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The race of magnificent old East India merchants of the early part of this century, and a later period, are passing away___in fact, have nearly all gone. There is something grand in the title of an East India merchant. It conveys the idea of large ships, long voyages occupying a year and more to the distant Oriental climes, whose commerce is still a mystery. East India merchant!____we at once think of "India's coral strand," "the golden Ind," "palmy plains," "the breezes of the Spice Islands," and a thousand other things that Columbus started to discover when he blundered upon this great continent. We are all accustomed to accord the highest mark of mercantile greatness to the merchant who owns his own ship, loads her with silver, ginseng, lead, and sterling bills, and starts her off on a voyage of a year, with or without a gentlemanly supercargo, and to come back a wooden island of spicy perfumes, equal to any from Araby the blessed, as she lies at anchor in the North or East river, loaded with teas of all classes, with silks, nankeens, cassia, and a thousand other things that come from China. To us, the real East India merchant is the one who sends his ships to China. We do not have as much trade with British India, and the Calcutta merchant of the olden time ranks second to those houses who have in former years, before other ports were opened to the world, done a large trade with Canton. Among those eminent houses in this city, well known to us of this generation, were the Franklins, Minturns, and Champlins. Archibald Gracie & Sons, Thomas H. Smith & Son, John Jacob Astor, Hoyt & Tom, N.L. & G. Griswold, Talbot, Olyphant & Co., Alsop & Co., Russell & Co., Edward Carrington & Co., Goodhue & Co., Howland & Aspinwall, and Wetmore & Co. WILLIAM S. WETMORE The founder of the latter house was William S. Wetmore, who was of a more recent generation of East India Merchants. When the East India houses I have named were in their glory, about the commencement of this century, he was born in a little Vermont town in the early part of the year 1801. He received the ordinary district school education of a New England boy, and when about fourteen started out into the great world, as so many of the sons of New England do. At the age of twenty-three, he was shipwrecked near Valparaiso, to which port he had gone as supercargo of one of the ships of Edward Carrington & Co., of Providence. Samuel Wetmore, an uncle of young William, was the partner of Mr. Carrington. The latter was the largest ship owner and East India merchant in the United States. The chief clerk in the house for many years was Thomas P. Bucklin, now of the firm of Bucklin & Crane of this city, in the East India trade. The agent in Canton of Mr. Carrington was Isaac M. Bull, now of the firm of Bull, Purdon & Co., in China. At present, Mr. Bull resides in this country. W. S. Wetmore also married Miss Esther Wetmore in 1837, a daughter of Samuel Wetmore, his cousin, for his first wife. W.S. left the house of Alsop & Co. in 1831, retiring from it with a large fortune. He came back to the United States. Not long after he went to Canton, China, and in connection with Joseph Archer of Philadelphia, established the house of Wetmore & Co., and succeeded to the large and profitable business of Nathan Dunn & Co. There has always been a great number of Philadelphia merchants engaged in the China trade. Such men as Dunn, W.R. Thompson, Israel, Samuel Comly, Henry Tolland, Richard Alsop, Bevan & Humphreys, John McCrea, Eyne, Massey and others. Mr. Wetmore in 1841 married Miss Rogers, of Salem, for his second wife. She was a daughter of the celebrated merchant Rogers of that place. He was largely engaged in the East India trade, and also to the domains of the Sultan of Muscat. He had an agent who constantly resided at Zanzibar. W. S. Wetmore remained in Canton, personally superintending his large business, until his return in 1839. He arrived in New York in February, 1840, and established himself in this city. Before W. S. Wetmore established himself in New York city, in 1840, Richard Alsop had been the principal agent in America of Wetmore & Co. of Canton. This connection continued until an unfortunate quarrel broke off all intimacy between the two old friends and partners. After that quarrel, Mr. Wetmore acted as the agent of his Canton house, and established in the city the house of Wetmore & Cryder. Afterward Mr. Wetmore retired from the firm of Wetmore & Cryder, and from all active business, in June 20, 1847, and removed his residence to Newport, where he had purchased a magnificent property, and erected an elegant stone villa known as the Chateau Sur Mer, at which he resided until his death, that has occurred there June, 1862. He commenced his career with no capital, save his education, honesty, and a determined will to succeed. He did succeed in becoming one of the most eminent and extensive merchants in the world. He left the South American house with a large fortune. When he retired from the China house, he had acquired an additional fortune. He was a man of splendid personal appearance. He was large, stood six feet high, was well proportioned. He was a perfect philosopher. When he married his second wife in 1837, he settled a large income upon her. The whole country was shocked at her indiscretion