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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor

 



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Richard Derby

DERBY, Richard, merchant, born in Salem, Massachusetts, 12 September 1712; died there 9 November 1783. In 1736 he was master of the sloop " Ranger," sailing from Salem for Cadiz and Malaga, and in 1742 master and part owner of the "Volant." bound for Barbadoes and the French islands. In 1757 Captain Derby appears to have retired from the sea, relinquished his vessels to his sons John and Richard, and become a merchant of Salem. His vessels were exposed not only to the dangers of the sea but also to the French and English cruisers. During the French war, 1756'63, he owned several ships and brigantines. He took a decided part in seeking redress from the British ministry for wrongs done to American shipping by English privateers. From 1769 till 1773 he was a member of the general court, in 1774, 1776, and 1777 a member of the governor's council.

In 1774'5, his son Richard was a delegate to the Provincial congress, in the narrative of the march of Leslie to Salem it is related that Captain Derby was owner of some of the cannon that Colonel Leslie desired to seize. Meeting the old gentleman before his house in Salem, he demanded the surrender of the cannon, and "urged him to deliver them up without resistance." Derby's reply was as significant as that of the old Spartan: "Find them, if you can! Take them, if you can! They will never be surrendered !"

His widow founded the Derby academy, at Hingham. His eldest son, Richard, was an ardent patriot; and another of his sons, John Derby, was an owner of the ship "Columbia," which, on her second voyage, discovered Columbia River. By a remarkable concurrence of events, and by the uncommon speed of two ships, owned by his father and brother, he carried to England the first news of the battle of Lexington, returned to Salem with the first intelligence of the effect it produced in London, which he laid before General Washington, at Cambridge, and at the close of the war brought to America from France the first news of peace.

His son, Elias Nasket Derby, merchant, born in Salem, Massachusetts, 16 August 1739; died there, 8 September 1799. In early life he kept the books and conducted the correspondence of his father, and he seems to have been the accountant of his family. From 1760 till 1775 he not only took charge of the books, wharves, and other property, but, imbibing the spirit of his father, and acquiring through him and his captains a knowledge of commerce, he engaged extensively in trade with the English and French islands, he made important improvements in shipbuilding, and warmly espoused the cause of the colonists. He loaned the government a large proportion of the supplies for the army, furnished boats for the troops, furnished the French fleet with coal, and was the leader in building a frigate for the nation. He was also extensively and successfully engaged in privateering against British commerce. As the war progressed, he established shipyards, studied naval architecture, and built a class of vessels superior in size, model, and speed to any previously launched in the colonies, which were able to cope with a British sloop-of-war. He united with his townsmen in the equipment of 158 private armed vessels fitted out at Salem, mounting more than 2,000 guns.

In 1784 he opened the trade to St. Petersburg, and from 1785 till 1799 there is record of his sending at least 37 different vessels on 125 voyages, of which 45 were to the East Indies or China. In 1791 he embarked in the regular trade with India, and is called the father of American commerce with that country. After this his ships made many voyages to foreign ports. He first displayed the American flag before the fortress of Calcutta, and his were the first American ships that carried cargoes of cotton from Bombay to China. In 1798, under President John Adams, a navy was begun, and Mr. Derby contributed $10,000 of the $75,000 raised by citizens at once. Its establishment was the result of Mr. Derby's advice to the president and congress, which body in June passed an act authorizing the president to accept such vessels as citizens might build for the national service, and to issue a six percent stock to indemnify the subscribers. Though the war seriously impaired the trade and fortunes of ship owners, yet at Mr. Derby's death he left an estate that exceeded $1,000,000, supposed to be the largest fortune in this country during the last century; but he had contributed still more to the growth of his town, state, and the commerce of his country.

His mansion, which he had occupied but a few months previous to his death, required an expensive style of living, and in consequence many of the buildings and gardens were closed for years after his death, and finally gave way to the Salem square and marketplace that now bear the name of Derby.

His eldest son, Elias Hasket Derby, Jr., merchant, born in Salem, Massachusetts, 10 January 1766 ; died in Londonderry, New Hampshire, 16 September 1826. His father showed high appreciation of his services, as having, by two important voyages, contributed largely to his fortune the one to the isle of France, the other to Naples. For ten years after his father's death he occupied the paternal mansion, but, finding his fortune impaired by the requirements of its luxurious appointments and the adverse course of trade, he resumed business. On one voyage from London to Lisbon he found that large flocks of merino sheep had crossed the mountains to escape the French armies, and determined to take a flock to the United States. Until this period the export of merinos had been prohibited in Spain. The wool of this country was so coarse that an English traveler had predicted it would never rival England in cloth.

