Thomas Perrin in Pennsylvania

In 1718, the first year for tax records in Conestoga Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, a Thomas Perrin was listed . I intend to convince you that this Thomas Perrin is the same man who escaped from Fleet Prison on April, 1716 and testified from Rotterdam March, 1717. The events of the last section certainly gave him both motive and opportunity to come to America.

A 1714 Map of Pennsylvania and Maryland

A 1714 Map of Pennsylvania. Notice the Indian villages along
the east side of the Sasquesahanough River



The colony of Pennsylvania, founded in 1680 by William Penn, was at first settled by Quakers along the Delaware River. By 1700, as the rate of immigration began to increase markedly, the demographics changed. Peoples arrived who frequently were from central Europe, mostly German and embarking from Rotterdam; they were usually escaping some sort of religious intolerance. For while some other colonies accepted persons of different faiths (for example, Maryland, which did not even require Quakers to swear oaths), Pennsylvania was advertised across Europe by Penn and others as a haven of religious tolerance.

Ultimately hundreds of thousands of immigrants would set foot on American soil in Philadelphia and migrate west and south between 1700 and 1760. Typically their path was west from Philadelphia toward the Susquehanna River into present-day Lancaster County. The 1718 Conestoga tax roles recorded 87 German families in that township .

As early as 1715 German settlers reportedly travelled west out of Pennsylvania along what would later be known as the Pennsylvania Wagon Road, to Maryland (the Monocacy valley) or further on to the Shenandoah valley of Virginia . More about this in the next section.

The settlement of Europeans in Conestoga was accomplished despite the presence of native populations there. The area was occupied by the Susquehannack Indians, who had been described by Captain John Smith of Virginia in his 1608 voyage to the region. By the 1670s, decimated by disease, they and their neighbors the Delaware had submitted to the Five Nations (Iroquois) of New York. Perhaps as a result they were amenable to living amongst the new Pennsylvania colonists who arrived in the 1680s. Indeed, cordial relations between the Indians and Europeans in Pennsylvania was the rule. William Penn was extremely careful to cultivate humane relations with the native people of Pennsylvania. While it seems popular for writers now to debunk him, it is clear that he did learn to speak rudimentary Delaware, and at least tried to participate in ceremonies that attempted to respect native ways. Tahroughout the first third of the eighteenth century there were excellent relations between natives (from hereon I will use the term Indians to include both Delaware and Susquehannaks in this section, as well as other groups such as the Shawnees later) and Europeans in that colony.

At this time Indian trade, usually woolen clothing for furs (rum becoming important in Pennsylvania only after 1720), was common on the frontier. The English or French who initially settled in Conestoga often engaged in Indian trade instead of farming. Of the 36 English names on the 1718 tax roles, fifteen are known from the historical record to have traded with the Indians .

Lancaster and York counties, Pennsylvania. landmarks as of 1750

Portions of Lancaster and York counties, Pennsylvania. Landmarks as of 1750


Conestoga Township lay on the east bank of the lower Susquehanna River. The map just above shows the local geography of the region. The Susquehannack village of Conestoga is labelled along the River; it remained occupied until the 1750s.

As the Susquehanna is nearly one mile wide at this point, it served as a natural barrier to settlement further west. Below is a later painting of Wright's Ferry, which became the crossing point for most going west.

Later lithograph of Wright's Ferry

Painting of Wright's Ferry .

The colony of Pennsylvania considered such west bank settlement illegal as the land had not been purchased from the Indians. The settlement of Lancaster town east of Conestoga began in 1722. The region became its own county, Lancaster County, in 1729.

