University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


The Koch - Messchert
Family Papers

1784 - 1914
(bulk dates 1830 - 1839, 1870 -1914)

Manuscript Collection Number: 329
Accessioned: Gift of Anna D. Moyerman, 1972.
Extent: (1.5 linear feet).
Content: Shipping transactions, legal documents, correspondence, account books, wills, inventories and leases.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: March 1996 by Heather J. Parmenter.

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Table of Contents


Biographical Note

Jacob Gerard Koch, originally from Holland, was an affluent Philadelphia merchant who imported German linens to the United States from approximately 1796 to 1816. He resided at the northeast corner of Ninth and Market Street and operated his business from a store on the corner of Lombard Alley and Little Water Street in Philadelphia. During the War of 1812, Koch reportedly subscribed $5000 for the construction of a frigate to support the American government in its defense. In 1819 Koch moved to Paris, France, with his wife, Jane Griffith Koch. According to the Reminiscences of Charles N. Buck, also a merchant in Philadelphia at the turn of the nineteenth century, controversy ensued concerning the marriage of Koch to Jane Griffith. Before their marriage, she apparently served as his laundry maid. When he fell ill during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1798, she allegedly promised to nurse him back to health if he, in return, would marry her. Buck stated that society regarded Jane Griffith as a "poor, ignorant, ill -tempered, and very homely Irish girl," and frowned upon Koch's marriage to her. Koch died on July 2, 1830 in Paris at age seventy.

After Mr. Koch's death, Jane remained in Paris at her home on Rue de Provence, N. 40. Chaussee D'Antin. In 1833, Jane, from her correspondence, apparently intended to marry a Lieutenant Uriah P. Levy, but the absence of his name in subsequent documents suggests the marriage never took place or quickly dissolved. Jane Koch did remarry in 1846 to a Mr. Edward Henry Theobald. She later died in Paris on November 23, 1848. Jane corresponded with four siblings: Matthew Griffith, Mary Griffith Messchert, Margaret Griffith Hamilton, and William Griffith.

Because Jacob Gerard Koch left no will, Jane appointed her brother-in-law Matthew Huizinga Messchert, also a former merchant in Philadelphia and close friend to Jacob G. Koch, as well as his son, Huizinga Messchert, a young attorney, to be the administrators of Koch's estate. Matthew Huizinga Messchert, like Koch, immigrated to America from Holland and participated in the German trade during the same period. He married Jane's sister, Mary Griffith.

After M. H. Messchert's death in 1833, Huizinga Messchert continued to serve as administrator of Jacob G. Koch's estate and maintained the financial accounts of Jane Koch until her death in 1848. Admitted to the Bar on January 23, 1830, Huizinga managed the financial affairs of several members of both the Messchert and Griffith families. Huizinga Messchert married Elizabeth Albertine who gave birth to their only son, Matthew Huizinga. Elizabeth died in 1839 after contracting the disease erysipelas. Huizinga later married Mary Ann McKenty. Governor Francis Shunk appointed Huizinga Messchert as one of his aides-de-camps at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1847. In 1867, Huizinga Messchert purchased three lots of land on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, where he built three stores which he leased to various businessmen. After his death in 1871, he willed the property to his son, Matthew Huizinga Messchert, who continued to rent out the stores until his death in 1904.

Matthew Huizinga Messchert, like his father, practiced law after his admittance to the Bar in Philadelphia on April 29, 1854. Messchert later invested in real estate, buying lands in Minnesota during the 1890s while continuing to profit from his properties in Philadelphia. Matthew Huizinga and his wife, Elmira McKenty, resided outside of Philadelphia on Douglassville Farm where they owned sixty acres and a "mansion house." They named their only daughter Mary Elizabeth Albertine Messchert after Matthew Huizinga's mother and step-mother. She married J. Blackwood Grant and served as executrix for her father's estate after Matthew Huizinga Messchert died on August 23, 1904, not long after Elmira's death in 1903.

Sources:

Buck, Charles Nicholas. Memoirs of Charles N. Buck, Interspersed With Private Anecdotes and Events of the Times From 1791 to 1841. Philadelphia: Walnut House, 1941. pp. 38-40.

Johnson, Allen and Dumas Malone. Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1959. v. II pp. 200-201, v. III pp. 181-182, v. IX p. 141.

Martin, John Hill. Martin's Bench and Bar of Philadelphia; Together With Other Lists of Persons Appointed to Administer the Laws in the City and County of Philadelphia and the Province and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: R. Welsh and Co.,1883. p. 294.

Ritter, Abraham. Philadelphia and Her Merchants: As Constituted Fifty and Seventy Years Ago; Illustrated By Diagrams of the River Front and Portraits of Some of the Prominent Occupants, Together With Sketches of Character and Incidents and Anecdotes of the Day. Philadelphia: Abraham Ritter, 1860. pp. 48-50.


