Search billions of records on Ancestry.com
   

 

 


TRADE IN COLONIAL DAYS

The Ships and Sailors of Old Salem

by Ralph D Paine; McClurg, 1908

 


Chapter 1:

A PORT OF VANISHED FLEETS

AMERICAN ships and sailors have almost vanished from the seas that lie beyond their own coasts. The twentieth century has forgotten the era when Yankee topsails, like flying clouds, flecked every ocean, when tall spars forested every Atlantic port from Portland to Charleston, and when the American spirit of adventurous enterprise and rivalry in its finest flower on the decks of our merchant squadrons. The last great chapter of the nation's life on blue water was written in the days of the matchless clippers which swept round the Horn to San Francisco or fled homeward from the Orient in the van of the tea fleets.

 

The Cape Horn clipper was able to survive the coming of the Age of Steam a few years longer than the Atlantic packet ships, such as the Dreadnought, but her glory departed with the Civil War and thereafter the story of the American merchant marine is one of swift and sorrowful decay. The boys of the Atlantic coast, whose fathers had followed the sea in legions, turned inland to find their careers, and the sterling qualities which had been bred in the bone by generations of salty ancestry now helped to conquer the western wilderness.

 

It is all in the past, this noble and thrilling history of American achievement on the deep sea, and a country with thousands of miles of seacoast has turned its back toward the sprayswept scenes of its ancient greatness to seek the fulfillment of its destiny in peopling the prairie, reclaiming the desert and feeding its mills and factories with the resources of forest, mine and farm.

 

For more than two centuries, however, we Americans were a maritime race, in peace and war, and the most significant deeds and spectacular triumphs of our seafaring annals were wrought long before the era of the clipper ship. The fastest and most beautiful fabric ever driven by the winds, the skysail clipper was handled with a superb quality of seamanship which made the mariners of other nations doff their caps to the ruddy Yankee masters of the Sovereign of the Seas, the Flying Cloud, the Comet, the Westward Ho, or the Swordfish. Her routes were well traveled, however, and her voyages hardly more eventful than those of the liner of to-day. Islands were charted, headlands lighted, and the instruments and science of navigation so far perfected as to make ocean pathfinding no longer a matter of blind reckoning and guesswork. Pirates and privateers had ceased to harry the merchantmen and to make every voyage a hazard of life and death from the Bahama Banks to the South Seas.

 

Through the vista of fifty years the Yankee clipper has a glamour of singularly picturesque romance, but it is often forgotten that two hundred years of battling against desperate odds and seven generations of seafaring stock had been required to evolve her type and to breed the men who sailed her in the nineteenth century. It is to this much older race of American seamen and the stout ships they built and manned that we of today should be grateful for many of the finest pages in the history of our country's progress. The most adventurous age of our merchant mariners had reached its climax at the time of the War of 1812, and its glory was waning almost a hundred years ago. For the most part its records are buried in sea stained log books and in the annals and traditions of certain ancient New England coastwise towns* of which Salem was the most illustrious.

 

* In 1810 Newburyport merchants owned forty-one ships, forty-nine brigs and fifty schooners, and was the seat of extensive commerce with the East Indies and other ports of the Orient. Twenty-one deep-water sailing ships for foreign trade were built on the Merrimac River in that one year. The fame of Newburyport as a shipbuilding and shipowning port was carried far into the last century and culminated in the building of the Atlantic packet Dreadnought, the fastest and most celebrated sailing ship that ever flew the American flag. She made a passage from New York to Queenstown in nine days and 13 hours in 1860. Her famous commander, the late Captain Samuel Samuels, wrote of the Dreadnought:

"She was never passed in anything over a four-knot breeze. She was what might be termed a semi-clipper and possessed the merit of being able to beer her sails and spars would stand. By the sailors she was called the Wild Boat of the Atlantic, while others called her The Flying Dutchman."

 

This port of Salem is chiefly known beyond New England as the scene of a wicked witchcraft delusion which caused the death of a score of poor innocents in 1692, and in later days as the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is not so commonly known that this old town of Salem, nestled in a bight of the Massachusetts coast, was once the most important seat of maritime enterprise in the New World. Nor when its population of a century ago is taken into consideration can any foreign port surpass for adventure, romance and daring the history of Salem during the era of its astonishing activity. Even as recently as 1854, when the fleets of Salem were fast dwindling the London Daily News, in a belated eulogy of our American ships and sailors, was moved to compare the spirit of this port with that of Venice and the old Hanse towns and to say: "We owe a cordial admiration of the spirit of American commerce in its adventurous aspects. To watch it is to witness some of the finest romance of our time."

 

Nathaniel Hawthorne was Surveyor in the Custom House of Salem in 1848-49, after the prestige of the port had been well-nigh lost. He was descended from a race of Salem shipmasters and he saw daily in the streets of his native town the survivors of the generations of incomparable seamen who had first carried the American flag to Hindoostan, Java, Sumatra, and Japan, who were first to trade with the Fiji Islands and with Madagascar, who had led the way to the east coast of Africa and to St. Petersburg, who had been pioneers in opening the commerce of South America and China to Yankee ships. They had "sailed where no other ships dared to go, they had anchored where no one else dreamed of looking for trade." They had fought pirates and the privateers of a dozen races around the world, stamping themselves as the Drakes and the Raleighs and Gilberts of American commercial daring.

 

In the Salem of his time, however, Hawthorne perceived little more than a melancholy process of decay, and a dusky background for romances of a century more remote. It would seem as if he found no compelling charm in the thickly clustered memories that linked the port with its former greatness on the sea. Some of the old shipmasters were in the Custom House service with him and he wrote of them as derelicts "who after being tost on every sea and standing sturdily against life's tempestuous blast had finally drifted into this quiet nook where with little to disturb them except the periodical terrors of a Presidential election, they one and all acquired a new lease of life."

 

They were simple, brave, elemental men, hiding no tortuous problems of conscience, very easy to analyze and catalogue, and perhaps not apt, for this reason, to make a strong appeal to the genius of the author of "The Scarlet Letter."

 

"They spent a good deal of time asleep in their accustomed corners," he also wrote of them, "with their chairs tilted back against the wall; awaking, however, once or twice in a forenoon to bore one another with the several thousandth repetition of old sea stories and mouldy jokes that had grown to be passwords and counter-signs among them."

 

One of the sea journals or logs of Captain Nathaniel Hathorne,* father of the author, possesses a literary interest in that its title page was lettered by the son when a lad of sixteen. With many an ornamental flourish the inscription runs:

 

Nathaniel Hathorne's
Book-1820-Salem.
A Journal of a Passage from Bengall to America
In the Ship America of Salem, 1798.

 

*Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author, chose to insert a "w" in the family name of Hathorne borne by his father. "The four years had lapsed quietly and quickly by, and Hawthorne, who now adopted the fanciful spelling of his name after his personal whim, was man grown." Nathaniel Hawthorne, by George E. Woodberry, in American Men of Letters Series.

