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Gregory Family Papers

Gregory Family Papers

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Processing and conservation of 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:Gregory family
Title:Gregory Family Papers
Quantity:3.75 linear feet (8 boxes)
Abstract:The Gregory Family Papers document the shipping and fishing activities of three generations of the Gregory family of Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Collection Number:MSS 188

Series List

SERIES I. Shipping Papers
SERIES II. James and Walter R. Pension Agent Papers
SERIES III. John H. and Samuel Buoy Business Papers
SERIES IV. Family Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Gregory Family Papers document the shipping and fishing activities of three generations of the Gregory family of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Included are mercantile papers of shipmasters and shipping merchants: Joseph (1755-1824), Thomas (b. 1793), John Hooper (b. 1793), Joseph (1789-1824), John Hooper (1809-1852), Samuel Bowden (b. 1812), Joseph (b. 1815), Michael Bowden (b. 1817), Thomas (b. 1821), and William D. Gregory (b. 1825). The collection also features letterbooks of James (1796-1874) and his son, Walter R. Gregory (b. 1831), who acted as claims agents for Marblehead Revolutionary War pensioners' widows. Also of interest are papers documenting John H. Gregory's (b. 1793) buoy construction business and his tenure as Superintendent of Buoys. The papers are divided into four series.

Series I. Shipping Papers is comprised of correspondence and ships' papers. The correspondence, which contains merchant and miscellaneous masters' correspondence, traces the development of the Gregory family shipping business from Joseph Gregory's (1755-1824) modest beginnings to Joseph Gregory's (b. 1815) prosperous firm. The correspondence also includes letters from John H. Gregory's partner, Benjamin Selman, and correspondence from company agents or liaisons: Levett Kingsbery in New York City and Albany, Joseph Gregory (b. 1815) in New York, John P. Merriam in Providence, Rhode Island, and Emerson Ames (who married Tabitha Gregory) in Boston. Of interest in the correspondence is an 1826 letter describing the collision of the Gregory's sloop Express with the steamship New Philadelphia, news of Ambrose Gregory's drowning in New Orleans (1831), and 1840 anti-Whig sentiments.

The ships' papers are arranged alphabetically by vessel name, and include ships owned or mastered by members of the Gregory family (see Appendix I). The bulk of these vessels were involved in fishing expeditions and coastwise shipping. Also included, however, are papers of the brig John C. Legrand and the schooner Mary Helen, mastered by John H. (1809-1852) and Thomas Gregory (b. 1821). These vessels transported passengers and supplies to the gold fields of California. Of interest in the papers of the schooner Pacific is Captain Lemon's account of the attack made on him by two crewmen in 1829.

The shipping papers also contain a folder of receipts generated from John H. Gregory's (b. 1793) work as collection agent for 1812 privateer shareholders. In this capacity, John collected portions of prizes from such notable privateers as the schooners Dart, Dolphin, and Growler, and the brig Grand Turk (see Appendix II for listing). Also included is a folder of family correspondence from Michael B., William D., and Thomas Gregory (b. 1821) written while they were seamen or mates at sea (see Appendix III for listing).

Series II. James and Walter R. Gregory Pension Agent Papers consists of letterbooks and a typescript of the correspondence from the 1840-1854 volume. James (1796-1874) and his son Walter R. (b. 1831) processed Revolutionary War pension claims from pensioners' widows. Their letterbooks contain correspondence with claimants, and case notes and affidavits. The earliest volumes (1840-1854) also include a Marblehead Custom House daybook (1842-1850), which James kept as customs collector.

Series III. John H. & Samuel B. Gregory Buoy Business Papers contains correspondence and financial papers. The records document John's buoy repair and construction business and describe John's tenure as Superintendent of Buoys (1843-1846). Included is correspondence from merchants and the Boston Custom House reporting strayed buoys and buoy conditions. The papers also contain correspondence documenting John's fiscal conflict with his son Samuel.

Series IV. Family Papers contains business and personal correspondence and accounts, reflecting the activities of Joseph (1755-1824), John H. (b. 1793), Joseph (b. 1815), James (1796-1874), Hannah (b. 1821), Michael (b. 1817), Tabitha (b. 1832), William D. (b. 1825), and Eliza (Paine) Gregory. Correspondence of interest includes: letters with Joseph (1755-1824) describing his iron work; John H.'s (b. 1793) military correspondence and letters regarding the estates of his parents and his father-in-law, William Bowden; and correspondence to Joseph (b. 1815) from his brother-in-law Emerson Ames, regarding his iron foundry/workshop in Baltimore and Edward F. Bowden, describing the growth of towns in Ohio and Iowa. Also included here is an anonymous threat to burn the town of Marblehead.

