Ferris Family Papers
Scope and Contents
The collection contains correspondence, journals and other writings, business and legal papers, and miscellaneous items of the Ferris family of Wilmington, Delaware. Of particular note are the correspondence and writings of Benjamin Ferris concerning the Separation in the Society of Friends and Elias Hicks, as well as the journals and diaries of Anna M. Ferris, David Ferris, Matilda Ferris, Benjamin Ferris, William C. Ferris, Rebecca Masters Kite, and Henry Ferris. Correspondents include William Lloyd Garrison, William Gibbons, Isaac T. Hopper, Joseph Bringhurst, Mary Gibbons, William Poole, Mary Biddle, Joseph Rakestraw, Halliday Jackson, and John Jackson. This collection includes a great variety of family correspondence that reveals much about the life of a Quaker family in Wilmington and of the reform activities of members of the Society of Friends.
- Ferris family (Family)
Limitations on Accessing the Collection
Access is through microfilm when available. Collection is open for research.
Copyright and Rights Information
Friends Historical Library believes all of the items in this collection to be in the Public Domain in the United States, and is not aware of any restrictions on their use. However, the user is responsible for making a final determination of copyright status before reproducing. See http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/.
Biographical / Historical
The Ferris family was a prominent Quaker family of Wilmington, Delaware. The family of Zachariah and Sarah Ferris had its roots in Connecticut. Five of their eight children became members of the Society of Friends, and three of their sons, David Ferris (1707/08-1779), John Ferris (1710-1751), and Zachariah Ferris (1717-1803) removed to Wilmington before 1740. David Ferris became a Quaker minister, and his Memoirs were published in 1825. His son, Benjamin Ferris (1740-1771) also was a Quaker minister. David's younger brother, John, moved to Delaware from Connecticut in 1748 and died of small pox three years later.
John Ferris's second son, Ziba Ferris, was born in 1743 and died in 1794. After his father's early death, he was raised in the household of his uncle, David Ferris, and was apprenticed as a cabinet maker in Wilmington. He married Edith Sharples of Chester Co., Pa., in 1769. Ziba and Edith had seven children, among whom were Deborah (1773-1844), who married Joseph Bringhurst; John (1775-1802), who married Sarah Harlan; and Benjamin (1780-1867), who married Frances Canby. John Ferris was a cabinetmaker who died of yellow fever in 1802. Benjamin Ferris apprenticed as a watch and clock maker in Philadelphia and later worked as a surveyor and successful conveyancer. He was a prominent member of the Society of Friends and the first Clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (Hicksite). Benjamin and Frances ("Fanny") had ten children, and after the death of his wife in 1833, he married her cousin, Hannah Gibbons.
Benjamin Ferris's eldest surviving son, David Ferris (1821-1908), became a farmer. In 1849 he married Sarah Ann Underwood, daughter of Quaker minister Sarah Hunt. An Elder of Wilmington Monthly Meeting, David Ferris was active in Quaker and social reform issues. David and Sarah Ann Ferris had six children: Francis ("Frank"), William C., Matilda, Henry, Alfred, and Walter. Frank, Henry, and Alfred Ferris were involved in the printing business.
Henry Ferris (1855-1941) married Elizabeth E. Masters of Muncy Monthly Meeting in 1885. Henry was active in the Society of Friends and served as editor of the Hicksite journal Friends Intelligencer during WWI. His daughter, Frances Canby Ferris, was the long-time principal of the Friends School in Haverford, Pa.
15 Linear Feet (36 boxes)
The collection contains correspondence, journals and other writings, business and legal papers, and miscellaneous items of the Ferris family of Wilmington, Delaware, a prominent Quaker family. Of particular note are the correspondence and writings of Benjamin Ferris concerning the Separation in the Society of Friends, as well as the journals and diaries of Anna M. Ferris, David Ferris, Matilda Ferris, Benjamin Ferris, and Henry Ferris. Correspondents include William Lloyd Garrison, William Gibbons, Isaac T. Hopper, Joseph Bringhurst, Mary Gibbons, William Poole, Mary Biddle, Joseph Rakestraw, Halliday Jackson, and John Jackson. This collection includes a great variety of family correspondence that reveals much about the life of a Quaker family in Wilmington and of the reform activities of members of the Society of Friends.