 

This is almost the only volume of salty flavored narrative to which Nathaniel Hawthorne may be said to have contributed, although he was moved to pay this tribute to his stout-hearted forebears:

"From father to son, for above a hundred years, they followed the sea; a gray-headed shipmaster in each generation retiring from the quarter-deck to the homestead, while a boy of fourteen took the hereditary place before the mast, confronting the salt spray and the gale which had blustered against his sire and grandsire."

 

Even to-day there survive old shipmasters and merchants of Salem who in their own boyhood heard from the lips of the actors their stories of shipwrecks on uncharted coasts; of captivity among the Algerians and in the prisons of France, England and Spain; of hairbreadth escapes from pirates on the Spanish Main and along Sumatran shores; of ship's companies overwhelmed by South Sea cannibals when Salem barks were pioneers in the wake of Captain Cook; of deadly actions fought alongside British men-of-war and private armed ships, and of steering across far-distant seas when "India was a new region and only Salem knew the way thither."

 

Such men as these were trained in a stern school to fight for their own. When the time came they were also ready to fight for their country. Salem sent to sea one hundred and fifty-eight privateers during the Revolution. They carried two thousand guns and were manned by more than six thousand men, a force equal in numbers to the population of the town. These vessels captured four hundred and forty-four prizes, or more than one-half the total number taken by all the Colonies during the war.

 

In the War of 1812 Salem manned and equipped forty privateers and her people [had] paid for and built the frigate Essex which under the command of David Porter swept the Pacific clean of British commerce and met a glorious end in her battle with the Phoebe and Cherub off the harbor of Valparaiso. Nor among the sea fights of both wars are there to be found more thrilling ship actions than were fought by Salem privateersmen who were as ready to exchange broadsides or measure boarding pikes with a "king's ship" as to snap up a tempting merchantman.

 

But even beyond these fighting merchant sailors lay a previous century of such stress and hazard in ocean traffic as this age cannot imagine. One generation after another of honest shipmasters had been the prey of a great company of lawless rovers under many flags or no flag at all. The distinction between privateers and pirates was not clearly drawn in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the tiny American brigs and sloops which bravely fared to the West Indies and Europe were fair marks for the polyglot freebooters that laughed at England's feeble protection of her colonial trade.

 

The story of the struggles and heroisms of the western pioneers has been told over and over again. Every American schoolboy is acquainted with the story of the beginnings of the New England Colonies and of their union. But the work of the seafaring breed of Americans has been somewhat suffered to remain in the background. Their astonishing adventures were all in the day's work and were commonplace matters to their actors. The material for the plot of a modern novel of adventure may be found condensed into a three-line entry of many an ancient log-book.

 

High on the front of a massive stone building in Essex Street, Salem, is chiseled the inscription, "East India Marine Hall." Beneath this are the obsolete legends, "Asiatic Bank," and "Oriental Insurance Office." Built by the East India Marine Society eighty-four years ago, this structure is now the home of the Peabody Museum and a storehouse for the unique collections which Salem seafarers brought home from strange lands when their ships traded in every ocean. The East India Marine Society still exists. The handful of surviving members meet now and then and spin yarns of the vanished days when they were masters of stately square-riggers in the deep-water trade. All of them are gray and some of them quite feeble and every little while another of this company slips his cable for the last long voyage.

 

The sight-seeing visitor in Salem is fascinated by its quaint and picturesque streets, recalling as they do no fewer than three centuries of American life, and by its noble mansions set beneath the elms in an atmosphere of immemorial traditions. But the visitor is not likely to seek the story of Salem as it is written in the records left by the men who made it great. For those heroic seafarers not only made history but they also wrote it while they lived it. The East India Marine Society was organized in 1799 "to assist the widows and children of deceased members; to collect such facts and observations as tended to the improvement and security of navigation, and to form a museum of natural and artificial curiosities, particularly such as are to be found beyond the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn."*

 

* (1799 - Diary of Rev. William Bentley.)

"Oct. 22. It is proposed by the new marine society, called the East India Marine Society, to make a cabinet. This society has been lately thought of. Captain Gibant first mentioned the plan to me this summer and desired me to give him some plan of articles or a sketch. The first friends of the institution met and chose a committee to compare and digest articles from the sketches given to them. "Last week I was informed that in the preceding week the members met and signed the articles chosen by the committee.

"Nov. 7. Captain Carnes has presented his curiosities to the new-formed East India Marine Society and they are providing a museum and cabinet... Rooms were obtained for their meetings and a place for the deposit of books, charts, etc., and in July of the following year glass cases were provided to arrange therein the specimens that had been accumulated."

 

The bylaws provided that "any person shall be eligible as a member of this society who shall have actually navigated the seas near the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn, either as master or commander or as factor or supercargo in any vessel belonging to Salem."

 

From its foundation until the time when the collections of the Society were given in charge of the Peabody Academy of Science in 1867, three hundred and fifty masters and supercargoes of Salem had qualified for membership as having sailed beyond Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope.

 

More than a century ago, therefore, these mariners of Salem began to write detailed journals of their voyages, to be deposited with this Society in order that their fellow shipmasters might glean from them such facts as might "tend to the improvement and security of navigation." Few seas were charted, and Salem ships were venturing along unknown shores. The journal of one of these pioneer voyages was a valuable aid to the next shipmaster who went that way. These journals were often expanded from the ship's logs, and written after the captains came home. The habit of carefully noting all incidents of trade, discovery, and dealings with primitive races taught these seamen to make their logs something more than routine accounts of wind and weather. Thus, year after year and generation after generation, there was accumulating a library of adventurous first-hand narrative, written in stout manuscript volumes.

 

It was discovered that a pen and ink drawing of the landfall of some almost unknown island would help the next captain passing that coast to identify its headlands. Therefore many of these quarter-deck chroniclers developed an astonishing aptitude for sketching coast line, mountains and bays. Some of them even made pictures in water color of the ships they saw or spoke, and their logs were illustrated descriptions of voyages to the South Seas or Mauritius or China. In this manner the tradition was cherished that a shipmaster of Salem owed it to his fellow mariners and townspeople to bring home not only all the knowledge he could gather but also every kind of curious trophy to add to the collections of the East India Marine Society. And as the commerce overseas began to diminish in the nineteenth century, this tradition laid fast hold upon many Salem men and women whose fathers had been shipmasters. They took pride in gathering together all the old log books they could find in cobwebby attics and battered sea chests and in increasing this unique library of blue water.

 

Older than the East India Marine Society is the Salem Marine Society, which was founded in 1766 by eighteen shipmasters, and which still maintains its organization in its own building. Its Act of Incorporation, dated 1772, stated that "whereas a considerable number of persons who are or have been Masters of ships or other vessels, have for several years past associated themselves in the town of Salem; and the principal end of said Society being to improve the knowledge of this coast, by the several members, upon their arrival from sea communicating their observations, inwards and outwards, of the variation of the needle, soundings, courses and distances, and all other remarkable things about it, in writing, to be lodged with the Society, for the making of the navigation more safe; and also to relieve one another and their families in poverty or other adverse accidents of life, which they are more particularly liable to," etc.

