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Full text of "Christopher Kilby: a memoir prepared for the New England historical and genealogical register for January"

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NEVy-ENGLAND HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAI. REGISTER 



J ANU ARY, 1872 



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CHRISTOPHER KILBY: 



MEMOIR 



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PREPARED FOR THE 



NEW-ENGLAND HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL REGISTER 



JANUARY, 1872, 



CHARLES W. TUTTLE. 



BOSTON: 

Printed by david clapp & son. 

1872. 






p. 



GHRISTOPHEll KILBY, OF BOSTON. 



The capacity, public services, wealth and liberality of Christopher Kilby, 
place him among the worthies of Boston of the last century. While he 
lived abroad most of his days and died there, and while most of his living 
posterity are now in England and Scotland, he was, ncA'crthelcss, a son of 
Boston, began his public life here, remembered his native town in its afflic- 
tion, bequeathed his name to one of its most public streets, and a few of 
his posterity still live here. Although his name appears frequently in the 
records of his time, is mentioned by Hutchinson, Drake, and other histori- 
ans, and is memorably associated with Boston, but little is publicly known 
of his career and his connections. His personal history derives fresh inter- 
est from the fact that his great-granddaughter was the first wife of the 
seventh Duke of Argyll, the grandfather of the Marquess of Lome, who 
recently married Her Royal Highness, the Princess Louise, of England. 

Christopher Kilby was the son of John and Rebecca (Simpkins) Kilby, 
of Boston. He was born May 25, 1705, and bred to commercial pursuits. 
In 1720, he became a partner in business with the Hon. "William Clark.' a 

• The Hon. "William Clark was brother of the Hon. John Clark, of Boston, for many years 
speaker of the house of rejiresentatives, nnd frrandson of Dr. John Clark, an eminent physi- 
cian, whose portrait is in the Massac/iusetts Hist. Society Collections. Dr. Clark married 
Martha, sister to Sir Richard Saltonst.ill, one of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Mr. 
Clark was a member of tl»c house and provincial council. He was a mcrcliant, and had a 
large estate. He died in 17-4'?, leaving widow, Sarah, two sons, and two married daughters, 
Mr. Kilhv's wife being dead some years before. — See Descendants of Ihi<jh Clark, and 
Suffolk Probate Records. 

" Last Saturday died here the Honorable William Clark, Esq., who has been one of the 
most considcra! lie Merchants in this Town, and has formerly served as a Representative 
for the Town in the General Court, and was for some years one of the Members of his 
Majesty's Council." — T/ic Boston Wcekhj News Letter, July, 1742. 



distinguished mercliant of Boston, whose eldest daughter he married the same 
year. Mr. Clark carried on an extensive commercial trade with England 
and the "West Indies ; and Kilby was several times in those countries, on busi- 
ness of the firm, during the continuance of the partnership, which terminated 
on his return from England in 1735. In this period of nine years he passed 
three abroad in commercial undertakings. lie now formed a partnership 
with his brother-in-law, Mr. Clark's youngest son, Benjamin, and continued 
in the same business* until he went to England in 1739. 

In May, 1739, he was chosen representative to the general court from 
Boston, his colleagues being Thomas Cushing, Jr., Edward Bromfield, and 
James Allen. The session of the court began near the end of May, and 
continued, with several intermediate adjournments, to the end of the year, 
the domestic affairs of the province being in a troubled state. Mr. Kilby 
served on all the important committees of the house, and took an active 
l^art in the business of the session. Important questions relative to the 
issue of paper money and to the boundaries of the province were discussed 
and acted upon. Gov. Belcher had received instructions from the king to 
limit the issue of bills of credit to a period not exceeding in duration those 
current at the time of a new issue, and the consequence was that all became 
payable in 1741. The governor declined to recede from his instructions, 
although the public distress was great. The last of September the house 
resolved to send a special " agent to appear at the court of Great Britain, 
to represent to his majesty the great difficulties and distress the people of 
this province labor under by reason of thus being i^revcnted from raising 
the necessary supply to support the government and the protection and 
defence of his majesty's subjects here." Thomas Cushing, a distin- 
guished member of the house, and formerly its speaker, was chosen agent ; 
and a committee of eight, Mr. Kilby being one, was apiiointed to draw up 
his instructions. On account of continued ill health, INIr. Cushing declined 
the oflice, and ]\Ir. Kilby was, on the second of October, chosen in his place.' 

