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RODNEY
FAMILY PAPERS

 

1773 - 1941

(bulk dates 1773 – 1858)

 

 

 

Manuscript Collection Number:  321

 

Accessioned:  Multiple purchases, 1960-1985.

 

Extent:  .3 linear ft. (62 items)

 

Content:  Correspondence, journal entries, certificates, genealogy, will,  passport, poetry, newspaper clippings, and essays.

 

Access:  The collection is open for research.

 

Processed:  July 2001 by Sally W. Donatello, revised January 2004 by Theresa Hessey



Table of Contents


Biographical Note

            William Rodney immigrated to America from Bristol, England, in 1681 and settled in East Dover Hundred, Kent County, Delaware.  On his arrival, William practiced farming and established a family farm named Byfield.  He married Mary Hollyman, with whom he had three children.  Following the death of his first wife, William was remarried to Sarah Jones and together they had six children.  Their youngest child, named Caesar, was born in 1707.

            Caesar Rodney inherited his father’s entire estate and continued to increase the family’s reputation through farming and other ventures.  In 1727, he married Elizabeth Crawford, daughter of an Episcopal missionary from England.  Elizabeth was a cultured woman who encouraged intellectual pursuits among her children.  The Rodneys had seven children; the oldest, also named Caesar, was born in 1728.  The elder Caesar Rodney died in 1745.  Following his death, Elizabeth Crawford Rodney married Thomas Wilson and produced two more children, one daughter and one son.

            After his father’s death when he was only seventeen, the younger Caesar Rodney was appointed a guardian by the Orphan’s Court of Kent County until he reached the age of majority.  During this time, it is believed that he remained at Byfield and assisted his mother in managing the plantation and caring for his younger siblings, William, Mary, Elizabeth, Daniel, and Thomas and later, for his step-sister and step-brother.  In 1755, at the age of twenty-seven, Caesar Rodney entered public life and was commissioned as High Sheriff of Kent County.  During the course of almost thirty years of public service, Rodney held positions such as register of wills, deputy recorder of deed, clerk of the Orphan’s court, justice of the peace, and third and second justices of the Supreme Court for the Three Lower Counties.  (Prior to 1776, Delaware was considered part of Pennsylvania and was referred to as the Three Lower Counties.)  In 1758, he was elected a delegate from Kent County to the House of Assembly.  He was re-elected to thirteen additional terms, serving until 1775.

            Rodney was also active in the military, beginning his service in 1756 during the French and Indian War.  In that year, he joined a regiment of Kent County militia and was made captain of a company from Dover Hundred.  In May of 1775, following the battles of Lexington and Concord, Rodney was made colonel of the Kent County militia and in September of that year, was made a brigadier general. 

            Perhaps Rodney’s greatest accomplishment was his involvement in Revolutionary activities.  In 1765, he was selected as Kent County’s representative to the Stamp Act Congress, which met in New York.  Rodney was also one of three Delaware delegates elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774, and in 1775 was elected to serve on the Second Continental Congress.  It was while serving in this capacity that he made his famous ride to Philadelphia on July 2, 1776, to cast a deciding vote for the Delaware delegation to support Richard Henry Lee’s resolution calling for the colonies’ separation from England.  Rodney, along with fellow Delaware delegates, George Read and Thomas McKean, signed the Declaration of Independence. 

            Upon his arrival back in Kent County, Rodney faced opposition from conservatives for his stance on independence.  Consequently, his political career suffered and he was not selected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention nor was he elected to the new state legislature or the national Congress.  When freed from his political obligations, Rodney devoted more time to his military career and played an active role in the Revolutionary War. 

            In 1778, Rodney was elected “president” of Delaware and served in this capacity until 1782.  (Prior to 1792, the chief executive of the state was known as the “president”; thereafter, the position became known as governor.)  In 1783, Rodney was elected to the Legislative Council of the General Assembly and served until his death 1784 at the age of fifty six.

            Thomas Rodney was the youngest brother of Caesar.  He lived with his mother and step-father until the age of eighteen, when he began to live with his brother Caesar and assist him with his many farms.  Following Caesar’s appointment to the Stamp Act Congress in 1764, Thomas accompanied his brother to Dover and assisted him in his official duties, especially when Caesar was away from Dover.  In 1771, Thomas married Elizabeth Fisher, daughter of a Philadelphia businessman.  Thomas opened a shop in Philadelphia in 1772 with the financial support of his wife and brother.  The business failed and in 1774, Thomas returned to Dover with his wife and son, Caesar Augustus.  Their daughter, Lavinia was born in 1775. 

