John Pole
Family History

John Pole of Philadelphia

John Pole's House

John Pole's House overlooking the Schuykill river, Philadelphia ~ watercolour by Thomas Pole MD.

The country house illustrated would have been drawn from memory up to 50 years after Thomas left America in 1775, therefore the finer details should not be assumed to be accurate.

John Pole merchant

  Edward and Mary's grandson, John Pole (1705-1755) was born at Buttle Hay in the parish of Wiveliscombe in Somerset, England.   His youngest son, Thomas Pole, wrote of his father at the end of his own unfinished family history in a book titled Anecdotes &c. ~ This is the account of his father John:~

"My Father John Pole was the Second Son of Edwd. and Grace Pole; he was born at Buttle-Hay 10th Mo: 1st 1705 in the Reign of Queen Anne. - Having attained the age usual for being placed out as an Apprentice, he was bound as such to Danl. Smith of Wellington to learn the Business of a Taylor; one remarkable Event happened during his Servitude; - Being Seized with the small Pox the Disease proved very serious and in a fit of Delerium, he was getting out of the Window of the Chamber toward the Street, which in all human probability would have proved fatal, had not the Circumstance been discovered by a Servant in crossing the Street, and who run up Stairs with all possible Expedition, caught hold of his Feet and pulled him into the Chamber again. - A Striking Instance of the protecting Care of Divine Providence."

He continues:~
" . . he served out his Apprentiship [sic] faithfully and with Reputation; after which he went into Business for himself in the Shop keeping, but for want of greater Frugality and better Management, as well as through a Set of improper Associates, his Business did not answer, thus he became involved and left his native Country for America about the Year 1727 - leaving many small Debts unpaid abounting [sic] to about £150 Serlg. [sic] - On his Arrival in America he did not for a considerable Time make himself known to several Relation who, left England sometime before, of the Name of Coates who will be more particularly mentioned hereafter; this backwardness was owing to the disreputable Manner of his leaving his Nativity.  - When he embarked for America it was with the good Determination of breaking off from his former Associates, and settling in an Industrous Endeavour to do the best for his future Support, and to retreive his former Character; and the Resolution appeared permanent & invariable through all his succeeding Steps, Notwithstanding which difficulties attended him.  - He resumed his former Occupation to which he had served his Apprentiship, at or near Burlington in New-Jersey, but owing to some adverse Events on his part, and the ill temper'd Conduct of some who became his Creditors on the other, he was thrown into Goal in that City, where he was confined for some time, how long I can not learn; - Whilst in this place of disgraceful Confinement, he worked diligently at his Trade, and by that means payed off the Debts for which he was confined; on his obtaining his Liberty, through the Means of his own Industry and frugal Management, his Neighbours began to entertain favourable Opinions of his Disposition, and encouraged him by their Employ; by which he got forward in his Circumstances and Respectability.  He then opened a Shop in Burlington of a small assortment of such Goods as were used in his own Trade; this increased the progress of his Finances, & thus he receeded far from the Prison Door."

"Before this time he became well known to his Relations before mention'd, who had all settled in different parts of this Province. -"

"Having now improved his Circumstances; with a Mind possessed of the real principle of genuine Honesty, which acts not from Constraint, but a Voluntary desire of doing unto others as we would they should do unto us, he looked toward his Native Country, and remembered those who had suffered through his Indiscretion, and with an honourable Generosity remitted to his Brother Thos. Pole [of Milverton] Money sufficient to discharge the Debts he had left unpaid on his Embarkation for America; and which was accordingly paid. - This Task was attended with considerable Difficulty on the part of his Brother Thomas, who took great pains to find out his Creditors, having by that time been dispersed at a considerable Distance from each other; and who greatly admired at so striking an Instance of genuine Honesty, before unknown to many of them, this raised him to a much higher Degree of Reputation than if he had never been so involved. - "

"My Father then paid for his Addresses to Rachael Smith of Burlington Daughr. of Richd. & Anne Smith, in order for Marriage the Connection was uniformly opposed by her Father, with whom Friends frequently remonstrated, but all endeavours to prevail upon him to cordially consent to the Mar. were in vain, by which the Accomplishment of it was long retarded; Friends, after repeated Interviews finding his only Objection to the Proposition of my Father, was his inferior Condition in Life, agreed to pass them in the Monthly Meeting. - One Difficulty however yet remained with respect to the Monthy. Meeting, which was from his not having been recommended by Certificate from England, owing to the manner of his leaving the Country.  A Certificate was then wrote for and obtained, this Obstruction being removed they passed the Meetings and were Married at Burlington"

"- In consequence of my Mother's not marying [sic] agreeable to her Father's Inclination, he refused to give her any Sum of Money, although he was a Man of very considerable Property. -"

"He continued to carry on his Business before mentioned at Burlington for some time, after which he removed to Philadelphia. - I think it must have been about this time he went Supercargo several Voyages to Boston and the West Indias, [sic] and thence acquired a Knowledge of the Mercantile Business; and began to export and import Goods on his own Account, which succeeding to his Wishes he enlarged his Concerns and became a Merchant of some Account; finding it answer his purpose so well, he took in Joshua Howell as a Partner; who together carried on a large and prosperous Trade."

