Collection inventory

Finding Aids

Spire American Revolutionary War Collection

A description of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 27 Oct 2010

Revision history:
4 Jun 2015 indenture located, added (MRC)

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Spire, Nancy Woodson.
Title: Spire American Revolutionary War Collection
Dates: 1667-1878 (bulk: 1748-1799)
Quantity: 1 linear ft.
Abstract: Collection of letters, journals, account books and other documents dating from or relating to the American Revolution. Also includes material relating to the Fisher, Rapalje and Wilkins families in New York State.
Language: Bulk in English, some in French and German
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

The Spire collection contains material relating to William Duer, William Alexander Lord Stirling, and to the Fisher, Rapalje and Wilkins families, among others. The material was collected by Nancy Woodson Spire (Mrs. Lyman J. Spire) as one of her research interests.

William Alexander, Lord Stirling (1726-1783) was an American major-general during the American Revolutionary War. Serving first as a Colonel in the New Jersey militia, he eventually rose to the rank of brigadier general for the entire Continental Army. A respected tactician, he commanded forces at the battles of Long Island, Short Hills, Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth.

William Duer (1743-1799) was a British-born American lawyer, developer, and speculator from New York City. He served in the Continental Congress, participated in the convention that framed the New York Constitution, and was a signer of the United States Articles of Confederation. He married Catherine Alexander, daughter of William Alexander, Lord Stirling, and at least one document in the collection suggests he was also acquainted with the Wilkins family (Conveyance, William Dewer [Duer?] to States [Staats] Wilkins and Ann Smythe 1830).

John Fisher (dates unknown) was a lawyer and served as a Justice of the Peace for Kings County, New York; he was also involved in land speculation in central New York State.

Garret Rapalje (b. 1730), also spelled Gerrit or Garrit, was descended from Joris Jansen Rapalje, one of the earliest settlers of New Amsterdam. Garret's parents were George Janse Rapalje and Diana (Middagh) Rapalje. He married Helena de Nyse (b. 1732), and made his living as an importer in New York City. During the 1760s he was an assistant alderman of the City. During the Revolutionary War, Rapalje was a Loyalist, and later left New York City for New Orleans. He and his wife had four children: Garret II, George, Anne (b. 1762; married Jacob Wilkins, below), and Jacques. [Information taken from the New-York Historical Society]

John Wilkins Sr. (1733-1809) was born in Pennsylvania. According to a manuscript in the collection, his paternal grandfather emigrated to Pennsylvania from Wales and his maternal grandfather came from Ireland. He served as Captain in Spencer's Regiment during the American Revolution; his oldest son, John Jr. (1761-1816), enlisted at sixteen as a surgeon's mate and eventually (1796) rose to the rank of Quartermaster General. After the way, Wilkins undertook several business ventures and served as a Justice of the Peace in Pennsylvania. He was married twice and (again according to his memoir in the collection) had eleven children with each of them, including two "lunatick" children.

Jacob Wilkins (born circa 1735) was a brass founder, grocer, and merchant of old New York. It is likely that he was related to John Wilkins but this cannot be established. He married Anne Rapalje in 1793 and they had two children, Helen D. and States (or Staats) Wilkins. Jacob Wilkins later married Hannah Betts, and they had six children: John, Jacob, William, Ann, Hannah (b. 1779), and Augustus (later a physician in Louisiana). Ann Rapalje Wilkins later married a Charles Smith or Smyth.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Spire American Revolutionary War Collection consists of letters, journals, account books and other documents, the bulk of which date from or relate to the American Revolution (1775-1783). The material is divided into series based on the person to whom it primarily relates, though the observant researcher will note that there is considerable overlap. An alphabetical index of correspondents is provided at the end of this finding aid.

The American Revolutionary War papers (1765-1785) includes correspondence, a few fragments and envelopes; an autobiographical manuscript of and by John Wilkins, Sr.; and a group of military records. The papers represent individuals from both patriot and loyalist groups. Correspondence includes letters to Sir John Johnson and Governor George Clinton. The military records include an account book of the New York Department of the British Forces, oaths of allegiance to King George and to the new republic, a muster roll of Wentworth's Volunteers, and other items.

The William Alexander, Lord Stirling papers (1775-1783) includes five letters from Alexander to others (two to John Hancock, one to Governor George Clinton of New York, one to the "President of Congress," and one to a Captain FitzRandolph).

The William Duer papers (1784-1792) consists of a small amount of correspondence and a few legal and financial documents. One relates to the Scioto Land Company.

The John Fisher papers (1768-1826) primarily relate to Fisher's responsibilities as Justice of the Peace of Kings County. The correspondence, approximately 100 items, is with business associates, family, and public officials (including one dated 1798 to Timothy Pickering, third U.S. Secretary of State). Legal and financial records include accounts, agreements, indentures, memoranda, petitions, receipts, summonses, warrants and others. Interesting items include an "order of bastardy" filed against Samuel Mitchell and Nelly Lewis (1795-1796) for the birth of a child out of wedlock, a warrant for the arrest of Nathaniel Price for the rape of Unis Williamson (1797), and a resolution for the formation of a New York morality society "to aid magistrates in suppressing vice and immorality on the Lord's Day" (1790).

The Garret Rapalje papers (1667-1830) contains correspondence and legal documents, including a genealogy of the Rapalje family. One item (Conveyance, William Dewer [Duer?] to States [Staats] Wilkins and Ann Smythe 1830) suggests a connection with William Duer.

Miscellaneous material (1752-1878) at the end of the collection comprises correspondence and legal and financial documents. The correspondence includes a latter from Rufus King, Massachusetts lawyer, politician and diplomat. Legal and financial documents include accounts, agreements, bills of exchange, indentures, summonses, warrants and wills. A few of the documents relate to Garret Rapalje or John Fisher. Of particular interest is a Prussian passport or travel authorization from 1836, indicating that the bearer, one Caspar Beckschaefer, sailed from Bremen to New Orleans.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence in each section is arranged chronologically. An alphabetical index of correspondents is provided at the end of this finding aid. Other material is arranged alphabetically by type or title.


Access Restrictions: The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions: Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

The original donation also included several hundred printed works which have been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging. Please refer to the Classic Catalog and search on "Nancy Woodson Spire" to locate these items.

Two items that were at one time part of this collection -- "Journal of Voyage, Plymouth to New York" by Edward Gould and "New Jersey Boundary Dispute" -- have been removed and made into their own collections (SC 124, Iris Ship's log and SC 125, New Jersey Boundary Document).

SCRC has considerable material relating to the early days of New York State; please see our New York State History and Ephemera subject page for more information.

Subject Headings


Alexander, William, 1726-1783.
Duer, William, 1747-1799.
Fisher, John, fl. 1768-1828.
Johnson, John, Sir, 1742-1830.
King, Rufus, 1755-1827.
Rapalje family.
Rapalje, Garret.
Wilkins family.
Wilkins, Jacob, b. 1735?
Wilkins, John, 1733-1810.

Corporate Bodies

Great Britain. -- Army -- Colonial forces -- New York (State)
Scioto Land Company.


Brooklyn (New York, NY) -- History.
Cayuga County (NY) -- History.
New York (NY) -- History -- 1775-1865.
New York (NY) -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783.

Genres and Forms

Account books.
Loyalty oaths.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Spire American Revolutionary War Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Nancy Woodson Spire, 1963-1968.

Gift of Lyman Spire, 1968-1971.

