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In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Paul Cook Burgess was born in 1802 in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. He went to sea at an early age on a whaling voyage. He married Ann Hathaway (1808-1881) in 1827 and left her shortly thereafter to join the ship Chelsea of New London, Connecticut on a whaling voyage as mate. While away on this voyage, his wife gave birth to a son, Joseph Hathaway Burgess (1828-1907). Paul's next voyage was also out of New London aboard the ship Connecticut in 1831, serving as master. Within a few months of leaving home, Paul was killed while fast to a whale in 1831.
Joseph Hathaway Burgess entered into business in the wholesale and retail trade of oil and candle sales. He opened a business in Rochester, N.Y. in partnership with James G. Howland in 1850. This business was known as Burgess & Howland and also as The New Bedford Oil Store, Rochester, New York. By 1855, he, along with a new partner, Humphrey Smith, had moved the business to Albany, N.Y. The business was then moved to New Bedford, Mass., within a year. Burgess continued business on his own while also entering the soap manufacturing trade by 1859. He married Eliza Caroline Kelso Piatt (b. 1830) of New York in 1851. They had three children: William Piatt, Clara Nye, and Frank.
Papers in this collection reflect the activities of members of the Burgess family of Fairhaven, Mass., between the years 1828 and 1866. The material concentrates on Paul Cook Burgess, his wife Ann Hathaway Burgess, and their son, Joseph Hathaway Burgess. Papers for Paul Cook Burgess include correspondence, financial records and ship's papers, from 1829 to 1831. His correspondence consists primarily of letters written to him by Thomas W. Williams, a whaling agent of New London, Conn., regarding the sale of oil as settlement for the ship Chelsea voyage as well as preparations aboard the ship Connecticut. The financial records include accounts current with Williams for Burgess' voyage in the ship Chelsea along with a receipt for monies in the outfitting of the ship Connecticut. There are also ship's papers for the Connecticut consisting of a bill of sale and an insurance policy.
Papers for Ann Hathaway Burgess contain correspondence, bills, and receipts spanning the years 1828-1854. Her correspondence includes letters written to her husband in 1828-1829 as well as letters to her son in 1852-1854. The letters to her husband are while he is aboard the ship Chelsea and inform him of social events within the community as well as family matters including the birth of their son. Letters to her son, Joseph, are written while he is in Rochester, N.Y. They contain similar news of local events, such as work on the Fairhaven railroad, and family news including the death of her mother. Ann also advised her son on his health and gave her daughter-in-law advice regarding the care of the baby. The bills and receipts are primarily for the schooling of Joseph, 1833-1843. Later bills were paid by Ann's brother-in-law, Furman Reade Whitwell, who along with his family members, is also mentioned often in the letters.
Joseph Hathaway Burgess is represented by correspondence, financial records, legal documents, and business cards from the years 1850 to 1866. His correspondence, 1850-1853, is to his mother in Fairhaven while he is in Rochester, N.Y. He primarily discusses setting up his oil business and its success, his partners, his living situation in boarding houses in Rochester, activities in Rochester including a cholera outbreak, his visits to surrounding communities including to Nunda, N.Y. to see relatives, and, later, his married life including the birth of a son. There are also letters from Eliza Caroline Kelso Piatt Burgess to her mother-in-law, on the back of a few of Joseph's letters. She discusses living in Rochester, Joseph's health and her son, William Piatt.
Joseph's legal documents are his partnership agreements for the business in Rochester. In 1850, he formed a partnership with James G. Howland and Charles S. Hathaway for the sales of oils and candles under the firm name of Howland & Burgess. By 1851, however, Hathaway had withdrawn from the partnership. The firm was also known as the New Bedford Oil Store, Rochester, N.Y. In 1855, Burgess formed a partnership with Humphrey Smith and continued the same type of business, first in Albany, N.Y. and then moving to New Bedford, Mass. The business card is for Burgess & Smith of New Bedford, manufacturers of oil, candles and soap. The financial records are a journal, 1863-1866, for Burgess in business alone primarily in the soap manufacturing trade in New Bedford. The volume records the sales of whale and sperm oil as well as different types of soaps.
Materials in this collection have been organized into sub-groups representing individual members of the Burgess family. Papers have been organized into series by type of document and are arranged in chronological order. My Dear Husband by Genevieve M. Darden (1980) is a published work that may serve as a guide to these papers. An additional publication that may also provide information on the Whitwell family and their relatives in New York is My Dearest Anna by Mary Rathbone Acker (1981).
Arrangement of Collection
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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 94, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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The materials in this collection were donated to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Genevieve M. Darden on 17 April and 10 December 1985. Additional Burgess family papers are at the Millicent Library in Fairhaven, Mass.
Processed by: Judith M. Downey with assistance from Ruth E. Souto, 9 June 1989
Encoded by: Kermit Dewey, 23 April 2012; box list appended by Timarie Malo, 6 December 2012
Account books--New Bedford, Mass.--1863-1866
Burgess & Smith, New Bedford, Mass.
Burgess, Ann Hathaway, 1808-1881
Burgess, Eliza Caroline Kelso Piatt, b. 1830
Burgess, Joseph Hathaway, 1828-1907
Burgess, Paul Cook, 1802-1831
Fairhaven, Mass.--Social life and customs
Hotels, taverns, etc.--N.Y.--Rochester
Howland & Burgess, Rochester, N.Y.
Howland, James G. b. 1824
New Bedford Oil Store, Rochester, N.Y.
Rochester, N.Y.--Social life and customs
Soap trade--Mass.--New Bedford
Whitwell, Furman Reade, 1793-1861
Williams, Thomas W., 1789-1874