 

Most of these records, together with those belonging to the East India Marine Society and many others rescued from oblivion, have been assembled and given in care of the Essex Institute of Salem as the choicest treasure of its notable historical library. It has come to pass that a thousand of these logs and sea-journals are stored in one room of the Essex Institute, comprising many more than this number of voyages made between 1750 and 1890, a period of a century and a half, which included the most brilliant era of American sea life. Privateer, sealer, whaler, and merchantman, there they rest, row after row of canvas-covered books, filled with the day's work of as fine a race of seamen as ever sailed; from the log of the tiny schooner Hopewell on a voyage to the West Indies amid perils of swarming pirates and privateers a generation before the Revolution, down to the log of the white-winged Mindoro of the Manila fleet which squared away her yards for the last time only fifteen years ago.

 

There is no other collection of Americana which can so vividly recall a vanished epoch and make it live again as these hundreds upon hundreds of ancient log books. They are complete, final, embracing as they do the rise, the high tide and the ebb of the commerce of Salem, the whole story of those Vikings of deep-water enterprise who dazzled the maritime world. These journals reflect in intimate and sharply focused detail that little world which Harriet Martineau discerned when she visited Salem seventy-five years ago and related: "Salem, Mass., is a remarkable place. This 'city of peace' will be better known hereafter for it's commerce than for it's witch tragedy. It has a population of fourteen thousand and more wealth in proportion to its population than perhaps any town in the world. Its commerce is speculative but vast and successful. It is a frequent circumstance that a ship goes out without a cargo for a voyage around the world. In such a case the captain puts his elder children to school, takes his wife and younger children and starts for some semi-barbarous place where he procures some odd kind of cargo which he exchanges with advantage for another somewhere else; and so goes trafficking around the world, bringing home a freight of the highest value.

 

"These enterprising merchants of Salem are hoping to appropriate a large share of the whale fishery and their ships are penetrating the northern ice. They speak of Fayal and the Azores as if they were close at hand. The fruits of the Mediterranean are on every table. They have a large acquaintance at Cairo. They know Napoleon's grave at St. Helena, and have wild tales to tell of Mozambique and Madagascar, and stores of ivory to show from there. They speak of the power of the king of Muscat, and are sensible of the riches of the southeast coast of Arabia. Anybody will give you anecdotes from Canton and descriptions of the Society and Sandwich Islands. They often slip up the western coast of their two continents, bringing furs from the back regions of their own wide land, glance up at the Andes on their return; double Cape Horn, touch at the ports of Brazil and Guiana, look about them in the West Indies, feeling almost at home there, and land some fair morning in Salem and walk home as if they had done nothing remarkable."

 

Within sight of this Essex Institute is the imposing building of the Peabody Academy of Science and Marine Museum, already mentioned. Here the loyal sons of Salem, aided by the generous endowment of George Peabody, the banker and philanthropist, have created a notable memorial to the seaborn genius of the old town. One hall is filled with models and paintings of the stout ships which made Salem rich and famous. These models were built and rigged with the most painstaking accuracy of detail, most of them the work of mariners of the olden time, and many of them made on shipboard during long voyages. Scores of the paintings of ships were made when they were afloat, their cannon and checkered ports telling of the dangers which merchantmen dared in those times; their hulls and rigging wearing a quaint and archaic aspect.

 

Beneath them are displayed the tools of the seaman's trade long ere steam made of him a paint-swabber and mechanic. Here are the ancient quadrants, "half-circles," and hand log lines, timed with sandglasses, with which our forefathers found their way around the world. Beside them repose the "colt" and the "cat-o'-ninetails" with which those tough tars were flogged by their skippers and mates. Cutlasses such as were wielded in sea fights with Spanish, French and English, boarding axes and naval tomahawks, are flanked by carved whales teeth, whose intricate designs of ships, cupids and mermaids whiled away the dogwatches under the Southern Cross. Over yonder is a notched limb of a sea-washed tree on which a sailor tallied the days and weeks of five months' solitary waiting on a desert island where he had been cast by shipwreck.

 

Portraits of famous shipping merchants and masters gaze at portraits of Sultans of Zanzibar, Indian Rajahs and hong merchants of Canton whose names were household words in the Salem of long ago. In other spacious halls of this museum are unique displays of the tools, weapons, garments and adornments of primitive races, gathered generations before their countries and islands were ransacked by the tourist and the ethnologist. They portray the native arts and habits of life before they were corrupted by European influences. Some of the tribes which fashioned these things have become extinct, but their vanquished handiwork is preserved in these collections made with devoted loyalty by the old shipmasters who were proud of their home town and of their Marine Society. From the Fiji and Gilbert and Hawaiian Islands, from Samoa, Arabia, India, China, Africa and Japan, and every other foreign shore where ships could go, these trophies were brought home to lay the foundation of collections which to-day are visited by scientists from abroad in order to study many rare objects which can be no longer obtained.*

 

* A costly new hall has been recently added to the Museum to contain the Japanese and Chinese collections. This building was the gift of Dr. Charles G. Weld of Boston. Its Japanese floor contains the most complete and valuable ethnological collections, portraying the life of the Japanese people of the feudal age that exists to-day. Japanese scientists and students have visited Salem in order to examine many objects of this unique collection which are no longer to be found in their own country. Professor Edward S. Morse, director of the Museum, and curator of the Japanese pottery section of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, has sifted and arranged these collections with singular patience, expert knowledge, and brilliantly successful results. The South Sea collections are also unequaled in many important particulars, especially in the field of weapons and ornaments from the Fiji and Marquesas Islands.

 

The catalogue of ports from which the deep-laden argosies rolled home to Salem is astonishing in its scope. From 1810 to 1880, for example, Salem ships flew the American flag in these ports:

Sumatra, Malaga, Naples, Liverpool, St. Domingo, Baracoa, Cadiz, Cayenne, Gottenburg, La Guayra, Havana, Canton, Smyrna, Matanzas, Valencia, Turk's Island, Pernambuco, Rio Janeiro, Messina, St. Pierre's, Point Petre, Cronstadt, Archangel, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Surinam, St. Petersburg, Calcutta, Porto Rico,, Palermo; Algeciras, Constantinople, Cumana, Kiel, Angostura, Jacquemel, Gustavia, Malta, Exuma, Buenos Ayres, Christiana, Stralsund, Guadaloupe, Nevis, Riga, Madras, St. Vincent's, Pillau, Amsterdam, Maranham, Para, Leghorn, Manila, Samarang, Java, Mocha, South Sea Islands, Africa, Padang, Cape de Verde; Zanzibar and Madagascar.

