Skip to main content

Orne Family Papers, 1719-1899, undated

Identifier: MSS 41

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the Orne Family Papers, which consists of the shipping papers generated by Timothy Orne (1717-1767), Josiah Orne (1768-1825), William Orne (1751/2-1815), and Joseph Orne (1778-1806) spans almost a century of Salem shipping from 1732 to 1825. The papers reflect the business, legal, and personal papers of each cousin, their immediate families, and their in-laws. The collection has been divided into three series.

Series I. Timothy Orne (1717-1767) Papers consist of the business, legal, and personal papers of Timothy and his relatives. The bulk of the collection contains records of Timothy's prosperous shipping business, from 1737-1767.

Subseries A. Shipping Papers includes ships' records, merchant house shipping correspondence, and insurance papers. Sub-subseries 1. Ships' Papers are arranged alphabetically and include records for the ships Timothy owned, shipped cargo on, or insured from 1732 to 1767. These papers consist of owner/master correspondence, ships' orders, bills of lading, portledge bills, invoices, insurance papers, receipts, bills of sale, powers of attorney, accounts for building and outfitting the ships, and merchant house correspondence. Because Timothy owned two schooners named Molly between 1751 and 1757, notations of the different masters have been made on the Contents List. Accounts for the voyages of the fishing vessels (see Appendix I) include not only the accounts of fish caught but also accounts for other cargo the ship may have carried. A few of Timothy's ships were captured as a result of England's war with France in the 1750s and 1760s. Legal protests regarding such capture are filled with that ship's papers. Master's correspondence to Timothy during the years of the French War contains reports of fighting and captured Orne ships. While Timothy was not known as a slave trader, the brig Cicero's papers include accounts listing Negroes as part of the cargo. Both ship's orders for master of the Cicero and sloop Rebecca instructed the captain to look for any slaves that his family could use. Of note are the papers of the schooner Seaflower, the only ship that was owned by Timothy's father found in this collection.

Of interest in the series are the letter and invoice book, 1756-1767 and three ships' books for the years 1748-1767. The letter and invoice book contains Timothy's copies of letters to various merchant houses and ships' invoices. While the three ships' books mainly record his accounts for ships he owned, a few accounts of ships he had cargo on are also recorded here. Both the ships' journal, 1748-1751 and the ships' ledger, 1758-1759 include indexes on either the first inside page or the title page. The index for the ships' ledger, 1760-1767, lists the ship's name, rigging, and voyage. Insurance Papers contain accounts, receipts, and other documents regarding his insurance business with John Nutting and John Higginson. Insurance papers of specific ships are filed with those ships' papers. Shipping papers are arranged by year only and include accounts, receipts and bills for more than one ship, unidentified ships, or cargo in general.

Sub-subseries 2. Merchant House and Shipping Correspondence is filed alphabetically by firm name (see Appendix II) and includes correspondence from merchant houses regarding cargo information of more than one ship of cargo information in general. Many times the firms would include information of the political stability of a particular port and include advice of where to sail and purchase cargo. The shipping correspondence, 1742-1767, contains letters from local merchants concerning cargo or shipping in general.

Subseries B. Business Papers contains correspondence, account books, almanac/diary/memorandum books and accounts, receipts, and orders. The business correspondence concerns his warehouses and general shipping business as well as some non-shipping concerns. The account books, which range from 1733 to 1767, include waste books, journals, and ledgers. While these primarily record Timothy's shipping business, there are also accounts for non-shipping activities. Two ledgers include indexes and record at the head of each account the name and occupation of the debtor and creditor. Of special interest are his waste book, journal, and ledger for May to October 1733. These record his shipping ventures as well as his wagers with friends for the summer before he began college. The September 2, 1733 entry records his taking on an apprentice for three years.