Thomas in Pennsylvania

Chester county records

The 1718 tax roles for Conestoga Township, then part of Chester County)  included both 86 German (called Dutch) and 41 English individuals. The latter are listed below:

Francis Warley John Cartledge James Hendricks James Letort
James Patterson William Sterret John Hendricks Collum Macquair
Thomas Baldwin Thomas Gale Alexander Bense John Mcdaniel
Richard Carter John Linvill Robert Wilkins John Ffarer
John Grist William Hughes Peter Basillion John Comb
Joseph Roe Andrew Mason Joseph Hickman Daniel Cookson
Thomas Clark William Clark Stephen Atkinson Morgan Jones
Edmund Cartledge John Harris David Preece Robert Middleton
Richard Grice Nathaniel Cristopher Thomas Perrin Samuel Birchfield
William Ludford Thomas Wilkins James Davis Evan Evans
Thomas Jones

English Portion of Conoestogoe Assessment for 1718

In the 1718 list Thomas Perrin was noted to be a freeman, implying that he did not have a family or land. Several of the people listed above were well-known fur traders, including the Cartlidge brothers, Peter Basillion and James Letort; but others such as as James Patterson, Robert Wilkins and John Harris traded as well. (Much more information may be found about these people in the article, Early Traders of the Upper Potomac. Serious students will look online for the book The Wilderness Trail by Charles A. Hanna, which while published in 1911 seems to be the authoritative text on the Pennsylvania traders.  The important information starts at page 161.) The names Hendricks and Patterson, also on this list, will resurface in the 1730s during Cresap's War.

Thomas Perrin also appeared on the assessment lists for Conestoga in 1722 and 1725; both of these lists suggest that he was a landholder . It is worth noting that unlike most of the persons listed in the 1718 tax rolls, Thomas Perrin was absent from the 1719, 1720 and 1721 lists. There also was no mention of him in the records for 1726 through 1729.

Thomas also participated in Indian trading in some fashion, having received a license to trade in 1724. His license application was cosigned by John Hendricks and John Roberts . He later received a tavern license in 1728 from Chester County; this was also signed by John Hendricks, then acting as a magistrate for the county.

Thomas Perrins mark

Thomas Perrins "mark", from his tavern license .

A very short aside. The sale of rum got John and Edmund Cartlidge into big trouble in 1722. Then, when dealing with a Senaca native who became belligerent in his intoxication, they struck and killed him. The incident occurred south of Lancaster County in Maryland, but as far as I know this was the first recorded murder of an Indian by a Pennsylvanian. The approach that the government took in response is impressive, and included an inquest with testimony taken from native witnesses, as well as negotiations with the Seneca in New York. Both brothers were imprisoned for two years, until released at the request of the Indians. This is all described in a background text.

The Fur Trade

In Conestoga the original Indian traders were French. By 1715 James Logan, Hannah Penn's representative in Pennsylvania, envisioned Indian fur trade as a way both to limit French influence among the Indians and to pay off William Penn's debts. He started to subsidize English traders such as James Patterson, and John and Edmund Cartledge, advancing them credit for supplies and purchasing furs for export. I have read that Logan essentially cornered the market on the Pennsylvania fur trade. In the process, he became quite wealthy himself.

One interesting letter reprinted later in an article discussing the Sterman family went as follows :

Philadelphia, 2d Nov., 1727

Isaac Taylor, Loving Friend.

Joseph Staman (alias Stone) of Conestoga having bought two hundred acres of Francis Worleys tract on which he says there is very little timber left, is therefore desirous to take up some of the adjoining vacant land, but both he and Joseph Higgenbotham are apprehensive of that free booter Thos. Perrin setting down there to prevent which I wish thou wouldst order a line of two to be run that may take in about two hundred acres for the trouble of which, Staman must make satisfaction since it is to prevent the intrusion of a neighbor that may disappoint him of a further conveniency.

I am thy loving friend J. Logan.

Assuming that this Thomas Perrin is the fugitive merchant from London, I can argue that Logan might have known him from Bristol; Thomas Perrin certainly attended his father's school.

