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Guide to the Leverich Family Papers
1817-1937 (Bulk 1820-1890)
  MS 381

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

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Cara Brick, Richard Fraser, and Tom Rosko

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 02, 2022
Description is in English.

Biographical Note

The Leverich Family:

The Leverich Family is descended from the Rev. William Leverich (ca.1605-1677), who left England for Massachusetts in 1633 and settled in Long Island twenty years later. William Leverich held lands in Oyster Bay, Huntington, and Newtown, New York. His son Caleb (ca.1636-1717) settled permanently in Newtown at the end of the seventeenth century. In the middle third of the 19th century, four of the sons of Colonel Edward Leverich (ca.1761-1833), a descendant of Caleb Leverich, founded Leverich & Co., a merchant house active in New York and New Orleans.

The Leverich brothers began their mercantile activities in the 1820's. Over the course of the next fifty years, the four brothers, Henry S. Leverich (ca.1806-1885), Charles P. Leverich (1809-1876), William E. Leverich (18xx-18xx), and James H. Leverich (18xx-ca.1840) became successful merchants and bankers in both cities. Henry S. and Charles P. began their careers in New York. Henry was an associate of Peter Remsen & Co., and Charles appears to also have been employed by Remsen & Co., but in a lesser capacity than Henry. James H. and William E. established their own firm in New Orleans.

Remsen & Co. dealt in a variety of products, including those Southern commodities that Leverich & Co. would come to specialize in trading. Henry S. Leverich appears to have conducted much of this trading in Southern produce while he was associated with Remsen & Co., and on more than one occasion, in the 1820's, visited the Southern States. These visits would have a significant impact on the Leverich family, as well as on the family business. Henry S. and Charles P. Leverich (who also visited the South on several occasions) married, respectively, Margaret and Matilda Gustine, the two eldest daughters of Dr. James Gustine of Natchez, Mississippi. An uncle of the Gustine sisters was Stephen Duncan; a brother-in-law was William J. Minor. Duncan and Minor were two of the richest planters in the United States. Leverich & Co. would act as factors (i.e. agents) for both of these planters throughout the antebellum period. Thus, two of the most important clients of the Leverich brothers were also relatives by marriage.

Henry S. Leverich and Margaret Gustine Leverich had two children, Edward and Mary. Charles P. Leverich and Matilda Gustine Leverich had four children, Charles D., Stephen D., James H. and Matilda R. In 1872 Edward Leverich, the son of Henry S. Leverich, married Annie Schuchardt. Edward and Annie had three children: Margaret D., Catherine S., and Henry S. Leverich.

Leverich & Co.:

The name Leverich and Co. first appears in the 1820's with reference to the business of William E. and James H. Leverich, in New Orleans. With the dissolution of Peter Remsen & Co. in May of 1835, Henry S. Leverich continued to operate as a commission merchant, dealing with many of the same clients and associates that he had done business with during his tenure at Remsen & Co. During this period, Henry's brother Charles became his partner, and the two brothers in New York also began to call their firm Leverich & Co.

Initially, Leverich & Co. dealt in the products that commission merchants regularly dealt in during the 19th century. These included household products such as tobacco, foodstuffs, spices, glass and glassware, and soap. Leverich & Co. also dealt in industrial products such as hemp, hides, and bulk chemicals, specifically brimstone, saltpeter and indigo. A large proportion of the firm's business in its early years entailed the import of wine and its reshipment to other ports in the U.S. In this early period, most of Leverich & Co.'s bulk trade in Southern produce was in sugar and sugar products, i.e. molasses and rum.

The firm's business had two distinct but related components; the first was its activity as commission merchants. In this capacity, the firm arranged the import and export of goods between the United States and Europe, and the shipment from New York of domestically produced goods to other ports within the United States. The second component was its activity as cotton factors. In this capacity, the firm arranged the shipment and sale of Southern agricultural products to purchasers in the Northern states and in Europe, and in turn acted as purchasing agent for its clientele of Southern planters, filling their orders for manufactured or luxury goods. Leverich & Co. is listed in city directories of the period under "cotton factors", but in practice the firm dealt in all the produce of Southern plantation agriculture, including cotton, sugar, molasses, rice, and occasionally tobacco. It purchased on order for its clients a variety of manufactured goods, from furniture to kid gloves to heavy machinery.

Leverich & Co. also provided financial services, investing money in the stock market on its clients' behalf. Charles P. Leverich was particularly active in financial affairs in New York City. Charles was associated with the Bank of New York, becoming a Director in 1840, Vice-president in 1853, and President in 1863. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, he served on the first loan committee formed by associated banks to lend money to the Administration for the prosecution of the war. He continued throughout the war to be active in financial matters related to the war effort.

From the period 1835-1860, Leverich & Co. prospered. However, since the firm dealt extensively in Southern products, the Civil War significantly affected its business. The end of the war brought comparatively rapid economic recovery, and the firm reestablished its Southern connections, primarily in New Orleans and in Winnsboro, South Carolina. Leverich & Co.'s Southern counterpart, usually called J. H. Leverich & Co., does not seem to have recovered its separate identity. James H. Leverich died ca.1840. William E. Leverich, that firm's surviving member, appears to have been an employee of Leverich & Co. in the years after the war, rather than a partner in his own right.