a few years after with the coachman of Mr. Wetmore. It was a terrible calamity for a high-spirited man like Mr. Wetmore. He bore the trial like a hero. Instead of making a town talk, he quietly flung over it the veil of charity and silence. No one ever hear what become of his wife or his coachman. Mr. Wetmore was a fortunate man in all his financial operations. In the China war of 1841 and 1842, when the Chinese refused to do business with English houses, the American houses did all the trade, and Wetmore & Co. got the lion's share. His property is very large. He has in this vicinity property valued at over a million of dollars. At Massillon, Ohio, he has 10,000 acres of the finest farm lands. In Tennessee he named a town after himself (Wetmore,) and there he owns 70,000 acres. His firm in Canton and Shanghai, is still kept up as Wetmore, Cryder & Co. The partners are W.S. Wetmore (same name as his own, but a nephew,) and Mr. Wetmore Cryder, also a nephew and son of John Cryder, who is yet living, though retired from business, and managing the estate of his late brother-in-law. The house of Wetmore, Cryder & Co. is still in existence in this city, at No. 77 William street. Mr. Carrington who first sent Mr. Wetmore to sea in one of his ships, died some years ago. He has a son yet living in Providence, R.I. THE ALSOPS The sending of young W.S. Wetmore to South America, as supercargo of one of his ships, by Mr. Carrington, was the stepping stone to his getting into the house of Alsop & Co., and this accident led to the formation in 1824, of the great house of Alsop, Wetmore & Cryder in that city. That Alsop was named Richard. He was great grandson of Jno. Alsop, a freeman in this city, who died in 1761. He left two sons, John and Richard. They were brought up as merchants in the city, and did a heavy business in the cloth and dry good line. John also engaged in politics, and represented New York city in the Colonial Legislature, and was a delegate to the first Continental Congress, in 1774. He was a vestryman of Trinity church. He died in 1794. He left one child, Mary, who married Rufus King, father of Gov. John A. King, and president Charles King. The Ex-governor was named John Alsop. The other brother and partner of John, the cloth merchant and legislator, was named Richard. He served his time with the extensive merchant, Philip Livingston. After he retired from business he removed to Middletown, Conn. He had a son Richard who was born in 1761, and was bred up a merchant, but devoted himself chiefly to literature, for which he had an unusual fondness. He became very familiar not only with out literature but with that of Europe. He loved poetry, and was himself a poet. He wrote a book, the "National and Civil History of Chili," in two volumes 8vo. In 1800 he wrote a monody, in heroic verse, on the death of Washington. He died in 1815, leaving one son, who was the celebrated Richard Alsop, who founded the house of Alsop & Co., in Valparaiso, Chili, and Lima, Peru. He was partner of W.S. Wetmore. I may as well mention that this, the most celebrated of the commercial Alsops, died in 1842, without issue. He had a relative named Joseph W. Alsop, who died in 1844, and whose daughter Lucy married Henry Chauncey, of the firm of Alsop & Chauncey, of this city, and a son named Joseph W., of the same firm, at 42 South street. Richard Alsop, when he died, left by will his one-third interest in the house of Alsop & Co., to his relative, Joseph W. Alsop. This was a fortune of itself, for it was notorious for many years, that Alsop & Co., every five years, made a profit of over a million of dollars. The widow of Richard is still alive. These Alsops are a roving race. They are scattered all over the world. Their arms are on a field sable, three doves agate, wings expanded, and beak gules. Crest, a dove argent, wings expanded, holding in his beak an ear of wheat. There are Alsops in every grade of society. They trace back to Richard Alsop, who was Lord Mayor of London in 1597. His descendant, Richard, was a major in Cromwell's army, but having had a flare up with the Protector, was obliged to fly for safety to New York. I now return to Alsop, Wetmore & Cryder, of Valparaiso. The house did all the English and American business of the old Chilian city. Their common fame was world wide. Mr. John Cryder was born in the United States. He had married a daughter of Mr. Samuel Wetmore, uncle of W.S. Wetmore, and of the house of Wetmore, Hoppin & Co., in this city, for many years. FLETCHER WESTRAY W. S. Wetmore principal clerk and business manager from the time of his arrival was Fletcher Westray, who had been previously with the house of Wetmore, Hoppin & Co., for some years. The father of Mr. Westray was in business in New York for a long time. He died in 1832. His widow is still living in this city. After W.S. Wetmore retired from active business, Mr. Westray continued the East India trade on his own account. He is now at the head of the house of Westray, Gibbes & Hardcastle, largely engaged in the East India trade. His partners are English, and were brought up to business in old-fashioned English counting-rooms. Mr. Westray has a brother John J. in his establishment. JOHN CRYDER I ought here to mention that previous to this time John Cryder had resided several years in London, where he had formed a partnership