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Collection Number: 02228

Collection Title: Thomas Baylie Cropper Papers, 1832-1879.

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 200 items)
Abstract Thomas Baylie Cropper was a sea captain and the son of Catherine West Cropper (d. 1855) of Accomack County, Va. Cropper commanded several transatlantic merchant ships that sailed out of Philadelphia and New York. In 1843, he married Rosina Mix (fl. 1833-1878) with whom he had three children: Catherine (b. 1844), Rose (b. 1846), and John (b. 1848). Family members represented include Thomas's two sisters, Elizabeth C. Gibb and Ann C. Arbuckle Savage; two brothers, P. W. and Coventon; his niece Catherine F. Gibb; and his cousin superior court judge and congressman Thomas Henry Bayly. The collection is primarily family and business letters, 1832-1848, received by Thomas Baylie Cropper. The letters document the personal, financial, economic, religious, and political affairs of Cropper's relatives and others in Accomack County. Topics include farm affairs, family life, the presidential election of 1844 and the political battles in the mid-1840s between the Whigs and the Democrats, and splits in the Methodist church. There is not much information on politics and religion after 1847. Some information appears on Cropper's activities as a ship's captain and on his life in New York City. Financial and other items include bills, receipts, and invitations that relate chiefly to Cropper's son John of New York City.
Creator Cropper, Thomas Baylie, d. 1855.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Thomas Baylie Cropper Papers #2228, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
All or part of this collection is available on microfilm from University Publications of America as part of the Records of ante-bellum southern plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War, Series J.
Acquisitions Information
Gift of Mrs. Elizabeth H. Martin of Brooklyn, New York, in 1940 and Maxine L. Hall of San Diego, Calif., in May 2003 (Acc. 99508).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Thomas Baylie Cropper (d. 1855), a sea captain and participant in the Gold Rush of the 1850s, was the son of Catherine West Cropper (d. 1855) of Accomack County, Virginia. Cropper commanded a number of transatlantic merchant ships. Between 1832 and 1838 he sailed out of Philadelphia on the Montezuma, the Algonquin, and the Susquehanna From the spring of 1838 through 1848, he sailed out of New York on the Columbus, the New York, and the West Point At least after 1838, and perhaps earlier, he was employed by Charles H. Marshall of New York.

In 1843, Cropper married Rosina Mix (fl. 1843-1878), and together they had three children: Catharine, called Kitty (b. 1844); Rose (b. 1846); and John (b. 1848).

Thomas Baylie Cropper had two sisters, Elizabeth (Eliza) and Ann. Eliza married a schoolteacher, Joseph Gibb, and lived with him in several Accomack County locations, including Drummond Town, Pungoteague, and Metompkin Island. The Gibbs had six children: Elizabeth (Lizzy), Ann, Catharine T., John J., William J., and Tom. Ann first married George Arbuckle, then, in 1838, Major John Savage. The Savages lived in Gargotha, in Accomack County, and had at least one daughter, Lizzie.

Cropper had two brothers, P. W. (fl. 1832) of Assawamaw, and Coventon (C. H.), who farmed on Thomas Baylie Cropper's farm, Edgehill, in Accomack County. Coventon, called Covey, married a woman named Leah, who died in 1838, soon after the birth of their daughter, Isabella. He then married a woman named Sarah. Coventon possibly had another daughter, Kate.

Thomas Henry Bayly, superior court judge between 1842 and 1844 and U.S. congressman from 1844 until his death in 1856, was a cousin to Thomas Cropper. U.S. Congressman, Henry A. Wise, was also a cousin.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

This collection consists primarily of family and business letters, 1832-1848, received by Thomas Baylie Cropper. The bulk of the family letters document the personal, financial, economic, religious, and political affairs of Cropper's Accomack County, Virginia, relatives. Some information appears in the business letters on his activities as a ship's captain, but it offers only limited insight into his day-to-day routine, touching mostly on personal business ventures, such as importing cattle; favors he did for relatives and friends while abroad; and his role as a mentor and guardian for young sailors.

Nothing appears in the letters on Cropper's family life with his wife and children or on his Gold Rush days. There is only limited information on Rosina Mix.

