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Sunday, August 13, 2023

Captain of many things


Whaling bark Greyhound.
New Bedford Free Public Library

Timothy C. Allen, born 1821, was ‘killed by a whale’ on August 2, 1852, while second mate of the Sacramento. (Westport Vital Records) Just over a month later, his young wife, Abbie W. Chace Allen, gave birth to a son, named Timothy Chace Allen, after his father. Just two weeks later Abbie, aged just 19, died of ‘bilious fever’ (probably puerperal). The baby was raised in the household of his uncle, Deacon John Allen, and despite his father’s abrupt death while whaling, chose whaling as an occupation.

Timothy Chace Allen first sailed at the age of 15 on the Greyhound, leaving port May 23, 1868. According to the crew list he was five foot seven inches, and had given his residence as Westport. The captain was John Milk Allen, also of Westport.  Just 30 years old (born April 1838), John Milk was the son of Humphrey and Mary Milk Allen, and his wife (who did not sail) was Martha Gifford Allen. It seems apparent that he was a relative, which would have helped Timothy chose that career.

Timothy grew over the voyage — when he shipped again on the Greyhound in 1872 he was 20 years old and  5 foot 11 inches (tall for his time), light-skinned and brown-haired. Again he gave his residence as Westport, and again John Milk Allen commanded — until January 1873, when he left the ship, sick, at St. Helena, and the first mate took over. According to the records, Timothy brought the ship home, a remarkable feat for such a young man, and from then on he commanded the Greyhound over three voyages, 1875 to 1878; 1879 to 1883; and 1883 to 1884.

Rosa Seale, whom he married in 1875, was born on the island of St. Helena on April 10, 1858, the daughter of Henry and Mary Seale. (MSVR, death certificate; the 1900 New Bedford census, which names her Isabella)  Seale was a prominent and respected name on the island, dating back to the first Seales who served with the St. Helena Infantry of the East India Company; while recruited from the regular military, the officers had to be of good reputation and well educated in England.  Major Robert Francis Seale, who had the important post of assistant storekeeper, was also a talented geologist who produced a book of intriguing sketches called The Geognosy of St Helena (1834). Rosa evidently married Timothy on the island, during one of the ship’s frequent visits, there being no marriage record in Massachusetts. She certainly sailed with him: Annie Ricketson on the Pedro Varela, March 12, 1882, noted that her husband Captain Daniel Ricketson gammed with the ship; ‘It was the bark Greyhound, Capt Allen he had his wife.’ (NBWM, PMB 287, 816, 887.)

The bark Greyhound was sold into the merchant trade in 1884, and Captain Allen took the vessel out to Australia with a general cargo, returning to New Bedford with oil in autumn 1885. He then bought a share in the packet schooner Hastings, and took command until 1886, when he decided his seafaring career was over, and applied to the New Bedford Police Department. Starting off as a patrolman, he soon became a lieutenant, and in 1893 he was promoted to captain. It was a post he tried to leave as he accumulated interests in more ships, including the whaler Leonora. His letter of resignation was shelved as he was considered too valuable to be let go, and it was not until 1908 that he finally retired, having insisted that Mayor Edward Hathaway accept his resignation. (NB Evening Standard, January 8, 1908)

Rosa Seale Allen died on February 9, 1917, and is buried in the Abner Wilcox Cemetery, Westport, Massachusetts. On Christmas Day 1918 Timothy wed Florence May Gammans Tripp, of Acushnet.  She was a widow 43 years old, and this was her second marriage. (MSVR) Captain Timothy Chase Allen died April 7, 1923, and is buried with Rosa in Westport. (Obit. Sunday Herald, Boston, April 8, 1923) Florence recovered fast, marrying a widowed bookkeeper, Otis Tuttle, in October the following year. (Many details about the two Timothy Allens can be found on websites administered from Westport, including the facebook page for the Westport Gravestone Cleaning and Restoration group.)

Many thanks to their researchers and also Kiwi researcher Kay Vincent for invaluable help. 

A truly remarkable man. Here as a police captain, metamorphosed from a whaling skipper.

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