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Barton Family Papers, 1677-1897

Identifier: MSS 110

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the Barton Family Papers is comprised of shipping and business papers reflecting the activities of four generations of merchants, ship owners and masters. The collection also contains business and personal papers of family members and relatives. The papers have been divided into seven series.

Series I. Samuel Barton (1688-1772) Papers, 1709-1772, contains correspondence, legal, and financial papers documenting Samuel's general store, his fishing ventures, and the small amount of trade which he conducted with Europe, the West Indies, and Virginia. His financial papers include a money conversion list from old tenor to new and estate bills and receipts.

Series II. Samuel Barton Jr. (1738-1773) Papers, 1738-1774, consists of merchant, business, and personal papers. These reflect Samuel's shipping interests in the South American, European, and West Indian markets, as well as his business in the family store and his position as captain in the Salem militia. Of interest in the merchant correspondence are letters regarding British duties: a 1764 letter to the master of the brig Salem, advising him to sail through St. Eustatius in order to avoid British duties on molasses and sugar; a 1770 official complaint regarding increased Customhouse fees; and an undated fragment supporting the nonimportation of British goods. Merchant financial papers include ships' papers, a 1769 tax list, and information concerning Samuel's shipbuilding ventures. Of interest in the business and personal papers are correspondence and financial papers regarding Samuel's farm, the erection of Salem's workhouse in 1772, and military service excuses written by physicians, including E.A. Holyoke, to militia captain Samuel Barton. For a list of ships owned or chartered by Samuel Barton, see Appendix I.

Series III. Samuel Barton (1767-1795) Papers, 1784-1798, is comprised of merchant correspondence and shipping papers. These document the partnership of Samuel Barton and Boston merchant Nathaniel West from 1784 to 1796. For a 1798 letter from West to Samuel's mother commenting on his partnership with her son, see box 9, folder 4. Merchant correspondence includes letters to and from such notable merchants as George Crowninshield, Elias H. Derby, John Derby, and Samuel Derby. The ships' papers, arranged alphabetically by vessel, include papers of a large number of Elias H. Derby's vessels in which West and Barton shipped goods to Europe and the West Indies. Also of interest in the ships' papers is a 1793 protest of the brig Katy, and accounts of seamen on the brig Katy and ship Margaret. This series also contains business and personal papers relating to Samuel's shipping business outside of the West-Barton liaison. These include accounts of Samuel's earliest shipping ventures and business conducted with his brother-in-law Samuel Derby. His personal and business correspondence includes letters to and from his mother and siblings. For a list of ships owned or chartered by Samuel Barton, see Appendix II.

Series IV. John Barton (1774-1818) Papers contains merchant correspondence, ships' papers and personal papers from 1787 to 1836. They reflect the prosperous trade which John conducted with Europe, South America, India, the East and the West Indies as a ship owner, shipmaster, and merchant. The ships' papers, arranged alphabetically by vessel, document the voyages of a number of ships belonging to John's brothers-in-law, John and Samuel G. Derby. These papers also contain letters from John to his mother while he was a master at sea. Of interest in the ships' papers are the insurance settlement of the brig Liberty, lost at sea, and papers relating to the sale of the rigging of the bark Moses, stranded off the coast of Cape Cod in 1812. John's extensive personal accounts reflect the activities of a well-to-do young shipmaster setting up house and raising a large family. For a list of ships owned, mastered, or chartered by Samuel Barton, see Appendix III.

Series V. Samuel Barton (1804-1840) Papers, 1819-1840, are comprised of ships' papers, merchant correspondence and accounts, and personal papers. Among the ships' papers, arranged alphabetically by vessel, are records of a large number of ships owned by Gideon Tucker, and Joseph and Joseph A. Peabody. Of interest are papers of the brig Leander and brig Roque, vessels which carried opium from Turkey and China circa 1819-1826. Of special note are Samuel's extraordinarily complete supercargo's accounts of the ship George's voyages to Calcutta from 1819 to 1836. The records of the George have been divided into letterbooks, account books, invoice books, memorandum books, and loose ship's papers. It is possible that much of the material in the folder of miscellaneous ships' papers (box 8, folder 2) may also belong to the ship George. For a list of ships chartered by Samuel Barton, see Appendix IV.

Series VI. Family Papers, 1677-1897, contains material documenting four generations of the Barton family, members of the Marston and Webb families, and miscellaneous papers. Among the papers of Barton family members are wills, legal and financial papers of Thomas Barton (1680-1751), his wife Mary (Willoughby), and their son John (1711-1774). Of note in Margaret (Gardner) Barton's papers is a 1798 letter from Nathaniel West commenting on his partnership with her son Samuel (1767-1795), and a 1786 receipt for a spinet made by artist Samuel Blyth (1744-1795). The papers of miscellaneous Barton family members contain correspondence and financial papers of Elizabeth (Barton) and William Cleveland, Margaret (Barton) Derby, Sally (Barton) Derby, and Lydia Barton. The Marston family papers, the bulk of which is correspondence, reflect the activities of Elisabeth (Marston) Barton's father and brother. The Webb family papers consist primarily of financial and legal papers of innkeeper Benjamin Webb, Mary (Webb) Barton's father. Of interest in the miscellaneous papers are possible protest papers of the ship Argo (undated) and a 1768 inventory of the estate of Phillip Saunders.

Series VII. Genealogies contains 3 volumes of genealogical notes plus an index for the Barton and other families.


