John S. Barnum (AM0364)

John’s personal life is somewhat of a mystery. Several online genealogical sites show conflicting records. AOWV states that he was born in Shoreham, VT in 1802, married “probably” Elizabeth and died in Hamilton, Michigan in October 17,1887. As noted below, the place of birth may not be accurate, the date of birth is close, the date of his death is not correct.

There are several apparently valid data points for him that fill in some gaps of his history. Stonington Vital Records show the marriage of John S. Barnum “of VT” to Hannah Starrett in Stonington on September 25, 1837. She died in Stonington and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery there. Her gravestone (found at Find a Grave) records her death (August 12,1872) and describes her as “Wife of Capt. John S. Barnum”. Find a Grave shows a gravestone reading “Capt. John S. Barnum”, died on July 7, 1852, age 49, putting his birth about 1803. The Find a Grave accompanying text states that the gravestone is in the Cowlesvile Cemetery in Cowlesville, Bennington Township,Wyoming County NY. That text also states that his parents were Jabez and Polly Barnum, that their son was Jonathan Sanford, and that they are buried in Shoreham VT. John and Hannah had one son, Edward Phelps Barnum, born June 16, 1831 in Stonington, died June 10, 1902 in Minnesota. His obituary (quoted in his Find a Grave site) recites in part: “….He grew to manhood in his native town [Stonington], receiving a ​​​​common school education, but afterwards spent four years at the Troy ​​​Conference Academy, in Rutland county, Vermont. He then followed the ​​​fortunes of a sailor for two years, after which he took charge of some ​​​business for his father, in New York State….”

Crew lists for ships on which John served are inconclusive as to his place of birth: “VT”, Stonington, and Shoreham, Vt.

John was master for one voyage on each of two ships with a home port of New London.

ATLAS (AS0930): (ship, 299 tons, built in Providence RI in 1815, lost at Two People’s Bay on August 29, 1842). Departed May 17, 1835 for the Indian Ocean, return date not known. Her agent was Joseph Lawrence. (AV01381).

​​BINGHAM (AS0986): (ship, 375 tons, built in Philadelphia PA in 1804, withdrawn from California in 1848). Departed on June 18, 1838 for the South Atlantic, returned to Mystic on May 13, 1839. Her agent and managing owner was Benjamin F. Brown. Starbuck notes for this voyage that she was “Sold to Mystic”. Colby notes (p.8) that in 1832 “merchant Jedediah Randall sent out Mystic’s first whaler, the ship Bingham, under Captain George Churchill”.

John had an active history of commands. COURIER (AS1163 1831-1832, 1832), SWIFT (AS2467 1833-1835, 1835), ATLAS (1836-1837), REBECCA GROVES (AS2270), UNITED STATES (AS2541 1842-1943, 1843-1844, 1847-1849, 1849-1851), WARSAW (AS1844-1847). With exception of ATLAS (home port Norwich, CT), Stonington was the home port for the other ships, validating his Stonington connection.

Sources: see sidebar and sources cited in text.

George Shaw (Mystic Seaport Museum) June 2023