William Flagg Papers, 1807-1904 – MS048

Provenance: Material in Folders 1-17 purchased from descendant; material in Folder 18 is the gift of William Flagg, June 1996.

Citation: William Flagg Papers (MS048), Manuscript Collections, Portsmouth Athenaeum

Size: 1/5 linear feet (124 items)

Access: No restrictions

Processed by: Peter Levenworth in 1995


Primarily personal correspondence from William Flagg’s brother John and other businessmen connected with shipping; letters from several of Flagg’s children, documents related to Flagg’s involvement in privateering in the War of 1812, and records related to the Dover Manufacturing Company.

Scope and Content

The William Flagg Papers (1807-1904) consists mostly of personal letters from William’s brother John (1764-1817), other shipping associates, and between various family members. The archival box is divided into folders which generally separate series of letters by address except for folders 11 and 13 which are collections of the letter writers. In addition, the collection includes information on the activities of the schooner Fox, a ship’s log from the voyage of William’s son William C. Flagg on the Brig Hamilton (1837), a certificate of William’s membership in the Portsmouth Marine Society (1816), William’s will (1839), and miscellaneous genealogical records. Also, various records and balance sheets of the Dover Manufacturing Co. -notices of share-holders’ meetings, results from votes, directors’ meetings -that incompletely chronicle the company’s gradual slide into insolvency and its purchase by the Cocheco Manufacturing Co. for 50 cents on the dollar. The correspondence of Harriet (Heard) Flagg (folder 10), William’s second wife, contains an undated invitation (c. 1824) from her and her first husband, Capt. John Heard extended to “Joseph Gilman and Lady” to breakfast with Gen. Lafayette at South Berwick.

Biographical Note

William Flagg (1770-1844) was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire April 17, 1770, youngest of three surviving children born to Capt. John and Sarah Flagg. At age thirteen, he shipped as cabin boy aboard the brig Sisters, beginning a long career at sea with Charleston, S.C. as home port. Around 1792, he was given command of his first vessel. In 1794 he was captured, losing his ship, for the first of six such losses. In the late 1790’s, Flagg enlisted in the United States Navy for two years, becoming a third Lieutenant on the frigate John Adams. Over the next ten years, Capt. Flagg purchased, sailed, sold or lost (by seizure) several vessels. For instance, in 1804, he bought the sloop Delight, sailed to Jacquimel on the south side of Hispaniola for a cargo of coffee. On the return trip, he was intercepted by the French privateer Josephine Bonaparte and interned at Havana.

In 1806 he married Jane Imer in Charleston, South Carolina and between 1811 and 1822, they had seven children. After the Non-Intercourse Act and Trade Embargo, he carried on mostly coastal trading voyages to New Orleans. In 1810, he built the ship Jason in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and went into partnership in shipping with his brother, John (1764-1817). He made two Atlantic crossings in the Jason before laying the ship up during the War of 1812. William Flagg owned a half share (1132) of the American privateer Fox whose successful raiding ventures on British shipping earned the captain $236.

He was representative from Dover to the New Hampshire legislature in 1813. In 1815, Flagg sold the Jason and built the Tidewater Farm in Dover. He became an overseer in the spinning room at the Dover Manufacturing Co. and, by 1818, was on the board of directors.

In late 1825, his wife died and on November 30 the following year, he married Harriet (Getchell) Heard of Wells, Maine whose husband, John, had also died the previous year. Between 1829 and 1840, William and Harriet had seven children, three boys and four girls. William died February 12, 1844 at age 73, leaving his residence and estate to his wife. Several of his sons also became sea captains.

Folder List


I. William Flagg, 1770-1844

A. Correspondence

Folder 1 Letters from John Flagg, William’s brother 1807-1812

Folder 2 Letters from Thomas Logan, John Robertson 1810-1815

Folder 3 Letters from William Shimmin 1829

Folder 4 General correspondence 1810-1822

Folder 5 General correspondence 1824-1843, n.d.

B. Shipping and Manufacturing

Folder 6 Schooner Fox Papers 1812-1814, n.d.

Folder 7 Portsmouth Marine Society Certificate 1816

Folder 8 Business Records, Dover Manufacturing Co. 1825-1829

C. Will of William Flagg

Folder 9 Will of William Flagg 1839


II. Harriet Heard Flagg

Folder 10 Harriet (Heard) Flagg Correspondence 1825-1854, n.d.


III. Henry I. Flagg

Folder 11 Henry 1. Flagg Correspondence (from) 1871-1875


IV. James M. Flagg

Folder 12 James M. Flagg Correspondence 1840-1842, n.d.


V. Jonathan Cooper Flagg

Folder 13 Letter from Jonathan Cooper Flagg, 1854


VI. Phoebe Flagg

Folder 14 Phoebe Flagg Correspondence 1853


VII. William C. Flagg

Folder 15 Logbook of the Brig Hamilton 1837

VIII. Genealogical Material

Folder 16 Genealogical Correspondence 1903-1904

Folder 17 Early Genealogical Records n.d.

Folder 18 Account Book, c. 1873-1874, with summaries of William Flagg’s voyages, 1828 -, and typescript of summaries.


Index Terms

Cocheco Manufacturing Company

Dover Manufacturing Company

Flagg, Harriet Heard

Flagg, Henry I.

Flagg, James McDuffee

Flagg, John (1764-1817)

Flagg, Jonathan Cooper

Flagg, Phoebe

Flagg, William (1770-1844)

Fox (Schooner)

Hamilton (Brig)

Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul, Marquis de, (1757-1834)

Logan, Thomas

Portsmouth Marine Society

Robertson, John

Shimmin, William