Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 31, 2023



COMSTOCK, (Mrs. Henry):

The Whalemen's Shipping List of May 15, 1855 gave notice of the ‘loss of the W.T. Wheaton  - the whaling bk W.T. Wheaton, Capt. Comstock, left Honolulu [28 December 1854] just 2 months and 20 days  before her loss. She left well provisioned for a whaling voyage of six months. In nearing the coast the capt. determined to land at Vera Cruz and procure some fresh supplies. While on shore ... the wind entirely died away. On this account the mate was unable to keep the vessel free from the current, setting towards the shore ... the influence and strength of the swell rendered her anchors of no avail. About this time the capt. succeeded in reaching the bk, and although he made every exertion to save the vessel, he found it impossible to do so.

‘At this moment the boats were lowered, and the captain lady and child with all the crew left in them for the land. Had they remained a half hour longer all would have been lost. Capt. C. lady and child came near being drowned in landing. All their clothing, the ship’s chronometer and every other valuable they were compelled to leave. Before they reached the land the bk had gone ashore in the breakers near Santa Cruz. It is feared that she is a total loss. She had no oil on board.’ The Friend of June 15, 1855, includes Capt. Comstock, lady and child in the passenger list of the Frances Palmer, arrived at Honolulu from San Francisco.

The large Comstock family, where so many of the men were seafarers, is very hard to sort out.  Several were named Henry, commanding the following ships: Tenedos (two voyages), 1844 to 1850; William T. Wheaton, 1850-55; Neptune 1850-57; Louisa Beaton 1853 (Captain Henry Comstock died of ‘African fever’ on this voyage, 23 March 1854, and was buried on Ascension Island); Edward L. Frost (three voyages), 1854-58; Fortune, 1856-61; Metropolis, 1858; and Monticello, 1865-71.

The Pacific Commercial Advertiser for December 11, 1856, lists Mrs. Comstock and two children boarding the Frances Palmer at Honolulu for San Francisco, and the same paper, December 3, 1857, lists the schooner E. L. Frost, Captain Comstock, heading for the whaling lagoon at Margarita Bay, so this could be the same Comstock who lost the William T. Wheaton. The Polynesian for March 20, 1858, then reported that Captain Comstock was switching from the R. L. Frost to the Metropolis.

But wait, there’s more. At the same time a Captain Henry Comstock commanded the whaling brig Agate (Polynesian, May 9, 1857) and a Captain Henry Comstock commanded the bark Fortune (Polynesian, December 17, 1859). It takes a lot of creative guesswork to tell one Captain Henry Comstock from another, which means that determining the identity of the wife who was stranded on the beach after the wreck of the W. T. Wheaton is probably impossible.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Whaling wives from the Portuguese Azores


As the New Bedford whaling industry approached the twentieth century, a good number of men from the Azores left their former domain, the forecastle, to become officers and captains.  And at least two of these men carried their wives to sea.

One was Maria Jesu Gomes Corvelho, pictured with her husband, Antonio, and their little girl on the old Greyhound.

Antonio Corvelho was born on Flores, in the Azores, January 6, 1879. A talented whaleman, he rose to command two ships on four voyages: Pedro Varela 1910-1912, and the Greyhound on three voyages between 1913 and 1919, and on these last three his wife, Maria, accompanied him.

Their courtship might have been a curious one. Maria’s adventurous young brother, Joseph R. Gomes, stowed away on the Pedro Varela, and apparently that is how she and Captain Corvelho connected..  According to local legend, Joe coated his face with lamp black to do it, as so many crewmen were from the Cape Verde Islands that he thought it would help him get away with it. Discovering the lad after the schooner had sailed was just one hitch in the story of Antonio’s first command, as later on he was the unfortunate captain featured in the famous ‘bloodless mutiny’, where the crew threw all the whaling equipment overboard, forcing the voyage to be abandoned. 

There was a happy result, in that Antonio married Joe’s sister, and that Joe went on to become a whaling master himself. Antonio’s reputation remained intact, too. He was given the command of the Greyhound, and  took Maria to sea. She left the ship in 1915 to have a baby girl, Floripes, but otherwise kept on sailing with her husband, so was on board in 1919 during another mutiny, one that was not bloodless at all. When three whaleboats were down on the water and the captain was aloft, directing the chase with flags, two of the seamen shipkeepers attacked the cook with a hammer, and tried to throttle the steward. The steward escaped and locked himself in a cabin, but this did not deter the seamen, who started breaking the door down with the hammer. Antonio heard the noise, dropped to deck, and quelled the mutiny, singlehandedly. After beating the two men into submission, he put them in shackles and carried them to Barbados.

