Colonial Official, Josiah Franklin Davenport, Autograph Letter Signed


Davenport, Josiah Franklin (1727-?). Colonial Official in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and nephew of Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin. A.L.S. with English royal coat of arms watermark, 1p, 12 1/2″ x 7 1/2″, [Burlington, NJ], n.d. [ca. 1776]. Very good. Three old horizontal folds, some toning, foxing and ink bleed, some separation at folds.

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Letter seems to be regarding Davenport’s borrowing money against back pay owed as “Collector of His Majesty’s Customs for the Port of Burlington.”

The note in another’s hand writing on the back of the letter says, “Josiah F. Franklin’s letter of advice to be sent to Clark and Milligan with the bill of no prospect of recovering it in America.” Apparently, Davenport’s claim could not be honored due to the outbreak of the Revolutionary war. (Clark & Milligan were merchants at Nicholas Lane, London).

Davenport’s note says “The bills in favour of Charles Roberts.”

According to the Journals of Congress, a Charles Roberts, master of the Schooner Thistle petitioned the Continental Congress in 1776. Not sure if this is the same Charles Roberts – further research is required.

Thistle a British schooner, was captured enroute from Pensacola to the Leeward Islands and made a prize of Pennsylvania Congress, Apr 1776. The case was tried in Philadelpha in July, 1776 and appealed to Continental Congress September, 1776. (Source:

Additional information:

By 1759 Josiah Franklin Davenport was serving as a secretary to Pennsylvania Indian Commissioners and was soon put in charge of a public store and trading house at Fort Pitt.

Benjamin Franklin’s letter of June 16, 1764 to Anthony Stickney says:

“Your Brother (in-law) Josiah Davenport is still at Pitsburg, near 400 Miles west of this Place, where he has the Care of the Provincial Store, that was establish’d there during the Peace, for the Indian Trade; and since the War broke out again, there has been no good Opportunity of bringing off the Goods, so he is oblig’d to remain with them.”

In 1765 Davenport left his post at Fort Pitt and returned to Philadelphia where he was engaged in many pursuits including tavern keeper and bookseller. (Source: National Archives online)

Thanks to relations with his cousin, New Jersey Governor William Franklin, Davenport held various public offices including:

Register and Clerk in Chancery, Cursitor in Chancery, Naval Officer for New Jersey, Justice of the Peace for Burlington County, Clerk, Gloucester County.

Davenport was even at one time employed as a personal Secretary to his cousin, Governor William Franklin (son of Benjamin Franklin).

“In the Minutes of the Provincial Congress of New Jersey (p. 483), it is noted that on June 29, 1776, Josiah Franklin Davenport presented a bill ‘To board and lodging Governor Franklin, his servant, &c. one week £3’ which was ordered paid. Josiah Franklin Davenport’s several appointments to office were made by his cousin Governor Franklin.” (Source: Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Volume 10)

“In 1769 Josiah F. Davenport was part owner of a new four-horse stage route between Philadelphia and New York. At that time he kept tavern on Third street near Chestnut street, Philadelphia, known as the ‘Sign of the Bunch of Grapes.’ He removed to Burlington, N. J., where on February 22, 1773, he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Burlington County by Governor Franklin. He was the Sheriff of the County in 1776 and probably died there within a year, because the last record available of him is of August, 1776, when he was paid for board of Governor Wm. Franklin, who had been arrested by instruction of the Continental Congress. In 1777 there was another ‘Sheriff of Burlington County. (Address delivered at the North Woodbury Presbyterian Grave Yard, by Frank H. Stewart, President of the Gloucester County Historical Society, the day of its annual meeting, January 11, 1921…)

Davenport, who was possibly a loyalist like his cousin, Governor William Franklin, seems to have disappeared from the record in 1776. Although Frank H. Stewart speculated Davenport may have died, it may be that he left America around that time to seek refuge in England, Canada or some other place.


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