The definition of a free booter (or free boater) is pirate. I have read much of Logan's correspondence to try to find other references to Thomas Perrin (thus far finding none), so I can say with assurance that Logan was not a man who used hyperbole. Why would he use such stern language? One possibility is that Logan knew this Thomas Perrin was a fugitive from prison. But I believe Logan was actually referring to Perrin's more recent business ethics. A letter from 1730 written by Logan to his new business agent in Lancaster County may help illuminate this point :


To My Friend Edm'd Shippen

As Thou art now entering to the Managem't of my Business, I request thee to take a Turn to Sasquehannah and inquire into the State of Affairs in the hands of the Traders of those Parts who deal with me of whom I shall give thee a Brief Acco't as follows

Herry Baily began to deal with me about 3 years Since the first year he made a very good Pay, encouraged by this I [advanced] him further till he had last fall run by much too deep in my Debt. In the Winter he sent to me for my Goods, which I scrupled to comply with. I sent them up how-ever as far as John Wrights with direction not to deliver them till he brought down Skins from Allegheny toward the Paym't of what was due before. This last Spring he brought down his horses with one wagon loaded with Skins to his house, & on these I depended, but I since have informed that he has most unfairly Sold them to another person & Some Say for Gold, as also that his Skins as they come are Attached by others for Debt. He owes me about 500 £ a large sum. Pay inquire narrowly into the Truth of these Stories expostulate closely with him, and know what may with any degree of certainty be depended on...

As a pirate on the high seas typically took goods belonging to someone else, so a pirate on the frontier would obtain goods owed to another. I think it likely that Thomas Perrin was therefore not trading with the Indians directly for furs, rather buying them from other traders and exporting them himself. For all I know he paid Harry Baily for the goods mentioned in the above letter.

Logan went on in this letter to also accuse Jonas Davenport of "selling elsewhere". Davenport was probably chronically in debt to Logan, as Logan siezed Jonas' property upon his death in 1737 . Thus Thomas Perrin could have been the sort of trader who bought furs directly from traders who already had assigned them to Logan, a practice good for traders strapped for cash but regarded poorly by the government of Pennsylvania.

Lancaster County records

Lancaster County became an independent entity in 1729. While tax records for early Lancaster County did not survive, court records did. Thomas petitioned the County Court for a Indian trader's license in 1730 , and permission to sell rum by the quart in 1734 . Presumably both the tavern license and the right to sell rum by the quart were necessary to carry on fur trading with the Indians, directly or indirectly

One of the first entries for the County Court was setting bail for Thomas Perrin. In 1730 Perrin, along with John Linville, John Pfarr and Randy Mack, was brought to the court on the charge of assault. . Both Linville and Pfarr had lived in Conestoga Township since 1718; Linville became the first supervisor of highways of Conestoga Township in August 1729. Perrin pleaded no contest and all were fined, Perrin receiving a fine of 3 pounds, 2 shillings.

Thereafter, until 1741, I have found a total of eleven suits brought by or against him that were listed in the original Court docket. All of these probably involved debts and most may have been settled out of court .

  1. 1731/1732: Thomas Perrin vs. Edward W Nichols
  2. May 1732: James Cooper vs. Thomas Perrin
  3. Nov 1732: Thomas Perrin vs. John Linvil
  4. Feb 1732/3: Thomas Perrin vs. Law: Bankson
  5. Feb 1732/3: Thomas Perrin vs. John Linvil settled for 40 pounds, signed Tobias Hendricks
  6. Nov 1733: John Hendricks vs. Thomas Perrin
  7. Feb 1733/4: John Hendricks vs. Thomas Perrin
  8. Feb 1735/6: Thomas Perrin vs. John Wilkin
  9. Nov 1736: Henry Hendricks vs. Thomas Perrin
  10. 1739/1740: Thomas Perrin vs. James Pattin
  11. Aug 1741: Nathan and Isaac Levy vs. Thomas Perrin

Two of these suits could be associated with the fur trade. John Wilkins was a known Indian trader in the 1730s . Brothers Nathan and Isaac Levy were import/export merchants in Philadelphia as early as 1738 . With six other suits I can say the other person involved lived in Conestoga or west of the Susquehanna River. I cannot identify the remaining two persons.