Though much of the information contained in his family's letters to him pertain to their personal affairs, discussion frequently appears on the political battles of Accomack County in the mid- to late-1840s between the Whigs and the Democrats and the religious controversies raging over northern versus southern control of the Methodist church. Only limited information appears on politics or religion after 1847.

Most of the financial items, principally bills and receipts for household improvements, and miscellaneous items, chiefly invitations, in Series 2 relate to Thomas Cropper's son, John Cropper of New York City. John Cropper owned several residences in the city. A few items appear for Thomas Cropper himself, his wife, Rosina, and his mother-in-law, Mrs. E. Mix.

Locations in Accomack County that figure in this collection include Berlin, Drummond Town, Gargotha, Metompkin Island, and Pungoteague.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1832-1868 and undated.

152 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Family and business letters received by Captain Thomas Baylie Cropper while commander of several merchant vessels between 1832 and 1848, and scattered family letters received by Rosina Mix Cropper in the 1850s. One item appears addressed to Mrs. Mix, Rosina's mother, in 1868.

Captain Cropper sailed out of Philadelphia between 1832 and early 1838, and early letters are addressed to him in care of Philadelphia merchants Robert Williams, Thomas Cope & Co., and H. & A. Cope, and in Liverpool at the Starr and Garter Inn. Beginning in the spring of 1838, he sailed out of New York, where he received mail at the Astor House, in care of his employer, Charles H. Marshall, and in care of Goodhue & Co. Beginning in 1846, he and his family took up residence on East 14th Street. He also received letters through Baring Bros. in Liverpool.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.1. 1832-1839.

49 items.

About two thirds business letters received by Captain Thomas B. Cropper, while he commanded the merchant vessels, Montezuma, Algonquin, and Susquehanna, sailing between Philadelphia and Liverpool, and during the first year of his command of the Columbus, sailing between New York and Liverpool. The remaining third are letters from Cropper's relatives in Accomack County, Virginia.

Most of the business letters pertain to Cropper's activities as a sea captain and include letters of introduction; inquiries concerning sailing schedules, passenger rates, and items shipped; letters of thanks from passengers; and requests from friends and associates for Cropper to procure English goods for them. Of particular interest among the letters is one, dated 29 May 1838, from Cropper's employer, Charles Marshall, which discusses Cropper's salary and his taking command of the Columbus. Also of note is a letter from Thomas T. Cropper in New York, dated 29 September 1838, pertaining to a vessel the writer was having built and requesting a recommendation for a Captain Coalbern. Thomas T. Cropper seems to have been in the shipping business. A final item of interest is a letter of 26 January 1839 from A. Graham of Easton, Virginia, concerning the possibility of his son, George, becoming an apprentice seaman aboard the Columbus.

Cropper also received letters concerning his personal financial ventures. Two associates, Edward Taylor Randolph of Philadelphia and Paschall Morris of Allenton, Pennsylvania, wrote him frequently in 1837 and 1838 concerning the importing and breeding of English cattle, a activity in which the three engaged together. They were particularly interested in the Durham Short Horned and Ayrshire breeds.

Family letters give mostly news of relatives and friends in Accomack County, noting courtships and marriages, illnesses and deaths, visits, local church news, and quarrels within the family and neighborhood. Frequent writers include Cropper's sisters, Eliza Gibb and Ann Arbuckle Savage; his niece, Catharine F. Gibb; his friend, S. Edwards; and his cousin, Catharine K. B. Jaynes.

Of interest among the early letters is one, dated 14 August 1832, from Cropper's brother, P. W. Cropper in Assawamaw, Virginia, which mentions a recent promotion Captain Cropper had received. This is the only letter appearing in the collection from P. W. Cropper, who may have died soon after. Also of interest is a letter, dated 21 September 1837, from a friend, William Jaynes, at the University of Virginia, apologizing for his failure to repay a loan and describing his travels in Virginia and financial woes in detail.

Ann C. Arbuckle wrote from Mt. William's until October 1838, when she moved to Gargotha upon marrying Major John Savage. Of note among her letters is one of 19 January 1838 that mentioned an attempt by pirates to take the Susquehanna, and another of 9 October 1838, that discussed her marriage, the death of their sister-in-law, Leah Cropper, and their mother's receiving a pension from Congress. She hoped that she would be able to raise Leah's daughter, Isabella. Eliza Gibb also wrote in December about Leah Cropper's death. She reported as well that she was moving to Pungoteague, and wrote again in April 1839 from there concerning who was to raise Isabella and giving neighborhood news. Of interest in her letter is mention of a local minister's having been let go from his post. S. Edwards of Berlin, Virginia, wrote in April and July and gave additional details of the minister's discharge. He also described events in his church, which seems to have been Episcopalian, including the visit of a Bishop Doane.

