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Joseph Gilbert Waters (1796-1878) Papers

Joseph Gilbert Waters (1796-1878) Papers

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JOSEPH GILBERT WATERS (1796-1878) PAPERS, 1759-1913


Processing and conservation for the collection were funded by a grant from 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:Waters, Joseph G. (Joseph Gilbert), 1796-1878
Title:Joseph Gilbert Waters (1796-1878) Papers
Quantity:11 linear feet (22 boxes, 2 volumes)
Abstract:The Joseph Gilbert Waters Papers consist primarily of the business and personal papers of Salem, Massachusetts, attorney and Police Court Justice Joseph G. Waters (1796-1878).
Collection Number:MSS 93

Series List

SERIES I. Attorney and Judge Papers
A. Correspondence
B. Administrative and Court Papers
C. Case and Client Documents
SERIES II. Business and Personal Papers
A. Correspondence
B. Financial and Legal Papers
C. Miscellaneous Papers
SERIES III. Eliza Greenleaf (Townsend) Waters Papers
SERIES IV. Family Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Joseph Gilbert Waters Papers consist primarily of the business and personal papers of Salem, Massachusetts, attorney and Police Court Justice Joseph G. Waters (1796-1878). The papers also contain almanac diaries and letters received by Joseph's wife, Eliza Greenleaf (Townsend) Waters (1798-1890), and correspondence of their children, Charles Richardson, Edward Stanley, Marietta (Barney), and Penn Townsend Waters. The collection has been divided into four series.

Series I. Attorney and Judge Papers is divided into three subseries. These papers reflect the wide scope of Joseph's legal activities which ranged from paternity suits to cases of mutiny. Subseries A. Correspondence consists primarily of letters received regarding clients, cases, estates, and general court business. Subseries B. Administrative and Court Papers include proceedings, witness examinations, and administrative accounts for the Salem Police Court and Joseph's work as an attorney. Account books for 1832-1849 and 1834-1854, as well as the 1822-1853 cash book, include accounts for rental properties belonging to Joseph or to his clients.

Subseries C. Case and Client Documents contains maritime case papers, legal, and financial records drawn up by Joseph, and documents collected as background material. The maritime case materials include protests, ships' papers, correspondence, and testimony relating to maritime claims, protests, pensions, cases of mutiny, theft, desertion, assault, debt, and stowaways. Of special interest is the case of the 1831 theft of the schooner Franklin (alias schooner Friendship) of Alexandria, Virginia, which ran aground near Beverly. Papers for the claim cases of the schooner Swallow and brig Osprey may be found in the Captain Joseph Waters Papers (MSS 92, MH 12) and the James Devereux Papers (MSS 100, MH 1) respectively. Client legal and financial papers contain a large number of wills and estate documents, including papers for the estates of Captain John Upton, Paul Upton, Sarah and John Clifton, Benjamin Dodge, David Foley, and Captain William Johnson. For Joseph's involvement in the following estates, see the collections listed: Moses Townsend (MSS 96), Captain Joseph Waters (MSS 92, MH 12), John Nichols Jr. (MSS 98), and Peter Miller (MSS 99).

Series II. Business and Personal Papers is comprised primarily of correspondence received from family members, friends, and business associates, and legal and financial records. Subseries A. Correspondence includes family correspondence which contains letters from Joseph's father, Captain Joseph Waters, which recount the maritime travels of Joseph's brother, William D. Waters, and allude to Joseph's own activities as an attorney in Mississippi. Joseph received a large amount of correspondence from his sons: Civil War correspondence from Edward Stanely in the engineering corps and Henry FitzGilbert in the medical corps; letters from Joseph Linton while he was employed in the Land Department of the Illinois Central Railroad Company; and from Penn Townsend during his voyages to Manila, Penang, China, Burma, Batavia, Calcutta, Rio Grande, and New Orleans. Letters from Penn also include post mortem spirit messages received by mediums. Miscellaneous business and personal correspondence contains letters regarding Joseph's rental properties, his interest in shipping, his involvement in Salem historical societies and the India Rubber Company, his interest in spiritualism and mediums, and his friendship with Reverend Frederick W. Robertson of Trinity Chapel.

Subseries B. Financial and Legal Papers contains one folder of shipping documents for his schooner Tremont, his shares in whalers, and his interest in the brig Syren. The legal papers consist primarily of rental and sale agreements, many of which include Joseph's associate Larkin Thorndike. The bills and receipts, as well as account books from 1832-1854 and an 1822-1853 cash book, include rental accounts and accounts of investments conducted for Joseph's sisters Mary (Waters) Gilbert, Esther and Martha Waters, his brother William D. Waters, and his father-in-law Penn Townsend. Subseries C. Miscellaneous Papers include religious essays, poems, notes, and photographs from Reverend Frederick W. Robertson.

