Dr. Johannes Kaspar Richter von Kronenschieldt

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Johannes Kaspar Richter von Kronenschieldt (Richter)

Also Known As: "Johannes Crowninshield", "John Crowninshield", "Johannes Richter", "Johann Richter", "Johann Crowninshield"
Birthdate: (50)
Birthplace: Leipzig, Saxony, Germany
Death: December 19, 1711 (50)
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
Immediate Family:

Son of Johannes Kaspar Richter and Maria Richter (Hahn)
Husband of Elizabeth Crowninshield (Allen)
Father of Capt. John Crowninshield; Clifford Crowninshield; Elizabeth Crowninshield; Mary Crowninshield and Richard Crowninshield

Occupation: Doctor
Managed by: Ashley Odell
Last Updated:

About Dr. Johannes Kaspar Richter von Kronenschieldt

Johannes Kaspar Richter von Kronenschieldt II is the progenitor of one of Boston's great "Brahmin" families, the Crowninshields. He is best remembered for his unique self-made success in New England and the political and economic influence of his children and descendants.

Early Life in Germany

Von Kronenschieldt was born in Leipzig in 1661 to a father of Danish heritage and a Saxon mother. He was christened on June 22 at St. Thomas Church, better known as the Thomaskirche, in Leipzig. A Lutheran congregation, the Thomaskirche has been famous since the 12th century as home to many of Leipzig's most prominent congregants. (Johann Sebastian Bach was cantor of the church and is buried there.) Their status as members of the Thomaskirche, combined with the fact that they were able to send their son to university, point to the von Kronenschieldts being a socially-prominent family during this time.

Von Kronenschieldt was privileged enough to gain admission to the Universität Leipzig, where he studied medicine. He was known to speak Latin in addition to German and English, had travelled in England and Ireland, and enjoyed discussing philosophy. His studies came to an abrupt halt, however, after he engaged in a duel with either a faculty member or a fellow student – historical reports vary – and found himself needing to leave Germany. In 1688, von Kronenschieldt II sailed for Boston, Massachusetts -- becoming the first Crowninshield, as the family became known, in America.

Early Life in America

He arrived in Boston in 1688 and quickly Anglicized his name to John Crowninshield in order to fit into the predominantly English Boston community. He also began to practice as a doctor, even though he had not completed his medical studies in Leipzig. Through his medical work, he met Elizabeth Allen, born August 17, 1672 in Lynn, Massachusetts to Jacob (sometimes miswritten as Jedediah) Allen and Elizabeth Clifford.

John's marriage to Elizabeth proved to be an important social move on his part. Both of her parents came from well-to-do families, and following the death of his father-in-law, "Dr. Crowninshield" was able to gain control of a 500-acre estate straddling the line between Lynn and its neighboring town, Salem. This estate, known as Spring Pond, became a popular spot for the Boston-area elite to visit. Dr. Crowninshield and Elizabeth entertained, among others, famous Puritan minister Cotton Mather and his father, Harvard president Increase Mather, at their estate. (In particular, many were attracted by the "healing springs" there than Dr. Crowninshield promoted.)

As noted by the Register of the Lynn Historical Society in 1913, it is quite remarkable that "[t]he Crowninshield family which in later generations became so prominent in Massachusetts affairs was cradled in a cottage on the extreme verge of Lynn by the ruddy spring upon an estate party in Salem, partly in Lynn." By Anglicizing himself and marrying wisely into the social elite, Dr. Crowninshield set the stage for his offspring to join the ranks of the emerging "Boston Brahmin" class.

The Birth of the Crowninshield Dynasty

Dr. Crowninshield and his wife, Elizabeth, were married on December 5, 1694 and began their family shortly thereafter. In total, they had five children: John (b. January 19, 1696), Clifford (b. December 10, 1699), Elizabeth (b. June 3, 1704), Mary (b. July 2, 1706), and Richard (b. December 28, 1708). Mary died in infancy on October 1, 1706; Elizabeth was also lost at a young age.

The three Crowninshield sons, however, each married women from established New England families. On September 21, 1722 in Salem, John married Anstiss Williams, who came from a distinguished Devonshire family that had been among the earliest settlers of Rockingham, New Hampshire. They had seven children – Anstis and Elizabeth (b. April 27, 1727), John (b. December 21, 1728), Sarah (b. April 30, 1730), Jacob (b. January 9, 1732), George (b. August 6, 1734), and Benjamin (b. March 26, 1737) – each of whom would go on to personal prosperity or would marry into it. Crucial for future business and political relationships, Elizabeth would go on to marry Elias Hasket Derby, a wealthy Salem merchant, on April 23, 1761, linking the Crowninshields to their closest rivals in Salem, the Derbys.

Clifford married Martha Hillard (sometimes Hilliard) on May 15, 1721 in Salem. Although their marriage did not result in any children, it tied the Crowninshields to the families of her parents, Joseph Hillard and Rachel Allen. They, like John and Anstiss, remained in Salem.

Richard, meanwhile, married Elizabeth Day, a Providence-born descendant of several New England notables and founding families, on August 21, 1734 and had five children with her – Elizabeth (b. June 27, 1735), James (b. February 21, 1736), Richard (b. August 4, 1739), Sarah (b. July 24, 1741), and Bethia (b. July 30, 1744). They began their married life in Uxbridge, Massachusetts but eventually settled in her native Providence, where they had their latter four children.

Each of these children, especially John, would go on to great economic and social success in New England.

Death in Massachusetts

Von Kronenschieldt died of natural causes on December 19, 1711 in Boston. His grave has never been located, but he is believed to have been buried at or near Spring Pond.

Notable Descendants

Among the notable living descendants of Von Kronenschieldt are:

Among his notable deceased descendants are:


The Crowninshield Family Association has relied on an extensive collection of primary sources to compile the above history, including baptismal records from Germany, marriage and birth records from Massachusetts, and contemporary accounts of von Kronenschieldt's life. Many records are held in the collections of the Peabody-Essex Museum.

Secondary sources include:

  • Arrington, Benjamin F. Municipal History of Essex County in Massachusetts. Boston: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1922.
  • Cushing, Elizabeth Hope. The Lynn Album: A Pictorial History. Virginia Beach, VA: Donning Co., 1990.
  • Ferguson, David L. Cleopatra's Barge: The Crowninshield Story. 1976.
  • Lewis, Alonzo and James R. Newhall. History of Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts. Boston: Shorey Publishing, 1865.
  • Register of the Lynn Historical Society, 1913.

Authorship Note

The above biographical essay is courtesy of the Crowninshield Family Association and is used with permission. Permission is not granted to reproduce it off of Geni.

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Dr. Johannes Kaspar Richter von Kronenschieldt's Timeline

June 22, 1661
Leipzig, Saxony, Germany
June 22, 1661
Leipzig, Saxony, Germany
January 19, 1696
Age 34
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
December 10, 1699
Age 38
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
June 3, 1704
Age 42
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
July 23, 1706
Age 45
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
December 28, 1708
Age 47
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
December 19, 1711
Age 50
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts