Edward the Quaker

Recorded in the Archives of Maryland is a document dated 1681, which while encased in legal jargon (not just the jargon of that time, but of eternity) speaks remarkably well to the modern reader :

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To all Christian People to whome these pr'sents shall Come to be seen read or heard I Edward Perrin of the Citty of Bristoll within the Kingdome of England Merch't and now resident att the Clifts in Calvert County in the Province of Maryland send greeting

Whereas I the said Edward Perrin being now bound out of the said Province of Maryland to the Citty of Bristoll aforesaid the place of my abode And whereas I the said Edward Perrin doth thinke it needfull in my absence to put some person in trust with my affaires in the said Province of Maryland

Therefore know yee that I the said Edward Perrin as well for and in Consideracon aforesaid as also for diverse goods causes & valueable Consideracons me thereunto especially moving

Have made assigned constituted and ordeined and by these pr'sents Doe make assigne Constitute ordein and in my place and stead put my welbeloved Friend Richard Johns of the Clifts aforesaid Planter my true and lawfull Attorny as well for me and in my name and to my owne proper use

Here we have Edward Perrin, a merchant from Bristol who was assigning his power of attorney in Maryland to his Quaker Friend Richard Johns. The previous section described Edward in Bristol through 1665, with his marriage to Jane Hort. This chapter will continue with his life in Bristol as well as show his extensive activities in America.


As this and the next chapter will refer a lot to America it is important to get a sense of the English colonies in the late seventeenth century. Virginia was first settled in 1607 and Maryland in 1634. In both colonies settlement clustered on the coast, and the important export was tobacco. The map below, from 1673, defines the situation quite nicely.

1673 maryland map

A 1673 Map of Maryland and Virginia

I encourage you to look at the detail of this map, either by clicking on its icon, or going to the American Memory site and searching for it. The comments along the edges of the map teach more of the times than the map itself. Please note that in 1673 there was no Pennsylvania, and the northern boundary of Maryland (the 40th parallel) was further north than present day Philadelphia. That fact will prove important later in this history.

In contrast Pennsylvania, chartered in 1681, was settled by farmers, predominately along the Delaware River but also inland. Its economy did not depend upon a cash crop. As of 1719 the Maryland and Pennsylvania map showed a tenuous border compromise between the Maryland (fortieth parallel) and Pennsylvania (thirty ninth parallel) claims.

1719 maryland map

Northern Maryland and adjacent Pennsylvania, 1719. © Talbot County [Maryland] Free Library

Maryland proved early to be tolerant of the Quaker faith. The Quaker Meeting at the Clifts was mentioned in George Fox's journal when the Quaker leader visited America from 1671 to 1673 (His journal may also tell you more about experiencing a trip from England to Maryland (via the West Indies) then, as well as the landscape between Maryland and New York at that time) . This Meeting took place at Johns' residence at the Clifts until at least 1710 . The Clifts, bluffs along the west side of Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County, can be seen on this portion of the 1673 map.

Clifts location

The Clifts along Calvert County, from the 1673 map
north is to the right

Now to me it is ambiguous whether Edward, in his use of the term Friend, was referring to John as a Quaker or not. The same noun was used in 1760 by Edmond Cartlidge when he assigned his Power of Attorney to John Perrins. (Perhaps some barrister can tell me whether I should assign any special significance to this word). It was at Richard Johns' house that the Quaker Meeting took place at the Clifts until at least 1710, according to the records at the Maryland State Archives. These records show that there was an active Friends meeting house at this location as early as 1672. (More information on this family can be found here.)