The years of these suits roughly coincide with the Pennsylvania and Maryland boundary dispute summarized below. Of importance here is that several violent episodes between Marylanders and Pennsylvania partisans took place in land west of the Susquehanna River between 1734 and 1737. Four persons involved with these episodes were also listed in the suits above:

John Linville was the same person who was in court with Perrin for assault in 1730. His was the only suit settled in Court; Perrin was awarded £40 in February 1733/4. The remaining suits were presumably dropped and/or settled out of court.23 Suits among neighbors in the frontier were a way to force payments for locally provided goods or services. The legal involvement of Perrin with the extended Hendricks clan argues that Perrin's presence in Lancaster County had become more constant and that Perrin might have lived west of the Susquehanna. It is interesting to see that Perrin interacted with both Maryland and Pennsylvania partisans during the boundary dispute.

In some of these cases it is possible through Hanna's work to identify his legal opponents as other traders. In the last case, involving Nathan and Isaac Levy, his opponents were Philadelphia merchant exporters .

Cresap's War

There were two interesting references to Thomas in present day York County, Pennsylvania. (formed from Lancaster County in 1749). This area, west of the Susquehanna River, had been off limits to settlement before 1725, and became the focus of much controversy in the 1730s as an area claimed by both Maryland and Pennsylvania. The story of the dispute is available in excruciating detail in the background section entitled Border Troubles (admittedly written with a Pennsylvania bias). I can also provide a portion of a biography of Thomas Cresap as written by his grandson-in-law, in order to give a equally biased Maryland account of the times.

The story in brief: A Marylander named Thomas Cresap settled on the west bank of the Susquehanna River opposite Lancaster County around 1730. He started a ferry accross the River; in general, his behavior offended almost everyone, Indian and European alike. He sold Maryland land patents for west bank land to German settlers. This prompted Pennsylvania to begin issuing land licenses as well (called Blunston licenses), even though the colony had not actually purchased the lands from the Indians. From 1734 through 1736 there were a number of violent incidents involving Cresap and the English inhabitants of Lancaster County; several deaths occurred, and John Hendricks ended up in jail in Annapolis in 1734 on a charge of murder. In September, 1736 a 300 person army from Maryland arrived and left. In November of that year Chester County authorities discovered that Pennsylvanians Henry Munday and Charles Higginbotham had promised Maryland grants for land west of the Susquehanna to their friends in Chester County and contiguous Maryland. While Higginbotham avoided arrest, Munday was tried for this "Chester County Plot". At that point a Pennsylvania warrant was issued for Cresap's arrest, and he was jailed in Philadelphia that December. But the violence continued that winter when Charles Higginbotham returned from Maryland and started forcibly evicting those German settlers who had received Pennsylvania patents for their land.

In August, 1737 King George told everybody to cease hostilities, and the Crown settled the boundary dispute in favor of Pennsylvania in 1738. So this whole episode took about seven years, and judging from what has been written, was quite a big deal. Except for Thomas Perrin. The evidence suggests that he dwelt in the disputed territory while all of this was taking place.

First there is a deed in York County from 1763. Certainly all good deeds should state the history of the land for sale, but this would have been particularly important in York County at the time. Persons who had received Blunston lisences for their land did not have warrants or patents for their properties at that point. Indeed, as far as I can see this 1763 deed is the first legal record of this land outside of a survey done sometime around 1750. But included in the deed is the sentence :

...whereas the Proprietaries by a lycence under the hand of Samuel Blunston esq. then agent for the proprietaries dated at Lancaster 9 Dec 1734 granted unto Ulrich Wissler [by the name of Wollrick Weesler] 250 acres of land on Little Codorus Creek about a mile above Thomas Perrins to be taken on both sides of said creek for building a mill,...

