William R. Brown (AM0689)

William was born in Scotland on May 26, 1826 of unidentified parents. He married Euphemia C. Shaw, born in Canada on November 9, 1831. They had four children: Janet G. (1851-1925), Christina R. (1856-1863), John A. (1865-1903), and Robert A. (1872-1878). Of the four, only Janet and John survived to adulthood. William registered for the Civil War in July-August 1863 at age 38, his occupation shown as “moulder.” Census reports for 1870 and 1880 for Middletown, CT showing the familyliving in that city, William’s occupation listed as “brass foundry.” William died in Middletown on September 12, 1886. Euphemia on April 9, 1897. He is buried in Indian Hill Cemetery in Middletown; her place of burial is not known.

William started his career as a master by serving in that position for two voyages of HAMILTON (AS1511, home port Bridgeport CT) for her 1838-1839 and 1839-1841 voyages.

William then served as master of several voyages on four ships with home port in New London.

PERUVIAN (AS2174): (ship, 388 tons, 109’ long, built in Baltimore MD in 1824, broken up in 1859, registered from 1841-1858). She sailed in October 1841 for the Indian Ocean, returned in July 1843. Fitch & Leonard were the agents. AV11462.  She sailed in October 1843 for the NW Coast, returned In May 1845. E.H. Learned was the agent. AV11463. She sailed in July 1845 for the Indian and NW Coast, returned in April 1848. Stoddard & Learned were the agents. AV11464. She sailed in August 1848 for Desolation Island, returned in August 1850. Stoddard E.V. was the agent. AV 11465. She sailed in September 1850 for Desolation Island with his wife Euphemia aboard, returned I July 1852. See below for an insight about Euphemia’s experience at Desolation Island. Stoddard E.V. was the agent. AV 11466.

HANNAH BREWER (AS1522); (bark, 293 tons, built in Robinston ME in 1850, condemned in St. Helena in February 1857). She sailed in September 1852 for Desolation Island, returned in July 1854. Perkins & Smith were the agents. AV06126.

PIONEER (AS2196): (bark, 235 tons, built in Charleston MD, sunk in Hudson Bay on July 6, 1867). She sailed in July 1857 for Desolation Island and returned in July 1859. Stoddard E.V. was the agent. AV 11695.

FORWARD (AS1385): (schooner, 150 tons, built as a revenue cutter by the U.S. Government in 1842). She sailed on March 19, 1866 for Honolulu with a load of cargo. An April 27, 1866 letter from William dated to the owners, Williams & Havens, quoted in the New London Democrat on May 19, 1866, describes, in considerable detail, the ship encountering a severe storm in mid-Atlantic leading to the loss of the ship and its cargo on March 31, less than two weeks after her departure from New London. A passing Spanish ship in route from Havana to Amsterdam rescued the crew. The crew was able to transfer some of the ship’s food, bedding and other items to the Spanish ship that was running low onprovisions. The quoted letter recites that the FORWARD was rebuilt by the Government in 1861, and in December 1865, just prior to her departure, she was caulked, metalled, “put in thorough order”, and modified for use as a passenger and freight boat between the Hawaiian Islands. AV05051.

AOWV shows a “William Brown” (AM0690) as a replacement master for four voyages on ships with New London as home port (except the second voyage of J. E. COMSTOCK).

ATLAS (AS0928) for her 1851-1856 voyage. He was replacement master for Henry Whipple (AM5294) and in turn was replaced by John Edwards (?) (AM1704).  AV01386.

J. E. COMSTOCK (AS1669) for her 1857-58 voyage. He was replacement master for Robert B. Smith II (AM4544). The log for this voyage and her subsequent voyage, held Mystic Seaport Museum, shows Capt. Smith as masterthrough September 8, 1857; the next master shown is William on January 17, 1858. The log does not explain the change. The log shows the full name of the ship as JANE E. COMSTOCK. AV07214 J. E. COMSTOCK (home port now Warren RI) for her 1858-1861 voyage. The master is listed “Unknown, poss Brown, William”. AV016775.

FORWARD (AS1385), the same FORWARD shown above.

The dates of the ATLAS voyage conflict with the dates of the last voyage of PERUVIAN and the dates of the J.E. COMSTOCK voyages conflict with the dates of the PIONEER voyage. It is thus probable that the master of these three voyages was not William R. Brown (AM0689) but a different William Brown (AS0690). On the other hand, the master of FORWARD should be William R. Brown, not William Brown. The article cited above about the wreck of FORWARD refers to the master as “Captain William R. Brown”.

As noted above, William’s wife accompanied him on his last voyage of PERUVIAN. Joan Druett’s book Petticoat Whalers describes (p. 97) describes some aspects of a wife’s life about a whaling vessel. “Another wife to voyage to these harsh latitudes was Mrs. William Brown of the Peruvian, who spent the 1851 sea-elephantingseason at Desolation Island.” Two other ships arrived with wives aboard. Druett quotes a captain of one of those ships describing the domestic scene found on Peruvian: “A spacious house is erected upon the after part of the deck, and there…Captain William R. Brown, his wife, Miss Mary with her piano, and Master Johnny with his playthings pass the time as pleasantly as if at home.” Possibly Miss Mary is Euphemia; Johnny could not be their son John who was born 15 years later.

Sources used: see sidebar and sources cited in text.

George Shaw (Mystic Seaport Museum) June 2024