Scarth Family Case Study: Jonathan Scarth the Elder (1668-1743)

Jonathan Scarth the Elder (1668–1743)


Tower hill map

Figure 1. Tower Hill area, London, 1746, map, John Rocque,,_1746

Jonathan Scarth was born into a Whitby, Yorkshire, family of Quaker merchants and mariners. He married Ann Warren (16701746) of Scarborough in 1690, before relocating to London to start his own mercantile business.[1] Jonathan and his wife became members of the Devonshire House Monthly Meeting, held at the Gracechurch Street Meeting in London, remaining members over three decades.[2] According to Quaker critic Charles Leslie, some of the ‘richest trading men in London’ were members of the Gracechurch Street Meeting, located in the heart of the Quaker mercantile community.[3] Jonathan and Anne Scarth had six children who survived infancy, three daughters and three sons. Ann (1701–1753) married eminent merchant Joseph Adams. Miriam (1710–1774) married haberdasher Henry Hayter. Jane (1706–1787) married Surrey carpenter Robert Watts.[4] Isaac (1701–1728) married Ann Perkins and became a mariner, dying in Virginia.[5] Jonathan was a supercargo for the East India Company. There is no record of Joseph other than his birth in 1715 and a mention in sister Ann’s will in 1727. He is not mentioned in Jonathan the younger’s will in 1743, suggesting that he, like Isaac, was already dead.


The Scarths had a house in George Yard on Tower Hilland by the mid–1730s a country house in Ilford, Essex.[6] Jonathan Scarth’s London property was assessed at 5 shillings for his personal estate and 5 pounds for his rent in 1735, documenting his financial success.[7] By 1736, Scarth had rented his London property to merchant Samuel Wragg, suggesting that by the age of 68 he had permanently retired to Ilford. Sources suggest that the Ilford house was located along the edges of the Hainault Forest, in the area now called Barkingside, to the north of Ilford center, and that it was modest in comparison to contemporary London merchant Robert Surman’s estate Valentines, which features in Georgina Green’s case study.[8] Sometime in the spring of 1743, Scarth moved into a larger property in Ilford Town.[9] Scarth likely resided along the main east-west road between London and Colchester, upon which several coaches passed every day.[10]


There are no records extant for support, but it is possible that Jonathan the elder bequeathed his house in Ilford to his wife Ann Scarth when he died in 1743 for her to use for the remainder of her life, as was usual in his day. At the time of his death, both his wife and spinster daughter Jane were residing at the house in Ilford. It is also likely that his granddaughter, Elizabeth, daughter of only surviving son Jonathan, also lived at the Ilford house, as his son traveled frequently to Asia for the East India Company. There is no record to show what happened to the Ilford property, but is probable that Ann had possession of the house until she died intestate in September 1746 and that after her death, granddaughter Elizabeth moved into the house of her paternal aunt, Miriam Hayter, and daughter Jane moved into the house of her sister Ann Adams in Edmonton. If this is the case, the Ilford house would have been vacated sometime in late 1746 and would have been available for sale or occupation by others in early 1747. The Ilford property remained listed in the rate books as belonging to Mr Scarth until March 1748, at which time a Mr Crump was listed at that location.[11] Though there is no evidence to substantiate this, it is possible that his brothers-in-law Silvanus Grove or Henry Hayter placed the advertisement that appeared in the London General Advertiser in May 1747 for a house to be sold or let in Ilford. The ad describes the property and asks that interested parties contact the proprietor of the Blue Boar Inn in Great Ilford.



Figure 2. London General Advertiser, 13 May 1747, issue 3915.

In the late 1690s and early 1700s, Jonathan was a London-based transatlantic merchant. He was accepting hogsheads of tobacco from Maryland planters in payment for goods sold. He was also purchasing Maryland tobacco for resale along with John Hyde, John Hanbury, Tobias Bowles, and Joseph Adams.[12] In April 1703, Scarth and other London merchants petitioned the Board of Trade and Plantations for permission to ship badly needed ‘cloathing’ to the inhabitants of Virginia and Maryland with the convoy of government ships.[13] The Board responded in June. They acknowledged that the colonists were ‘destitute of necessaries,’ and the Board ordered ships to sail in July.[14] In January 1708, London merchants petitioned the Privy Council to grant permission for the ships, including Scarth’s Maryland Factor, to travel to Virginia rather than be detained any longer in Maryland.[15] Scarth was named as either plaintiff or defendant in a number of litigations between 1713 and 1739.[16]


For most of the eighteenth century, all tea came from China, and the East India Company imported both the green and black varieties from Canton. According to a sale catalogue, Jonathan Scarth was purchasing tea and coffee from the East India Company in 1719.[17] As Scarth was a transatlantic merchant, it is likely he was selling the tea and coffee in the mid-Atlantic colonies. This aspect of his trade reminds us of the many intersections between eighteenth-century Atlantic World and Indian Ocean trade.[18]  In addition to his mercantile business in the colonies, Scarth invested in land.  The Land Company of Pennsylvania in London, a joint stock association created in 1699, had grown by 1720 to include Scarth and more than 300 others, including other London-based merchants, who purchased shares of land in Pennsylvania.[19]


Scarth, along with others such as London merchant Joseph Hoare, was also trading directly with Philadelphia merchants.[20] Scarth’s transatlantic connections were not just purely business. Scarth’s son Isaac as captain of the Jonathan and Anne made numerous trips between London and Virginia and Maryland from 1714 to 1726, likely carrying goods from London to his father’s customers and returning with tobacco, as well as shuttling government papers between the Maryland Assembly and Parliament.[21] Correspondence between merchant Isaac Norris (1671–1735) in Philadelphia and Scarth the elder in London shows that these two men were fellow Quakers, friends, and business associates.[22] Their friendship had developed during Norris’s trip to London in 1706.[23] Norris wrote a number of letters to Scarth between 1716 and 1729 in which he discussed everything from business accounts to family matters. Some of the letters included updates on children’s health, local Quaker meetings, news about mutual friends and Friends, and general musings about life.[24] The letters indicate that Norris was Scarth’s colonial agent, and many of them included payments for outstanding accounts on behalf of his customers and orders for goods, such as wine, stockings, and hats.[25] Scarth also sent items for Norris’s personal use. In a 1718 letter, Norris asked Scarth to send a copy of Richard Mead’s Discourse of Poisons (1708), the second volume of Lord Shaftsbury’s Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1711), and a copy of Boccaccio’s Decameron.[26] In 1729, Norris wrote to Scarth that the stockings he sent were ‘the dearest I ever had’.[27]


Jonathan Scarth the elder died in October 1743 and on the seventeenth of that month was buried in the Quaker cemetery in Whitechapel, London. The death notice described him as an ‘eminent’ Virginia merchant. He had been in the ‘Maryland trade for 34 years for the first two as a ship’s master but since as a merchant. He has freighted several ships to Maryland.’[28] In addition to the listing of his death and burial, the notice gives an anecdote, allowing us to gain a better impression of this man. Some years before his death, Scarth had purchased lottery tickets. An associate who had recently arrived from Holland wished to play the lottery, a novelty to this foreigner, and Scarth gave him whichever ticket he might want, which ended up being the lucky ticket, and the foreigner received 10,000 pounds.[29]


Jonathan Scarth the elder has attained fame in the United States for his inadvertent (and posthumous) role in the history of American jurisprudence, in a case that helped define the respective jurisdictions of the federal and state courts. The facts and actors in the case are numerous, but in short, Marylander Aaron Rawlings borrowed £800 from Scarth in 1706, using a plot of land as collateral. When the loan was not paid back in full, Scarth became owner of the property. In Owings v. Norwood’s Lessee, Chief Justice John Marshall found that though Jonathan Scarth’s claim to a tract of land known as Brown’s Adventure in Baltimore County, Maryland, had indeed been terminated by the Maryland Confiscation Act of 1780, the federal courts had no jurisdiction in deciding the case, as Mr Scarth’s heirs had not brought suit under the Treaty of Paris. It remained, therefore, a matter of state jurisdiction between two Maryland citizens.[30]


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[1]Jonathan Scarth Ann Warren marriage, Monthly Meeting of Malton: Marriages (1661–1779), p. 31; Society of Friends’ Registers, Notes and Certificates of Births, Marriages and Burials, Public Records Office RG 6/1404, The National Archives, UK (hereafter cited as TNA).

[2] The Scarths remained members of the Devonshire House Monthly Meeting—Jonathan the elder signed a memorial for George Whitehead in 1723, and his daughter-in-law Ann bequeathed ten pounds to the Meeting’s poor in 1728. William Penn and George Whitehead, The Christian Quaker, and His Divine Testimony Stated and Vindicated (Philadelphia: Printed and Sold by Joseph Rakestraw, 1824), 64; Ann Scarth, will dated 10 January 1728, PROB 11/619/95, Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Public Records Office (hereafter cited as PRO), TNA.

[3] Charles Leslie, The Theological Works of the Reverend Charles Leslie, vol. 4 (Oxford:  University Press, 1932), 353.