 

In these days of huge ships and cavernous holds in which freight is stowed to the amount of thousands of tons, we are apt to think that those early mariners carried on their commerce over seas in a small way. But the records of old Salem contain scores of entries for the early years of the last century in which the duties paid on cargoes of pepper, sugar, indigo, and other Oriental wares swelled the custom receipts from twenty-five thousand to sixty thousand dollars. In ten years, from 1800 to 1810, when the maritime prosperity of the port was at flood tide, the foreign entries numbered more than one thousand and the total amount of duties more than seven million dollars. And from the beginning of the nineteenth century until the ships of Salem vanished from blue water, a period of seventy years, roughly speaking, more than twenty million dollars poured into the Custom House as duties on foreign cargoes.

 

Old men now living remember when the old warehouses along the wharves were full of "hemp from Luzon; pepper from Sumatra; coffee from Arabia; palm oil from the west coast of Africa; cotton from Bombay; duck and iron from the Baltic; tallow from Madagascar; salt from Cadiz; wine from Portugal and the Madeiras; figs, raisins and almonds from the Mediterranean; teas and silks from China; sugar, rum and molasses from the West Indies; ivory and gum-copal from Zanzibar; rubber, hides and wool from South America; whale oil from the Arctic and Antarctic, and sperm from the South Seas."

 

In 1812 one hundred and twenty-six Salem ships were in the deepwater trade, and of these fifty-eight were East Indiamen. Twenty years later this noble fleet numbered one hundred and eleven. They had been pioneers in opening new routes of commerce, but the vessels of the larger ports were flocking in their wake. Boston, with the development of railway transportation, New York with the opening of the Erie Canal, Philadelphia and Baltimore with their more advantageous situations for building up a commerce with the great and growing hinterland of the young United States, were creating their ocean commerce at the expense of old Salem. Bigger ships were building and deeper harbors were needed and Salem shipowners dispatched their vessels from Boston instead of the home port. Then came the Age of Steam on the sea, and the era of the sailing vessel was foredoomed.

 

The Custom House which looks down at crumbling Derby Wharf where the stately East Indiamen once lay three deep, awakes from its drowsy idleness to record the entries of a few lumber-laden schooners from Nova Scotia. Built in 1819, when the tide of Salem commerce had already begun to ebb, its classic and pillared bulk recalls the comment of its famous officer, Nathaniel Hawthorne: "It was intended to accommodate an hoped for increase in the commercial prosperity of the place, hopes destined never to be realized, and was built a world too large for any necessary purpose."

 

Yet in the records left by these vanished generations of seamen; in the aspect of the stately mansions built from the fortunes won by their ships; in the atmosphere of the old wharves and streets, there has been preserved, as if caught in amber, the finished story of one of the most romantic and high-hearted periods of American achievement.

 

Salem was a small city during her maritime career, numbering hardly more than ten thousand souls at a time when her trade had made her famous in every port of the world. Her achievements were the work of an exceedingly bold and vigorous population in whom the pioneering instinct was fostered and guided by a few merchants of rare sagacity, daring and imagination. It must not be forgotten that from the early part of the seventeenth century to the latter year of the eighteenth century when this seafaring genius reached its highest development, the men of Salem had been trained and bred to wrest a livelihood from salt water. During this period of one hundred and fifty years before the Revolution the sea was the highway of the Colonists whose settlements fringed the rugged coast line of New England. At their backs lay a hostile wilderness and a great part of the population toiled at fishing, trading and shipbuilding.

 

Roger Conant, who, in 1626, founded the settlement later called Salem, had left his fellow Pilgrims at Plymouth because he would not agree to "separate" from the Church of England. Pushing along the coast to Nantasket, where Captain Miles Standish had built an outpost, Roger Conant was asked by the Dorchester Company of England to take charge of a newly established fishing station on Cape Ann. This enterprise was unsuccessful and Conant aspired to better his fortunes by founding a colony or plantation on the shore of the sheltered harbor of the Naunikeag Peninsula. This was the beginning of the town of Salem, so named by the first governor, John Endicott, who ousted Roger Conant in 1629, when this property of the Dorchester Company passed by purchase into the hands of the New England Company.

 

The first settlers who had fought famine, pestilence and red men were not consulted in the transaction but were transferred along with the land. They had established a refuge for those oppressed for conscience's sake, and Roger Conant, brave, resolute and patient, had fought the good fight with them. But although they held meetings and protested against being treated as "slaves," they could make no opposition to the iron-handed zealot and aristocrat, John Endicott, who came to rule over them. Eighty settlers perished of hunger and disease during Governor Endicott's first winter among them, and when Winthrop, Saltonstall, Dudley and Johnson brought over a thousand people in seventeen ships in the year of 1629, they passed by afflicted Salem and made their settlements at Boston, Charlestown and Watertown.

 

"The homes, labors and successes of the first colonists of Salem would be unworthy of our attention were they associated with the lives of ordinary settlers in a new country. But small though the beginnings were these men were beginning to store up and to train the energy which was afterward to expand with tremendous force in the opening of the whole world to commerce and civilization, and in the establishment of the best things in American life."* They were the picked men of England, yeomanry for the most part, seeking to better their condition, interested in the great problems of religion and government. Dwelling along the harbor front, or on the banks of small rivers near at hand, they at once busied themselves cutting down and hewing planks to fashion pinnaces and shallops for traversing these waterways. Fish was a staple diet and the chief commodity of trade, and often averted famine while the scanty crops were being wrested from the first clearings. Thus these early sixteenth century men of Salem were more at home on the water than upon the less friendly land, and it was inevitable that they should build larger craft for coastwise voyaging as fast as other settlements sprang into being to the north and south of them.

 

* History of Essex County

 

No more than ten years after the arrival of John Endicott, shipbuilding was a thriving industry of Salem, and her seamen had begun to talk of sending their ventures as far away as the West Indies. In 1640 the West Indiaman Desire brought home cotton, tobacco and negroes from the Bahamas and salt from Tortugas. This ship Desire was a credit to her builders, for after opening the trade with the West Indies she made a passage to England in the amazingly brief time of twenty-three days, which would have been considered rapid sailing for a packet ship two hundred years later. In 1664 a local historian was able to record that "in this town are some very rich merchants." These merchants, most of them shipmasters as well, were destined to build up for their seaport a peculiar fame by reason of their genius for discovering new markets for their trading ventures and staking their lives and fortunes on the chance of finding rich cargoes where no other American ships had dreamed of venturing.


Chapter 2:
PHILIP ENGLISH AND HIS ERA (1680-1750)

IN the decade from 1685 to 1695 the infant commerce of Salem was fighting for its life. This period was called "the dark time when ye merchants looked for ye vessells with fear and trembling." Besides the common dangers of the sea, they had to contend with savage Indians who attacked the fishing fleet, with the heavy restrictions imposed by the Royal Acts of Trade, with the witchcraft delusion which turned every man's hand against his neighbor, and with French privateers which so ravaged the ventures of the Salem traders to the West Indies that the shipping annals of the time are thickly strewn with such incidents as these:

(1690)-" The ketch Fellowship, Captain Robert Glanville, via the Vineyard for Berwick on the Tweed, was taken by two French privateers and carried to Dunkirk."

