Thomas Perrin in the Netherlands and Pennsylvania

When we left Thomas Perrin in the last section he had escaped from England and had given testimony in Rotterdam on March 27, 1717 . In this section I will describe the rest of his life as he goes between Holland and Pennsylvania. While I do not have any specific information to clinch my analysis, the story I can put together is plausible. And given that for a goodly portion of time Thomas would have wanted to stay under the radar, I do not expect to ever have information to prove his movements conclusively.

Before beginning, I must provide some history and geography for Pennsylvania.



New Sweden

The first Europeans to explore the Delaware River valley were Dutch; however, their initial attempt at settlement was not successful. Later Pieter Minuit, a former Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam who had been dismissed by the Dutch West India Company, offered his services to Sweden and subsequently founded the settlement of Christiana (present day Wilmington, Delaware) with Swedish and Finnish settlers in 1638. Settlement continued as far upstream as Tinicum, just south of present day Philadelphia, by 1655. However, in that year the Dutch reclaimed the valley by force and made it part of New Netherlands.

inset of a 1661 map of New Netherlands

inset of a 1661 map of New Netherlands
Showing forts and settlements along the Zuyd (Delaware) River

For the next ten years Dutch settlement in the valley was encouraged. The map above shows the countryside as of 1661, with forts established at Christiana (Wilmington), Elsinburgh (Salem, New Jersey), New Gottenburg (Tinicum), and Nassau (Gloucester, New Jersey). A new Fort Nassau was built on the Schuykill River for the purposes of the fur trade with the Indians. Several villages were founded in present day Pennsylvania, including Uplandt (Chester). But the Anglo Dutch wars resulted in the Dutch ceding New Netherlands, including the Delaware River valley, to the English in 1665.

Penn's Colony

The English colony of Pennsylvania was founded fifteen years later (1681) by William Penn. He purchased land from the Swedes to start the city of Philadelphia. In the next ten years thousands of Quakers settled there and up and down the Delaware River. After 1700 immigration increased even more; the colony was advertised in central Europe as a place of religous tolerance. The appeal to Protestant Germans in the Rhine valley was particularly strong.

Ultimately over one hundred thousand immigrants would set foot on American soil in Philadelphia and migrate west and south between 1700 and 1775. Often their path was west from Philadelphia toward the Susquehanna River into present-day Lancaster County. German settlers soon became the dominant population in that frontier; for example, the 1718 Conestoga tax list recorded 41 English and 87 German families in that township .

A 1714 Map of Pennsylvania and Maryland

A 1714 Map of Pennsylvania. Note the Indian villages and Komestuga
along the east side of the Sasquesahanough River

As early as 1715 German settlers reportedly travelled further west out of Pennsylvania along what would later be known as the Pennsylvania Wagon Road, to Maryland (the Monocacy valley) or further to the Shenandoah valley of Virginia . More about this in the next section.

The settlement of Europeans in Conestoga was accomplished despite the presence of native populations. The region was originally occupied by the Susquehannacks, who had met Captain John Smith of Virginia during an exploratory voyage in 1608. By the 1670s, decimated by disease, they and their neighbors the Delaware (Lenape) had submitted to the Five Nations (Iroquois) of New York. Perhaps as a result they were amenable to living amongst the new Pennsylvania colonists who arrived in the 1680s. William Penn was extremely careful to cultivate humane relations with the native people of Pennsylvania. (While it seems popular for writers now to debunk Penn, it is clear that he did learn to speak rudimentary Lenape, and at least tried to participate in native ceremonies.) Excellent relations between Natives (hereon I will use the term Indians to include both Delaware and Susquehannaks in this section, as well as other groups such as the Shawnee later) and Europeans continued throughout the first third of the eighteenth century.

Mid Atlantic Fur trade

The Indian trade, specifically the exchange of goods for furs, was commercially very important on the frontier from the start. Peter Minuit, mentioned above, had been dismissed from his post by the Dutch West Indies Company because he had not enforced the Company's monopoly on Indian trade. In New Sweden in 1638 the negotiation of trade agreements with the Lenape and Susquehannocks was one of his first acts. In 1642, when English fur traders had infiltrated the region, the Swedes with Dutch assistance expelled them from the mouth of the Schuykill. Both Dutch and Swedes continued to officially trade with the Indians until the formation of Pennsylvania in 1681. Some continued unofficially thereafter; at least one family dynasty of Swedish traders from Chester County and New Jersey will surface later in this narrative.

