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Fabens Family Papers, 1706-1916, 1947, 1978-1989, undated

Identifier: MH 94

Scope and Content Note

The Fabens Family Papers contain the shipping, business, legal, and personal papers of William Fabens (1759-1828), William Fabens (1782-1834), Benjamin Fabens (1785-1850), Samuel A. Fabens (b. 1812), Benjamin F. Fabens (1817-1912), Joseph Warren Fabens (1821-1875), Frank P. Fabens (b. 1869), and other family members. The collection is divided into eight series.

Series I. Benjamin Frank Fabens (1818-1912) Papers include ships' papers, business records, and personal papers. The ships' papers include over 20 vessels encountered by Fabens while in Zanzibar as agent for Bertram and Shepherd. These documents include information regarding voyages from Salem to Zanzibar, along with various ports such as Muscat, Aden, Majunga, Bombay, and Mozambique. Business records include house expenses, ledgers, day books, invoices, and accounts current, along with correspondence, contracts, and agreements with prominent figures in the Salem-Zanzibar trade such as Richard P. Waters, John F. Webb, and George West. Within personal papers is Fabens' personal protection certificate, which he earned in 1838, along with legal documents that reflect Fabens' appointment as power of attorney for Clara E. Fabens and Charlotte A. Fabens.

Series II. William Fabens (1759-1828) Papers include deeds, estate papers, and business receipts. Within the deeds and legal documents are the separation papers for the Morrow family and deeds including the names Callum, Gould, Perkins, Stickney, Raddam, Raddan, and Symonds. The business receipts reflect the joint business affiliations within the family.

Series III. William Fabens (1782-1834) Papers include ships papers, legal documents, and receipts. The ships' papers include privateer shares for the years 1812-1815 signed by William Fabens, and individual documents for various vessels. The legal papers include deeds for transactions between Joanna Phelps, Richard Lovering, Jr and William Fabens (1782-1834) for the purchase of land.

Series IV. Benjamin Fabens (1785-1850) Papers include business correspondence to and from William Fabens (1759-1828) and William Fabens (1782-1834) concerning interest in the Cayenne trade, personal correspondence to Benjamin's wife Hannah, and ships' papers for vessels owned and operated by Fabens. One volume contains the estate papers for Benjamin Fabens, which were administered by his son, Benjamin Fabens (b. 1809); included in the same volume is a list of stores for the fishing voyages of the Mary B. Smith owned by Charles H. Fabens and later, Benjamin Fabens (b. 1809).

Series V. Samuel A. Fabens (b. 1812) Papers includes six account books along with ships' papers for the Ship Aristo and lists of stores for various other vessels. One volume contains correspondence between Samuel A. Fabens and S. A. Gray, and F. A. Gray of Boston about business transactions during the years 1842-1853. Another volume contains chandlery and dimensions for the ships mastered by Fabens, such as the ships Challenger, Golden Eagle, and Ganges. This volume includes records from voyages to ports such as Calcutta, Callao, Chincha Island, Hampton Roads, Havana, Hong Kong, New York, Rio de Janiero, San Francisco, St. Petersburg, and St. Thomas.

Series VI. Joseph Warren Fabens (1821-1875) Papers include legal documents, correspondence, and business papers for the years 1840 to 1875, along with secondary research material concerning Santo Domingo from 1978 and 1989. Joseph Warren Fabens' personal papers include published works and manuscripts along with correspondence to his wife and mother. Business records include speeches on the political, social, and economic history of Cayenne, notes on the Fabens interest in the introduction of camels into the southwestern United States, and correspondence with leading figures of the day. This correspondence includes the appointment papers of Fabens to the position of United States Consul to Cayenne, signed by James Buchanan in 1848, a letter addressing the topic of the relocation of slaves from the United States to the West Indies, and multiple letters discussing the possible annexation of Santo Domingo.

Series VII. Frank P. Fabens (b. 1869) Papers include records from his years at Harvard College including entrance papers, indenture, and commencement exercises from 1884-1887, along with an inventory of his home at One Chestnut Street in Salem in 1891.