Edward in America


There are perhaps ten records concerning Edward Perrin in Maryland:

Date Event Reference
August 11, 1667 Money owed to Edward Perrin (Perogative Court)
December, 1672 Richard Salway of Worcester, brother of Anthony Salway, designated Edward Perrin power of attorney to settle Anthony's estate
May 3, 1673 Edward Perrin ready to testify that William Thomas traveled with him to Bristol in May 1671, dying there
1676 Suit between Edward Perrin and Daniel Clarke
1679 Edward sold the Anthony Salway property
May 30, 1681 Edward designated Richard Johns his power of attorney
1681 - 1683 Suit in Provincial Court between Edward Perrin and Anthony Norwood
October 9, 1683 Edward bought 250 acres of land in Calvert County
April 7, 1685 Edward sold said 250 acres
March 17, 1690 Payments to Edward Perrin and Richard Johns from the James Russey estate

These records indicate Edward's presence in Maryland on several separate occasions. The breadth of Edward's activities in Maryland suggest it was his base of operations in America and that he may have spent extended periods of time there.

Edward in Virginia

It is quite reasonable to attribute the following record to Edward Perrin. The following letter was written by William Byrd of Virginia to his business associates Perry and Lane in England . Byrd lived at Westover, on the navigable portion of the James River. The letter included a reference to Ruddle, who was a brother-in-law of Edward, as explained below.

To Perry & Lane

Virg'a Jan'ry 9th 1685


       My last to you was by hall who I hope is near his port by this time, have little now to trouble you, but acquaint you of our Wellfares, & y't I designe to write Suddenly to you by Perrin, a Small west country man (who comeing from Barbados) wee bought his Cargoe, & hired his ship. Hee takes me in ab't 30 H''ds Tob'o I hope hee will not bee long after this. I shall charge bills of Ex'ce on you for my share of his goods w:h I hope you'l pay accordingly, ffraight is yet Scarce, Wee are in great want of ye Culpeper, of whom as yett I hear no news. Ruddles (I suppose) will Saile in a moneth by whom shall Send my Invoice, not knowing yet wat to ppose or trade being orestocked not else but with best respects take leave

Yo'r ffriend & Servant

This letter provides a lot of insight into the life of a trader in those times. The colonist was happy to receive any sort of supply, presumably hard goods, cloth and perhaps even food. The trader probably brought such supplies from England, first to Barbados to trade for sugar and then to America to trade for tobacco.

One piece of information that is hard to ignore comes from the Bristol Registry of Indentured Servants. This list, started in 1654 and maintained through 1685, apparently was begun to cut down on abuses exercised on the part of ship captains and others. Stories abound of men and women being abducted from the streets of Bristol and taken to America, where they were sold to landowners for periods of three to eight years. As the concept of indenture was legal, the city merely insisted that, if a person were to be sent on contract to America, there should be an identifiable buyer there. Great detail on this subject (albeit from a Marxist perspective, not that there is anything wrong with that) can be found in a book I cited in the previous section .

The Bristol list included two entries of interest:

  1. November 6, 1666. Elizabeth Manford, to Edward Perrin for four years, Virginia .
  2. June 4, 1679. Edward Poole to Edward Perrin for six years, Virginia .

Careful examination of the Perrins of Virginia in the seventeenth century (this family arrived in Jamestown in the 1620s) shows there were no Edward's among them. Furthermore I am impressed with how the sailing of these two indentured persons coincide well with my guesses at the times which Edward Perrin of Bristol may have traveled to America. I believe one explanation for these entries is that Edward signed for these people to go to America, despite their not having an identifiable sponsor in America. If I were feeling cynical, I would say that Edward possessed contracts on them which he fully intended to sell upon their arrival in America (or the West Indies), and this circumvention of the law was just part of a day's work when it came to being a merchant.

Another digression. It is common to think of the Quakers as a pious people, and indeed their opposition to war greatly hindered Pennsylvania politics in the 1750s. But there was no movement against slavery by this church until the 1720s, and some Pennsylvania Quakers owned slaves until 1750. So if Edward was involved in human trafficking, it was not outside the norm of behavior. Besides, he was a small timer compared to the Bristol Quakers who cheerfully embraced the African slave trade just a generation later.