Other items of interest are letters from Catharine Jaynes in Eastville, dated 14 January and 18 September, in which she discussed her hope that Captain Cropper would become a Christian, her approval of his forbidding alcohol aboard his ship, and her hopes for his eventual marriage despite her observations regarding its unpleasant aspects. A letter from Catharine F. Gibb on 20 December 1839 related neighborhood news and the plans she was making for attending school. Single letters appear from Cropper's mother, Catharine West Cropper, in 1832, and his cousin, Sally Bayly at Mt. Custis, a farm in Accomack County, in 1838.

Individuals frequently discussed in the family letters include Judge Thomas H. Bayly and his wife, Evelyn, cousin Jane Bayly, cousin Henry Wise, an Uncle Thomas, and Cropper's sister Ann and brother Coventon.

Folder 1

1832-1837 #02228, Subseries: "1.1. 1832-1839." Folder 1

Folder 2

1838 #02228, Subseries: "1.1. 1832-1839." Folder 2

Folder 3

1839 #02228, Subseries: "1.1. 1832-1839." Folder 3

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. 1840-1848.

90 items.

About two-thirds letters from relatives and friends in Accomack County, and one-third business letters pertaining to Cropper's position as captain of the Columbus, the New York, and the West Point. Cropper's most frequent correspondents in this period were his brother, Coventon (C. H.); his sisters, Eliza Gibb and Ann Arbuckle Savage; and his niece, Catharine Gibb. His cousins, Thomas H. Bayly and T. T. Cropper, and his friend, Edmond Allen, also wrote on occasion.

Political disputes in Accomack County often dominated Coventon Cropper's, Edmond Allen's, and sometimes Eliza Gibb's letters. Allen wrote from Drummond Town on 21 August 1840 concerning elections and described the exciting battle between Whigs and Democrats. He mentioned the Whig "log cabin convention" in Pungoteague, speeches given, and a mob's opposition to Judge Thomas H. Bayly. Coventon Cropper wrote from Edgehill on 13 March and 24 April 1843 concerning the Democratic Convention, local candidates, and their cousin Henry Wise's nomination as minister to France. On 24 April, he mentioned a four-and-one-half-hour speech Wise had given in Drummond Town that had moved his listeners to tears. Religious and economic tensions also seem to have been running high in the county, as Cropper often mentioned hard times, and, on 7 July 1843, described a fist fight that had broken out over religious matters.

Both Coventon and Eliza wrote in the spring and fall of 1844 about the great excitement the election of that year evoked in the county, describing local upheavals over politics. On 1 December, Coventon expressed his unhappiness over the election, bemoaning the "ingratitude of the nation" in its failure to elect Henry Clay and resigning himself to the "second experiment of General Jackson," as he referred to Polk's upcoming presidency. Also of note is a letter of 5 March 1844, in which Eliza reported Henry Wise's departure to become minister to Brazil.

Politics and religion continued to occupy the thoughts of many of the Cropper family between 1845 and 1847. On 18 March 1845, Coventon wrote speculating on Thomas Bayly's chances of reelection to Congress; listing local legislative candidates; and musing over possible trouble between England and the United States. Catharine Gibb described, on 30 April 1845, the great excitement in the county over the election and the loss of Whigs. She indicated her own and her uncle Coventon's political leanings in her remark, "We Whigs laugh at Uncle Covey and tell him, he is 'on the fence,' that is between the two parties." She also alluded to possible trouble between England, the United States, and Brazil.

Fervor over religion continued to grow as well. Eliza, on 28 July 1845, described a camp meeting just south of Drummond Town that drew over 1,000 participants. In a letter, dated 16 February 1846, to Cropper's wife, Rosina, Ann Savage discussed the conflict brewing between the county judge and the Methodists in Accomack County. Religious conflicts reached within the family as well. In late 1846, Eliza and Ann quit communicating because of a religious disagreement (see 27 December 1846). Eliza wrote in March blaming the illness of Ann Savage's daughter, Lizzie, on religious overexcitement.