Series VIII. Fabens Family Papers include papers from various Fabens family members. This includes genealogies for the Bolles, Brooks, Endicott, Fabens, Foster, Frost, Frye, Hicks, Higginson, Jewett, Low, and Proctor families, photographs of various family members, and a folder of papers that includes newspaper clippings, wedding invitations, square dance directions, and wildflowers from the Holy Land including actual plant material preserved since 1892. Correspondence between Susan S. Fabens, and her children Abby Fabens and William P. Fabens discuss William's service in the 13th Co. Unattached, Co. I, 3rd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Heavy Artillery during the Civil War and his subsequent death during the Civil War.


  • Creation: 1706-1916, 1947, 1978-1989, undated


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research. Box 6, folder 9 is restricted due to fragility. Photocopies of the material is available in box 6, folder 8.

Biographical Sketches

Four generations of the Fabens family were owners of vessels and shipping merchants in Salem, Massachusetts, the business originally started by William Fabens, who established trade between Salem, and Cayenne, French Guiana, in South America, in 1816. The business grew as the family became ship owners, ship masters, and port agents and sailed to Brazil, Baltimore, Cayenne, Martinique, Peru, St. Pierre, St. Thomas, and the West Indies. The business was moved to Boston by Charles Eugene Fabens in 1877.

Benjamin Franklin Fabens (1818-1912) was born in 1818, in Salem, Massachusetts to William Fabens (1782-1834) and Sarah Brown (1788-1840). After completing school he began work as a clerk at Seccomb & Brown's grocery in Salem, after which he was sent to Cayenne aboard the Brig Susan, captained by Charles Newcomb, to improve the state of his health. In 1840, at age 21, he went to Zanzibar, East Africa as a clerk for Pingree & West. In 1844 he was appointed permanent agent in Zanzibar for the firm Bertram and Shepard. He married Martha Webster Frost (1833-1869) on August 2, 1856 and together they had three children: Clara Osborn (1860-1865); Martha Webster (b. 1862); and Frank Prescott (b. 1869). He died in Jefferson Highlands, New Hampshire in 1912.

William Fabens (1759-1828) was born in Salem, Massachusetts. He was a grocer in Salem and married Rebecca Gray (1762-1837) of Saco, Maine in 1781. Together they had ten children: William (1782-1834); Benjamin (1785-1850); Nancy (b. 1788); Samuel (1791-1835); Sarah (1793-1863); Rebecca (1796-1870); Eunice (1798-1850); Mary (1801-1863); Harriet (1806-1849); and Charlotte (b. 1811). He died on April 10, 1828.

William Fabens (1782-1834) was born in Salem on December 1, 1782 to William Fabens (1759-1828) and Rebecca Gray (1762-1837). He was a shipmaster specializing in trade along the southern United States coast and in South America. On September 5, 1808 he married Sarah Brown (1788-1840) and together they had ten children: William (b. 1810); Sarah Ann (b. 1811); Samuel A. (b.1812); Mary Jane (1814-1871); Benjamin Franklin (b. 1817); Rebecca (b. 1821); Louisa Matilda (b. 1823); Clara Ellen (1825-1863); Charlotte Augusta (b. 1828); and George Otis (b. 1831). He died on January 2, 1834.

Benjamin Fabens (1785-1850) was born in Salem on September 9, 1785 to William Fabens (1759-1828) and Rebecca Gray (1762-1837). He was a merchant in the Cayenne trade and was also master and joint owner of various ships. He married Hannah Stone (1787-1848) on September 11, 1808 and together they had seven children: Benjamin (b. 1809); Zachariah Stone (1811-1813); Francis Alfred (1814-1872); Charles Henry (1817-1869); William Samuel (1819-1836); Joseph Warren (1821-1875); Caroline Augusta (b. 1823). After Hannah's death, he remarried to Mary Tay. He died May 24, 1850.

Samuel Augustus Fabens (b. 1812) was born in Salem on December 31, 1812 to William Fabens (1782-1834) and Sarah Brown (1788-1840). He made his first voyage as a cabin boy in the Ship Tarquin, owned by his father. He married Mary Glover Wilson on June 27, 1848 and together they had seven children: Mary H. Wilson (b. 1849); Samuel August (b. 1852); George Wilson (b. 1857); Joseph Abbott Wilson (1861-1879); Robert Hooper (b. 1864); Carolina Hooper (b. 1866); Edith Gray (b. 1871). He was master mariner and was in the East India and California trade. Between 1834 and 1850 he made sixteen voyages to St. Petersburg in the Ship Aristo, owned by Samuel C. and F. H. Gray of New York. In 1850-1851 he sailed aboard the Bark Wessacumcon. In 1852, he supervised the building of the Ship Golden Eagle in Medford, Massachusetts. From 1858 to 1860 he was in command of the Clipper Ship Challenge and from 1862-1863 he was in command of the Ship Ganges.