Scope and Content Note

The Koch - Messchert Family Papers consist of 1.5 linear feet of material, spanning the dates 1784 - 1913. This collection comprises shipping transactions, legal documents such as powers of attorney and passports, wills, inventories, account books, real estate papers, leases, court documents, and correspondence pertaining to the business of Philadelphia merchant Jacob Gerard Koch. The collection largely consists of papers relating to the settlement of Jacob Gerard Koch's estate, as well as personal correspondence of Jane Koch and the Messchert family.

The first series, (folders 1 - 9) consists of the shipping transactions, powers of attorney, and both business and personal correspondence of Jacob Gerard Koch during his life. The shipping transactions (F1 - F5) include invoices, insurance and claims, bills and receipts, and promissory notes. Among the insurance claims, there are details on the seizure of vessels during the period leading to the War of 1812. The correspondence (F7 - F9) consists of letters to and from Jacob Gerard Koch from 1793 - 1830, as well as letters to Jane Griffith Koch during the period of 1820 - 1824. The earliest correspondence, written in Dutch, was from Koch's brother in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1793. Other correspondence written in French is present in the series. Correspondence to Jane Koch includes letters from friends; family members, including her sister Mary Messchert and brother William Griffith; and letters from her husband during her travel to Dieppe, France.

One of Koch's correspondents was George William Erving, a United States diplomat who served under presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison until his retirement in 1819. Jane Koch appointed Erving, a friend of the Kochs,' as one of the administrators of her husband's estate. The documents reveal controversy between the Messcherts, Jane Koch and Erving concerning this appointment. Erving's correspondence offers his observations of life in the United States, particularly bachelorhood. He also offers political commentary concerning the Bank of the United States, the transportation revolution, and his opinions of President Andrew Jackson.

Series II, (folders 10 - 47) consists of papers concerning the settlement of the estate of Jacob Gerard Koch during the period 1830 - 1849. It includes powers of attorney appointed by Jane Koch, administration agreements, Orphan's Court papers, papers relating to claims under the Treaty of Indemnity, receipts, an account book, checks, and correspondence of Matthew Huizinga Messchert and Huizinga Messchert with their attorneys, as well as correspondence to and from Jane Koch during the course of the settlement of her husband's estate.

Among the administration agreements and Orphan's Court papers (F11 - 12), there are some excellent examples of legal seals of the Orphans Court and the State of Pennsylvania used to validate documents in the 1830s. Many of the Orphan's Court documents are bound together with ribbons of different colors. In Folder 17, which contains unclassified documents relating to the Koch estate, there is a document from the United States Consulate in Paris, France, that has an example of an engraving of an eagle as well as seals. The document itself is in the French language.

The administration agreements and Orphan's Court papers, as well as the correspondence, offer an interesting glimpse into the process of settling an individual's estate in the early nineteenth century. The papers related to the Treaty of Indemnity of 1832 (F13), concern the claims of Jacob Gerard Koch on cargo seized during the War of 1812 by the French. Under the treaty, Koch or his heirs would be eligible for compensation for damages during the war.

Correspondence to the Messcherts during the period 1830 to 1839 (F18 - 24) primarily concerns proceedings of the Orphan's Court. The correspondence relates difficulties in the settlement of the estate due to the claims of the "Dutch heirs:" the relatives of Jacob Gerard Koch. The majority of the correspondence to M. H. Messchert and Huizinga Messchert was in 1835 from Benjamin Tilghman and Edward D. Ingraham, attorneys representing the Koch Estate for the Messcherts. Edward Duffield Ingraham was an influential Philadelphia attorney and Democrat, who, in the 1830s, became secretary for the congressional committee investigating the United States Bank and served as one of the Bank's directors.

The correspondence between the Messcherts and Jane Koch not only offers insight into the process of settling the Koch Estate, but also provides a narrative of family life in the Messchert household including births, deaths, and the family's relationship to state politics and the economy. Correspondence to Jane Koch from the Griffith family concerns such issues as the education of Jane's nephew, William Griffith, and the health of Mary Hall, a niece of Jane Koch who was apparently confined to a mental hospital. Among the correspondence to Jane Koch are additional letters from George William Erving and another prominent figure, Thomas Green Clemson, founder of Clemson College in South Carolina and husband of Anna Calhoun, the daughter of John C. Calhoun. In two individual letters written in 1838 and 1839 (F32 - 33), Clemson details his journey to "western America" and announces his engagement to Anna Calhoun, offering his perspective on marriage.