Added to that, the old ship itself was falling apart, rotted with shipworms. Captain Corvelho kept the Greyhound together by wrapping chains around the hull, dropping them down one side, and then drawing them up to the other side, and securing the two ends. And so they limped into port. With that Captain Antonio Corvelho retired from the sea, and died of influenza a few months later. He was just forty years old.  (Amaral, Pat, They Ploughed the Seas … Valkyrie Press, 1978)

 The second wife is the wonderfully named Philomena Clara Jorge Nunes Costa (Mrs. Manuel Estaus):

Philomena and Manuel Costa appear in the 1910 New Bedford census, both born in the Portuguese Azores, Manuel aged 60, and Philomena aged forty-eight. They had been married for 30 years, and had no children. They also appear in the 1900 census, with the same details, so were established residents of the city — when they were there. 

Manuel was an experienced whaling master, taking over his first command (of the Eleanor B. Conwell) in 1879, and sailing almost constantly until 1911, when he came home on the T. Towner. Amazingly, considering that that whaling under sail was at its last gasp, there was a stowaway on that voyage, too.  Captain Costa made him write in a margin of the logbook, which reads (translated from Portuguese) ‘I, Alfredo de Medeiros, I hid myself onboard the yacht T. Towner, without anyone’s license, and his master allowed me to continue until the first harbour with a consul.’ (With thanks to Alexandre Monteiro for the translation.)

Philomena, who travelled on at least one of her husband’s many whaling voyages, documented her experience in an unusual manner, with 44 stanzas of verse in which she combined descriptions of the routine of shipboard life and the hazards of the chase with the laments of the homesick for their friends and family:

 La estao os pobres pais

Os pobres pais a esperar

Para que elles a vao ver

So para os consolar...


There are their poor parents

Their poor parents waiting

For them to visit

And console them...’

 (New Bedford Whaling Museum, B90-9; verse quoted from notes accompanying an Azorean Whalemen Exhibition, set up at the museum March 31-May 29, 1989, by Mary T. Sylvia Vermette, visiting curator.) 

Monday, May 15, 2023



BROWN, Martha Smith Brewer (Mrs. Edwin Peter):

At the age of twenty-five, Martha Smith Brewer Brown of Orient, Long Island, New York, sailed to the Pacific on the whaling ship Lucy Ann. This was probably at the urging of her husband, Edwin Peter Brown, as he had been obsessively in love from the first day he glimpsed her, in early 1841. Despite being away whaling most of the time, he had pursued her with letters and visits, and finally she consented to marry him, which she did on May 23, 1843.  According to family legend, it was with the proviso that he signed the Pledge.

The ship departed from Orient on August 31, 1847. For two months Martha was too seasick to write in her journal, but once started she provided an eloquent glimpse into her daily life on board the whaleship: ‘it would be useless for me to attempt to remember what the Capt. has found to occupy the men on deck every day since we sailed: such a round of Coopering, Carpentering, Blacksmithing, Corking [caulking], Pitching and Taring, Spliceing … Evry one is occupied while I am snugly stowed away in the after part of the ship, siting by an open window nearly two [feet] square ― sometimes sewing, sometimes knitting, then reading, then attempting to sing …’

While everyone else was busy, Martha Brown was just a passive observer, forced to entertain herself as best she could. On the Lucy Ann there were men ― the cook and the steward ― who had been shipped to fulfil the ‘female’ roles of cleaning and food preparation, so that while Martha occasionally recorded ‘making’ pumpkin pies, what she was really doing was mixing the ingredients into the pan for the steward to take to the galley for the cook to bake. Her only real job was to provide company for her husband, something that he was often too preoccupied to appreciate.

As she ruefully noted, ‘He was rather blue the other day when he got fast to a large sperm whale and lost him. For my own part, I could not win a smile ― then I recollected I had come a whaleing.’ Martha must have been acutely aware that she was much more useful back in Orient, where she had left an eighteen-month-old daughter. ‘Oh for one sweet kiss from my Dear little Ella …’ she sighed. ‘At twilight, the hour for putting her to bed, I have no other amusement but walking the deck, looking at the water, occaisonaly droping a tear or two by way of relief to my anxious mind.’