  • Creation: 1677-1897


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketch

Samuel Barton, Esq. (1688-1772), was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the seventh and last child of British immigrant apothecary Dr. John Barton and Lidea Roberts of Marblehead. Samuel was a retail merchant, serving Salem residents and surrounding towns through his general store. He also sponsored fishing voyages and conducted trade with the West Indies, Europe, and United States coastal ports. He seems to have been an officer in a Salem militia company, and was a member of Salem's First Church. In 1734, Samuel bought a house off Essex Street, on a corner of what became known as Barton Square. Samuel's first wife, Mrs. Mary Butler, died six weeks after marriage. With his second wife, Elisabeth Marston, he had one child, Samuel Barton Jr.

Samuel Barton Jr. (1738-1773) was born in Salem, the only child of Samuel (1688-1772) and Elisabeth (Marston) Barton. Samuel Jr. kept a general store, possibly with his father. He also owned at least one vessel, the brigantine Pitt, and consigned cargo on a number of other vessels sailing to Virginia, the Carolinas, Europe, South America, and the West Indies. Samuel was captain of Salem's Third Militia Company of Foot and also served as town selectman. During the 1760s, he became increasingly concerned about British duties levied on American ships. In 1770, he and other Salem merchants wrote an official complaint regarding the size and nature of the Customhouse fees. Samuel Jr. also chaired a 1773 committee to draft a reply to a Boston memorandum on the "State of the Rights of the Colonists". Samuel and his wife Margaret (Gardner) had seven children, among them Margaret (1768-1802), who married Samuel G. Derby, and Sarah (1770-1798), who married John Derby.

Samuel Barton (1767-1795) was the second child of Samuel Jr. (1738-1773) and Margaret (Gardner) Barton. By 1785, Samuel had established himself as merchant in partnership with Boston shipmaster and merchant Nathaniel West. As "Nathaniel West & Co." or "West and Barton", the two conducted business in Europe, the West Indies, and United States coastal ports. They owned a number of vessels together and others in partnership with Samuel's brother-in-law, Samuel G. Derby. West and Barton also consigned cargo on a large number of Elias H. Derby's (1739-1799) ships. Samuel died unmarried in Salem.

John Barton (1774-1818) was born to Samuel Jr. (1738-1773) and Margaret (Gardner) Barton seven months after his father's death. He seems to have started his seafaring career as clerk or supercargo on board his brother-in-law John Derby's schooner Nancy on its 1792-1793 run to the West Indies. From 1794 to 1810, John served as master aboard ships owned by Benjamin Pickman and brothers-in-law Samuel G. and John Derby. In partnership with these and other merchants, including Israel Williams and Charles Cleveland, Samuel tapped the rich resources of India and the East Indies. John and his wife Mary (Webb) Barton had nine children. John died of consumption in 1818.

Samuel Barton (1804-1840) was born in Salem, the first child of John and Mary (Webb) Barton. He began work as a clerk for shipping merchant Joseph Peabody. In 1827, Peabody appointed Samuel and Capt. Thomas M. Saunders joint supercargoes of the ship George. Samuel continued to hold the position of supercargo through seven of the George's nine subsequent voyages to India, sailing on her more times than any other officer. Samuel worked in partnership with such notable merchants as Joseph Peabody, Joseph A. Peabody, Daniel Perkins, and Gideon Tucker. Together they conducted prosperous trade in Indian silk and indigo and shipped opium from China and Turkey (see papers of the brig Leander and brig Roque). In 1831, Samuel married Abigail W. Northey of Boxford. She died within the year, leaving no children. Samuel died in 1840 of consumption.


6 linear feet (10 boxes; 4 volumes)

Language of Materials



The bulk of the Barton Family Papers is comprised of shipping and business papers reflecting the activities of four generations of merchants, ship owners and masters.

Series List

SERIES I. Samuel Barton (1688-1772)

SERIES II. Samuel Barton Jr. (1738-1773)

SERIES III. Samuel Barton (1767-1795)

  • A. Nathaniel West & Co. Papers
  • B. Business and Personal Papers
SERIES IV. John Barton (1774-1818)

SERIES V. Samuel Barton (1804-1840)

  • A. Ships' Papers
  • B. Merchant Correspondence and Personal Papers
SERIES VI. Family Papers

  • A. Barton Family Papers
  • B. Papers of Relatives and Miscellaneous Papers
SERIES VII. Genealogies

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


The Barton Family Papers is a reorganization and integration of four account books, four volumes of genealogical notes, three letterbooks, and approximately eight boxes of manuscript material. Added to the collection were one envelope of Nathaniel West and Co. papers and one folder of early Barton material removed from the Benjamin Pickman Papers. The bulk of the collection is from an unknown source. The three letterbooks and four volumes of genealogical notes were donated by J. Webb Barton before 1933. The four shelved account books were the 1887 gift of William G. Barton. Separated from the collection are correspondence, deeds, financial, and military documents of the Derby, Pickman, Kimball, Crowninshield, and Chamberlain families. (See the separation sheet for exact information.)

Related Collections

Derby Family Papers contain papers of ships owned by the Derby family and mastered or used as consignment vessels by Samuel (1767-1795) and John Barton. MSS 37

Processing Information

Collection processed by Suzy Shigo & Sylvia B. Kennick, February 1984. Updated by Anne E. (Holmer) Deschaine, September 2011, July 2014.


Processed by: Suzy Shigo & Sylvia B. Kennick; Updated by: Anne E. (Holmer) Deschaine; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description
Processing and conservation for this collection were funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA