Charles Apthorp

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Portrait of Charles Apthorp, 1748 (by Robert Feke)

Charles Apthorp (1698–1758) was a British-born merchant in 18th-century Boston, Massachusetts. He ran his import business from Merchants Row, and "in his day he was called the richest man in Boston."[1] He acted for the British government, and supported King's Chapel.

Early life[edit]

Charles Apthorp was born in England in 1698 to East[2][3] or John Apthorp[4] and Susan Ward Apthorp, daughter of Lord Ward of Bixley, now Bexley. He attended Eton College.[2][4]


Advertisement for Charles Apthorp and Son, Boston, 1753. For sale: camblets, druggets, Bohea tea, shalloons, sagathies, everlastings, duroys, tammies, allapeens, oznabrigs, tiffanys, ferrets, galoons, chelloes, gorgoroons, etc. (Boston Evening-Post)
Apthorp lived on King Street (red house, lower right), Boston. (Detail of 1801 painting by J. Marston)[5]

Apthorp emigrated to New England following the death of his father. In Boston, Massachusetts he was a commissary and paymaster for the British military forces and established a mercantile business.[3][4][6] Apthorp was a successful, wealthy man,[3] with "imperial trading connections".[7]

Import merchant[edit]

Apthorp's import business was located in Boston's Merchants Row on 3 South Market Street. His business according to the 1849 City Directory, dealt the flour trade and was named Charles W. & John T. Apthorp. His house that year was on 15 Florence.[8]

Slave trade[edit]

Apthorp was a "venerable slave importer and one of the richest men in Boston" by 1746. At that time, "slave-for-sale" ads appeared in the weekly Boston Gazette. Between 1719 and 1781 there were about 2,300 slave notices for about 2,000 slaves.[9] In the 1730s and 1740s he repeatedly traded in slaves, for instance he posted an ad in the Boston Gazette:[10][full citation needed] "a parcel of likely negros just imported".[11]

In 1733 Apthorp acted as agent for a man seeking his servant, Hannah Smyth, who had run away with a stolen diamond "and has lately been seen here in Boston."[12][full citation needed] He performed a similar role in 1742, authorized to furnish "five pounds reward" for the return of a "negro man named Jack about 35 years old" to "his master Capt. Stephen Eastwick."[13][full citation needed] In 1756 Apthorp & Son served as agent for someone looking for an anchor lost on Cape Cod "with two iron clasps on one of the flukes, a solid pine buoy, and buoy-rope."[14][full citation needed]

British government representative[edit]

Along with Thomas Hancock, Apthorp represented the British government in its efforts to recruit personnel to Nova Scotia—ship pilots, bricklayers, carpenters, land settlers, etc.[15][16][17][18][full citation needed] He also served as "paymaster and commissary under the British Government of the land and naval forces quartered in Boston."[4]

Apthorp and Hancock together supplied many of the boats used to ethnically cleanse Nova Scotia of the Acadians in the Great Upheaval. The firm also lent money to finance the operation. The poor quality of the ships led to widespread malnutrition, disease, and death among the deported Acadians.[19][full citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Marriage and children[edit]

Apthorp married Grizzel Eastwicke on January 13, 1726. She was born in Jamaica to Griselda Lloyd and John Eastwicke.[2][4][nb 1] A descendant of the couple, great-grandson Joseph Coolidge, stated that: "Her portrait, painted by Sir Peter Lely, and showing her to have been remarkably beautiful, remains in the family."[2] She was said to have "rare qualities of person and character."[3]

Portrait of Charles' daughter, Susan Apthorp, 1757

Apthorp and his wife had eighteen children, three whom died before him.[4] The children included:[nb 2]

  • Charles Ward Apthorp (later of Apthorp Farm).[20] Charles married Mary McEvers.[6]
  • Grizzel married Barlow Trecothink.[6]
  • Susan married Thomas Bulfinch on October 8, 1754. He was warden of the King's Chapel church after the Revolutionary War.[6] They were the parents of architect Charles Bulfinch.
  • John married Alica Mann, sister of Horace Mann, Hannah Greenleafe. He was member of the house of Thomlinson and Trecothink. On a voyage to Charleston, South Carolina, they were lost at sea. Their children survived them, including Colonel John T. Apthorp.[6]
  • James was born November 17, 1731 and married Sarah Wentworth. Her family owned Wentworth Mannor in Yorkshire.[6]
  • East, who became a minister.[6][20] East Apthorp built in 1761 a mansion designed by Peter Harrison; it is now part of the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[21]
  • Ann, born January 18, 1735 – 1736. She married Nathaniel Wheelwright.[6]
  • Henry (March 19, 1736 - 1762)[6]
  • Stephen born March 10, 1737 – 1738[6]
  • Joseph (April 22, 1739 - March 1749 – 1750)[6]
  • Elizabeth born May 28, 1740. She was married twice to men from New York: James McEvers and Robert Bayard.[6]
  • Thomas born October 19, 1741. After his father's death and until 1776, Thomas was made paymaster to British forces. He went to England, married in Lisbon and died in Ludlow, Wales.[6]
  • Rebecca born June 20, 1746. She married Robert Bayard from New York.[6]
  • William born February 26, 1749. He married Mary Thompson.[6]