(1695)-" The ship Essex of Salem, Captain John Beal, from Bilboa in Spain, had a battle at sea and loses John Samson, boatswain. This man and Thomas Roads, the gunner, had previously contracted that whoever of the two survived the other he should have all the property of the deceased."

 

Soon after this the tables were turned by the Salem Packet which captured a French ship off the Banks of Newfoundland In the same year the ketch Exchange, Captain Thomas Marston, was taken by a French ship off Block Island. She was ransomed for two hundred and fifty pounds and brought into Salem. "The son of the owner was carried to Placentia as a hostage for the payment of the ransom."

 

The ancient records of the First Church of Salem contain this quaint entry under date of July 25, 1677:

"The Lord having given a Comission to the Indians to take no less than 13 of the Fishing Ketches of Salem and Captivate the men (though divers of them cleared themselves and came home) it struck a great consternation into all the people here. The Pastor moved on the Lord's Day, and the whole people readily consented, to keep the Lecture Day following as a fast day; which was accordingly done and the work carried on by the Pastor, Mr. Hale, Mr. Chevers, and Mr. Gerrish, the higher ministers helping in prayer. The Lord was pleased to send in some of the Ketches on the Fast day which was looked on as a gracious smile of Providence. Also there had been 19 wounded men sent into Salem a little while before; also, a ketch with 40 men sent out from Salem as a man-of-war to recover the rest of the Ketches. The Lord give them Good Success."

 

In those very early and troublous times the Barbary pirates or Corsairs had begun to vex the New England skippers who boldly crossed the Atlantic in vessels that were much smaller than a modern canal boat or brick barge. These "Sallee rovers" hovered from the Mediterranean to the chops of the English Channel. Many a luckless seaman of Salem was held prisoner in the cities of Algiers while his friends at home endeavored to gather funds for his ransom. It was stated in 1661 that "for a long time previous the commerce of Massachusetts was much annoyed by Barbary Corsairs and that many of its seamen were held in bondage. One Captain Cakebread or Breadcake had two guns to cruise in search of Turkish pirates." In 1700 Benjamin Alford of Boston and William Bowditch of Salem related that "their friend Robert Carver of the latter port was taken nine years before, a captive into Sally; that contributions had been made for his redemption; that the money was in the hands of a person here; that if they had the disposal of it, they could release Carver."

 

The end of the seventeenth century found the wilderness settlement of Salem rapidly expanding into a seaport whose commercial interests were faring to distant oceans. The town had grown along the water's edge beside which its merchants were beginning to build their spacious and gabled mansions. Their countinghouses overlooked the harbor, and their spyglasses were alert to sweep the distant sea line for the homecoming of their ventures to Virginia, the West Indies and Europe. Their vessels were forty and sixty tons burden, mere cockleshells for deep-water voyaging, but they risked storm and capture while they pushed farther and farther away from Salem as the prospect of profitable trade lured them on.

 

The sailmaker, the rigger, the ship chandler, and the shipwright had begun to populate the harbor front, and among them swarmed the rough and headlong seamen from Heaven knew where, who shocked the godly Puritans of the older régime. Jack ashore was a bull in a china shop then as now, and history has recorded the lamentable but deserved fate of "one Henry Bull and companions in a vessel in our harbor who derided the Church of Christ and were afterward cast away among savage Indians by whom they were slain."

 

Now there came into prominence the first of a long line of illustrious shipping merchants of Salem, Philip English, who makes a commanding figure in the seafaring history of his time. A native of the Isle of Jersey, he came to Salem before 1670. He made voyages in his own vessels, commanded the ketch* Speedwell in 1676, and ten years later had so swiftly advanced his fortunes that he built him a mansion house on Essex Street, a solid, square-sided structure with many projecting porches and with upper stories overhanging the street. It stood for a hundred and fifty years, long known as "English's Great House," and linked the nineteenth century with the very early chapters of American history. In 1692, Philip English was perhaps the richest man of the New England Colonies, owning twenty one vessels which traded with Bilboa, Barbados, St. Christopher's, the Isle of Jersey and the ports of France. He owned a wharf and warehouses, and fourteen buildings in the town.

 

*The ketch of the eighteenth century was two-masted with square sails on h& foremast, and a fore-and-aft sail on the mainmast, which was shorter than the foremast. The schooner rig was not used until 1720 and is said to have been originated by Captain Andrew Robinson of Gloucester.

 

One of his bills of lading, dated 1707, shows the pious imprint of his generation and the kind of commerce in which he was engaged. It reads in part:

"Shipped by the Grace of God, in good order and well conditioned, by Samuel Browne, Phillip English, Capt. Wm. Bowditch, Wm. Pickering, and Samuel Wakefield, in and upon the Good sloop called the Mayflower whereof is master under God for this present voyage Jno. Swasey, and now riding at anchor in the harbor of Salem, and by God's Grace bound for Virginia or Merriland. To say, twenty hogshats of Salt. . . In witness whereof the Master or Purser of the said Sloop has affirmed to Two Bills of Lading. . . and so God send the Good Sloop to her desired port in Safety. Amen."

 

Another merchant of Philip English's time wrote in 1700 of the foreign commerce of Salem:

"Dry Merchantable codfish for the Markets of Spain and Portugal and the Straits. Refuse fish, lumber, horses and provisions for the West Indies. Returns made directly hence to England are sugar, molasses, cotton, wool and logwood for which we depend on the West Indies. Our own produce, a considerable quantity of whale and fish oil, whalebone, furs, deer, elk and bear skins are annually sent to England. We have much Shipping here and freights are low."

 

To Virginia the clumsy, little sloops and ketches of Philip English carried "Molasses, Rum, Salt, Cider, Mackerel, Wooden Bowls, Platters, Pails, Kegs, Muscavado Sugar, and Codfish and brought back to Salem Wheat, Pork, Tobacco, Furs, Hides, old Pewter, Old Iron, Brass, Copper, Indian Corn and English Goods." The craft which crossed the Atlantic and made the West Indies in safety to pile up wealth for Philip English were no larger than those sloops and schooners which ply up and down the Hudson River to-day. Their masters made their way without sextant or "Practical Navigator," and as an old writer has described in a somewhat exaggerated vein:

"Their skippers kept their reckoning with chalk on a shingle, which they stowed away in the binnacle; and by way of observation they held up a hand to the sun. When they got him over four fingers they knew they were straight for Hole-in-the-Wall; three fingers gave them their course to the Double-headed Shop Key and two carried them down to Barbados."