William Penn also wanted to exploit the financial opportunities of the fur trade, but discovered real limitations, both within the mindset of his Quaker settlers and within the geographic location of the colony. By the end of the seventeenth century the only significant Indian traders operating in Pennsylvnia were French . These traders (Jacques Letort, Pierre Bazillion and Martin Chartier) settled at Conestoga as early as 1696.

The arrival of James Logan, Penn's representative in Pennsylvania, in 1702 changed the fur trade dynamic. Logan envisioned the Indian fur trade as a way both to limit French influence among the Indians and also to pay off William Penn's debts. He started to subsidize new Quaker traders such as James Patterson, and John and Edmund Cartledge, advancing them credit for supplies and purchasing their furs for export. He arranged for large land grants for these individuals, while retaining ownership in the land, so that the traders would be eternally indebted to him. It is said that Logan essentially cornered the market on the Pennsylvania fur trade. In the process, he became quite wealthy himself. (An excellent article which looks dispassionately at Logan's accumulation of wealth through the control of fur traders and the allocation of land grants can be found reprinted here).

Logan's policies bore fruit. Of the 41 non-German names on the 1718 Conestoga tax roles, fifteen are thought to have traded with the Indians at one point or another.

Lancaster and York counties, Pennsylvania. landmarks as of 1750

Portions of Lancaster and York counties as bisected by the Susquehanna River
Landmarks as of 1750

Conestoga Geography

Conestoga Township lay on the east bank of the lower Susquehanna River. The map just above shows the local geography of the region. The Susquehannack village of Conestoga is labelled just downstream; it remained occupied by nativres until the 1750s.

As the Susquehanna is nearly one mile wide at this point, it served as a natural barrier to travelling further west on the Waggon Road. Below is a later painting of Wright's Ferry, the chief crossing for most going west.

Later lithograph of Wright's Ferry

Painting of Wright's Ferry .

The colony of Pennsylvania considered the actual settlement of the west bank illegal as the land had not been purchased from the Indians. The settlement of the town of Lancaster east of Conestoga began in 1722. The region became its own county, Lancaster County, in 1729.

1718 - 1722

Chester county tax lists

The 1718 tax roles for Conestoga Township (then part of Chester County)  included 86 German (called Dutch) and 41 English individuals. The latter are shown below:

Francis Warley John Cartledge James Hendricks James Letort
James Patterson William Sterret John Hendricks Collum Macquair
Thomas Baldwin Thomas Gale Alexander Bense John Mcdaniel
Richard Carter John Linvill Robert Wilkins John Ffarer
John Grist William Hughes Peter Basillion John Comb
Joseph Roe Andrew Mason Joseph Hickman Daniel Cookson
Thomas Clark William Clark Stephen Atkinson Morgan Jones
Edmund Cartledge John Harris David Preece Robert Middleton
Richard Grice Nathaniel Cristopher Thomas Perrin Samuel Birchfield
William Ludford Thomas Wilkins James Davis Evan Evans
Thomas Jones

English Portion of Conoestogoe Assessment for 1718

In the 1718 list Thomas Perrin was noted to be a freeman, implying that he did not have a family or land. The best-known fur traders on this list include the Cartlidge brothers, Peter Basillion and James Letort mentioned above. John Harris, James Patterson, William Sherril and Robert Wilkins actively traded in furs in the 1720s as well .

On this list I want to call special attention to the Hendricks family. The family history is complex, but I can probably state some unquestionable facts about it. The patriarch was Albertus Hendricks, who had arrived from Holland at Tinicum around 1662 as an indentured servant. He subsequently moved to Ridley Township, Chester County, dying in 1716. By then his son James and family had moved to Conestoga, converted to Quakerism and joined the New Garden Meeting . According to later testimony James described himself as an Indian trader, and had travelled through the Conestoga region as early as 1690 ; it is documented that he served as an interpreter for Penn with the Indians in 1718 . Along with James on the 1718 list is his son John (born 1690), as well as Thomas Baldwin who married daughter Hechley and John Linville who married daughter Ann. Later James' brothers Albertus (Jr.) and Tobias would move to the region as well; Tobias would serve as a judge for Lancaster County after 1729. As all of these children and grandchildren had offspring named James, John and Henry it will prove difficult to determine the identity of family members discussed below.

It is worth noting that unlike most of the persons listed in the 1718 tax rolls, Thomas Perrin was absent from the January1719/20, 1720/21 and 1721 lists. There also was no mention of him in the records for 1725 or 1726/7. (There are no extant lists for 1723 and 1728.)

