Theophilus Brown (AM0679)

Theophilus was born  in Groton CT on June 12, 1824. He was the son of Aaron Brown (11/25/1784 – 11/8/1870) and Mary Wilcox Brown (1793 – 11/28/1877). He married twice. His first wife, Julia Ann Hallett, daughter of Henry Hallett and Julia Ann Hallett, died on May 13, 1859 at age 20. She as well as her parents are buried in the Ledyard Hallett Cemetery in Ledyard CT. On November 17, 1868 Theophilus married Mary Louisa (Polly) Geer (born May 31,1843, died June 5, 1936). She was a descendant of William Brewster of the MAYFLOWER. They had several children including Clara, Allaire, Theophilus, and Minnie. His Civil War draft registration describes him as “whaleman.” Census reports for Groton records him as “retired shipmaster” (1870) and as “capitalist” (1890 and 1900). He died on January 5, 1905. Theophilus and Polly are buried in the New Poquetanuck Cemetery in Preston CT.


AOWV records his name as Theophilus Morgan Brown. His father’s mother’s maiden name was Morgan so his use of her maiden name would not have been unusual. Colby (p.109) refers to letters and documents preserved by his daughter sent by “Captain Theophilus Morgan Brown” and uses his middle initial in the description of the above photograph (taken from Colby). Most other sources refer to him without a middle name or initial. His gravestone and his wife’s show only his first and last name.

Theophilus began his career at sea at age 18 serving on the crew of VERMONT (AS2555) for two voyages (1843 -1845 and 1846-1847). Colby describes (p. 114) his adventures on the second voyage – tropical fever striking most of the crew, then the ship struck an island in the Indian Ocean and was lost but the crew saved. AOWV and New London Crew Lists do not show the crew lists for these voyages.

Theophilus served as master for four voyages of two ships with a home port of New London.

ELECTRA  (AS1261): (ship, 348 tons, built in Kensington PA in 1811, lost on Nunavik Island in July 1863). She sailed June 6, 1854 for the Indian and Pacific oceans and returned on September 11, 1857. AV04117.She sailed again on June 15, 1857 for North Pacific and returned in April 1859. A scanned logbook of this voyage and her 1859 voyage is available on (AL037048). AV04118. She sailed again on August 16, 1859 for North Pacific and returned on March 26, 1862. Theophilus left the ship during the voyage and was replaced by William G. Bush. AV04119.

J.D. THOMPSON (AS0345) (bark, 430 tons, built in New Bedford in1855). She sailed in May 1863 for the North Pacific and returned in March 1858. Starbuck reports that “Mr. Kenworthy, first mate, and boat crew lost while fast to a whale. Colby (p. 115 gives a more detailed account. Theophilus left the ship, to be replaced by Daniel Watrous (AM5190). Wood Abstract 4-314 does not mention the change of command. AV07211

Williams & Barns were agents for all of these voyages.

Colby contains several pages (114-117) describing the voyages of Theophilus, quotes many of his letters, and fills out much of the information above.

Theophilus’s brother, Robert Wilcox Brown (AM0673), served as master of two voyages of ships with New London as home port.

AOWV records Theodore Brown (AM0678) as replacement master for the voyage of J.D. THOMPSON. The first name and other pertinent information aboutTheodore as a person is not known. No record of a Theodore Brown as a master has been found nor has any relevant information connected with a person of that name been located. It may be that the replacement master was a real individual named Theodore Brown or that “Theodore” with his first name incorrectly recorded was Theophilus. The records are unclear.

For sources see sidebar and sources men​​​​​​​​tioned in the text.

George Shaw (​​​​​​​​Mystic Seaport Museum) ​​​​​​​​February 2024