Benjamin Franklin Brown (AM0646)

Benjamin was born about 1812, perhaps November 14, 1811, in New London. He was the son of Benjamin (Sr.) (12/4/1781-1/22/1848) and Hannah Brown (c. 1784-1/28/1870), both of New London. They had at least two sons, both whaling masters, Benjamin and John (AM0667). Benjamin married Margaret Bane, born about 1810 in New York, on September 7, 1836 in New York City. They had three sons: John, Benjamin and George and six daughters: Mary Ann (Blydenburgh), Eliza (Douglass), Theresa (Butler), Louisa (Raymond), Sarah (Ruddock), and Jane (Harris). Margaret died on March 18, 1874, Benjamin on January 5, 1879, both in New London. They are buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in New London (#312-1). The gravestones for Benjamin (Sr.) and Hannah and for Benjamin and Margaret can be found at Find a Grave.

Benjamin served as master for one voyage of one ship with a home port of New London:

CERVANTES  (AS1061): (bark, 232 tons, built in Bath ME in 1836, lost off New Holland (Australia) in 1844). Sailed in mid-June 1841 for the Atlantic and Indian Ocean (AOWV) or south seas (Starbuck and Decker), returned in May 1843. Benjamin was both her owner and agent. AV02513

CERVANTES sailed again in 1843 with Sylvanus Gibson (AM2181) as master. AV02524. Dennis Wood Abstract (1-582) describes her loss during that voyage:

Driven on to a reef and lost on the 29th of June 1844 while endeavouringto get into a small bay on the West Coast of New Holland about 150 Miles north of the Swan River the wind blowing a gale at the time. The crew with great difficulty reached the shore in safety saving nothing but what they had on…. The crew proceeded to Swan River where they all arrived except one man James Thomas who became exhausted and was left where undoubtedly he perished.”

The New London Morning News of March 18, 1845 reports receiving news three days earlier that two New London whaling ships, CERVANTES (Capt. Gibson) belonging to Benjamin Brown and HALCYON (Capt. Bailey) belonging to Havens & Smith, were totally lost in the spring on 1844 on the coast of New Holland. The article continues: “This news was confirmed by the arrival in the evening of the Captain and crew of Cervantes, who reached New Bedford on a whaling ship on Saturday night….None of the crew was lost – one colored man, of the Cervantes crew, died on shore.”

There is no record of Benjamin serving as a master again and his name does not appear in New London Crews Lists. His principal occupation became acting as agent owning and managing whaling vessels. The census reports for New London for 1850 and 1870 show Benjamin and Margaret living in New London and describe his occupation as “Merchant” (1850) and “Ret. Ship Merchant” (1870). He served on the board of directors of the New London Marine Insurance Company (New London Daily Chronicle, January 9, 1849) and the Bank of Commerce (same, September 10, 1852). The New London City Directory for 1865 lists next to Benjamin’s name “house at 92 Bank St.” Benjamin’s will gave his land in New London bounded “by the passage way leading from the street to my wharf” (emphasis added) and gave to family members interests in various ships and profits from voyages then at sea. The will referred to a partnership of Harris and Brown. The probate records of his estate list as assets “wharf & factories” adjoining the house lot (presumably 92 Bank St.) and interests in 18 ships.

Colby (p. 6, 7) notes that a Benjamin Brown was an owner of New London whaleships in the 18th early century and became an agent, but, based on the dates, this Benjamin may well have been Benjamin (Sr.).

Sources used: see sidebar and sources cited in text:

George Shaw (Mystic Seaport Museum) January 2024