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Waters Family Papers

Waters Family Papers

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Processing and conservation 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:Waters family
Title:Waters Family Papers
Quantity:8 linear feet (17 boxes, 1 volume)
Abstract:The Waters Family Papers includes the papers of Benjamin Waters (1720/1-1784) and his sons, grandsons, and other descendants.
Collection Number:MH 12

Series List

SERIES I. Benjamin Waters (1720/1-1784) Papers
SERIES II. Joseph Waters (1758-1833) Papers
A. Shipping Papers
B. Business and Personal Papers
SERIES III. Esther (1785-1870) and Martha Waters (1787-1855) Papers
SERIES IV. William Dean Waters (1798-1880) Papers
A. Shipping Papers
B. Business Papers
C. Personal Papers
D. Abigail (Devereux) Waters Papers
SERIES V. William Crowninshield Waters (1830-1911) Papers
SERIES VI. James Devereux Waters (1832-1892) Papers
A. Business Papers
B. Personal Papers
SERIES VII. Edward Stanley Waters (1837-1916) Papers
SERIES VIII. Clifford Crowninshield Waters (b. 1840) Papers
SERIES IX. Relatives' Papers
SERIES X. Miscellaneous Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Waters Family Papers includes the papers of Benjamin Waters (1720/1-1784) and his sons, grandsons, and other descendants. The collection is divided into ten series.

Series I. Benjamin Waters (1720/1-1784) Papers contains correspondence, shipping papers, and documentation of his management of the Salem/Beverly ferry. The bulk of this material is made up of bills and receipts from 1756 to 1798.

Series II. Joseph Waters (1758-1833) Papers contains papers from 1777 to 1836 that are mostly related to his shipping activities. Subseries A. Shipping Papers consists of papers of those of vessels that Waters owned or mastered. Of particular interest are the papers of schooner Abeona, which was involved in the African slave trade. The papers of the frigate Essex consist of letters and accounts relating to the building and outfitting of the vessel, which was managed for the Navy by Waters. Other noteworthy papers include Joseph G. Waters spoliation claims for schooner Swallow, which include one letter from Daniel Webster. The papers of brig Otter (owned by Joseph and William D. Waters) have been placed with William D. Waters' ships' papers. Correspondence with partners and merchant houses and letters concerning more than one ship are filed in the shipping correspondence.

Subseries B. Business and Personal Papers includes correspondence, business papers, estate papers, accounts, and receipts. The correspondence includes a series of 1799 letters to and from Samuel Bradford about French prisoners that had escaped from Boston and were captured in Salem. The Sea Fencibles papers contain documentation of an artillery company from elderly Salem volunteers for coastal defense in 1814.

Series III. Esther (1785-1870) and Martha Waters (1787-1855) Papers contains agreements, accounts, and receipts from 1835 to 1872. Many of these investments were maintained for them by their brothers William Dean Waters and Joseph Gilbert Waters.

Series IV. William Dean Waters (1798-1880) Papers, 1789-1880, includes shipping papers, business papers, personal papers, and personal papers of his wife Abigail (Devereux) Waters. Subseries A. Shipping Papers is comprised of records of ships owned, mastered, or supercargoed by Waters, whose vessels were mostly involved in trade with the East Indies and China. An interesting item among the papers of the brig Mermaid is a letter from Captain John Eagleston describing to William H. Neice, an Australian ship owner, the circumstances surrounding an attack upon Neice's vessel Sir David Ogilby by natives at the Fiji Islands in 1838. In the miscellaneous ships' papers is an 1840 letter from a crew member of the USS Vincennes giving a brief account of the United States Exploring Expedition. The shipping memorandum book contains accounts for brig Otter and a handwritten Malay dictionary. Trade memoranda give details of trade practice and currency exchange in a number of Asian, European, and South American ports.

Subseries B. Business Papers includes documentation of real estate transactions and three private enterprises, the Salem and Danvers Aqueduct, the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company, and the Salem Turnpike and Chelsea Bridge Corporation. The Aqueduct papers contain land agreements, articles of incorporation, and a day book with notes on construction from 1839 and 1845. The business ledger (1835-1850) includes accounts for the three private businesses as well as material related to the James Devereux estate and brig Osprey.

Subseries C. Personal Papers and Subseries D. Abigail (Devereux) Waters (b. 1803) Papers include correspondence with family members on business or personal matters. Letters from William to Abigail were written during his shipping voyages (1824-1839) and while he was on their South Carolina cotton plantation (1863-1866). Letters from their son James D. Waters (1861-1865) contain vivid accounts of life on his cotton plantations in Louisiana during the Civil War. All family correspondence is filed with the recipient except where indicated otherwise. Papers from the estates of Daniel Gilbert and Edward Stanley are located here with documents from William's guardianship of Charlotte W. Gilbert.

Series V. William Crowninshield Waters (1830-1911) Papers is comprised of family correspondence, accounts, receipts, and printed matter. William's certificate of appointment as Collector of Customs for the Salem/Beverly district (1894) resides with the printed matter.

