Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William Pote Family Papers, 1769-1997

Finding aid created by
Mary Parsons, 2001 and 2007, and Naomi Herman-Aplet and Meg Hixon, January 2012

Summary Information
Title: William Pote family papers
Creator: Rabick, Susan J.
Inclusive dates: 1769-1997
Bulk dates: 1788-1900
Extent: 0.75 linear feet and 3 volumes
This collection contains correspondence, documents, and genealogical information related to Captain William Pote, Jr., of Marblehead, Massachusetts; his sons Greenfield and Samuel; his grandson William; and other descendants. Many items reflect the Pote family's involvement in shipping. One series concerns the family's claim for compensation after French privateers seized a ship's cargo. Later material pertains to efforts of the Dennison and King families to trace their ancestors, who included members of the Pote family.
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:

1996-2004. M-3314, M-3473, M-4044, M-4073, M-4374.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.


This collection was compiled by a descendant of the Pote family.

Preferred Citation:

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


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Pote Family Correspondence and Documents
  • Series II: Dennison Family Correspondence and Documents
  • Series III: French Spoliation Documents
  • Series IV: Account Books, Daybook, and Log Book
  • Series V: Ephemera
  • Series VI: Genealogy


William Pote, Jr., was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, in 1689, the son of William Pote and Ann Hooper. He worked as a ship captain in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and spent two years in captivity after being imprisoned by French privateers in 1745. On June 2, 1715, he married Dorothy Gatchell, and they had nine children: Ann, William (1718-1755), Gamaliel, Jeremiah, Elisha, Increase, Samuel (1731-1789), Thomas, and Greenfield (1736-1797). Greenfield Pote also went to sea, and owned the schooner Shark . He became acquainted with the Shaker movement through his brother Thomas, and assisted in the group's 1784 pilgrimage to the home of Mother Ann Lee in Watervliet, New York. He married Jane Grant (1742-1786) in 1758.

Greenfield and Jane's son William (1766-1847) worked for his father and made frequent trading voyages to the West Indies, to Europe, and along the Atlantic Coast. Following his father's death, William Pote repaired seagoing vessels, traded in rum and sugar, and worked on his farm. Among his ships were the Leopard and Allegator . He and his wife, Dorcus Merrill (1772-1842), married in 1788 and had 11 children: Jane (1791-1867; m. Charles Rogers), Mary Ann (b. 1793; m. Hugh Nevens), Robert (1795-1814), Joanna (1796-1807), Miriam (b. 1798), Eliza (1801-1875; m. Benjamin Lufkin), William, Jr. (1803-1831), Dorcus (1805-1889), Eleanor (1807-1871; m. Joshua Thompson and Timothy Kennard), Joanna (1809-1884), and Sophia Merrill (1811-1877; m. Horatio Kendall and Samuel Dennison).

During the 1790s, the Pote family suffered two significant financial setbacks related to their shipping interests. The Columbia , owned by Greenfield Pote and captained by William Pote (1766-1847), was delayed in Bordeaux during a trade embargo in 1793, resulting in lost cargo and income. The family later filed a claim for damages, and William Pote was awarded 4,914.94 francs as compensation under an agreement made by the United States and France in 1803. The family's second claim, which proved unsuccessful, was filed after the schooner Freeport was captured by the French Republican cutter Rights of Man and subsequently sold at a prize court in Santiago, Cuba. The family's descendants reactivated the claim in 1883, after Congress reached a new agreement regarding spoliation claims, but their claim did not appear on a published list of successful "unpaid claims of citizens of the United States against France."

William and Dorcus Pote's sons Robert Pote and William Pote, Jr., also had nautical careers. Robert died onboard the Dash during the War of 1812, and William, Jr., served as captain on several mackerel fishing boats, as well as other ships involved in the West Indies trade. He was also a part-owner of the Leopard in 1831. William Pote, Jr., married Eleanor Jane Kendall (b. 1810), daughter of Robert Kendall (1773-1858) and Peggy Rogers (1778-1860), on January 10, 1831, and they had no children. He died in 1831 after being washed overboard while attempting to fix a boat's rigging during a voyage to the West Indies.

