Joseph Bailey (AM0235)


Available records show two masters in the whaling trade named Joseph Bailey. They were of similar age and died less than two years apart. This Joseph (AM0235, referred to here as Joseph NL) had a New London area connection and was master of New London home-ported vessels. Another Joseph (AM0233, referred to here as Joseph NB) had a New Bedford connection and was a master of a New Bedford home-ported vessel. Some of the records confuse the two. Joseph NL , a New London whaling master, is the subject of this paper.

The source for Joseph NL is the multi-generational Genealogy of James Morgan and his Descendants. Joseph’s grandfather, Capt. Thomas Morgan, Jr., a descendant of James Morgan, was born about 1766 in Ledyard CT. Thomas was a sea captain who sold his ship in a foreign port and died as a passenger on another ship on his homeward passage. Thomas and his wife Joanna (Allyn) had a daughter Phebe (1788 – 1822) who married Avery Bailey (born February 22, 1807).  Phebe and Avery, both born and died in Groton, had four sons (Avery, Joseph, Thomas, and Elisha), all of whom, according to the Genealogy, “became sea captains in the whaling service”.

Joseph, their second son, was born July 19, 1810. His first wife, Jeannett Leeds of New London, died in 1846, possibly during child birth, leaving a son, Joseph A. Bailey. Joseph married Adeline Dowell (born November 5, 1820 in Cambridge MA) on September 29, 1847 in Cambridge. She had a son, Henry Dowell, by a prior marriage. As reported in the New Bedford Mercury (August 30, 1850) list of deaths: “At Rio de Janeiro, July 1. Capt. Joseph Bailey, of New London, and on the 25th of June, previous, Mrs. Bailey, his wife, both after a short illness of yellow fever. His gravestone shows his name as Capt. Joseph Bailey; hers describes her as wife of Capt. Joseph Bailey. Both are buried in the Starr Burying Ground Cemetery in Groton. Gravestones can be found at Find a Grave.

New London Crew Lists show that between 1825 and 1829, Joseph served on the crew of several, possibly six, ships. In March 1825 he was issued Seamen’s Protection Certificate #6418 in New London. It records him as age 15, 5’0” in height with light hair and light eyes and a possible scar on his right hand.

Joseph NL was master of several voyages on four ships with New London and in one case Groton as home port.

METEOR (AS1837): (ship, 325 tons, built Newbury MA 1819, sunk in Charleston SC January 9, 1862 as part of Stone Fleet #1, home port: Groton). Departed for South Atlantic 1834, returned February 1836. Colby lists Joseph as a Mystic whaling master for this vessel. This voyage not reported in Starbuck. AV09679.

CLEMATIS (AS1112): (ship, 311 tons, built in Duxbury MA in 1826, lost in the Solomon Islands in September 1861). Colby lists Bailey as master for the vessel’s voyages in 1836, 1837, and 1839 but not the others. Starbuck and Decker list “-Bailey” (no first name) as master of these voyages. Agent for all of these voyages: Williams and Barnes (New London).

Departed May 22, 1836 for the South Atlantic, returned April 27, 1837. AV02957.

Departed June 14, 1837 for Chile, returned March 7, 1839.AV02958)

Departed June 26, 1839 for the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, returned July 6, 1940. AV02959.

Departed August 1840 for the Indian Ocean, returned July 4, 1841. While AVOW lists Joseph as master, the New London Crew List for this voyage and Decker show George Benjamin as master; Joseph’s name is not listed in the crew list. Starbuck shows “Bailey” (no first name given) as master. AV02960.

Departed May 9, 1843 for the Indian Ocean, returned April 15, 1845. Edwin J. Ames was initial master. Starbuck reports Capt. Ames and one man killed by a blow from a whale’s fluke Nov. 21, 1843”. AOWV shows Joseph Bailey was replacement master after Capt. Ames’ death. AV02962.

Note: CLEMATIS departed September 3,1845 for the Indian and NW Pacific, returned June 3, 1848. AOWV lists Thomas Bailey as master. Starbuck shows just the last name. The dates for this voyage conflict with the dates of the voyage of GEORGE AND MARY below, confirming that Thomas, not Joseph was master of CLEMATIS’s 1845 voyage. AV02964.

GEORGE AND MARY (AS1450): (ship, 356 tons, lost in Sea of Okhotsk June 1860, home port New London). Departed June 2, 1845 for the Indian Ocean and NW Pacific, returned May 26, 1847. Agent: Lyman Allyn (New London). AV05629.

LOUISA BEATON (AS1806): (brig, 168 tons, built Fairhaven MA 1845, Market”, home port New London). Departed 1849, no return date recorded. Neither this vessel nor this voyage reported in Starbuck or Decker. Apparently Joseph’s wife joined on this voyage, and it was during this voyage that they acquired the yellow fever that resulted in their deaths six months into the year following their departure. AV08614.

Joseph NB was born in Groton Long Point CT, about 1811. He was master of CHAMPION (AS0114): (ship, 336 tons, built Medford MA 1821, home port New Bedford). Departed June 18, 1850 for the Pacific and western Arctic, with his wife Abby aboard, This Joseph died in Hong Kong on February 27, 1852. The Whalemen’s Shipping List (May 4, 1852) reports “…the death at [Hong Kong] on the 27th Feb last of Capt. Joseph Bailey of ​​the ship Champion of this port [New Bedford]. His death was immediately ​​caused by the rupture of a blood vessel of the intestines. He had ​​​previously been laboring under a fever which was not however considered dangerous ….[h]e was a young man of high character and abilities, and ​​was upon his first voyage as master. He leaves a wife and child to mourn ​​his untimely loss.” The record does not show whether she was with him when he died. She returned to the New Bedford area where she remained for another 50 plus years.

Note: There is a confusing source of information about identifying the two Josephs. Find a Grave contains a photograph of a gravestone in a cemetery in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the inscription on the gravestone in that photograph is indistinct. However, the Find a Grave site contains the text of what purports to be the inscription made by one Chris Nelson in April 2016. According to Nelson, the inscription reads: “Joseph Bailey, Late Commander of the American whale ship Clematis. This Monument is erected by his Brother Officers and Friends. Died 27th February 1852.” Nelson added additional wording, apparently not taken from the monument: “Probably age 41 or 42 when he died. He served on the Clematis for many years, rising through the ranks.” In responses to an email from the author, Nelson responded: ​​“Unfortunately, what I posted are the most legible pictures I have. ​​​​Weathering, the font and depth of the inscription, algae, and lighting ​​​conditions make for less-than-ideal legibility. I don’t recall off hand whether ​​I figured out the inscription on the spot, was told by someone, or got it ​​​from another source.” The author considers Nelson’s information unreliable. Joseph NL died in 1850. There is little to connect the voyages of Joseph NL on CLEMATIS ending in 1845 with the first voyage of Joseph NB as master of CHAMPION departing New Bedford in 1850, the same year Joseph NL died.

Joseph’s brother Elisha (AM0226) and Thomas (AM0239) were masters of whaling vessels with New London as home port.

Sources used: see sidebar and sources cited in text.

George Shaw (Mystic Seaport Museum), September 23, 2022



Joseph (NB)