 

The witchcraft frenzy invaded even the stately home of Philip English, the greatest shipowner of early Salem. His wife, a proud and aristocratic lady, was "cried against," examined and committed to prison in Salem. It is said that she was considered haughty and overbearing in her manner toward the poor, and that her husband's staunch adherence to the Church of England had something to do with her plight. At any rate, Mary English was arrested in her bedchamber and refused to rise, wherefore "guards were placed around the house and in the morning she attended the devotions of her family, kissed her children with great composure, proposed her plan for their education, took leave of them and then told the officer she was ready to die." Alas, poor woman, she had reason to be "persuaded that accusation was equal to condemnation." She lay in prison six weeks where "her firmness was memorable. But being visited by a fond husband, her husband was also accused and confined in prison." The intercession of friends and the plea that the prison was overcrowded caused their removal to Arnold's jail in Boston until the time of trial. It brings to mind certain episodes of the French Reign of Terror to learn that they were taken to Boston on the same day with Giles Corey, George Jacobs, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, and Bridget Bishop, all of whom perished "except Philip and Mary English Both would have been executed had they not escaped death by flight from the Boston jail and seeking refuge in New York.

 

In his diary, under date of May 21, 1793, Rev. William Bentley, of Salem, pastor of the East Church from 1783 to 1819, wrote of the witchcraft persecution of this notable shipping merchant and his wife:

"May 21st, 1793. Substance of Madam Susannah Harthorne's account of her grandfather English, etc. Mr. English was a Jerseyman, came young to America and lived with Mr. W. Hollingsworth, whose only child he married. He owned above twenty sail of vessels. His wife had the best education of her times. Wrote with great ease, and has left a specimen of her needlework in her infancy or youth. She had already owned her Covenant and was baptised with her children and now intended to be received at the Communion on the next Lord's Day. On Saturday night she was cried out upon. The Officers, High Sheriff, and Deputy with attendants came at eleven at night. When the servant came up Mr. English imagined it was upon business, not having had the least notice of the suspicions respecting his wife. They were to bed together in the western chamber of their new house raised in 1690, and had a large family of servants.

"The Officers came in soon after the servant who so alarmed Mr. English that with difficulty he found his cloathes which he could not put on without help. The Officers came into the chamber, following the servant, and opening the curtains read the Mittimus. She was then ordered to rise but absolutely refused. Her husband continued walking the chamber all night, but the Officers contented themselves with a guard upon the House till morning. In the morning they required of her to rise, but she refused to rise before her usual hour. After breakfast with her husband and children, and seeing all the servants, of whom there were twenty in the House, she concluded to go with the officers and she was conducted to the Cat and Wheel, a public house east of the present Centre Meeting House on the opposite side of the way. Six weeks she was confined in the front chamber, in which she received the visits of her husband three times a day and as the floor was single she kept a journal of the examinations held below which she constantly sent to Boston.

"After six weeks her husband was accused, and their friends obtained that they should be sent on to Boston till their Trial should come on. In Arnold's custody they had bail and liberty of the town, only lodging in the Gaol. The Rev. Moody and Williard of Boston visited them and invited them to the public worship on the day before they were to return to Salem for Trial. Their text was that they that are persecuted in one city, let them flee to another. After Meeting the Ministers visited them at the Gaol, and asked them whether they took notice of the discourse, and told them their danger and urged them to escape since so many had suffered. Mr. English replied, 'God will not permit them to touch me.' Mrs. English said: 'Do you not think the sufferers innocent?' He (Moody) said 'Yes.' She then added, 'Why may we not suffer also?' The Ministers then told him if he would not carry his wife away they would.

"The gentlemen of the town took care to provide at midnight a conveyance, encouraged by the Governor, Gaoler, etc., and Mr. and Mrs. English with their eldest child and daughter, were conveyed away, and the Governor gave letters to Governor Fletcher of New York who came out and received them, accompanied by twenty private gentlemen, and carried them to his house.

"They remained twelve months in the city. While there they heard of the wants of the poor in Salem and sent a vessel of corn for their relief, a bushel for each child. Great advantages were proposed to detain them at New York, but the attachment of the wife to Salem was not lost by all her sufferings, and she urged a return. They were received with joy upon their return and the Town had a thanksgiving on the occasion. Noyes, the prosecutor, dined with him on that day in his own house."

 

That a man of such solid station should have so narrowly escaped death in the witchcraft fury indicates that no class was spared. While his sturdy seamen were fiddling and drinking in the taverns of the Salem water-front, or making sail to the roaring chorus of old time chanties, their employer, a prince of commerce for his time, was dreading a miserable death for himself and that high-spirited dame, his wife, on Gallows Hill, at the hands of the stern-faced young sheriff of Salem.

 

Philip English returned to Salem after the frenzy had passed and rounded out a shipping career of fifty years, living until 1736. His instructions to one of his captains may help to picture the American commerce of two centuries ago. In 1722 he wrote to "Mr. John Tauzel":

"Sir, you being appointed Master of my sloop Sarah, now Riding in ye Harbor of Salem, and Ready to Saile, my Order is to you that you take ye first opportunity of wind and Weather to Saile and make ye best of yr. way for Barbadoes or Leew'd Island, and there Enter and Clear yr vessel and Deliver yr Cargo according to Orders and Bill of Lading and Make Saile of my twelve Hogsh'd of fish to my best advantage, and make Returne in yr Vessel or any other for Salem in such Goods as you shall see best, and if you see Cause to take a freight to any port or hire her I lieve it with your Best Conduct, Managem't or Care for my best advantage. So please God to give you a prosperous voyage, I remain yr Friend and Owner. PHILIP ENGLISH."

 

England had become already jealous of the flourishing maritime commerce of the Colonies and was devising one restrictive Act of Parliament after another to hamper what was viewed as a dangerous rivalry. In 1668, Sir Joshua Child, once chairman of the East India Company, delivered himself of this choleric and short-sighted opinion:

"Of all the American plantations His Majesty has none so apt for the building of ships as New England, nor none comparably so qualified for the breeding of seamen, not only by reason of the natural industry of the people, but principally by reason of their cod and mackerel fisheries, and in my opinion there is nothing more prejudicial and in prospect more dangerous to any mother kingdom than the increase of shipping in her colonies, plantations or provinces."

 

This selfish view-point sought not only to prevent American shipowners from conducting a direct trade with Europe but tried also to cripple the prosperous commerce between the Colonies and the West Indies. The narrow-minded politicians who sacrificed both the Colonies and the Mother country could not kill American shipping even by the most ingenious restrictive acts, and the hardy merchants of New England violated or evaded these unjust edicts after the manner indicated in the following letter of instructions given to Captain Richard Derby of Salem, for a voyage to the West Indies as master and part owner of the schooner Volante in 1741:

"If you should go among the French endeavour to get salt at St. Martins, but if you should fall so low as Statia, and any Frenchman should make you a good Offer with good security, or by making your Vessel a Dutch bottom, or by any other means practicable in order to your getting among ye Frenchmen, embrace it. Among whom if you should ever arrive, be sure to give strict orders amongst your men not to sell the least trifle unto them on any terms, lest they should make your Vessel liable to a seizure. Also secure a permit so as for you to trade there next voyage, which you may undoubtedly do through your factor or by a little greasing some others. Also make a proper Protest at any port you stop at."