Noteworthy in the business papers are the almanac/diary/memorandum books for 1736-1767. The yearly almanacs include interleaved diary pages on which Timothy recorded his activities, the daily weather, and incoming and outgoing ships. The memorandum books contain Timothy's insurance accounts, cash lists, taxes paid, cargo accounts, tables of gold and silver values, and other notations. Of interest in these memorandum books are the 1747-1748 plan of Eaton's farm which was involved in a legal battle, and the 1753 accounts of his father's estate, funeral, and tomb expenses. The bulk of the accounts, receipts, and orders, 1736-1768, consists of requests for merchandise from Orne's warehouses.

Subseries C. Legal Papers includes a 1719 deed from Joseph to Timothy Orne (1683-1753), deeds for Timothy Sr., and a 1748 power of attorney for Timothy (1683-1753) to Timothy (1717-1767). The Eaton papers revolve around the lawsuit between the Ornes and Eatons over Eaton's farm, and the Barnes Robinson correspondence discusses the fraud Robinson perpetrated and his escape from justice. Found in the estate papers are many legal documents regarding both estates of Timothy Sr. (1683-1753) and Timothy Jr. (1717-1767).

Subseries D. Personal and Family Papers contain correspondence from family and friends, civic activities, and accounts of family expenditures. Noteworthy items include letters from Timothy to his parents describing his education in Boston and a letter from a friend in Barbados, a 1754 list of Salem voters, and Joseph Orne's (1683-1748) account book, 1719-1743 which contains the accounts of Timothy's uncle, a prominent Salem merchant.

Series II. Josiah Orne (1768-1825) Papers consist of shipping, business, legal, and family papers of Josiah, his son Richard Elvis Orne, and their in-laws: the Lows, Williams, and Allens. The bulk of the collection contains Josiah's and Richard Elvins' shipping papers from 1792-1827. While Josiah owned many vessels (see Appendix III), his main occupation was mastering ships for himself and other merchants. Josiah's ships sailed to the West Indies, Europe, Russia, and India as well as the domestic ports of Charleston and Savannah, South Carolina carrying teas, coffee, fish, textiles, spices, rum, molasses, and other cargoes.

Subseries A. Shipping Papers includes the owner/master correspondence, the master's orders, merchant house correspondence, portledge bills, bills of lading, cargo and crew lists, accounts, and receipts. Sub-subseries 1. Ships' Papers contains papers for those vessels Josiah owned or shipped cargo on, or ships he and his son Richard Elvins mastered. Because some of Josiah's vessels were captured by privateers or damaged in collisions (see Appendix III), the Ships' Papers also include any documents regarding the ships' protest and trial, or accounts of damaged cargo. Included in the papers of the brig Exchange are letters from Josiah Jr. as the master in 1809 to his father.

The ship Malabar was Josiah's only livelihood from 1816 until his death in 1825. These ship's papers reflect a rather complete representation of one ship's voyages. Beginning when it was the Minerva and extending through ten years of Orne ownership, these papers contain not only the business documents, but also include extensive correspondence with various consulates and merchant houses. The correspondence between Josiah and his son Richard, also found here, discusses the ship's business as well as some family matters. Since Josiah died while master of the Malabar, any estate papers dealing with the settlement of the Malabar's accounts have been filed here.

Noteworthy in this series is the account book, 1809, of the brig Exchange which lists the damaged cargo resulting from the Exchange's collision with an iceberg.

Shipping accounts include papers related to more than one ship or to Josiah's shipping business in general. The papers of James Porter, Josiah's business partner for the sloop Polly and Phebe and the schooner Whim, have been included here. Any of their correspondence which related to specific vessels have been included with the ship's papers, however, additional business papers or correspondence are filed here.

Sub-subseries 2. Merchant House and Shipping Correspondence contains any letters or accounts to and from merchant houses, business associates, and consulates at various ports filed alphabetically by firm name. These have not been included with the ships' papers because they either deal with more than one ship, or with cargo information in general.

Subseries B. Financial Papers, ranging from 1799 to 1832, include accounts with local merchants, unidentifiable receipts and non-shipping account books. They are filed chronologically by year only.

