William Beck (AM0414)

William was born in Catskill NY in 1801 and listed Coxsackie NY as his residence in a crew list. No information was found about his family. He was 5’10” tall with light hair and dark skin. He married Hannah, last name and date of marriage not known. Based on information on their memorial stones, they were the same age. They had an unnamed son born and died on September 23, 1835 and about two years later had a second son, George, who died on December 20, 1837 at seven months of age. With his wife Hannah aboard, he sailed from New London as master of ATLANTIC in 1845. While on the way to Hawaii, he died at sea on October 22, 1846 “from consumption or other complaints before his time” (Colby). Hawaii death cards shown in the local paper THE FRIEND  record for Capt. William Beck “Died at sea, October 22, 1846, native, New London.” With no friends in Hawaii and far from home, Hannah sailed from Hawaii on a merchant vessel, the master of which died on the way. Despondent after William’s death and with, as far as we know, no family awaiting her at home, she threw herself into the sea in January 1847 (AOWV less gently records her as having committed suicide). There are matching memorial stones for them at Evergreen Cemetery in Stonington CT, each stone containing at the bottom a short and poignant quotation: William’s: “If Life’s wide Ocean smile or roar/Still guide them to the Heavenly shore”; Hannah’s: “And grant their dust in Christ may sleep/Abroad at home, or in the deep.” The memorial stones can be found at Find a Grave.

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

​​SOMERSET (AS2400): (brig, 134 tons, built in Waterville ME in 1833, sold in Rio de Janeiro in 1842). She departed on April 23, 1841.  William was ​​agent /owner as well as master for this voyage. (AV13230)

​​ATLANTIC (AS0923): (ship, 700 tons, built in New York in 1836, sold in New York in 1855). She departed on August 4, 1845 for the Northwest Coast ​​and returned on April 24,1848. As noted above, William died at sea during this voyage. Interestingly, the Wood Abstract for this voyage (1-004) does not note William’s death. Her agent for this voyage was Miner, Lawrence & Co. (AV01347)

In addition, William was master of four voyages on three ships with Stonington CT as home port: CHARLES ADAMS (AS1071, 1835-6), CORVO (AS1160, 1836-7 and 1837-9), and RICHARD HENRY (AS2287, 1843-5)

Sources : See sidebar. Also, Hawaii’s THE FRIEND (Nov. 2, p. 166)

​​​​​George Shaw

Mystic Seaport Museum

July 2023