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A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature 1635-1789 by Edward C. Papenfuse, et. al.
Volume 426, Page 668   View pdf image (33K)
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1715-1781), who immigrated from Ireland to
Philadelphia with his family ca. 1754; merchant;
Presbyterian; died at Pittsgrove, New Jersey.
MOTHER: Mary (ca. 1713-1789), who died at her
farm in Salem County, "West Jersey." BROTH-
ERS: Robert (ca. 1732-1806), of Baltimore by
1765, a merchant, customs collector of the Port
of Baltimore, 1795-1806, who married Frances
Young; probably David (?-1757), of Philadel-
phia and Snow Hill, Worcester County, a Pres-
byterian clergyman, member of the class of 1754,
Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey; and
possibly John (?-ca. 1790), of Philadelphia, a
merchant, who died in Kentucky. SISTER: prob-
ably Mary, who married Samuel Eakin (1745-
1783) of Delaware, a Presbyterian clergyman.
MARRIED first, Susanna Schleydoon (?-by 1776).
MARRIED second, on April 18, 1776, Catherine
(?-by 1787), daughter of David Stewart of Glas-
lough, Ireland, and wife Isabella Conyngham. Her
brother was David Stewart (1746-1817), who im-
migrated to Baltimore Town by 1766, a merchant
and Presbyterian, who married in 1774 Elizabeth
Philpot (ca. 1753-1838). CHILDREN. SONS: John;
John Henry (?-1820), secretary and interpreter
to James Monroe during mission to France, 1794-
1796, with the U.S. Department of State by 1817;
Henry (?-1811), studied law with Henry Clay
and died in Lexington County, Kentucky; Wil-
liam; and Samuel. DAUGHTERS: Letitia (ca. 1768-
1802); Elizabeth Isabella, who married in 1811,
as his second wife, Henry Courtenay (1776-1854);
Susanna (1772-?), who married Robert Hughes;
and Isabella (1779-1804), who married in 1799
Henry Courtenay (1776-1854). ADDITIONAL
COMMENT. Isabella (1779-1804) was the daughter
of Catherine Stewart Purviance. PRIVATE CAREER.
Presbyterian; a founder of the first Presbyterian
church in Baltimore Town. SOCIAL STATUS AND
ACTIVITIES: Mr., by 1776; Esq., by 1788. OCCU-
PATIONAL PROFILE: merchant; land developer;
speculator. Purviance was a merchant in Phila-
delphia by 1763. Shortly after he and his brother
Robert built the first rum distillery in Baltimore
Town in 1765, Purviance transferred his com-
mercial activities to Maryland, shipping staves,
wheat, and bread to the West Indies in connection
with Philadelphia merchants. By 1774, the Pur-
viances were leaders of the Baltimore merchant
community and were trading with European as
well as American firms. During the Revolution,
Purviance supplied clothing, bread, and iron to
the American troops and was active in equipping

the Defence and Baltimore-built galleys for serv-
ice. He held an interest in at least nineteen pri-
vateers between 1777 and 1780. The Purviance
brothers owned a wharf in the Baltimore harbor
and developed several of the original town lots,
especially in the area of Commerce and Water
streets. In 1777, they began speculating in west-
ern lands, accumulating large holdings in Penn-
sylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky. Many of these
western tracts were purchased under Virginia's
claims putting the Purviances at odds with those
prominent Marylanders who disputed Virginia's
right to the land beyond the Alleghenies. PUBLIC


Baltimore County, 1st, 1774, 4th, 1775. LOCAL
OFFICES: trustee for the poor, Baltimore County,
1773; Committee of Correspondence, Baltimore
County, 1774; Committee of Observation, Bal-
timore County, 1774-at least 1776 (chairman);
committee to draw up plan for defense of Balti-
more Town, 1776; warden, Port of Baltimore,
appointed for five years in 1783, elected chair-

chairman of the Baltimore County Committee of
Observation in 1776, Purviance received letters
relating to Gov. Robert Eden (1741-1784) and the
British colonial secretary and ordered militia Capt.
Samuel Smith to arrest Eden if he attempted to
leave the province. Purviance then forwarded the
allegedly incriminating letters to the Continental
Congress with a note describing the Maryland
Convention and Council of Safety as "timorous
and inactive." The Convention censured Purvi-
ance for circumventing and undermining its au-
thority as the government of Maryland. Purviance
remained an active patriot, lending money to La-
fayette to supply his troops as they passed through
Baltimore in 1781 and serving as chairman of a
meeting in June 1783 of Baltimore citizens who
opposed allowing Loyalists to enjoy the benefits
of the Maryland constitution. In March 1786, Pur-
viance was among the Baltimore County citizens
who formed a society for "encouraging and im-
proving" agriculture. WEALTH DURING LIFETIME.
PERSONAL PROPERTY: Purviance petitioned for
relief under the Act for Insolvent Debtors in July
1787, listing debts owed by himself and his brother
Robert of over £16,000 current money, most of
which dated from 1785. Purviance estimated debts
due him at about £5,505.0.0 current money. His
personal property included 4 slaves. The insol-
vency proceedings continued into the early 1800s
and later accounts of the Purviance debts amounted
to more than £36,500 current money, of which



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A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature 1635-1789 by Edward C. Papenfuse, et. al.
Volume 426, Page 668   View pdf image (33K)
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