Early Holland Years

The timing of Perrin's early activities in Holland can be determined thanks to his putative criminal activites. He was a party to a suit appealed from Amsterdam to the Hague in November, 1720. While in this case I have only seen the testimony to the appeals court, and not the court's decision, the documents go quite far in tracing Perrin's life in Holland. The case in brief: Jacob Levy and Isaac Capadoce had accused Perrin of fraudulently selling them shares of the Southsea Company of England worth £6,000 around May, 1720. Perrin's defence was that an Abraham Peixotto had stolen his identity, probably around March, 1720, when he had sold Southsea Company stock to George Hamilton. Therefore Peixotto was responsible for the fraud.

Several documents were submitted to the court showing that Thomas Perrin was of good, or at least nontransient, behavior. "Thomas Perrin, merchant of Bristol" became a "poorter" [burgher or resident] of Amsterdam in November, 1716. A related document, from 1719, stated that Perrin had been a Poorter for a year and a day and might travel to anywhere in Holland, Zeeland and Friesland, paying tolls as though he was a Poorter of the respective region. Perrin received a license to import tobacco into Amsterdam on December 16, 1718:

Tobacco import license

License to Import Tobacco into Amsterdam to Thomas Perrin

Later on May 23, 1719 Thomas Parin received a license from the Port of Amsterdam to import salt, soap and money. Finally on June 3, 1719 a certificate was issued to Thomas Pierin to import coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.

The Amsterdam City Archive contains testimony from Perrin regarding this affair as well. Both George Hamilton and Thomas Perrin gave notarized statements on February 29, 1720   and Thomas Perrin indicated his desire to appeal the case in a statement dated December 5, 1720 . While the dates for these documents do not agree perfectly with the time line described in the appeal, it certainly shows that Perrin was present in Holland for the majority of 1720.

Finally, in August, 1720 in Amsterdam, Perrin arranged for the sale of £4000 East India Company (London) stock . I have not unravelled what happened in this deal, which clearly went awry, as testimony was still being given about it in 1725 .

Back in England the Treasury continued to pay attention to Thomas. A letter written from the Minister of the Treasury to the Chief (i.e., Prime) Minister, Lord Stanhope, dated May of 1720, stated  

My Lord,

The Commissioners of His Majesty's Customs having by the inclosed Memorial represented to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury the Steps they have taken to recover a Debt due to the Crown feom Thomas Perrin late a Tobacco Merchant in London, and having therein desiring that his Majesty's Minister in Holland may have directions to apply to the Burgomasters of Amsterdam (the said Perrin having procured himself to be made a Burgher there) for their Countenence and Assistance to Mssrs. Gerard and Hops Merchants of Roterdam (whom the said Commissioners of the Customs have employed as their agents in this Affair) in the Arresting and Apprehending him in Order to the Discovery of as much of his Debt as they can; I am Commanded by their Lordships to transmit the same to you, with their desire that your Lordship will be pleased to Obtain his Majesty's Discussions to his said Minister to be Aiding and Assisting to their said Agents in this Affair, in the best and most Effectual manner he can.

These records, along with the Rotterdam deposition Perrin signed in March, 1717, show that Perrin was in Holland and probably living in Amsterdam by late 1716. There are no records of him for March, 1717 - November, 1718, which allow for a trip to Pennsylvania. He probably remained in Holland from December, 1718 until late 1720. I can imagine Perrin went to America in 1717, bringing tobacco and perhaps furs to Amsterdam in late 1718. He then attempted to establish himself as an importer of a number of goods, but may also have found time to dabble in fraudulent securities.

1724 - 1728

Thomas Perrin in Amsterdam, 1723 - 1726

Two more records from the Amsterdam City Archive place Thomas Perrin in that city during the mid 1720s. In December, 1723 Perrin purchased a one twentieth share of a mirror making company, paying ƒ5500 . In May, 1726 Perrin made a statement (not yet translated) to a notary concerning Jan der Fesch . There are no further documents in that city's archives concerning Perrin.

The Fur Trade Continued

Thomas Perrin appeared on the Conestoga tax lists in 1722 and 1724/5 (no list exists for 1723); both of these lists implied that he was a landholder . As he had not purchased lands, I can only assume he rented land in Conestoga Manor. There is no further mention of Perrin on the Chester County tax lists through 1729.

Thomas received a license to trade with the Indians in November, 1724. His license application was cosigned by John Hendricks and John Roberts . He later received a tavern license in November, 1728 from Chester County. In both instances Thomas signed with his initials only.

Thomas Perrins mark

Thomas Perrins "mark", from his 1728 license to trade with the Indians .