Series VI. James Devereux Waters (1832-1892) Papers, 1847-1890, contains his business and personal papers. The bulk of his business papers concern his cotton plantations in Louisiana. James and Gill Klapp leased several plantations, among them Ravenswood, Good Hope, and Tacony. Their records include correspondence between them, bills and receipts for purchase of supplies and sales of goods, labor salaries, and lists of Negro workers. Additional information concerning the activities of James, his brother Cliff, and Gill while in Louisiana are located in James' and Cliff's correspondence with their brothers and their uncle Langdon Williams. James' personal papers include diaries, correspondence with brothers Clifford C. Waters and Edward Stanley Waters and other relatives and family members, and account books and receipts.

Series VII. Edward Stanley Waters (1837-1916) Papers, 1840-1910 contains correspondence, financial papers, and genealogical notes. The bulk of the business papers contain Stanley's correspondence generated during his teaching years (1860-1876) and later while he managed bric-a-brac rooms in Chicago and New York. Also located here are letters with fellow literary society members. The correspondence includes absence excuses, recommendations for books to read, scheduling of lectures, and arrangements for the loan, purchase, or valuation of antique objects. Letters from pupils and business or society friends which are of a more personal nature are located in correspondence with friends.

Stanley's personal papers contain correspondence including letters from his family, cousins, aunts, and friends. Of interest here are the letters from his brother Cliff written from their plantations in South Carolina and Louisiana. The printed matter includes a Chicago Literary Club yearbook for 1909-1910.

Series VIII. Clifford Crowninshield Waters (b. 1840) Papers, 1856-1878, includes his diaries, correspondence with family, friends, relatives, and business associates, as well as notes, poetry, account books, and printed matter.

Series IX. Relatives' Papers, 1846-1865, contains miscellaneous Waters family papers.

Series X. Miscellaneous Papers contains shipping papers, correspondence, and legal documents. Most of the legal documents are deeds for property outside Essex County.

Biographical Sketches

Benjamin Waters (1720/1-84) was an innkeeper and also kept the ferry to Beverly, Massachusetts, until the bridge was built in 1845.

Joseph Waters (1758-1833) was the third child of Benjamin and Esther Waters. A seaman during the early years of the Revolutionary War, he was given command of brig Romulus in 1781. By 1789, he had begun to own vessels with other merchants. Although he retired from the sea in 1791, he continued to own vessels and ship cargoes, sailing mostly to the West Indies, until 1821. In 1799, Joseph was appointed Navy Agent for the building of frigate Essex. He married Mary Dean (1759-1798) in 1782.

William Dean Waters (1798-1880) was the second son of Joseph and Mary (Dean) Waters. In 1815, at age 17, he entered the counting room of Pickering Dodge. Two years later he was the supercargo on ship Bengal. From 1817 until 1845, when he retired from shipping, William either mastered, was a supercargo on, or owned vessels which traded mostly with the East Indies and China. Between 1845 and 1865, William occupied himself with railroad, land, and stock speculation, a merchant business in Boston (1856-1861) and with civic affairs. He was the President of the Salem and Danvers Aqueduct Company and the Salem Turnpike and Chelsea Bridge Corporation, and served on the Board of Directors of the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company. He was a member of the Common Council in 1839, 1840, and 1844 and was appointed Selectman in 1847. In 1865, severe financial setbacks forced William to attempt to regain his fortune through cotton growing. Removing to the Sea Islands, South Carolina, he purchased a cotton plantation and operated a store. He returned to Salem in his later years with his wife Abigail (Devereux) Waters (born 1803).

William Crowninshield Waters (1830-1911) was the eldest of William and Abigail Waters' four sons. He began work in 1853 as a secretary in the Essex Insurance Company. Two years later he moved to Boston where he assisted his father with his merchant business until 1861. After two years of apparent unemployment, William established himself in 1864 as a tobacco broker under the name William C. Waters and Company. By 1873, his business expanded into general merchandise. His occupation in the 1880s is unknown. However, by 1894 he had returned to Salem as its Customs Collector. He and his wife, Susan Louisa Whittredge, had three children.

James Devereux Waters (1832-1892) was the second child of William and Abigail Waters. In 1853, he began his career as a clerk for the Aqueduct office. By 1857, he was working with his father in Boston, first as a clerk and then as a partner. In 1864, James moved to Louisiana where he leased several plantations with his cousin Gill Klapp. James hoped to earn enough money from cotton growing to offset the financial setbacks of the family. He returned to Salem in 1869 and from 1871-1877 he was employed in Boston as a bookkeeper. In 1877, he was struck with a severe malady from which he never completely recovered. He died unmarried in Salem.