Like his older brother, Thomas held numerous appointed and elected offices including justice of the peace, judge of Admiralty Court, member of Confederation Congress, member of the colonial assembly for Kent County, and elected member of the Delaware House of Assembly.  In 1802, he was appointed as associate justice of the Delaware Supreme Court.  In 1803, he resigned the position to accept an appointment by President Thomas Jefferson as U.S. judge for the Mississippi Territory, a position he held until his death in 1811.

Caesar Augustus Rodney was the only son of Thomas and Elizabeth Rodney, and nephew of Caesar Rodney.  Born in 1772, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and studied law under Joseph B. McKean in Philadelphia.  He was admitted to the bar in 1793 and later practiced in both Wilmington and New Castle.  He married Susan Hunn in 1793 and together they had fifteen children.  He entered politics in 1798 and was elected to the Delaware General Assembly, a position he held until 1802.  In 1803, he was elected to the House of Representatives and, in 1807, was appointed attorney general by President Thomas Jefferson.  In 1817, he was appointed to a commission to South America and in 1822, he became the first Republican to be elected U.S. senator from Delaware.  In 1823, he was appointed by President James Monroe to the position of minister plenipotentiary to the Argentine Republic, but he died a short time later in June 1824, in Buenos Aires.  Following the death of her husband, Susan Rodney and her children returned to Wilmington. 

Mary Rodney was born in 1795 and was one of ten daughters born to Caesar Augustus and Susan Rodney.  Mary married Reverend Theophilus Parvin, a Presbyterian missionary from Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1826.  Shortly after their marriage, they returned to Buenos Aires.  Together they had one daughter, Mary, and one son, also named Theophilus, born in 1829. 

Theophilus later graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a medical degree.  In 1853, he married Rachel Butler of Hanover, Indiana, and they had two sons and a daughter.  After practicing in several states, Parvin settled in Philadelphia where he became a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Jefferson Medical College until his death in 1898. 

 

Sources:

Dictionary of American Biography.  Vol. VII.  New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958.

Ryden, George H.  Introduction to Letters to and from Caesar Rodney 1756-1784.  Philadelphia:  Historical Society of Delaware, 1933.

 

 

Note:  Historical and biographical information obtained from the collection. 



Scope and Content Note

            The Rodney Family Papers is a small collection (62 items) of genealogical notes and miscellaneous personal papers from a Delaware family prominent in the American Revolution and early Federal period of American history.  The collection spans the dates 1773-1941 and consists of correspondence, journals, certificates, genealogy, wills, a passport, poetry, newspaper clippings, and essays.  Much of the collection consists of photocopies and typescript copies of original materials and family reminiscences.  When possible, the location of the original material is noted.  Some of the letters and genealogical information has been laminated, making them difficult to read.  The collection is arranged into two series: the first of genealogical notes and the second of miscellaneous family papers. 

Series I consists of genealogical material related to the Rodney family.  Included is a typescript, “History of the Rodney Family from A.D. MCXXXV (1135),” originally written by Edward Rodney in 1626 and later copied by Theophilus Parvin in 1892, a handwritten genealogy of the Rodney family from 1100-1824, a brief account of Rodney Stoke, and a partial journal entry of a Rodney descendant. 

Series II contains materials related to individual members of the Rodney family in America.  Included are correspondence and a transcription of the will of Caesar Rodney, correspondence and essays by Thomas Rodney, and correspondence and an essay of recollections belonging to Caesar Augustus Rodney.  Also included in this series are correspondence and legal documents of Mary Rodney, her husband Theophilus Parvin, and her son, Dr. Theophilus Parvin, and correspondence and other materials relating to Eliza Rodney Eschenberg, Mary Rodney Parvin’s sister, Robert Burton Rodney, and Rachel Baker.

