Page images
[graphic][merged small]



born on Falmouth Neck, Mass. (now Portland, Me.), January 24, 1770, mar

ried. Frances Wright, a native of Stafford, Staffordshire, England, Dec. 11, 1794, and died at Alleghany Town, near Pittsburgh, Penn., of a bilious fever, which turned to typhus, Oct. 25, 1825, aged 55 years. Mrs. Preble survived him and died at Pittsburgh, Nov. 1845, aged 72 years.

Very little is known concerning Henry Preble's early life. His daughter, Mrs. Barlow, writing in 1869, says :-“I cannot give you any account of my dear father's early life before he went to France; I never heard him refer to it—at least before us children-though he used to try and amuse us sometimes by his stories about the family negro servant, and I think that • Cato' must have been quite a character and presented a very startling appearance when he used to come forth decorated in the wig and the regimentals of the old Brigadier. He was very fond of my father, though he only knew him by the tender appellation of that De’il of a Harry.' Beyond this and the famous dog • Corteheevolls' I know nothing of father's early days, or what induced him to come to France."

Miss Frances Wright, who became his wife, was sent, when quite young, to Paris for education, and placed in a convent. The Convention, during the revolution, having placed all the English under arrest, she and another young English girl, through the influence of their schoolmistress, obtained as a favor that they should not be arrested, but watched by a soldier, to whom they were obliged to pay one dollar a day for nine months, until the death of Robespierre brought a change of measures, and released them from this restraint. “When they wished to go out he would follow them through the streets, dangling his sword behind him. He sat at their door all day long, and would some times exclaim, ‘only 40 or 60 guillotined to-day.""

In England Henry Preble was entrusted with letters for these young ladies in Paris—and there saw Frances Wright, then just twenty years of age, for the first time, and came to love her rosy cheeks and innocent looks, and they were married.

The marriage was a civil one, it being at the time of the French Revolution, when no religious authority was acknowledged. They soon went to England, where they were again married in church, and Harriet, their eldest daughter, was born there at Lewes, in the County of Sussex, Sept. 26, 1795. “My mother often told me,” writes this daughter, " that in the same room of the Municipality where they were married, they were divorcing a couple in one corner, in a very summary way, and it made her feel as if she held her lord on a very feeble tenure.” A young friend of hers, a very blooming girl, who was of the dinner party, gained the heart of an American gentleman, who married her a very few days afterwards. He was consul at Nantes in 1812. * * * * A little romantic episode, which was very agreeable to dear mother, for the young girl had a wicked father, and needed much a protector.”

Returning to Paris, Henry Preble made several voyages to the United States, and in 1801 went to Italy, with his wife and daughter Ilarriet, wishing to open a mercantile house in Tuscany. He visited Rome and Naples, and finding no eligible situation, returned to France, and opened a house at Havre—and then at Nantes, and not succeeding well, went to Paris as a Commission Merchant—and for a time was pretty fortunate, but lost himself in speculating in Colonial produce and in sending ships to sea.

In a letter addressed to John Derby, Esq., of Salem-signed Preble & Co.-dated Dieppe, March 4, 1804, he says :-“Having removed a branch of our house to this place, we beg leave to offer you our services here, during the blockade of Havre. This port is now much frequented—it is convenient and safe ; for large ships of 400 tons, drawing 16 to 17 feet of water, can enter here with ease and lay in perfect safety, heavy loaded. * * Not having sufficient employ for our funds at this small port, we have also a branch of our house at Nantes, where we shall transact business during the blockade of Havre.”

In 1805-6, he made a short visit to the United States, and writes to his brother from New York, Dec. 6, 1805:—“When you receive the legacies of my little girls, I wish you to appropriate the money in the purchase of land on the neck, and if possible, let it be fronting the harbour. You will join my legacy with theirs, and have the deeds registered in their names." And again, New York, Jan. 20, 1806:—“In regard to the appropriation of the legacies left to myself and little girls, I leave to you to act as you may think it best, but I wish the land purchased at an early period, as it is constantly increasing in value. Purchase it in such situation as you think will be the best; perhaps a situation round Sebago Pond would answer.

I have remained here much longer than I intended. It is a place of immense commerce, and I have procured the consignment of five cargoes since my arrival here. I shall leave this (N. Y.) on the 25th. I shall send you an oil cloth great coat by first vessel to Portland. I had it made in Paris.”

Having completed his business arrangements he returned to France-and writes :

January, 1807. To Elias H. Derby, Salem, from Nantes. “I hope you will have the goodness to recommend my House to your friends, none can nor will give them greater facilities. Let their cargoes be as valuable as they may—two thirds of their value will be advanced immediately."

The following year brought changes in his business relations. Writing from Paris, May 18, 1808, to his brother Enoch, he says:

" I have separated from Mr. Spear (the firm had been Preble, Spear & Co.), and he being at Nantes, liquidates the House. Mr. Bimar remains with me, and we shall settle at Havre at Peace. I have been very fortunate in my speculations, and have made upwards of $100,000 aud Bimar about $25,000. I could have doubled the sum with a little more courage, but thought a prudent part the best. My credit is such I can at any time command $300,000 to $100,000; so that at Peace (if we should ever have such an event) my means will be equal to most of the Houses.” In the same letter the excellence of his heart under prosperous influences is shown in the following instructions: “I wish you to give out of the sum due me (i. e. from his mother's estate) one hundred dollars to sister Martha* if she is in want of it, and which I will continue yearly during her life, also a present to Sally Coffin of $20, to buy snuff. I wish you also to get made an excellent easy chair to cost from $20 to $30, and give it in my name to my old friend Mr. McIntosh, or to Mrs. M., should the old man be dead. Should we have any relations, or any of the old friends of our late mother that may be in want, you can give them something in my name.” “I shall send a watch to Mr. Tuckerman of Boston, which you will ask him to accept as a token of the esteem I have for him, and for his great kindness and attention to our old mother whilst living.”

Under date, Paris Nov. 30, 1812, he writes to Mons. Jones, No. 16, Rue Corutte :

“I called on you, but found you out. You will much oblige me by asking the following question: Whether a license can be obtained to export colonial produce from England to France, and with the same vessel export from France to the Baltic, brandy, wine and oil,' and let me know by some friend coming over or per smuggler. * * * *

“No news from Mr. Barlow, it is expected to-day. Everything will be settled between the two countries. At least it is one thousand to one that a treaty will be signed within a month, and compensation made for spoliations, all entre nous. I will take care of your dog and do with him as you direct. If you have a chance to send Clark's Travels in Russia, please do it and desire Mr. W. to pay for it.”

Paris, May 10, 1813, he writes Capt. I. Holman :-“By this opportunity I hand you the signal of vessels to my address, viz.— A red flag with a white square in the middle, at the main top gallant mast head. Should you have

* Martha Oxnard, the widow of the Roy. Tho.nas Oxnard. Sec page 143.

« PreviousContinue »