Biographies - Shippey, Josiah, 1778-


From the time of his Birth to the year 1841.


The Author, born in the State of New-Jersey, comes at the age of eight years to reside in the City of New-York.

THE Author is unable to trace his ancestry any further back than to his Great Grandfather, and of him he has learned no more, than that he came from the City of London, and settled in one of the Eastern States; but in which particular he was never given to understand. His Grandfather, Ishmael Shippey, and his Grandmother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Briggs, came from Rhode Island, probably some twenty or thirty years before the war of the Revolution, to reside in that part of the State of New-Jersey, which is called Raritan Landing.

This small Village is situated near the Raritan River, about two miles above the City of New-Brunswick. In this village, the Author's father, John Shippey, was (he believes) born, and he is certain that he lived and died there, in the year 1808, at the age of sixty years. The Author's mother, whose maiden name was Phœbe Gossner, came from the mountains, a few miles above Boundbrook, which is five miles distant from the Raritan Landing, and up the River Raritan. By her lineage she was German, as is clearly indicated by her family name, Gossner; so that the Author claims kindred with England on his father's, and with Germany on his mother's side.

According to information received from his mother, the Author was born at the above named village, on the first day of February, 1778, and shortly thereafter was christened by the Rev. Mr. Reed, Pastor of the Congregation of Non-Conformists, originally called Presbyterians, from their admitting lay-Elders into their church government, at Boundbrook; his parents being of that persuasion.

The peculiar state of the times, no doubt, contributed materially in determining the choice of the Author's prenomen. The British and Hessians had possession of this part of Jersey; the Author's father was in the station of Lieutenant and Adjutant of the Woodbridge Brigade, commanded by General Hurd, in the service of the United States; his uncle Josiah, in England, whither he had been sent for trial as a rebel against the government of his most sacred Majesty, fidei defensor, &c.,† George the Third; and the Author being the only surviving male child of his parents, was, as he presumes, for these, and perhaps other determining reasons, christened Josiah.

With this name the Author has always been pleased, and knew its signification, long before Bailey informed him that it denoted the "fire of the Lord," and "a pious king of Judah."

Passing over many occurrences which might prove uninteresting to the reader—the Author contents himself with observing, generally, on this part of his history—that, the war being ended in 1782, and the independence of the United States of America acknowledged by the parent country, Great Britain; his father rebuilded his house, which had been burned by the British and Hessians, after they had used it for a barrack; and being comfortably situated on his small farm of upland and meadow, on the Raritan river, about one mile and a half from the City of New Brunswick; the Author was sent to the village school to acquire the rudiments of an English elementary education, where he continued until the eighth year of his age.

In the interim the Author's uncle had returned from England, having been acquitted of the charge of rebellion, on the representation of some refugee New-York merchants, that he was "one of the most peaceable men in America,"—he commenced mercantile business in the stone store, at the S. E. corner of Water-street and Coenties Slip, in partnership with Messrs. Thomas Ten Eyck and Edmund Seaman, under the firm of "Josiah Shippey & Co." They were in the Holland and East India trade. Growing tired, however, of keeping "Bachelor's Hall," with his German servant, John Francis Hamslinger, who had been a soldier in the British army, he sent a request to his eldest unmarried sister, my aunt Mary, to come to New-York, and bring the Author with her, and take the charge of the house he had rented in Pearl-street, near the Battery. His request was complied with on the part of his sister; and the Author accompanying his aunt, arrived with her at New-York, the place of their destination, some time in the spring of 1786.

The Author is sent to School, and from thence to Columbia College. His Uncle and Aunt remove to New-Jersey, taking with them the Author. They return to New-York. The Author goes into the store with his Uncle, continues there awhile, and then returns to Columbia College, where he graduated in the year 1796.

AND now, courteous Reader, imagine, if you can, the sensations produced in the mind of the Author, by a transition from an obscure country village to a large and populous city, at his particularly tender time of life.

But his business at present is rather to consist in a narration of facts, than in the indulgence of fanciful conjectures. His Uncle having arranged with Mr. Malcolm Campbell, a teacher of English and Latin, the Author was sent to his school, then kept on Golden Hill, John-street, near Cliff-street—to be by him instructed sufficiently to enable him to enter Columbia College, as a student in that literary establishment.

The Author would here observe, that this arrangement in his favor was rather in accordance with the wishes of his Aunt, than with the designs of his Uncle; his views were more mercantile than classical. On the contrary, his Aunt, being a pious God-fearing woman, a communicant of Dr. John Rogers' church in Wall-street, feeling that one of the fondest wishes of her heart would be gratified, if she could see her nephew in the ministry, persuaded her brother to give him a liberal education. But Providence did not permit her to realize the fruit of her benevolent intentions towards her nephew; she died, he thinks, of the yellow fever of '98, and was buried in her native state, the state of New-Jersey, at, or near the city of New Brunswick.

May she be his guardian angel now, as she most assuredly was while on this earth; for she loved him, if possible, with more than maternal fondness; a fondness which extended beyond this vale of tears, penetrating to the throne of the heavenly grace; and there supplicating with fervent and effectual prayer the regeneration of his immortal soul.

To return:—At the age of thirteen years, the Author's preceptor reported him prepared to enter College, and, accordingly, with his schoolmate, afterwards the Rev. James Inglis, he did enter the Freshman class, and had his place assigned him, number four among thirty-two, the number of which that class originally consisted.

It is not the intention of the Author, neither ought it to be expected, in giving his succinct account, or history of his life, to enter as minutely into particulars, as though he were writing a narrative which would swell a volume to many hundred pages.

He must, therefore, only glance, with almost as much brevity at the events of a life of upwards of threescore years continuance, as do the arguments with which each chapter is prefaced.

In continuation, then, he informs his readers that after remaining with his class about eighteen months, his Uncle and Aunt removed to the place of their nativity, in New-Jersey, taking with them the Author, and his brother William; and after a short stay of about six months, returned to New-York, and again commenced housekeeping.

The Author continued with his Uncle and Aunt; his brother was put into the Counting House of Mr. Nicholas Hoffman, an importing merchant, and part owner of the Ship Ellis; whether immediately after, or at some time subsequently to the return to New-York, the Author does not now recollect.

His Uncle, being a man of activity and enterprise, soon re-embarked in trade, and commenced the Salt business, with Mr. James Van Dyke, under the firm of Van Dyke and Shippey, in Front-street, near Coenties Slip. The Author went into the store as a Clerk, and so continued for about the space of one year, when a difference arising between him and the senior partner of the firm, he quitted their employ.

His kind Aunt, steady to her original purpose, persuaded the Author to return to College; application was made by his Uncle to the Trustees, and they in consideration of his former good standing, permitted him to enter the class next below the one in which he originally entered. And this may serve to satisfy any person, desirous of being informed on the subject, why the Author entered in one class, and graduated, as per the Catalogue of Columbia College, in another, in the year 1796.

The Author returns to the Counting House. Dissolution of Partnership. The Author becomes a married man. Yellow fever in 1803. Return to New-York. Enters into business in partnership, as a wholesale and retail Grocer.

The business of cultivating the intellect at College having come to a close, and the Author declining the offer of his Uncle to furnish him with the means to prosecute his studies in either of the learned professions he might select; it has agreed that he should re-enter the Counting House, and study the profession of Merchandizing, under his Uncle and his partner. In this employ the Author continued until a dissolution of partnership took place. Mr. Van Dyke being an aged man, retired from business and the bustle of New-York to the State of New-Jersey, and ended his days in the pleasant City of Newark, situated near the banks of the Passaic, about eight miles from New-York.

The Author continued in the employ of his Uncle until the year 1800, when, being tired of leading a single life, he took unto himself a wife, and so, on the 28th day of August, the same year, became a married man. By this wife he had issue, nine children, viz.: six sons and three daughters, three of the sons died in the birth; the remaining children were born in the City of New-York, except one daughter, who was born in Belleville, New-Jersey, during the Yellow Fever which prevailed in New-York, in 1803.

Shortly after the return of the Author, with his family from New-Jersey, some time early in the Spring of 1804, he entered into partnership with Major Samuel Cooper, in the wholesale and retail Grocery business, under the firm of Cooper and Shippey, at Coenties Slip, east side near Front-street. In this firm the Author continued about eight months, and then dissolved. The cause of this dissolution was the want of sufficient capital to carry on the business advantageously enough for the support of two families.

The business was not a City, but a Country business; the Country merchants were tardy in making their remittances, and the payment of the notes given for Spring and Fall purchases, could riot be evaded. More capital was required, and this the author could not supply; his Uncle's affairs having become embarrassed by his incautiously bonding and endorsing for several merchants in New-York, to an amount which swept away his fast property and other resources, and obliged him to begin the world anew. Dissolution of partnership, therefore, or failure became absolutely unavoidable; and the first was resorted to, in preference to the latter.