Subseries C. Legal Papers includes deeds for land or property, powers of attorney, indentures, promissory notes, bills of exchange, and any other bank or legal receipts. Josiah acted as Edward Allen's attorney in 1810 during Edward's bankruptcy and flight to Canada. As his brother-in-law's attorney, Josiah obtained much of Edward's business and legal papers. These papers contain deeds, business correspondence and accounts for before Edward's bankruptcy and any documents relating to the bankruptcy. In addition, there is correspondence between Josiah and Edward during and after the business failure.

Josiah's estate papers include an inventory of his estate in 1825, accounts regarding the settlement of the estate by executors, Seth Low and John Prince, and any other legal documents resulting from Josiah's estate. The estate papers regarding the Malabar have been filed with the Malabar's papers.

Subseries D. Family Papers includes correspondence, domestic papers, and Low family papers. Correspondence includes letters between family members and letters to the Ornes regarding family matters. Of interest are letters from sons Josiah, Henry Augustus, Richard Elvis, George, and Edward on board vessels owned by merchants other than Josiah Sr.; the September 21, 23, and 25, 1817 letters from Richard Elvins relating his visit to Josiah's in-law, Samuel Williams, the American Consul in London; the letter from Josiah's son-in-law Daniel Low to Daniel's brother Seth regarding Josiah's death; and the 1802 letters from Josiah to Edward Allen while Josiah was master of the brig Exchange regarding Orne's business problems. The domestic papers include family and farm accounts, and receipts for children's schooling, clothing, newspapers, and taxes.

Series III. Orne Family Papers include the shipping and non-shipping papers of William (1751/2-1815), his son Charles Henry (1789-1816), his brother Dr. Joseph (1749-1786), and his son Joseph Jr. (1778-1806). Subseries A. William, Joseph, and Charles H. Orne Shipping Papers include papers from 1794-1899 which are arranged alphabetically by vessel and include accounts, receipts, bills of lading, crew lists, and correspondence of ships William owned and his nephew Joseph mastered. Noteworthy in this series are the papers of ship Essex, which contain a cabin boy's description of the massacre of the ship's crew by Arab pirates in 1806. Shipping papers include accounts, receipts, and correspondence for more than one vessel or unidentified vessels. The two letterbooks consist of shipping correspondence and miscellaneous business letters. The insurance record book lists vessels, points of coverage, amounts of insurance, premiums, and arrivals at destinations. Most of the accounts are undated but probably were initiated before 1812. The Charles H. Orne ledger contains accounts for a number of ships owned by William, Joseph, or Charles, and includes accounts for the estates of William and Charles H. Orne.

Subseries B. Family Papers includes the Joseph Henfield account book which contains accounts for four Orne ships interleaved in an almanac. Dr. Joseph Orne papers contain day books with daily listings of charges incurred by his patients from 1775-1780.


  • Creation: 1719-1899, undated


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketches

Timothy Orne (1717-1767), a prominent Salem shipping merchant, was born in Salem, the first son of Timothy and Lois (Pickering) Orne. He began his career in 1732 by shipping cargo on the brig Two Brothers, mastered by Joseph Grafton. Between 1733 and 1737 he continued his shipping adventures sporadically. In September 1733 Timothy took on an apprentice for three years. Upon his return to Salem from college, Timothy resumed his shipping interest by buying a 3/16 share in the schooner John and Elizabeth. He quickly prospered and expanded his interests in shipping into the ownership of new vessels and in trading with West Indian and European ports. Timothy's vessels were mastered by Richard Derby (1712-1783), John and Jacob Crowninshield, Israel and John Lovitt, John Hodges, Benjamin Batchelder, Benjamin Herbert, Samuel Williams, George Ropes, Samuel and John Gardner, Nathaniel Ingersoll and other local captains (see Appendix I).