 

Related Collection:

Ms 98  Delaware Miscellaneous Literary and Historical Manuscripts for related Rodney family documents



Series List

Series I.  Rodney Family History

Series II.  Members of the Rodney Family

            A.  Caesar Rodney (1728-1784)

            B.  Thomas Rodney (1744-1811)

 

            C.  Caesar Augustus Rodney (1772-1824)

D.  Mary Rodney (1795-1829)

 

            E.  Theophilus Parvin

            F.  Dr. Theophilus Parvin (1829-1898)

            G.  Eliza Rodney Eschenberg

            H.  Robert Burton Rodney

            I  Rachel Baker



Genealogical Notes

William Rodney (1660-1708)               m.1 Mary Hollyman (d.1692) (3 children)

                                                           

                                                                        m. 2 Sarah Jones (6 children)

 

 

Caesar Rodney (1707-1745)                            m. 1727 Elizabeth Crawford (7 children)

                                                                                    m. Thomas Wilson (2 children)

 

 

Caesar Rodney (1728-1784)

 

 

Thomas Rodney (1744-1811)                          m. 1771 Elizabeth Fisher

                                                                                    1. Caesar Augustus (1772-1824)

                                                                                    2. Lavinia (b.1775)

 

 

Caesar Augustus Rodney (1772-1824) m. 1793 Susan Hunn (15 children)

                                                                       

 

Mary Rodney (1795-1829)                              m. 1826 Rev. Theophilus Parvin

                                                                                    1. Mary Parvin

                                                                                    2. Theophilus Parvin

 

 

Theophilus Parvin (1829-1898)                        m. 1853 Rachel Butler (3 children)



Contents List

Folder -- Contents

                        Series I.  Rodney Family History

 

            F1        History of the Rodney Family, A.D. MCXXXV (1135)

A genealogy of the Rodney family divided into three sections.  The first section contains the history of the Rodneys prior to their arrival in America.  Written by Sir Edward Rodney in 1626, it was copied by Theophilus Parvin in 1892.  The second portion traces the history of the Rodneys in America.  Its author is unknown.  A final section lists the pedigree of the Rodney family from the late 17th century until the early 19th century. 

 

            F2        History of the Rodney Family, 1100-1824

Bound volume of the pedigree of the Rodney family.  The pages have been laminated and consequently, are difficult to read.

 

            F3        “Some Account of Rodney Stoke and the Family of the Rodneys”

Handwritten transcription from a copy found at the Rodney Stoke Rectory in 1888.

 

            F4        Journal Entry

Partial entry from the journal of Mr. Rodney King, a Rodney descendant, from a journey to England in 1852.  The item is laminated with a song written by Caesar Augustus Rodney for his wife, Susan, and a poem dated 1791.

 

                       

                        Series II.  Members of the Rodney Family

                        Series II.A.  Caesar Rodney (1728-1784)

 

            F5        Correspondence, 1773-1776 (4 items)

One letter, probably to his brother Thomas, discussing the rental or purchase of property and other household matters.  Fragment of a letter, also probably to his brother Thomas, regarding business and housekeeping matters.  A final letter, addressed to Thomas Rodney discusses Thomas’s defeat in an election and his work with the Continental Congress.  Includes a reply from Thomas on the original.

 

            F6        Note, c. 1777

Photocopy of note addressed to Brigadier General Rodney discussing the movement of troops.  Location of original is unknown.

 

            F7        Will, 1784

                        Undated typed copy of the will of Caesar Rodney including codicil. 

 


                        Series II.B.  Thomas Rodney (1744-1811)

 

1          F8        Correspondence, 1787-1804 (4 items)

Includes a list of public service appointments held by Thomas Rodney between 1770 and 1803 and a photocopy of a letter to Thomas from Samuel Magaw regarding the education and boarding of his son, Caesar Augustus Rodney and a letter written to an unknown recipient describing his travels.  Also included is a letter dated 1804, from Thomas to his son, Caesar Augustus, with a transcription of the letter. 

 

            F9        Manuscript, 1810

Photocopy of “The Original Autograph Manuscript of Thomas Rodney (of the Continental Congress & Mississippi Judge) on the Exploration of and Title to East and West Florida, and Louisiana, the Spanish & French Colonies in America, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Right of Deposit, etc.”

 

            F10      Notes, 1787

Photocopy of Thomas Rodney’s response to an article that appeared in the Delaware Gazette or the Faithful Centinel entitled “Timoleon’s Biographical History of Dionysius, Tyrant of Delaware.”  Original located at Brown University Library.

