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Quinby, John (1758-1806) | Maine Maritime Museum Manuscript Collection Online Catalog

Name: Quinby, John (1758-1806)

Historical Note:

John Quinby was born on May 12, 1758 in Falmouth, Maine to Joseph II (b. 1715-d.1776) and Mary (Haskell) Quinby (b. 1722-d. 1815). His grandfather, Joseph Quinby I was a shipbuilder or shipwright in Falmouth, Maine.2 The Quinby family were quite prosperous and John inherited considerable property and a mill upon his father’s death.

He married Eunice Freeman (b. 1762-d. 1790) on October 31, 1782, daughter of Joshua Freeman of Portland, Maine. Eunice Freeman was a descendent of renowned colonial families:  Elder William Brewster (who came over on the Mayflower), Reverend John Rogers (President of Harvard College), Governor Thomas Prence of Plymouth Colony and Governor Thomas Dudley of Massachusetts Bay Colony.3

John Quinby had a nephew, Thomas Seal, who was brought up in his household. Seal was the illegitimate son of Quinby’s sister Rebecca and an English captain.2 Thomas Seal became a captain and was shipmaster aboard the vessel Eunice (Ship).

John Quinby was commissioned as Lieutenant of the Sixth Company, First Regiment in the County of Cumberland in the Sixth Division of the Militia in 1787. He was also commissioned as Captain in the First Regiment of the Second Brigade, Sixth Division, Militia of Massachusetts, counties of York and Cumberland, in the District of Maine, 1794. He resigned from this position on June 1, 1796 at Boston.3

John Quinby, with his partner Archelaus Lewis, bought a parcel of land and mill rights from Enoch Freeman in Stroudwater, Maine in 1783. They constructed a shop on the waterfront for the building and outfitting of ships.  Quinby and Lewis built dwellings next to each other at this same location as well. By 1796, they had constructed a two-story shop on Town Landing near the wharf. Store merchandise was brought in by sailing vessels or gundalows (flat bottom cargo vessels) up the Fore River via Portland. This merchandise included cigars, indago [indigo], flour, corn, coffee, molasses, rum, brandy, gin, chocolate, sugar, shoes and fish. This list comes from the review of invoices and receipts in the collection.        

John Quinby was also a ship owner, loader of ships, surveyor of lumber and merchant. He was involved in domestic and foreign trade via his shipping business.  Quinby exported lumber, shingles, staves and fish, then in turn imported rum, molasses, sugar, rice and coffee. Repairs of vessels were conducted at his shipping business as well. Quinby also bought shares in the new Union Wharf in Portland about 1800. He owned Store #10 of general merchandise on the wharf.2

Quinby was either full or part owner of a number of vessels including Friendly (Brig), Falmouth (Brig), Maine (Brigantine), John (Bark/Ship), Almira (Brig),  Diamond (Brig), Mentor (Brig), Mary (Schooner), Eunice (Ship), Dispatch (Sloop), Superb (Brig), Good Intent (Brig) and Industry (Sloop). These merchant vessels traded to Europe, South America and the West Indies.

On July 7, 1797 bound from Liverpool to Philadelphia, the ship Eunice was seized by the French privateer L’Intrepide. John Quinby’s nephew, Thomas Seal, was shipmaster aboard the Eunice at the time.  The event is mentioned in a letter from Capt. William Dolliver to John Quinby on August 5, 1797:

“ ... to inform you that on the 9 of July in Longitude 28 I was boarded by a French Privateer who had your ship [E]unice. Capt. Thomas Leaf in possession were sending her to France as a Lawful Prise. She was from Liverpool bound to Philadelphia.” (folder 7)

Concerns with war between the French and the English continued as is evident in Captain Moses Freeman’s letter to John Quinby on July 7, 1797:

“ ... Americans taken lately by the English going from this [port] to America and carried in to Jameca [Jamaica]. I under stand it is owing to them having French people and property on board.” (folder 14)

and again on April 15 [1798]:

“I was verry luckky last voyage as I went and came with out a convoy as the French take all American Vessels bound from Jameca [Jamaica], their is grate talks of war hear.” (folder 14)

John and Eunice Quinby had 6 children—daughter Eunice (b. March 16, 1783 – d. 1862) and five sons—Thomas (b. Sept. 18, 1784 - d. Oct. 22, 1802), Moses (b.1786-d.1857), Levi (b.1787-d.1829, George (b.1789-d.1790) and an infant son born around September 1790. Sadly, Eunice Quincy died September 12, 1790 leaving John with the care of his children and newborn son. His son, George, died 10 days later after the death of Eunice in a drowning accident and his newborn son died that same year in December.1

In 1804, John Quinby contracted what was then called “consumption” and what is now known as tuberculosis. He was still very active in his merchant and shipbuilding ventures. In fact, he was building a new brig in 1804. Two years later on September 27, 1806 John Quinby died.

The Maine Historical Society holds an account and day book (1795-1798) of John Quinby (Collection 1081).


1. Little, George Thomas comp. Genealogical and Family History of the State of Maine.            New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1909. eBook.

2. Lovejoy, Myrtle Kittridge. This Was Stroudwater (1727-1860). Portland: National Society of Dames of America, 1985.

3. Quinby, Henry Cole. Genealogical History of the Quinby (Quimby) Family in England        and America. New York City: Tutle Company, 1915.  eBook.

4. Clifford, John Henry, Alexander Wheeler, et al. The Acts and Resolves, Public and Private of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Vol. 21. Boston, MA: Wright & Potter, 1922. p. 400.  eBook.

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