. Rockwell's youngest son Alfred Perkins Rockwell, a Yale graduate, mining engineer, Civil War veteran, and businessman. Also included is correspondence of the Perkins and Tisdale families, including Rockwell's father-in-law Joseph Perkins who died in 1832 and was a Revolutionary War soldier, a Major in the Connecticut militia, physician, and businessman; also, Simon Perkins, John Tisdale, Elkanah Tisdale, and others. This correspondence deals chiefly with the properties in Connecticut and the Western Reserve. Also present is an autograph letter signed from Millard Fillmore to John A. Rockwell, 1852 January 14 (RO 2376).

Processing Information

Processed by Huntington Library Staff, circa 1935. In 2020, Gayle Richardson created the finding aid derived from a legacy summary report. In 2022, Melissa Haley enhanced description of the presidential material present in the collection as part of the American Presidential Papers Project.


Individual call numbers included in the collection: mssRO 1-2651.


Arranged chronologically.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Businessmen -- Connecticut
Land grants -- California
Land grants -- Northwest, Old
Lawyers -- United States
Legislators -- United States
Politicians -- United States
Railroads -- Northwest, Old
Transportation -- Northwest, Old
Real property -- Northwest, Old
Connecticut -- History
La Salle (Ill.) -- History
Norwich (Conn.) -- History
Northwest, Old -- Commerce -- History
Rockwell (La Salle, Ill.) -- History
Savannah (Ga.) -- History -- 19th century
Western Reserve (Ohio) -- History
Family papers -- Connecticut
Letters (correspondence) -- United States -- 18th century
Letters (correspondence) -- United States -- 19th century
Personal papers -- United States
Professional papers -- United States
Allen, John W. (John William), 1802-1887
Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874
Johnson, Reverdy, 1796-1876
Lathrop, Dixwell
Perkins, Simon, 1771-1844
Rockwell, Alfred Perkins, 1834-1903
Rockwell, Charles William, 1799-1866
Tisdale, Elkanah, 1768-1835
Constitutional Union Party (U.S.)
New Almaden Quicksilver Mines (Calif.)
United States. Congress (29th, 1st session : 1845-1846)
United States. Congress (30th, 1st session : 1847-1848)
United States. Court of Claims
Whig Party (U.S.)

Box 1

1770, 1786-1806

Box 2


Box 3


Box 4

1815-1817 June

Box 5

1817 July-1818

Box 6


Box 7


Box 8


Box 9

1832-1834 June

Box 10

1834 July-1835 June

Box 11

1835 July-1836 June

Box 12

1836 July-1837

Box 13


Box 14


Box 15

1841-1842 June

Box 16

1842 July-1843

Box 17


Box 18


Box 19

1847-1848 January

Box 20

1848 February-December

Box 21

1849 January-September

Box 22

1849 October-1850 June

Box 23

1850 July-1851 May

Box 24

1851 June-December

Box 25

1852 January-June

Box 26

1852 July-1853 April

Box 27

1853 May-1854

Box 28

1855 January-August

Box 29

1855 September-December

Box 30

1856 January-June 11

Box 31

1856 June 16-December

Box 32

1857-1858 February

Box 33

1858 March-December

Box 34

1849 January-July

Box 35

1859 August-1860 April

Box 36

1860 May-September

Box 37

1860 October-1871

Box 38

RO 2469, 2646-2651; Ephemera

Box 39

Georgia-Wilkinson County. Land deeds and papers RO 2628 1828 December-approximately 1828