Table of Contents

American Revolution material

William Alexander, Lord Stirling papers

William Duer papers

John Fisher papers

Garret Rapalje papers

Miscellaneous material

Index to correspondence


American Revolution material
Box 1 Letters 1765-1785
Box 1 Fragments and envelopes 1775-1777
Autobiographical manuscript, John Wilkins Sr. 1807 - Revolutionary War general, born 1733; handwritten copy; title page reads "Copy of a Manuscript Autobiography of John Wilkins, Sr."; includes sketches of some genealogical trees with surnames Wilkins, Parker, Denny,
Military records
Box 1 Account book, New York Department of British Forces 1777-1782 - account book of Col. Innes, Inspector General of Provincial Forces, and of Capt. Rooke at Philadelphia
Box 1 Affidavit, Theophilus Antony 12 Jun 1781 - oath of allegiance to King George III
Box 1 Affidavit, George Freeland 27 Dec 1776 - oath of allegiance to King George III
Box 1 Affidavit, John W. Vredenbergh 8 Jun 1781 - oath of allegiance to King George III
Box 1 Affidavit, Israel Williams 3 Feb 1775 - declaration of loyalty to American colonial independence
Box 1 Assignment on soldiers discharges, Peter Buchez 1 May 1795
Box 1 Assignment on soldiers discharges, Joseph Carly 7 Jul 1790
Box 1 Assignment on soldiers discharges, blank form
Box 1 Certificate for sale of saltpeter, East Haddam, Connecticut 11 Jun 1776
Box 1 Checks issued by M. Weare Nov 1782 - to Daniel Carpenter and Capt. Othniel Thomas
Box 1 Confiscation order for property of Benjamin Mulberry Holmes of Massachusetts Bay 1780 - for giving "Aid and Comfort" to "the King of Great-Britain, his Fleets and Armies, Enemies of the said Province"; includes typed transcript
Box 1 Examination of Colonel Beverley Robinson 1789 - regarding the army's cost for hire of a waggon and driver
Box 1 Muster roll for Wentworth's Volunteers, New York District Dec 1780 - no names are given, just numbers of people at each rank
Box 1 Requisition and report, South Carolina Royalist First Battalion 1779 - "report on forage, baggage, and battalion money"
Box 1 Residence permit for David Kennedy of New York City 5 May 1781
William Alexander, Lord Stirling papers
Box 1 Letters 1775-1783 - includes typed transcriptions for some of the letters
William Duer papers
Box 1 Letters 1784-1792 - many in French; includes two undated items in French relating to the Scioto Land Company
Legal and financial papers
Box 1 Accounts payable, William Duer / Davis Strachan 1774-1784
Box 1 Articles of agreement, William Playfair and Claude Naudet 17 Mar 1790 - in French
Box 1 Letter of credit, Jean J. DeBarth to William Duer 30 Jun 1786
John Fisher papers
Box 1 Letters 1768, 1791-1797, 1800-1814 (4 folders)
Box 2 Letters 1816-1820, 1826
Box 2 Letters undated
Legal and financial papers
Box 2 Accounts payable 1818-1819
Box 2 Accounts receivable 1815-1817
Box 2 Articles of agreement, Powel I. Amerman and John Fisher 1812
Box 2 Articles of agreement, Elijah Hill and John Fisher and James Clarke 1805
Box 2 Articles of agreement, Benjamin Hough and John Fisher and James Clarke 1811
Box 2 Articles of agreement, Nathan Leonard and John Fisher 1802
Box 2 Bills of exchange, John Fisher to Charles McMullen [McMullins?] 1796
Box 2 Conveyance, John Fisher to Abner Brown 1818 - for sale of land
Box 2 Indenture, John Fisher to John McKesson 1790 - appears to relate to sale of land
Box 2 Memorandum on disbursements for the poor of Brooklyn 1796
Box 2 Memoranda on the mortgage of Barzilla Clarke 1807
Box 2 Order of bastardy, Samuel Mitchell and Nelly Lewis 1795-1796
Box 2 Petition against storing gunpowder in Village of Brooklyn 1803
Box 2 Petition regarding increase of ferryage rates from New York City to Nassau 1801
Box 2 Petitions from ferry masters, New York City to Nassau 1801
Box 2 Petition for removal of King's County Clerk undated
Box 2 Receipts, Manhattan Company Stock Purchase 1800
Box 2 Recognizances for license to operation of inn or tavern May 1796 - three separate licenses, to William Duryea, Peter Prerine[?], and John Smith