Ulrich Wissler had emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania in the summer of 1734, in the midst of Cresap's War; whether he also received a Maryland patent from Cresap I do not know, but he later signed a petition protesting the behavior of Charles Higginbotham in 1737. His mill, built in 1735, is said to have been two miles south of York . However, Little Codorus Creek is slightly east from York . Later survey maps demonstrate well the location for Ulrich Wissler's and neighbor Baltzer Spangler's land, and these are drawn in the map below

york topo map

York and environs
The red dot denotes possible location of Perrin's dwelling
pink outline; Baltzer Spangler's land. black outline, Ulrich Wissler's land

The other reference to Perrin occurred when the wagon road from the Susquehanna River at Wright's Ferry through York to Frederick County, Maryland was built in 1739. The portion of the road depicted in the above map was described as follows :

South 84 degrees West 264 perches, Due West 166 perches To the Little Codorus,

South 82 degrees West 102 perches, Due West 104 perches, South 64 degrees West 220 perches, South 72 degrees West 260 perches To Big Codorus Creek,

Continuing the same course 360 perches To Perrin's run, Due West 246 perches To Spangler's Field, South 72 degrees West 80 perches, South 45 degrees West 160 perches, South 60 degrees West 126 perches To the "point of a steep hill," South 48 degrees West 134 perches, South 69 degrees West 200 perches,...

(For those of you who went to school after 1900, a perch is the same as a rod, i.e., 5.5 yards. There are 320 rods in one mile.) The probable stream then called Perrin's Run is labelled on the above map. The stream itself has not appeared on maps since the 1876 atlas of York County, although the western border of the city of York coincides with its former course.

It is entirely possible that Thomas Perrin was the first European resident of the York, Pennsylvania region. If I have identified the location of his dwelling correctly, he had situated himself right on the Wagon Road.

Thomas Perrin's estate

Thomas Perrin died before 1746 with no will. In that year the Lancaster Court appointed James Wright, Jr. and Charles Gibson to assess the estate, and their notes included the following inventory ; the original document (a scan of a copy) can be viewed here:

Item Value Notes
one Brass Rifel
0, 5, 0
one acks
0, 3, 6
read axe
one father Bad Two Blancets and one Quilt
1, 5, 0
one Chast
0, 5, 0
one Gun
0,10, 0
one Puter Bason one Puter Dish fore Plates one Pint
0, 5, 0
read pewter basin
one Brass Scimer one funel and Two Spoons
0, 2, 0
Skimmer: a flat perforated scoop or spoon used for skimming
one Iron Pott
0, 7, 0
one grubinghou one Broad hou one Hatchet one Hammer
0, 7, 0
one Auger and one Pair of Pinshers
0, 2, 0
one Glass
0, 2, 0
one Trunk
0, 1, 6
a Shoer and Coulter
0, 5, 0
Coulter--a cutting tool that is attached to the beam of a plow
2 Claveses
0, 2, 6
one Pair of Traces and Hamer
0, 1, 3
four acres of Corn
2, 0, 0
0, 6, 0
read seed corn
the Improvement
one Razer one hone one Pair of Bridelbits
4, 0, 0
one Testemant one Pair of Spactickels
0, 2, 6
one Stansaw one Drawingknife one Candelstick
0, 3, 0
one Furringpan
0, 1, 6
one Bridel
0, 1, 6
read bridle
one Badstid
0, 4, 0
read bedstead

The values are in pounds,shillings,pence. The right-hand column is my attempt to translate some of the items listed: I believe that this document demonstrates the most creative spelling (and writing) of any colonial document I have seen. While a total inventory of less than eight pounds was small for those times, this makes sense as there are no large value items such as livestock. Almost anything one would need for solitary survival on the frontier otherwise was included, and there was a Bible and eyeglasses. Those last items are important; their existence argues in favor of Thomas being able to read (as his "mark" on the trader license above might argue to the contrary). The lack of any livestock, specifically the lack of horses, is odd, unless 1) some time had elapsed between his death and this inventory, or 2) his horse was elsewhere at the time of his death.

Thomas Perrin of London and Pennsylvania: the same?

