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Torbert-Ellegood collection

Identifier: MSS 0461

Scope and Contents

The Torbert-Ellegood collection, spanning 1759-1889, with the bulk of the papers dating 1820-1840, consists of 1.3 linear feet of legal papers, land records, accounts, receipts, correspondence, and other documents, many of which relate to the Torbert and Ellegood families of Delaware. It is unclear, however, how these two families relate to each other and how this collection of papers was assembled. John Torbert (1775-1842) and Joshua A. Ellegood (1789-1845), the central figures in each group of family papers, were both active in Delaware business and civic life. John Torbert served as a Justice of the Peace in New Castle County from 1812 to 1814, and Joshua A. Ellegood was appointed Justice of the Peace in Sussex County in 1827. Through their business transactions and public offices, it is possible that both men came in contact with many individuals and families represented in this collection. As detailed below, the collection documents the personal and professional lives of John Torbert and Joshua A. Ellegood, but the overall research value may be in its broad representation of early nineteenth-century economic and legal affairs in Delaware.

The personal papers related to the Torberts include family correspondence (Series II) and two notebooks kept by William W. Torbert containing poetry and engineering notes (Series III). The estate papers, accounts, deeds, receipts, bills, and other papers that relate to John Torbert (Series I) reflect his professional involvement in banking and manufacturing, as well as his position as a Justice of the Peace for New Castle County. John Torbert spent his adult life in Wilmington, Delaware, and his papers mostly pertain to New Castle County activities. Series I also contains business papers of William W. Torbert.

The Ellegood family papers (Series VI) are actually rather similar in content to the Torbert papers. They mainly consist of legal papers, land records, accounts, receipts, letters, and other documents related to Joshua A. Ellegood and his work as a Justice of the Peace, as a Land Commissioner for Sussex County, and as a constable. Joshua’s brother, William A. Ellegood, and other family members are also represented in the collection, particularly in family land transactions and other legal documents. Most of the Ellegood family papers relate to activities in Sussex County, where the family resided.

Additional series that have been created relate to the Timmons family of Sussex County, Esther Yarnall, John Lee Bayley, and the merchant firm W. G. Phillips and Brothers. The connections between these series and the Torbert and Ellegood families are often vague. Other series demonstrate a more direct link to the Torberts and Ellegoods, including papers related to the estates of Alexander White and James McClyment, which were administered by Joshua A. Ellegood and John Torbert, respectively.

Because of its varied content, Torbert-Ellegood Collection offers a wide range of sources to a variety of scholars. It will be of foremost interest to genealogists interested in the Torbert and Ellegood families, as well as the Timmons family, Alexander White, and James McClyment. There is extensive documentation regarding their land holdings and financial affairs, while the Torbert correspondence conveys a more personal family history.

The collection also provides a wealth of sources to historians of material culture. The collection is replete with miscellaneous receipts and accounts for cloth, sugar, molasses, wine, snuff, tools, wood, and other supplies and services. These receipts are located throughout Series I, VI, and XI, and particularly in Series XIII. A wastebook, kept by an anonymous merchant, records the sale of fabric and other items to women and African-Americans (F42). Of additional interest to material culture studies are the inventories of goods and chattel that can be found in Series VI and XII. Similar information is available in the estate records in Series IV, VIII and X. The extensive documentation on the administration of these estates may also be useful to historians interested in probate proceedings.

Torbert-Ellegood collection offers many other research possibilities. The papers may be constructive to researchers interested in economic history and personal debt, as both Joshua A. Ellegood and John Torbert were professionally involved in settling financial disputes. Both of their papers contain receipts, accounts, and court documents related to settling outstanding accounts and enforcing legal judgments related to debt. The collection also contains many Delaware land records and property surveys, documents related to dozens of early- nineteenth-century businessmen in New Castle and Sussex Counties, and papers related to banking and the milling industry. Additional documents of note include seven land grants to Robert H. Griffith signed by President Martin Van Buren in 1838 (F25); several political leaflets, party tickets, and published election results for Delaware elections, 1858-1884 (F 51, 53); and broadsides related to the Civil War and the passage of the fifteenth amendment (F51).


  • Creation: 1759-1889


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Torbert Family

The Torberts of Delaware trace their American lineage back to Hugh Torbert (b. [1645]), an early settler of Kent County. The Torbert section of the Torbert-Ellegood Collection focuses mainly on John Torbert (1775-1842), the eldest child of Peter and Jane (McClyment) Torbert of Kent County. He was born in Dover, Delaware, and later moved north to Wilmington. In 1810, Torbert co-founded the Bank of Wilmington and Brandywine, the second bank established in Wilmington. He served as president of this bank from 1819-1824. In 1812, Governor Joseph Haslet appointed Torbert a Justice of the Peace of New Castle County, a post he held until 1814 (Governor’s Register, p. 89, 114). Beginning in 1827, he served as cashier at the Farmers Bank in Wilmington, and he remained in that position until his death in 1842. Torbert was also involved in the milling industry along the Brandywine River. Information gleaned from this collection suggests that he was an agent for the Brandywine Mill Seat Company, and historian Henry Conrad reports that he was an investor in the Rockford Manufacturing Company (Conrad, p. 420). Lastly, evidence from this collection suggests he was also involved with business ventures such as Warner and Torbert, William Almond & Co, and the Philadelphia & Wilmington Steam Boat Company.

