Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Edward Shippen Thompson Collection Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 10

Edward Shippen Thompson Collection

Introductory Information

Edward Shippen Thompson (1869-1947) is a descendent of the Burd-Shippen-Yeates interrelated families, via several 19th Century marriages through a Patterson and other families to a Thompson family. E. S. Thompson was interested in genealogy and his family’s history, which led him to collect and keep great quantities of family papers, as well as genealogical notes and charts. These papers relate to the period from 1684 through 1941, including many kinds of materials, such as a large collection of 19th Century photographs and some newspapers. The reference to 1684 relates to genealogical information, not manuscript papers. Also, most of the papers (Folders 14-15, 17-21, and 26-221) come from the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century.

The Edward Shippen Thompson Collection is owned by the Pennsylvania State Archives (MS Group 125). The David Library owns three reels of microfilmed documents from this collection.

Note on interrelated collections: The David Library owns microfilm collections containing images of three closely interrelated sets of family papers—the Jasper Yeats Family Papers, the Burd-Shippen Family Papers (both manuscripts and transcripts), and the Edward Shippen Thompson family papers. Given the extraordinary extent to which the three complement one another and overlap one another, researching them together would be advisable. (Each set is described in a separate Swain Report.)

Note on content aids: The microfilm contains, at the beginning, 1) a typed description of the contents of the collection, 2) a note by the “processor” on difficulties of organizing the collection, and 3) a detailed, six-page table of contents, by folder.

Note on spelling: In this collection, the family of Jasper is consistently referred to as the Yeates family. And, during the period of Jasper Yeates correspondence in this collection (1786-94), Jasper consistently spells his last name with an “es” at the end. In his own collection of papers, his earlier correspondence inconsistently uses either Yeats or Yeates but more frequently the former.

Microfilm Documents

The David Library owns three reels of microfilmed manuscripts from the Edward Shippen Thompson collection. These reels hold the contents of Folders 1 through 37.

Reflecting Edward Shippen Thompson’s great interest in his family’s history and genealogy, many of the papers in this collection are handwritten copies of older original manuscript documents. Some but not all of these appear in the Yeats family papers and the Burd-Shippen family papers. Other papers are typewritten documents of later date.

Papers for the period 1746 through 1800, of potential interest to David Library researchers, include the following:
-- Folder 2: business and legal papers (1746 through 1777)
-- Folders 3-13: general correspondence (1747 through about 1800)

-- Folders 16-21: genealogical correspondence and notes (19th and 20th Century materials but relating to genealogy dating back to 1684, documenting the ancestors of the original Edward Shippen in PA and subsequent generations down to the Thompson family)

-- Folders 22-25: military papers, especially of Colonel James Burd (1748-1780, including both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War)

-- The business and legal papers include mostly receipts, accounts, and short notes. They also contain a letter written in French to James Burd, dated April 24, 1746 and sent from Guadeloupe. This indicates how extensive Philadelphia merchant James Burd’s involvement in the Caribbean trade was as early as the 1740s.

-- The genealogical correspondence and notes may be of specialized interest to those interested in tracing the ancestry of the interlocking families of Thompson, Patterson, Yeates, Burd, and Shippen. The items in these folders include historical notes, biographical information, and genealogical lists. Some items are copies of manuscript documents. Others are composed typed information. Others yet are newspaper clippings and published historical journal articles—and the like.

-- The military papers consist of a variety of manuscript documents, including muster rolls (one from 1758 is charmingly labeled “mouster rool”), lists of deserters, pay lists, lists of clothing and equipment issued to militiamen (one such list includes columns for “Shirts, Shoes, Stockins, Brauhes, Blankets”—brauhes appears to be breeches; another list also included guns and bayonets), lists of supplies purchased, with prices, printed enlistment and oath forms, and line-of-march drawings. Most of the documents relate to Colonel James Burd’s duties in the French and Indian War.

An interesting item among the many single-page documents is 60 pages of a diary of daily activities in Fort Augusta, PA (now Sunbury), including construction activities. It begins abruptly on Wednesday, February 23, 1757 and ends just as abruptly on Tuesday, April 5. It may have been James Burd’s personal diary, and what is contained in this collection of papers may be a fragment of a much longer diary.