So far this section has described a man who lived and traded on the Pennsylvania frontier. He never officially owned land, and there is absolutely no evidence that he had a wife or family. With the exception of his estate inventory in 1746, the last record of his existence is 1741. Is it possible to believe a connection between this Thomas Perrin and Thomas Perrin of London, merchant, the subject of the last section? I believe they are the same person. The Thomas Perrin in England was financially ruined, and indefinitely imprisoned as a result. Unlike his colleagues, his scurrilous behavior made it impossible to secure release from prison. His escape to Holland in 1716 allowed him a second chance; from there where could he go other than the New World? For him to go to the frontier makes perfect sense, as it would be there that he would be able to work without being questioned too much about his past. Indeed, by signing with his mark, Thomas would be able to hide his ability to write, even though his estate inventory suggested that he was able to read.

So far there has been no chronological discrepancies between the Thomas of Pennsylvania and the Thomas of London. But there are further events regarding the Thomas of London which need to be woven in.

Early Holland Years

While the Pennsylvania records show that Thomas was a licensed trader, it doesn't fully explain his business. He may have been either his own master or in the employ of one or many merchants in Holland. From the Dutch point of view, his most valuable asset would be his English nationality. I think it is likely that he traveled to and from America with his goods more than once; this possibility is consistent with his absences from the tax assessments in Conestoga.

Perrin did not stay out of trouble in Holland. He was a party to a suit appealed from Amsterdam to the Hague in November, 1720 While I have not seen any decision on this case by the appeals court, the testimonial documents in the case go a long way in showing Perrin's life in Holland. The case in brief: Jacob Levy and Isaac Capadoce had accused Perrin of fraudulently selling shares of the Southsea Company of England worth £6,000 around May, 1720. Perrin, in response, stated that an Abraham Peixotto had stolen his identity, probably around March, 1720 when he sold Southsea Company stock to George Hamilton, and Peixotto was therefore responsible for the fraud.

Several documents were submitted to the court showing that Thomas Perrin was of good, or at least nontransient, behavior. "Thomas Perrin, merchant of Bristol" became a "poorter" [burgher or resident] of Amsterdam in November, 1716. A related document, from 1719, stated that Perrin had been a Poorter for a year and a day and might travel to anywhere in Holland, Zeeland and Friesland, paying tolls as though he was a Poorter of the respective region. Perrin received a license to import tobacco into Amsterdam on 16 December 1718:

Tobacco import license

License to Import Tobacco into Amsterdam to Thomas Perrin

Later on 23 May 1719 Thomas Parin received a license from the Port of Amsterdam to import salt, soap and money. Finally on 3 June 1719 a certificate was issued to Thomas Pierin to import coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.

The combined effect of these records, along with the deposition Perrin signed in March, 1717, Rotterdam show Perrin was in Holland and probably living in Amsterdam in late 1716. There are no records of him for March, 1717 - November, 1718, allowing for a trip to Pennsylvania. He probably was staying in Holland during 1719 - 1720, given the court records. I can imagine Perrin got together a ship and went to America in 1717, bringing tobacco and maybe furs to Amsterdam in late 1718. He then attempted to establish himself as an importer of a number of goods. Unable to stay out of trouble, Perrin ultimately put more effort into Pennsylvania and furs, I reckon, after 1721.

Henry Sperling's Ledger

In the last section you met Henry Sperling the Younger while he purchased the Perrin interests in the Haverhill properties. He was the second Henry Sperling, as is described later in a compendium of family histories of the "Landed Gentry" :

Lineage. - The SPERLINGS of Essex derive from an ancient and honorable Swedish ancestry. The family statement carries it back to Joachim Sperling, field-marshal royal of Sweden, who was made a Count by the King of Sweden 1687, and d. 1691. George, his son, succeeded. He m. 1 June, 1653, Anna Schmidt, of Dantzig, and was s. by Henry. his son, b. 22 March, 1659, who, having m. Ann Crol, at Rotterdam, came over to England and settled at Chigwell Hall, Essex. Their son,

Henry Sperling, Esq., m. Elizabeth. dau. and heiress of Thomas Foxall, Esq., and Margaret (Milner) his wife, also an heiress. Their son,

Henry Sperling, m. Mary, dau. and heiress of John Piper, Esq. of Ashen House, Essex, whose wife, Dorothy (Byatt) was also an heiress. They had three sons...