The Author stops not to comment on the beautiful effects produced by the "credit system," in New-York and elsewhere; nor to lament the loss of property, which, for several years, he helped his Uncle to acquire, and to a part of which, at least, as his adopted son, he thought himself entitled; but would merely inform the reader, that at this period the dissolution of the firm of Cooper and Shippey, wholesale and retail Grocers, &c., terminated, doubtless, for ever the mercantile career of the Author of the Specimens, and Notes to the same.

The Author commences Clerk on his own account. Becomes religious, and joins the M. E. Church in New York. Is appointed Clerk of the Alms House, Clerk of the N. Y. Hospital, and is afterwards re-appointed Clerk of the A. H., and Clerk to the Commissioners of the same. Leaves the A. H. and commences School-keeping.

THE first clerkship the Author obtained was one with Hoffman, Seton, & Co., auctioneers in Wall-street. But this being an out-door one, and producing only a small per diem compensation, the Author gladly accepted the proposal of the Superintendent of the Alms House, his friend, and brother Methodist, Philip J. Arcularius, Esq., to apply to the Corporation for the clerkship of that Institution. He applied accordingly, and received the appointment of Clerk to the Alms House, he thinks on the fifth day of June 1805, at a salary of $500 per annum, and perquisites.

This appointment was a seasonable relief to the Author, his family at this time, including himself, amounting to five in number.

And here the Author is admonished to correct an anachronism, or, "an error in placing a fact or event later than it really was," and that is the time of his becoming a Methodist. He thinks this event must have occurred at least two years previously to his appointment as Clerk of the Alms House. The Records of the Church could determine this; yet he well remembers that the Rev. Thomas Morrell, was Minister at the Old Methodist Church in John-street, when his wife and he went forward and joined themselves to the connexion. He also, on further reflection, remembers, while at Belleville, during the fever of 1803, his acquaintance with the Rev. John Dowe, Methodist Minister at that place. So then, courteous Reader, the Author was a Methodist before he was appointed Clerk of the Alms House. Have the goodness therefore, to pardon the anachronism in his argument, and permit him to proceed, straight forward in his history.

In this same year, 1805, the city of New-York was visited with that much dreaded calamity, the yellow fever. The Health Office was at the corner of Chambers-street and Broadway, and every evening the book of the day's transactions was sent to the Alms House, that the Clerk might attend to the calls for orders to the Keeper of Potter's Field, and Coffins and Hearse. In consequence of which arrangement the Author, for the space of six weeks, never slept in a bed; but took his repose, leaning his head on the Office table. Besides which, the Health officers having ordered him to bring his family into the Alms House, his wife while there, took the fever, but recovered shortly thereafter. For this extra service, not long after the fever had ceased its ravages in the city, the Corporation raised his salary to $600.

The Author continued in this service until the Superintendent was displaced by another Corporation, calling themselves Federal; he, P. J. Arcularius, Esq. having had the office for two years, viz. 1805 and 1806.

The former Superintendent, Richard Furman, Esq., being reappointed, and wishing to have again his Private Clerk, George A. Valentine, the Author applied for, and obtained the Clerkship of the New-York Hospital, Jotham Post, Esq. being the then Superintendent of that Institution. The Author continued in this situation for thirteen months, fulfilling the duties of Clerk to the Hospital, and Check-clerk for the "Asylum for the Insane," then in building for the second year, receiving $600 per annum, and a house to live in, in Barley-street, now called Duane-street.

The Corporation becoming Republican again, the Author was reappointed to his old situation and resumed its duties; and a new Board of Commissioners being appointed by the Corporation, they appointed him their Clerk, at a compensation that raised his whole salary to $700 per annum. In this employ he continued during the two years Superintendency of William Mooney, Esq. The Corporation, becoming once more Federal, and Richard Furman, Esq. reappointed Superintendent, the Author resigned his Clerkship, and commenced the business of teaching school.

The Author teaches school for about two years in New-York. Removes to Herkimer. War breaks out. Leaves Herkimer and comes to Albany. Is Clerk to his Excellency the Governor. Peace proclaimed. Returns to New-York with his family.

THE Author, considering a Clerkship as rather a precarious mode of obtaining a living; determined to try what success might attend his labors in teaching a school.

He felt satisfied that his education abundantly fitted him for such an undertaking. Without suspecting, however, the immense responsibility attached to this mode of life, and the many vexations with which it is attended; he purchased the good will of the Bunker Hill Academy, kept by a Mr. John W. Purdy, in Mulberry, near Grand-street. And now no longer either "Ptochotrophii vel Nosocomii scriba,"‡ but the Principal of a promiscuous English elementary school; he felt, or at least, began to experience, that feeling so characterestic [sic] of men of his new profession, the feelings of a pedagogue.