In the 1740s he also formed an insurance agency with John Nutting and John Higginson. They insured numerous vessels; in 1758 alone they insured one hundred ships. Timothy also owned many fishing vessels which fished off coastal America and provided cargoes of pickled fish for export on his other ships. In all, Timothy owned over fifty ships which carried fish, cloth, wine, rum, brandy, grains, molasses, and some slaves to and from the West Indies, Spain, Portugal, Bermuda, and the British Isles (see Appendix I). Timothy's wide range of shipping interest and his domination of pre-Revolutionary Salem shipping trade set precedents for later merchants.

In 1747, Timothy married Rebecca Taylor, and they had six surviving children. All married into prominent Salem families except his youngest son, Samuel, who died at the age of 22. His son Timothy, a loyalist, narrowly averted being tarred and feathered in 1775, and he fled to Nantucket for the duration of the war. Upon Timothy's death in 1767, his large estate included land and buildings in Salem, Lynn, and Danvers, as well as several wharves and warehouses.

Josiah Orne (1768-1825), a prominent Salem shipmaster and owner, was born in Salem, the first son of Josiah and his first wife Alice (Palmer) Orne. In 1786 Josiah married Alice Allen, the daughter of Edward and Ruth Allen. Of their eight children, one daughter, Alice, married the prominent New York merchant, Daniel Low, and all five sons were engaged in shipping.

By 1785 Josiah was an agent for his father's shipping business. During his early shipping career he mastered several vessels and owned the ship Sukey and the brig Issac. In 1791 Josiah was master of the sloop Prosperity and, by 1795 he owned partial share in the sloop Polly & Phebe and was master of the brig Hope. Until his death, Josiah mastered at least nine vessels and owned at least ten ships (see Appendix III). He was engaged in trade to India, Europe, the West Indies and Russia as well as coastwise America.

While he was a prominent merchant, Josiah never prospered in shipping. Many of the ships that Josiah owned were either captured by privateers or suffered spoilage of the cargo in collisions (see Appendix III). These financial setbacks caused Josiah to master vessels for other merchants. He died in Salem following one of his many voyages on the brig Malabar, and Seth Low and John Prince served as executors for his estate.

William Orne (1751/2-1815), a prominent shipping merchant, was born in Salem, the second son of Jonathan and Elizabeth (Putnam) Orne. In 1780, he married Abigail Ropes, the daughter of Nathaniel and Priscilla (Sparhawk) Ropes. They had six children.

By 1778, William had established himself in the shipping trade. During the Revolution, he was master of the privateers Tyger and Jupiter, and partial owner of several other privateers, including the Black Prince. William's only military service during the Revolution was in an unsuccessful attempt by local merchants to capture Newport, Rhode Island from the British.

By 1789 William owned at least five vessels; he would later own thirty more. William's ships carried teas, silks, spices, hemp, iron, and other cargo to and from the West Indies, Canton, Calcutta, Europe, and Russia. His ship Essex, mastered by his nephew Joseph Orne, became famous in 1806 when all the ship's crew except the cabin boy were murdered by Arab pirates.

William owned Orne's Wharf located on the South River by Norman's Lane. In 1805, when Ezekiel Hersey Derby built the Center Street bridge to connect Lafayette and Essex Street in Salem, Massachusetts, Orne's Wharf became a casualty of the eventual closing and filling of the harbor on the South River.

Joseph Orne (1778-1806) was born in Salem, the son of Dr. Joseph and his first wife Mary (Leavitt) Orne. Joseph was orphaned in 1786 upon the death of his father, his mother having died a few months after his birth. Joseph then went to live with his uncle William Orne, a prominent Salem merchant.

Joseph entered the shipping business and by 1798 he was master of the brig Eliza. He was partial owner of the brig Pompey in 1804, and he mastered three other vessels before his death. While master of the ship Essex in 1806, Joseph and all his crew except the cabin boy were murdered by Arab pirates off the coast of Mocha.


15.25 linear feet (32 boxes; 21 volumes)

Language of Materials



The bulk of the Orne Family Papers, which consists of the shipping papers generated by Timothy Orne (1717-1767), Josiah Orne (1768-1825), William Orne (1751/2-1815), and Joseph Orne (1778-1806) spans almost a century of Salem shipping from 1732 to 1825. The papers reflect the business, legal, and personal papers of each cousin, their immediate families, and their in-laws.