The Essex Record Office possesses an extensive collection of documents concerning this Henry Sperling the Younger. While much of it is relevant to his land interests in Haverhill, they also have his business ledger, dated 1719 - 1751 . Contained in this single legal sized volume are 32 years of accounts with individuals and organizations accross northern Europe, Russia and North America. Of interest is the account started on page two of the ledger with Jacobus Crol, Amsterdam; I reckon he must have been Henry's uncle or cousin. Paid from (credited to in accounting language) that account were the following entries:

1726 March 9 Cash on Demand to Jno. Burrough £ 10 ƒ 107.10
1726 April 15 Cash on Demand to Jno. Burrough £ 20 ƒ 215
1726 June 10 Cash on Demand to Jno. Burrough £ 10 ƒ 107.10
1726 August 5 Cash on Demand to Jno. Burrough £ 10 ƒ 107.10
1726 October 5 Cash on Demand to Sarah Perrin £ 5 ƒ 54
1726 November 1 Cash on Demand to Jno. Burrough £ 12 ƒ 129
eyeglasses icon

Jonathan Burrough received a total of £62 from this account; Sarah Perrin received £5 as well. While this money might have been Sperling's rent payment for the Haverhill property, Henry did not record such payments for any other years in this ledger. Other correspondence from the Sperling estate showed that he typically paid rents to Burrough through an agent in Haverhill, not through his business.

Being a good accounting ledger, there is a second entry for this transaction, this time in the account named "Sundry Debtors":

1726 October 26 Cash Jno. Burroughs £ 24 15 6
1728 November 28 Cash Jno. Burroughs £ 54

The sums in the two different accounts do not quite add up, nor does it make sense to me that the second entry is so late (I believe this is an error in the original). What is the explanation for these entries? The first payment to Burrough corresponded to an entry on the asset side of the Crol account four days prior:

1726 March 5 Bevor, N. P. [?neat pelts] of 3 Casks £ 345 15 ƒ 3802.60
1726 March 5 Furrs, N. P. of a Cask £ 222 ƒ 2442
1726 April 30 Bevor, N. P. of 3 Casks £ 351 17 6 ƒ 3870.14
eyeglasses icon

Note that each entry is recorded in pounds and Dutch florins, whose exchange rate varies. I invite help on the interpretation of N. P.

To get an idea of the relative worth of these goods consider that in 1726 the London Customs Office recorded a total value of £43 of beaver and £1,544 of other furs received from Philadelphia . That would make it unlikely that the beaver put in (debited to) Crol's account came from Pennsylvania. However, the other fur shipment might have, and by its apparent worth it may have constituted about one seventh of all the Pennsylvania deerskin sent to London that year. Sperling's ledger used double entry accounting. The beaver and "Furrs" (probably deer skin) entries above were referenced to two different accounts. The latter entry was cross referenced to an account simply labelled "Furs".

So the possibility exists that Sperling sold Crol deerskin which had come from Thomas Perrin in Pennsylvania. Then the payments to Burrough in Crol's account make sense; the parties involved had agreed to pass on to Thomas' children a commission. Given that Perrin's debts were still liable to seizure by the Royal Treasury in 1726, it does not surprise me that Sperling avoided using Thomas' name in his accounting.

The Gaols Committee Re-examined

In the last section I presented the information Thomas Perrin provided to the Gaols Committee in 1729. I would like to look at this event once more in the context of that year. This early social inquiry by Pariliament is best summarized elsewhere. Its moving force was James Oglethorpe, whose concerns about prisons and debtors lead to the formation of the colony of Georgia in 1732.