As he commenced in the month of February, (1810,) and the weather moderating with the increased length of the days, his school increased proportionally in number, so that before the close of Summer, he numbered nearly one hundred scholars. But as Winter approached, the number of scholars began to diminish, owing to the circumstance of many of them living at a distance from the school. Besides the rent of the school-house was high, and the income of the school did not sufficiently compensate for the labor of teaching.

This induced the Author to request an old school-mate of his, now grown rich, and, consequently, influential, to procure to be raised for him from among his numerous and highly respectable friends and acquaintances, " a select school," to be located lower down in the City. This his interest and recommendation soon procured for the Author; and he opened his school in the building that then occupied the site of the present Quaker Meeting-House in Rose-street, with about one hundred scholars of both sexes. The number of scholars soon increased to two hundred and ten; and the Author might have realized the height of his wishes both in celebrity as a teacher, and in the pay he received for his services; but the cupidity of a few of his self-created trustees, entirely defeated his exertions, and prostrated for ever the growing usefulness of the "Franklin Juvenile School," in Rose-street; so that when the Author visited New-York during the War, he found his old school-room entirely deserted.

There silence and solitude reign'd,
The Thirteen their object had gain'd.

They had changed an American plan for an English one, under the Lancasterian mode of teaching.

In the month of May, 1812, the Author removed with his family to Herkimer, to take the charge of the Academy in that place. The village afforded him rising of a hundred scholars, at one dollar and fifty cents each, per quarter. But the War breaking out, the children were withheld, and the school was broken up.

The Author represented by letter, his case, to his Excellency, the Governor; and he invited him to come to Albany in the ensuing Spring, and to enter into his employ as one of his clerks. Accordingly, in the month of June, 1813, the Author removed with his family to Albany, became Clerk to his Excellency, and continued in his service until the peace in 1815; when he returned with his family to New-York, after an absence of nearly three years.

The Author becomes Deputy Clerk of the Court of Sessions. Goes into a Counting House. Is appointed Clerk to the Commissioners of the Alms House. Is appointed Assistant Book-keeper of the United States Branch Bank. Writes for Common Council. Goes again into a Counting House; shortly after leaving which, he loses his wife, and consequently becomes a widower.

Not long after his return from Albany, the Author was engaged by Colonel Robert Macomb, one of Governor Tompkins' aids, and his old schoolmate, and brother to the present Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army, Major General Alexander Macomb, as his Deputy in the Court of Sessions; and continued with him eight months, when he left him; the Colonel choosing to perform the whole of the duties of the office himself.

From this employ the Author went into the Counting House of Messrs. Dunlap and Grant, importing merchants in Greenwich-street, to post their Journal.

Mr. Dunlap having been in Europe during the War, all the business of the firm devolved on Mr. Grant, and so the Journal remained unposted; to perform which operation he employed the Author for four months.

Having finished this engagement, the Author applied for and obtained the appointment of clerk to the Commissioners of the Alms House, at a salary of $500 per annum. They had their office, at this time, in that part of the old Alms House now occupied by the United States District Court.

After continuing with the Commissioners about six months, the Author obtained through the recommendation of his old and firm friend, his Excellency, D. D. Tompkins, then Vice President of the United States, the appointment of an assistant book-keeper in the United States Branch Bank, at a salary of $1000 per annum. In this situation the Author remained during the years 1817, 18, 19, and part of 20, when a retrenchment of expenditure by a reduction of the number of officers in the Mother Bank and its different branches took place; and the Author was among the number of the dismissed.

The cause that induced the necessity of this turning out of officers, without alleging any crime to their charge, was the poverty of the Institution—from its inability to discount the paper which had been offered.

The next employment the Author obtained, according to the best of his recollection, was the writing up the minutes of the Common Council, for General Jacob Morton, at that time Clerk of the Board. This duty he continued to perform for about one year, when he quitted, and went into the Counting House of Mr. George Suckley, importer of small cutlery from Sheffield.

Mr. S. kept his office in his own store, in Pine-Street, next door to the corner of William-Street, opposite the Bank Coffee-House, then kept by William Niblo.

The Author continued with Mr. Suckley about eighteen months, when, in consequence of his relinquishing business, the Author quitted his employ.

In the following year, on the 23d day of November, 1823, the wife of the Author departed this life, aged 48 years, after having kept house together for the space of twenty-three years and three months, leaving the Author a widower with six children.