Box 2 Registration of invention, Johannes Lott 1801 - for a "swedging machine" having to do with the smithying of spikes, nails, brads and bolts (2 copies)
Box 2 Resolution to form New York morality society 1790 - constitution of organization "to aid magistrates in suppressing vice and immorality on the Lord's Day"
Box 2 Resolution to form night watch in Brooklyn 1796 - for formation of a night watch in Brooklyn, with subscribers' names
Box 2 Resolution regarding transportation problems in Queen's and King's Counties 1803
Box 2 Summons, William Baisley vs. John Van Allen 1790 - regarding debts owed to Baisley (Besley) incurred by Mrs Van Allen (Van Alan), deceased
Box 2 Summons, John Corzine vs Jacob Sharpe 1797 - order to summon a jury
Box 2 Summons, John Fisher vs Thomas Lawrence 1796 - regarding damages for trespass
Box 2 Summons, Theodocius Hunt vs Richard Aires 1796 - regarding damages for an injury
Box 2 Summons, Appolis (Appollas) Reaves[?] vs. James Roll 1796 - regarding debts owed
Box 2 Summons, Isaac Sanders vs Samuel Ingles 1797 - regarding debts owed
Box 2 Summons, Ezekiel Johnson Taylor vs. Appollis (Appollas) Reaves 1790 - regarding debts owed
Box 2 Summons, Garret I. Vader next of kin 1805 - regarding settlement of Vader's estate with his creditors
Box 2 Summons, King's County sample forms - blank forms for summons to appear and for levying judgement on a person's "Goods and Chattels"
Box 2 Warrant for arrest of Richard Crosby 1797 - for debts owing
Box 2 Warrant for arrest of Thomas Duncan 1796 - for stealing Nicholas Williamson's pocketbook (2 items)
Box 2 Warrant for arrest of Benjamin Langton 1796 - for debts owing
Box 2 Warrant for arrest of John Murray 1796 - for debts owing
Box 2 Warrant for arrest of Nathaniel Price 1797 - for rape of Unis Williamson
Box 2 Warrant for arrest of Peter Van Allen 1796 - for debts owing
Box 2 Will of John Fisher, "a true copy" 1838 - includes cover sheet stating that the validity of the will is being contested
Garret Rapalje papers
Box 2 Letters 1754-1792 (12 folders)
most in English, some in French
Legal and financial papers
Box 2 Accounts payable 1755-1765 (gaps)
Box 2 Conveyance, William Dewer [Duer?] to States [Staats] Wilkins and Ann Smythe 1830 - for transfer of half a plantation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Ann is probably Ann Rapalje Wilkins Smyth, Jacob Wilkins' widow
Box 2 Deposition, David Jones 1771 - regarding account books of a brewery belonging to Rapalje, Faulkner and Ten Eyck
Box 2 Indenture, Brechje and Matthew Gleaves to Diana Rapalje 1748 - for sale of a house and land
Box 2 Indenture, James Striker to Charles and Ann Smyth 1823
Box 2 Land patents, extracts, John and Garret Rapalje 1774, 1775 - land in Charlotte County, on the east side of Lake Champlain; land in Tryon County, between the Cookquago branch of the Delaware and the Susquehanna
Box 2 Landholding records and deeds (copies) 1667-1732 - small notebook with handwritten copies of deeds, land patents, landholding records, etc.; towns mentioned include Dryden, Romulus, Lysander, Manlius, Marcellus, more
Box 2 Will of Garret Rapalje 1807 - includes appointment of executors by various members of the Fisher and Rapalje families
Box 2 Genealogy of the Rapalje [Rappalje] and Remson [Remsen] families undated
Miscellaneous material
Box 2 Letters 1752-1878, undated
Legal and financial papers
Box 2 Accounts payable, Michael Titus; Messrs. Watson and Murray 1771, 1796
Box 2 Action of trespass, Margaret Van Kurean and Ephraim Brasher vs Phillip Hissick 1783 - relating to property theft and damages during the Revolutionary War
Box 2 Articles of agreement, John Howe and Goldsmith Davis 1792 - for sale of household goods and furniture, includes featherbeds and "all my joyner's tools"
Box 2 Assessment of damages, Captain Fordyce of the Elizabeth 1790 - amount owed to by 93 passengers picked up at sea by the Elizabeth, for "freight and salvage"