A very pious woman, she devoted much time to perusing ‘improving’ books, praying with her husband, reading the Bible aloud to him, and writing prayerful entries in her diary. ‘O that I might feel the worth of souls and have grace and confidence given me to warn sinners to flee from the wrath to come,’ she penned on Sunday 28 November 1847  — ‘We have need of a mishinary on board. We number 31 in all, and not one, I believe makes any pretentions to religion.’ She wasn’t confident enough to talk to the crew, even though she heard ‘[s]ome of them say they would like to hear good reading’ — and was troubled, too, to find that her husband was flogging his men ― ‘So Mother, you see I have very little influence so far,’ she mourned.

It’s little wonder that she was delighted when the Lucy Ann reached Honolulu on 21 April 1848. Not only was she free to walk about on land again, but she could meet other pious women and go to church. Unfortunately, however, she was five months pregnant. Back on 18 October 1847, while admiring a spectacular ocean sunset, she had romantically noted, ‘If quince grove and moon light night are incentives to make love, surely moon light nights on ship board are doubly so.’ And expecting a child was to prove a huge problem, particularly as she was to be left on shore in the Hawaiian Islands to get on with it.

Her husband was an amiable man who jumped rope with his wife, played the accordion, disliked having to discipline his crew, and was kind enough to bring the ship aback and lower a boat to save a kitten that fell overboard. He was tight with money, however. Back in 1844 he had gone off on voyage without leaving her sufficient funds: as she wrote to him on November 1845, ‘rather pushed this winter for money … I do inferior to either of my sisters and with not half the independence for they own their own money.’  

So Martha should not have been surprised that he left her with insufficient funds when he sailed for the northern whaling grounds of the Okhotsk Sea. But, where at home being poor was embarrassing, in Honolulu it was intolerable. She could have passed the time pleasantly, as she resentfully wrote, ‘were my expenses less, and my circumstances different.’ Because Edwin had given her so little to live on, she was forced to move out to the Nuuana Valley ― past the notorious stench of the town slaughter-yards ― to board in a wood-and-canvas house belonging to John Paty, a retired shipmaster. She would have loved to visit the missionaries and the other captains’ wives ― her whaling ‘sisters’ ― who were spending the whaling season in Honolulu but, as she wrote reproachfully to Edwin, ‘it is a grate effort for me to get down town. I have been down three times in the hard cart, once of a week day, and twice to church, and have been near sick each time.’

A week later, her emotions boiled over — ‘My Husband left me in one of the most unpleasent situation a Lady can be left in, without her husband, and among strangers, with the request that I would do my washing myself ― a thing wich no other American Lady does, not even the mision Ladies … You also requested that I would not buy any thing but what I positively needed … Oh, Oh, Oh, that I was rich, but that can never be. But I beg of you, my love, that you will never place me as I am agane, for I feel evry day almost that I reieve slights because I cannot dress in silks and nice cloths. Before Mrs. Gray [wife of the captain of the whaleship Jefferson] came I felt alone. Now I feel that in her I have a true friend, although she far exceeds me in dress and show.’

Sarah Gray of Liberty Hill, Connecticut, was a seasoned whaling wife whose husband had done so well that he could afford to be indulgent. As Martha enviously noted, when Captain Slumon Gray had sailed, he had told his wife ‘to try to take comfort and enjoy herself, and as far as money and credit would go, not to scrimp herself. She,’ Martha added with emphasis, ‘is not in circumstances.’ Mrs. Gray proved a true friend   unlike the missionaries. ‘Have receive very little attention from them but do not wish to complain,’ Martha wrote, going on to draw a rather surprising picture of the social lives of the mission people. ‘They know their own affairs best, and they know also that I do not attend balls and parties, neither do I wish to draw my amusement from such a source.’

Sarah Gray felt quite differently. On 10 August, Martha helped her sew ‘a very handsome evening dress,’ which Sarah was to wear ‘to the King’s levee. She is very dressy,’ Martha added; ‘goes out a good deal and seems to enjoy herself, while I stay mopeing at home.’ In one of her bursts of depression, she went on to wonder if her husband ‘did not love me well enough to buy me dresses and the [means] to appear as well as she does.’

Martha’s major worry was how she would cope with childbirth, which was now imminent ― ‘Must I be confined without my husband or one that I can call my friend,’ she agonized on 20 August. According to the custom of the time, not only did she need a woman friend to deliver the baby, but other friends to provide nursing care for the next fourteen days, as it was considered dangerous for the new mother to get out of bed and exert herself.