Edward in Pennsylvania

Much by accident I found a document in the Pennsylvania Historical Society witnessed by Edward Perrin . The document was dated September 20, 1685, and concernd the conditions of indenture for one Anthony Tomkins of New Castle County (now Delaware). While I have not had the patience yet to determine the full text of this document, which I believe includes the substitution of Negroes and cash for Mr. Tomkin's term of indenture, the signatures of the witnesses are easy to read

Edward Perrin's 1685 signature

Edward Perrin's signature, 1685. © Pennsylvania Historical Society

Note the other witness on the document, as his name (Robinson) will appear again very shortly below.

Edward in Bristol

Among the Quakers

While Edward may have been married for the first time in 1661 in the Church of England, he appeared several times after 1670 in the Society of Friends Men's Meeting records. The first Meeting record quoted here confirms that this Edward Perrin would be the same man as found in the Maryland records :

Joel Gilson and Jane Fletcher are permitted to publish their intention of marriage, for that there appeares no reasonable cause why it should bee longer deferd. Wm. Canons of Bristoll havinge testifyed in the mens meeting that her late husband Joseph Fletcher dyed in said Josephs death is further verified by Edward Perrin a freind of this citty: & under his hand as followeth.
I doe hereby certify that John Clements livinge in great Choptanke in Maryland, beinge a man of credit, did informe me in the tenth month past (I being then in Maryland, The truth of which informacion of his death hee had from a freind the man of the house where the said Joseph Fletcher lodged when he dyed.) that hee helped to put Joseph Fletcher in the grave, and that diverse other persons of creditt did also informe mee that the said Joseph was dead. Wittnes my hand this 17th of 8ber [1670].
Edward Perin.

It is not clear to me from the wording of this record if Edward had sent a message from Maryland to the Meeting, or if he was in Bristol at that time. The next Quaker record was in 1677 , at the time of Edward's second marriage. It was customary for both bride and groom to announce their plans, and then obtain permission from the Men's and Women's meeting for the union, subject to background checks as noted before:

24th of 7th month [September] 1677
Edward Perin and Mary Robinson did this day lay their intentions of mariage before this meeting, desireing that they might have liberty to have the same caried on and accomplished in the way, & order of friends; the father & mother of said Mary being present; did signify their consent; and produced a certificate from the friends of Youghall in Ireland where shee hath formerly been resident, to the friends of this meeting of her deportment there in the truth, with her being cleare from all other persons on the account of mariage, so far as they know.

Please excuse a short digression regarding the people called Quakers. The records which they kept of births, marriages and deaths will be the best we will see for another two hundred years in this family history. Whenever the originals, as opposed to registry material, are available they provide a picture of the community as well as simple facts. Consider the marriage certificate presented below for Richard Gotley and Rachel Doleing in 1679 :

Gotley Doleing marriage

Marriage Certificate for Richard and Rachel Gotley

The text reads (for easier reading, substitute "the" for "ye" and "that" for "yt):

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Whereas it doth appear by ye records of ye Mens Meeting of ye people of ye Lord called Quakers in ye Citty of Bristoll, That Richard Gotley Sonn of John Gotley of this Citty & Rachell Doleing ye daughter of James Doleing of Bristoll afores'd did upon ye fifth day of ye Eighth Month in ye year 1679 Manifest their intentions of marriage,

The document was signed by John and Rachel Gotley. Below them Edward and Mary Perrin had signed. Mary will prove to be Rachel's sister.

Births and Deaths

The Bristol Quaker records include the following entries for this Perrin family.

To summarize, the Quaker record would suggest that Edward became a Friend some time before 1671. I suspect his initial connection to the Bristol Meeting was through John Hort, possibly Edward's father-in-law; John Hort was mentioned in the Bristol Meeting records as early as 1667 . If John Hort was the father of Jane, then I think it is likely Edward became a Quaker possibly as early as 1665.

Edward had two children (at least) from his first wife Jane Hort. Of his second wife, Mary Robinson, there were four children alive as of the end of these records, the oldest, Thomas, born in 1678. The family moved at least once. Once again, this list is interesting to us three centuries later as it shows the value of a first name in the family; as the older children named Thomas and Edward died, their names were used again for children born later.

Later Years

While Edward Perrin missed (perhaps because he was out of town) most of the persecutions of the Friends in Bristol, it was noted that he was fined £220 in 1683 for "Absence from the national worship" .

Later Monthly Meeting records from the Friends in Bristol provide scant information about Edward. There is a sequence in 1693 and 1694 where the Meeting helped "resolve" a dispute between him and Thomas Willis . In 1696 he was on a list of donors for a charity :

Men's Meeting 26th eighth month [October] 1696
It is the agreement of this meeting that for the setting the poore at worke in the weaveing trade the aforesaid two hundred pounds shalbe putt in to the hands of Jeoffry Pinnell, Charles Harford, Phillip Popleston & Arther Thomas or one of them.
And for as much as the said two hundred pounds is money left by will for the use of the poore to be disposed of at the descretion of som particuler persons.
To that end the said Money may not be lost by trade &c. Wee whose names are hereunder written doe Ingadge, that in case a loss shall happen on the same wee will make good our proportion of the same, not exceeding our particuler subscription hereunto, and farther this money shalbe imployed in this affaire soe long & noe longer then the major part of the subscribers shall thinck fitt, provided they make their demands in the mens meeting.

In this instance he was a small donor, of only 5 pounds, compared to large donations (up to 20 pounds) by people such as Thomas Callowhill. However, this document is of some significance, as this charity "enterprise" is now considered the first instance in England of an institution that became known as the "workhouse". By the time of the Industrial Revolution conditions in such places were not good, and their charitable intent was quite besmirched.

According to a letter sent to the Quaker Meeting sometime after 1690, Edward Perrin (as well as Richard Gotley) sent his children to the Quaker school founded by Patrick Logan, and later run by James Logan..

Finally, Mortimer's summary of Edward Perrin reports that his wife Mary died in 1693 . I have not found any information to state that fact directly, although it is very consistent with what is known from her in-laws, as presented below.

Edward's Death


Edward wrote his will in 1702 :

Edward Perrin will

Beginning of Edward Perrin's Will, 1702, from the U.K. National Archives

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In the Name of God Amen

I Edward Perrin of the City of Bristol Merchant being of sound and disposing mind memory and understanding and being sensible of the uncertainty of this mortal Life and the certainty of Death

Do therefor make this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following hereby revoking and adnulling all former Wills by me heretofore made and this to be my last Will and Testament in manner and form following that is to say

The will mentioned the four known children. Thomas, the only member of the family who was over twenty one, was the executor of the will; the three "younger" children, Edward, Susannah and Anne were not yet eighteen years of age.

There is a lot of property mentioned. Son Thomas received two houses on Castle Street in Bristol, in the newly developed Castle district (this being the land occupied by the Bristol Castle which was destroyed in 1656) and also "all my Land in Virginia or Maryland Pennsylvania or elsewhere in America" . I have not been able to identify any land still owned by Edward Perrin in these colonies as of 1700; as I noted above the land that he did manage in Maryland was sold within his lifetime.

The three younger children received Edward's residence, whose location is not identified in the will. Son Edward was to receive two houses north of the Castle district on Broad Mead, as well as three houses "built there myself" on Chappel Street; this street is not on the 1673 Bristol map, and judging from later maps probably is about one-half mile upstream from the central city, thus qualifying as a suburb. Aside from son Edward inheriting his father's watch (not a trivial gift at that time) most everything else was divided up evenly.

The final gem to be found here is the list of "Overseers" of this will: brother-in-law Robert Ruddle, along with Cornelius Sarjant and Benjamin Morse of Bristol. Robert Ruddle married Ann Dowlen (the sister of Rachel Doleing whose marriage was discussed above) in Bristol on August 31, 1682 . Her father James Dowlen in his will from 1695 bequeathed to each of his children one broad piece of gold; included in the list was Mary Perrin, Junr. . Similarly, the will of James' wife Susannah from 1709 stated

Then I give unto my Grandchildren Susanna Anne and Edward Peryn Children of my Daughter Mary and unto the Survivors and Survivor of them five pounds apiece

It therefore seems likely that Edward's second wife was Mary Dowlen, who was a widow, her first husband named Robertson. That she came from Youghall, Ireland makes sense, as her brother James Dowlen had married there in 1669 . So not only would the Ruddle and Perrin family be related; the Perrin and Gotley family would be as well. This intermarriage among the three families will make the story of the next section, regarding Thomas Perrin, more intricate.

A Reference to William Penn

While Edward's will was probated in 1709, the time of Edward's actual demise can be inferred from a letter written by the most famous member of the Bristol Quaker's Meeting, William Penn. He had received from the King lands in America as payment for debts owed to his father, proceeding to found Pennsylvania in 1681, establishing there a colony with its own Quaker style. I will speak more to the politics of the region later . Personally, however, Penn was not an administrator (to be kind, William Penn was long on ideas and short on practicalities), and went into debt managing his American lands. Thus, his second marriage in 1695 to Hannah Callowhill of Bristol has been seen as one of financial convenience.

William and Hannah stayed in Bristol until traveling to Pennsylvania in 1700. Accompanying them as personal secretary was the young James Logan, mentioned above regarding the Bristol Quaker school. The Penns returned to Bristol in 1702 for financial reasons, living there until 1709; Logan stayed in Pennsylvania, dying there in 1751 and returning to England only briefly from 1710 - 1712.

A letter from William Penn to James Logan in Philadelphia, dated March 1,1702/3, included the local Bristol obituaries . (Please note for later the reference to the Susquehanna purchase, and Penn's musing as to whether that land should actually prove to be within the bounds of Lord Baltimore.)

For news, domestick & forraign, besides the pamphlets, I referr thee to the Bearer, above all books & persons that goene hence to you, only upon truths acct we are generally well & easy. Jer. Hignal, T. Gilpin - Perrin, deceas'd. give my Dr. love to all Frds, & to the officers in Govermt my remembrance. also J.S. & Mary. of whose care & faithfullness I have no doubt. My wife joyns with me in the same, & to thy selfe, with a frequent remembrance of thee & dilligence for us, & concerne that nothing is now sent thee as a token thereof wch yet shall be if possible. only I have sent some hats, one for Gr. owen, & tother intended for Ed. Shippen, wch thou mayst take, wth this Just excuse, that the Brim being to narrow for his age & heighth, I intend him one wth a larger brim & [so?] soon as I saw it, told the frd so that m[a]de it. neith[er?] [torn]ing profitable [torn] I thought it handsom tho I pinch here, to be sure. If my son send hounds, as he has provided 2 or 3 couple, of Choice ones, hounds that will follow a man as well as deer, foxes & woolves; pray let great care be taken of them, & J. So[tc]her quarter them about, as wth young W. Biles &c: I also recommend Randal Janny about the sasquehanagh purchass to us[e] him kindly and easily therin: of all wch more by my son, but if that should prove within Balt bounds I should make a Count[r]y for him, but I think to fasten that matter wth ant. sharp. I add no more but my good wishes, & leave all to the secreet wise ordering of my good God, & close

Thy reall Friend Wm Penn

Alexand: [blank] and [blank] Milner married last week at Bristoll poor Mic. Russel senr dyed by an apoplectick stroak last month. vale.


Edward Perrin demonstrated, for the first time in this history, a successful transition from country to city, from rich peasant to middle class. He progressed from being a simple tradesman to merchant partially through hard work, but also through Quaker business connections which he further cemented by marriage. This sort of social evolution will occur again when the Perrins reached Pittsburgh.

The next section is concerned with the fates of Edward's children, as they swam in a much bigger pond in London in an attempt for even more economic enhancement.