Sampson Harvey, sea captain and patriot

mary hervey tombstone
Gravestones of Mary and Sampson Harvey. (Photo courtesy of Historic Gloria Dei Preservation Corporation.

Sacred To the Memory of
Capt. Sampson Hervey
who departed this life
on the 16th of February 1801 aged 70 years
Also
To the Memory
Of Samuel who died July 8, 1783 aged 10 months
Of Harvey who died March 15, 1789 aged 3 years
Of William who died August 16, 1796 aged 5 years
Of William Rodgers who died March 17, 1799 aged 7 months
All the children of William and Rachel Montgomery
and grandchildren of Capt. Hervey

 

 

Pause reader and consider the number and ages
Of those who lie beneath these clods and let
The reflection remind thee of the certainty and
uncertainty of thy doom and excite thee to pre-
pare to “meet” it.

To the Memory of

Mrs. Mary Hervey

Late Wife of

Mr. Sampson Hervey

who departed this life September 1, 1795

 

By MICHAEL SCHREIBER

Sampson Harvey (alternative spelling, “Hervey”) was born in Cornwall, England, on March 14, 1731. After emigrating to Philadelphia, he married Mary Bradford—daughter of merchant William Bradford and Ann Justice. The wedding took place three days after Sampson’s 29th birthday on March 17, 1760.

Although both Sampson and Mary were raised as Presbyterians, their marriage ceremony took place at Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’ Church), which at the time followed Lutheran teachings. Gloria Dei had long been the church of the family of Mary’s mother, the Justices, who had lived in the area since the early Swedish settlement. The Harveys’ son William was born in December 1761 (but died as a child) and their daughter Rachel was born in August 1763; both were baptized at Gloria Dei.* Another child was born around 1768 and died as an infant, and at least four other children died when they were very young.

Sampson Harvey became very active as a parishioner at Gloria Dei; in 1766, he signed a petition to the vestry of the three united Swedish Lutheran churches asking that the Rev. Charles Wrangel be assigned as pastor to Gloria Dei. Mary Harvey, however, remained a Presbyterian at heart, and according to a later minister, Anders Goransson, “never came to this church, like many others. Said to be however, a pious character.” Presumably, she is buried in the churchyard because her husband was a member of the congregation.

In the years before the American Revolution, the Harvey family resided in the district of Southwark, very close to Gloria Dei and the Delaware River docks. The area was still quite rural in the early 1760s, and it was not uncommon for residents to keep livestock. For example, a 1761 ad in the Pennsylvania Gazette stated that Sampson Harvey, “living near the Swedes Church,” had found a stray cow roaming near his house. Capt. George Ord Sr., who lived next door to the Harveys, was a close friend of the family —as were Ord’s sisters and their husbands. George Ord is also buried at Gloria Dei.

Capt. Harvey was master of a number of merchant vessels in the 1760s and ’70s, often journeying to ports on the islands of the West Indies, such as Jamaica, St. Kitts, and Grenada.

In mid-September 1775, after the Revolution had begun and the Second Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia, Harvey left the city on the ship Elizabeth, bound for St. Kitts. While off the coast of St. Kitts Head the following month, a tremendous gale arose, which drove the sea far onto the island. The Elizabeth, laden with a full cargo of flour and timber, was driven ashore, as were many other vessels in the vicinity. But two days later, the winds had calmed, and Harvey’s vessel was able to get free (Pennsylvania Ledger, Dec. 16, 1775).

st-kitts-st-christopher-map-1794__58010.1464833306.1280.1280
Map of St. Kitts, 1794.

When the Elizabeth, still in a shattered condition, arrived in Philadelphia in December, Harvey told the Pennsylvania Journal and the Pennsylvania Gazette (Dec. 13, 1775) that “the town of St. Georges, in Grenada, took fire the first of November, and was not extinguished [until] the 5th, when all the houses, except at a place called the Cargash, were consumed, together with their provisions.” He said that people in St. Kitts “were sending vessels with necessaries for the relief of St. Georges.”

On April 30 of the following year, Harvey was authorized by Congress to take the ship Union to sea. Willing Morris & Company had contracted the Union on behalf of Congress. It is not unlikely that, like quite a few other merchant vessels of the period, Harvey’s ship was on a quest to trade goods for weapons from suppliers in the French West Indies. It was a very dangerous voyage; British warships and privateers were able to capture a large percentage of the American vessels that entered those waters.