The province had always selected its ablest men to act as agents, the 
functions of the office being of a diplomatic character, requiring ability, 

' Killiy's Lfitters. 

2 Dral<c's Ilistonj of Boston. Ilutdii ;so:i'j Ilidorij of Massachusetts. Journal of 
House of Representatives, 1739. 



sagacity, prudence and a knowledge of public affairs. Mr. Kilby, then only 
thirty-four years of age, accepted the appointment, and Capt. Nathaniel 
Cunningham, an eminent merchant of Boston, was chosen to succeed him 
in the house.' Early in December Kilby received his instructions, and im- 
mediately sailed for England. He presented to the king in council the 
petition of the house, praying for a modification of the royal instructions to 
Belcher concerning the issue of bills of credit ; but the king could not be 
pursuaded to make the change prayed for.' 

In October, 1741, Francis Wilks, long a standing agent of the province 
in England, was dismissed, and soon after died, and Kilby was chosen in his 
place. About this time the province took an appeal from a decision of the 
commissioners respecting the boundary line between it and Rhode Island. 
In January, 1742, Robert Auchmuty, an eminent lawyer of Boston, and 
Christopher Kilby, were chosen joint agents to prosecute the appeal before 
the king in council. Auchmuty continued in this service till April, 1743, 
and Kilby did not cease his exertions in the matter of the appeal till 174G.' 

The removal of Gov. Belcher was one of the questions which agitated 
the people here, and in New-Hampshire, wdien Kilby went to England. He 
was one of the sti'ong party opposed to Belcher, and he used his influence 
to disi^lace him, and to secure the office for Shirley, who was appointed 
governor in 1741.* 

Mr. Kilby continued to act as standing agent of the province till the 
middle of November, 1748, performing many important services, among 
which may be mentioned the procuring from the British government reim- 



' Capt Xatlianicl Ciinningliam was one of the richest merchants in Boston in his day. 
He died in London, Sept. 7, 1748, leaving wife Susanna and children, viz. : Nathaniel, 
who married Sarah Kilby ; Ruth, who married James Otis, the orator and statesman ; and 
Sarah. His est.itc was valued at nearly £50,000. To each daughter he gave £10,000, and 
annuities for their support while minors : to Dr. Sewall's church sixty ounces of silver, to 
be made intci a proper vessel for the service of the Holj' Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the 
expenses of making to be paid out of his estate: to the poor of the church £500. The 
rest of liis large estate to his only son Nathaniel. He mentions Charles Paxton, Esq., as 
his brother-in l.iw. Mr. Cunningham was one of the proprietors of the lands in the west 
parish of Leicester, where he built several fine houses. He gave the 'town, now Spencer, 
I:md for a meeting-house and training field.— Sec Hist, of Spencer and Suffolk Probate 
Records. 

' Journal House of Representatives. Hutchinson's Hist, of Mass. Mass. Archives. 

3 Journal House of Representatives. Arnold's History of Rhode Island. Mass. Archives. 

* Hutchinson's Hislor;/. Killjy's Letters. 



G 

burscment to tlie province for expenses in the famous Pepperell expedition 
to Louisburg in 1745. William Bollan, a lawyer of Boston, son-in-law of 
Gov. Shirley, was chosen joint agent with Kilby to prosecute this claim for 
expenses in " taking and securing the island of Cape Breton and its depen- 
dencies." In the prosecution of this claim Kilby labored with untiring iu- 
dustr}' and energy. His ollicial and private lettei's show this ; and nothing 
but ignorance or jealousy has kept this fact from being more publicly known. 
In a letter to Secretary Willard, dated March 10, 1747, he says: "No 
other affair I am concerned in but what is made subservient to this imjior- 
tant and most necessary point of reimbursing the province and relieving it 
from distress which is not possible to be endured long, for I have an unshak- 
en and immovable zeal for the welfare of my country." He writes to the 
speaker of the house from Portsmouth, England, where he then was in con- 
ference with Admiral Sir Peter Warren, under date of April G, 1748, that 
the house of commons passed a bill on the 4th inst., " granting to Massa- 
chusetts £183,G49 02 7|, the time and manner of payment being left 
entirely with the treasury." * 

The Dnke of Newcastle promised the governorship of New-Jersey to 
Kilby, on the death of Morris ; but the friends of Belcher persuaded the duke 
to change his purpose at the last moment, and Belcher got the ajipointment. 
While agent of Massachusetts he was member of the firm of Sedgwick, 
Kilby and Barnai'd, of London. On the death of Sedgwick, the name 
was Kilby, Barnard and Paiker. The business of the firm was extensive, 
especially with the American colonies.* 