Samuel Allen Dennison (1812-1850) was born in Freeport, Maine, to Joseph Dennison (1799-1847) and Dorcas Lufkin (1784-1820), and worked as a seaman. On September 18, 1842, he married Sophia Merrill Pote; the couple had one daughter, Eliza Dennison (m. King), born on December 11, 1846. Eliza worked as a schoolteacher and compiled extensive genealogical information about her families. She lived in Warwick, Rhode Island, and died on April 16, 1928.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains correspondence, documents, and genealogical information related to Captain William Pote, Jr., of Marblehead, Massachusetts; his sons Greenfield and Samuel; his grandson William; and other descendants. Many items reflect the Pote's involvement in shipping, and one series of items concerns the family's claim for compensation after French privateers seized a ship and its cargo. Later material pertains to efforts of the Dennison and King families to trace their ancestors, who included the Pote family.

The Pote Family Correspondence and Documents series (59 items) contains material related to the descendants of William Pote, dated between 1769 and 1853. Two early letters, including one between Samuel Pote and John Poat, the latter an English sea captain (November 11, 1769), and another copied from Jos. Poat about a family marriage in the year 1334 (March 1776), reveal the family's early interest in their genealogy. The series also holds business correspondence, such as 6 letters between Samuel Pote and Jedediah Pebble related to a payment dispute over the sale of the Nero (October 1781-March 1783). The financial documents are records concerning Greenfield Pote, his son William, and Samuel Pote, including agreements, a deed, receipts, and estate papers.

The Dennison Family Correspondence and Documents series (25 items) is comprised of correspondence and documents related to several generations of the Dennison and King families (1747-1997). Among the items are letters exchanged by Samuel and Horatio Dennison, wills for George and Samuel Dennison, and a document granting Samuel Dennison United States citizenship (January 27, 1839).

The French Spoliation Documents series (57 items) consists of 43 letters, 1 postcard, 2 petitions, 4 pages of hand copied records, 2 pages from an account book, 3 newspaper clippings, and 2 government publications, all related to a financial claims resulting from French capture of American merchant ships in the late 18th century. William Pote (1766-1847) owned the Freeport , a ship seized by a French privateer in 1796. The series traces the Pote family's attempts to gain financial compensation from the United States government. Many letters were exchanged between family members and lawyers.

Two printed volumes are in the series:

  • French Spoliations. Report of the Secretary of State... Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1886 (324 pages)
  • Statement Showing the Payments of Awards of the Commissioners Appointed Under the Conventions Between the United States and France, Concluded April 30, 1803, and July 4, 1831, and Between the United States and Spain, Concluded February 22, 1819... Washington: Government Printing Office, 1886.

The Account Books and Daybook series contains 4 items.

William Pote's daybook and account book consists of 196 pages of ledger entries kept between 1788 and 1844, as well as the following loose items: 19 letters (1793-1835), 4 pages from an account book (1776), and 5 additional documents. The financial records concern agricultural products, manufactured goods, labor, personal notes, and seamen's wages, as well as different goods produced and sold by the Pote family, such as fish, eels, clams, corn, potatoes, butter, meat, rum, sugar, molasses, tea, and salt. Roughly 225 people, 19 ships' captains, 10-15 seamen, and 17 unique vessels are covered. In addition to family finances, the daybook documents several trips William Pote made to the West Indies between 1789 and 1790, and to Europe in 1792 and in unidentified years. A group of records dated between March and July 1802 pertain to the Portland Mineral Company's expenses.

William Pote, Jr., kept an account book (145 pages) between 1825 and 1830. The volume also contains laundry records (1849) and Bessie F. H. Jackson's school notes (1889). Pote's records pertain to the sale of food and supplies to 9 schooners ( Adeline , Desiah , Galens , Julia Ann , Leopard , Lincoln , Pelican , William H. Crawford , and William ), repairs made to the Leopard (p. 48), and cargo carried onboard the Lincoln during an 1830 trip to Honduras and on the Adeline during an journey to Belize and Honduras (p. 140). Pote also noted the names and earnings of 13 men who participated in mackerel fishing expeditions.

A smaller blue volume (38 pages) contains three main sections: William Gardiner's expenses of the Leopard 's mackerel fishing voyages (1833-1834); William Pote's farm accounts between 1835 and 1836; and Pote's 2 accounts concerning payments made to his married daughters Eliza and Sophia (undated). Receipts are also laid into the volume.

