James H. Causten


James Hyman Causten (1788-1874)  (Archives of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore)


The Caustens were a merchant family of Baltimore, sending ships to South America, the West Indies, and Europe, trading in flour, coffee, tobacco, rice, logwood, cigars, and spice. Isaac Causten, a veteran of the American Revolution who died in 1833, is buried in the churchyard of what was formerly Westminster Presbyterian Church, Fayette & Greene Streets, Baltimore.

Isaac Causten’s son, James Hyman Causten, was born in Baltimore. He enlisted in the navy in the War of 1812, and served on USS Constellation; the Navy List says he was a purser. In about 1817 he married Eliza Myer (1792-1856); their eldest son James Hyman Causten, Jr., was born in Baltimore, 1818.

By 1826 Causten had begun his legal career as claims agent in the matter of French Spoliations –– American ships captured by privateers during the “Quasi-War” between the United States and France (1797-1801)–– for which claims were assumed by the United States as part of the Louisiana Convention; Causten acted on behalf of Americans claimants petitioning Congress for indemnification. (As late as 1924 some claims had not been settled.)

“James H. Causten, late of Baltimore, having located his dwelling and office opposite the State and Treasury office, will undertake settlement of claims generally, and before Congress, etc.” (Intelligencer, July 19, 1832)



Richmond, Va    June 3. 1836.

Dr Sir,

Understanding that you have been engaged, at different times, in the prosecution of private claims against the Government of the U.S. I have taken the liberty of addressing you on a subject of this nature. I believe you were personally acquainted with some branches of my family in Baltimore. I am the son of David Poe Jr of that city. It appears to me (and to some others to whom I have mentioned the subject) that my aunt, Mrs Maria Clemm (who now resides with me in Richmond, I having married her daughter) has a claim against the U.S. to a large amount which might be carried to a successful issue if properly managed. I will state, as briefly as possible, the nature of the claim, of which I pretend to give merely an outline, not vouching for particular dates or amounts.

During the war of the Revolution, Mrs C’s father, Gen: David Poe, was a quarter-master in what was then called the Maryland line. He, at various times, loaned money to the State of Maryland, and about seventeen years ago died, while engaged in making arrangements for the prosecution of his claim. His widow, Mrs Elizabeth Poe, applied to the State Government, which, finding itself too impoverished to think of paying the whole amount (then nearly $40,000) passed a bill, for the immediate time, granting Mrs Poe an annuity of $240 — thus tacitly acknowledging the validity of the vouchers adduced. Mrs Poe is now dead, and I am inclined to believe, from the successful prosecution of several claims of far less promise, but of a similar nature, that the whole claim might be substantiated before the General Government — which has provided for a liberal interpretation of all vouchers in such cases. Among these vouchers (now in proper form at Annapolis) are, I believe, letters from Washington, La Fayette, & many others speaking in high terms of the services and patriotism of Gen: Poe. I have never seen the bill granting the annuity to Mrs Poe, but it may possibly contain a proviso against any future claim. This however, would be of little moment, if the matter were properly brought before Congress.

My object in addressing you is to inquire if you would be willing to investigate and conduct this claim — leaving the terms for your own consideration. Mrs C. authorizes me to act for her in every respect. I would be glad to hear from you as soon as you can make it convenient.

Very resply

Yr Ob. St

Edgar A. Poe


(Archives of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, University of Baltimore)



Marriage: Senor Don Manuel Carvallo, charge d’affaires from Chili, to Miss Mary E. Causten, daughter of James H. Causten of Washington City. (National Intelligencer, November 7, 1834)

Marriage: Joseph Shriver of Cumberland, Maryland, to Miss Henrietta J. Causten, eldest daughter of James H. Causten of Washington City (National Intelligencer, December 6, 1834). (A descendant of this marriage was Sargent Shriver.)

Causten bought a town house on F Street, near 15th, in 1837; and Weston, his summer house, in 1843.


Weston, James H. Causten's country place, as it appeared in 1886 (photo courtesy of a descendant).

Weston, James H. Causten’s country place, as it appeared in 1886 (photo courtesy of a descendant).


When Dolley Madison died in 1849, she was placed in the Causten vault at Congressional Cemetery by James H. Causten, father-in-law of Madison’s niece. In 1857 the Causten family had Madison reinterred at Montpelier.  (National Intelligencer, Saturday, July 14, 16, 17, 1849; Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery)

Mrs. Causten died suddenly, summer of 1856, at Weston.

October,1856, also at Weston, her oldest son –– who had married Anna Payne, adopted daughter of Dolly Payne Madison –– died. Dr. James H. Causten, Jr., had retired early from the practice of medicine to engage in translation of documents (almost certainly in connection with French Spoliation claims).