In 1755, Boston having some giievancos of its own, appointed Kilby its 
standing agent at the court of Great Britain. He accepted the appoint- 
ment, and performed the duties required of him to the entire satisfaction of 
his native town.^ 

In May, 175G, England formally declared war with France. John 
Campbell, fourth Karl of Loudoun, was appointed commander-in-chief of 
the king's forces in North America, and governor of Virginia. Kilb}^ 
was appointed " agent-victualler of the army " under the earl, and sailed 

' Afass. Archives. Kilby's Letters. 

^ Kilby's Correspondence. 

^ Drake's History of Boston. Boston Gazette. 



from rortsmouth, May 20, for Xcw-York, arriving there about the midtUe 
of July. The Nightingale man-of-war, having the earl and his staff', and also 
Thomas Pownall, soon after appointed governor of Massachusetts, on board, 
sailed from the same port and arrived at New-York a few days later than 
Kilby. The organization of the army went forward, and great preparations 
were made for subduing the French in Canada and elsewhere on this conti- 
nent. Kilby addressed himself to the furnishing of supplies for the army.* 
In January, 1757, the Earl of Loudoun and many of his officers came to 
Boston to meet the commissioners of the several provinces, to consult about 
raising an army, and other matters, for the campaign of that year. The 
Boston Gazette of January 24, 1757, after speaking of the arrival of the 
earl in Boston, adds, " At the same time, and in company with the Earl of 
Loudon, arrived Christopher Kilby, Esq., who went from hence about 17 
years past as Agent for this Province at the Court of Great Britain : the 
warm affection he has discovered for his countrymen, and the signal services 
he has rendered this Province during that space, has greatly endeared him 
to us. The Selectmen of the Town waited upon him as Standing Agent of 
the Town with their congratulations and Thanks for the Favors he has from 
Time to Time shown us. A Committee of the General Court has invited 
him to Dine at Concert Hall this Day — and his townsmen rejoice at the 
opportunity they now have of testifying the deserved esteem they have for 
him. With Pleasure we can acquaint the Publick that he is in a good mea- 
sure recovered from the illness which attended him this Fall while at 
Albany." 

Kilby probably remained in this country till the peace of 17G3. lie was 
in New- York when the terrible fire occurred in Boston, in March, 17G0, 
destroying many dwelling-houses and causing much distress. Upon hear- 
ing of this calamity Kilby sent two hundred pounds sterling to the suffex'ers, 
a sum that was regarded as enormous at the time. The district burnt over 
embraced both sides of " Mackerill Lane," so called. When tliis part of 
the town was rebuilt, and the lane widened and extended, it was called 
" Kilby Street," by common consent, in compliment to Mr. Kilby for his 
generous donation, and for his zeal for the interests of his native town."* 



> Boston Gazette, July and Auj^jst, 1756. Doc. History of Xeto-Tor/c. 

2 Boston Post Boy, April 7, 1760. Drake's History of Boston. Family tradition. 



8 

On his return to England he purchased a large estate in the parish of 
Dorking, county Surrey, where he « buUt a curious edifice called the priory, 
and several ornamental seats." Here he lived many years prior to his death, 
which took place in October, 1771. He left an immense estate, which he 
distributed among his seven grandchildren, after providing for his wife.^ 

Mr. Kilby was twice married. His first wife was Sarah, eldest daughter 
of the Hon. William Clark, whom he married Aug. 1 8, 1 72 G. Mrs. Kilby died 
April 12, 1739, about six months before her husband was sent, as agent, to 
England, leaving two young daughters, Sarah and Catherine.' A son Wil- 
liam died young. In 1742, his father-in-law Clark died, intestate, leaving 
a large estate. Kilby being in England, his warm personal friend, Thomas 
Hancock, an eminent merchant, and uncle to Governor John Hancock, was 
appointed guardian of Sarah and Catherine Kilby, and secured for them 
their share of their grandfother Clark's estate. Five years later they were 
sent to England, their father receiving them at Portsmouth. Catherine 
appears to have died soon after her arrival. 

