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The Loper Family of Long Island

The Loper Family From "East Hampton History, Genealogies of Early Families," by Jeannette Edwards Rattray

Relevant Loper family information - (sources following)

     No doubt, even in the early days of settlement far-sighted men in East Hampton appreciated that killing whales at sea would be much more efficient than waiting for the animals to beach themselves. Harvesting whales in open water seems such an obvious improvement that one wonders why it took so long for the villagers to take this step. The question, however, only betrays a profound ignorance of the complexity of the challenge. Not until James Loper arrived in East Hampton in 1666 did the local farmers learn the difficulties posed by what they came to call the "Whale Design." First, one required a substantial amount of capital, more money certainly than an ordinary stockman would possess. A whaler not only needed a small boat--usually described in contemporary records as a "canoe"--but also an expensive iron kettle in which to turn the blubber into marketable oil. These investments represented only the start. The task demanded harpoons, special knives, an array of tools, and access to tightly-fitted barrels capable of carrying the liquid product to New York or Boston, London or Amsterdam.  Second, each step in the process demanded patience and knowledge. The slightest misjudgment during the preparation of the oil could ruin the entire batch. No wonder that a 1672 petition drawn up by various towns on the eastern end of Long Island confessed to having "spent much time, pains, and expense for the settling of a trade of whale-fishing in the adjacent seas, having endeavoured it above 20 years, but could not bring it to any perfection till within the past two or three years."

     Although the East Hampton whalers never achieved perfection, they did quite well for themselves. The returns on capital investment were impressive. As Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, a royal governor of New York explained, "a Yearling [whale] will make about forty Barrils of Oyl, a Stunt or Whale two years old will make sometimes fifty, sometimes sixty Barrils of Oyl; and the largest whale that I have heard of in these parts, yielded one hundred and ten barrils." With high quality oil selling on the open market for between one and two pounds sterling, a skilled East Hampton entrepreneur could hope to make a tidy sum from the "Whale Design." The good economic fortune of the Long Island whalers caught the attention of commentators in Massachusetts, and one informed New England readers in 1678 that the inhabitants of East Hampton "of late have fallen upon killing of whales, that frequent the south side of the Island in the latter part of the winter, wherein they have a notable kind of dexterity; and the trade that ariseth therefrom hath been very beneficial to all at that end of the Island." 
Source: Transcript of Lecture Delivered by Timothy Breen, PhD., Sunday October 11, 1998, Trade and Community: East Hampton's Curious Commercial Origins

     In the beginning, the European settlers had been satisfied with cutting up carcasses that drifted ashore during storms. The arrival of one of these "drift" whales heralded a village bonanza, because whale oil burned with a much cleaner, brighter flame than tallow, even if the blubber from which the oil was rendered had been rotten. Not only did the pioneers use it themselves, but it could be sold in New York for a gratifying sum. Then, as the Long Islanders noticed the yearly migrations of right whales just a few miles offshore, and learned that the Indians had a tradition of taking their canoes out after them, they took a more entrepreneurial stance. Instead of waiting for the whales to die of natural causes, they hired Indians to go out and kill them, supplying the crews with cedar boats, iron harpoons, and lances, all of which were much more efficient than the dugout canoes, bone harpoons, and bows and arrows that had been the old tools of the trade. The carcasses were towed up to the beach, where the Indians' employers waited with knives and cutting spades to flense the blubber and then boil--or "try out"--the oil in "try-pot" cauldrons that had been set up on the sand. This was known as shore whaling. As time went by, the Indians realized they were in a strong negotiating position. Not only did they become much more expensive to hire, but there were too few of them to meet the growing demand. So the settlers were forced to take a more active role, going out in the boats themselves.
     This enterprise proved so successful that in 1672 James Loper of East Hampton was invited to Nantucket to teach the Nantucketers how to whale. Other shore settlements, including Edgartown in Martha's Vineyard, also followed the Long Islanders' lead.
SOURCE: In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon, Joan Druett (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004), pp. 23-25 page 344 (No. 43, May 14, 1830)


               MR FESSENDEN — The following petition of James Loper of Cape Cod, taken in connexion with the records of Nantucket, proves that the Whale Fishery commenced at the Cape as early as 1666, and some years prior to its establishment in Nantucket. At the first settlement of that island and Martha's Vineyard, laws were made by the inhabitants, directing the manner in which 'drift whales' should be disposed of, but I know of no proof than the whale fishery commenced prior to 1666. It is supposed by some that the business was commenced at Nantucket in 1671, by the same Mr Loper, 11 years after the settlement of the island.
            J. COFFIN.
To his Excellency Sir Edmund Andros, Knight, Captain General and Governor in Cheife of his Majestie's Territory in New England.

     The humble petition of Jacobus Loper Humbly sheweth—
    That the petitioner for the space of 22 years and upward hath practised catching, killing and trying of whales for oyle & finding of late small benefit accruing to him by the same for that he hath met with many abuses in the attending on the said employ.
    That the petitioner by his long experience hath tried many inventions and devices relating to the premises, and being minded to goe on said design again, and to use his endeavors for promoting making of oyle by a new invention or inventions of the petitioner, which he is not willing to disclose or discover to any, Therefore humbly prays your Excellency will be pleased to grant him a patent for the space of 12 years next after the date hereof for the catching and killing all sorts of oyle fish as hath not ever been killed by any whalemen in this country, and he may have a birth to kill whales in, or any other oyle fish and trying the same up on any part North of a West line from Pamet river in Cape Cod, and not to be hindered or molested by any person or persons upon any sort of oyle fish in that bounds, and especially that all persons within any part of this government may be prohibited from making use of the petitioner's new invention or inventions for the taking any sort of oyle fish in said time and your petitioner shall ever pray.
                JAMES LOPER.
Source: New England Farmer and Horticultural Journal, containing essays, original and selected, relating to agriculture and domestic economy; with engravings, and the prices of country produce.Vol. VIII Thomas G Fessenden, editor. Boston: John B. Russell July 1829 - July 1830