Processing and conservation of this collection
was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Bowditch, Joseph, 1700-1780
Joseph Bowditch (1700-1780)
4 linear feet (6 boxes)
The Joseph Bowditch Papers
record the activities of Joseph Bowditch (1700-1780), a Salem shipping merchant,
sheriff, court clerk, and Justice of the Peace.
SERIES I. Business Papers SERIES II. Personal and Shipping Papers SERIES III. Family Papers SERIES IV. Miscellaneous Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Joseph Bowditch Papers record the activities of Joseph Bowditch (1700-1780), a
Salem shipping merchant, sheriff, court clerk, and Justice of the Peace. The
collection includes papers of other Bowditch family members and records generated
from Revered Samuel Fiske's controversy with the First Church of Salem. The
collection has been divided into four series.
Located in Box 1 Folder 1 is a typescript volume containing a biographical
sketch of Joseph Bowditch and transcriptions of much of the material contained in
this collections. The volume was written and compiled by Harold Bowditch in
Series I. Business Papers, 1737-1779, contains
correspondence, tax assessments, court and legal documents, and accounts. These
documents reflect Joseph's roles as sheriff, court clerk, and Justice of the Peace.
Within the small amount of correspondence are a number of items of special note:
1744-1745 directives to Sheriff Bowditch to impress seamen for British naval
expeditions against the French at Cape Breton; and letters concerning the attempted
desertion of Michael Coas from a 1758 campaign against Canada. The tax assessments,
also directed to Joseph as sheriff, require him to insure the collection of taxes
from the Essex County towns of Amesbury, Bedford, Beverly, Bradford, Haverhill,
Ipswich, Lynn, Manchester, Marblehead, Methuen, Middleton, Newbury, Rowley, Salem,
Salisbury, Topsfield, and Wenham. The court and legal papers contain documents
notarized or copied by Joseph as Justice of the Peace or clerk, as well as such wide
variety of legal cases which range from selling rum without a license to treason.
The accounts include receipts for court costs and financial executions. Joseph's
sheriff's expenses for impressing seamen in 1744-1745 may also be found here. Papers
relating to the Reverend Samuel Fiske controversy which was brought to trial in 1735
are located in box 4, folder 5.
Series II. Personal and Shipping Papers consists of
correspondence, legal, and financial papers from 1722 to 1782. Included are such
personal items as bonds, deeds, minutes from a library meeting, articles calling for
cooperative assistance in extinguishing town fires, Joseph's will, and estate
papers. Materials relating to Joseph's shipping concerns include merchant and
masters' correspondence, seamen's contracts, a shipbuilding agreement, and ships'
and shipping accounts (see Appendix II for a list of vessels mentioned in these
Series III. Family Papers, 1712-1941, includes the
papers of Joseph's father William (1663-1728), his daughter Elizabeth (1734/5-1797)
and her husband William Jeffry (1737-1772), his grandson Joseph (1757-1800), Charles
Pickering Bowditch (1842-1921), and other family members. William Bowditch's papers
contain shipping bills and receipts, accounts and inventories of his estate, and
accounts of Salem ropemaker James Butler of whose estate William was administrator.
The bulk of William Jeffry's papers reflect his role as agent for shipping merchant
Samuel Garner. Also included is correspondence to William as court clerk and his
will. Of interest in the papers of Elizabeth (Bowditch) Jeffry, which consist
primarily of bills and receipts, is a notebook recording each Sunday's Bible text,
and a 1779 letter from her nephew Joseph (1757-1800) in Boston describing the
scarcity and cost of provisions. Joseph Bowditch's (1757-1800) copybook includes
genealogical notes on the Bowditch and Gardner families. The papers of Charles
Pickering Bowditch, grandson of Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838), contain two volumes
of reminiscences and miscellaneous correspondence. The first volume describes
Charles' childhood and youth, including a meeting with President Lincoln in 1861.
The original correspondence contained in this volume has been removed and may be
found in box 4, folder 1. A photocopy of the first page of each item marks the
original's location in the volume. Charles' second volume contains a nearly complete
account of his 1911 voyage to the East Indies and Japan. He includes descriptions of
the native people, traditional theatre and dance, shrines, temples, and castles. His
miscellaneous correspondence includes an account of an ocean voyage to Cape Cod, the
Boston fire of 1872, information concerning a portrait of Nathaniel Bowditch, and
letters from Harold Bowditch. Of interest in the miscellaneous family papers are
estate papers of Habakkuk Bowditch (1738-1798), and correspondence of Lucy (Nichols)
and Jonathan I. Bowditch (1806-1889).
