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Guide to the John Tabor Kempe Papers
1678-1782 (bulk 1752-1774)
 MS 344

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Melissa Haley

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on June 20, 2013
Finding aid written in English.

Scope and Contents note

The John Tabor Kempe Papers contain primarily court case records (12 boxes) for the colonial province of New York during the tenures of Attorneys General William Kempe and his son, John Tabor Kempe. The bulk of these records date from 1752 to 1774, and concern civil disputes, often over land ownership, tenancy and estates, as well as criminal acts. Offenses range from minor assaults and infractions to capital crimes, including murder and high treason. A separate database exists for the court case records in this collection, containing over 750 entries.

Also included in the papers are professional correspondences of both John Tabor and William Kempe, court agendas and fees, legal papers, land and property records, financial records, government documents, and a photograph.

While a number of well-known legal cases are represented in this collection (i.e. The King vs. Alexander McDougall), the John Tabor Kempe Papers also support research in the lives of ordinary colonial New Yorkers, many of whom are otherwise undocumented. Records also detail numerous land conflicts that erupted in the decades prior to the Revolutionary War, including riots and intrusion cases in the counties, and territorial disputes with Native Americans and with neighboring colonies, especially Connecticut and New Hampshire. Historians of colonial law will find a variety of cases and legal documents in this collection, and John Tabor Kempe's trial notes and correspondence provide insight into a prominent eighteenth-century legal mind.

This collection contains mostly professional records, with very little personal material for either John Tabor Kempe or William Kempe.


The John Tabor Kempe Papers are organized into the following seven series:

  1. Series 1: Court Case Records, 1678-1778 (bulk 1752-1774), and Undated
  2. Series 2: Correspondence, 1730-1775 (bulk 1753-1774), and Undated
  3. Series 3: Legal Papers, 1760-1782 and Undated
  4. Series 4: Land and Property Records, 1742-1775 and Undated
  5. Series 5: Financial Records, 1718-1775 and Undated
  6. Series 6: Government Records, 1722-1773 and Undated
  7. Series 7: Photograph, Undated