1856-1861, Causten was a vestryman of St. Alban’s Church (3001 Wisconsin Avenue, NW); James and Eliza have a memorial there, the Joseph of Arimathea window.

In 1861, Causten was an immediate and staunch supporter of the Union. He endeared himself to the men of the 79th New York who camped opposite Causten’s Weston in the weeks before Bull Run, and he made the officers of the Signal Corps, who succeeded the 79th on Red Hill, welcome in his house.

Soldiers passing between Georgetown and Tenleytown could refresh themselves at the gate, where there was a barrel of drinking water, and one of crackers, placed there by the owner.

Causten’s son, Manuel Carvallo Causten––known as Tom––was one of the first Union prisoners of war, and Causten’s daughter Alice Eliza Causten (“Lucky”) married Benjamin F. Fisher, one of the Signal Corps officers, in 1864.

Died suddenly, on March 10, at Cumberland, Md., of heart disease, Henrietta Jane Shriver, wife of Joseph Shriver of that city, and eldest daughter of James H. Causten of Washington City. (National Intelligencer, March 13, 1863)

McClintock Young, old citizen of DC, died of smallpox at age 62; he had been chief clerk of the Treasury under President Jackson. (Star, May 5, 1863)

Died on March 17, Washington Carvallo, aged 26 years, son of His Excellency Manuel Carvallo, late Chilian minister at Wash for many years, and now Chilian minister to Belgium, residing at Brussels, and grandson of James H. Causten, our aged and respected fellow citizen. (National Intelligencer, May 9, 1865)

James H. Causten made his will in 1873 and died 1874. His executors were Josephine Causten Young –– widow of McClintock Young (1801-1863) –– and Tom Causten. (Star, November 11, 1874)

(Causten may have converted to Catholicism, perhaps because of his wife. A rift developed between Causten and his daughter Alice Fisher, and he disinherited her.)


A venerable and much respected citizen, Mr. James H. Causten, died last night, in the 87th year of his age. Mr. Causten was born in Baltimore, September 26, 1788, and has been a resident of the District for the forty-two years past. He was consul for the republics of Chili and Equador for a considerable period, and has been widely known for many years as the agent for the French Spoliation Claims,” the payment of which he urged with eloquence and indefatigable energy, but which, just as they undoubtedly are, the country never found it convenient to pay, and he died without seeing the fruition of his long labor. Mr. Causten served as a soldier in the war of 1812, and he was one of the staunchest Union men in feeling during the late rebellion. His memory will be held in respect by all who knew him.

(Evening Star, October 29, 1874)




“Rambler Records Tale of Album Which Was A Real Benefactor”

(Evening Star, March 20, 1927, pt.5, p.3)

“Three notes have come to me because of mention the Rambler made a few weeks ago of the Causten tomb in Congressional Cemetery. This indication of interest moved me to look up some records relating to James H. Causten. The chisel has written on the vault that he was born at Baltimore in 1788 and died at Washington in 1874. The greater number of his years were passed in the District, his town home being on the south side of F street northwest, his lot beginning 60 feet east of Fifteenth street and having a width of 34 feet and 10 inches and a depth of 96 feet. That lot is covered by the Washington Hotel.

He owned a place in the country facing the east side of the Rockville road (Wisconsin avenue). It had a frontage of a quarter of a mile on that road and the north line of the farm divided it from the grounds of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and the Cathedral of SS. Peter & Paul. It seems likely to me that a thin segment at the north side of the great circle in which the Naval Observatory stands may have been part of the Causten farm. It is my belief that no part of the cathedral grounds was in the lines of the Causten tract. Massachusetts avenue, after skirting the north side of the observatory circle, passes diagonally, southeast and northwest through Mr. Causten’s farm, and his house and farm buildings were south of Massachusetts avenue and about 650 feet east of Wisconsin avenue. The time I have in mind was many years before Massachusetts avenue was extended from Rock Creek to Wisconsin avenue.

The name of the Causten farm was Weston and that was its name before Mr. Causten bought the land from Septimus Davis in 1843. I compute that Weston contained 45 acres, but my measurement was made with a strip of paper on which I marked the scale of the map which showed the farm lines. Weston is now run through with streets—Edmunds, Fulton and Garfield, Thirty-sixth place, Thirty-sixth street, Thirty-fifth place, Thirty-fifth street and by any rough measurement Thirty-fourth place is in part within the lines of Weston.