Biographical Sketches

Joseph Gregory (1755-1824), a former British soldier, settled in Marblehead, Massachusetts, in the late 1780s. Although Joseph was primarily a blacksmith, he became increasingly involved in the shipping and fishing industries. From 1810 to 1822, he collaborated with his son, John H. Gregory (born 1793), on a number of shipping ventures. Joseph married Hannah Hooper (1765-1843) in 1790. Four of their sons, Thomas (bp. 1793), John H. (bp. 1793), Joseph (1789-1824) and Ambrose (1799-1831), were involved in shipping activities.

John Hooper Gregory (born 1793), son of Joseph (1755-1824) and Hannah (Hooper) Gregory (1765-1843), was a prosperous Marblehead shipping and fishing merchant. Many of John's vessels fished on the Grand Banks and then sold their catch to east coast cities and in the West Indies. In the 1830s, John's sons, Joseph (born 1815) and Samuel B. (born 1812), joined their father's mercantile business, forming Gregory & Sons. Joseph (born 1815), who was especially active in the firm as its New York liaison, had taken over the company's major business deals by the late 1840s.

In 1843, John H. was made official Superintendent of Buoys for the Boston Customs Office. During the time John acted as superintendent, a conflict developed between him and his son Samuel, who aided his father in buoy repair and construction. Samuel claimed that he was not receiving his portion of the superintendent's fees for his work. The disagreement was so heated that James Gregory (1796-1874) was called in to effect a reconciliation. Apparently the conflict was never fully settled. John H. was relieved of his post in 1846, and Samuel became the new superintendent.

During the war of 1812, John served as a collection agent for privateer shareholders. He was also commander of the Marblehead Light Infantry from 1819 to 1822. He married Tabitha Bowden (b. 1794) in 1809. All of their children were employed as, or married to, shipping merchants or shipmasters.

James Gregory (1796-1874) was the fourth son of Joseph (1755-1824) and Hannah (Hooper) Gregory (1765-1843) of Marblehead. Unlike the majority of his relatives, James was not primarily engaged in the mercantile business. From 1840 to 1865, he and his son Walter R. (born 1831) served as pension claims agents, processing the claims of Marblehead Revolutionary War pensioners' widows. James also acted as Customs Collector for Marblehead and Lynn, 1842-1845 and 1849-1853.

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.

Ames, Emerson
Bowden, William
Gregory, Ambrose M., 1799-1831
Gregory, Eliza Paine
Gregory, Hannah, b. 1821
Gregory, James, 1796-1874
Gregory, John H, 1809-1852
Gregory, John H, b. ca. 1793
Gregory, Joseph, 1755-1824
Gregory, Joseph, 1789-1824
Gregory, Joseph, b. 1815
Gregory, Michael Bowden, b. 1817
Gregory, Samuel B., b. 1812
Gregory, Tabitha, b. 1823
Gregory, Thomas, b. 1793
Gregory, Thomas, b. 1821
Gregory, Walter Raleigh, b. 1831
Gregory, William D., b. 1825
Kingsbury, Levett
Merriam, John Parkhurst, 1791-1859
Selman, Benjamin
Charles (Ship)
Cotton Plant (Ship)
Cyrus (Brig)
Dart (Schooner : Active 1812)
Dolphin (Schooner)
Erie (Schooner)
Express (Sloop)
Fame (Sloop)
Germantown (Schooner)
Grand Turk (Brig)
Growler (Schooner)
John C. Legrand (Brig)
Leonides (Ship)
Mary Helen (Schooner)
Monroe (Schooner)
Nathaniel Hooper (Ship)
Ocean (Sloop)
Pacific (Schooner)
Ranger (Schooner)
Sally (Schooner)
Sloop (Echo)
William (Ship)
Abandonment (Maritime law)
Customs administration
Fish trade
Iron industry and trade
Merchants--Marblehead (Mass.)
Military pensions
Sailors--Disorderly conduct
Whig party
Boston (Mass.)--Custom House
California--Gold discoveries
Iowa--Description and travel
Marblehead (Mass.)--Custom House
Newburyport (Mass.)
Ohio--Description and travel
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
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

Gregory Family Papers, MSS 188, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The Gregory Family Papers are a reintegration and reorganization of 13 pension agent letterbooks and three boxes and one envelope of manuscript material. The bulk of the collection is from an unknown source. Donations to the collection include: 12 volumes of pension agent letterbook presented by the Peabody Museum in March 1925 and the typescript of correspondence from pension letterbook 1840-1854, donated by Harriet Tapley in October 1959. Removed from the papers is an Elias H. Derby receipt.

Processing Information

Collection preliminarily processed by H. Cooke, November 1978. Processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, August 1985. Updated by Catherine Robertson, June 2015.

Related Material

Cutter, William Richard. Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts. Vol. 14. New York: Lewis Historical Pub., 1908. 1854-1856.

Damon, Frank C. "In Her Fiftieth Year as Librarian of the Abbot Public Library, Mrs. Sarah E. Gregory Can Trace Her Ancestry Back to the First Settlers in Marblehead." [1928].

Roads, Samuel. The History and Traditions of Marblehead. Marblehead: N. Allen Lindsey, 1897.

Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

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