The Author feels satisfied that his companion died in the Faith of the Gospel; and he continues to live in the expectation that when the days of his pilgrimage are ended, and he is called to take the "parting hand with the things of time and sense," he shall go to meet her ransomed disembodied spirit in the fair climes of bliss and glory above; and with her enjoy those "eternal good things which are laid up in store for all the finally faithful, perservering followers of the Lamb, while eternal ages cease not to roll their everlasting rounds."

The Author embarks a second time on the sea of Matrimony. His different employments as a Clerk, &c., during a lapse of sixteen years; which brings him to the period promised in the title page of his Specimens, and to the conclusion of the brief history of his life.

Metaphorically, or figuratively speaking, Matrimony is a sea; and though like the natural sea it abounds with dangers not only hidden, but also, apparent, yet thousands adventure on it daily, fearless of the consequences that may attend the experiment.

And the Author, among the rest, must needs make a second trial of this curse or blessing of our natural lives. And he is happy to inform his readers that he has no cause for regret in the choice, which, under Providence, he has been induced to make.

About fifteen months of widowhood, having rolled over the Author's head—he, having quitted the employment of the son-in-law of his Excellency, the Vice President, entered into that of his Honor, the late Mayor, Aaron Clark. A few months afterwards, he was signing Lottery Tickets for Messrs. Yates and McIntyre, in Broadway. His next remove was into the Register's Office, as a supernumerary copyist, under James W. Lent, Esq. Register in and for the City and County of New-York, &c. About six months thereafter, the business of the Office falling off considerably, the Author with several other supernumeraries, received his dismission. His next place of employment was in the Office of the Court of Common Pleas, under Nicholas Dean, Esq., at that time Clerk of said Court. Here he continued eleven months, and then went into the Assistant Register of Chancery's Office, as a Clerk under John L. Lawrence, Esq. In this employ he remained about six months.

During the fourteen years that had elapsed, from the return of the Author from Albany, he had invariably resided in the City of New-York; but having received a temporary appointment as Clerk of the Public Store at Brooklyn, he removed thither in the month of June, 1829, and there continued until the expiration of the Quarantine on shipping, in the month of November, in that year.

Removing to New-York, the Author, feeling a disposition for travelling, made a visit to his son-in-law, then residing at Mayville, in Chatauque County, near the Chatauque Lake, about sixty miles above Buffalo. In the Spring of 1830, he returned to New-York, and went into the office of Elijah T. Pinckney, Esq., in Tryon-Row, and continued with him as his Clerk for about two years.

The Summer of the year 1832, the year of the Cholera, found the Author again employed in the Office of the Court of Common Pleas. Abraham Asten, Esq. being the then Clerk of that Court. From the books of the Assessors of the different Wards, the Author made out the Ballots for the Grand and Petty Jurys of the city and county of New York, for that year, and returned to his former employ with E. T. P., Esq. But he having in the mean time taken students into his office, advised the Author to turn Money Collector, which business, with very little variation, he has pursued until the present time.

Here the Author dates the commencement of his business acquaintance with James R. and William Whiting, Esqrs., by whom he has been employed (with the exception of five months, as Clerk of the Long Island Fire Insurance Co., and Messenger and General Clerk in the Brooklyn Bank, eleven months, and part of last winter as out-door Visiter for the Commissioners of the Alms House), either as a copyist, collector, or out-door Clerk, and in their office he continues to remain, i. e. up to the 21st of December, 1840.

And, now, in conclusion, the Author wishes the Reader the enjoyment of both physical and moral health; and for himself he assures him, that though poor and despised in this life, he hopes, ere long, if faithful to the grace given him, to be rich and honorable in the life to come.

He would endeavor to imitate the Apostle Paul, in his resignation to the will of Providence, in regard to his temporal estate, by being "therewith content;" and cheerfully obey the direction of the Poet, who advises,

"With patient mind thy course of duty run,
God nothing does, nor suffers to be done,
But thou wouldst do the same, if thou couldst see
The end of all events, as well as He."

†Defender of the Faith, a title given by Pope Leo X. to King Henry VIII, of England, for writing against Luther.

‡Clerk of Alms House or Hospital.

Source: Shippey, Josiah. Specimens, or, Leisure hours poetically employed on various subjects, moral, political & religious (New-York : Printed by J.B. Allee, 1841). p. [147]-16[1], A brief history of the life of the author of the Specimens, from the time of his birth to the year 1841.

Compiled and maintained by Robert V. Bremer
Shippee, Shippey, Shippy Genealogy