It’s been a year…

…since the last posting.  No funding appears forthcoming in the near future for further exploration of the Hertz Lot, AKA West Shipyard, but we can dream and learn more in the meantime.  Here are some more recent web articles related to the shipbuilding, Philadelphia, and the James West:

This article, “Shipbuilding and Shipyards”, was written by Jeffery M. Dorwart.  He is  the author of histories of the Philadelphia Navy Yard; Fort Mifflin of Philadelphia; Naval Air Station Wildwood; Camden and Cape May Counties, New Jersey; Office of Naval Intelligence; Ferdinand Eberstadt and James Forrestal, and is Professor Emeritus of History, Rutgers University.  References are provided.

James J. Farley’s book about early American Shipping is available here on WordPress in it’s entirety.  There is mention of James West, as  well as some notes from his account book.

Mentioned before and specific to our interests as James West descendants, this is the presentation by DRWC (Delaware River Waterfront Corporation) regarding their progress towards developing Philadelphia’s waterfront.  The complete archaeological study prepared 2013 resides here, as well as information about meetings and goals of the corporation.  If anything new and exciting were to happen regarding the West site, it would likely be posted here.

Harry Kyriakodis, author of Philadelphia’s Lost Waterfront (2011), Northern Liberties: The Story of a Philadelphia River Ward (2012), and The Benjamin Franklin Parkway (2014), prepared this article in 2012 for Hidden Philadelphia, and it is still posted.  Worth a look if you haven’t read it.

Additionally, Richard Remer is about to publish his book about the shipwrights of Kensington, Philadelphia, (as you may know, our Charles West next purchased property in Kensington to expand the business).  Some nice photos, including one or two of West Hill mansion.  Many of the allied families will be included.  I’m looking forward to it’s release.  Rich was instrumental in helping me to construct my West tree.  He has worked on other titles with Kenneth W. Milano.

Anyone needing an invitation to view the “James West, Shipwright of Northern Liberties” tree in Ancestry, please let me know.  I’d be happy to link you as a guest.

My best to all my West cousins,


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Report on the 2012 West Shipyard Dig is Posted on the Web

I’ve finally found the final report on the 2012 dig:
It is possible to view the document and also to download a PDF file.

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There’s Much that We Know (and much we do not) about that Tavern: the Penny Pot

The “Penny Pott House” is portrayed in the earliest known painting of Philadelphia—the first known painting of any American city, for that matter!    A man assumed to be a sign painter, Peter Cooper, painted a fanciful rendering of the city skyline in 1720 and numbered twenty-four sites he considered worthy of attention.  Barely making it into the picture, the “Penny Pott House” is number twenty-four: it is the farthest building on the right of the canvas.  The dark bulk of the hull of a ship can be seen to the left of the building, closer to the river.  The painting, once a piece of trash fetched from a rubbish pile in mid-ninteenth century London, was sent as a curiosity to the Library Company in Philadelphia where it was cleaned, restored, and is today considered one of their most prized possessions.  The story of the Library Company, as well as the story of the painting is worth telling, but to do so would be to digress from the topic at hand.  You can find information on the painting at:

Reprints of the painting are offered for sale at:

As the painting is entitled, “The South East Prospect of Philadelphia” it is surprising that our multiple-great grandfather’s shipyard and tavern made it into the picture at all, being just beyond the northern-most boundary of the city proper.

So, what do we know about the Penny Pott Tavern?  We know that it is thought to have been the second tavern built in Philadelphia, built some time after the Blue Anchor was built in 1682.  We know that it was licensed under the King of England to sell beer for a penny a pot: it offered a cheap brew made using molasses.  We know that James West purchased the tavern “of the Widow”, though it is not clear who the first owner was.    Did the family at any time reside in some portion of the building?  If Peter Cooper’s painting is to be believed, by 1720 there was already an extension added onto the original tavern.