Before showing you the wills and deeds in this case, I would have you read what follows, which I take from the last “ramble” on Commodore Thomas Tingey, which I wrote on February 5 and, I believe was printed Sunday, February 20:

“I stopped at a vault inscribed ‘James H. Causten.’ Chiseled on the vault was ‘A. Mary de Carvallo, Suamante esposo,’ (To Mary deCarvallo. Her loving husband.) The vault was built in 1835. The door is flanked by two slabs inscribed ‘Inexorable Death’s Doings—Mary Elizabeth Carvallo, wife of Manuel Carvallo, Minister of Chili at Washington, Born at Baltimore, 1815, died March 20, 1851, at Washington; Eliza Carvallo, daughter of Manuel and Mary E. Carvallo and granddaughter of James H. and Eliza Causten, born at Santiago de Chili June 1, 1836, died at Washington June 22, 1853; James Causten Carvallo, died at Washington, 1851; Washington Carvallo, died at Washington, 1865; Manuel Carvallo, Chilean Minister to Belgium, France and England, son-in-law of James H. and Eliza Causten, born at Santiago de Chile, in 1806, died at Compeigne, France, July 24, 1867. His remains removed to Chile.’

“On the opposite slab this: ‘Eliza Causten, wife of James H. Causten, born at Baltimore, Nv. 1, 1792, died at Weston farm, near Georgetown, July 27, 1856; Charles Isaac Causten, son of James H. and Eliza, died at Washington August 8, 1833; James H. Causten, jr., M.D., son of James H. and Eliza, born at Baltimore July 18, 1816, died at Weston farm Oct. 31, 1856; Annie Payne Causten; wife of Dr. James H. Causten, daughter of John C. and Clara W. Payne of Orange County, Va., died Nov. 9, 1852; Henrietta Jane Shriver, wife of Joseph Shriver, daughter of James H. and Eliza Causten, born at Baltimore May 15, 1814, died at Cumberland, Md., March 10, 1863. Buried there, ‘Josephine Shriver, daughter of Joseph and Henrietta Jane Shriver, born at Cumberland, August, 1843, died at Frederick City, Md., February 14, 1849; McClintock Young, son-in-law of James H. and Eliza Causten, born at Baltimore March 21, 1801, died May, 1863.’”

James H. Causten’s deed to Weston was recorded September 23, 1843. It is from “Septimus Davis of Weston and the County of Washington, in the District of Columbia, of the one part,” to “James H. Causten of the city of Washington of the other part.” The consideration was $6,500. The sum of $2,500 was “in hand paid” and two promissory notes were given, each for $2,000 “at three and six months respectively.” Septimus Davis sells “that tract of or parcel of land in the County of Washington, on the east side of the road leading from Georgetown to Tenley Town, and which is now called Weston, and while was conveyed by Walter S. Chandler to Thomas L. McKinney, November 8, 1817, excepting a part of the said land, containing 30 acres, more or less, which has been sold by Buckner Thruston to Joseph Nourse, as the same is described in his deed to the said Nourse.” The Davis deed to Thruston was to satisfy a loan of $4,000. The mortgage and costs were paid by Davis, evidently with the aid of Causten, and Thruston and Davis gave a deed to Causten July 25, 1843, for the 30 acres that were part of Weston.

The deed of Walter Story Chandler of Washington County to Thomas L. McKenney of the same county, conveying the tract subsequently called “Weston,” was recorded November 21, 1817. The consideration was $1,500, and the land is described in part “as all that piece of land, being part of a tract called ‘Pretty Prospect,’ beginning at a stone marked ‘A’ standing at the intersection of the third and fourth courses of a conveyance made by the said Walter S. Chandler to Thomas Plater for part of said tract of land about January 3, 1806.” There is a long account of degrees and perches, and of such boundary marks as “a small spring under a maple tree” and “a bounded oak tree that is now a stump.” The land sold to McKenney joined land that had been sold by William Craik to Walter S. Chandler in 1810, land conveyed by John Rousby Plate to Walter S. Chandler in 1810, land conveyed by Chandler to Philip Barton Key in 1810 and land conveyed by Chandler to Richard Harrison in 1810. The west line of the land conveyed by Chandler to McKenney was on the east side of the Georgetown-Frederick road. Chandler’s wife was Margaret.

James H. Causten bought the property on the south side of F street, 60 feet east of Fifteenth, in 1837. James H. Causten conveyed the home lot, under certain trusts, to his son, James H. Causten, June 24, 1843. Mr. Causten, sr., was no doubt arranging to buy Weston and move to the country, and desired to turn his city home over to his son. The deed reads that “the F street lot extended to the northwest corner of the house and ground, part of the lot 9, square 225, conveyed by William Thornton to Julius Forrest, thence southerly 96 feet to the southwest corner of the said Julius Forrest’s lot No. 9, being that land which was conveyed to James H. Causten by Robert M. Gibbs of Baltimore, May 8, 1837.”

