1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 James Warner Papers

 Mariner, Warwick, R.I.

 Papers, 1798-1822

 Size: 0.25 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 997

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, April 1997

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            James Warner of Warwick does not appear in any of the major genealogies or vital records compendiums, but we know quite a bit about his life from this collection and from the records of the Providence Customs House. According to his seaman's protection certificate, he was born circa 1779, and first set out on a ship shortly after July of 1797. He served as a seaman on several vessels, including the ship Ann & Hope that sailed for China in 1799. He was first recorded as the master of a vessel in 1808, aboard the Industry. In 1820, he served as captain of the bark Roboreus, and the last record we have puts him as master of the Industry in 1821, owned by Providence merchant Edward Carrington.

            The Warwick vital records list a James Warner who married Mercy Greene in 1805, and had four children from 1806 to 1813. This is confirmed by The Greenes of Rhode Island by Louise B. Clarke (New York, 1903), page 435, who adds without citing any sources that Warner was a sea captain, and that his parents were William Warner and Waite Sweet.

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Scope and content:

            At least nine of Warner's voyages are documented in this collection, including nearly complete log books from four voyages, and several fascinating segments of his service aboard the Ann & Hope on an early trip to China. There are also draft copies of several letters Warner wrote to his employers while at sea, as well as the navigation boook that he apparently used for his training. To fully appreciate the collection, it might be useful to excerpt a few passages:

            While travelling through uncharted territory in the South Pacific en route to China, on December 27, 1799, Warner wrote: "Could discern 14 small island from the fore topmist... They appear to be a grope of dangerous low islands that perhaps was never discovered before, no account of them in any chart on board. Thay must be inhabited as we saw smokes arise. Time...prevented us from making further discoveries."

            From a letter dated June 26, 1818 to George Williams owner Samuel Butler: "On my passage between the Caicus and Hispaniola was boarded by two privateers...[one was]

under mexican collers and plundered took one barrel of bread and the most part of the provishions that I had on board."

            In 1820, the bark Roboreus was sailing home from Sweden, and was a month out of port when she began leaking badly. According to the log for October 28, 1820, Capt. Warner "went into the hole, heard the water runing in, cut away the seeling, discovered the water running in between the seams where I judge the sheething is, and saw the seames open and shut when the vessail roled deep, and the ocum mostly out of the seames, which was very alarming. I mixed some taller & ashes to gether, put on the seames, planed over that, and battened the seames. Where I could not batten, put in pieces of beef, which stoped some of the leek." The next day, "consulted with my officers and ship crew, they all agreed and gave it as there opinion for the preservation of our lives and property it would be best to try to get in to the nearist poart." The ship turned around "with the intention to try to get in to some part of Ireland." Three days later, the bark limped into the port of Cork, where it was condemned. Two letters by Warner to the ship's owner Samuel Butler explain these trials in more detail.

            On the last voyage documented here, Warner served as master of the ship William Baker, bound for Brazil. However, he was apparently under orders from owner Carrington to report to a Captain Peleg Aborn, stationed in Brazil. Warner chafed under these restrictions, and his letters to both Carrington and Aborn are unusually icy. In the final item in the collection, dated January 3, 1822, Warner drafted a letter refusing to follow Aborn's instruction regarding unloading of ballast, suggesting that it would "bring the ship up so much by the sturn it would endanger the ship taking the ground if it should be rough weather." He continues by lambasting Aborn for his pompous attitude: "Several times when we happened to meet I observed that you appeared to be very much lifted and important, paid very little or no respect to me, which has been noticed by others as well as my self. It appeared by your conduct that you thought yourself far superior... I think myself as good as your honour and as independent... I am determined not to be nosed about or suffer myself to be imposed upon." We can only hope for the sake of Warner's career that this letter was never sent; there is no evidence, however, that he ever served as captain of a vessel again.

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            This collection was purchased in 1997 from Bill Clark of Stonington, Connecticut, a dealer of maritime collectibles. The previous provenance of the papers is unknown.

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Processing note:

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Folder 1.       Partial log of unknown ship sailing from Providence.

            September 23, 1798              Sailing south toward Martinique.

            October 5, 1798.                   Arriving in Martinique.

            October 23 to 24, 1798.       Sailing from Martinique to St. Kitts.


The only ship listed in the Providence Customs House entries and clearances as bound for Martinique during this time period was the sloop George, John Jenckes, master, which left Providence on August 13, 1798, and returned December 1. The crew lists and manifests for this time period are unfortunately not available, so it may be impossible to confirm that this was the same ship.


Folder 2.        Partial log of the ship Ann & Hope, sailing from Providence to Canton, China and back, Christopher Bentley, master.


The log covers five portions of the journey.