with the celebrated John Morrison, under the firm of Morrison, Cryder & Co., bankers. About 1836 or '37, in those bad times, the house lost immensely. This absorbed all of the capital of Mr. Cryder, but was nothing to Morrison. James Morrison had made an immense sum in the dry goods business, under the firm of Morrison, Dillon & Co. It still exists now, although Mr. Morrison, senior, is dead. After the retirement of Mr. Cryder, the banking firm became Morrison, Sons, & Co. This house afterwards purchased all the assets of the Bank of the United States, and it turned out a splendid purchase for them. Mr. Cryder came to this country after leaving Mr. Morrison, and joined Mr. W.S. Wetmore under the firm of Wetmore & Cryder. THE MORRISONS The history of the elder Morrison is singular. He started poor. When he died, a few years ago, his affairs were alluded to as follows in the London papers: "The will of James Morrison, of Upper Harley street, London, and of Basilton Park, Berks, dated 3d July, 1852, with three codicils attached, has been administered to in Doctors Commons. It is the longest document upon record. Upon its production were engaged conveyancers and barristers of eminence, and during its progress to completion the testator evinced much anxiety. The estate exceeds four millions of pounds sterling (twenty millions of dollars.) The last codicil was dated in 1856. He left to the widow an annuity of �,000___a legacy of �000, the residences in Upper Harley street and Basilton Park. The last cost �6,000 and the furniture there alone has been valued at �,000. To his eldest son, Charles, �000,000 including the estate of Basilton, the Islay estate in Scotland, and estates in Middlesex, London, and at Goring. To his son Alfred, �0,000, including estates in Wiltshire, Hampshire, and the Glamorganshire, and all other articles of vertu and art, and other effects at Fonthill. To his son Frank �0,000, including estates in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. To his son Walter �0,000 including estates in the West Riding, Yorkshire. To his son George �0,000, including estates in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. To his son Allan �0,000 including estates in suffolk and Essex. To his three daughters, �,000 each. His business he transferred to his son Charles Morrison for �0,000. Mr. Morrison owned �,000 in the Victoria Docks, and vast acquisitions in America." GEORGE PEABODY When George Peabody, of London, came out to this country, in 1857, Mr. Wetmore gave at Newport a fete champetre upon the most magnificent scale. Nothing approaching it was ever before seen in this country. Peabody was a life-long friend of Mr. Wetmore. He named one of his sons after him. A son died a few years ago. There are other children by the second wife. The first wife died in child-bed, and the child died also. JAMES WEBER LENT James Webber Lent was a large merchant in this city. His father, John, was a master builder, and died in North Carolina in 1768. He married Ann, a daughter of Adrian Hoogland, of this city. He was a captain in Braddock's expedition during the old French war. He was also present when General Wolf fell at Quebec. He was a fierce old fellow, full of fight and full of fun. He left several children, and two of them went into business in New York, ---James Webber and John. John was a gold and silver smith at No. 18 Nassau street, after peace was proclaimed. James W. fought all through the Revolutionary war. After that, in 1790, he opened a grocery, corner of Little Water and Broad streets. In 1784 he married Miss Macomb, a daughter of Nathan Macomb. In 1798, he had moved into South street, where he kept a flour store in addition to groceries. In 1802 he was appointed inspector of pot and pearl ashes. His office was at No. 92 Broad, and house at No. 97 Stone streets. He held that office for several years. James W.; Lent was elected register about thirty-two years ago, and held the office several years. His son George W. Lent went into business on his own account at No. 82 1/2 Pearl street in 1828, but lived with his father down in the First Ward, at No. 31 water street. James W. died in 1739. The son is yet living. JAMES LENT There was another James Lent, who was a merchant in this city for some years. He married a Miss Bull, of Connecticut. He went to reside on Long Island, and was elected to Congress from King's County in 1813, and died at Washington in 1833. He had a sister who married Anthony Barclay. He died in 1805. He was the son of Henry Barclay, who became rector of Trinity church in 1746. He was called Dr. Barclay. He married Mary, the daughter of Anthony Rutgers. His eldest son, Thomas, the brother of Henry, was British Consul General for the United States many years. He left several children;--Anthony, who married Miss Lent; one daughter married Colonel Beverly Robinson; another married Colonel Stephen De Lancy, the father of Miss De Lancy, who married Daniel I. Coster. Source: The Old Merchants of New York City Author: Walter Barrett, Clerk Second series Publisher: Carleton, Publisher, 413 Broadway Entered according to the Act of Congress 1863 _____________________________________ Researched, Prepared and Contributed by Miriam Medina For the Brooklyn Information Page Back To The OLd Merchants of NYC 1863 Back To BUSINESS Main Return to BROOKLYN Info Main Page