The deed continues: “In trust for the sole use and benefit, free of rent and charges of every kind of my beloved wife Eliza Causten during her natural life, and also, as a slight token of affection endeared by her unfailing love through nearly 30 years past, and thereafter for the use and benefit in equal proportions of my children by the said Eliza, to wit: Henrietta, the wife of Joseph Shriver of Cumberland, Md.; Mary, the wife of Manuel Carvallo of the city of Santiago in Chili, James H. Causten, Jr., of the city of Washington, and Josephine, the wife of McClintock Young of the City of Washington; Alice Causten, now aged about seven years, of the city of Washington, and Carvallo Causten, now about two years old, of the city of Washington.” The deed was signed in the presence of Justice of the Peace Thomas B. VanZandt and N. Callan, jr.

The will of James H. Causten was witnessed October 3, 1873, and filed for probate December 15, 1874. I quote the following from it:  “In the name of God, Amen. Whereas I have arrived at an age 85 years, when the thoughts are irresistibly drawn to the near termination of my career on earth, and being now in improved health, both in mind and body, and therefore fully capable to define my will and disposition of my worldly affairs so that my heirs shall have but little trouble in carrying the same into effect. I hereby declare that my real and personal estate shall be distributed as follows:

“1. That within six months after my death my farm, called Weston, situated quite near and north of Georgetown, D.C., on the Tenallytown turnpike road, shall be sold at public or private sale as my executors shall elect and that the avails of such sale, shall be distributed thus: Ten thousand dollars thereof shall be paid or secured to my daughter Josephine C. Young, if then living, or to her surviving children then living in equal shares, and that the residue of such avails, together with the avails of the entire of my other real estate and personal property shall be distributed thus: viz—”

“2. To the then surviving children of my deceased daughter, Henriette J. Shriver, one-fourth part of the aggregate fund above indicated. To the then surviving children of my deceased daughter, Mary C. Carvallo, one-fourth part of the aggregate fund above indicated. To my daughter, Joseph C Young, if then living or to her surviving children one-fourth part of the aggregate fund above indicated, being in addition to the $10,000 hereinbefore mentioned. To my son, Manuel C. Causten, if then living, or to his then surviving children one-fourth part of the aggregate fund above indicated.”

“To my daughter, Alice E. Fisher and to my granddaughter, Mary C. Kunkle, I leave nothing of my estate, but deep regret that their recent manifestations of alienation and unkindness have obliterated the long-enduring affections I had cherished for them from their birth.”

The executors named were Josephine C. Young and Manuel C. Causten. The witnesses were Charles T. Larner, Allen Harrett and N. Cullan. A codicil was filed which modified the direction as to the sale of “Weston,” leaving the time and manner of the sale to the discretion of the executors. Until such sale, Josephine C. Young and her children were to enjoy possession of the farm ‘Weston,’ together with all the buildings, farming stock, utensils and crops and household furniture in the dwelling, free from all deductions and charges whatever, including taxes.”

The will of James H. Causten, jr., was signed in August, 1856. It was not witnessed, but was proved in October, 1856, to be the writing and signature of J.H. Causten, jr., on the testimony of Nicholas Callan, justice of the peace, and Joseph H. Bradley. He left all of his property to “my dear child, Mary Carvallo Causten, the only issue of my marriage with my beloved wife, Annie Payne Causten, now deceased.” The testator wrote: “Should she die before the age of 21, viz., before the 8th day of August, 1872, the property bequeathed to her shall be paid to John C. Payne of Haskinsville, Ky., and to my sister, Josephine C. Young, if living, or for the benefit of her children; if she be deceased the remainder of my estate to be divided among my remaining sisters and brother of their children, if they be deceased.” He named “my friend and brother-in-law, Joseph Shriver, of Cumberland” as executor.

The Rambler has looked up the Caustens in four early directors of Washington. In the directory of 1843 this: “James H. Causten, agent and notary public, south side F between 14th & 15th north, near 15th,” and “James H. Causten, Jun. Physician, south side F between Fourteenth and Fifteenth, near Fifteenth.” The directory of 1850: “J.N. Causten, south side F between Fourteenth and Fifteenth.” The directory of 1860: “James H. Causten, notary public, 209 F north.” The directory of 1870: “James H. Causten, notary public, 1424 F northwest,” and “Manuel C. Causten, clerk, 58 Fredrick, Georgetown.”