The next image of the Penny Pot Tavern appears in Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia, published in 1830.  It shows, as was implied in the painting by Peter Cooper, that there is little more than the building’s depth separating it from the hull of a ship currently under construction.  The Library Company of Philadelphia has a nice digital copy of this work:

It is believed that West purchased the Tavern to assist with cash-flow problems, common in the Americas at the time.  While reliant upon the currency of England, the exchange of money for goods or services was not always as readily accomplished as might have been desired, so barter was often used.  By running a tab at the Penny Pott Tavern for his workers, James West was able to keep the men close to the work site and make additional profit from from the wages they spent at the tavern, while potentially making use of meat and produce he might barter for.

The 2012 dig was disappointing in that one of the stated goals was to find the foundation of the Penny Pott Tavern, and this was not clearly accomplished.  We know that Peter Cooper’s painting shows very little development at that time to the south of the Penny Pott Tavern, that the tavern was located at Vine Street wharf, and that Vine Street was reportedly fifty feet wide at that time.  In The Historical Magazine, Volume I, published by C. Benjamin Richardson in 1857 and digitized by Google in 2007, it is reported on page 139 that the Penny Pott House was located “on the upper side of Vine street, on or near the present line of Delaware avenue”, and that “as early as 1701, Penn decreed that Penny Pot Landing should be left open and free to all”.  This was largely because Philadelphia had very few favorable landings until the wharves were built between Vine street and Dock: the ground was reported to be a high bluff.  In fact the first child born in Philadelphia, John Key, was reported to have been born in one of the caves “near the spot where the Penny Pott House was afterwards built”.


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Purchase of 200 Acres in Gloucester, New Jersey

According to “Patents and Deeds and Other Early Records of New Jersey 1664-1703”, page 673, James West made a purchase of land from William Steel “late of Cork, Ireland, now of Bristoll, England”.  The land was east of John Taylor and west of Humphrey Morrey and purchased on September 20, 1697.  Interesting that the seller was from Bristol, as James West also originated there.

Morrey also bought his land from Steel.  Humphrey Morrey is an impressive neighbor: he was the first Mayor of Philadelphia, appointed in March 1691 by William Penn himself.  He had a ten year term, which ended in 1701 when Penn appointed Edward Shippen.  Morrey and Shippen were related.  In 1694 Morrey opposed the authorities, reportedly joining with Isaac Norris, Edward Shippen and others in presenting to the Assembly a memorial asking that the grievances of the people be adjusted by putting in office “men of good repute and Christian conversation, without any respect to any profession or persuasion in religion.”

I absolutely love this book!  It was originally compiled in 1899 by William Nelson.  Many of us who are descendants of James West have ancestors who were Swedes as well, and you’ll find plenty of them here.  If you’re stuck regarding your pre-1700 ancestors, it’s worth a review—even if they were on the other side of the river in Pennsylvania.  The river was much easier to traverse than the land, back in that time.  You can review the book on, if you’re a member.  A little tip: if you are viewing on Ancestry, use the index at the back of the book and add “12” to the page number to obtain the page you want when entering the page number into the “find” feature at the bottom of the screen.  Also, buried within the index are a number of “sub-indexes”, for lack of a better term.  For instance, there is a list of individuals names and occupations under “Occupations” starting on page 719.  You can purchase a copy of the book through Google Books, but sadly it doesn’t appear to be offered for free there, or on  Here’s what Google has to say about this book:

“This monumental work contains abstracts of all the known surveys, patents, and deeds of Proprietary New Jersey (1664-1703). Thousands of documents pertaining to title and transfer of land are here sorted and calendared, each revealing the names of grantors and grantees, buyers and sellers, relatives and neighbors–most with references to specific places of residence–and further giving a precise description of the survey, including date, location, and acreage. The records are arranged under the headings of East and West Jersey and are rendered accessible by the indexes which, containing well over 10,000 main entries, bear upwards of 50,000 references.”



