The Cabot family

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The Cabot coat of arms

Francis Cabot (1668- ), John Cabot (1680-1742) and George Cabot

Sebastian Cabot

Some people believe that the famous explorer and navigator, Sebastian Cabot, was part of the Jersey Cabot family, but this is not so. He was born in Venice, of Venetian parents, and brought up in England. He and his father, John, are credited with discovering North America.

However, it was two of the Jersey Cabots, brothers George and a different John, who were the ancestors of the Cabot families of America.

The eldest son of Francois Cabot and Suzanne Gruchy, Francis emigrated to America in 1700 with his two brothers. George became a joiner at Boston and his descendants were pioneers of the Wild West, establishing many farming families.

Francis returned to the British Isles in 1701, leaving his two brothers behind, became a successful and wealthy merchant in Southampton. He was Sheriff of the town in 1716 and Mayor nine years later. His son Francis was Sheriff in his turn in 1735.

Salem and Boston

John Cabot settled in Salem, where he was also a successful merchant. He was the founder of the main Cabot family of Boston, where an old toast goes:

So here's to dear old Boston
Home of the bean and the cod
Where the Lowells speak only to Cabots
And the Cabots speak only to God

But the Cabots speak only to God".

From lowly beginnings he became one of the wealthiest men in the colony, marrying Anna Orne of Salem and having nine children. Many of his descendants were involved in the mercantile trade and earned fortunes of their own from privateering, the slave trade and trafficking opium.

The Cabot family

The family's initial business was dory building and a branch of the family followed the tradition until recent times. Another branch of the family, led by John Cabot, made a fortune organizing privateering expeditions.

The Cabot family's rise to prominence in Boston's social circles was facilitated by wealth gained through marriage and commerce. Shipping during the eighteenth century was the lifeblood of most of Boston’s first families, who usually got their start with the help of "The King of Shipping" Colonel Thomas Perkins. The first great merchant of the Cabot family was George Cabot, who left Harvard to become a cabin boy on a shipping vessel. He worked his way through shipping to become extraordinarily wealthy, reportedly making profits of $900,000 on a single ship. Cabot made his fortune like many first families through the triangle trade with Africa for slaves and also rum, and wine. He also was involved in smuggling during the American Revolution, along with many other first families. One of the earliest US Supreme Court cases, Bingham v Cabot involved a family shipping dispute.

Samuel Cabot provided the next influx of money into the Cabot family by combining the first family staples of marrying money and working in shipping. He moved from Salem to Boston, and in 1812 married the daughter of merchant king Colonel Perkins. Seeing the opportunities in shipping that followed the war of 1812, Cabot became a partner in Perkin’s firm and died a millionaire.

The Cabots, like all surviving first families, continued their legacy as Boston elite through the money of various businessmen with fortuitous timing. Eventually the Cabots moved their interests from shipping to textiles and chemicals. John Cabot, son of the founding Cabots, established America’s first cotton mill in 1787 in Beverly, Massachusetts. Godfrey Lowell Cabot was founder of the worlds largest carbon black producer in the country, which was used for inks and paints.

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