Francis Willis Alger

Male 1807 - 1863  (56 years)

Personal Information    |    Notes    |    Sources    |    All    |    PDF

  • Name Francis Willis Alger  [1, 2, 3, 4
    Born 8 Mar 1807  Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 27 Nov 1863  Washington, , District of Columbia, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I628  Alger
    Last Modified 9 Feb 2020 

    Father Cyrus Alger, Esq.,   b. 11 Nov 1782, Bridgewater, Plymouth Co., Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 4 Feb 1856, Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 73 years) 
    Mother Lucy Willis,   b. 1782,   d. 23 Dec 1830  (Age 48 years) 
    Married 1804 
    • Cyrus and Lucy had 7 daughters and 2 sons.
    Family ID F98  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Mary Louisa Jones,   b. Est 1809,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married 9 May 1835 
    Divorced Yes, date unknown 
     1. Herbert Alger,   b. 18 Mar 1836,   d. 14 Nov 1836  (Age 0 years)
     2. Francis Alger,   b. 10 Jan 1838,   d. Yes, date unknown
     3. Marianne Motte Alger,   b. 26 Feb 1840,   d. Yes, date unknown
     4. Alfred Andrews Alger,   b. 13 Jan 1841,   d. 12 May 1841  (Age 0 years)
    Last Modified 31 Jul 2015 
    Family ID F218  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Lydia M. Smith,   b. Est 1824,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married 13 Oct 1858 
     1. Lucy Alger,   b. 17 Aug 1859,   d. Yes, date unknown
     2. George Willis Alger,   b. 1 Jun 1861,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 31 Jul 2015 
    Family ID F219  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • **********
      ?i?As a boy, Francis exhibited little inclination for study, and received only a common school education. When he was about seventeen years old, however, he became interested in the science of mineralogy, and from the love which he acquired for it was led to the study of kindred sciences. A taste for reading and reflection was thus awakened, and he became a student in other paths of literature. To mineralogy he gave especial attention, and at the time of his death possessed one of the finest collections of minerals in the country. For years he was in correspondence with Heuland, the great mineral dealer of London, who sent him boxes of specimens to select what he wished and to sell or return the rest. He knew all the fine specimens in most of the private cabinets in the United States, and was ready to buy them when they were offered for sale. He purchased several mines in the state of New Hampshire, more for the sake of the minerals they yielded than from any hope of pecuniary gain. He was also interested in the iron and zinc mines of Sussex County, New Jersey, and made that locality famous for its rare and unique minerals.

      In 1826, he made a trip to Nova Scotia with his father, who went thither for the purpose of erecting a smelting furnace at Clements, on the Annapolis Basin. On his return he published in the scientific journals a description of the minerals found in that region. The following year, in company with Dr. Charles T. Jackson, he explored the mineral region of the peninsula of Nova Scotia, and the results of their researches were published in a joint essay. In 1849, he made another exploration with Dr. Jackson, a schooner being chartered for the voyage which served as a home along the wild coasts of the Bay of Fundy. Many new discoveries were made, and a revised and enlarged memoir was prepared for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Shortly after its publication, he was elected a member of that learned body. He was one of the original members of the Boston Society of Natural History, and for several years served as its Curator of Mineralogy. In 1849, the degree of Master of Arts, "causa honoris," was conferred on him by Harvard University. In 1856, he succeeded his father in the management of the South Boston Iron Company. During the Civil War, he had large contracts with the Government for cannon and projectiles of every description. He invented and patented two fuses adapted to shells for rifled guns, and a pouch to contain the bursting charge used in shrapnel.

      In his religious belief he was a zealous Unitarian. At the age of nineteen he drew up a paper, and, in conjunction with a friend, obtained the list of subscriptions, amounting to about $2,000, which formed the initial organic basis of the American Unitarian Association. This paper, in his handwriting, was preserved in the archives of the Association. He was, during its whole existence, the soul and life of the Young Men's Book and Pamphlet Society, an association for gratuitously distributing the best Liberal Christian Literature. He was anxious that at the centenary of the burning of Servetus a monument should be raised to that Unitarian martyr on the spot of his sacrifice, and anonymously made the public offer of $500 for that purpose, on condition that $1500 more were subscribed.

