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Waters Family Papers

Waters Family Papers

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WATERS FAMILY PAPERS, 1637-1931, 1965


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
Dates:1637/1931, 1965
Quantity:13.25 Linear feet (23 boxes, 5 volumes)
Abstract:The Waters Family Papers includes the papers of Benjamin Waters (1720/1-1784) and his sons, grandsons, and other descendants.
Collection Number:MSS 92

Series List

SERIES I. Benjamin Waters (1720/1-1784) Papers
SERIES II. Joseph Waters (1758-1833) Papers
A. Shipping Papers
B. Business Papers
C. 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 (born 1840) Papers
SERIES IX. Relatives' Papers
SERIES X. Miscellaneous Papers
A. Waters Family Papers
B. Non-Waters Family 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 includes business, legal, and personal papers from 1760-1780.

Series II. Joseph Waters (1758-1833) Papers contains papers mostly related to his shipping activities. They extend from 1764 to 1834. Subseries A. Shipping Papers is comprised of papers of those 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 the schooner Swallow, which include four letters from Daniel Webster and correspondence (located in the papers of the Abeona and the Polly) between Joseph and one of his partners, John Sinclair. 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 Papers includes business papers, accounts and receipts. Subseries C. Personal Papers includes estate papers and letters from his son-in-law, Daniel Gilbert, on business and family affairs as well as other correspondence.

Series III. Esther (1785-1870) and Martha Waters (1787-1855) Papers contains correspondence from friends and family members, bills and receipts for their daily purchases, as well as bills and accounts of investments. 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 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. Subseries B. Business Papers includes correspondence and bills for William's mercantile business in Boston, stock and land speculations, and the leasing of Southern plantations.

Subseries C. Personal Papers and Subseries D. Abigail (Devereux) Waters (b. 1803) Papers include correspondence with family members on business or personal matters. Additional letters between William and his father Joseph are located in the papers of brigs Pheonix and Otter. 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.

Series V. William Crowninshield Waters (1830-1911) Papers is comprised of a few business and legal papers, letters from his parents and brothers, and early school exercises and diaries of his wife, Susan Louisa Whittredge. Also located here are letters to his daughter Mary Devereux Waters.

Series VI. James Devereux Waters (1832-1892) Papers 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. Correspondence with local merchants is located with the business papers of the firm. 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.

Noteworthy in James' personal papers are letters sent to his cousin Joe (Joseph Linton Waters), which give picturesque accounts of the people, conditions, and attitudes of the Civil War South. They detail James' struggle against the elements, the Civil War economy, black workers, and civil authorities. Letters to James from his uncle Langdon Williams discuss James' financial outlook. Langdon would invest profits or raise capital for James as needed.

Series VII. Edward Stanley Waters (1837-1916) Papers 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 diaries from 1855 until 1912, correspondence from friends and family and his school papers. The bulk of his diaries were written between 1873 and 1898, during his years in the Midwest. They include genealogical findings as well as information about his daily activities and friends. The correspondence includes letters from his family, cousins, aunts, and friends. Of interest are the letters from his brothers Cliff and James written from their plantations in South Carolina and Louisiana and the 1884 letters written to his Aunt Elizabeth from the Dakotas. The school papers include exercises while in grammar school and at Harvard University. Of note in the miscellaneous papers is a level book of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Series VIII. Clifford Crowninshield Waters (b. 1840) Papers includes his diaries, correspondence with family, friends, relatives, and a scrapbook maintained during his years at Harvard.

Series IX. Relatives' Papers contains correspondence and bills for the Gilbert family, Esther and Edward Stanley, N. Langdon Williams, and miscellaneous Waters and Devereux relatives. Of special interest are letters from Langdon Williams to nephew Gill Klapp concerning the Louisiana plantations. Additional letters from Edward Stanley to his cousin William Dean Waters are located in Series IV.

Series X. Miscellaneous Papers contains school and shipping papers, correspondence, legal documents, poetry, photographs, bills and receipts, as well as miscellaneous ephemera of Waters and non-Waters origin. Of special note are the 1835 and 1855 diaries, photographs of the interior of the Crowninshield-Devereux house designed by Samuel McIntire, the history of Norridgewock, Maine, an 1862 muster roll, and a listing of sale prices for Salem land and ships sold between 1821 and 1826. Most of the legal documents are deeds for property outside Essex County (Boston, Roxbury, Woburn, Weymouth, Cambridge, Nantucket, and Yarmouth).

Biographical Sketches

Benjamin Waters (1720/1-84) was an innkeeper and also kept the ferry to Beverly 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, worked as a supercargo, 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 (b. 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.

Byrne, Clifford
Devereux, Elizabeth Ives, b. 1812
Devereux, James, 1766-1846
Gilbert family
Gilbert, Daniel, 1773-1858
Gilbert, Hannah Wheat
Gilbert, Mary (Waters)
Giles, Henry
Kimball, Sarah Knight, 1780-1849
Kinsman, Nathaniel, 1798-1847
Klapp, Gill
Peele, Willard
Sinclair, John, 1755-1820
Stanley, Edward, 1776-1849
Stanley, Esther (Waters)
Townsend, Moses, 1760-1842
Ward, Ebenezer, 1710-1791
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, Henry F. (Henry Fitz-Gilbert), 1833-1913
Waters, James Devereux, 1832-1892
Waters, John
Waters, Joseph G. (Joseph Gilbert), 1796-1878
Waters, Joseph Linton, 1826-1891
Waters, Joseph, 1758-1833
Waters, Martha, 1787-1855
Waters, Mary Devereux, b. 1861
Waters, Stanley, 1837-1916
Waters, Susan Louisa Whittredge
Waters, William Crowninshield, 1830-1911
Waters, William D. (William Dean), 1798-1880
Webster, Daniel, 1782-1852
White family
Williams, Ellen (Devereux)
Williams, Nathaniel Langdon
Abeona (Schooner)
Argonaut (Ship)
Arno (Ship)
Bengal (Ship)
Betsy (Schooner)
Cynthia (Bark)
Essex (Frigate)
London (Ship)
Lyon (Brig)
Mariposa (Ship)
Mermaid (Brig)
Peggy (Brig)
Phoenix (Brig)
Polly (Ship)
Romulus (Brig)
Sally (Schooner)
Swallow (Schooner)
Tacony Plantation
Two Brothers (Schooner)
Waters & Klapp
Account books
Administration of estates
Art objects
Cargo handling--opium
Cotton growing--Louisana
Cotton growing--Mississippi
Cotton growing--South Carolina
Freight and freightage--opium
Harvard University
Investments--real estate
Lectures and lecturing
Marine insurance
Plantation life
Slave trade
Chicago (Ill.)
Natchez (Miss.)
Norridgewock (Me.)
North Brookfield (Mass.)
South Carolina--Sea Islands
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

Waters Family Papers, MSS 92, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This collection is an integration and reorganization of 22 boxes, 1 package, 1 volume, and miscellaneous folders of manuscripts. Seven boxes were removed from Waters Family Papers I which was probably a 1916 gift from William C. Waters. The remaining 15 boxes and folders were also donated by William C. Waters or his estate in 1964 or 1965. Abigail (Devereux) Waters' poems and a letter to Sarah Hodge were a gift of William C. Waters. The miscellaneous commonplace books were a 1916 gift of John C. Waters.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Prudence K. Backman, March 1983. 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, 1682-1910, MH 12.

Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

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