By this time Logan had better organized the rules for the Pennsylvania fur trade, and now allowed the trade of rum for furs. An aside: rum got John and Edmund Cartlidge into trouble in 1722. John, when dealing with a Senaca native who became belligerent in his intoxication, struck and accidentally killed him. The incident occurred south of Lancaster County in Maryland, but this may be the first recorded murder of an Indian by a Pennsylvanian. The government launched an inquest with testimony taken from native witnesses, and involved the Seneca in New York in its deliberations. Both brothers were imprisoned for two years, until released at the request of the Indians. This is all described in a background text.

Thomas Perrin and James Logan

Any discussion of Thomas Perrin in Pennsylvania must approach an interesting question: what was his relationship with James Logan? Logan would be the one individual in Pennsylvania who knew Perrin's history well.They must have interacted in the 1690s in Bristol when Perrin attended the Logan school. Later when Logan returned to England in 1711 - 1712 he must have known of Perrin's imprisonment.

One interesting letter reprinted later in an article discussing the Sterman family went as follows :

Philadelphia, 2d Nov., 1727

Isaac Taylor, Loving Friend.

Joseph Staman (alias Stone) of Conestoga having bought two hundred acres of Francis Worleys tract on which he says there is very little timber left, is therefore desirous to take up some of the adjoining vacant land, but both he and Joseph Higgenbotham are apprehensive of that free booter Thos. Perrin setting down there to prevent which I wish thou wouldst order a line of two to be run that may take in about two hundred acres for the trouble of which, Staman must make satisfaction since it is to prevent the intrusion of a neighbor that may disappoint him of a further conveniency.

I am thy loving friend J. Logan.

Now the definition of a free booter (or free boater) is pirate. I have read much of Logan's correspondence to try to find other references to Thomas Perrin (thus far finding none), so I can say with assurance that Logan was not a man who used hyperbole. Why would he use such stern language? This may be a reference to Perrin as an escaped prisoner. It may simply mean that Perrin intended to settle on this vacant land without buying it, certainly a common practice in that day. But I believe Logan was actually referring to Perrin's business ethics. A letter from 1730 written by Logan to his new business agent in Lancaster County may help illuminate this point :


To My Friend Edm'd Shippen

As Thou art now entering to the Managem't of my Business, I request thee to take a Turn to Sasquehannah and inquire into the State of Affairs in the hands of the Traders of those Parts who deal with me of whom I shall give thee a Brief Acco't as follows

Herry Baily began to deal with me about 3 years Since the first year he made a very good Pay, encouraged by this I [advanced] him further till he had last fall run by much too deep in my Debt. In the Winter he sent to me for my Goods, which I scrupled to comply with. I sent them up how-ever as far as John Wrights with direction not to deliver them till he brought down Skins from Allegheny toward the Paym't of what was due before. This last Spring he brought down his horses with one wagon loaded with Skins to his house, & on these I depended, but I since have informed that he has most unfairly Sold them to another person & Some Say for Gold, as also that his Skins as they come are Attached by others for Debt. He owes me about 500 £ a large sum. Pay inquire narrowly into the Truth of these Stories expostulate closely with him, and know what may with any degree of certainty be depended on...

Later in this letter Logan also accused Jonas Davenport of "selling elsewhere". Since Logan siezed Jonas' property upon his death in 1737 it seems likely Davenport was chronically in debt to Logan.

Thomas Perrin could have been the sort of trader who bought furs directly from traders who already had assigned them to Logan, a practice good for traders strapped for cash but regarded poorly by the government of Pennsylvania. As a pirate on the high seas typically took goods belonging to someone else, so a pirate on the frontier would obtain goods owed to another. Therefore I think it likely that Thomas Perrin was not trading with the Indians directly for furs, but rather buying them from other traders and exporting them himself. For all I know he paid Harry Baily and Jonas Davenport for goods .

Henry Sperling's Ledger

The information presented so far suggests Perrin visited Pennsylvania in 1722, 1724 and 1727 - 8. I think it likely that in the 1720s he had worked out a yearly schedule, arriving in Pennsylvania when the fur traders were bringing their goods back to Conestoga, buying them and shipping out with them. If he bought in the fall, he would leave around January and be in Conestoga around the time the tax lists were composed. Circumstantial evidence to back up such an assertion is available from an unexpected document, that of Henry Sperling's ledger.

In the last section you met Henry Sperling the Younger while he purchased the Perrin interests in the Haverhill properties. He was the second Henry Sperling, as is described later in a compendium of family histories of the "Landed Gentry" :

Lineage. - The SPERLINGS of Essex derive from an ancient and honorable Swedish ancestry. The family statement carries it back to Joachim Sperling, field-marshal royal of Sweden, who was made a Count by the King of Sweden 1687, and d. 1691. George, his son, succeeded. He m. 1 June, 1653, Anna Schmidt, of Dantzig, and was s. by Henry. his son, b. 22 March, 1659, who, having m. Ann Crol, at Rotterdam, came over to England and settled at Chigwell Hall, Essex. Their son,

Henry Sperling, Esq., m. Elizabeth. dau. and heiress of Thomas Foxall, Esq., and Margaret (Milner) his wife, also an heiress. Their son,

Henry Sperling, m. Mary, dau. and heiress of John Piper, Esq. of Ashen House, Essex, whose wife, Dorothy (Byatt) was also an heiress. They had three sons...