Several of John Torbert’s thirteen children also figure prominently in this collection, particularly his fourth son, William Warner Torbert (1812-1883). John Torbert’s brother, the Reverend William Torbert (1779-1841), and his family also appear in the papers. Little biographical information is available on these family members, but they are included in the genealogical chart below.

Torbert Genealogy

  • Peter Torbert ([1745]-[1781]) m. Jane McClyment
  • John Torbert (1775-1842) m.1 Susan (Elizabeth) Warner, m.2 Mary Ellen Bonsell/Bonsall (bore last four children)
  • Joseph Warner Torbert (1804-1851) m. Electa Maria Wickham
  • Peter Torbert (b.1806) m. [Abigail? Roxanna?]
  • John Torbert, Jr. (1808-1830)
  • Esther Y. Torbert (1810-1894) m. Arnold S. Naudain
  • William Warner Torbert (1812-1883) m. his cousin, Elizabeth Torbert, daughter of William Torbert
  • Mary Jane Torbert ([1813]-1846)
  • Henry Torbert (1815-1838)
  • Susan Torbert (b. 1817) m. Matthew M. Naudain
  • James McClyment Torbert (1818?-1880) m. Mary Elizabeth Peyton
  • Catherine Torbert m. John C. Jeffries
  • Hannah B. Torbert (b. [1825]) m. Jacob Carpenter
  • Charles T. Torbert
  • Edward B. Torbert
  • Ellegood Family

    The Ellegood section of this collection focuses on Joshua Atkinson Ellegood (1789-1845), a descendant of Thomas Ellegood (d. 1689), an early colonist of Northampton County, Virginia. The Ellegoods eventually settled near the town of Concord, Delaware, and grew to become a prominent Sussex County family with many generations active in civic life. Joshua A. Ellegood was the second son born to Robert Ellegood, a farmer in Concord, and Mary B. (Atkinson) Ellegood. He married Ann Houston Griffith, daughter of Seth and Nancy Griffith, whose family owned extensive property in Sussex County. Ann’s brother, Robert H. Griffith, also appears in this collection.

    Joshua A. Ellegood became a successful businessman and landowner, while maintaining a significant presence in public life. Evidence from this collection suggests he served as a constable of Sussex County in the 1810s. In April 1824, Governor Samuel Paynter appointed him to the Board of Commissioners of the Land Office for Sussex County. Three years later, Governor Charles Polk named Ellegood a Justice of the Peace for Sussex County (Governor’s Register, p. 208, 250).

    Later generations maintained the family’s involvement in the community. Joshua A. Ellegood’s son, Dr. Robert Griffith Ellegood (1828-1902), was a member of the Delaware State Legislature and served three terms as the State Auditor of Accounts. Robert G. Ellegood’s son, Dr. Joshua A. Ellegood (b. 1859), who does not appear in this collection, was a renowned Wilmington otolaryngologist and should not be confused with his grandfather and namesake.

    Ellegood Genealogy

  • William Ellegood (1708-1790) m. Mary Colbourn
  • John Ellegood (d. 1777)
  • William Ellegood (d. 1776)
  • Thomas Ellegood (d. 1822)
  • Robert Ellegood (b. 1752) m. Mary Brent Atkinson
  • William A. Ellegood (1787-1830)
  • Joshua A. Ellegood (1789-1845) m. Ann H. Griffith (sister of Robert H. Griffith)
  • Robert Griffith Ellegood (1828-1902) m. Elizabeth Cannon
  • Catharine G. Ellegood (b. 1829)
  • Ann Eliza Ellegood (b. 1831)
  • Mary Jane Ellegood (1835-1879)
  • William Thomas Ellegood (1837-1867)
  • Sarah Ellegood (b. 1841)
  • Seth Griffith Ellegood (b. 1843)
  • Anna Ellegood (b. 1845)
  • Extent

    1.3 linear foot (2 boxes)

    1 oversize removal


    The Torbert-Ellegood Collection, spanning 1759-1889, with the bulk of the papers dating 1820-1840, consists of 1.3 linear feet of legal papers, land records, accounts, receipts, correspondence, and other documents, many of which relate to the Torbert and Ellegood families of Delaware.


    Scant information is available on the University of Delaware’s accession (circa 1958) of the Torbert-Ellegood collection. Any meaningful order to the original accession was destroyed when the documents in the collection were organized in chronological order, taped to leaves of paper, and bound into volumes. The papers have since been removed from their bindings and grouped into thirteen series. The first eleven series focus on individuals or families, with Series I-V relating to the Torberts, Series VI-VIII pertaining to the Ellegoods, and Series IX-XI having no discernible affiliation with either family. Series XII includes miscellaneous inventories arranged chronologically, and Series XIII comprises miscellaneous documents ordered chronologically.

    Some of the items in this collection have been removed to oversize storage. Sheets placed in the folders mark where an item has been removed, and indicate where it is housed.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift, circa 1958

    Existence and Location of Copies

    A digital copy of material in this collection is available at the University of Delaware Digital Institutional Repository.

    Related Materials in this Repository

    MSS 0096, Item 0008, Joshua A. Ellegood account book

    MSS 0096, Item 0009, White and Doharty account book

    Shelving Summary

    Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons

    Box 2: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes

    Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)

    Processing Information

    Processed by Carrie L. Foley, December 2002-March 2003. Encoded by Jaime Margalotti, June 2021.

    Finding aid for Torbert-Ellegood collection
    University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
    2021 June 16
    Description rules
    Describing Archives: A Content Standard
    Language of description
    Script of description

    Repository Details

    Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

    181 South College Avenue
    Newark DE 19717-5267 USA