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Cornelius Comegys papers

 Collection 0493-MDHC

The Cornelius Comegys Papers spans the time period 1816-1857 in New England, and includes correspondence between and about prominent Philadelphia merchant Cornelius Comegys and his business contacts and family members in Baltimore, MD. Correspondents include Bartus Comegys, John Pershouse, William McClure, Philip E. Thomas, John Clayton, J. Pennington, et al; as well as financiers, solicitors, and representatives from several well-known Baltimore merchants. Subject matter includes credit management, financial dealings, estate law, and commerce in the early 19th-century.


  • 1816-1857
  • Majority of material found within 1823-1848

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.


.25 Linear Feet (Letter size half-size box)

Scope and Contents

The Cornelius Comegys Papers covers the period from 1816 to 1857; the bulk of the materials date from 1838 to 1848. The collection consists of personal and business correspondence: the first two series are correspondence to Cornelius Comegys, in Philadephia, from his contacts in Baltimore; the third series is correspondence between two solicitors relating to a charge against his heirs after his death; and the fourth series is purely business correspondence between Baltimore merchants and the Philadephia-based Cornelius & Co. gas lighting manufacturer.

Biographical / Historical

Cornelius Comegys (1758-1844) was originally from Kent Co., Maryland. The son of William Comegys (II) and Ann Cosden, he left Maryland as a sergeant in the “Flying Camp,” stopping by Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 to witness the celebration there. He later entered service again as an ensign in General Washington’s army at White Marsh. Cornelius settled in Philadelphia in 1778, after the British withdrew, and received an appointment in the newly formed Treasury Department, preparing and signing Continental Currency. In 1782 he entered as a partner with the Morris brothers in the counting house of Willing Morris and Robert Morris; they later helped to set him up in the import business.

In his personal life, he married first Nancy Paul in 1781, who died without children, and second Catherine Baker (1777-1861) in 1794, with whom he had six children: Hannah Baker (Comegys) Mason—married Calvin Mason; Julia Ann (Comegys) Sargent—married John Sargent and lived in Kentucky, Catherine Josephine (Comegys) Gilmer—married James Gilmer), Ella Matilda (Comegys) Gilmer (married James Gilmer after the death of her sister in 1833), Jacob Baker Comegys—married Sara P. Lee of Boston, and Mortimore Comegys—died at age 21 unmarried.

In 1804, Cornelius moved to Baltimore to manage the mercantile house to which he was connected, and lived there for 12 years. After that time, he moved back to Philadelphia, where he remained until his death in 1844. From 1816 to 1844, while living in Philadelphia, he continued to receive correspondence from business partners and relatives in Baltimore, that which comprises the majority of this collection.

Cornelius’s “nephew” Bartus Comegys, was in actuality a great-nephew: Cornelius’s brother Nathaniel was Bartus’ maternal grandfather, making them more distantly related. Bartus was married to Evalina Dorsey and lived in Baltimore with their eight children. He was listed as insolvent in 1832, not long after the letters he wrote to Cornelius. He died of yellow fever in 1840 and was buried at his father’s country estate White Hall (now Bonnie Brae cemetery); he was later moved to the family plot in Louden Park Cemetery, Baltimore.


This collection is organized into four series.

Series 1
Correspondence to Cornelius Comegys, 1816-1824
Series 2
Correspondence to Cornelius Comegys, 1831-1834
Series 3
Correspondence from J. Pennington to John Clayton
Series 4
Correspondence to Cornelius & Co.

Custodial History

The custodial history for this collection is unknown.

Related Materials

Comegys, Robert G. “Cornelius Comegys (1630-1708): Young Man from Lexmond; His Career and His Family.” Holland Society: New York, NY. 1989.

Comegys, William Wirt. “The Comegys Family in America.” 1910.

Moss, Ernestine Parke. Cornelius Comegys of Kent County, Maryland. Self published, 1982.

Poeter, Nancy Moler. The Comegys Family. Gateway Press: Baltimore, MD. 1981.

Wallis, Guy; Perry, Emma Fraser. Descendents of Cornelius Comegys in North America. Self-published, 2012.

Processing Information

The Cornelius Comegys papers were processed in May, 2016. The materials were arranged in chronological order and separated by topic/time period. The manuscripts were placed in acid-free folders and in an acid-free box.

Guide to the Cornelius Comegys papers
Processed by Sarah Hedlund
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742