The Essex Record Office possesses an extensive collection of documents concerning this Henry Sperling the Younger. While much of it is relevant to his land interests in Haverhill, they also have his business ledger, dated 1719 - 1751 . Contained in this single legal sized volume are 32 years of accounts with individuals and organizations accross northern Europe, Russia and North America, with entries recorded in both English pounds and Dutch florins. (Interestingly, the dates follow the European year which started on January 1, not the English year which started in late March).

The accounts started on page two of the ledger with Jacobus Crol, Amsterdam; I reckon he must have been Henry's uncle or cousin. Paid from (credited to in accounting language) that account were the following entries:

1726 March 9 Cash on Demand to Jno. Burrough £ 10 ƒ 107.10
1726 April 15 Cash on Demand to Jno. Burrough £ 20 ƒ 215
1726 June 10 Cash on Demand to Jno. Burrough £ 10 ƒ 107.10
1726 August 5 Cash on Demand to Jno. Burrough £ 10 ƒ 107.10
1726 October 5 Cash on Demand to Sarah Perrin £ 5 ƒ 54
1726 November 1 Cash on Demand to Jno. Burrough £ 12 ƒ 129
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Jonathan Burrough received a total of £62 from this account; Sarah Perrin received £5 as well. While this money might have been Sperling's rent payment for the Haverhill property, Henry did not record such payments for any other years in this ledger. Other correspondence from the Sperling estate showed that he typically paid rents to Burrough through an agent in Haverhill, not through his business.

As Sperling used double entry accounting, there is a second entry for this transaction, this time in the account named "Sundry Debtors":

1726 October 26 Cash Jno. Burroughs £ 24 15 6
1728 November 28 Cash Jno. Burroughs £ 54

The sums in the two different accounts do not quite add up, nor does it make sense to me that the second entry is so late (I believe this is an error in the original). What is the explanation for these entries? The first payment to Burrough corresponded to an entry on the asset side of the Crol account four days prior:

1726 March 5 Bevor, N. P. [neat pelts] of 3 Casks £ 345 15 ƒ 3802.60
1726 March 5 Furrs, N. P. of a Cask £ 222 ƒ 2442
1726 April 30 Bevor, N. P. of 3 Casks £ 351 17 6 ƒ 3870.14
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To get an idea of the relative worth of these goods consider that in 1726 the London Customs Office recorded a total value of £43 of beaver and £1,544 of other furs received from Philadelphia . That would make it unlikely that the beaver put in (debited to) Crol's account came from Pennsylvania. However, the other fur shipment might have, and by its apparent worth it may have constituted about one seventh of all the Pennsylvania deerskin sent to London that year. The beaver and "Furrs" (probably deer skin) entries above were cross referenced to two different accounts. The latter entry was cross referenced to an account simply labelled "Furs".

I believe it possible that Sperling sold for Crol deerskin which had come from Thomas Perrin in Pennsylvania. Then the payments to Burrough in Crol's account make sense; the parties involved had agreed to pass on to Thomas' children a commission. Given that Perrin's debts were still liable to seizure by the Royal Treasury in 1726, it does not surprise me that Sperling avoided using Thomas' name in his accounting.

1729 - 1739

The Gaols Committee Re-examined

In the last section I presented the information Thomas Perrin provided to the Gaols Committee in 1729. I would like to look at this event once more in the context of that year. This early social inquiry by Pariliament is best summarized elsewhere. Its moving force was James Oglethorpe, whose concerns about prisons and debtors led to the formation of the colony of Georgia in 1732.