The Gaols Committee, painting by William Hogarth

The Gaols Committee, painting by William Hogarth
James Oglethorpe, sitting at left, discusses leg irons with current Fleet warden Thomas Bambridge

The Committee started work in February, 1729, focusing initially on the Fleet Prison, and its first report in March of that year listed many cases of abuse there. The second report, on May 14, chiefly concerned Marshalsea Prison in Southwark, but there were also three cases concerning the Fleet. Of these three, Perrin's case merited special attention in the body of the report :

In Justice to his Majesty's Revenue, the Committee think it their indispensable Duty to lay before the House one particular Transaction of Mr. Huggins with Mr. Thomas Perrin, of London, Merchant, Debtor to the Crown in several Bonds, to the Amount of £ 42,057 wherewith he was charged in the Fleet Prison, and was permitted to escape from thence by Mr. Huggins, when Warden. The Committee, having come to a more particular Knowledge of this Affair by the Papers, which the said Perrin sent over from Holland to the Treasury here, as his Case, the Committee crave Leave to subjoin the same, by way of Appendix to this Report; with this Observation, that at the Time, when Mr. Huggins was examined before the Committee touching this Escape, he acquainted them, that he had got a Quietas for the same in the late King's Reign, and also, that the Commissioners of the Customs having put up to Sale Perrin's Security to the Crown, he, Huggins, bought in the said Debt of £ 42,057 for about £ 2,000.

The Committee clearly liked the fact that there was detailed information going back to 1714 to incriminate Huggins. From the timing of the Committee reports, I would infer that Perrin provided his information between March and April of 1729, and was in Holland then. This is consistent with the arrival of the 1726 furs above in March of that year, and the general schedule of fur shipments from America. At this point I think it likely that, while Perrin lived in Pennsylvania, his travel to Holland made keeping his office and perhaps a residence there sensible. Besides, it is not likely that he would say to Parliament he was a resident of Pennsylvania.

Return to England

In May, 1732, The Treasury agreed to allow Thomas Perrin to return to England "unmolested on account of his debt to the Crown." . This appeared to be in response to a letter written to them by J. Scrope in March . These records also stated that Perrin was in Holland. I look forward to seeing the actual appeal, rather than the abstracted letter, as I imagine it will say that Perrin deserved pardoning of his debts on the basis of his testimony against Huggins.

How often Perrin actually went to England after 1732 I cannot say, but he must have in 1740, for the Calendar of the Treasury then states :

1740 Nov 6 The letter from Mr. Carkesse of the 31 let. read stating the case of Thomas Perrin in custody for his debt to the crown. Their Lordships think said Perrin should have the freedom of his person as by the warrant of 1732, May 25.

It appears that, despite his pardon, Perrin was arrested on his arrival that year to England, and his release required appeal to the Treasury. While that seems to be an unfortunate event, it at least establishes that Perrin did return to England at some point.

Burial in Southwark

There is one more record. The London Quaker Meeting recorded that Thomas Perrin, age about 66 years, died March 11, 1741/2 in St. Thomas parish, Southwark, and was buried 14 March 1741/2 in the Friends Cemetery at Long Lane . By my calculations the Thomas Perrin of Bristol and London should have been nearly 64 years at that date. Southwark, just south of London, would have been the town in which his brother-in-law John Burroughs lived.

I do not think it an extreme leap of fantasy to suppose that Thomas would choose to return to England to die. But in a more practical sense, the gap between Perrin's death (March, 1742) and the court actions concerning his estate (1746) make more sense knowing that at least once before Thomas Perrin had journeyed back to England. I leave it to the reader to suppose how many other times Perrin travelled across the Atlantic; I suspect he travelled with his goods to Holland yearly. So I doubt the people in Pennsylvania could get excited about an abandoned cabin when Thomas had been gone for extended periods before. This could easily have delayed the court's interest in his estate for four years.

The site of Long Lane cemetery

Site of Long Lane cemetery, Southwark


The events for Thomas Perrin in Pennsylvania dovetail well with the life of Thomas Perrin, fugitive. While it seems difficult to say how established Thomas was in America, it makes it possible to propose that at least one of his sons followed him to the frontier. This will be a theme of the next section.