Series III. Eliza Greenleaf (Townsend) Waters Papers contains correspondence received from family members, friends, and relatives. Of interest are letters from her son Penn during his voyages to the East Indies, the East Asian coast, Brazil, South Africa, and New Orleans while on the bark Wessacumcon, and the ships Thomas Perkins and Ann Maria.

Series IV. Family Papers is comprised primarily of the correspondence of Joseph and Eliza's children, Charles Richardson, Edward Stanley, Marietta (Barney), and Penn Townsend Waters. Included are letters to Penn from his father regarding Penn's travels to the Orient, East Indies, and New Orleans. Correspondence among the children is filed with the receiver rather than the sender.

Biographical Sketch

Joseph Gilbert Waters was born in Salem in 1796, the eighth child of Captain Joseph (1758-1833) and Mary (Dean) Waters (1759-1798). He graduated from Harvard College in 1816 and moved in 1818 to New Orleans with the intention of establishing a law practice in Port Gibson, Mississippi.

In 1820 Joseph returned to Salem where he became a successful attorney and judge. In 1831 he was appointed Special Justice of the Salem Police Court, and from 1842 to 1874 he presided as the Court's Standing Justice. In addition to his law and judicial practices, Joseph maintained a slight interest in shipping and owned a large amount of rental property with a legal associate, Larkin Thorndike. He also served as State Senator to the Massachusetts General Court in 1835, a member of the Salem Common Council from 1836 to 1837, treasurer of the Salem India Rubber Company from 1835 to 1838, and was secretary of the Essex Historical Society for twenty-one years. Joseph had avid interests in history and religion, and around 1856 he became intrigued with spiritualism and mediums.

In 1825 Joseph married Eliza Greenleaf Townsend (1798-1890). They had five sons: Joseph Linton (1826-1891), Henry Fitz Gilbert (1833-1913), Edward Stanley (1833-1902), Penn Townsend (b. 1833), and Charles Richardson Waters (1835-1890). He died in 1878.

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.

Gilbert, Daniel, 1773-1858
Gilbert, Mary (Waters)
Johnson, William
Robertson, Frederick William, 1816-1853
Thorndike, Larkin
Townsend, Penn, 1772-1846
Upton, John
Waters, Charles R. (Charles Richardson), b. 1835
Waters, Edward Stanley, 1837-1916
Waters, Eliza Greenleaf Townsend, 1798-1890
Waters, Esther, 1785-1870
Waters, Henry F. (Henry Fitz-Gilbert), 1833-1913
Waters, Joseph G. (Joseph Gilbert), 1796-1878
Waters, Joseph Linton, 1826-1891
Waters, Joseph, 1758-1833
Waters, Marietta Barney
Waters, Martha, 1787-1855
Waters, Penn T. (Penn Townsend), b. 1833
Waters, Richard P. (Richard Palmer), 1807-1887
Waters, William D. (William Dean), 1798-1880
Ann Maria (Ship)
Franklin (Schooner)
Friendship (Schooner)
Salem India Rubber Co. (Salem, Mass.)
Syren (Brig)
Thomas Perkins (Ship)
Tremont (Schooner)
Wessacumcon (Bark)
Account books
Administration of estates
Desertion, Naval
Investments--real estate
Lease and rental services
Military pensions
Salem (Mass.)--Police court
Salem (Mass.)--Town records
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
United States--History--Civil War--Spoliation Claims


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

Joseph Gilbert Waters (1796-1878) Papers, MSS 93, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The Joseph Gilbert Waters Papers are a reorganization and integration of 21 boxes of manuscripts and account books, originally processed as a portion of the Waters Family papers, and additional papers from a Henry Fitz Gilbert scrapbook. The papers were most probably donated by William Crowninshield in 1916.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, March 1983. Updated by Catherine Robertson, December 2014.

Related Material

Waters Family Papers, 1760-1931, MSS 92.

Waters Family Papers, 1637-1931, MH 12.

Joseph Linton Waters Papers, 1848-1890, MSS 94.

Henry Fitz-Gilbert Waters Papers, 1850-1907, MSS 95.

Townsend Family Papers, 1787-1887, MSS 96.

John Nichols Papers, 1822-1841, MSS 98.

Peter Miller Papers, 1815-1850, MSS 99.

Devereux Family Papers, 1779-1874, MSS 100.

Devereux Family Papers, 1789-1863, MH 1.

Salem India Rubber Company Records, 1835-1843, MSS 240.

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