The Gaols Committee, painting by William Hogarth

The Gaols Committee, painting by William Hogarth
James Oglethorpe, sitting at left, discusses leg irons with current Fleet warden Thomas Bambridge

The Committee started work in February, 1728/9, focusing initially on the Fleet Prison, and its first report in March of that year listed many cases of abuse there. The second report, on May 14, chiefly concerned Marshalsea Prison in Southwark, but it also included three cases concerning the Fleet. Of these three, Perrin's case merited special attention in the body of the report :

In Justice to his Majesty's Revenue, the Committee think it their indispensable Duty to lay before the House one particular Transaction of Mr. Huggins with Mr. Thomas Perrin, of London, Merchant, Debtor to the Crown in several Bonds, to the Amount of £ 42,057 wherewith he was charged in the Fleet Prison, and was permitted to escape from thence by Mr. Huggins, when Warden. The Committee, having come to a more particular Knowledge of this Affair by the Papers, which the said Perrin sent over from Holland to the Treasury here, as his Case, the Committee crave Leave to subjoin the same, by way of Appendix to this Report; with this Observation, that at the Time, when Mr. Huggins was examined before the Committee touching this Escape, he acquainted them, that he had got a Quietas for the same in the late King's Reign, and also, that the Commissioners of the Customs having put up to Sale Perrin's Security to the Crown, he, Huggins, bought in the said Debt of £ 42,057 for about £ 2,000.

The Committee clearly liked the fact that there was detailed information going back to 1714 to incriminate Huggins. From the timing of the Committee reports, I would infer that Perrin provided his information between March and April of 1729, and was in Holland then. His presence in Holland would be consistent with the general schedule for shipping furs to Europe, and agrees with the 1726 schedule for the Sperling furs above.

Later documents in England will refer to Perrin as being a resident of Holland. However this 1729 reference would be the last time there is evidence that Perrin actually lived there.

Lancaster County records

Lancaster County became an independent entity in 1729. While tax records for early Lancaster County have not survived, court records did. Thomas petitioned the County Court for an Indian trader's license in 1730 , and permission to sell rum by the quart in 1734 . Both the tavern license and the right to sell rum by the quart were necessary for either trading with the Indians.

One of the first entries for the County Court was setting bail for Thomas Perrin. In 1730 Perrin, along with John Linville, John Pfarr and Randy Mack, was brought to the court on the charge of assault. . Both Linville and Pfarr had lived in Conestoga Township since 1718; Linville was at that time the supervisor of highways of Conestoga Township. Perrin pleaded no contest and all were fined, Perrin receiving a fine of 3 pounds, 2 shillings.


From 1730 until 1741 I have found a total of eleven suits brought by or against Perrin that were listed in the original Court docket. All of these probably involved debts and with the exception of Perrin vs. Linville they were probably settled out of court .

  1. 1731/1732: Thomas Perrin vs. Edward W. Nichols
  2. May 1732: James Cooper vs. Thomas Perrin
  3. Nov 1732: Thomas Perrin vs. John Linvil
  4. Feb 1732/3: Thomas Perrin vs. Law: Bankson
  5. Feb 1732/3: Thomas Perrin vs. John Linvil settled for 40 pounds, signed Tobias Hendricks
  6. Nov 1733: John Hendricks vs. Thomas Perrin
  7. Feb 1733/4: John Hendricks vs. Thomas Perrin
  8. Feb 1735/6: Thomas Perrin vs. John Wilkin
  9. Nov 1736: Henry Hendricks vs. Thomas Perrin
  10. 1739/1740: Thomas Perrin vs. James Pattin
  11. Aug 1741: Nathan and Isaac Levy vs. Thomas Perrin

Several of these suits could be associated with the fur trade.

And most of the names on the lawsuit list were either extended members of the Hendricks family and/or involved with the Maryland - Pennsylvania boundary dispute. This dispute, oftentimes known as Cresap's war, took place in the land west of the Susquehanna River between 1734 and 1737. I have included more extensive descriptions, written from the Pennsylvania and Maryland perspectives, as background material. A general description of this conflict is necesary before proceeding with particulars.

Cresap's War

Before 1730 there were no settlers permitted by Pennsylvania on land west of the Susquehannah River. Samuel Blunston later wrote that John Hendricks, Henry Hendricks and Thomas Linvill tried to settle on Codorus Creek near present day York in 1727, but did not stay there because of Shawnee hostility . John Hendricks did settle on the west bank of the Susquehanna by 1730. At the same time a Marylander named Thomas Cresap settled on the west bank of the Susquehanna River as well; he started a ferry accross the River. In general Cresap's behavior offended almost everyone, Indian and European alike. He began selling Maryland patents for west bank land to settlers. This prompted Pennsylvania to begin issuing land licenses as well (called Blunston licenses), even though the colony had not actually purchased the lands from the Indians. From 1734 through 1736 there were a number of violent incidents involving Cresap and the English inhabitants of Lancaster County; several deaths occurred. In September, 1736 a 300 person army from Maryland arrived and thern left. In November of that year Chester County authorities discovered that Pennsylvanians Henry Munday and Charles Higginbotham had promised Maryland grants for land west of the Susquehanna to their friends in Chester County and contiguous Maryland. While Higginbotham avoided arrest, Munday was tried for this "Chester County Plot". At that point a Pennsylvania warrant was issued for Cresap's arrest, and he was jailed in Philadelphia that December. But the violence continued that winter when Charles Higginbotham returned from Maryland and started forcibly evicting those German settlers who had received Pennsylvania patents for their land. In August, 1737 King George told everybody to cease hostilities, and the Crown settled the boundary dispute in favor of Pennsylvania in 1738.

