Joseph Jervis died in 1752.
What an interesting life. Born in England. One of the first settlers of William Penn’s Pennsylvania. One of the first settlers to go west to Lancaster County. Farmer, miller, trader, entrepreneur, innkeeper, scoundrel.
Joseph was born around 1673 in Nantwich, Cheshire, England. His parents were John and Elizabeth Jervis, who had become Quakers a few years earlier.
John Jervis was a heelmaker, supplying heels to the shoe-making industry around Nantwich.
Joseph’s father John had been previously married and children, so Joseph had older half-siblings Mary and John.
His father died
In October 1680, when Joseph was 7, his father died. His mother Elizabeth was pregnant, and sister Ruth was born in November 1680.
John Jervis’ death caused Elizabeth to fall into poverty. For several years thereafter, she and the children lived by the charity of the Quaker community, who provided her a small stipend and a place to live.
In summer of 1683, Elizabeth Jervis made the decision to emigrate from England to Pennsylvania. She was widowed with two children; 10-year-old Joseph and 3-year-old Ruth.
Elizabeth acquired 150 acres of land from William Penn. It was along Ridley Creek in Middletown, near Chester, Pennsylvania.
At age 10, Joseph must have been a big help to his mother. Somehow, they managed to build a cabin and grow a subsistence garden.
Coming of age
In late 1684, Elizabeth Jervis married Joseph Cookson. They had three children, Joseph’s half-siblings.
The family lived on the land that Elizabeth had been warranted by William Penn.
Joseph was age 11. He lived at home until the mid-1690s, when he was in his early 20s.
Joseph’s family were Quakers. But perhaps not the most devout.
Joseph was occasionally reprimanded by the Quaker meeting for “disorderly walking”, whether for non-payment of debts, not getting permission to travel, having improper visions, and selling rum to the Indians.
By 1716, Joseph was disowned. He was no longer a Quaker.
Joseph was quite active in acquiring and selling land. Beginning in 1695, at age 22, Joseph acquired tracts of land nearby his mother’s original tract.
In 1701, he got a warrant and patent from the proprietor for another land tract. And in 1711, he acquired rights to 650 more acres from John Marsh.
In 1701, at age 28, Joseph erected and operated a grist mill along Ridley Creek. In 1705, he sold the mill to Richard Crosby.
In later years, the mill was re-sold and expanded. History records that the paper used to draft the US Constitution came from this mill.
Today the mill site is the public waterworks for the town of Media, Pennsylvania.
Joseph bought and sold land tracts. He also seemed to buy and sell trade goods. In one case in 1716, he made a trip to England and Barbados. We don’t know why he went to England, but he returned from Barbados with several hundred gallons of rum and casks of sugar.
And we know that some of his customers were the local Lenape Indians, because Joseph is censured for selling them rum.
Move west to Pequea
Joseph was close to his Cookson half-siblings, and also his sister Ruth’s husband Joseph Cloud. Around 1715, the Jervises, Cooksons, and Clouds decided to move west to an unsettled area 35 miles west of Middletown.
They settled an area near the head of Pequea Creek.
Marriage to Esther
Joseph married Esther. We don’t know Esther’s family name or early life. She was born in 1698, so she was 25 years younger than Joseph.
Joseph and Esther’s children
Joseph and Esther had eight children: Joseph Jr., John, Solomon, William, Caleb, Joshua, Catherine, and James. They were born beginning in the 1720s, with the youngest James born in 1740.
From the time they settled in Pequea Creek in 1715 to the late 1720s, the lands were being increasingly settled. Lands further west to the Susquehanna River were also more populated.
In 1729, Joseph Jervis and Daniel Cookson and other residents petitioned the governor to form a new county. Thus Lancaster County was created.
Townships were subdivided, and Jervis and Cookson lands were in newly-formed Salisbury Township.
And a new village, White Horse, had grown up around Joseph’s land.
In White Horse (originally Pequea), Joseph built and operated another grist mill. His land was ideally located on a spring which emptied into a branch of Pequea Creek.
On the adjacent farm to the east, Joseph’s half-brother Daniel Cookson lived. He, too, operated a grist mill because his land was on the east branch of the creek.
A public house
In 1733, a survey was done to lay out the King’s Highway from Lancaster to Philadelphia. The road went right past the Jervis and Cookson lands.
The road survey noted that Jervis operated a hostelry, and we find court records for Joseph continuing to apply for a license to operate a public house.
By the late 1740s, Joseph had been living near Pequea Creek for almost thirty years. His family had grown to seven children. His mill and public house were well established.
Joseph was getting on in years. In 1747, he and Esther deeded the mill to their son Solomon. We might assume that Solomon had been operating the mill. Perhaps the other sons were farming. Maybe son John was running the public house, as he himself operated hostelries in later years.
Joseph Jervis died
Joseph Jervis died in March 1752 at his home in White Horse. He was 79.
Esther is administrator
Joseph’s wife Esther Jervis, John Hopkins, and Isaac Richardson were bonded as Administrators of Joseph’s estate. Esther was 54 when Joseph died.
Esther, Hopkins, and Richardson were responsible for listing Joseph’s goods, chattels, rights, and credits.
Here’s an inventory of Joseph’s goods, his worldly belongings. It’s a pretty modest list for a lifetime of effort and work. We might assume that at his advanced age he had passed some of his belongings to his children.
This list doesn’t include real property, like land or a house. Joseph and Esther still owned a tract of land.
Joseph lived 300 years ago. It’s amazing that we’ve learned so much about him. We can almost sense his thoughts and feelings as life events happen.
Joseph and Esther had a 30 year marriage. They raised eight children. Esther will live many more years. We’ll continue to follow their story.
- Letter of Administration and Inventory – Esther Jervis for Joseph Jervis estate – 1752 – F002 J – Lancaster History – Lancaster, PA
- All images – attributed in earlier posts
- All maps – attributed in earlier posts
- Photos – Mark Jarvis – July 2017