On 26 April 1847, Eliza reported anger among local Methodists over the county court's having banned the Methodist Advocate because of its abolitionist leanings. She also reported that the debate over having Northern preachers in the church was sharply dividing the people. The "question everywhere," she wrote, "is are you North or South." The family's relationship with Ann Savage also worsened. Savage wrote on 2 May 1847 that she had little to do with her relations because of their implication of the church in Lizzie's illness and her brother Coventon's drinking.

As 1847 wore on, the situation in the county deteriorated. On 1 September 1847, Catharine Gibb described an armed mob in Drummond Town that had attempted to kill Judge Thomas H. Bayly on court day over the North versus South issue. He, his wife Evelyn, and their daughter, Nannie, had to be locked in the county jail to protect them. Little information appears on politics after 1847. One letter, dated 1 June 1848, from Coventon mentions the Tory party (in which he placed Thomas) and the Whig convention, and one letter, dated 10 August 1848, from Eliza concerns her husband's attendance at a meeting of the Sons of Temperance, which he had joined in 1847. Almost all the letters in 1848 are from Coventon and discuss improvements he was making to the house and mill at Edgehill.

In addition to politics and religion, Cropper family letters frequently discuss farming activities (especially Coventon Cropper's), family illnesses and deaths, marriages, visits, local events, and fears for Thomas's safety at sea. Several letters are of interest, including one of 5 July 1841, in which Catharine Gibb described a local 4th of July celebration. Ann Savage wrote from Gargotha on 8 March 1843 mentioning Thomas Cropper's engagement to Rosina Mix. Two letters appear, written on 3 and 5 March 1844, from friends congratulating Cropper on the birth of his daughter, Catharine (Kitty). News of note in other letters are Eliza's move to Metompkin Island in March 1845, where her husband opened a school; smallpox aboard the New York in 1845; local boat races; Thomas Cropper's taking command of the West Point (see 1 September 1847); and the running aground of a New Orleans bark, the Mauran of Providence, at Gargotha in December 1847.

A few letters appear from Judge Thomas H. Bayly in 1840 and 1843, written while he travelled in Norfolk and Petersburg, and from his home, Mount Custis, in Accomack County. He said little of politics and focused instead on his wishes for Cropper to quit the sea, marry, and settle down in Accomack County. His letters give news of eligible women and farms for sale in the area. T. T. Cropper of Accomack County wrote on 10 April 1843 concerning the sale of Cropperville, a farm Thomas Cropper was considering buying.

Family members and friends frequently mentioned in the letters include Catharine Cropper, the Jaynes family, the Bayly family, the Custis family, James Ailworth, and Kitty Bagwell.

Business letters concern mostly ship affairs, and include letters of introduction; notes concerning packages shipped; requests for recommendations; requests for the procurement of English goods; and inquiries about passengers and fares. Several individuals wrote concerning seamen under Cropper's employ. On 24 April 1840, A. Graham wrote seeking information on his son, George, a sailor on the Columbus. In a letter of 16 April 1847, Fred Kellam of Pungoteague sought information on his stepson, George Wise, who was a sailor on the New York. Two letters appear in 1844 from John Ker in Eastville asking Cropper to take on his son as a sailor. Another letter of note is from Bagwell Topping of Drummond Town, written 11 May 1848, concerning his son, David, who had left Cropper's employ.

Items of particular note include a letter, dated 15 May 1843, from Charles H. Marshall, concerning Cropper's taking command of the New York; a letter of 4 August 1846, from Thomas T. Cropper, concerning a lawsuit between John and Catharine Wise and Augustus Bagwell of Accomack County; a letter, dated 18 May 1847, from Vespasian(?) Ellis of New York, seeking capitalization for trade among Venezuela, the United States, and England; and a letter, dated 26 June 1847, from Susan Moorhead of Ireland, requesting free passage to the United States for a destitute Irish girl.