[4] Anglican Parish Registers, Woking, Surrey (England: Surrey History Centre, 1754–1937); The Parish Register of Richmond, Surrey, part 2, ed. J. Challenor C. Smith.  (London: Mitchell Hughes and Clarke, 1905), 134; Robert Watts, will dated 17 July 1771, PROB 11/619/95 , Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, PRO, TNA.

[5] Peter Wilson Coldham, English Estates of American Colonists: American Wills and … (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1985), 102.

[6] The site of the Scarth’s house in George Yard is today the site of the Tower Hill Underground station. Greater London. Map showing the Cities of London and Westminster (now the London Borough of Westminster), the Borough of Southwark (now the London Borough of Southwark) and the countryside for 10 miles around them. Scale: 1 inch to 1000 feet. Surveyed by John Rocque. Engraved by Richard Parr, 1746, MR 1/1076, Public Records Office, TNA; Ilford, a village listed as Eleford in the Domesday Book, is about nine miles north-east of London on the London–Colchester road. Daniel Lysons, ‘Little Ilford,’ in The Environs of London, vol. 4, ‘Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent’ (1796), 150–7, (accessed 18 May 2011).

[7]Aldgate Ward 1735, London Land Tax Records 1692–1932, MS 11316/108, London Metropolitan Archives,’ p. 8, digital image, (accessed 2 November 2013).

[8] Sue Curtis, Ilford: A History (Chichester: Phillimore, 2004); Restoration of the house and park was completed in 2009. Georgina Green, ‘Valentines, the Raymonds and Company Material Culture’, (accessed 3 November 2013).

[9] The rate books show a Mr Scarfe, which appears to be a common misspelling of Scarth. Ilford Ward Parish Rate books  IPR1 1737, IPR2 1738, IPR3 1739, IPR4 1740, IPR5 1741, IPR6  1742, IPR7 1743, IPR8 1744,  IPR9 1745,  IPR10 1746,  IPR11 1747, IPR12 1748, and IPR13 1749, Parish Rate Books, The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Barking and Dagenham Archives and Local Studies Service; I wish to thank historian Georgina Green for her invaluable research assistance.

[10] A Complete Guide to All Persons Who Have Any Trade or Concern with the City of London and Its Adjacent Parts… 2nd edition, 1740, London: Printed for J. Osborn, at the Golden Ball, in Pater-Noster-Row, MDCCXLIV [1744], Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale (accessed 29August 2010).

[11] Ilford Ward Parish Rate books  IPR12  1748 and  IPR13  1749, Parish Rate Books, The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Barking and Dagenham Archives and Local Studies Service.

[12] Provincial Court Land Records, 16991707, vol. 18, p. 566, Maryland State Archives (hereafter cited as MSA); Proceedings of the Council of Maryland, 1696/7:1698, vol. 23, p. 255, MSA; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 16931697, vol. 19, p. 151, MSA; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 16941698, 17111729, vol. 38, p. 454, MSA.

[13] English Duplicates of Lost Virginia Records, compiled by Louis Des Cognets, (Princeton: Louis Des Cognets, 1958), 268.

[14] ‘America and West Indies: June 1703, 1–5,’ Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Volume 21: 1702–1703 (1913), pp. 472–488, (accessed 27 November 2013).

[15] ‘Petition of John Hyde and other ship owners that the following ships should not be detained in Maryland …,’ 19 January 1708, PC 1/3140/1, Maryland, Colonies; North America, PC 1 Records of the Privy Council and Privy Council Office: Miscellaneous Unbound Papers; Records of the Privy Council; PC 1 Records of the Privy Council and other records collected by the Privy Council Office 1481–2002, TNA.   

[16] A selection of the litigations naming Scarth as either plaintiff or defendant include the following: Scarth v. Johnson, 1730, C 11/1793/25, C11 Pleadings, Zincke Division, C 11 Court of Chancery: Six Clerks Office: Pleadings 1714 to 1758, Records of Equity Side: the Six Clerks, Records created, acquired, and inherited by Chancery, and also of the Wardrobe, Royal Household, Exchequer and Various Commissions, TNA. (hereafter cited as  CoC); Beaumont v. Scarth, 1713, C 11/1965/5, C11 Pleadings, Mitford Division, CoC, TNA.; Wilkinson v. Knight, 1727, C 11/489/44, C11 Pleadings, Winter Division, CoC, TNA.; Johnson v. Swift, 1725, C 11/2385/4, C11 Pleadings, Reynardson Division, CoC, TNA.; Marriott v. Boult, 1722, C 11/2381/19, C11 Pleadings, Reynardson Division, CoC, TNA.; Selby v. Strangewayes, 1739, C 11/2663/1, CoC, TNA; Bradley v. Child, 1719, C 11/2365/17, C11 Pleadings, Reynardson Division, CoC, TNA.; Haddon v. Harford, 1722, C 11/1188/65, C11 Pleadings, Woodford Division, CoC, TNA.; Haddon v. Champion, 1723, C 11/1186/20, C11 Pleadings, Woodford Division, CoC, TNA.; Bonham v. Robins, 1724, C 11/1188/22, C11 Pleadings, Woodford Division, CoC, TNA.