Joseph Warren Fabens (1821-1875) was born in Salem on July 23, 1821. He attended Harvard College from 1837 to 1838. On July 4, 1842 he married Love F. Stickney (b. 1821) and together they had ten children: Frederick Warren (1844-1846); William Benjamin (b.1845); Alice Euphrasie (b.1847); Joseph Franklin (1848-1873); Hannah Elizabeth (b.1850); Caroline Frances (b.1852); Arthur Warren (b.1855); Harriet Love (b.1857); Leslie Montgomery (1861-1863); Mary Tay (d. few months). He served as United States Consul at Cayenne from 1843 to 1850 and as U. S. Consul at Nicaragua from 1850-1859. He visited Santo Domingo and became a prominent advocate of annexation of the island to the United States because of its rich natural resources. He also wrote songs and manuscripts. He died in New York City while residing in Elizabeth, New Jersey on March 13, 1875.

Frank P. Fabens (b. 1869) was born in 1869 to Benjamin F. Fabens (1818-1912) and Martha Webster Frost (1833-1869). He graduated from Harvard and lived at one Chestnut Street in Salem, Massachusetts.


7 linear feet (8 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Fabens Family Papers contain the shipping, business, legal, and personal papers of William Fabens (1759-1828), William Fabens (1782-1834), Benjamin Fabens (1785-1850), Samuel A. Fabens (b. 1812), Benjamin F. Fabens (1817-1912), Joseph Warren Fabens (1821-1875), Frank P. Fabens (b. 1869), and other family members.

Series List

SERIES I. Benjamin Franklin Fabens (1818-1912) Papers

  • A. Ships' Papers
  • B. Business Records
  • C. Personal Papers

SERIES II. William Fabens (1759-1828) Papers

SERIES III. William Fabens (1782-1834) Papers
  • A. Ships' Papers
  • B. Business Records
SERIES IV. Benjamin Fabens (1785-1850) Papers

SERIES V. Samuel A. Fabens (b. 1812) Papers

SERIES VI. Joseph Warren Fabens (1821-1875) Papers
  • A. Business Records
  • B. Personal Papers
SERIES VII. Frank P. Fabens (b. 1869) Papers

SERIES VIII. Fabens Family Papers
  • A. Estate Documents and Genealogy
  • B. Correspondence
  • C. Photographs

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


This majority of this material was a gift of Frank P. Fabens in 1926 (acc. # 8087) and 1939 (acc. # 10,463). The Samuel A. Fabens account books were a gift from Mrs. Samuel Fabens on February 28, 1906 and Edith G. Fabens in 1940. Four additional gifts provided items for the collection: items from the estate of Bessie D. Fabens, March 23, 1948; item received from Edward Tremblay, April 24, 1948; items from the estate of Frank P. Fabens, August 17, 1970 (acc. # 19,381); and items donated by Gail Pike Hercher on April 14, 2005. Some of the material in this collection was originally arranged as Fam. Mss. 305 and Fam. Mss. 306. A postcard to Caroline Fabens, dated 1893, and a postcard to Abby Fabens, dated 1894 were donated on December 12, 1986.

Related Collections

Perkins, George A., Some of the Descendants of Jonathan Fabens of Marblehead. Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1881.

Lindsey, Benjamin James. Old Marblehead sea captains and the ships in which they sailed. Marblehead, MA: Marblehead Historical Society, 1915.

Richard P. Waters Papers, 1831-1939, MH 14 and MSS 230

Michael Shepard Papers, 1809-1893, MH 23

Fabens Family History and Photographs, undated [circa 1880s-1910s], Acc. 2009.025

Processing Information

Collection processed and cataloged by Halley Grogan, May 2012. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, August 2016, 2018.


FABENS FAMILY PAPERS, 1706, 1797-1912, 1947, 1978, 1989
Inventory prepared by Halley Grogan
Language of description
Script of description
Processing of this collection was funded by a grant from the NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission).

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA