Edward Perrin the Quaker

Recorded in the Archives of Maryland is a document dated 1681 which speaks for itself :

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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

The previous section described Edward Perrrin in Bristol through 1665, with his marriage to Jane Hort in 1661. This section will focus on Edward as he becomes part of Quaker society in Bristol. In addition, while tracing Edward's travels to the New World, I can introduce background concerning colonial Maryland.

Edward and the Bristol Quakers

While Edward may married in 1661 in the Church of England, he may have joined the Quaker Meeting in the mid 1660s. His father-in-law John Hort was mentioned in the Bristol Meeting records as early as 1667 .

In 1670 Edward's name first appeared in the Society of Friends Bristol Men's Meeting records. The record quoted here implies that Edward had sent a message from Maryland to the Bristol Meeting :

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 [October, 1670].
Edward Perin.

After 1670 the Bristol Quaker birth and burial records included the following entries for Edward Perrin's family.

Marriage to Mary Robinson

The next Quaker Meeting record was in 1677 . It concerned Edward's second marriage:

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.

While a modern reader may feel that the Meeting conducted an excessive amount of intrusion into the private affairs of its members, we have as a result a goldmine of information. 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. Because of the Meeting record we know that Mary Robinson's parents are in Bristol, and that she has been living in Youghall in Ireland. Edward Perrin and Mary Robinson married November 12, 1677 .

Later records show that Mary was the daughter of James and Susannah Dowlen. James Dowlen in his will from 1695 bequeathed to each of his children one broad piece of gold; included in that list was Mary Perrin, Junr. . And 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

The Dowlen family

Indeed, it is possible from the two wills just cited to describe the Dowlen family.. The rough family tree drawn below includes the information from those wills, as well as marriages and deaths from the Quaker registry in Ireland

Dowlen family

Rough Family Tree for the Dowlen Family

Both of James Dowlen's marriages, and his death, occurred in Youghall, Ireland between 1675 and 1682. I can assume that Mary Dowlen had married a person named Robinson who also died in Youghall during that same time period. Marriage records are also availble from Bristol for Rachel and Ann to Richard Gotley  and Robert Ruddle , respectively. Those later marriage records are very extensive: consider the marriage certificate 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. Note that Edward and Mary Perrin signed prominently, signifying that they are family.

Edward's children from his first marriage to Jane had died before he remarried. The Bristol Quaker records include the following births and burials for Edward and Mary.

With his second wife, Mary Robinson, Edward had four children who survived childhood. The oldest, Thomas, was born in 1678. As was customary in that time, the name Thomas was used a second time in this family as the first Thomas had died. The names Ann and Edward probably come from Perrin ancestors; the names James and Sussanah came from Mary's parents. Finally, the records show that the family moved at least once.

Edward in America


Since this and the next several sections refer a lot to America it is important to get a sense of the midatlantic English colonies in the late seventeenth century. Virginia was first settled in 1607; 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

It is worthwhile to look at this map in detail, either by clicking on its icon, or going to the Library of Congress American Memory site. The comments along the edges of the map teach more about 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.

Pennsylvania, chartered in 1681, was initially settled by a mixture of Quakers of all sorts of occupations. They initially bought land along the Delaware River, joining a small number of Swedes and Dutch who had settled there in the preceding 50 years. Its economy did not depend upon a cash crop like Maryland or Virginia. 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

Although initially settled by Catholics, Maryland proved to be tolerant of the Quaker faith, with Quakers arriving as early as 1659. The Quaker Meeting at the Clifts was mentioned in George Fox's journal when that Quaker leader visited America (1671 to 1673) . 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

I have outlined the life of Richard Johns and the location of his residence on a separate web page. In the quotation at the top of this section it is ambiguous whether Edward, in his use of the term Friend, was referring to John as a Quaker or not. The same usage of "Friend" appears again in 1760 when Edmond Cartlidge assigned his Power of Attorney to John Perrins.

Edward in Maryland

I know of ten Maryland records placing Edward Perrin in Maryland. There may have been more, but courthouse fires in Calvert and St. Mary Counties eliminated a majority of the deeds and wills from those counties.

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. His testimony in 1673, when he stated he traveled with William Thomas to Bristol in 1671, establishes his first visit between 1667 and 1671, and a second visit starting no later than 1673. Appointing Richard Johns his power of attorney in 1681 implies he went back to Bristol then as well. The Maryland records after 1681 are discussed in detail elsewhere. The breadth of Edward's activities in Maryland suggest it was his base of operations in America and that he spent extended periods of time there.

Edward in Virginia

I can attribute the following record to Edward Perrin of Bristol. This 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.

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

Please note that in the above quotation William Byrd mentioned "Ruddles", i.e. Robert Ruddle, Edward Perrin's brother-in-law, as his usual supplier of goods. In another section I try to identify the nature of Perrin's goods on his ship.

Edward may have sold indentured servants to the Virginia colonists as well. Bristol maintained a Registry of Indentured Servants. This list, kept from 1654 through 1685, 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 .

No one named Edward Perrin can be found in the Perrins of Virginia in the seventeenth century (this Perrin family arrived in Jamestown in the 1620s). 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 Edward possessed contracts on these persons which he fully intended to sell upon their arrival in America.

Edward and the slave trade

Two suits, filed in 1686 and 1692, have provided a wealth of evidence about Edward's activity in the trans-Atlantic trade of slaves . The description of these suits, and the 1684 - 1686 voyages that they entail, are found elsewhere.

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 and Richard Gotley sent their 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 primary records to confirm that fact directly.

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.

A Reference to William Penn

Edward was buried on Dec 18, 1702 in Bristol and his will was probated in 1709.

Edward's demise was important enough to be included in a letter written by the most famous member of the Bristol Quaker Meeting, William Penn. After receiving land in America as payment for debts the King owed his father, he founded 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. His coming to Bristol in 1695 to marry Hannah Callowhill has been seen as a strategy for financial relief.

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.)

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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.


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.