Jarvis family papers (1790-1884)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Shannon Wait, March 2011
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Jarvis family papers
Creator: Jarvis family
Inclusive dates: 1790-1884
Extent: 0.5 linear feet
The Jarvis family papers contain correspondence, documents, and letter books pertaining to the business affairs of several generations of the Jarvis family, who ran a sugarcane plantation in Antigua.
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: www.clements.umich.edu

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

1979. M-1849.

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.

Preferred Citation

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


The items are arranged into two series: Correspondence and Documents and Letter Books.


Thomas Jarvis inherited his father-in-law's Antiguan estate, Popeshead, in 1716; the sugar plantation grew and prospered, remaining in the family for two hundred years. The estates eventually included one thousand acres in the parishes of St. John and St. George, as well as Long Island and Bird Island. In 1747, after Jarvis' death, the estate passed to his eldest son, Thomas (1722-1785), who served in the government of Antigua, eventually becoming Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. With his wife, Rachel Thibou, the younger Thomas had numerous children, including Thomas Jarvis III (ca. 1784-1807), George Ralph Payne Jarvis, Bertie Entwisle Jarvis (1793-1862), and James Nibbs Jarvis (1794-1842). James and his wife Lorne Campbell had a son, Thomas Jarvis (1835-1877), who served on the General Legislative Council of Antigua.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Jarvis family papers, 1790-1884, contain 19 legal documents, 12 letters, 4 financial records and receipts, 3 letterbooks, 2 manuscript maps, a poem, and a printed item. These are arranged into two series: Correspondence and Documents and Letter Books.

The Correspondence and Documents series contains a variety of documents and scattered letters spanning 1807 to 1884 and relating to several generations of the Jarvis family. The materials primarily concern the property, finances, and careers of Jarvis family members in Antigua, particularly Thomas Jarvis III; his brothers Bertie Entwisle Jarvis and James Nibbs Jarvis; and grandson, Thomas Jarvis. They include the wills of Thomas Jarvis III (October 3, 1807) and Bertie Entwisle Jarvis (December 6, 1859), which document the dispersal of property, slaves, and money, as well as an estimate of the value of Bertie Jarvis' property after the legal emancipation of slaves in Antigua (December 12, 1834). Another document grants power of attorney to Bertie Jarvis to sell the slaves of Mary Jarvis, widow of Thomas Jarvis, Jr. (July 2, 1828). Several additional items relate to appointments and honors, such as a confirmation of Bertie Jarvis' appointment to sit on the Board of Council of Antigua (June 19, 1831), and an official invitation to Queen Victoria's coronation (1837). The few letters in this series pertain primarily to financial and business matters.

The undated material in the Jarvis family papers, placed at the end of Box 1, includes two small manuscript maps of land in Antigua. The first, dated ca. 1800 and entitled "Plan of Harts' and Royals' Estate Buildings," shows the buildings of a sugar mill, including the "Chaff machine room," "Rum cellar under Stillhouse," "Cureing house," and the house and kitchen of the overseer. The other manuscript map, of "Thibou's and Blizards" estates in Antigua, reveals public roads, shops, and burial grounds. Another item of interest is a handwritten, undated poem about a bride, which mentions the following properties associated with the Jarvis family: Mount Joshua, Thibou, and Blizards.

The Letter Books series contains three letter books: one by Thomas Jarvis, Jr., August 20, 1790, to July 2, 1792; and two by Bertie Entwisle Jarvis covering July 4, 1825, to September 12, 1826, and October 7, 1826, to May 6, 1829. Thomas Jarvis' letterbook contains business letters regarding the execution of wills and other property matters. Some letters pertain to his estate in Antigua, while others refer to his role as executor and attorney for neighbors and others in the area. Many of the letters document the sugar trade, including cultivation, processing, and shipment. The letters also occasionally mention slaves and slavery. On July 9, 1791, he wrote a letter to "John Wilcox (a free Mulatto)," informing him of the expiration of his lease of some slaves. In another letter to a woman named Mary Trant, he informed her that her slaves were declining in number and noted that "only two of them have bred during their abode with me, namely Nanny, & Bess," and that six had died (October 2, 1791). Other letters comment on family matters and the disappointment of several years of poor sugarcane crops.

The other two letter books contain the outgoing correspondence of Bertie Entwisle Jarvis. They, too, focus primarily on business and financial matters, with occasional updates on family members’ health, marriages, and children. Some letters record Jarvis' management of fellow planters’ accounts, including his comments on their debt and the timeliness of their payments. Many other letters deal with the day-to-day business of the sugar trade. In two letters to a "Mrs. Jarvis," he discussed the sale of her slaves (July 11, 1827; February 17, 1828), and in his letter of February 21, 1826, he mentioned British and American slavery, and antislavery societies in Boston. In several letters, he also pointed out the implications of the emancipation of slaves on Antigua's economy.

Subject Terms

  • Antigua--History.
  • Antigua--Maps, Manuscript.
  • Slavery--Antigua.
  • Slaves--Antigua.
  • Sugar--Manufacture and refining.
  • Jarvis, Bertie Entwistle, 1793-1862.
  • Jarvis, George Ralph Payne.
  • Jarvis, James Nibbs.
  • Jarvis, Jane Whitehead.
  • Jarvis, Mary Elizabeth Shepherd Freeman.
  • Jarvis, Thomas, d. 1747.
  • Jarvis, Thomas, 1735-1805.
  • Jarvis, Thomas, 1835-1877.
Genre Terms:
  • Legal documents.
  • Letter Books.
  • Letters (correspondence)

Contents List

Container / Location Title
Box   1  
Correspondence and Documents,  1807-1884 [series]
Box   2  
Letter Books [series]
Thomas Jarvis, Jr., letter book,  August 20, 1790-July 2, 1792
Bertie Entwisle Jarvis letter book,  July 4, 1825-September 12, 1826
Bertie Entwisle Jarvis letter book,  October 7, 1826-May 6, 1829

Additional Descriptive Data


Oliver, Vere Langford. The History of the Island of Antigua, One of the Leeward Caribbees In the West Indies: From the First Settlement In 1635 to the Present Time. London: Mitchell and Hughes, 1894.