By the late 1860's, Edward Leverich (son of Henry S. Leverich) and his cousin, Charles D. Leverich (son of Charles P. Leverich) were Henry S. Leverich's partners in Leverich & Co. Henry S. Leverich seems over the next ten years to have become less and less active in the day-to-day affairs of the company. During this decade, the firm concentrated primarily on the cotton business, with William E. Leverich overseeing the firm's affairs in New Orleans. Leverich & Co.'s cotton trading in the late 1860's and 1870's appears to have been robust, and the firm seems to have enjoyed considerable prestige in the cotton industry. In 1879, however, the firm went into liquidation, and Edward Leverich, at least, appears to have been heavily in debt; whether the debt was the cause or the effect of the dissolution of Leverich & Co. is unclear.

Oak Lawn and Dogberry:

One of Leverich & Co.'s Southern clients was Dr. James Porter, of Oak Lawn, a plantation in Bayou Teche, Louisiana. After Porter's death in 1849, his widow, Mary (Walton) Porter, continued as a client of the firm. Mrs. Porter was a Unionist during the Civil War. She and her daughters, Annie and Mary, lived at their summer home in Newport, Rhode Island during the War. Mrs. Porter retained Leverich & Co.'s services throughout this period.

The war appears to have adversely affected the Porter's fortunes. In the years immediately following the war, Leverich & Co. apparently held the mortgage to Oak Lawn, and seems to have had effective control of the plantation, even though the Porters retained legal title to it. Mrs. Porter appears to have died by the 1870's.

In 1873, Leverich & Co. purchased Oak Lawn and Dogberry, a smaller neighboring plantation also owned by Mrs. Porter. Leverich & Co. forgave the debt that Mary Porter's surviving daughters, Annie and Mary, owed to the firm in exchange for title to the properties. Annie and Mary Porter were permitted to reside at Oak Lawn until such time as the property was sold. After Leverich & Co. went into liquidation, Annie and Mary Porter were still living at Oak Lawn, and they seem to have regained control of the properties.

In early 1881, however, two years after Leverich & Co. went into liquidation, Edward Leverich began taking steps to purchase the plantation in the name of his wife, Annie (Schuchardt) Leverich. Edward may have gone to Louisiana to negotiate the purchase personally, and he appears to have purchased it from the Porters, rather than from Leverich & Co. or its creditors. While his wife remained in New York, Edward Leverich took possession of Oak Lawn in December of 1881.

Edward faced a daunting task in attempting to rehabilitate the plantation, which had fallen into a state of disrepair over the years. In addition to repairs to the residence itself, Edward had to upgrade the plant of Oak Lawn; this entailed the purchase of farm implements, barbed wire, machinery, and livestock. The initial outlay of money was very large, and many of the plantation's improvements were financed with credit, provided mostly by Edward's cousin Abe Leverich, a New Orleans commission merchant.

Throughout their ownership of Oak Lawn, the Leveriches would be plagued by financial problems. On more than one occasion, Edward found himself having to borrow money from his father, Henry S. Leverich, while at the same time concealing from Henry the desperation of his financial situation. Edward was also indebted from time to time to his father-in-law, Frederick Schuchardt (1805-1885). Schuchardt, however, unlike Henry S. Leverich, seems to have been more inclined to personally scrutinize Edward's management of the plantation.

In addition to his financial troubles, Edward Leverich had to cope with a variety of problems. In 1882, and again in 1883, Oak Lawn's levee broke, flooding much of the plantation's arable land. The machinery at the plantation's sugar house often broke down, causing temporary halts in production. Bad weather killed or damaged crops.

By the time the 1885 planting season was beginning, however, things began to look more promising for Edward. At around this time, Edward Leverich made an agreement with the Burdon Central Sugar Refining Company. Burdon Central would build a refinery on Bayou Teche, in the vicinity of Oak Lawn. In return, Burdon Central would have exclusive right to refine Edward's crops for 1886, 1887, and 1888.

Edward Leverich died November 28, 1886. Upon his death, his wife Annie assumed control of the plantation. Annie appears to have reneged on the agreement with Burdon Central, and instead had the crop refined by a different firm in 1887 and 1888. This apparent breach of contract resulted in a lawsuit by Burdon Central against Annie Leverich. Annie counter-sued, on the grounds that the 1886 crop, which had been refined by Burdon Central, had been incompetently handled.

Annie Leverich was unable to maintain Oak Lawn. By December of 1887, she determined to sell the plantation, and, with the lawsuits ongoing, found a buyer. Col. R. E. Rivers, proprietor of the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans, purchased the plantation in March of 1888. Annie moved to Pass Christian, Mississippi in the summer of 1888. She spent the next several years corresponding with her creditors.

Within this collection, Annie Leverich leaves little record of herself after 1890. Other sources reveal that by 1896, she had returned to New York, and from 1896 to 1908 lived on E. 60th St. In 1908, she moved to Throg's Neck, in the Bronx. The last entry for her in the Social Register is in the Summer 1915 edition.