The Revolutionary War material (folder 25) is skimpy, including a recruitment notice dated June 15, 1775, a Congressional resolution setting compensation for officers (for the highest rank listed, captain, $20 per month), a record of the unanimous vote of privates in the 4th Battalion of Lancaster County Militia for their officers, with Colonel James Burd at the top of the list, and one more interesting item—an undated list of recruitment-related grievances of a company under the command of Captain John Murray. This short document is worth quoting in its entirety:

“1st That non Associaters is excused for the small sum of Two Pounds, Ten Shillings per Annum….
2nd That the burden of Associaters is much more….
3rd That the calling of a whole Battalion or a whole Company out of a Battalion without Drafting may Be of bad Consequence….
4th That men of large Estates above fifty years of Age is Altogether exempt & etc.”

-- The general correspondence is perhaps the most interesting body of papers in the collection, from the perspective of historical research.

The contents of Folders 3 through 10 flow more or less chronologically from 1747 to 1827. They are grounded in James Burd’s correspondence, both incoming and outgoing, including both family members and those with whom Burd was doing business—either family (merchant/land deal/legal/investment) business or military (French and Indian War and Revolutionary War) business.

Folders 12 and 13 contain letters attorney Jasper Yeates wrote to Edward Burd, the attorney son of James Burd (Jasper was son-in-law to James and brother-in-law to Edward). This correspondence mixes family matters, both personal and business, and what appear to be mutual dealings, or at least information sharing, on legal cases.

A few interesting quotes may help to illustrate the diverse range of this correspondence:

-- A letter dated Philadelphia, July 26, 1751, from John Swift (apparently a business colleague) was addressed as follows to James Burd “merch’t on Board the Sloop Charming Nancy; or in his absence to My Minst & Hatton Mercht in Kingston Jamaica” The letter began as follows: “When you arrive in Jamaica, please to dispose of my 36 Barrels of Flour…[and to ship a load of] heavy pistols to Mr. John White of Croydon in Surry (near London)….”
Comment: James Burd’s widespread trade business was triangular, including England and the Caribbean, but apparently not Africa.

-- A letter dated May 30, 1755 from William Atlee to James Burd is about finding labor necessary for work in which they had an interest “laying out and clearing the Roads towards the Ohio.”
Comment: The Burds and Shippens both got deeply involved in westward expansion—and in land speculation/development.

-- A letter dated December 28, 1756 from James Burd to his father, Edward Burd, in Scotland. It was written at Fort Augusta (later Sunbury, PA), which Colonel Burd commanded during part of the French and Indian War. In this letter, he gives summary descriptions of the battles of this war, to the date of writing. The original manuscript of this letter is contained in the Burd-Shippen collection. What is found here is a handwritten copy of the original, written much later—and not just one copy but four copies. Clearly, this history-lesson-in-a-letter had an impact on Edward Shippen Thompson.

-- A letter dated Lancaster, October 6, 1786, from Jasper Yeates to Edward Burd: “A Corn blight on all Iron Works, say I:—Nothing have I met with except Difficulties, Disappointments & Vexation since I have been engaged with them.” Yeates opened his letter with this diatribe, after having learned the “disagreeable intelligence that yesterday both the Drums (?) at the Forge were carried of by the Flood.”
Comment: New forms of investment and business brought with them new headaches.

-- Another letter from Jasper to Edward, dated Lancaster, March 3, 1787: “I hobbled down Stairs yesterday but one of my Feet remains yet very tender. I must patiently bear a lecture on abstinence for some time.”
Comment: Edward must have known what had happened to Jasper. For the latter-day researcher, only imaginative guesswork will suffice. Was it an accident? Did alcohol have anything to do with it, or is the reference to “abstinence” more general?

-- Yet another Jasper to Edward letter, dated Lancaster, November 3, 1794: “Between the Conduct of our good Friends the French & British, the Trade of America is likely to be placed in a blessed situation.”
Comment: Here is a cryptic comment indeed, more so than the one about Jasper’s feet. Is “blessed” to be taken seriously or as sarcasm? What was happening in 1794 that would elicit such a comment? One possibility is the terms of Jay’s Treaty. Although the treaty was not signed until November 19 and its detailed provisions not made known until the following March, public knowledge might have been sufficient, especially among those engaged in international commerce, to foster comment on the supposed provisions. If this is the case, Yeates meant “blessed” seriously and positively.

Have something you want to share, such as a question, research find, or a personal story about the Library? Email Will Tatum at tatum@dlar.org

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