Series III (folders 48 - 60) consists of various papers relating to the Messchert family during the period 1817 - 1878 including correspondence, wills, account books, passports, real estate leases, and court documents. Folders 48 and 49 contain correspondence and documents related to the estate of Matthew Huizinga Messchert, who died in 1833. Folder 50 contains a duplicate of a personal letter from Pennsylvania Governor Francis Rawn Shunk who previously appointed Huizinga Messchert as one of his aides-de-camp at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In the correspondence to Jane Koch (Series II), there were references to Governor Shunk and state politics. Six account books (F52 - 53), kept by M. H. Messchert and Huizinga Messchert, detail the finances of each of the family members, including Jane Koch. The accounts maintained in these books were with both the Bank of Pennsylvania and the Bank of the United States. The account books are bound with either cloth or leather, except two, from which the covers are missing.

Also of interest in this series are the passports of members of the Messchert family from the years 1830 to 1836 (F54). The passports have a detailed engraving of the American Eagle and have stamps and seals of nations visited. Each passport includes the individual's physical description. The Messcherts carried these passports when they traveled to Paris to visit Jane Koch.

Folders 56 - 59 contain papers pertaining to the real estate and leases of stores purchased and built by both Matthew Huizinga Messchert and Huizinga Messchert in Philadelphia. The lots situated on Chestnut Street in 1867 became a subject of civil suits in the 1870s as lessees did not pay their rent. The papers include documents related to the civil cases, court orders, and correspondence concerning the cases.

The final series, folders 61 - 71, contains papers related specifically to Matthew Huizinga Messchert, son of Huizinga and Elizabeth Albertine Messchert, and the settlement of his estate after his death in 1904. Some of his correspondence from his childhood is included among the correspondence to Jane Koch in Series II. Matthew Huizinga's papers consist of his correspondence, mostly concerning business, bonds, leases, and papers relating to real estate he held in Minnesota in 1893 - 1896. His papers also include his will and an inventory of his estate, as well as that of his wife, Elmira Messchert. The remainder of his papers concern the settlement of his estate including correspondence accounts, and petitions to the Orphan's Court by Messchert's daughter, Mary Elizabeth Albertine Messchert Grant and the Pennsylvania Company for Insurances on Lives and Granting Annuities, who served as his executors. The wills of M. E. A. Messchert Grant and her husband, J. Blackwood Grant, are also contained in this series.


Series Outline

.
I.   Jacob Gerard Koch

II.  Estate of Jacob Gerard Koch

III. Messchert Family Papers

IV.  Matthew Huizinga Messchert Papers

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1         Series I.  Jacob Gerard Koch, 1784-1830.
               Consists of papers pertaining to Jacob Gerard Koch during his life
               including shipping transactions, powers of attorney, and correspondence to
               and from Koch, as well as correspondence to Jane Griffith Koch, his wife.

          Shipping Transactions
     F1   Bills of Lading, 1801 and 1809  (3 items)
     F2   Shipping Invoices, 1797-1826  (9 items)
     F3   Insurance and Claims, 1796-1810  (12 items)
     F4   Bills and Receipts, 1784-1809  (6 items)
     F5   Promissory Notes, 1796  (9 items)
     F6   Powers of Attorney, 1819-1829  (5 items)

          Correspondence
     F7   ALS to J. G. K., 1793-1830 (14 items)
          Includes five letters from George William Erving.

     F8   ALS from J. G. K., 1819-1830 (6 items)

     F9   ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1820-1824  (13 items)
          Includes six letters from Jacob Gerard Koch

          Series II.  The Estate of Jacob Gerard Koch, 1830-1849
               Consists of papers relating to the settlement of the estate of Jacob Gerard
               Koch as administered by the Messcherts, including administration
               agreements, Orphan's Court papers, claims, powers of attorney, an account
               book, checks, and correspondence.  Correspondence to and from Jane
               Koch contains letters mostly between her and the Messchert family
               relating to the estate.  The letters also offer a glimpse of the life of the
               Messcherts.

     F10  Powers of Attorney by Jane Koch, 1830-1839  (5 items)

     F11  Agreements of the Administrators, 1831-1846  (16 items)

     F12  Orphan's Court Papers, 1834-1839  (21 items)
          Note legal seals and ribbons.

     F13  Claims Under Treaty of Indemnity, 1810, 1831-1836  (12 items)

     F14  Receipts and Accounts, 1830-1834  (16 items)

1         Series II.  Estate (Cont'd)

     F15  Account Book, 1831-1839  (1 item)

     F16  Checks, 1830-1839  (123 items)
          Individual checks as well as two sets of blank checks from the Bank of
          Pennsylvania.

     F17  Unclassified Papers relating to the Estate, 1830-1833, no dates  (22 items)
          Miscellaneous papers, unsigned, undated correspondence, notes.