            September 19 to 25, 1799.    Sailing south on the east coast of Brazil

            October 4 to 11, 1799.         Sailing southeast around Cape of Good Hope (South Africa)

            November 13 to 28, 1799.   Through the Tasman Sea east of Australia.

            December 14 1799-               Resumes near the island of Kiribati.

            -January 23, 1800                 Arrives in Canton.

March 17, 1800-Resumes out of Canton, sailing southwest past Borneo.

            -April 16, 1800                      At the eastern passage past Java.


There is no direct way of identifying the log, but the course can be determined from the latitudes and longitudes. There were only a very few ships traveling from Providence to Canton. The library has, by an odd coincidence, three other log books kept for parts of this same journey by different authors. The log book kept by Benjamin Carter on the Ann & Hope gives information coinciding with this one. For example, on the date that Warner reports with great excitement the sighting of uncharted islands in the south Pacific, Carter mentioned that "as I was on the quarter deck conversing with the chief mate, Mr. Warner saw the land bearing from NW to W by compass. It was a most fortunate event for us that we tacked ship last night, otherwise the course we steered would have precipitated us on the island where we should probably have been devoured by savages or drowned." (12/27/1799).


Folder 3.        Nearly complete log of schooner Dispatch, William Hammett, master. The Customs House records show that the schooner actually left Providence for Alexandria on December 13.

            December 26, 1800   Sailing up Potomac River.

            January 10, 1801       Docked at Harper's Wharf (Alexandria, Va.?)

            January 28, 1801       Departed for Baltimore

            February 7, 1801       Landed in Baltimore

            February 13, 1801     Departed for Norfolk, Va.

            February 17, 1801     Landed in Norfolk. Saw ship of Providence.

            March 9, 1801           Departed Norfolk for Lisbon, Portugal.

            April 23, 1801           Landed in Lisbon

            May 6, 1801               Departed for New York

            June 17, 1801 Docked at Mr. Stevens' wharf in New York City

            June 24, 1801 Departed for Providence

            June 26, 1801 Ended voyage in Providence.

Folder 4.        Page from a log of the schooner Dispatch, Israel Bullock, master.

            July 12, 1801  Departed Providence for Lisbon.

            July 16, 1801  At sea, bearing east for Lisbon.

Folder 5.        Nearly complete log of schooner Dispatch.

            December 19, 1801   At Baltimore.

            January 2, 1802         Departed for Martinique.

            January 29, 1802       Arrived at Martinique.

            February 1, 1802       Depart for St. Thomas.

            February 5, 1802       Arrived in St. Thomas.

            February 10, 1802     Departed for St. Croix.

            February 12, 1802     Could not find a pilot in to St. Croix; departed for Jamaica.

            February 16, 1802     Arrived in Kingston, Jamaica

            March 21, 1802         Departed for Rhode Island

            April 28, 1802           Log ends while approaching Providence.



Folder 6.        Log of bark Roboreus, James Warner, master; Samuel Butler, owner. Two journeys in one volume.


December 23, 1818Departed Providence for Norfolk, Va.

            January 2, 1819         Arrived Norfolk

            January 3, 1819         Arrived at Alexandria, Va.

            February 25, 1819     Departed for Gibraltar

            April 14, 1819           Arrived at Gibraltar

            May 9, 1819               Departed for Ibiza (Balearic Islands, Spain)

            May 21, 1819 Arrived at Ibiza

            June 9, 1819               Departed for Providence

            August 15, 1819        Arrived at Providence


            April 29, 1820           Departed Providence for Wilmington, N.C.

            May 11, 1820 Arrived in Wilmington.

            June 18, 1820 Departed for Amsterdam, Holland.

            August 1, 1820          Arrived in Amsterdam

            August 19, 1820        Departed for Goteborg, Sweden

            August 26, 1820        Arrived in Goteborg.

            September 22, 1820  Departed for Providence.

            October 28, 1820       Discovers ship taking on water; resolves to head for nearest port.

            November 1, 1820    Arrives in Cork, Ireland.

Folder 7.        Copies of letters sent, 1817-1818.

                        As master of bark George Williams, April 1817 to June 1818


Folder 8.        Copies of letters sent, 1819-1820.

                        As master of the bark Roboreus, dated January 1819 to December 1820.

Folder 9.        Copies of letters sent, 1821-1822, to Edward Carrington and Peleg Aborn.

As master of ship William Baker, dated May 1821 to January 1822.

                        Also, undated poem beginning "Come o thou traveller unknown".

Folder 10.      Navigation lesson book, undated.

                        With memoranda and poems dated January and February 1799.

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Aborn, Peleg

Ann & Hope (ship)

Carrington, Edward (1775-1843)

China - Commerce

Dispatch (schooner)

George Williams

Log books - 1798-1820

Roboreus (bark)

Shipping - Rhode Island

William Baker

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