Series List

SERIES I. Timothy Orne (1717-1767) Papers

  • A. Shipping Papers
    • 1. Ships' Papers
    • 2. Merchant House and Shipping Correspondence
  • B. Business Papers
  • C. Legal Papers
  • D. Personal and Family Papers
SERIES II. Josiah Orne (1768-1825) Papers
  • A. Shipping Papers
    • 1. Ships' Papers
    • 2. Merchant House Correspondence
  • B. Financial Papers
  • C. Legal Papers
  • D. Family Papers
SERIES III. Orne Family Papers
  • A. William, Joseph, and Charles H. Orne Shipping Papers
  • B. Family Papers

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


The Orne Family Papers are an integration and reorganization of twelve scrapbook volumes, twenty-four boxes, and several miscellaneous items form the Timothy, Josiah, and William Orne Papers. Integration of these three collections was made on the basis of family relationships and because of their respective shipping businesses which reflect many phases of Salem shipping. While the majority of the Orne Papers are from unknown sources, some items were either donated or purchased. The Timothy Orne almanac/diary/memorandum books, 1736-1767, the 1754 list of Salem voters, and the Timothy Orne stock books were donated by Mrs. G.S. Cabot in 1874. Several of Timothy Orne's account books were donated by Mrs. Francis H. Lee in 1914: the waste book, journal and ledger of 1733, the waste book, 1750-1752, and the ledger of 1738-1753. Mrs. Joseph S. Cabot donated the letter and invoice book, 1756-1767, two ships' ledgers, 8 waste books, and ledger, 1762-1767. The ships' journal, 1748-1751 was purchased in 1914. The Joseph Orne account book, 1719-1743 comes from the American Antiquarian Society, and the ship Malabar ledger, 1817-1822, from the estate of Augustus D. Rogers. The Dr. Joseph Orne daybooks, the William Orne letterbooks and the insurance record book were donated by Stephen Phillips' estate (acc #19,823). The Charles H. Orne ledger was donated by David Wheatland (acc #12,048). The origin of the Joseph Henfield shipping account book is unknown.

Removed from the Orne Family Papers are many Goodhue receipts and several Wheatland legal papers. These have been placed with the Goodhue and Wheatland Family Papers respectively. Integrated into the Orne Family Papers are several Timothy Orne deeds, letters, bills of lading, and receipts found in the Goodhue Family Papers. All documents have their original location marked on the back of each item.

In June 2009, additional ship’s papers including one account book, 1807, sailing directions, and letters were purchased (acc # 2009.018) and added to the collection. In October 2014, MH 10, Orne Family Papers, 1759-1818 was merged with MSS 41.

Bibliography and Related Collections

Allen, George H., comp., "List of Salem Vessels Insured by Timothy Orne, John Nutting, Jr., and John Higginson, December 1758 to December 1758." Essex Institute Historical Collections, volume 31, 1894-1895, page 88-95.

The Essex, Joseph Orne, Master. An Appeal from New Providence before the Lord Commissioners of the Captor and Respondents. London, 1803.

"List of Vessels Owned Wholly or in part by Timothy Orne, Jr. of Salem, 1740-1758," Essex Institute Historical Collections, volume 37, 1901. Page 77-80

A Note on Marine Insurance in Salem. The Bulletin of the Business Historical Society.

Phillips, James Duncan. "William Orne: Distinguished Merchant - Useful Citizen." Salem, Mass. 1944.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Nancy C. Barthelemy, December 1981. Updated by Catherine Robertson, October 2014. Updated by Tatiyana Bastet, July 2019.




ORNE FAMILY PAPERS, 1719-1899, undated
Processed by: Nancy C. Barthelemy; Updated by: Catherine Robertson and Tatiyana Bastet; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description
Processing and conservation for this collection was funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA