Category Archives: my recent ancestors (grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.)

whaling career and log of Henry T. Handy (1845-1916) of Cataumet, MA

 

 

The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are ready,

— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

 

 

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POSTED henry-t-handys-whaling-journal

 

 

Attached above as a downloadable Word document is my own transcription (laboriously completed by me, by hand) of a journal kept by my great-grandfather Henry Thomas Handy (1845-1916) on a whaling voyage in 1868-1869. Also included are notes and commentary about Mr. Handy’s voyages, prepared by me. Henry T. Handy was my mother’s maternal grandfather.

My great-grandfather’s first voyage, in July 1866, sailing from New Bedford, Massachusetts, was as an ordinary seaman.

On his second voyage, in July 1868 on the bark Morning Star (also out of New Bedford), he was appointed boatsteerer. The boatsteerer sits in the bow of the whaleboat and functions both as the steerer of the boat and the harpooner. Mr. Handy kept a journal of this voyage, which is posted here.

The photo below is of the bark Morning Star. My great-grandfather rose to the position of First Mate on that ship, on a later voyage.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    June 2018

 

 

morning-star-whaling-ship-on-which-henry-t-handy-served-as-first-mate.jpg

 

 

 

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Addendum:

 

My great-great grandfather’s whaling journal was copied by me by hand at the home of a distant relative in Pocasset on Cape Cod around fifteen to twenty years ago. She was in possession of it. It had been in the possession of one of my mother’s cousins. He had cleaned out my mother’s aunt’s belongings from her Boston apartment when my mother’s aunt passed way in the early 1970’s. My mother’s aunt (daughter of my great-grandfather, the whaler) had inherited and preserved the whaling journal.

Under the terms of my mother’s aunt’s will, it appears that the journal should have been bequeathed to my mother. However, my mother was ill at the time, and had no knowledge of this. My mother’s aunt was the main preserver of family lore.

The distant relative living in Pocasset, the widow of my mother’s cousin, who (the widow, that is) was not a blood relative, jealously guarded access to the journal. She did not appear to have much interest in it, other than as something of potential monetary value, for sale.

I was treated inhospitably by the widow of my mother’s cousin. Sensing that I was not welcome in her home (which she made clear was the case by her demeanor and various indications of being unhospitable), I was pretty certain that I would not be allowed to return. So, I copied the entire journal by hand in one sitting. My wrist ached and I felt as if my hand was going to fall off.

I asked her if I could take it to a nearby motel and copy it there, bringing it back the next day. She said absolutely not. She did not trust me. I was determined to stay until I finished copying the entire journal because I felt that it was unlikely that I would get access to her house again.

I subsequently typed and edited the diary and did considerable work on it. I looked up many of the places my great-grandfather visited in the South Pacific (using his place names and longitudes and latitudes). I looked up contemporary reports of shipping activity and crew lists in the New Bedford Public Library to verify info on some of his voyages.

The library research was extensive, time consuming, and rewarding. The New Bedford Public Library is an indispensable repository of information accessible nowhere else about the nineteenth century whaling industry as well as the genealogy of settlers in Southeastern Massachusetts. My maternal grandmother grew up in New Bedford, and she had New Bedford ancestors going back several generations.

The Whalemen’s Shipping List is an index card file at the New Bedford Public Library. The cards were compiled and entries typed by Works Progress Administration (WPA) employees during the 1930’s. A card reads:

Handy, Henry, bark Stella, N.B. [New Bedford]
lost Foggy Is., Cal., Aug. 11, 1867
Ordinary Seaman
1/150 [lay, the seaman’s share of the voyage’s profits]

The first entry in Mr. Handy’s journal reads:

Wednesday, July 1, 1868 – “Went on board this morning at Clarks Point and got underway and beat down the Bay in company with the Oliver Crocker Capt. Fish[er]. 5 P.M. the Pilot and land sharks left and went ashore. Afterwards the Mate called all hands and the Officers chose their boats crews. … it fell to my lot to steer the Mate Mr. Lewis.”

Beat is a nautical term meaning to tack back and forth across the desired direction of advance to gain distance against an unfavorable wind. Land sharks were shore agents who procured greenhorn whalemen and outfitted them. Their methods were unscrupulous.

a trip to Massachusetts (and its disappointing aftermath)

 

 

During the month just ended, I took a trip to Massachusetts to attend the American Literature Association’s annual conference in Boston, and also to take photos of personal interest from the point of view of my personal history and also from a genealogical angle.

I grew up in Massachusetts, in the Greater Boston area.

Practically all of my relatives came from Massachusetts. My father’s ancestors, on his father’s side, emigrated from Scotland to Boston in 1872. His relatives on his mother’s side emigrated during the colonial period and lived mostly in Essex County, north of Boston, and subsequently in the Greater Boston area.

My mother’s relatives were originally mostly from Cape Cod; some of my relatives continue to live there.

The following is a trip itinerary with photographs.

 

 

 

Continue reading

my Revolutionary War ancestor

 

 

 

The following is the text of an email of mine to a friend today.

 

— Roger W. Smith, April 18, 2017

 

 

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Scott —

 

My mother’s ancestral link to the Revolutionary War did not go back far.

Her great-great grandfather William Handy was a Revolutionary War soldier.

The line of descent:

Elinor Handy Smith, my mother (1918-1973)

her father Ralph E. Handy (1893-1947)

her grandfather Henry T. Handy (whaler; 1845-1916)

her great-grandfather Joshua Handy (1813-1887)

her great-great grandfather William Handy (1762-1852); the Revolutionary War soldier

All of the above named Handy males, with the exception of my mother’s father, were mariners. They all lived on Cape Cod.

William Handy joined the Continental Army in June 1780, when he was just shy of age 18. He enlisted in Massachusetts. Records indicate that during his service he was in New York state and New Jersey.

My Grandfather, the 1912 World Series, and Harry Hooper’s Catch; Plus, a Couple of My Own Favorites

 

 

In the 1912 World Series, the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Giants four games to three, with one tie.

The eighth and final game was played on Wednesday, October 16, 1912, at Fenway Park in Boston. The attendance was 17,034. The location of the game was determined by a coin toss, which the Red Sox won.

In the game, Boston rallied for two runs in the tenth inning to win the game and the Series, thanks to two costly Giants fielding misplays.

In the fifth inning, Giants second baseman Larry Doyle hit a long drive to right but was robbed of a possible home run by Red Sox outfielder Harry Hooper, who made a great running catch in front of the low fence.

My paternal grandfather, Thomas Gordon Smith, witnessed the catch, as he told me years afterward.

Hooper’s catch was described as follows by Red Sox pitcher Smoky Joe Wood, their ace (who pitched in the game in relief), in an interview for the classic book by Lawrence Ritter (who “moonlighted” as a finance professor at the New York University school of business) The Glory of Their Times:

Larry Doyle hit a terrific drive to deep right center, and Harry ran back at full speed and dove over the railing and into the crowd and in some way, I’ll never quit figure out how, he caught the ball — I think with his bare hand. It was almost impossible to believe, even when you saw it.

Red Sox center fielder Tris Speaker, one of the greatest outfielders of all time, called Hooper’s “running, leaping catch,” as he described it, “one of the greatest catches I ever saw.”

This accords with what my grandfather told me. “I was at the World Series game when Harry Hooper caught the ball and fell into the stands,” he said.

 

 

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To return to the overall game, and its dramatic denouement.

Smoky Joe Wood, who had taken a pounding on the mound the day before, entered the game in the eighth inning in relief of the Boston starter, Hugh Bedient. Christy Mathewson was pitching for the Giants.

The game went into extra innings with the score tied at 1-1. The Giants scored a run in the top of the tenth inning, making the score 2-1 in their favor. They were three outs away from a World Series victory.

In the bottom of the tenth inning, the Red Sox rallied for two runs to win the game.

The last half of the tenth featured a famous misplay, “Snodgrass’s muff.”