In the event, Sarah Gray provided all the support she needed. ‘The boy is one month old today …’ Martha wrote on 27 September: ‘Mrs. Grey was with me dureing my confinement and did for me and my child, as an own sister would have done. She staid with [me] nearly two weeks. I dressed him the day he was two weeks old … and I have a very good native woman who assists me about taking care of my child. Does my chamber work and my washing, for which I pay her 11 shilings per week … When oh when will you come, my love?’

The boy was two months old before Edwin arrived, and it was time to sail for home. Still mutinous at the treatment she had received, Martha wrote in the ship’s logbook, ‘Adieu to Whale-grounds and now for home and right glad am I. And now my Dear, alow me to inform you that this is the last time you are to leave, or visit these waters which to you have become familiar, according to your own assertions. Martha.’ (March 28, 1849 entry)

Of course he did not obey her. He went to sea again, though in a merchant ship, but to his fury she flatly refused to sail with him.  This was completely against Edwin’s view of a ‘proper’ woman.  In the back of the 1847 log of the Lucy Ann he had written, ‘There are many qualifycations in A woman's character which renders them objects of love & admiration,’ of which the first was ‘to make him happy by exerciseing A meek & quiet disposition.’ That Martha was not exercising a ‘meek & quiet disposition’ was infuriating. In July 1853 he visited a friend in San Francisco, and wrote to Martha, ‘I think he has got A real fine wife. She is modest & resurved & perfectly submissive to his will, in fact she has no will of her own, his will is hers, & tis her greatest pleasure to gratify him in all his desires.’

Martha remained obdurate. Hard-working and self-reliant, she took in boarders, making an income so successfully that when Edwin arrived home he put another level on the house. Thus, he was able to retire, being described in the 1880 census as a farmer. 

Captain Brown died in 1892, just a few days after his 79th birthday. His instructions to his wife and family were unusual, because of what he wanted engraved on his tombstone:

 Anchored beneath is Captain E.P. Brown

Who four times sailed the world around

363 days one voyage was made

And not once was the anchor laid


Along with sketches of a fouled anchor, a lance and a harpoon.

His widow (for Martha outlived him by 19 years) paid not a mite of attention to this eccentricity.  Instead, the gravestone carries the simple, dignified inscription, ‘Capt. Edwin P. Brown, born March 8, 1813, died Marcch 31, 1892.’ Martha had remained rebellious to the last.

The entire Brown archive is held at the Oysterponds Historical Society, Orient, Long Island, New York.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Nancy Bolles of New London, Connecticut


BOLLES, Nancy Chapman (Mrs. John):

Captain John Bolles of New London, Connecticut, was a career whaling master. At the age of 25 he married Nancy Chapman (aged 20) on 26 March 1845, just weeks before he sailed off on his first command, Candace, leaving June 2, 1845. He got home to New London on April 26, 1847. Then just three months later, on July 21, 1847, he took over the North America, arriving back March 21, 1849, for a rare spell at home before taking over the command of the Alert on June 18, 1850.

This time Nancy sailed, taking her baby daughter Isabel and her son John jr., who had been born on 26 January 1848, so was not quite two and a half years old. A letter written by Nancy to her ‘dear sisters’ from ‘Mowee’ and dated 25 March 1851, describes her passage down the Atlantic, calling at Fayal (which she thought very beautiful) and Juan Fernandez Island, before cruising the Pacific. She was terribly seasick at first, so badly that she could not sit up for four weeks, and vomited blood, meaning that her husband had to take over the care of the two little children.  

The weather was often very stormy. The ship was once struck with lightning, and another time the galley (the ship kitchen) was smashed and a great deal washed overboard, in the way of cooking pots and utensils.  Luckily, there were more pots in the hold and the iron stove was still there (though broken), but it was both ominous and scary. Also, their luck with whaling was so bad that, as she mediated, ‘if we of stayed at home until September we should have been just as well off.’

An interesting break was a two-day stop at Pitcairn Island, where Nancy enjoyed the tropical fruit, and met a whaling wife who had been there seven months, having been set ashore to have her baby. It was now ‘3 weeks old and [she] was expecting her husband every day.’ This was Nancy Grant, who’d had very gloomy company. ‘[T]here was another Captain [George Palmer] who left his wife at the same time, she died two months ago with the consumption, she had it when she left home, they was both from Nantucket.’  