Edward Stanley Waters (1837-1916), William and Abigail's third child, graduated from Harvard in 1859. After graduation, Waters established a private school in Salem in addition to assisting his cousin, Henry FitzGilbert Waters, in genealogical work. In 1869, Waters moved to Chicago where he opened a preparatory school for boys called the Harvard school. By 1876, Waters had left teaching and was managing a bric-a-brac room at the Chicago Exhibition. During his years in Chicago he was very active in the Chicago Literary Society, often gave lectures, and was frequently involved in land speculation. This latter interest led him to move to the Dakotas with his brother Cliff in 1884. By 1910, Waters had returned to Salem where he was a librarian. He died unmarried in Salem.

Clifford Crowninshield Waters (born 1840), the youngest son of William and Abigail, graduated from Harvard in 1863. In 1865, he joined his brother James at his Louisiana plantations. He helped James with cotton growing until about 1869 when he transferred his efforts to South Carolina. He appears to have managed one or more plantation and several stores on or near the Sea Islands. In 1884, he was living with his brother Edward Stanley in the Dakotas.

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.

Bradford, Samuel
Devereux, James, 1766-1846
Eagleston, John H., 1803-1884
Gilbert, Charlotte W.
Gilbert, Daniel, 1773-1858
Klapp, Gill
Stanley, Edward, 1776-1849
Waters family
Waters, Abigail Devereux, b. 1803
Waters, Benjamin, 1720 or 21-1784
Waters, Clifford Crowninshield, b. 1840
Waters, Edward Stanley, 1837-1916
Waters, Esther, 1785-1870
Waters, James Devereux, 1832-1892
Waters, Joseph G. (Joseph Gilbert), 1796-1878
Waters, Joseph, 1758-1833
Waters, Martha, 1787-1855
Waters, Mary Devereux, b. 1861
Waters, Susan Louisa Whittredge
Waters, William Crowninshield, 1830-1911
Waters, William D. (William Dean), 1798-1880
Webster, Daniel, 1782-1852
Abeona (Schooner)
Amelia (Sloop)
Argonaut (Ship)
Arno (Ship)
Betsey (Schooner)
Chicago Literary Club
Cynthia (Bark)
Friendship (Ship)
Galen (Bark)
Jane (Brig)
John (Brig)
Lion (Brig)
London (Ship)
Lyon (Brig)
Mariposa (Ship)
Mermaid (Brig)
Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company
Otter (Brig)
Peggy (Brig)
Phoenix (Brig)
Polly (Schooner)
Polly (Ship)
Prudent (Ship)
Romulus (Brigantine)
Salem (Schooner)
Salem and Danvers Aqueduct Company
Salem Turnpike and Chelsea Bridge Corporation
Sally (Schooner)
Sir David Ogilby (Schooner)
Swallow (Schooner)
Vincennes (Sloop of war)
Account books
African Americans
Cotton growing--Louisana
Cotton growing--Mississippi
Cotton growing--South Carolina
Investments--real estate
Lectures and lecturing
Marine insurance
Merchants--Salem (Mass.)
Plantation life
Prisoners of war
Sea fencibles
Slave trade
South Carolina--Sea Islands
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
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

Waters Family Papers, MH 12, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The Waters Family Papers are a reorganization of 34 boxes of manuscripts mostly received from William C. Waters. One box of Benjamin Waters Papers was the gift of Lawrence W. Jenkins (acc #13,967). Six boxes of Joseph Waters Papers and 17 boxes of William D. Waters Papers were donated by William C. Waters (acc # 10,654, 11,824, 14,131). The papers of brig Mermaid (acc #12,300) and the William C. Waters certificate (acc #12,270) were a 1950 gift of William C. Waters. Typescript notes on the voyages of William D. Waters were the gift of the William C. Waters estate (acc #16,786). Eight boxes of Waters Family Papers (mostly E. Stanley and Clifford C.) were the gift of the Stephen Phillips estate (acc #19,823).

Removed from the collection were one folder of Thomas and Sarah Whittredge Papers, a John Hodges estate inventory (1799) and one folder of papers from bark Imaum. Removed for inclusion in the Devereux Family Papers were 2 folders of brig Osprey papers, an account/memorandum book of "Legal Cases" (1835-1844), a James Devereux estate account book (1846-1855), and four folders of Devereux Family Papers (see separation sheets).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert P. Spindler, July 1987. Updated by Catherine Robertson, January 2015.

Related Material

Clifford Crowninshield Papers, 1692-1861, MH 17.

Clifford Crowninshield Papers, 1750-1811, MSS 97.

Devereux Family Papers, 1779-1874, MSS 100.

Devereux Family Papers, 1789-1863, MH 1.

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

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

Nathaniel Kinsman (1798-1847) Papers, 1784-1882, MSS 43.

Peele Family Papers, 1753-1871, MH 5.

Salem Turnpike and Chelsea Bridge Corporation Records, 1801-1875, MSS 217.

Townsend Family Papers, 1787-1887, MSS 96.

Waters Family Papers, 1637-1931, 1965, MSS 92.

Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

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