Early during the boundary dispute (March 1734) John Hendricks was arrested and taken to Maryland by their militia . , He was charged with murder and ended up in jail in Annapolis for a year. Upon his return to Pennsylvania he sided with the Maryland faction and, along with brother-in-law Lawrence Bankson, invaded and plundered the houses of Henry Hendricks and John Wilkins in the fall of 1736 . Wilkins was taken prisoner and sent under guard to Maryland .

Henry Hendricks, probably John Hendrick's cousin, had initially obtained land from Cresap but in August 1736 he renounced his Maryland warrant and obtained a Blunston license. The violence to his house that fall was probably the result of his pro-Pennsylvania stance .

John Hendrick's brother-in-law Lawrence Bankson also lived west of the Susquehanna; he had taken land on a warrant from Cresap .

James Patten and brother John were on the list of persons concerned in the burning of Thomas Cressap's house, Dec. 1736 . Mention has already been made of the plunder of John Wilkin's house in the same year.

Thomas Perrin residence

Thomas Perrin never obtained a warrant for land from either Pennsylvania or Maryland, but later references indicate he lived west of the Susquehannah River in the 1730s.

First there is a deed in York County from 1763. While all good deeds should state the history of the land being sold, this would have been particularly important in York County at the time. Persons who had received Blunston lisences for their land did not receive warrants or patents for their properties. Indeed, for the property in question this 1763 deed is the first legal record for it outside of a survey done around 1750. Included in the deed is the sentence :

...whereas the Proprietaries by a lycence under the hand of Samuel Blunston esq. then agent for the proprietaries dated at Lancaster 9 Dec 1734 granted unto Ulrich Wissler [by the name of Wollrick Weesler] 250 acres of land on Little Codorus Creek about a mile above Thomas Perrins to be taken on both sides of said creek for building a mill,...

Ulrich Wissler had emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania in the summer of 1734 during the Maryland - Pennsylvania boundary dispute. I do not know if he also received a Maryland patent from Cresap, but Wissler later signed a petition protesting the behavior of Charles Higginbotham in 1737. His mill, built in 1735, is said to have been two miles south of York . However, Little Codorus Creek is slightly east from York . Later survey maps demonstrate well the location for Ulrich Wissler's and neighbor Baltzer Spangler's land, and these are drawn in the map below

york topo map

York and environs
The red dot denotes possible location of Perrin's dwelling
pink outline; Baltzer Spangler's land. black outline, Ulrich Wissler's land

The other reference to Perrin occurred when the wagon road from the Susquehanna River at Wright's Ferry through York to Frederick County, Maryland was built in 1739. The portion of the road depicted in the above map was described as follows :

South 84 degrees West 264 perches, Due West 166 perches To the Little Codorus,

South 82 degrees West 102 perches, Due West 104 perches, South 64 degrees West 220 perches, South 72 degrees West 260 perches To Big Codorus Creek,

Continuing the same course 360 perches To Perrin's run, Due West 246 perches To Spangler's Field, South 72 degrees West 80 perches, South 45 degrees West 160 perches, South 60 degrees West 126 perches To the "point of a steep hill," South 48 degrees West 134 perches, South 69 degrees West 200 perches,...

(Please note: a perch is the same as a rod, i.e., 5.5 yards. There are 320 rods in one mile.) The probable stream then called Perrin's Run is labelled on the above map. The stream itself has not appeared on maps since the 1876 atlas of York County, although the western border of the city of York coincides with its former course.

It is entirely possible that Thomas Perrin was the first European resident of the York, Pennsylvania region. If I have identified the location of his dwelling correctly, he had situated himself right on the Wagon Road. This would have been a key location to intercept returning fur traders and buy their wares. While the number of law suits with the Hendricks clan seem alarming, this may merely reflect frequent interactions with them, including the loaning of materials that were not repaid in a timely manner.

1739 - 1746

Return to England

In May, 1732, The Treasury agreed to allow Thomas Perrin to return to England "unmolested on account of his debt to the Crown." . This appeared to be in response to a letter written to them by J. Scrope in March . These records also stated that Perrin was in Holland. I look forward to seeing the actual appeal, rather than the abstracted letter, as I imagine it will say that Perrin deserved pardoning of his debts on the basis of his testimony against Huggins.