On board the ship, the officers were fine men, if only they would leave liquor alone, but the crew was a miserable lot. The steward could cook, but told terrible lies, and the cook was so dirty that his galley was bound to go overboard again.  One seaman was eternally sick, but not so sick that he could not ‘fight with almost every man in the forecastle’ and at least two were demonstrably mad. One threatened constantly to commit suicide, and then caused a sensation by jumping overboard. Then, when the ship was hauled aback and a rescue boat lowered, ‘he swimed toward the boat like a good fellow till the boat got most to him and then he turned and went the other way and told them to let him drown’d, I do not think there is one aboard the ship but would be glad to get rid of him’ but he was rescued nonetheless. 

As for the children, John jr. was in his element, grown into a ‘great stout boy … he is harpooning and lancing whales and pulling ropes all the time.’ Isobel, the baby, had done remarkably well too, considering ‘that I have not had scarcely any milk. On the whole, Nancy decided that she liked whaling life. Despite this, Nancy and the children were put on shore at Lahaina, where they boarded in a house kept by Alford Bush and his sister, both from New London: ‘she came to Calafornia with her husband’ but then moved to Maui to be with her brother, expecting her husband to join her in a few months ... 

‘I do not like the idear of staying here much, I had rather go to the northwest [whaling ground] but I have ben sick so much that I think as well as John that it will be for the best for me not to go so I shall try to content myself as well as I can here.’  (All sic, MSM, vfm 16.55 mc 92.27.)

Nancy did not lack for social company. A Rev. Dwight Baldwin letter, May 8, 1851, recorded that his wife visited Mrs. Bolles, the wife of Captain Bolles, at Lahainawaena. (HMHM)  Two more children were born there, too — Alice, in 1851, and Lizzie, in 1853. They were back in New London in time for the birth of Walter in 1854, and there Nancy stayed, while Captain John Bolles continued whaling until the day he died, February 20, 1871, just seven months after arriving home from a voyage in command of the Trinity.  Nancy died in 1910, and they are both buried in New London.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Donna Maria Bennett, whaling wife


Back about 1986 -- yes, I know, aeons ago -- I became completely engrossed in finding women who had sailed under canvas on whaling vessels.

Yes, I know too, that whaling was not a great topic.  Whaling was okay back when the couple above were alive -- very okay, because very religious people believed wholeheartedly that their god had put everything (including whales, seals, and what-have-you) on earth for the use of man.  Not nice, but not questioned, and very convenient -- mainly because mankind has always been dependent on oil or fat for lamps and lubrication, and whale oil and seal fat were good for that.  And this was before mineral oil was discovered at Titusville, USA, in August 1859. Animal oil was all that was available.

And, let's face it.  Oil has always been a big moneymaker, and the cause of war, not just the war on whales and seals.

Getting the crude fat or oil and processing it into oil to sell has always been a filthy business.  So why did decent women get involved in it?  On sail-driven whaleships, it meant four or more years away from home.  How did they cope? What did they do? What were their living conditions like?  As many in my audiences have asked me, what did they use for toilet paper?

I will answer that in another blog, along with my reason for researching their stories.

But first, what I am doing right now -- which is taking the list of whaling wives I started back in 1986, and checking the database it became, adding more entries, and locating and fixing my mistakes.  That database of whaling wives is with a lot of museums, and used by a lot of family historians, so I would like to get it right. 

So that is my current task. But in the meantime I will tell you the stories of the people that have particularly intrigued me.  Just a few -- out of the more then 700 whaling wives I have found.

Today's story is that of Donna Maria Bennett, pictured above with her new husband.  She was just 18 years old in that photo.  Her husband, Captain James Ellis Bennett, was thirty-three. In his old age he told tales of his seafaring life, that I might feature in future blogs, but right now I am looking at his young wife, Donna Maria.  

BENNETT, Donna Maria Chase (Mrs. James Ellis):

 James Ellis Bennett was born in New Bedford in 1818, and after going to sea he rose rapidly in the ranks, becoming the second mate of the Elizabeth of Mattapoisett in May 1841, and master of the J.E. Donnell in 1849, after a voyage on that vessel as first officer. He married the beautiful Mary Allen of Fairhaven in November 1840, but she died of heart disease while he was at sea, so he was a widower when he met Donna Maria Chase. The courtship must have been a swift one — he arrived back in New Bedford May 28, 1851, and they were married by December. This time, James carried his wife with him when he sailed off on his next command. The WSL, December 9, 1851, has ‘Mrs. Bennett’ in the outgoing passenger list of the Massachusetts.