 

This means that if needs be, Captain Derby is to procure a Dutch registry and make the Volante a Dutch vessel for the time being, and thus not subject to the British Navigation Acts. It was easy to buy such registries for temporary use and to masquerade under English, French, Spanish or Dutch colors, if a "little greasing" was applied to the customs officers in the West Indies.

 

On the margin of Captain Derby's sailing orders is scrawled the following memorandum:

"Capt. Derby: If you trade at Barbadoes buy me a Negro boy about seventeen years old, which if you do, advise Mr. Clarke of yt so he may not send one. (Signed) Benj GERRISH, JR."

 

Such voyages as these were risky ventures for the eighteenth century insurance companies, whose courage is to be admired for daring to underwrite these vessels at all. For a voyage of the Lydia from Salem to Madeira in 1761, the premium rate was 11 percent, and in the following year 14 percent was demanded for a voyage to Jamaica. The Three Sisters, bound "to Santo Domingo, was compelled to pay 23 percent premium, and 14 percent for the return voyage. The lowest rate recorded for this era was 8 percent on the schooner Friendship of Salem to Quebec in 1760. For a Madeira voyage from Salem today the insurance rate would be 1-3/4 percent as compared with 11 percent then; to Jamaica 1-1/2 percent instead of 14 percent in the days when the underwriters had to risk confiscation, violation of the British Navigation Acts, and capture by privateers, or pirates, in addition to the usual dangers of the deep.

 

Among the biographical sketches in the records of the Salem Marine Society is that of Captain Michael Driver. It is a concise yet crowded narrative and may serve to show why insurance rates were high. "In the year 1759, he commanded the schooner Three Brothers, bound to the West Indies," runs the account. "He was taken by a privateer under English colors, called the King of Russia, commanded by Captain James Inclicto, of nine guns, and sent into Antigua. Her cargo was value at £550. Finding no redress he came home. He sailed again in the schooner Betsey for Guadaloupe; while on his passage was taken by a French frigate and sent into above port. He ransomed the vessel for four thousand livres and left three hostages and sailed for home November, 1761, and took command of schooner Mary, under a flag of truce, to go and pay the ransom and bring home the hostages.

 

"He was again captured, contrary to the laws of nations, by the English privateer Revenge, James McDonald, master, sent to New Providence, Bahama. He made protest before the authorities and was set at liberty with vessel and cargo. He pursued his voyage to Cape Francois, redeemed the hostages, and Sept. 6, 1762, was ready to return, but Monsieur Blanch, commanding a French frigate, seized the vessel, took out hostages and crew and put them on board the frigate bound to St. Jago, Cuba. He was detained till December, and vessel returned. Worn out and foodless he was obliged to go to Jamaica for repairs. On his arrival home his case was represented to the Colonial Government and transmitted to Governor Shirley at New Providence, but no redress was made."

 

Many of these small vessels with crews of four to six men were lost by shipwreck and now and then one can read between the lines of some scanty chronicle of disaster astonishing romances of maritime suffering and adventure. For example in 1677, "a vessel arrived at Salem which took Captain Ephriam How of New Haven, the survivor of his crew, from a desolate island where eight months he suffered exceedingly from cold and hunger."

 

In the seventeenth century Cape Cod was as remote as and even more inaccessible than Europe. A bark of thirty tons burden, Anthony Dike master, was wrecked near the end of the Cape and three of the crew were frozen to death. The two survivors "got some fire and lived there by such food as they had saved for seven weeks until an Indian found them. Dike was of the number who perished."

 

Robinson Crusoe could have mastered difficulties no more courageously than the seamen of the ketch Providence, wrecked on a voyage to the West Indies. "Six of her crew were drowned, but the Master, mate and a sailor, who was badly wounded, reached an island half a mile off where they found another of the company. They remained there eight days, living on salt fish and cakes made from a barrel of flour washed ashore. They found a piece of touch wood after four days which the mate had in his chest and a piece of flint with which, having a small knife they struck a fire. They framed a boat with a tarred mainsail and some hoops and then fastened pieces of board to them. With a boat so constructed they sailed ten leagues to Anquila and St. Martins where they were kindly received."

 

There was also Captain Jones of the brig Adventure which foundered at sea while coming home from Trinidad. All hands were lost except the skipper, who got astride a wooden or "Quaker" gun which had broken adrift from the harmless battery with which he had hoped to intimidate pirates. "He fought off the sharks with his feet" and clung to his buoyant ordnance until he was picked up and carried into Havana.

 

In 1759 young Samuel Gardner of Salem, just graduated from Harvard College, made a voyage to Gibraltar with Captain Richard Derby. The lad's diary* contains some interesting references to the warlike hazards of a routine trading voyage, besides revealing, in an attractive way, the ingenuous nature of this nineteen-year-old youngster of the eighteenth century.

 

* Historical Collections of the Essex Institute.

 

His daily entries read in part:

 

1759.

Oct. 19-Sailed from Salem. Very sick.

20-I prodigious sick, no comfort at all.

21-I remain very sick, the first Sabbath I have spent from Church this long time. Little Sleep this Night.

24-A little better contented, but a Sailor's life is a poor life.

31-Fair pleasant weather, if it was always so, a sea life would be tolerable.

 

Nov. 11-This makes the fourth Sunday I have been out. Read Dr. Beveridge's "Serious Thoughts."

12-Saw a sail standing to S.W. I am quartered at the aftermost gun and its opposite with Captain Clifford. We fired a shot at her and she hoisted Dutch colors.

13-I have entertained myself with a Romance, viz., "The History of the Parish Girl."

14-Quite pleasant. Here we may behold the Works of God in the Mighty Deep. Happy he who beholds aright.

15-Between 2 and 3 this morning we saw two sail which chased us, the ship fired 3 shots at us which we returned. They came up with us by reason of a breeze which she took before we did. She proved to be the ship Cornwall from Bristol.

21-Bishop Beveridge employed my time.

23-We now begin to approach to land. May we have a good sight of it. At eight o'clock two Teriffa (Barbary) boats came out after us, they fired at us which we returned as merrily. They were glad to get away as well as they could. We stood after one, but it is almost impossible to come up with the piratical dogs.

28-Gibralter-Went on shore. Saw the soldiers in the Garrison exercise. They had a cruel fellow for an officer for he whipt them barbarously. . . . After dinner we went out and saw the poor soldiers lickt again.