"My Grandfather Smith, now finding he made a good Husband and Prospered in the World, came to Philadelphia and presented him with Six Hundred Pounds; my Father told him if he had given it to him when they were first Married it would have been of great use, but now he did not want it, and could do very well without; to convince him of it, promised to take the first Oportunity [sic] of laying it out upon an Estate and making it over to his Wife; which he soon did. - He purchased a small Estate containing about Twenty or Thirty Acres, situated on the Banks of the River Schuylkill about two Miles from the City of Philadelphia which he improved and beautified; the whole of the Estate and Improvements cost him about twice the Sum given him by his Father in Law; the whole of which he made over to his Wife, who enjoy'd it to the Day of her Death. - The great Western Road from Philadelphia to Darby, Chester and the lower Counties on Delaware, intersected the Estate & divided it into two parts, one on the North bounded by the Margin of the Schuylkil; the other on the South; upon which he built a Commodious two Story Brick dwelling House and other Appertinences;  The Gardens laid out upon the Estate was more with a View to the utillity of their Productions, than to Ornament; excepting a small semi circular Flower-Garden in front of the House, which stood on the most elevated Spot; from whence was a gradual Slope toward the River; a View of which was intercepted from the House by a Wood of portly Hickery Trees, but this added Beauty to the Prospect, when a Vista was cut through the Wood and opened to the House a most pleasing Landscape of distant Hills adorn'd with numerous Seats rising from their Summits, and along the intermediate fertile Vale gently glideing the Crystal Streams of the Schuylkil.  - See the Drawings. -"

"This Estate after the death of my Mother fell into the Hands of all the Children, & was afterward purchased by my Brother in Law James Bringhurst."

"In the third Month 1747 or 1748. he came to England and settled a Correspondance [agency] in the merchantile Business, and returned in the ninth Month following.  Thus his Connections in Trade were extended and his Business flourished which he continued till it pleased divine Providence to remove him from this Stage of Being.  My Father at the time of his coming to England had several Children, one of whom, John, he brought with him, on account of a defect in his Sight, in order to have advice and Releif from the Faculty here; but I do not find that he received much if any Advantage -"

"On their return to America they had a long tedious Passage, they were bound for Philadelphia, but were driven about by contrary Winds for twelve Weeks, untill the Ship and Cargo was considerably damaged; - After coming upon the American Coast, they were beat off for five or Six Weeks, and the Winter being now so far advanced, it was thought unsafe to enter the Delaware and so put into the Harbour of Boston in New-England.  - I should have said he embarked from Bristol. -"
[Following this on the next page is a watercolour of 'Jno Pole's Country House' and on the following page a space set up for another water colour with only a feint pencil sketch 'View before J.P.'s Country House' ~ which shows an avenue of tall trees and two distant sailing ships.]

"My Father whilst in England on his commercial Errand, being fond of Shooting took his Gun and with that Intention, and a Servant with him, he shot a Hare in the Parish of Backland near Wellington in Somersetshire for which Justice Proctor levied upon him a fine of £15 viz - £5 for shooting the Hare; £5 for his carrying his Gun, and £5 for his Servant carrying the same Gun; being by the Law deemed an unqualified Persons. -"

"With respect to my Father's Person, he was said to be of a middle Stature, well proportioned rather compact, apparently calculated for Muscular Exertions; and of an open affable Countenance. - One instance in proof of his muscular Activity evinces the propriety of the conclusion drawn from the general proportion and compact figure of his Person, happened at Bristol near the time of his second Embarkation for America. - He was loading a small Boat with Casks of Goods, & having let down some of them into the bottom of the Boat, another being put in which rested upon the Gunnel the began to take in Water, and would soon have sunk, but he perceiving the Circumstance effectually prevented the Accident by springing from the Quay upon the Gunnel on the other side of the Boat, which gave the last mentioned Cask a tilt to the middle of the Boat. - This Instance doubtless indicated great readiness of Thought muscular Activity, and a certain dependance upon the security of his Feet in so hazardous an Exploit."

"I have always heard my Father spoken of by those who were acquainted with him, as a Man of a good natural Understanding improved by his how Application, rather than the Education of his Youth; and the Temper of his Mind was friendly affectionately amiable, and his religious Inclination increased toward the latter part of his Life, according to an account given by that worthy Friend and Father in the Church Josiah Thompson, who was then in America, well acquainted with my Father, and wrote his Will; in which he left his Children equal proportions of his Personal Property, by which he prudently avoided that partiality so often destructive of the Affectionate Harmony which ought ever to be studiously cultivated and preserved in all Families; but is often greatly broken up by a very unequal Division of the Effects of their deceased Parents, where they are equally deserving. - He departed this Life at Philadelphia 1st Mo: 5th 1755 aged 49 Years. - The Disorder which ocasion'd his Death was the Pleuracy, about the commencement of which he wrote a Letter to his Brother Thos. Pole, (the last he ever wrote him) in which he spoke of his Indisposition in a manner indicating his prospect of a final Dissolution; and further added, "I have Faith and I hope the Lord will have Mercy." - an Expression which has often afforded peculiar Satisfaction and Comfort when I have reflected upon his last Moments; and although he was removed before my Remembrance, yet in so near a Relative there seems a natural Attatchment to the Name and Character from the Picture the Mind forms in itself. - "

"He left at his Death four [five] Children out of Nine, Anna, Edward, Ann & Thomas, all in their Minority, under the Care of our Affectionate Mother in conjunction with his Executors John Smith, Wm. Calander, and Edward Catharall; but our Mother being removed not long after the Care devolved upon our Guardian above named "

[The book stops abruptly, unfinished at that point.  In the final paragraph it looks as though the correct figure five was changed to four after Thomas listed his surviving siblings, but at the time of his father's death his brother John, who died in 1757, was still alive.]

  The Pennsylvania Gazette carried advertisments on 21 May and 25 June 1741 ~

Just imported in the Ship Constantine, Capt. Wright from London, and to
be SOLD by JOHN POLE, at his Store...hard and common metal pewter
dishes, plates basons, porringers, mugs, tankards and spoons...

The store was described as being down by the wharves, in an area which has now been redeveloped.

John Pole's seal on a broken wine bottle
During excavations around 25 years ago of an old privy on the back property of an 18th century home (demolished c.1950's), located on the north of Pine Street and about four doors West of Front Street, several old wine bottles were dug up bearing the seal "John Pole 1750".  It is believed that John or Edward Pole lived there.

A fragment of a bottle is shown, which is very discoloured due to being buried for 250 years.  This was excavated fairly recently (2006) from a mid-18th century site of an Alms House on Cypress Street near 3rd Street in Philadelphia.
John Pole's seal
Photos with acknowledgement
© to Mara Kaktins of Temple
University PA.

John Pole and Caspar Wister, a glass manufacturer [see below], worked on other business projects together and thus it is possible that Caspar Wister could have produced these bottles at his glass house in Salem County, N.J., for Pole.  Wister's mid-18th-century glass house was known as Wisterburg.

 The journal of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, known as the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, also mentions him in two of its volumes:~

  • Vol. 27, p. 476: A "Jno Pole" signed the articles creating the Fellowship Fire Company in Philadelphia on the 1st day of the 1st month 1738.   The company voted that money be given to him and Wm. Callender, another merchant, to purchase for them a "4th rate fire engine," which was delivered on March 7, 1750.   John Pole, Caspar Wistar (a wealthy glass manufacturer), and Callender were appointed by the company to meet with delegates from other fire companies, at the Standard Inn on Market Street, Philadelphia, "to consider a proposal for insurance of houses."

  • Vol. 94, p 161: When the Pennsylvania Assembly voted 4,000 pounds sterling "for the King's use" as its contribution to Col. Peter Warren's force protecting Nova Scotia, the resolution further provided that the money go "to John Mifflin and John Pole, both Quaker merchants," to be laid out for the provision of "Bread, Beef, Pork, Flour, Wheat or other Grain."

  In John's will dated 3rd January 1755 and witnessed on the 16th January by Thomas Clifford and Joshua Howell (his business partner) he appointed William Callender, Edward Catherall and John Smith as joint executors with a duty to provide for the children.

Out of his nine children, four or five survived him.  Anna married James Bringhurst and Edward married Mary Warner, having six and nine children respectively.  Descendants of these families remain in America.  John's youngest son, Thomas, was born in October 1753 just fifteen months before his father's death.  His mother died by the time Thomas was seven and he, a brother and sister lived with William Callendar.  Later Thomas was in the care of Joseph Noble.  Thomas left America to visit his family in England in the spring of 1775 where he settled and married Elizabeth Barrett.

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© Geoffrey Stone, Braintree 8-8-2004   Last update 18-5-07