I am told that Annie Payne, who became the wife of Dr. James H. Causten, was a niece of Dolly Madison. You have seen that a daughter of James H. Causten, sr. – Henrietta – married Joseph Shriver of Cumberland. They had children, Robert, Eliza, Charles, Mary, Henrietta and Alice. Eliza lives in Oakland, Md., in Summer and in Washington in Winter. Henrietta lives in Cumberland. They are the survivors among the children of Henrietta Causten Shriver. Eliza married Stanley Fundenberg of Cumberland and, with her daughter, Miss Thekla Causten Fundenberg, is in Washington. Mrs. Fundenberg, granddaughter of James H. Causten of Weston, has passed her eighty-eighth year and is otherwise a remarkable woman.

I am told that “Weston,” after passing from the Causten family, was named Ruthven Lodge, and if you are interested in this I will look it up. I heard of these Causten descendants in Washington in this way: When I wrote of the tombs in Congressional Cemetery, John Hadley Doyle wrote me that he visited the Causten country home when he was a boy, and I printed the letter. Then John received the following letter:

“My Dr. Mr. Doyle: As a great-granddaughter of James H. Causten, I want to thank you for the note you sent the Rambler in tribute to him. My mother, Eliza Shriver Fundenberg, and I are at the Wyoming Apartments and would be very pleased to hve you make us a visit and have a talk over old days at Weston. She remembers all that fine fruit and many happy days. She has recently celebrated her eighty-eighth birthday, and has been visiting Washington since she was a little girl. Our home is in Oakland, Md., but we spend each Winter here, so Washington is our second home. Very sincerely yours. Miss Thekla Causten Fundenberg.”

In connection with the Causten story the following letter came to the Rambler from Elizabeth Du Hamel, 1120 Euclid street.“Mr. J. Hadley Doyle’s account of Mr. James H. Causten was most interesting, and my only regret is that he did not allude to the brave and romantic fight that Mr. Causten made to secure the passage of the bill for the French spoliation claims. The amount of energy he gave to the matter deserved a noble reward. Thirty years ago I was one day entertaining Miss Maraquita Carvallo with that amiable parlor pastime of viewing the photograph album. When we came to the picture of Mr. Causten she informed me he was her great-grandfather. I asked if she possessed his photograph and with a sigh, she replied, ‘No.’ I spent a few moments of silent self-debate, in which I concluded that a judge as wise as Solomon might award her this treasure, since she was the man’s relative and I was not. I therefore concluded to rid myself of all qualms by presenting the picture to her. She has since married and is living in Chile. I am sure she has taught her boys and girls to revere the memory of their great-great-grandfather.”

“There has been a distribution of prizes on many occasions from my treasured old album, and since the pictures have gone, it sometimes seems like a little chapel from which the windows have been taken. However, I know these pictures are hanging on walls where they are honored by their descendants as if they were stained-glass saints. One of the last of the photographs that I gave away was that of the late Miss Abbie Fessenden. The recipient was her cousin, Miss Lucy Fessenden. Both of these ladies are nieces of William Pitt Fessenden. Would not an old album be a source of a dozen topics upon which you might build your stories? If mine possessed its original richness I would delight in lending it to you. However, I feel sure you are congratulating me that the contents of mine have gone in such a good cause.”

(“Rambler Records Tale of Album Which Was A Real Benefactor”, Evening Star, March 20, 1927, pt.5, p.3)




See also:


Causten Family Papers, Georgetown University Special Collections, gift of Josephine Causten Young


Causten-Pickett Papers, 1765-1916, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Abstract: James H. Causten, businessman of Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., who worked to settle French spoliation claims; John T. Pickett, United States and Confederate diplomat and army officer, and lawyer of Washington, D.C.; and Pickett’s son, Theodore John Pickett, lawyer of Washington, D.C., who succeeded to Causten’s interest in the claims cases. Correspondence, insurance policies, powers of attorney, promissory notes, bills of exchange, American and French court records, ship case files, other financial and legal papers, printed matter, and other papers relating chiefly to French spoliation claims.


French Spoliation Claims: Report of the Secretary of State, 1886.


George A. King, The French Spoliation Claims, reprinted from the American Journal of International Law, 1912, with additions, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1916


Digested Summary and Alphabetical Lists of Private Claims Which Have Been Presented to the House of Representatives, and Lists of Private Claims Brought Before the Senate of the United States.


Causten obituaries, and other news items, researched by the historians of Congressional Cemetery:







 Carlton Fletcher

 The citation and acknowledgement of my research is greatly appreciated.

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