Mr. Kilby was now married again, but had no other children. His 
second wife's name was Martha, and she survived him. Her family name is 
not known here. On Sarah Kilby, his surviving daughter, he bestowed eveiy 
advantage that wealth could command. She received the best education 
England could afford ; and in 1750, was betrothed to Nathaniel, only son 
of Capt. Nathaniel Cunningham, a merchant of the greatest wealth of any 
in Boston. His daughter Ruth married the celebrated James Otis, patriot 
and orator. Sarah Kilby returned to this country just before her marriage, 
which took place June 20, 1754. Mr. Cunningham settled in the fine 
mansion-house of his father, now deceased, situated on an eminence in Cam- 
bridge, now Brighton. In Price's view of Boston, taken in 1743, dedicated 
to Peter Faneuil, this house is a conspicuous object, and designated by 
name, being the finest mansion-house in the vicinity of Boston. Nathaniel 
Cunningham died near the end of the year 1756, leaving two infant chil- 
dren, Susanna and Sarah. 



> Allen's Ilistonj of Surrey and Sussex, vol. ii. Wliitmorc's Heraldic Journal. 

2 " Last week dy'd siuUlcnly Mrs. Kill)y, Wife of Mr. Christopher Kilby of this Town 
Mcrclmnt, and Dangl.tor to tl,c IIo,.. William Clark, V.^q."-Boston Weekly News Letter' 
April 17, 1739. ' 



When the Earl of Loudoun visited Boston, a few months after tliis event, 
there came with him his aide-de-camp, Capt. Gilbert McAdam, as well as 
Kilby, who introduced his widowed daughter to Capt. IMcAdam. He was 
of an ancient Ayrshire family, and uncle to John Loudoun McAdam, the 
inventor of Macadamized roads. In September, 1757, Capt. McAdam mar- 
ried the widow Sarah Cunningham, and took her, and her two children, to 
New- York, the principal head quarters of the army. At the close of the 
war, possibly before, Capt. McAdam returned to Ayrshire with his family.* 

Susanna and Sarah Cunningham were the special objects of Kilby's 
bounty and solicitude. They were sent to France, and there educated with 
care. Their domestic lives, and the lives of their descendants, are invested 
with an air of romance. Susanna was thrice married. Her first husband 
was James Dalrymple' of Orangefield, Ayrshire, the friend and patron of 
Robert Burns. By this marriage she had one son, Charles Dalrymple, an 
officer of the British army. Through subsequent marriages, first with 
John Henry Mills and afterwards with William Cunningham, both of Scot- 
land, she is now represented, in this country, by her grandchildren, Mrs. 
Frances Maria Spoffiard, wife of the venerable Dr. Richard S. SpofFord, of 
Newburyport, Mrs. Susanna Varnum Mears, of Boston, and Capt. Thomas 
Cunningham, of Somerville. Her sister, Sarah Cunningham, married AVil- 
liam Campbell, of Ayrshire, and had two daughters, the eldest of whom, 
Elizabeth, married the seventh Duke of Argyll, grandfather of the present 
Marquess of Lome.' 



The following is a copy of an original letter from Christopher Kilby 
to Thomas Hancock, before referred to. 
Dear Hancock, Spring Garden, 18 July, 1746. 

I am greatly oblig'd for the dispatch in Lumber and Bricks to New- 
foundland, and for your advice of the vessels arrival there. The Louisburg affair 



' Kilby's Letters. Family papers. 

2 In one of Burns's letters, he writes thus, of Dalrymple : " I have met in Mr. Dalrym- 
ple, of Orangefield, what Solomon emphatically calls, ' a friend that sticketh closer than a 
brother.' " 

3 Burke's Peerage and Landed Gentry. 

2 



10 

is not in the deplorable case you hare imagined. Capt. Castide' is Engineer, and 
the thing lays with him and his oflScers ; and I think you cannot fail of a seasonable 
part if any advantage is to be had ; but these officers arriving and a great sum of 
Sterling money to be spent amongst you I should think Exchange must be constantly 
lowering till this service is over, and however that may be you'll certainly not want 
as much of their money as I should think you would be willing to take. I have mention- 
ed you to most of the Staff Officers on this Expedition." Mr. Abercrombic,' who is 
Muster Master General, having directions to you in his Pocket-book, and if it should 
be necessary will introduce j'ou to the General,* to whom indeed you'll not need it, 
but apply to him as easy as possible with the use of my name, and I hope he will 
receive you as my best Friend. We have been often together since his return to 
Town, and I believe he has a good ojiinion of my services in recovering the Expedi- 
tion after it was laid aside. 