The collection is divided into four series, with sub-series:
- Family Genealogical Research: Compiled by Benjamin Ferris, Henry Ferris, and Frances Canby Ferris
- Benjamin Ferris Family
- David Ferris Family
- Henry Ferris Family
For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchased 1940 from Henry C. Ferris, grandson of Benjamin Ferris
Correspondence of Anna M. (Canby) Smyth, gift of Frances C. Ferris, 1943
Additional family letters and papers, gift Frances C. Ferris, 1947-1972, and other family members including Mary Ferris Blackburn and Edith S. Blackburn, 1965
Existence and Location of Copies
Journal of Benjamin Ferris "of Oblong" (1708-1775) and Journal of Benjamin Ferris (1740-1771): Film Org. MS-F13
Marriage certificates were removed from the collection and stored in the Chart Case (as indicated)
- Marriage certificate of Benjamin Ferris to Hannah Gibbons, 1835
- Marriage certificate of Benjamin Ferris and Fanny Canby.
- Painting: Portrait of Benjamin Ferris (Reading Room)
- Photographs removed to Picture Collections, PA 155. Small engraving of Elias Hicks removed to Individual Portraits: PA 100: Hicks, Elias.
- "Map of the Meetings within the limits of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends," drawn by Benjamin Ferris, lithograph by T.S. Duval, removed to Maps.
- Records of Wilmington Monthly Meeting and Concord Monthly Meeting transferred to RG2/Ph/W58 and RG2/Ph/C69
The collection was received unsorted in cartons and processed by FHL staff prior to 1965. The original inventory included a chronological list of persons mentioned in Benjamin Ferris's correspondence, 1794-1819, compiled by Jean McClure in 1956, but did not detail correspondents. The bulk of the correspondence to 1940 was sorted chronologically in large units. Continuing until about 1969, Frances Ferris added papers and sometimes temporarily withdrew family material. The Anna M. Ferris Diaries were donated by Frances C. Ferris in 1969, and she gave additional family papers, including most of the genealogical papers, in 1974. In 2011, staff determined to simplify the organization to better describe the contents and to make the post-Separation material more accessible. Biographical and genealogical research, begun by Benjamin Ferris and continued by his grandson and great-granddaughter were consolidated into the first series. Papers collected by Benjamin Ferris and representing his generation and his involvement in the Separation in the Society of Friends were united in Series 2. Series 3 contains the papers of the generation of his son, David Ferris, along with his wife's family and their children, except for Henry. The papers of Henry Ferris, who sold the bulk of the collection to Friends Historical Library in 1940, compose Series 4. Also in that series are the diaries of Rebecca Masters Kite, a Quaker minister who was Henry's sister-in-law.
- Biddle, Mary, 1780-1849
- Bringhurst, Joseph, 1767-1834
- Church controversies -- Society of Friends
- Ferris family
- Ferris, Anna M., 1815-1890
- Ferris, Benjamin, 1780-1867
- Ferris, David, 1821-1908
- Ferris, Fanny, 1778-1833
- Ferris, Henry
- Ferris, John, 1775-1802
- Ferris, Matilda, 1853-1937
- Ferris, Ziba, 1743-1794
- Hicks, Elias, 1748-1830
- Hopper, Isaac T. (Isaac Tatem), 1771-1852
- Jackson, Halliday, 1771-1835
- Jackson, John, 1809-1855
- Peace -- Religious aspects -- Society of Friends
- Poole, William, 1764-1829
- Quaker abolitionists
- Quaker social reformers
- Quakers -- Delaware
- Quakers -- Delaware -- Wilmington
- Quakers -- Diaries
- Quakers -- Social life and customs
- Rakestraw, Joseph, 1780?-1860
- Slavery -- United States
- Social reform
- Society of Friends -- Hicksite separation
- Society of Friends -- Peace testimony
- account books
- genealogies (histories)
- Ferris family (Family)
- Ferris, John, 1775-1802 (Contributor, Person)
- Ferris, Ziba, 1743-1794 (Contributor, Person)
- Ferris, Benjamin, 1780-1867 (Contributor, Person)
- Ferris, Henry (Contributor, Person)
- Ferris, Anna M., 1815-1890 (Contributor, Person)
- Ferris, Matilda, 1853-1937 (Contributor, Person)
- Ferris, David, 1821-1908 (Contributor, Person)
- Ferris, Fanny, 1778-1833 (Contributor, Person)
- Gibbons, Mary, 1795-1876 (Contributor, Person)
- Ferris Family Papers, 1737-1940
- FHL staff
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- 2020: Updated outdated, harmful terminology related to enslavement, except where it appears in a title, quotation, or subject heading.
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