Box 2 Bills of Exchange 1764-1766, 1795 -
1764 - Alexander Grant to Napoleon Hart Myers, dated from Halifax
1765 - John Munson to Joseph King; Garret Rapalje's name appears on the back
1766 - Nicholas Bogart to Dirk Sligting Williams, in Dutch; Garret Rapalje's name appears on the back
1795 - Johnson Butler to George Leslie, dated from Schenectady, New York
Box 2 Bill of Health, from Port of New York - blank form to be filled out and carried by masters of vessels bound for Europe, guaranteeing that they brought no sickness with them
Box 2 Broadside inviting applications for damages for "Spoilations and Ravages of the British" 1837
Box 2 Deed poll and tax statements, Indiana County, Pennsylvania 1821-1822
Map-Case 108 Indenture 1791 - Jacob Wilkins, Abraham Bussing, Elizabeth and Peter Mesier
Box 2 Indentures 1762, 1859
1762 - Henry Lane to Cornelia Norwood, for release of mortgage
1859 - Sarah Royce to George W. McCollum, for sale of land and buildings on Sixth Avenue and 28th Street in New York City
Box 2 Inspection certificate, Port of New York circa 1790 - blank form, in French
Box 2 Inventory of the effects of John Ferrol 1796 - ferry employee, drowned December 1795
Box 2 Letter of recommendation, Henry Benfield 1797 - from the neighbors of Henry Benfield, recommending him as "a proper person to keep a tavern or publick house"
Box 2 Letters testamentary, James B. Clarke for John McLane 1791 - grants Clarke power of disposition of the estate of McLane, deceased intestate
Box 2 Petitions 1764, 1779
1764 - Neate [?] & Pigou [?], requests return of duties paid on nine tons of "barr iron" shipped on the Sally John Taylor
1779 - Ezekiel Travers to New York Legislature. for assistance after having been "Shot thru the right hand by a party of Indians, which has reduced him & his poor family Almost to the Utmost Extremity"
Box 2 Passport, Caspar Beckschaefer [?] 1836 - No. 51, issued by Prussia ("K√∂nigliche Preussische Regierung zu Arnsberg"); inside indicates he sailed from Bremen for New Orleans
Box 2 Power of attorney, James and Amasa Winchill to Joseph Chittenden 1801 - residents of Milton Township, Cayuga County; for purchase of land from John Fisher in "Brookland" (Brooklyn)
Box 2 Promissory note, William Ross to Joseph Eddy 1751 - dated from Glocester
Box 2 Receipts 1782, 1796, 1818-1819
1782 - George Taylor, for delivery of beef cattle, apparently to the military
1796 - John Fisher, for "excise money"
1818 - David Colon, for state and poor taxes
1819 - David Colon, for taxes for school district #1
Box 2 Resolution for appointment of Henry Stanton as Inspector of Wood, Brooklyn 1799
Box 2 Summary of the School of the town of Brooklyn 1796 - trustees, masters, number of students, etc.
Box 2 Summons, James Jackson vs Stephen Root 1819 - for Ralph Hodge, John Fisher, Timothy Beedle, Benjamin Dela[---], Thomas Y[---], Isaac Smith [?] and John Twopenny, to testify in a case in Onondaga County
Box 2 Treasurer's account, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Colony 1751 - includes affidavit statement and signatures of auditors
Box 2 Warrant, John Mitchall of Westmoreland County 1773 - for seizure of property for debts; no state or country given, possibly Pennsylvania
Box 2 Will, William Spencer 1756 - mentions "my loving friends Peter Remsen and Garret Rappalje"; written on the occasion of Spencer's shipping on board the brig Johnson, commanded by John Grigg, "cruising as a Privateer against his Majestie's Enemies"
Box 2 Will, Jacob Wilkins - document contesting the will of Jacob Wilkins, brought by Staats Wilkins and other heirs; mentions ownership of the Courtland (Cortlandt) Street Ferry and Steam Boat Slip in New York City

Index to correspondence

Letters are listed in alphabetical order by sender. The series in which each letter is filed is given in square brackets following the date, as follows: AR = American Revolution, WA = William Alexander, WD = William Duer, JF = John Fisher, GR = Garret Rapalje, and M = Miscellaneous.