[17] On this one day, Scarth purchased 42 bales of coffee from the Cardonnell captained by William Mawson. He also purchased tea from the Carnarvan captained by Thwaites and having traveled with the Hartford to Canton in early 1719, 6 chests of Singlo tea, 2 chests of Bohea tea, and 4 chests of Congou tea; from the Hartford captained by Newsham, 6 tubs of Singlo tea and 3 chests of Bohea tea. The East-India Company Sale, September the First, 1719 (London: Printed by D. Bridge for Sam Proctor), 1719, pp. 144, 36, 37, 123, 35, 171, 154, 40, 158, 1285, 149, 156, 175 ; In the East India Company 1719 Sale, a Mr Grove is listed as having purchased blue and white plate, chocolate cups with handles, and tea. Ibid., pp. 230, 224, 138.

[18]For more information on these intersections, see Chris Jeppesen, ‘Atlantic and Indian Ocean Worlds: Uncovering Connections between the East India Company and British Caribbean Colonies through the British Library’s Collections’: .

[19] ‘Bond And Condition Francis Rawle And Others To John Fothergill And Others For The Pennsylvania Land Company,’ Pennsylvania Archives, 3rd ser., vol. 9, ed. William Henry Egle (Harrisburg: Clarence M. Bush, 1896), 284–289; ‘Haddon v Harford,’ C 11/1188 Pleadings; C11/1188/65, Woodford Division, Pleadings 1714 to 1758, C 11 Court of Chancery: Six Clerks Office, Records of Equity Side, TNA.

[20] In 1703, Philadelphia merchant William Trent wrote in his account book that in several accounts there was l40.15.4 in ‘goods secured from Thomas Murray [Philadelphia merchant] on acct of Jonathan Scarth’. Charles H. Browning, American Historical Register and Monthly Gazette of the Historic, Military and Patriotic-hereditary Societies of the United States of America, March 1895 – August 1895 (Philadelphia); Isaac Norris, Norris Letterbook 1716–1730, Norris Family Papers, Collection 0454, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (hereafter cited as HSP).

[21] Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 26 April 1715 – 10 August 1716, vol. 30, p. 424, MSA.

[22] Isaac Norris’s father, Thomas, was a London merchant and an early Southwark Quaker when Isaac was born in 1671. He and his family moved to Port Royal in Jamaica in 1678. Young Isaac was sent to Philadelphia in 1692 to investigate the town and determine its suitability for the family business. By the time Isaac returned to Jamaica to report his findings, his family was dead as a result of the 1692 earthquake that destroyed Port Royal. Isaac returned to Philadelphia, married, and settled into the merchant business of his wife’s family, the Lloyds. Townsend Ward, ‘The Germantown Road and its Associations, Part One,’ Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 5, no. 1 (1881), 1–18. 

[23] From 1706 to 1708, Isaac and his son, also Isaac, went to London where they made many Quaker contacts, including Scarth the elder and Henry Gouldney. Townsend Ward, ‘The Germantown Road and its Associations, Part One,’ Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 5, no. 1 (1881), 10; ‘Notes and Queries,’ The Journal of the Friends’ Historical Society 17, no. 4 (1920): 135.

[24] Isaac Norris, Norris Letterbook 1716–1730, Norris Family Papers, Collection 0454, HSP.

[25] Isaac Norris to Jonathan Scarth, letter, 4 July 1718, Norris Family Papers, Collection 0454, HSP; Isaac Norris to Jonathan Scarth, letter, 12 October 1716, Norris Family Papers, Collection 0454, HSP.

[26] Isaac Norris to Jonathan Scarth, letter, 4 July 1718, Norris Family Papers, Collection 0454, HSP.

[27] Isaac Norris to Jonathan Scarth, letter, 8 May 1729, Norris Family Papers, Collection 0454, HSP.

[28] Peter Wilson Coldham, English Adventurers and Emigrants 1661–1733 (Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company, Inc., 1985), 162.

[29] London Daily Post and General Advertiser, 18 October 1743.

[30] ‘Owings v. Norwood’s Lessee,’ 9, U.S.S.C., 9 U.S. 344; United States Reports. Decisions of the United States Supreme Court. vol. 9. February 1809 – February 1810, 9 U.S. 344, Owings v. Norwood’s Lessee, (accessed 4 November 2010).