 

Dec. 10-Benj. Moses, a Jew, was on board. I had some discourse with him about his religion . . . Poor creature, he errs greatly. I endeavored to set him right, but he said for a conclusion that his Father and Grandfather were Jews and if they were gone to Hell he would go there, too, by choice, which I exposed as a great piece of Folly and Stupidity. In the morning we heard a firing and looked out in the Gut and there was a snow attacked by 3 of the piratical Tereffa boats. Two cutters in the Government service soon got under sail, 3 men-of-war that lay in the Roads manned their barges and sent them out as did a Privateer. We could now perceive her (the snow) to have struck, but they soon retook her. She had only four swivels and 6 or 8 men . . . They got some prisoners (of the pirates) but how many I cannot learn, which it is to be hoped will meet with their just reward which I think would be nothing short of hanging. . . . Just at dusk came on board of us two Gentlemen, one of which is an Officer on board a man-of-war, the other belongs to the Granada in the King's Service. The former (our people say) was in the skirmish in some of the barges. He could have given us a relation of it, but we, not knowing of it, prevented what would have been very agreeable to me. . . . It is now between 9 and 10 o'clock at night which is the latest I have set up since I left Salem."

 

This Samuel Gardner was a typical Salem boy of his time, well brought up, sent to college, and eager to go to sea and experience adventures such as his elders had described. Of a kindred spirit in the very human quality of the documents he left for us was Francis Boardman, a seaman, who rose to a considerable position as a Salem merchant. His ancient log books contain between their battered and discolored canvas covers the records of his voyages between 1767 and 1774. Among the earliest are the logs of the ship Vaughan in which Francis Boardman sailed as mate. He kept the log and having a bent for scribbling on whatever blank paper his quill could find, he filled the flyleaves of these sea journals with more interesting material than the routine entries of wind, weather and ship's daily business. Scrawled on one ragged leaf in what appears to be the preliminary draft of a letter:

"Dear Polly-thes lines comes with My Love to you. Hoping thes will find you in as good Health as they Leave me at this Time, Blessed be God for so Great a Massey (mercy)."

 

Young Francis Boardman was equipped with epistolary ammunition for all weathers and conditions, it would seem, for in another log of a hundred and fifty years ago, he carefully wrote on a leaf opposite his personal expense account:

"Madam:

"Your Late Behavior towards me, you are sensible cannot have escaped my Ear. I must own you was once the person of whom I could Not have formed such an Opinion. For my part, at present I freely forgive you and only blame myself for putting so much confidence in a person so undeserving. I have now conquered my pashun so much (though I must confess at first it was with great difficulty), that I never think of you, nor I believe never shall without despising the Name of a person who dared to use me in so ungrateful a manner. I shall now conclude myself, though badley used, not your Enemy."

 

It may be fairly suspected that Francis Boardman owned a copy of some early "Complete Letter Writer," for on another page he begins but does not finish. "A Letter from One Sister to Another to Enquire of Health." Also he takes pains several times to draft these dutiful but far from newsy lines:

"Honored Father and Mother-Thes lines comes with my Deuty to you. Hoping They will find you in as good Health as they Leave me at this Time. Blessed be God for so Great a Massey-Honored Father and Mother."

 

In a log labeled "From London Toward Cadiz, Spain, in the good ship Vaughan, Benj. Davis, Master, 1767," Francis Boardman became mightily busy with his quill and the season being spring, he began to scrawl poetry between the leaves which were covered with such dry entries as "Modt. Gales and fair weather. Set the jibb. Bent topmast stay sail." One of these pages of verse begins in this fashion: "One Morning, one Morning in May, The fields were adorning with Costly Array. I Chanced for To hear as I walked By a Grove A Shepyard Laymenting for the Loss of his Love."

 

But the most moving and ambitious relic of the poetic taste of this long vanished Yankee seaman is a ballad preserved in the same log of the Vaughan. Its spelling is as filled with fresh surprises as its sentiment is profoundly tragic. It runs as follows:

 

1 "In Gosport (Gosport Navy Yard, England) of Late there a Damsil Did Dwell, for Wit and for Beauty Did she maney Exsel.

2 A Young man he Corted his to be his Dear And By his Trade was a Ship Carpentir.

3 he ses "My Dear Molly if you will agree And will then Conscent for to Marey me

4 Your Love it will Ease me of Sorrow and Care If you will But Marey a ship Carpentir."

5 With blushes more Charming then Roses in June, She ans'red (") Sweet William for to Wed I am to young.

6 Young Men thay are fickle and so Very Vain, If a Maid she is Kind thay will quickly Disdane.

7 the Most Beutyfullyst Woman that ever was Born, When a man has insnared his, his Beauty he scorns. (")

8 (He) (") 0, My Dear Molly, what Makes you Say so? This Beauty is the Haven to wich I will go.

9 If you Will consent for the Church for to Stear there I will Cast anchor and stay with my Dear.

10 I ne're Shall be Cloyedd with the Charms of thy Love, this Love is as True as the tru Turtle Dove.

11 All that I do Crave is to marey my Dear And arter we are maried no Dangers we will fear. (")

12 (She) "The Life of a Virgen, Sweet William, I Prize for marrying Brings Trouble and sorrow like-wise. (")

13 But all was in Vane tho His Sute she did Denie, yet he did Purswade hir for Love to Comeply.

14 And by his Cunneng hir Hart Did Betray and with Too lude Desire he led hir Astray.

15 This Past on a while and at Length you will hear, the King wanted Sailors and to Sea he must Stear.

16 This Grieved the fare Damsil almost to the Hart To think of Hir True Love so soon she must Part.

17 She ses (")my Dear Will as you go to sea Remember the Vows that you made unto me. (")

18 With the Kindest Expresens he to hir Did Say (") I will marey my Molly air I go away.

19 That means tomorrow to me you will Come. then we will be maried and our Love Carried on. (")

20 With the Kindest Embraces they Parted that Nite She went for to meet him next Morning by Lite.

21 he ses (")my Dear Charmer, you must go with me Before we are married a friend for to see. (")

22 he Led hir thru Groves and Valleys so deep That this fare Damsil Began for to Weep.

23 She ses (") My Dear William, you Lead me Astray on Purpos my innocent Life to be Betray. (")

24 (He) (") Those are true Words and none can you save, (") for all this hole Nite I have Been digging your grave."

25 A Spade Standing By and a Grave thare she See, (She) (") 0, Must this Grave Be a Bride Bed to Me? (")

 

In 1774 we find Francis Boardman as captain of the sloop Adventure, evidently making his first voyage as master. He was bound for the West Indies, and while off the port of St. Pierre in Martinique he penned these gloomy remarks in his log:

"This Morning I Drempt that 2 of my upper teeth and one Lower Dropt out and another Next the Lower one wore away as thin as a wafer and Sundry other fritful Dreams. What will be the Event of it I can't tell."

Other superstitions seem to have vexed his mind, for in the same log he wrote as follows:

"this Blot I found the 17th. I can't tell but Something Very bad is going to Hapen to me this Voyage. I am afeard but God onley Noes What may hapen on board the Sloop Adventure -- the first Voyage of being Master."

 

Sailing "From Guardalopa Toward Boston," Captain Francis Boardman made this final entry in his log:

"The End of this Voyage for wich I am Very thankfull on Acct. of a Grate Deal of Truble by a bad mate. His name is William Robson of Salem. He was Drunk most Part of the Voyage."

Top
Index
  Chapters 3-4 • Chapter 5