Folder 4

1840-1843 #02228, Subseries: "1.2. 1840-1848." Folder 4

Folder 5

1844 #02228, Subseries: "1.2. 1840-1848." Folder 5

Folder 6

1845-1846 #02228, Subseries: "1.2. 1840-1848." Folder 6

Folder 7

1847 #02228, Subseries: "1.2. 1840-1848." Folder 7

Folder 8

1848 #02228, Subseries: "1.2. 1840-1848." Folder 8

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.3. 1855, 1868, and undated.

3 items.

Letters to Thomas Cropper's wife, Rosina, in the mid-1850s. One item appears in 1868 for a Mrs. Mix, probably Rosina's mother.

One dated letter to Rosina, written 11 February 1855 by Ann Savage, describes the death of Catharine West Cropper and conflicts over the administration of her will. In an undated fragment from her cousin, John W. Burbidge of Charleston expressed his perceptions of the worthlessness of the "unhappy and miserable freed [N]egroes" as laborers and the belief that the eastern seaboard would someday be "cultivated by coolies."

The 1868 letter is from Sarah T. Cropper, wife of Coventon Cropper, at Edgehill to Mrs. Mix of New York and concerns her family's attempts to identify a past ancestor whose fortune they stood to inherit. She also mentioned family members, including John, Isabella, Rosey, and Kate.

Folder 9

1855, 1868, and undated #02228, Subseries: "1.3. 1855, 1868, and undated." Folder 9

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Financial and Miscellaneous Items, 1833-1879 and undated.

54 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Mostly invitations, bills, and receipts of Thomas Cropper's son, John Cropper, of New York, with scattered bills and receipts for Thomas B. Cropper, his wife, Rosina Mix Cropper, and his mother-in-law, Mrs. E. Mix, and a few miscellaneous items. Only three antebellum items appear.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1. Antebellum Financial and Miscellaneous Items, 1833, 1837, 1846.

3 items.

A receipt, dated 25 May 1833, to Thomas B. Cropper from Walter Morris, cloth merchant of Liverpool, for broadcloth; a passenger list for the Susquehanna, dated August 1837; and a printed copy of a speech delivered to Congress by Hon. T. H. Bayly of Virginia on "The Harbor Bill..and the Corn Trade of England," delivered 11 March 1846.

Folder 10

Antebellum Financial and Miscellaneous Items #02228, Subseries: "2.1. Antebellum Financial and Miscellaneous Items, 1833, 1837, 1846." Folder 10

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.2. Postwar Financial and Miscellaneous Items, 1868, 1877-1879, and undated.

51 items.

Mostly invitations, bills, and receipts of John Cropper. A few items also appear for Rosina Mix Cropper and Mrs. E. Mix. There are two miscellaneous items.

Thirty-four undated invitations and calling cards appear addressed to John Cropper and his daughters of 105 East 14th Street. Two invitations are addressed to John Cropper at "Lenox" and "Bennett's Cottage." The bills and receipts Cropper received in 1878 and 1879 almost all pertain to household improvements and furnishings for his own and for other residences he may have rented out. Items are from New York housewares manufacturers, Mitchell, Vance & Co. and W. T. & J. Mersereau; chimney specialist, William D. Grant; upholstery importers, Johnson & Faulkner; retail merchants, W. & J. Sloane; plasterer, James Walsh; glass importers, Gilman Collamore & Co.; and merchants, Nicol, Cowlishaw & Co.. The bills mention three addresses: 86 Nassau St., 3 E. 38th St., and 105 East 14th St.

Mrs. E. Mix appears to have lived at 3 East 38th St., where she received bills from Guille, Sarre, and Le Pelley, housepainters and decorators, in 1878, and from Thomas C. Townsend, plumber and gas fitter, in 1879.

Rosina Mix Cropper received bills from William Dibblee, coiffeur and wig maker, in 1877, and John Snedecor, art dealer and framer, in 1878.

Two miscellaneous items are a program for the Charity Ball at the Academy of Music, probably in New York, dated 24 February 1868, and an undated program of music played at Fort Columbus on 28 May 18??.

Folder 11

Postwar financial and miscellaneous items #02228, Subseries: "2.2. Postwar Financial and Miscellaneous Items, 1868, 1877-1879, and undated." Folder 11

Folder 12

Undated postwar items #02228, Subseries: "2.2. Postwar Financial and Miscellaneous Items, 1868, 1877-1879, and undated." Folder 12

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Processing Information

Processed by: Jill Snider, July 1991

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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