There were also three children born between 1742 and 1745 who died as young children: Catherine, George, and Robert. A second daughter Catherine was born in 1750; She died on the date of her birth.[6]

The family had a home in Boston and another outside town in Quincy, Massachusetts.[3]


Apthorp tablet in King's Chapel, Boston

He helped to found the church[3] and was "one of the first wardens of Trinity Church"[4]

He was a warden at the King's Chapel in Boston,[4] starting in 1731 when he and other church wardens met weekly and conducted affairs for the church, including hiring, assigning pews in the church, managing finances and interacting with members about church operations. Apthorp, "of the old tenor, contributed £200 towards the cost of a new church building; If sufficient funds were not raised within the church congregation, he agreed to pay an additional £1,000. He was elected to manage treasury of the new building funds.[4][22]

He was a leading, "noteworthy" member of the church who was: "Warden in 1731-1732, 1743-1744, treasurer of the Building Committee, and a generous subscriber to the new church.[2][23]

His large family filled two family pews in the church.[6]

Among the Apthorp's personal possessions were "a set of eight chairs ... probably purchased from the chairmaker and upholsterer Samuel Grant, [with] carving ... attributed to John Welch."[24]


Portraits were made of Charles Apthorp by Joseph Blackburn;[25][nb 3] and John Singleton Copley.[25][full citation needed]

Family portraits at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston as of 1908 include works by Robert Feke and Hartwell:[26][27][28][nb 4]

  • Portrait of Charles Apthorp, by Robert Feke
  • Portrait of Griselda Eastwicke Apthorp, by Robert Feke
  • Portrait of Mrs. Barlow Trecothick, by Robert Feke
  • Portrait of Griselda Eastwicke, by Hartwell

The Fine Arts museum's collection now contains miniatures, a few portraits and silverware from the Apthorp family.[29]


Apthorp died suddenly in November, 1758; he complained "of a slight cold a few minutes before he expired."[4][6][30] A New England newspaper described him as "the greatest and most noble merchant on this continent." Twelve days after his death, his funeral was held at King's Chapel.[4] It was "attended by very many gentlemen of distinction and principal inhabitants of the town. The streets and windows of the houses, as the solemnity passed along, were thronged with spectators. ... [At King's Chapel] the Reverend Mr. Caner preached a suitable sermon to a crowded audience."[31]

A wall marker carved by Henry Cheere memorializes Apthorp inside King's Chapel; it "is crowned by a cherub weeping over a cinerary urn."[32][33]

In a book written in 1910, Apthorp left a fortune equal to $150,000.[3]

