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Townsend Family Papers

Townsend Family Papers

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Processing and conservation of this collection was funded in part by a grant from the National Historical Publication and Records Commission.

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:Townsend family
Title:Townsend Family Papers
Quantity:2 linear feet (4 boxes, 3 volumes)
Abstract:The Townsend Family Papers contain shipping and personal papers of shipping merchant Moses Townsend (1760-1842), his brother Penn (1772-1846), and their nephew Moses (born 1799).
Collection Number:MSS 96

Series List

SERIES I. Moses Townsend (1760-1842) Papers
A. Business and Personal Papers
B. Family Papers
SERIES II. Penn Townsend (1772-1846) Papers
SERIES III. Moses Townsend (b. 1799) Papers
A. Moses Townsend Papers
B. Catherine G. Green Townsend Papers
C. Relatives' Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Townsend Family Papers contain shipping and personal papers of shipping merchant Moses Townsend (1760-1842), his brother Penn (1772-1846), and their nephew Moses (born 1799). Also included are personal papers of Mary Townsend and Catherine Gardner (Green) Townsend. The collection has been divided into three series.

Series I. Moses Townsend (1760-1842) Papers contain shipping financial, legal, estate, and family papers. Subseries A. Business and Personal Papers include folders of ships' papers and account book entries which reflect Moses' career as a master mariner and shipping merchant. The bulk of the ships' papers contain records for two Elias Hakset Derby vessels which Moses mastered, the schooner Lighthorse and the brig Hannah. While the ships' papers include accounts and insurance on vessels Moses owned, his activities as a shipping merchant are revealed more clearly in his ledgers and daybooks. The Union Marine Insurance Company papers reflect Moses' term as president of the company for 38 years. They contain insurance records of the schooner Four Sons mastered by Penn Townsend (1772-1846).

Moses' financial records include daybooks and corresponding ledgers, bills, and receipts. The account books include entries for the shipping business, guardian or administrator accounts, and personal accounts. Filed with the bills and receipts are shipping and investment accounts.

The correspondence contains mostly letters from Moses' sons, Joseph L. and George Townsend. The legal papers include his account and probate records for the estates of Elizabeth Wellcome and Joseph L. Townsend, and guardianship papers for Isaac Very and the children of David Becket. Moses' estate papers contain correspondence between George Townsend and the administrator Joseph Gilbert Waters.

Subseries B. Family Papers includes a shipping account, bills and legal papers of Moses' sons George, Joseph, and William, and William's widow Mary Ann Townsend.

Series II. Penn Townsend (1772-1846) Papers contain mostly correspondence with his family, bills, and receipts. The legal papers include deeds and Penn's estate papers (William D. Waters, administrator). Family papers include personal correspondence, financial papers, and estate papers of Penn's daughter Mary (1796-1871).

Series III. Moses Townsend (b. 1799) Papers contain correspondence and bills of Moses and his wife, Catherine Gardner (Green) Townsend. Although the bulk of the correspondence is with family or friends, there are a few business letters and accounts generated while Moses was employed as a mate. Filed with Moses' correspondence are also accounts current with the owners of the Aral and the Empress. Many of the letters between Moses and Catherine were written during Moses' employment on the ship Sea, ship Aral, and bark Empress. The bills and receipts concern mostly household expenses. The relatives' papers contain bills to Catherine's parents, and correspondence and bills to Martha J.G. Townsend.

Biographical Sketches

Moses Townsend was born on May 17, 1760 to Moses and Hannah (Lambert) Townsend. He was a master mariner and merchant and later in life, the President of the Union Marine Insurance Company. During the Revolutionary War, he was a prisoner in the Mill prison in England. He married his cousin, Lydia Lambert (1767-1833), on April 7, 1785. They had 8 children. He died on February 14, 1842.

Penn Townsend was born on September 15, 1772 to Moses and Hannah (Lambert) Townsend. He was a master mariner, merchant, and a Lieutenant in the United States Revenue Service. He married Mary Richardson (1772-1824) in December 1793 and they had 2 daughters, Mary (1796-1871) and Eliza Greenleaf (1798-1878). In 1827 he married Mrs. Sarah (Cheever) Beckford; they had no children together. He died on January 30, 1846.

Moses Townsend was born on June 12, 1799, the son of Samuel and Mercy (Stevens) Townsend. He had a twin brother, Penn, who died in 1804. He married Catherine Gardner Green (1806-1864) and they had one daughter.

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.

Derby, Elias Hasket, 1739-1799
Pickman, Dudley Leavitt, 1779-1846
Townsend, Catherine Gardner Green
Townsend, George, b. 1812
Townsend, Joseph Lambert, b. 1809
Townsend, Mary Ann Chipman
Townsend, Mary, 1796-1871
Townsend, Moses, 1760-1842
Townsend, Moses, b. 1799
Townsend, Penn, 1772-1846
Townsend, William Moses, 1806-1840
Aral (Ship)
Empress (Barque)
Four Sons (Schooner)
George Crowninshield & Sons (Salem, Mass.)
Hannah (Brig)
Jonathan Neal and Company
Lighthorse (Schooner)
Rapid (Ship)
Sally (Sloop)
Sea (Ship)
Telemachus (Brig)
Union Marine Insurance Company (Salem, Mass.)
Waite & Peirce
Wild Goose (Brig)
Administration of estates


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

Townsend Family Papers, MSS 96, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This collection is a reorganization and integration of five account books, one box of manuscripts removed from the Water Family I Papers, and approximately one scrapbook of documents from the Henry FitzGilbert Waters Papers. The account books and most likely the scrapbook and box of manuscripts were a 1916 gift of William Crowninshield Waters.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Prudence Backman, March 1983. Updated by Catherine Robertson, December 2014.

Related Material

Waters, Henry F. "The Family of William Townsend of Boston." Essex Institute Historical Collections, vol. 19, pp. 269-296.

Crowninshield Family Papers, 1697-1909, MH 15.

Crowninshield Family Papers, 1756-1864, MSS 4.

Derby Family Papers, 1716-1925, MSS 37.

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

Joseph G. Waters Papers, 1759-1913, MSS 93.

Waters Family Papers, 1760-1931, MSS 92.

Waters Family Papers, 1637-1931, MH 12.

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