During the period that the British occupied Philadelphia, from late September 1777 to June 1778, the Harvey family moved to the town of Lancaster, Pa. In November 1778, still in Lancaster, Sampson Harvey took the oath of allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania. But since the British had pulled out of Philadelphia, the Harveys were avid to return to the city, and Sampson inquired about accommodations there.

In January 1779, Sampson Harvey wrote a letter—now in the collection of the Pennsylvania Historical Society (HSP)—to James Pemberton, asking if Pemberton could offer for rent the house that he owned next to the Coffee House at Front and Market Streets. Harvey said that his family would be ready to move by April. It seems that Pemberton wrote back (in a letter that no longer exists), indicating that the house was not available but that he had other houses for rent or purchase. Harvey then wrote another letter to inform Pemberton that his other properties were not adequate for his needs. He stated, “Your house In Norris’es Alley Will Not Sute Me & to by A House at This Time Will Not Anser Me at Presant” (collection, HSP).

Eventually, the Harvey family found a house in Mulberry (Arch) Street, between Second and Third, where they lived from 1779 and throughout the next two decades.** They rented the house from merchant John Head Jr.; after Head’s death in 1791, his daughter Elizabeth Baker inherited the property (see document in the office of Philadelphia Wills and Administrations).

Soon after the Harvey’s return to Philadelphia, their daughter Rachel got to know a local shipping merchant, William Montgomery, who had been raised by a Presbyterian family in New Jersey. They married on Oct. 26, 1781, shortly after Rachel’s 18th birthday. The newlyweds soon moved to a house on Arch Street, near Sixth, not very far from the home of her parents.

In the summer of 1783, as the Revolution was drawing to a close, Congress adjourned to Princeton following a mutiny of Pennsylvania soldiers. Harvey was one of 200 signers of the Philadelphia Address to Congress, which asked Congress to return to the city.

Following the Revolution, Harvey, now in his 50s, gave up the shipboard life. By 1785, he had set up a dockside chandlery business at 6 Sassafras Street (also known as the Race Street wharf). With his partner, former sea captain William Davis, Harvey sold rope and a range of other supplies to maritime vessels.

2 william russell birch (arch street ferry, philadelphia. city of philadelphia in the state of pennsylvania, north america, as it appeared in the year 1800
William Russell Birch’s print of the Arch Street Ferry in 1800, very near to the Race Street wharf, where Sampson Harvey ran a maritime supply store.

On Sept. 1, 1795, Mary Harvey died, but her husband remained active in business and social affairs in the closing years of his life. Earlier in1795, he was elected—along with his friend George Ord—to the board of managers of the Society for the Relief of Poor Distressed Masters of Ships, Their Widows and Children. In 1796, he donated £5 to the building fund for St. Augustine’s Church, which was dedicated to serving the mainly German Catholic community in the northern district of Philadelphia, where Harvey was living. Finally, in early 1801, Sampson Harvey died; he was buried at Gloria Dei on Feb. 18 of that year.

Several years after her father’s death, Rachel (Harvey) Montgomery, decided to convert to Catholicism—despite staunch opposition in her family. On Feb. 2, 1805, at the age of 42, she was re-baptized as a Catholic at St. Augustine’s Church and became a pew holder and a benefactor of that church until her death in 1819. She was buried in the grounds next to St. Augustine’s, but the exact spot was obscured after the church was burnt down in the anti-Catholic riots of 1844.*** Rachel’s husband, William Montgomery, remained a Presbyterian; after his death in 1831, he was buried in the Presbyterian churchyard on Arch Street near Tenth.

*At her baptism, in September1763, baby Rachel Harvey was given sureties by Capt. George Ord Sr. and his sisters-in-law, Mrs. Christiana Mellin, and Mrs. Mary Nordenlind, who were daughters of Capt. Joseph Blewer and his wife Sarah. They were all members of mariners’ families, and all are buried in the Gloria Dei churchyard.

** See Philadelphia tax rolls for 1779 and subsequent street directories. The address of the Harveys’ house is listed variously through the years as 64, 66, and 72 Mulberry (Arch) Street. Ownership of the property is demonstrated in the 1791 will of John Head Jr. (City of Philadelphia, Wills and Administrations).

*** For more about Rachel (Harvey) Montgomery, see the article by Thomas Cooke Middleton, “An Old-Time Philadelphia Matron,” available on-line in the Records of the American Catholic Historical Society.

 

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