Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Dering Family Papers, 1755-1896

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, September 2009

Summary Information
Title: Dering family papers
Creator: Dering, Thomas, ca. 1716-1785, Dering, Henry, and Dering family
Inclusive dates: 1755-1896
Extent: 0.5 linear feet
The Dering Family papers contain correspondence received by Thomas Dering, a New York State congressman, and other members of the Dering family. Several letters are from Nathaniel Ray Thomas (d. 1791), a Loyalist from Massachusetts, and his wife, Sarah Dering Thomas; these concern both personal and business matters. Also included are letters from Republican Congressman and Sag Harbor resident Ebenezer Sage.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1963-1964. M-1257, M-1263, M-1324.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Alternate Format:

Microfilm (except for the Sage letters)

Preferred Citation:

Dering Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized chronologically with undated items filed at the end.


Thomas Dering, born c. 1716, lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and moved to Shelter Island, New York, by 1763. He was a delegate to the Third Provisional Congress in New York from May through June in 1776. He served the congress again in White Plains in July, when they unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence. He was elected a member of the Provincial Convention, which met in Fishkill in 1775 and 1777 to form a constitution for the State of New York. Dering moved his family to Connecticut for the duration of the Revolutionary War. He married Mary Sylvester in 1738; they had a daughter, Betty Dering, and two sons, Sylvester Dering and Henry Parker Dering. Thomas Dering died in 1785.

Sylvester Dering (1758-1820) took part in the Revolutionary war as a brigadier general in the Rhode Island state militia. He was a member of the State Assembly for Suffolk County from 1803 to 1804, and became the first vice-president of the Suffolk County Agricultural Society in 1818. He fell from his horse and died in 1820.

Henry Parker Dering (1734-1822), was born in Sag Harbor and graduated from Yale in 1784. In 1790 he was appointed the collector of the port of Sag-Harbor by General Washington, and in 1795, became the 1st Lieutenant of the Suffolk County Brigade. He married Anna Fosdick in 1793. They moved to Chatham, Connecticut, in 1800, returned to Sag Harbor in 1806, and then relocated to Washington in 1809. His youngest daughter, Anna C. Dering, married Mr. William R. Sleight. He also had a son, Lodowick Dering and a daughter, Francis.

Thomas Dering’s sister Sarah Dering Thomas married loyalist Nathaniel Ray Thomas (d. 1791). They had at least two children, Maria and Sally Thomas.

Ebenezer Sage was born in Chatham, Connecticut, on August 16, 1755, to David Sage and Sarah Stocking Sage. He graduated from Yale College in 1778, and in 1784 began practicing medicine in Easthampton, New York. Sage married Ruth Smith on January 30, 1790, and had at least two children: John Smith Sage (who married Eliza Gracie Dering) and Fanny Mary Sage. In 1801, Ebenezer Sage moved to Sag Harbor, New York, and served in congress as a Republican from March 4, 1809, to March 3, 1815, and was a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention of 1821. He died at Sag Harbor on January 20, 1834.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Dering Family papers contain 133 correspondence received by Thomas Dering and other members of the Dering family, as well as 1 book, 1 newspaper clipping, and 1 photograph. 20 letters are from Nathaniel Ray Thomas (d. 1791), a Loyalist from Marshfield, Massachusetts, to Thomas Dering at Boston. 16 of these are dated 1755, and discuss business dealings and family affairs. Thomas's wife, Sarah Dering Thomas, wrote approximately 10 letters to Thomas and 15 to her nephew Sylvester between 1755 and 1800. These concern family life, hardships suffered from maintaining loyalist sentiments during the American Revolution, her ongoing health issues, and difficulties encountered in Nova Scotia after the war. In a letter dated April 16, 1800, to Sylvester, she commented on British and French interference of U.S. shipping and trade.

The collection contains 50 letters from Ebenezer Sage to his friend Henry Dering in the period 1806-1815, from Sage’s time in Washington, DC. Sage described his experiences in Congress: committee meetings, legislative updates, foreign affairs, and the social scene in Washington, DC. In particular, he discussed the debate on the national bank, the war hawks in Congress, efforts to have gun boats defend Sag Harbor, reports of enemy fleets off the Potomac, and news of the American victory at New Orleans in 1815. One letter by Ebenezer Sage gives an account of a reception for First Lady Dolley Madison (February 21, 1810). Additional letters are from Sage's daughter, Frances Mary Sage, to her friend Frances Dering. The letters convey a strong friendship between the women and their desire to spend time together. A letter from November 28, 1813, contains a drawing of a bouquet by Frances Sage.

The Thomas and Dering families were friends with the influential Nova Scotia residents, John and Frances Wentworth. Several letters reference their visits in Nova Scotia, and a letter from Sarah Dering Thomas to Elizabeth Gardiner mentions Sir John Wentworth being appointed governor of Nova Scotia (1792). In one letter to Thomas Dering, dated January 6, 1784, Lady Frances Wentworth (in New York City), enclosed a newspaper announcement for her wedding in 1769. In this letter, she wrote about the difficulty of finding a ship to take her away from New York City during the British occupation. The Dering Family Papers also include a postcard of John Singleton Copley's portrait of Frances Wentworth from the Lenox Collection of the New York Public Library (enclosed in Wentworth’s 1784 letter).

This collection contains A Sketch of Dr. John Smith Sage of Sag Harbor, N.Y., a book by Anna Mulford, published in 1897 in Sag-Harbor by J.H. Hunt. The book includes a biographical account of John Sage, and mentions members of the Dering family. It also contains “some interesting letters of his father, Dr. Ebenezer Sage, written in the early part of the century, and other matters relating to Sag-Harbor.”

Subject Terms

    • American loyalists.
    • Nova Scotia--History.
    • Sag Harbor (N.Y.)
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States--History--War of 1812.
    • Dering, Frances Mary.
    • Dering, Henry P., b. ca. 1734.
    • Dering, Mary.
    • Dering Sylvester.
    • Sage, Ebenezer, 1755-1834.
    • Sage, Frances Mary, d. 1819.
    • Sage, John Smith, ca. 1791-1882.
    • Thomas, Sarah Dering.
    • Wentworth, Francis Atkinson.
    • Wentworth, John, 1737-1820.
    Genre Terms:
    • Books.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folder   1
     February 24-May 9, 1755
    Folder   2  
     May 30-August 10, 1755
    Folder   3  
     August 15-November 13, 1755
    Folder   4  
     November 18, 1755-July 17, 1757
    Folder   5  
     September 17, 1757-September 15, 1758
    Folder   6  
     September 23, 1758-July 11, 1775
    Folder   7  
     October 14, 1775-March 11, 1779
    Folder   8  
     June 9, 1779-January 6, 1784
    Folder   9  
     May 20, 1784-January 30, 1791
    Folder   10  
     January 31, 1791-March 10, 1796
    Folder   11  
     April 13, 1798-April 15, 1800
    Folder   12  
     May 16, 1800-December 15, 1809
    Folder   13  
     December 18, 1809-January 15, 1810
    Folder   14  
     January 15-February 27, 1810
    Folder   15  
     February 29-March [10], 1810
    Folder   16  
     March 15, 1810-June 7, 1812
    Folder   17  
     June 20, 1812-June 1813
    Folder   18  
     July 1813-December 30, 1814
    Folder   19  
    Folder   20  
     1814-October 4, 1896
    Folder   21  
    Book [series]
    Folder   22  
    Dr. John Smith Sage
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Henry Clinton papers contain a letter from Sergeant Dering to Tallmadge, dated June 12, [1779].