Series IV. Miscellaneous Papers, 1699-1920, includes
the papers of Reverend Samuel Fiske's controversy with Salem's First Church, of
which Joseph Bowditch (1700-1780) was a member. The dispute, which began over
Fiske's refusal to give a certain lecture and his tampering with the church meeting
records, led to a split in the congregation with a number of members leaving. Fiske
finally received ecclesiastical censure from the Council of Churches and was
dismissed in 1735. The House of Representatives voted to try him in court later that
year. The miscellaneous papers also include a 1742 apprenticeship indenture of a
French boy to Captain Benjamin Swinnerton, and a 1787 eulogy of Asa Dunbar, once a
minister of the First Church.
Photocopies (located in box 5) were made of Joseph Bowditch materials in the
Salem Court House Records. These documents were bundled in wrappers marked "Private
Papers." The records include personal bills and receipts, and materials relating to
Joseph as collector for the First Parish Church.
Joseph Bowditch was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1700
to William Bowditch (1663-1728) and Mary Gardner (1669-1724). Like his father, he
was a merchant and ship owner. He served as sheriff, Justice of the Peace, clerk of
the court, and town treasurer in Salem. He married Elizabeth Hunt (1703-1742) on
July 25, 1725. They had three children, Joseph, (1730-1758), Mary (1732-1813), and
Elizabeth (1734/5-1797). Bowditch suffered a paralytic shock in the 1770s, and died
in Salem on October 6, 1780.
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.
Bowditch, Charles P. (Charles Pickering), 1842-1921
Bowditch, Habakkuk, 1738-1798
Bowditch, Jonathan Ingersoll, 1806-1889
Bowditch, Joseph, 1757-1800
Bowditch, Lucy Orne Nichols, 1816-1883
Bowditch, Nathaniel, 1773-1838
Bowditch, William, 1663-1728
Dunbar, Asa, 1745-1787
Fisk, Samuel, 1689-1770
Gardner, Samuel, 1800-1856
Hunt, William, 1701-1780
Jeffry, Elizabeth Bowditch, 1734/5-1797
Jeffry, William, 1737-1772
Swinnerton, Benjamin, Captain
Church buildings--Massachusetts--Salem--First Church
Justices of the peace
Voyages and travels
East Indies--Description and travel
Indonesia--Indonesia--Java--Description and travel
Japan--Description and travel
United States--History--Colonial Period--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
United States--History--French and Indian War--1755-1763
United States--History--King George's War, 1744-1748
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
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
The bulk of the Joseph Bowditch Papers were received from an unknown source.
Integrated into these were items removed from other collections: 3 folders of
William and Joseph Bowditch's (1700-1780) accounts removed from the Bowditch Family
Papers (MSS 3); and papers of Joseph (1700-1780) and his daughter Elizabeth
(Bowditch) Jeffry, and an inventory of William Bowditch's estate, originally filed
with the Nathan Reed Papers (MSS 148). Donations to the collection included the
following: correspondence regarding Reverend Samuel Fiske and accounts of Joseph
(1700-1780), William Hunt and William Jeffry, donated by William J. Bowditch in
1937; a Joseph Bowditch (1700-1780) bond given by G. Andrews Moriarty in 1959;
Joseph Bowditch's (1757-1800) copybook, papers of William and Habakkuk Bowditch,
Charles Pickering Bowditch's two volumes of reminiscences, and the typescript of
Joseph Bowditch's (1700-1780) papers, donated by Harold Bowditch in 1946 and
Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, November 1984. Updated by Catherine
Robertson, March 2015.
Bowditch, Harold. Captain Joseph Bowditch (1700-1780): His
Bowditch Family Papers, 1726-1942, 1961, 1975, undated, MSS 3.
The bulk of the Joseph Bowditch Papers were received from an unknown source. Integrated into these were items removed from other collections: 3 folders of William and Joseph Bowditch’s (1700-1780) accounts removed from the Bowditch Family Papers (MSS 3); and papers of Joseph (1700-1780) and his daughter Elizabeth (Bowditch) Jeffry, and an inventory of William Bowditch’s estate, originally filed with the Nathan Reed Papers (MSS 148). Donations to the collection included the following: correspondence regarding Reverend Samuel Fiske and accounts of Joseph (1700-1780), William Hunt and William Jeffry, donated by William J. Bowditch in 1937; a Joseph Bowditch (1700-1780) bond given by G. Andrews Moriarty in 1959; Joseph Bowditch’s (1757-1800) copybook, papers of William and Habakkuk Bowditch, Charles Pickering Bowditch’s two volumes of reminiscences, and the typescript of Joseph Bowditch’s (1700-1780) papers, donated by Harold Bowditch in 1946 and 1959.