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A long time since the last posting…

Almost a year since the last post, but there are still things to share.  I have not heard anything more about the Hertz Lot site.  However, I was recently contacted by two individuals interested in our tree.  One is Catherine Hollan.  She is researching Joseph West, the silversmith. Her book regarding Philadelphia silversmiths, Philadelphia Silversmiths and Related Artisans to 1861 (published 2013) included Joseph West.  The other individual interested in the West tree was Allee Berger, Architectural Historian for Richard Grubb & Associates.  She is working on an extensive history on the Thomas West House in Westville, New Jersey and collecting as much information as possible on the West family.  I have offered them invitations to the James West Tree at in return for their credit and input.  We will see how they respond.

Wishing all my cousins a happy Thanksgiving.


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The James West Tree is Back on Track!

I am happy to inform all those interested in our James West descendant tree that the problems with random duplication of individuals has been corrected.  Though it’s not clear why it occurred, all sixteen pages listing people in the tree have been reviewed and the extra individuals have been deleted.  If you find anyone who is “unattached” to the tree (no parents, spouse or siblings), please let me know.

Now that we have more than a thousand five hundred entries, I am allowing the tree to show in searches of Ancestry.  The tree is still private, in the hope that if someone discovers they have a place on the tree they will contact me so that we may learn about their branch of the tree as well as share what we have built together.  Lots of “hints” to review.  Lots of documentation to be added by those who feel ambitious.  I have heard no more about the results of the dig to date, but will let you know if I learn of any plans to move forward in the coming year.  Here’s to a bright and productive New Year for all my cousins, however distant you may be!


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Due to technical difficulties…

…there are individuals in the tree with “x” after their last name.  But don’t worry—I can explain.

I finally got Family Tree Maker 2 for the Mac.  This seemed to be a great idea: I’d been using Reunion for many years, but this would allow me to carry the same trees on my laptop that I have in Ancestry.  I would be able to work on my laptop at a library without web access and then transport all the information to the Ancestry tree when I get home.

The first part of the task—transporting the Ancestry tree to my lap top—seemed to go okay.  I was rather smugly pleased with my progress!  Yesterday, after about a month had passed, I attempted to update my lap top Family Tree Maker Tree from Ancestry, and ran into a problem.  The application suggested that I download the tree from Ancestry again.  So, I unlinked the two trees, deleted the tree on my laptop, and downloaded the tree again.  Family Tree Maker said it was successful, but the number of individuals in the tree seemed too large.  Had the tree really grown that much in the last two weeks?  So, I decided to try creating a Simple Register Report for the tree: it was 738 pages!!!

I soon discovered why so many pages:  a number of individuals were in the tree as multiples.  Some individuals had as many as five “echoes” of themselves.  Sometimes it was a lone individual, sometimes three or even four generations.  The tree had somehow become bloated with duplicate data.  How had this happened?  A glitch on the Ancestry IT end?  Someone couldn’t find their info so just kept entering it?  The individuals seemed to often be linked to duplicate “facts”: if there were four individuals of a single name, the 1850 census info might four times in the list on the data page of the individual’s spouse, for example.  The individuals affected are mostly in  the Starr branch of the tree.  I have no idea what happened.  If any of our editors is having a problem using the Ancestry tree, please contact me off list: there is a link for my email on the home page of this blog and you can also write to me in Ancestry by clicking on the link with the tiny photo at the top of the tree page.

The question now becomes what to do about this problem, however it was created: the tree will need to be purged of all the bogus duplicates.  😦  The “x” next to some of the surnames indicate individuals who had clones: I put an “x” next to the ones that were tied into the tree properly, then deleted the remaining identically named individuals.  That process is ongoing and while it is, I have removed everyone but me from the “editor” list and made you all “coordinators” instead.  That way, if I have the same problem again, I can go to Ancestry and inform them with certainty that being as I am the only editor and did not enter five of the same individual, the problem is on their end.

If you feel the need to enter something into the tree in the meantime, please just contact me and I will change your status and make note of who you are working on.

So much for the convenience of modern technology.  v.v  Wish me luck!


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