An anonymous author also maintained an account book and log book for the Allegator (212 pages), which contains records of the ship's mackerel fishing expeditions between May 1828 and November 1831. Log entries record the weather, daily catch size, the ship's location, and other information. The volume also holds additional accounts William Pote (1766-1847) kept between 1831 and 1847, documenting the fishing voyages of the Allegator and Leopard .

The Ephemera series (13 items) is comprised of the following items: 2 negatives of silhouettes of William (1766-1847) and Dorcus Pote (1772-1842); 2 prints made from those negatives; 8 poems composed by Eliza Pote Dennison; and a pamphlet entitled "The Home Formulary: The Latest and Most Valuable Toilet and Miscellaneous Formulas for Home Use," by William Hobury.

Eliza Dennison King, William Pote's granddaughter, compiled the material within the Genealogy series (96 items) while researching the history of the Pote, Dennison, and allied families. The series includes King's correspondence with distant cousins and drafts of family trees.

Subject Terms

    • Allegator (Schooner)
    • Caribbean Area--Commerce.
    • Central America--Commerce--United States.
    • Family history.
    • French spoliation claims.
    • Genealogy.
    • Leopard (Schooner)
    • Mackerel fishing.
    • Marblehead (Mass.)
    • Shipping.
    • United States--Commerce--Central America.
    • West Indies--Description and travel.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Pote, Dorcas.
    • Pote, William, 1766-1847.
    • Dennison, Samuel Allen, 1812-1850.
    • Dennison, Horatio.
    • Dennison, George.
    • Pote, Samuel, 1731-1789.
    • Pote, William, 1766-1847.
    • Pote, William, Jr., 1803-1831.
    • Pote, Greenfield, 1736-1797.
    • King, Eliza Dennison, 1846-1928.
    Genre Terms:
    • Account books.
    • Accounts.
    • Daybooks.
    • Financial records.
    • Genealogies.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Receipts (financial records)
    • Reports.
    • Ships' logs.
    • Silhouettes.
    • Wills.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Pote Family Correspondence and Documents [series]
    Box   1 Folders   1-8
     November 11, 1769-August 2, 1853    [Note: Includes items located in oversize manuscripts]
    Dennison Family Correspondence and Documents [series]
    Box   1 Folders   9-12
     February 13, 1747-June 27, 1997    [Note: Includes items located in oversize manuscripts]
    French Spoliation Documents [series]
    Box   1 Folders   13-25
     December 23, 1796-1897
    Account Books, Daybook, and Log Book [series]
    Box   1 Folder   26
    William Gardiner and William Pote account book,  1833-1853
    Volume   I  
    William Pote account book,  1776-1839
    Volume   II  
    William Pote, Jr., account book,  1825-1830,  1849, and  1889
    Volume   III  
    Allegator log book and William Pote account book,  1828-1847
    Ephemera [series]
    Box   2 Folders   1-2
     June 22, 1864-November 28, 1963    [Note: Includes items located in oversize manuscripts]
    Genealogy [series]
    Box   2 Folders   3-16
     June 26, 1873-December 19, 1956
    Additional Descriptive Data

    The Manuscripts Division holds additional indexes, research, and genealogical information about the collection. This includes, but is not limited to, the following resources:

    • Additional background notes and information about the bound volumes and French spoliation documents
    • Partial inventories
    • Index of names, seagoing vessels, and (to a lesser extent) subjects mentioned in William Pote's daybook and account book (1788-1844), as well as letters copied within
    • Family trees and genealogical information for the Pote family and allied families
    • Copied secondary source materials and research about the Pote family
    Related Materials

    The following volume, written by William Pote's grandfather, is located in the Clements Library's Book Division:

    Pote, William, and John Fletcher Hurst. The Journal of Captain William Pote, Jr., During His Captivity in the French and Indian War from May, 1745, to August, 1747. New York: Dodd, Mead & co., 1896.

    The Maine Historical Society owns the following collections:

    • Increase Pote account book, 1772-1835
    • Samuel Pote letter book, 1752-1800

    Goold, William, "A Visit to Albany to See Ann Lee." Portland in the Past. (Portland, Maine: B. Thurston & Company, 1886), 330.