59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum

A Finding Aid to the Noah Pease Letters, 1794-1827, 1847

Descriptive Summary

RepositoryMartha's Vineyard Museum, Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539
Call NumberRU 281
Creator Pease, Noah, 1754-1841
TitleNoah Pease letters
Date1794-1827, 1847
Extent1 box (0.504 cubic feet)
LanguageThe materials are in English.
AbstractThe collection consists of letters, 1794-1827 and 1847, created by Noah Pease of Edgartown, a master mariner and cobbler. The collection includes letters written to Pease's wife, Hannah Dunham Pease, who raised the family alone while her husband was away at sea, letters to their children and correspondence received by Noah Pease.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use and Reproduction Restrictions

Requests to reproduce material from this collection should be directed to the library's staff. Reproduction fees may apply.

Preferred Citation

Martha's Vineyard Museum, RU 281, Noah Pease Letters.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Julien Vose Weston in 1981. (Accession no. 1981.035.001 ; 1981.035.006)


Railton, Arthur R. "The Letters of Capt. Noah Pease: The Separated Lives in a Mariner's Family, (1794-1841)." In Dukes County Intelligencer 38:2 (November 1996): 59-95.

Publication Information

Martha's Vineyard Museum

Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Linda M. Wilson in February 2008. Revised by Insley Julier in March 2013. Machine-encoded by Nathaniel Janick April 2014.

 Creation of this finding aid was sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Related Materials

Related Materials

See also, Noah Pease account books.

Index Terms

Corporate Name(s)

  • Ceres (Brig)


  • Correspondence

Geographic Name(s)

  • Atlantic Ocean--Description and travel
  • Edgartown (Mass.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Pease, Hannah Dunham, 1756-1813
  • Pease, Isaiah Dunham, 1786-1862

Biography/Historical Note

Noah Pease was born in Edgartown on April 14, 1754 to Seth Pease, 1730-1802 and Sarah Chase, 1735-. In 1776, at the age of 22, Pease enlisted in the Sea Coast Defense and on March 7 of the same year he married Hannah Dunham. The pair settled in Edgartown where they raised their family. They had eight children: Sprowel, Ruhamah, Chase, Harrison, Isaiah, Fanny, Jeremiah and Abner. Hannah Pease brought up these children largely on her own, because much of Pease's time was spent at sea as a master mariner. Hannah was left to manage not only the "good health" and "wellfaire" of the children, but also the "money & other necessaries."

When Noah Pease set sail from Boston in November of 1794 as First Mate, his wife Hannah was pregnant with their eighth child. As Arthur Railton describes in his 1996 Intelligencer article, the voyage was initiated by a group of Boston speculators who chartered the Ceres (Brig), with the idea of making a fine, fast profit selling American goods to the French. Their timing could not have been worse he explains: France was in the middle of its own revolution which had torn the country apart. Inflation was rampant, and the value of paper currency had fallen. Furthermore, November was the wrong time of year for comfortable north Atlantic sailing. Nevertheless, the Ceres departed under the command of Captain Abner Dunham.

Pease returned to America in 1795 with the brig, arriving in New York in 1796. By April of 1796 Pease had been absent for nearly two years and he worried about the health of his children back in Edgartown. He walked the streets of New York hoping to find "some one that has Come from the Vineyard - yet no one can I se. " He had no way of knowing that before the end of the month two of his children would be dead. In a letter from Hannah, Pease learns of the loss of the children and is reassured by his wife that she can continue on "for a comfortable living" if he takes on another voyage. However, the deaths in the family prompted Pease's return, and by May of 1796 he was back in Edgartown. He remained there for a few months, returning to sea in the fall. It is not known when Noah Pease fully retired from seafaring, but by 1798 Pease was back in Edgartown making shoes and boots. His shop was in Edgartown near the wharf. He died on April 18, 1841, at the age of 87.

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection consists of 32 hand-written letters, dated 1794-1827, 1847 and undated, largely made or received by Noah Pease. The letters provide insight into the life of a master mariner in the period following the Revolutionary War. They also reveal what life was like for a woman raising her family alone while her husband was away at sea. The early correspondence from Noah Pease recounts a 1794 voyage to France aboard the Ceres (Brig). The letters demonstrate Pease's eye for detail and his attention to his absent family back in Edgartown.

Later letters from Pease to his family date from after his return to Edgartown in the early 1800s. By that time, two of his sons were at sea themselves. A number of these letters are addressed to Pease's children, particularly his son Isaiah. This correspondence recounts numerous illnesses, deaths, and financial disasters among Edgartown's finest families but little detail about his own life on the island. In addition the collection contains several letters received by Noah Pease. Some of this incoming correspondence deals with Pease's shoemaking business, including a letter regarding leather supplies and orders for shoes placed by George Osborn, (related to the Osborn family of Edgartown). Osborn wrote from Charleston, South Carolina and included the shipping news from the South with his orders.

Finally, there are a few miscellaneous letters sent or received by other members of the Pease family, including Noah Pease's son Isaiah and his daughter-in-law, Polly Pease. Each letter in the collection has been transcribed and transcriptions are filed at the end of the collection, as is a photocopy of an undated, typed recollection of Noah Pease by one of his descendants, Maria Nye Pease. An extensive biographical article by Arthur Railton, on the life of Noah Pease appeared in the November 1996 issue of the Intelligencer. Many of the letters in this collection were quoted in the article.


The collection is arranged by outgoing and incoming correspondence, creator and therein chronologically, with miscellaneous materials filed at the end.

Collection Contents


From Noah Pease to Hannah Pease, 1794 November 21 


From Noah Pease to Hannah Pease, 1795 March 10 


From Noah Pease to Hannah Pease, 1795 March 13 


From Noah Pease to Hannah Pease, 1795 March 27 


From Noah Pease to Hannah Pease, 1796 April 


From Noah Pease to Hannah Pease, 1796 April 16 


From Noah Pease to Hannah Pease, 1796 April 23 


From Noah Pease to Hannah Pease, 1796 November 15 


From Noah Pease to Ruhamah Pease, 1794 November 25 


From Noah Pease to Sprowel Pease, 1794 November 25 


From Noah Pease to Sprowel Pease, 1796 May 27 


From Noah Pease to Isaiah Pease, 1806 July 08 


From Noah Pease to Isaiah Pease, 1807 September 23 


From Noah Pease to Isaiah Pease, 1807 October 03 


From Noah Pease to Isaiah Pease, 1809 June 05 


From Noah Pease to Isaiah Pease, 1812 January 29 


From Noah Pease to Isaiah Pease, 1813 September 03 


From Noah Pease to Isaiah Pease, undated 


From Noah Pease to Isaiah Pease, undated 


From Noah Pease to Isaiah and Polly Pease, 1818 August 31 


From Noah Pease to Isaiah and Polly Pease, undated 


From Noah Pease to Otis Russell, 1813 September 17 


From Hannah Pease to Noah Pease, 1796 April 26 


From Richard Faxon, Jr. to Noah Pease, 1815 December 17 


From Lot Norton to Noah Pease, 1819 November 25 


From Samuel Coffin to Noah Pease, 1820 April 18 


From George Osborn to Noah Pease, 1820 March 07 


From George Osborn to Noah Pease, 1824 February 29 


From George Osborn to Noah Pease, 1827 April 03 


From Benjamin Whitman to Isaiah Pease, 1818 September 05 


From Isaiah Pease to John G. Palfrey, 1847 March 11 


From Pamela Luce to Polly Pease, undated 


Transcriptions of Letters, undated 


Recollections of Maria Nye Pease, undated