 

 

                        Series II.C.  Caesar Augustus Rodney (1772-1824)

 

            F11      Correspondence, 1802-1819 (5 items)

Includes an 1802 letter to his father, Thomas Rodney, announcing his return from Washington and his meeting with President James Madison and a letter to an unknown recipient regarding the proposed publication of a history of General Washington.  Also included is a letter to his cousin, Stephen Pleasonton of Washington regarding the search for a home in Washington, a letter dated 1818 from Carmen Ramos de Alvares of Buenos Aires, Argentina, regarding a medal of honor given to Rodney, and a 1819 letter of introduction for Lieutenant Springer.  Attached to the 1819 letter is a printed biographical note for both Caesar Rodney and Caesar Augustus Rodney.

 

F12      Extracts from “Recollections of Miss Vining, the Revolutionary Belle and her Family”

            Various extracts including information related to the will of Caesar Rodney, a letter from Caesar Augustus Rodney to Lord George Brydges Rodney of England regarding the will of Caesar Rodney, information about the personal life of Caesar Rodney, including a portion of a love letter allegedly written to Miss Mary Vining, daughter of Captain Benjamin Vining and Mary Middleton, and information related to the relationship between Caesar Rodney and the niece of Miss Vining, also named Mary and known as the “Belle of the Revolution”. 


                        Series II.C.  Caesar Augustus Rodney (1772-1824) (cont’d)

1          F13      Original Poems, 1790-1793

            Bound volume of love poems written from “Amander” to “Amanda.”  It is likely that these poems were written by Caesar Augustus Rodney to his future wife, Susan Hunn.  Locations include Philadelphia, Dover, and Caesar Rodney’s farm, Poplar Grove. 

 

F14      Engravings

            Contains one engraving of Caesar Rodney and three small engravings of Caesar Augustus Rodney.  Also includes a card announcing Caesar Augustus as Minister Plenipotentiary to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

 

            Series II.D.  Mary Rodney (1795-1829)

F15      Correspondence, 1811-1892

            Includes two letters written to her mother from boarding school in 1811 and two undated letters to her father, Caesar Augustus Rodney. Also included is a letter to Louisa V. Worrell from attorney Benjamin Nields with an attached note verifying the birth date of Mary Rodney and a certificate dated 1826, verifying Mary Rodney’s membership in a Presbyterian Church in Wilmington and recommending her for membership in a Presbyterian Church in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

 

            Series II.E.  Theophilus Parvin

 

F16      Correspondence and Legal Documents, 1826-1893

            Includes a note to Mary Rodney requesting her company, a marriage certificate, passport for the Reverend Theophilus Parvin and his family, letters to Susan Rodney and other family friends relating the news of Mary Rodney’s death, and a letter to Susan Rodney describing the activities of her grandchildren.

 

 

            Series II.F.  Dr. Theophilus Parvin (1829-1898)

 

F17      Correspondence, 1858-1893

            Letter from T.M. Rodney dated 1858, letter from I.M.C. Rodney dated 1869 requesting information on hunting prospects in Indiana, and a letter dated 1873 from C.A. Rodney regarding a letter written by Parvin’s mother, Mary Rodney.  Also includes a letter from Emily Banning, Parvin’s cousin, related to family matters, notification from the Sons of Delaware that Parvin had been elected a member of the organization, letter from Robert Burton Rodney, an undated later from Emily Banning, and an undated letter from George Tyler of the Rodney Stoke Rectory in England related to Rodney family genealogy.

 

            Series II.F.  Dr. Theophilus Parvin (1829-1898) (cont’d)

 

1          F18      News clipping

            Announcement of a meeting of the Sons of Delaware mentioning Parvin.

 

 

            Series II.G.  Eliza Rodney Eschenberg

 

F19      Correspondence, 1824-1873

            Contains a letter written to her mother, Susan Rodney, in 1824 and Emily Banning’s copy of an extract from a letter written by her mother, Eliza Rodney Eschenberg, in 1873. 

 

F20      Genealogy

            Eliza Rodney Eschenberg’s recollections of her grandparents, John and Mary Hunn, copied by Dr. Theophilus Parvin in 1891. 

 

 

            Series II.H.  Robert Burton Rodney, U.S.N.

 

F21      “My Letter”, 1891

            Copy of “My Letter” written by Rodney regarding the history of the Rodney family, published in Washington, D.C., October, 1891.

 

 

            Series II.I.  Rachel Baker

 

F22      Correspondence, 1912-1941

            Letter from E.L. Banning regarding the history of the Rodney family mentioning Dr. Theophilus Parvin, Rachel Baker’s grandfather, and a letter from Abbie B. Leavitt also regarding family history.

 


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