Monday, November 24, 2014

Capt. Hooe, about to sail, writes a letter

19th century guill clock of George Washington

19th century French Clock
One of the methods of learning how merchants handled their affairs is to examine the last wills and testaments.  Here is the will of James H. Hooe, Esquire, master of the vessel Commerce of Alexandria who left Alexandria on 9 July 1818 bound for New Orleans, thence to the market in Falmouth and then back to the United States.  He stated that one half of the cargo belonged to Messrs. Bowie & Kurtz of Georgetown and the other half to himself.  The value of he goods was insured for $4,000.00.  Should he die, his estate was to be managed by a friend, Mrs. Portia Hodgson, wife of William Hodgson, however, without the intervention of the husband.  Married women did not legally own property, so this statement was necessary to prevent the husband from claiming possession of the estate.  Interestingly, Capt. Hooe's portion of the cargo consisted of two French clocks, a white marble clock, three Guill clocks and two gold pocket watches. A guill clock was one which sat on the mantlepiece.   The early 19th century was an era of ornate clocks and these articles were shipped from Europe into the United States.  The will of Capt. Hooe discloses his good business sense of insuring the cargo as well as his correspondence to a friend with his last will and testament attached.  The context of these documents also illustrates an active trade business in a number of ports.  Perhaps more than we realize,  vessels were a heavy traffic from the earliest times of the colonies, using the customary shipping lanes, moving goods from the Caribbean, Europe and east coast of the United States..  It was customary for the captain to prepare a Ship's Manifest of its cargo and passengers.  Although many such lists have been discovered, not all are translated and published.  That is something to realize while attempting to locate ancestors. That is why it is important to read the old wills and estates of any given county during the time in which your ancestors may have been in that location.  Captain Hooe named as an heir a friend, Mrs. Hodgson.  Should you not locate Portia or William Hodgson's wills or estates, you would never suppose that they were in Alexandria (City), Virginia unless you had read Captain Hooe's will.  This is how the extra pieces of the puzzle are gathered.  There are not that many documents of any given era, so it is not difficult to do, especially because there is a large (and growing) collection on Virginia Pioneers

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