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Devereux Family Papers

Devereux Family Papers

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Processing of this collection was funded in part by grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Devereux family
Title:Devereux Family Papers
Quantity:4 linear feet (8 boxes, 1 volume)
Abstract:The bulk of the material documents the shipping activities of James Devereux (1766-1846) who, with the aid of his sons John (1796-1856) and James (1806-1831) developed a thriving shipping business to the Far East, Europe, and the West Indies.
Collection Number:MH 1

Series List

SERIES I. Shipping Papers
SERIES II. Family Papers
A. Nicholas Devereux (died 1802)
B. James Devereux (1766-1846)
C. John Devereux (1796-1856)
D. Elizabeth Ives Devereux (born 1812)
E. James Devereux Jr. (1806-1831)
F. Nicholas Devereux (1808-1848)
G. Miscellaneous Family Papers

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the material documents the shipping activities of James Devereux (1766-1846) who, with the aid of his sons John (1796-1856) and James (1806-1831) developed a thriving shipping business to the Far East, Europe, and the West Indies. The collection has been divided into two series.

Series I. Shipping Papers represent the extent of the family's shipping business. The papers of vessels Nancy, Osprey, and Otter provide the most complete documentation of Devereux voyages to Europe, Asia and South America [See Appendix I]. Devereux ships traded primarily in pepper, coffee, and sugar. Of particular interest in the ships papers are the Portuguese claims of brig Osprey, which was held in Rio De Janeiro in 1822. Letters from U.S. Senator Nathaniel Silsbee (January 20, 1832) and Secretary of State John Forsyth (April 2, 1835) discuss the progress of these negotiations. The papers of the Franklin [I] document the first American voyage to Japan, describing in detail Japanese customs regarding trade with foreign vessels. Documentation of James' privateering exploits during the War of 1812 can be found in the papers of schooner Enterprise, while the papers of rig Romp include a protest of the forcible seizure of cargo at Naples by French soldiers under orders from the King. Miscellaneous ships papers contain documentation of cargo shipped on non-Devereux vessels or stored in warehouses. Shipping correspondence is largely made up of letters from William Marston, a Boston agent managing Devereux pepper cargoes.

Series II. Family Papers contain correspondence and accounts of James (1766-1846) his children John, James, Nicholas, Mary, Elizabeth and a relation Nicholas (died 1802). John's correspondence includes letters to his brother Nicholas and bills for Nicholas' stay in the McLean Asylum for the Insane.

Biographical Sketch

James Devereux (1766-1846) was born in Wexford, Ireland, the son of James and Eleanor (Murphy) Devereux. He came to America with his uncle, shipmaster John Murphy, in 1780 and was mastering vessels for Clifford Crowninshield and other notable Salem merchants by 1792. In 1799, James mastered the first American vessel, the Franklin, to sail to Japan. James gradually developed his own shipping business to the Far East, Russia, South America, Europe and the West Indies. He owned twenty or more vessels, usually in partnership with other merchants, including Moses and Penn Townsend, Robert Stone, Dudley Pickman, Nathaniel, Zaccheus, and Zachariah Silsbee, Joseph Ropes, Richard Wheatland, Joseph Peabody, Joshua Ward, Richard Crowninshield, William and Joseph Orne, and Joseph Waters.

James and his wife Sally (Crowninshield) (1768-1815), daughter of John and Mary (Ives) Crowninshield, had eight children who survived infancy. Their sons John (1796-1856) and James Devereux (1806-1831) also entered the shipping business. John served as master of his father's brig Osprey and James as the Osprey's supercargo. James Jr.'s shipping career was cut short by his death in 1831. After John closed the final financial transactions of his father's business in the 1830's he became an attorney in Philadelphia.

James (1766-1846) and Sally's son Nicholas (1808-1848) was an attorney for the Essex County Court of Common Pleas. Their daughter Abigail (1803-1888) married shipping merchant William Dean Waters (1798-1880).

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Cook, James
Dean, Thomas, b. 1787
Devereaux family
Devereux, Elizabeth Ives, b. 1812
Devereux, Humphrey, 1779-1867
Devereux, James, 1766-1846
Devereux, James, 1806-1831
Devereux, Mary Crowninshield, 1801-1822
Devereux, Nicholas, 1808-1848
Devereux, Nicholas, d. 1802
Forsyth, John, 1780-1841
Marston, William
Silsbee, Nathaniel, 1773-1850
Waters, William D. (William Dean), 1798-1880
Wilson, William, d.1833
Acasta (Ship)
Alfred (Ship)
Camel (Bark)
Edwin (Brig)
Eliza (Ship)
Ellen Douglas (Brig)
Enterprise (Privateer schooner)
Erin (Ship)
Essex (Brig)
Four Brothers (Schooner)
Franklin (Ship)
Ganges (Ship)
General Stark (Brig)
Herald (Ship)
Howard (Ship)
Louisa (Brig)
Mary Ann (Ship)
Nancy (Ship)
Neptune (Brigantine)
Osprey (Brig)
Otter (Brig)
Polly (Schooner)
Polly (Sloop)
Pompey (Ship)
Rising States (Schooner)
Romp (Brig)
St. John (Brig)
Union (Schooner)
Voador (Brig)
Account books
Merchants--Salem (Mass.)
United States--History--Civil War--Spoliation Claims
United States--History--War of 1812


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Devereux Family Papers, MH 1, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was a gift from William C. Waters (acc #10,654, #11,824, and #14,131).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert Spindler, August 1987. Updated by Catherine Robertson, May 2014.

Related Material

Devereux Family Papers, 1779-1874, MSS 100

Waters Family Papers, 1637-1931, MH 12, MSS 92

Ward Family Papers, 1718-1946, MSS 46

Appendix I

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