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Died: c. 1737

James was a master buider who came to Philadelphia in the service of William Wade, yeoman of the parish of Hankton, Sussex, who died on board on Welcome bound for Pennsylvania in 1682. Under the terms of Wade's will, Porteus (the name is variously spelled Portis, Poultis, Porteus, Portuous, Porties, Portius, Porteus, and Portus) was remanded for the balance of his term to John Songhurst, carpenter, in whose will he is mentioned as a servant in 1687. By the time of the 1693 Philadelphia tax, he was listed as one of the freeman "who have been out of their servitude by the space of 6 mos.," and worth less than 100 pounds. He applied for his headland in 1704. Scharf and Westcott give the construction of Samuel Carpenter's "Slate Roof House" of c. 1698 (Second above Walnut Streets) to Portues, although no contemporary documentation for this oft-repeated attribution has been discovered. Extensive payments for work and materials as Christ Church, c. 1711-1714, do survive and he appears to have built Isaac Norris's "Fair Hill" of c. 1716-17. Like most of his contemporaries, Portues is recorded as having been responsible for a number of minor civic improvements and served as a City Commissioner, 1723-26. The Carpenters' Company listed him as an early member in 1786, but no Company records prior to the 1760s survive to confirm that claim. By the time of his death, Porteus was a man of property with two Negro and two Indian slaves. William Rakestraw was his apprentice and Edward Warner and Joseph Fox his heirs and executors.

Written by Roger W. Moss.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • Carpenters' Company of Philadelphia


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