          Correspondence
     F18  ALS to M. H. and H. Messchert, 1830-1832  (19 items)

     F19  ALS to M. H. and H. Messchert, 1833  (21 items)

     F20  ALS to M. H. and H. Messchert, 1834  (33 items)
          
     F21  ALS to M. H. and H. Messchert, 1835  (73 items)

     F22  ALS to M. H. and H. Messchert, 1836-1837  (17 items)

     F23  ALS to M. H. and H. Messchert, 1838  (14 items)

     F24  ALS to M. H. and H. Messchert, 1839  (11 items)

     F25  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1830  (20 items)
          Consists mostly of letters from the Messchert family and includes four letters
          from George William Erving.

     F26  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1831  (36 items)
          Two letters from George William Erving.

     F27  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1832  (9 items)
          Seven letters from George William Erving.

     F28  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1833  (37 items)
          Six letters from George William Erving
               
     F29  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1834  (20 items)

          Series II.  Estate (Cont'd)

1    F30  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1835  (19 items) 
     
     F31  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1837  (15 items)
          
     F32  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1838  (32 items)
          One letter from Thomas Clemson and one letter from George William Erving;
          some other letters written in French.

     F33  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1839  (26 items)
          One letter from Thomas Clemson.

     F34  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1840  (5 items)

     F35  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1841  (4 items)
          One letter from Thomas Clemson

     F36  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1842  (5 items)
          One letter from Thomas Clemson

     F37  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1843  (14 items)

     F38  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1844  (3 items)

     F39  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1845  (39 items)

     F40  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1846  (11 items)

     F41  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1847  (13 items)

     F42  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, 1848  (9 items)

     F43  ALS to Jane Griffith Koch, no dates  (11 items)
          One letter from George William Erving

     F44  ALS from Jane Griffith Koch, 1830  (18 items)

     F45  ALS from Jane Griffith Koch, 1831  (20 items)

1    F46  Correspondence: ALS from Jane Griffith Koch, 1832-1835
          8 items

     F47  ALS from Jane Griffith Koch, 1836-1845  (13 items)
     
          Series III.  Messchert Family Papers 1817-1878
               Consists of papers pertaining to the Messchert family including court
               documents, wills, inventories, leases, correspondence, passports and
               account books.
     
2    F48  Correspondence:  ALS to Matthew Huizinga Messchert, 1817-1829  (3 items)
          One written in Dutch

     F49  Estate of Matthew Huizinga Messchert, 1840  (2 items)

     F50  Correspondence:  ALS to Huizinga Messchert, 1841-1848  (10 items)
          Copy of letter from Governor Francis Rawn Shunk, Pennsylvania

     F51  Correspondence: ALS from Huizinga Messchert, 1836 & 1845  (2 items)

     F52  Account Books, 1817-1840  (3 items)

     F53  Account Books, 1817-1840  (3 items)

     F54  Passports, 1830-1836  (4 items)
          Engravings of American Eagle and seals.

     F55  Wills, Huizinga Messchert (1869) and Mary Ann Messchert (1868)  (2 items)

     F56  Real Estate Papers and Leases, 1828-1878  (12 items)
          Includes estimated and actual costs for the construction of three buildings owned
          by the Messcherts.

     F57  Court Papers: Edward Pincus vs. Mary Ann Messchert and M. H. Messchert, 1876
          (8 items)

3    F58  Court Papers: Herman C. Pulte vs. Mary Ann Messchert and M. H. Messchert,
                    1875-1878  (47 items)

     F59  Court Papers: Samuel Crawford vs. Mary Ann Messchert and M. H. Messchert,
          1876  (6 items)

     F60  Unclassified Documents  (19 items)

          Series IV. Matthew Huizinga Messchert Papers 1870-1914
               Contains papers of Matthew Huizinga Messchert, son of Huizinga
               Messchert, including his correspondence, wills, inventory, insurance
               papers, real estate, and papers pertaining to the settlement of his estate.

     F61  Correspondence: ALS to Matthew Huizinga Messchert, 1870-1901  (8 items)

     F62  Correspondence: ALS from Matthew Huizinga Messchert, 1877-1901  (12 items)
          
     F63  Bonds, 1883  (11 items)

     F64  Leases, 1885 & 1900  (2 items)

     F65  Real Estate: Minnesota, 1893-1896  (41 items)

     F66  Administration of Jacob G. Koch Estate, 1886  (2 items)

     F67  Wills and Inventory, 1902-1911  (6 items)
          Also includes will of Elmira Messchert.

     F68  Estate: Administration and Settlement, 1904-1914
          6 items

     F69  Estate: Correspondence, 1904-1913
          10 items

     F70  Mary Elizabeth Albertine Messchert Grant Papers: Wills, 1901 and 19(?)  (2
          items)
          Also will of J. Blackwood Grant.

     F71  Unclassified Papers, 1884-1904  (4 items)

     F72  Unidentified Documents  (10 items)

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