William H. Brown (AM0688)

Considerable information about William can be found in online and other resources noted in the sidebar. Colby’s book contains a multipage article about William drawing in part on records that belonged to William’s son. This article adds additional information about Williams voyages, his marriage, and the wreck of ATLANTIC, and enriches the story of his life. It should be noted that Colby cites no sources other than the vague reference to records of William’s son.

William was the son of Thomas Brown and his wife Mary. Thomas was a British army officer stationed in Gibraltar where he married Mary and where William was bornon July 12, 1828. Colby continues: William was serving as mate aboard HANNAH BREWER (see below) on her 1854 voyage to Desolation Island when she stopped in St. Helena for supplies. There he met Henry Bennett, a leading merchant in Jamestown, its capital city. Henry (1816-1859) and his wife Sylvia (1817-1852), married in 1834 in England, invited William to dinner where he met theirdaughter Martha (born January 5, 1840). A romance began. He wrote to her from Desolation Island in March 1855 that he had assumed command of ATLAS (see below) and would stop in St. Helena. The 1856 Parish Records of St. Paul’s Church in Jamestown record the marriage of William (“mariner”) and Martha (“minor”) in that church on April 28, 1856. The newly married couple sailed to New London, bringing with them Jacky, a servant of the Bennetts. Jacky, who later identified himself as John Brown, served in the Civil War, married and settled in New London, and sailed on several whaling voyages. William and Martha had a son, William Henry, born on January 29, 1862, died on October 26, 1937.

A crew list for FRANKLIN’s 1846 voyage (see below) shows William as resident of Great Britain; a crew list for DOVE’s 1859 voyage (see below) notes him as “naturalized.” The crew list for William’s voyage on ATLANTIC describes him as 5’ 9” in height with light skin and black hair.

Prior to becoming a master, William served on the crew of FRANKLIN (AS1406) on her 1846-1847 voyage and as mate on HANNAH BREWER (AS1522) on her 1854-18547 voyage, both with New London as home port. Colby reports that William served on the crew of CHARLES CARROLL (AS1078) for part of her 1847-1849 voyage to Desolation Island where he was left to guard property of the ship while she returned to New London with a full cargo. His requested discharge from the crew was granted in January 1849 and he returned to New London on another ship. His name does not show on the New London Crew List for this voyage.

William served as master for one voyage on each of two ships with home port in New London.

ATLAS (AS0928): (schooner, 81 tons, built Sussex County DE in 1833). Williams served as replacement master to the original master, Henry Whipple (AM5294), on her 1851-1856 voyage to Desolation Island. His name does not appear on the crew list for that voyage, so he must have joined at a later time. He in turn was followed by another replacement master, possibly John Edwards (AM1704).

ATLANTIC (AS0924): (schooner, 130 tons, built in Smithtown NY in 1849). She sailed in July 1856 for Desolation Island as tender to CORINTHIAN (AS1153) under Erasmus Rogers (AM4130) as master. Colby quotes from the account of James Bennett, a member of the crew of ATLANTIC, describing in considerable detail her wreck during hurricane winds on September 30, 1856 (place not recorded) leading to the death of seven crew members including the first and second mates. William survived but was weakened by the experience, leading to pleurisy and later consumption that probably caused or hastened his death. Bennett records that “we cast our eyes toward the bow and from the bowsprit to the helm lay nothing but a complete heal of ruins….Her bulwarks on both sides…were smashed in…and in fact everything, both below and above deck, was more or less broken and cut up.” Notwithstanding this damage, she survived to return to port in January 1857 and was repaired enough to make another voyage from 1857-1858 and her last voyage in 1861. Her registration was surrendered in November 24, 1862 when she was sold to foreigners. Perkins & Smith were the agents. AV01349.

After his voyage on ATLANTIC, William served on the crew of two ships with New London as home port: ZOE (AS2648) for her 1857-1859 voyage,  DOVE (AS1228) for her 1859-1861 voyage.

William died on March 25, 1862 in New London, a few weeks before the birth of his son. The story of his burial and later of Martha’s (she died on October 26, 1894 in New York City) is interesting by itself. William was initially buried in the Third Burying Ground in New London where his first monument, reading “My Husband William Brown”, was installed. After 1873 that cemetery, including his monument and presumably his remains were moved to what is now Cedar Grove Cemetery in New London where that monument now stands. Cedar Grove has no record of his reburial there, but the absence of a record does not mean that his remains were in fact placed there. Martha’s will, quoted in her obituary, gives precise instructions for her burial in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla NY and for the gravestones for her, William (“whose body I wish to have taken up from where it is buried in the cemetery in New London, Conn.”) to be placed there. Records at Kensico Cemetery (founded in 1889) show that his remains were buried there on April13, 1895. Martha was buried on October 29, 1894. Find a Grave shows photos of a gravestone for William and Martha listing their dates of birth and death and a matching one for William with his birth and death dates. The probable course of his remains is from Third Burying Ground to Cedar Grove until they were moved to Kensico Cemetery in 1895. William had a lot of miles at sea under his belt and, as it turned out, his remains were equally well traveled.

Sources used: see sidebar and sources cited in text. Also records at Cedar Grove Cemetery in New London and Find a Grave report for Martha. As well as phone calls with representatives of Cedar Grove and Kensico cemeteries. For her obituary (using the last name Naramore for her second husband from whom she was separated), see The New York Times, December 25, 1894. The original of the photo above is part of the collection of Mystic Seaport Museum, #39.1333

George Shaw (Mystic Seaport Museum) June 2024