Charles Oscar Brewster (AM0587)

Charles was born in 1809 in Stonington CT. He was an eighth generation descendant of MAYFLOWER passenger William Brewster. He was the son of Capt. Stephen Brewster (1775-1837) and Hannah Fellows Brewster (1776-1829). They had five sons, three of whom (Charles, George (AM0588) and William (AM0589)) were whaling masters of ships with New London and Stonington home ports. He married Mary Emeline Forsyth of New London (1806-1897) on November 23, 1831. They had two children, Mary Hannah Brewster (1833-1842) and Charles Henry Brewster (1838-1838), and one adopted daughter, Alice Brewster (1858-1884). Census records for Stonington for 1860, 1870 and 1880 show Charles, Mary and Alice residing in Stonington. Charles was issued his Seamen’s Protection Certificate (#6345) on June 29, 1824 in New London, noting his height of 5’ 3” and “Scar on left arm and Thumb”. A crew list showed his height as 5’ 9” with light skin and dark hair. Charles died in 1884 in Stonington, Mary in 1897. Charles, Mary and the three children are buried in Robinson Burying Ground in Stonington. The gravestone can be found at Find a Gravve.

Before he became a master and starting at age 14, Charles served on the crew of several ships, with home ports in New London, Norwich, or Hartford: PIZZARO (AS2198) 1823-1824, COMMODORE PERRY (AS1137) 1824-1825, CONNECTICUT (AS1144) 1825-1827, SUPERIOR (AS2448) 1827-1830, and ANN MARIA (AS0879) 1830-1831. During this period, he was issued Seamen’s Protection Certificate #6345 on June 29, 1824 in New London at age 15.

Charles was master for three voyages on two ships with a home port of New London.

GEORGIA (AS1468): (ship, 394 tons, built in New York NY in 1845, broken up in 1849). Sailed on or about January 26, 1832 for the South Atlantic and St. Helena, returned in February 1833. Mystic Seaport Museum has a copy of the log of this voyage. It records, among other daily information, the Sunday morning Bible readings made to the crew. AV05748.

Sailed again on or about May 2, 1833, returned on February 21, 1835. Thomas Williams was her agent. Mystic Seaport Museum has a copy of the log of this voyage. The log records the death due to “dropsy” on January 18, 1835 (a month before ship returned to New London) of 20 year-old crew member Charles Rogers, a native of Groton and original crew member. AV05749.

PHOENIX (AS2188): (ship, 404 tons, built in Philadelphia PA, part of Stone Fleet #1). Sailed on November 7, 1850 for the Indian and Pacific oceans, returned on May 24, 1853. Miner, Lawrence & Co. was her agent. AV11628.

Charles was master of voyages of four whaling vessels with Stonington as home port: GEORGE (AS1464): 1835-1837. AV05588, PHILETUS (AS2181): 1837-1839 and 1839-1841. AV11556 and AV11557, HERALD  (AS1586): 1841-1843. AV06511, and PRUDENT (AS2246): 1844-1847. AV12002.

The story of Charles and his brother George as New London whaling masters and the Brewster family connection with the whaling industry would not be complete without mentioning one aspect of their brother William’s period as master of TIGER (AS2501), homeported in Stonington. His first wife, Mary Louisa Burtch, accompanied him on both voyages on TIGER (1845-1848, AV13970, and 1848-1851, AV13971). Mary maintained an extensive and detailed journal documenting the life of a woman at sea on a multi-year whaling voyage. The journals appear in Druett, She Was A Sister Sailor,published by Mystic Seaport Museum. The introduction provides background information about her.

Sources used: see sidebar and sources cited in text.

George Shaw (Mystic Seaport Museum) December 2023