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Chever Family Papers, 1816-1859

Identifier: MSS 131

Scope and Content Note

The Chever family papers contain shipping records for ship owner and master James W. Chever (1791-1857), and his sons, ship masters Henry Prince and William James Chever. Also included are genealogical notes for the Chever, Hollingsworth, English, and Browne families, compiled by George Francis Chever. This collection is made up of two series.

Series I. Shipping Papers consists of James W. Chever's shipping records, which include sales and crew accounts, invoices, disbursements, and correspondence for whaling and merchant vessels that he either owned and/or mastered (see Appendix II for a complete list of vessels in this collection). Included in the 1832-1844 account book are entries for James' administration of his father's, James Chever (1752-1839), estate. Henry Prince Chever's papers, covering 1843 until 1855, are also part of this series, and include ship's papers for Hannah (Brig), which was mastered by Henry and owned by his father and Thomas P. Pingree. The papers continue past Henry's death in 1853, while the owners of Hannah (Brig) attempted to settle their dispute over the sale of the cargo. Also included in this series is William James Chever's letter book, which contains his correspondence, as master of the ship, Ocean Eagle, with the vessel's owners, William C. Rogers and Company, and with foreign commission merchants. The letters discuss the sale of goods in Australia and China.

Series II. Genealogy consists of George Francis Chever's genealogical notebooks, which contain notes and biographical sketches on members of the Chever family, including both the English and American branches, Hollingsworth, English and Browne families.


  • Creation: 1816-1859


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketch

James W. Chever was born James Chever on April 20, 1791. James changed his name to James W. Chever in 1817, in order to distinguish his mail from the mail of two other James Chevers. Educated at Master Southwick's School in Salem, James W. began his career as a cabin boy at twelve years old, and eventually became the master of the privateer America during the War of 1812 with England. Under his direction, the America was responsible for 25 of the 41 British ships captured during the war. He skippered his ship against British ships in the English and Irish Canals, as well as Georges Bank and the Straits of Gibralter. James returned to Salem Harbor in April 1815 as a local hero, and began a life of commercial shipping. Thanks to James, the owners of America, George Crowninshield and Sons, profited greatly from his accomplishments, collecting half of the more than one million dollar value placed on the captured British ships and their cargo.

James spent the last 20 years of his life working on Crowninshield Wharf, while dabbling in the railroad and whaling ships. He became master and part owner of the Perseverance (Ship) in the 1820s. His last voyage was aboard the Sapphire (Ship) in 1834. James married Lydia Dean, and they had seven children together. He died in 1857.

Henry Prince Chever was the oldest son of James and Lydia Chever, born 1816. Educated at Steven Putnam's Academy in Andover, H. K. Olive's Classical School in Salem, and the River [sic] Grammar School, he was a ship master and ship owner. When Henry died in 1853, he was embroiled in a dispute over the sale of the cargo of the brig Hannah, which Henry mastered and his father owned with Thomas P. Pingree.

William James Chever was Henry Prince's brother, born on March 16, 1818 to James and Lydia Chever. He was master of the ship, Ocean Eagle. William married Eliza Ann Richardson, and died in 1902.

George Francis Chever was Henry Prince and William James Chever's brother, born on November 30, 1819 to James and Lydia Chever. He graduated from Harvard College in 1840 after studying law. He wrote a number of volumes of family genealogy.


1.25 linear feet (2 boxes; 1 volume)

Language of Materials



The Chever family papers contain shipping records for ship owner and master James W. Chever (1791-1857), and his sons, ship masters Henry Prince and William James Chever.

Series List

SERIES I. Shipping Papers

  • A. James W. Chever (1791-1857) Papers
  • B. Henry Prince Chever (1816-1853) Papers
  • C. William James Chever (1818 -1902) Papers
SERIES II. Genealogy

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


The bulk of this collection was probably donated by Edward S. Chever in 1903 and 1904. The James W. Chever account book, 1832-1844, was donated by Harry C. Gauss in 1915.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Prudence K. Backman, July 1984. Updated by Hilary Streifer, August 2014.

Processed by: Prudence K. Backman; Updated by: Hilary Streifer; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description
Processing for this collection was 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