If and when Perrin went to England in the 1730s I cannot say, but he did go in 1740, for the Calendar of the Treasury then states :

1740 Nov 6 The letter from Mr. Carkesse of the 31 let. read stating the case of Thomas Perrin in custody for his debt to the crown. Their Lordships think said Perrin should have the freedom of his person as by the warrant of 1732, May 25.

It appears that, despite his pardon, Perrin was arrested on his arrival to England, and his release required an appeal to the Treasury. Not only does this establish that Perrin returned to England, it implies that he had not tried to return before that date.

Burial in Southwark

There is one more record from England. The London Quaker Meeting recorded that Thomas Perrin, age about 66 years, died March 11, 1741/2 in St. Thomas parish, Southwark, and was buried 14 March 1741/2 in the Friends Cemetery at Long Lane . By my calculations the Thomas Perrin of Bristol and London should have been nearly 64 years at that date. Southwark, just south of London, would have been the town in which his brother-in-law John Burroughs lived.

The date of Perrin's death was only 15 months after his return to England in the fall of 1740. I personally think it not very likely he returned to Pennsylvania during that time. The only record for Perrin in 1741 was a suit filed against him, perhaps for a bill he had not paid before his departure to England.

The site of Long Lane cemetery

Site of Long Lane cemetery, Southwark

Thomas Perrin estate in Pennsylvania

In October, 1746 the Lancaster Court appointed James Wright, Jr. and Charles Gibson to assess the Thomas Perrin estate; their notes included the following inventory . The original document (a scan of a copy) can be viewed here:

Item Value (£,s,p) Notes
one Brass Rifel
0, 5, 0
one acks
0, 3, 6
read axe
one father Bad Two Blancets and one Quilt
1, 5, 0
one Chast
0, 5, 0
one Gun
0,10, 0
one Puter Bason one Puter Dish fore Plates one Pint
0, 5, 0
read pewter basin
one Brass Scimer one funel and Two Spoons
0, 2, 0
Skimmer: a flat perforated scoop or spoon used for skimming
one Iron Pott
0, 7, 0
one grubinghou one Broad hou one Hatchet one Hammer
0, 7, 0
read hoe
one Auger and one Pair of Pinshers
0, 2, 0
one Glass
0, 2, 0
one Trunk
0, 1, 6
a Shoer and Coulter
0, 5, 0
Coulter--a cutting tool that is attached to the beam of a plow
2 Claveses
0, 2, 6
one Pair of Traces and Hamer
0, 1, 3
four acres of Corn
2, 0, 0
0, 6, 0
read seed corn
the Improvement
one Razer one hone one Pair of Bridelbits
4, 0, 0
one Testemant one Pair of Spactickels
0, 2, 6
one Stansaw one Drawingknife one Candelstick
0, 3, 0
one Furringpan
0, 1, 6
one Bridel
0, 1, 6
read bridle
one Badstid
0, 4, 0
read bedstead

The right-hand column is my attempt to translate the names of some of the items: the spelling here is most creative. A total inventory of less than eight pounds was small for those times. There are tools appropriate for farming and the care of horses. But there is no livestock or horses. There is corn growing in the fields. Indeed, there is four acres of cleared land, which raises a question: who cleared it. There was a Bible and eyeglasses. Those last items are important; their existence argues in favor of Thomas being able to read and write (as his "mark" on the trader license above might argue to the contrary).

Beyond this inventory there is no recorded discussion of the disposition for this estate.


There appears to be four phases to Thomas' life after escaping from England:

  1. 1717 - 1721. Established residency in Amsterdam, one journey to Conestoga
  2. 1722 - 1729. Frequent, possibly yearly journeys to Conestoga to trade. Possibly rented land, but maintained his Amsterdam residence
  3. 1730 - 1740. More confident about his safety in Pennsylvania following the testimony provided to Parliamwnt. Moved to present day York County, with trading now done through other merchants. More involved with his neighbors, but avoided sides in Cresap's War.
  4. 1741 - 1742. Returned to England and died

I would like to think that Perrin formed a love hate relationship with the Hendricks family, given that James Hendricks was Dutch and had true knowledge of Indian ways. He may have also taken advantage of the Dutch/Swede connections Hendricks had back in Chester County or New Castle (present day Wilmington, Delaware) to export goods while avoiding Philadelphia. But questions remain about Perrrin's life on the frontier, however. How did Thomas maintain his Pennsylvania property, given that the estate inventory described a working farm? Where did his horses go? I will give these topics more thought in the next section.