Pray do him all the service you can, and if you find it not inconvenient offer him 
a lodging in your house for a night or two, till he can be otherwise accommodated. 
His Power is great and may be useful to j'ou, he is honest open and undissembling ; 
you'll like hioi very well on increasing your acquaintance. 

Belcher* has got the Government of tlie Jerseys ; it was done by Duke of New- 
castle yesterday which neither Dr. Avery"^ nor I expected two days before. I have 
not seen the Dr. since the appointment, nor shall till his return to Town on Tuseday 
next. The vessel that brought the News from Boston, was several days beloAV be- 
fore her bag of Letters came up, and its said the Advice was sent in the mean time 
to Belcher's Friends. It's a shocking affair, and must destroy any favoiable opinion 
entertained of the Duke of Newcastle by the People of the Colonies ; and I am of 
opinion it will lessen Gov'r Sliirley's Influence in his own and in the Neighboring 
Governments. There is a very worthy set of people in tlie Jers^eys that it will most 
fatally prejudice. I fear they have been almost ruined by Law without a possibility 
of getting so far thro' it as to have an appeal home, and I am mistaken if same of 

1 Jolin Henry Bastidc, royal engineer for Nova-Scotia. In April, 1745, Massachuf-estts 
granted him £140 for liis services in the repairs of the furts in this province. He was 
made (lirectw of engineers in 1748, and afterward raised to the rank of major-general. 

2 Tliis expedition was designed to proceed against Canada. A squadron under Admiral 
Warren was to go to Quebec by way of the St. L,awrence, and a land force to Montreal by 
way of Albany under the command of Gen. St. Clair. Tlic English troops collected at 
Portsmouth, Eng., and sailed several times, but returned. They finally sailed for France, 
and the Canada exiK'dition was al)andoned. Killjy's letter indicates that they were to come 
to Boston ; at least the i)rincipal offlcers. 

3 Gen. James Abcrcrombie; he was next in command to the Earl of Loudoun in 1756; 
he connnandcd the English forces sent against Ticonderoga in 1758. 

■* Lieut. Gen. James St. Clair. 

* Jonathan Belcher, provincial governor of Massachusetts from 1730 to 1741. 

^ Dr. Benjamin Avery, a man of the greatest influence at court about this time. 



u 

them have not defended their possessions by fire and sword ; they will bo in fine 
hands under Belcher, who is to be the Tool of the Quakers, as they are one 
would imagine of Satan. Some time past this seemed to be allotted for lue' by the 
desire of the Gentlemen who came from thence who had engaged Dr. Avery's Inter- 
est to perfect it, and it was nicntioned to, and approved of [by] the Duke of Newcastle. 
The vacancy lias at last happened when it was impossible for me to accept it, and 
after consulting the Doctor we had laid a Plan for keeping the appointment oiF till 
we could hear from our Friends, which neither he nor I have done by the ships that 
bring the News of ^Morris's^ death, nor had many months before. But the Duke^ 
differing in this Instance from every other circumstance of this sort during his Ad- 
ministration, has fis't the thing in the greatest hurry (on some other motive cer- 
tainly, than the Interest of the Quakers). As the thing concerns myself I am in 
no pain not having been defeated ; but as it may be hurtful to the honest people 
who are to fall under his Government and will stagger and discountenance the very 
best people in our own and the neighboring Colonies, it gives me much concern. 
This Letter must be broke off here to go to Portsmouth where the Ships tarry, and 
[ifj anything occurs I shall back it by another, being 

Dear Sir, 
Your most sincere Friend and obliged humble Servant, 
To Chris. Kilby. 

Mr. Thomas Hancock, 

Merchant in Boston, 



[To the granLkliildrcn of Susanna Cunningliam, aliove named, I am indebted for permis- 
sion to examine letters and family papers in their possession relating to the subject of this 
memoir. I am i-.lso indebted to Charles L. Hancock, Esq., for information contained in 
letters of Killiy and others, in his possession.] 

' Provincial governor of New-Jersey. Kilby's aspirations were not behind those of 
otLcr Massachnsctts agents, who always aspired for royal appointments as soon as they 
got fairly Anglicized. 

2 Lewis Morris, ancestor of a very distinguished fiimilj-, was chief-justice of New York, 
and afterward governor of New-Jerse.y. He died Ma}- 21, 1746. 

^ Duke of Newcastle, minister of British America, from 1724 to 1748. " Newcastle was 
of so (icklc a head, and so treacherous a heart that Walpole called his name ' Perfidy.'" 
— Bancroft's History. 



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