Donna was just eighteen (born in Carthage, New York, in 1833), so her outlook was fresh and lively, full of the joy of life at sea. Her charming diary is held at the NBWM, and begins December 4, 1851.  Very discursive, and often amended and corrected, it describes a young woman who kept herself busy and was determined to be contented at sea. The first months describe a remarkably happy voyage, with Chrismas celebrated, a visit by Neptune that became hilarious, and an energetic observation of April Fool’s Day.  The cook was a ‘famous player’ on the accordion, and practised in the evenings, while the men sang. The only person younger than Donna was the rebellious cabin boy, John, who kept on running to the forecastle — perhaps because James Bennett was trying to teach him navigation.

Donna described everything that was happening around her — the seamen, the other ships, the whales and the wildlife. She wore Bloomer dress (floppy trousers and a loose tunic, which she sewed herself) and to get into a boat she simply climbed down the side of the ship and jumped. A confident young woman, she visited ships that did not have a woman on board, and enjoyed meeting her husband’s brother shipmasters. She loved to write, and wrote a lot, occasionally finishing off an entry in schoolgirl French — Bon soir ma plume et mon papier. Indeed, her journal reads like a school essay, and was obviously intended for the entertainment of her family and friends at home.

In the Okhotsk Sea season that began in June 1852 and ended in September, Donna Bennett socialized with other wives — Mrs. Christopher Cook of the Hillman, Mrs. Alleyn of the Rodman, and a Mrs. Wilcox being mentioned often. They arrived at Honolulu in November, both James and Donna suffering with colds and sore throats. After a bad experience, including a conflagration at the wharves, they left on the twenty-second, in company with the Hillman, and headed for the California coast and Marguerita Bay.

Still, Donna kept herself busy and happy. ‘I have been sewing most of the day, I have heard of one lady who came to sea that could not find anything to do, consequently ripped up her dresses and [re]made them’ (December 16, 1852). In February 1853 they were back in Honolulu, where she had to dress up to visit the captain’s wife on a clipper ship. March 4, ‘I am now settled nicely on shore.’ She did not stay, however, but was on board March 29 when the Massachusetts left port, all the oil discharged, heading to the Okhotsk to get more. Captain Bennett did well there, but his men were falling ill with scurvy. While Donna never mentioned her pregnancy, she was unwell, and her diary becomes discontinuous. The last entry in Donna’s journal is dated October 20[?] in lat. 23.30 long 154.37 W. ‘I hope we shall have a fair wind now to speed us into the [Hawaiian] Islands,’ is the last sentence. The rest of the book is empty save for poetry written in 1899 in a different hand, and signed ‘E.V.B.’

 Donna gave birth to twin boys on October 27, 1853, 40 miles from Honolulu, while James struggled to get the Massachusetts to port. The babies were whimsically named James Seaborn Bennett and William Seaborn Bennett. What should have been a joyous occasion had a tragic outcome: The Friend,  November 1853, reported the death ‘in Honolulu Nov. 2nd, of puerperal fever, Donna Maria, wife of Capt. Jas. E. Bennett, of the whaleship Massachusetts, aged 20 years.’ 

James carried on whaling, as Mrs. Gerritt Judd, the wife of the American consul, had offered to care for the twins in Honolulu. When back in that port in October 1854 Captain Bennett handed over the command to a replacement skipper named Thompson, and took passage home on the South America. The WSL for April 24, 1855, reported that the South America arrived on the 23rd from Honolulu, with a passenger list that included Mrs. Walker (Capt’s wife), Capt. Joseph Holley (late of ship Polar Star of this port) and wife, Capt. J. E. Bennett and 2 children; Mrs. Gilmore and 2 children; Mrs. C.F. Hussey of Nantucket.’

The ‘E.V.B.’ who wrote the poems in the back of Donna’s diary was her older sister, Eliza Verplank Chase, born in 1828. Eliza became James’s third wife soon after he arrived home, in what was evidently a marriage of convenience. The pact she made with James was that he was to give up the sea, move to Iowa, and become a farmer. The twins were with them: William Seaborn died at the age of nineteen of pneumonia, but James Seaborn survived until 1927. Eliza and James had two sons and two daughters: the older daughter, born in 1863, was named Donna Maria, and (like her brothers) studied medicine.  Captain James Bennett died in 1898 in Waterloo, Black Hawk County, Iowa, and is buried there.   

For the photo and a lot of the information, I thank Kay Vincent, genealogist in New Zealand.