Robert Wilcox Brown (AM0673)

Robert was born in Ledyard CT on August 24, 1809, He was the son of Aaron Brown (1781-1870) and Mary Wilcox Brown (1793-1877). He married Charlotte Heppingstone on August 27, 1840. She was born on June 22, 1823 in England or Ireland. They had numerous children, including: Annie (Spencer), Charlotte (Haley), Mary (Abrams), Allura (Cutler), Edith (Parker), Thomas, Cynthia (Spencer), and Theophilus. Charlotte died on November 7, 1879 in Seattle WA and is buried in Lake View Cemetery. Robert died of anemia in Seattle on August 26, 1894 and is buried in Mount Oliver Cemetery in Renton WA. Robert’s headstone, shown in Find a Grave, shows on the left an etching of him, on the right an etching of a bow view of a whaling ship under full sail, and at the bottom the words “Whaler Rancher Entrepreneur”. His probate records lists his only asset as a farm on Island County WA of about 240 acres, heavily encumbered.

Robert was master of one voyage on each on two ships with a home port in New London:

ELECTRA  (AS1261): (ship, 348 tons, built in Kensington PA in 1811, lost on Nunavik Island in July 1863. She sailed July 20, 1847 for the Indian Ocean and returned on March 25, 1850. According to Colby, Robert had patented a  heavy whaling gun that fired non-explosive harpoons and during this voyage he perfected its use. See his advertisements for this gun below. Williams & Barns were agents. AV04113

​​​​NORTH STAR (AS2059): (ship, 399 tons, built in Philadelphia PA in 1828, lost off Bedout Island off the northwest coast of Australia on July 12m 1856). She sailed on July 29, 1850 for the North Pacific and returned on June 5, 1855. During the voyage Robert left the ship, presumably in Hawaii, and was replaced by Francis D. Drew (AM1624). Williams & Barns were agents. AV10615

Two secondary sources, found through in a search for Robert (a Find a Grave memorial for Robert and a family tree of Julia Rice (descendant of Robert’s daughter Allura)) contain interesting information about Robert and his family that add to and enrich the family history. With the exception of important dates, the author cannot verify the information.

According primarily to the memorial, Robert sailed as a crew member on MENTOR (AS1923) at age 20 on her 1839-1841 voyage (AV09547). MENTOR stopped in Geographe Bay in western Australia in 1840. At about the same time, Charlotte, his future wife, arrived with her family after a voyage from England and settled in Augusta in southwest Australia. She became a passenger on MENTOR (destination not shown) where she and Robert met. They returned to his home in Connecticut where they married in 1840. The family remained there while Robert sailed as master of  ELECTRA. After returning from this voyage, in 1850 Robert became master of NORTH STAR, loaded aboard the family (Charlotte and two children) and set off on a whaling voyage. They sailed to Augusta, Australia to visit her family, then continued north into the Sea of Okhotsk where their daughter Mary was born at sea. They continued to Hawaii where the family settled in the fall of 1851 and became farmers. It was there that presumably Robert left NORTH STAR, to be replaced by Capt. Drew, and joined the family. Wood Abstract 2-502 describing this voyage does not mention Robert’s departure from the ship. In December 1854 Robert purchased the whaler BLACK WARRIOR in Honolulu and became her master (this voyage is not listed in AOWV). Interestingly, according Wood Abstract 2-075, BLACK WARRIOR was condemned in Honolulu in November 1853, a year before Robert’s purchase. In 1859, uninsured and with a load of whale oil, BLACK WARRIOR sank off the coast of Mexico in 1859 and was a total loss for Robert. Further tragedy befell the family when in 1858 they lost their home and all their possessions due to a volcanic eruption of Mauna Loa. The family moved to Renton, WA in 1871where Robert and Charlotte died.

George Shaw (Mystic Seaport Museum, ​January 2024)

Sources used in addition to those shown in the sidebar include: Whalemen’s Shipping List, June 18, 1850 (bottom) and the Friend (Honolulu, January 1, 1853 (top)