After her husband died Grizzel lived near the Central House on Brattle Square [Dock Square at Brattle Street].[3] She died at 88 years of age in 1796 in the home of her son, John in Quincy. A notice of her death described her as virtuous, amiable, charitable and well-regarded.[34]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Griselda's father was Sir John Lloyd of Somersetshire, England. After the Battle of Worcester, Lloyd was one of the men who escorted King Charles II of England to France.[4]
  2. ^ Among his grandchildren were Sarah Wentworth Apthorp Morton.[5]
  3. ^ Blackburn represented "Mr. and Mrs. Apthorp, in 1758, in the habit as they lived, -- an 'elderly gentleman, dressed in red broadcloth, with black silk stockings, sitting in his garden in Quincy, looking toward his house, and in the background a view of the old Adams mansion'." His wife was "a lady, dressed in a changeable salmon and green silk robe, cut square in the neck, the sleeves trimmed with lace."[6]
  4. ^ The Hartwell mentioned was perhaps Alonzo Hartwell.
  1. ^ E. Bulfinch, ed. Life and letters of Charles Bulfinch, architect: with other family papers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1896; p.32.
  2. ^ a b c d e Henry Wilder Foote; John Carroll Perkins; Winslow Warren (1896). Annals of King's chapel from the Puritan age of New England to the present day. Little, Brown. p. 142. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Samuel Adams Drake (1879). History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts: Containing Carefully Prepared Histories of Every City and Town in the County. Estes and Lauriat. p. 335. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l James Henry Stark (1910). The Loyalists of Massachusetts and the Other Side of the American Revolution. Salem Press. pp. 351–352. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Paul S. Harris. Gilbert Stuart and a Portrait of Mrs. Sarah Apthorp Morton. Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 1 (1964)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Henry Wilder Foote; John Carroll Perkins; Winslow Warren (1896). Annals of King's chapel from the Puritan age of New England to the present day. Little, Brown. pp. 143–144. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Janice E. McKenney (15 November 2012). Women of the Constitution: Wives of the Singers. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-8108-8498-4. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  8. ^ The Boston Directory: ...including All Localities Within the City Limits, as Allston, Brighton, Charlestown, Dorchester, Hyde Park, Roslindale, Roxbury, West Roxbury. Sampson & Murdock Company. 1849. p. 62. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  9. ^ Vincent Carretta; Phillip L. Gould (2001). Genius in bondage: literature of the early Black Atlantic. University Press of Kentucky. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-8131-2203-8. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Boston Gazette. From Monday July 25, to Monday August 1, 1737
  11. ^ Joseph Sylvester Clark; Henry Martyn Dexter; Alonzo Hall Quint; Isaac Pendleton Langworthy, Christopher Cushing, Samuel Burnham (1860). The Congregational Quarterly. s.n. p. 44. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  12. ^ Boston Gazette; Date: From Monday August 13, to Monday August 20, 1733
  13. ^ Boston Post-Boy; Date: January 18, 1742
  14. ^ Boston Evening Post.; Date: June 7, 1756
  15. ^ Boston Evening Post, May 25, 1747
  16. ^ Boston Post Boy.; Date: March 27, 1749
  17. ^ Boston Gazette, Aug. 22, 1749
  18. ^ Boston Post Boy.; Date: September 4, 1749
  19. ^ Centre d'tudes acadiennes, Universit de Moncton. 1755. Retrieved 2010-04-16
  20. ^ a b Frank William Bayley (1915). The life and works of John Singleton Copley: founded on the work of Augustus Thorndike Perkins. Taylor Press. 
  21. ^ Douglass Shand-Tucci and Richard Cheek (2001). Harvard University: an architectural tour. Princeton Architectural Press. pp. 104 +. 
  22. ^ Henry Wilder Foote; John Carroll Perkins; Winslow Warren (1896). Annals of King's chapel from the Puritan age of New England to the present day. Little, Brown. pp. 18–19, 31–33, 43–46, 62, 66, 142, etc. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  23. ^ Francis William Pitt Greenwood (1833). A History of King's Chapel in Boston, the First Episcopal Church in New England: Comprising Notices of the Introduction of Episcopacy Into the Northern Colonies. Carter. p. 214. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  24. ^ Ann Smart Martin, Elvehjem Museum of Art. Makers and users: American decorative arts, 1630–1820, from the Chipstone collection. Chazen Museum of Art, 1999
  25. ^ a b Annual report of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. 1903. 
  26. ^ "Cleveland Museum of Art catalog". Retrieved April 16, 2010. 
  27. ^ Portrait of Charles Apthorp by Robert Feke. Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art. 6 (5). June 1919. 
  28. ^ Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1908). Annual Report of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Museum of Fine Arts. p. 88. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  29. ^ "Collections search: Apthorp". Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Retrieved April 27, 2013. 
  30. ^ . New-Hampshire Gazette.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[full citation needed]
  31. ^ Henry Wilder Foote; John Carroll Perkins; Winslow Warren (1896). Annals of King's chapel from the Puritan age of New England to the present day. Little, Brown. pp. 144–145. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  32. ^ Henry Wilder Foote; John Carroll Perkins; Winslow Warren (1896). Annals of King's chapel from the Puritan age of New England to the present day. Little, Brown. p. 146. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  33. ^ Fiske Kimball (May–June 1919). "Beginnings of sculpture in colonial America". Art and Archaeology 8 (3). 
  34. ^ Henry Wilder Foote; John Carroll Perkins; Winslow Warren (1896). Annals of King's chapel from the Puritan age of New England to the present day. Little, Brown. p. 147. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
Further reading
  • Henry Caner. The nature & necessity, of an habitual preparation for death & judgment. A sermon preach'd at King's-Chapel in Boston, November 21. 1758. Upon occasion of the death of Charles Apthorp, esq. Boston: New-England: Printed by John Draper, 1758.
  • Foote. Annals of King's Chapel. Boston: Little, Brown, 1896. (Includes reproductions of portraits of Charles and Grizzell)
  • John A. Schutz. Succession Politics in Massachusetts, 1730–1741. William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 15, No. 4 (October 1958), pp. 508–520.

External links[edit]

  • WorldCat. Apthorp, Charles 1698-1758
  • Portrait of Mrs. Charles Apthorp (Grizzell Eastwick Apthorp). By Robert Feke, 1748
  • Newberry Library, Chicago. Charles Apthorp's outgoing correspondence to London merchant, John Thomlinson, dated from April 1738 to April 1739 and August 1751.