      While in Washington, on business with the Government, he was attacked by a fever, and after an illness of a week, he died on Friday, 27 Nov 1863, in his 56th year.

      One of two gentlemen conversing at his funeral said, "I have been intimately acquainted with Francis Alger for twenty years. I have seen him constantly, under all sorts of circumstances, in the most confidential relations; and I sincerely declare that I never knew him, in a single instance, to do one act, say one word, or reveal one sign of character, inconsistent with the most exalted standard of Christian duty and Christian purity." The other replied, "I have known him intimately for twenty years longer still, and can say the same thing that you have said, with unhesitating emphasis."

      The following is a list of his writings:

      1. Notes on the Minerals of Nova Scotia, 12 Amer. Journ. Science and Arts, 227, published in 1827. Also, a List of the minerals brought from Annapolis Basin, published in Bost. Journ. Phil. and Arts, and reprinted in 12 Amer. Journ. Science and Arts, 176.

      2. Joint Report on the Mineralogy of Nova Scotia, by Jackson and Alger, 14 Amer. Journ. Science and Arts, 305, vol. 25, pp. 132, 201, from 1827 to 1829.

      3. Alter's Phillips's Mineralogy, 12 mo. p. 662. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1844. This work Mr. Alger nearly doubled by the addition of new matter. It was his intention to publish a second edition, and several manuscript volumes of arranged facts remain among his papers.

      4. Zinc Mines of Franklin, N.J., 48 Amer. Journ. Science and Arts, 252.

      5. Formula of Masonite, 48 Amer. Journ. Science and Arts, 218.

      6. Notice of Minerals, 1 Amer. Journ. Science and Arts, N.S. 121, 122.

      7. Quartz containing Rutile, Proc. Amer. Assoc. for Adv. Science, and 10 Amer. Journ. Science and Arts, 2d Series, 12.

      8. Description and Figures of Crystals of California Gold, 10 Amer. Journ. Science and Arts. 2d Series, 101.

      9. Beaumontite and Lincolnite identical with Ileulandite, Proc. Bost. Soc. Nat. Hist., Oct. 4, 1844; 4 Bost. Journ. Nat. Hist., 422; 14 Amer. Journ. Science and Arts, 233, with figures.

      10. Description of Minerals from New Holland, 3 Bost. Journ. Nat. Hist., 305; 39 Amer. Journ. Science and Arts, 157, with figures.

      11. Notice of New Localities of Minerals, 5 Bost. Journ. Nat. Hist., 297; 2 Proc. Bost. Soc. Nat. Hist., 87.

      12. Algerite and a New Mineral from Cherokee Co., Georgia, 6 Bost. Journ. Nat. Hist., 118, 123.

      13 Description of Transparent Crystals of Red Oxide of Zinc from Franklin Mines, N.J., 8 Proc. Bost. Soc. Nat. Hist., 145.

      14. Claim of the late Cyrus Alger, for remuneration for the use by the United States of his inventions relative to fuses and shells. 8?. p. 69. Washington, 1862.?/i?

      ("Thomas Alger of Taunton and Bridgewater, in Massachusetts" - by Arthur M. Alger)

      Compiled and edited by Allen Alger, Alger Family Historian - e-mail:

  • Sources 
    1. [S188] National Genealogical Society Quarterly, vol. 60 : p. 142. (Reliability: 3).

    2. [S169] Thomas Alger of Taunton and Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Arthur M. Alger, (Boston, Massachusetts: David Clapp & Son, 1876.).

    3. [S180] Alger e-files - Kung, Van, Van Kung, In Search of Francis Alger, a Boston Mineralogist - by Van Kung (Reliability: 3).

    4. [S168] Alger e-files - Hervey, Michael, Michael Hervey, Bridgewater, MA - Alger (Reliability: 3).

Home Page |  What's New |  Most Wanted |  Surnames |  Photos |  Histories |  Documents |  Cemeteries |  Places |  Dates |  Reports |  Sources