General Derby embarked with a flock of 1,100 merinos of the Montarco breed, and in 1811 landed them in New York, whence they were sent to his farm, "Ten Hills," near Boston. During the war he established the first broadcloth loom ever erected in the state. He remained a year in the isle of France in charge of his father's vessel, and was the first to display our ensign in the ports of Bombay and Calcutta, establishing the trade in those parts. After a residence of three years in India, the result of one of his voyages was a profit of $100,000 to his father. Soon afterward he sent a ship on the first voyage from the United States to Mocha, in the Red Sea. The children of the senior Elias Hasket completed the Derby wharf in Salem, extending it 2,000 feet into the harbor, contributed largely to the construction of a bridge and avenue, and leveled and improved the oommon. He received an honorary degree from Harvard University in 1803.

His eldest son, Elias Hasket Derby, lawyer, born in Salem, Massachusetts, 24 September 1803; died in Boston, Massachusetts, 30 March 1880, was graduated with high honors at Harvard in 1824, studied law with Daniel Webster, began practice in Boston in 1827, and attained reputation as a railroad attorney. Before legislative committees he encountered successfully the ablest counsel of the state, and secured the extension of many important lines of road. To his unremitting efforts was largely due the construction and completion of the Hoosac tunnel. He was also zealous in his efforts to secure the construction of ironclad vessels during the civil war, and was active in promoting the commercial interests of Boston. As U. S. commissioner in 1867, Mr. Derby transmitted to Sec. Seward an exhaustive report on the relations of the United States with the British provinces and the condition of the question of the fisheries. It was largely through his efforts that the use of jute was introduced into the United States. He was the author of "Two Months Abroad" (Boston, 1844); " Catholic Letters" (Boston, 1856); " The Overland Route to the Pacific," and numerous articles in periodicals and newspapers, some of them under the pen name of " Massachusetts George.

The nephew of Elias Hasket, Jr., born in Salem, Massachusetts, 13 February 1819; died in Boston, Massachusetts, 20 June 1874, was graduated at Harvard in 1838 in the collegiate department, and in 1843 in the medical school, and began practice in Boston, giving much attention to sanitary science. He had acquired a lucrative practice and a wide reputation by his writings on sanitary subjects before he entered the army in November 1861, at which time he was commissioned surgeon in the 23d Massachusetts volunteers, serving for four years, and holding several important offices, among them those of medical inspector of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, and surgeon-in-chief of divisions, finally attaining the rank of brevet lieutenant colonel of volunteers, His services were regarded as most valuable, not only to his regiments but to the health and sanitary condition of the army, and the government gave him the last-named commission when his health had compelled him to leave the army. After the war he was appointed to the command of the Soldiers' hospital at Augusta, Maine, but he returned to Boston in 1866, was appointed one of the surgeons at the City hospital, and early set about the establishment of a state board of health, of which he was secretary and executive officer from January 1866, until his death. In 1872 he was appointed to the new professorship of hygiene at Harvard medical College. His eight health registration reports were published, and gave rise to new views and reforms in sanitary science. He published a series of articles in the annual report of the Massachusetts board of health, which brought him to the notice of sanitarians at home and abroad, He issued a treatise on "Anthracite and Health" (Boston, 1868).

George's half brother, John Barton, author, born in Salem, Massachusetts, 13 November 1792" died in Boston in 1867, was graduated at Bowdoin in 1811, studied law in Northampton, Massachusetts, and began practice in Dedham. In the latter part of his life he lived in Boston, where he held a subordinate office in the customhouse, and afterward became a familiar object in State Street, gaining a precarious living by selling razors and other small wares, and amusing himself by writing poetry. He published "Musings of a Recluse" (Boston, 1837)" "The Sea" (1840)" and "The Village" (1841).

John Barton's son, George Horatio Barton, soldier, born in Dedham, Massachusetts, 3 April 1823" died in New York, 15 May 1861. He was graduated at West Point in 1846, and made brevet 2d lieutenant of ordnance. He was transferred in 1846 to the corps of topographical engineers, and later in the same year served as assistant on the survey of New Bedford harbor, Massachusetts. In the war with Mexico he served at the siege of Vera Cruz, was severely wounded in the battle of Cerro Gordo, and for gallant and meritorious conduct in that battle was brevetted 1st lieutenant. After his official duties as assistant in the topographical bureau in Washington, he conducted various surveys, 1847'8, and also explorations in Minnesota territory, 1848'9, and in the Departments of the Pacific and Texas, 1849'52. He had charge of the survey and improvements of San Diego harbor. California, 1853'4, was on the staff of the commanding general of the Department of the Pacific, and of military roads in the same division in 1854'6, and was coast surveyor and lighthouse engineer in 1856'9. He rose to the rank of captain of engineers, and for two years was employed by the government in erecting lighthouses on the Florida and Alabama coast. In the discharge of his duty in Florida he suffered sunstroke, which affected his sight and caused softening of the brain, from which he died after his removal to New York. Under the pen name "John Phoenix" he wrote a series of sketches and burlesques, which were published with the title of "Phmnixiana" (New York, 1855). He was also the author of "The Squibob Papers " (1859), under which name other of his articles were published after his death.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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