Red Sox pinch hitter Clyde Engle (batting for Smoky Joe Wood) led off with an easy fly ball to Fred Snodgrass in center field. Snodgrass dropped the ball, and Engle reached second base. The next day’s New York Times described the play as follows: “And now the ball settles. It is full and fair in the pouch of the padded glove of Snodgrass. But he is too eager to toss it to [left fielder Red] Murray and it dribbles to the ground.”

The next batter was the above mentioned Harry Hooper, he of the miraculous fifth inning catch. He flied out to deep center — Snodgrass making a fine running catch, right after his error — but Engle advanced to third.

Red Sox second baseman Steve Yerkes was walked by Mathewson, putting the winning run on base.

The next batter was center fielder Tris Speaker (a future Hall of Famer). He lifted a foul popup on the first base side, but Giants first baseman Fred Merkle, pitcher Mathewson, and catcher Chief Meyers allowed the ball to fall untouched in foul territory. Snodgrass later claimed that Red Sox bench jockeys had disrupted the players’ timing.

Given new life, Speaker singled home Engle to tie the game 2–2, Yerkes advancing to third. Mathewson walked the next batter, left fielder Duffy Lewis, intentionally, loading the bases.

The next batter, Red Sox third baseman Larry Gardner, flied to Josh Devore in right field deep enough for Yerkes to tag up and score, and the Red Sox won the game and the Series.

The Boston outfield consisted of Duffy Lewis, left field (famous for “Duffy’s Cliff”); Tris Speaker, center field; and Harry Hooper in right. It is considered one of the best outfields of all time.

(How is it that the Red Sox seem to usually have great outfields? They had a pretty good one in the fifties when I was a young fan: Ted Williams in left; Jimmy Piersall in center; and Jackie Jensen in right. Then, later, there were the outfields comprised of Red Sox stars such as Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, and Dwight Evans, in various combinations.)

From a Wikipedia article, at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1912_World_Series

Fred Snodgrass’s error went down in history as “the $30,000 muff”, a reference to the difference in the winning and losing shares, $29,514.34. (Note: this figure was calculated with respect to the total amounts of the two teams’ shares.) After the series, Snodgrass tried to explain, saying “I didn’t seem to be able to hold the ball. It just dropped out of the glove, and that was all there was to it.”

Christy Mathewson later wrote that “As I look back upon the 1912 series, when we lost to the Boston Red Sox, I see it was the same. Pitchers, outfielders, the whole team collapsed under the strain.”

My grandfather was age 27 at the time of the final game of the 1912 Series. He was employed as a bank teller in Boston. See photo below.

 

 

T. Gordon Smith

Thomas Gordon Smith (1885-1967)

 

 

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Addendum:

 

Harry Hooper’s catch is not often written about, but it was one of the all time great catches.

I would like to mention two of my favorites.

Opening day at Yankee Stadium on April 14, 1967 pitted the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox. Rookie Billy Rohr was the Red Sox starter; it was his first Major League game. He was pitching a no hitter through eight innings.

In the bottom of the ninth, left fielder Tom Tresh led off for the Yankees. He hit a long drive to left field. Left fielder Carl Yastrzemski, who was playing shallow, made a remarkable over the shoulder, tumbling catch to preserve the no hitter.

Yastrzemski’s catch is viewable on YouTube at

 

 

Unfortunately, Rohr lost the no hitter when the next batter, Elston Howard, singled.

Then there was the catch that Dwight Evans made in Game Six — game six of the 1975 World Series between the Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, that is.

In the top of the eleventh, with Ken Griffey on first, Joe Morgan hit a deep drive to right field that looked to be headed over the fence. Evans, however, made a spectacular catch near the visitors’ bullpen to rob Morgan of a homer, then he made one of his herculean throws to double Griffey off first. The first baseman was none other than Carl Yastrzemski.

Evans’s catch is viewable on YouTube at

 

 

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2016

William Handy (1762-1852)

 

My ancestor William Handy was born on August 15, 1762 in Sandwich, Massachusetts, a town on Cape Cod, and died in Sandwich on February 8, 1852 at the age of 89.

Mr. Handy served in the Continental Army under George Washington during the Revolutionary War when he was eighteen years old.

It is astonishing to me to realize the following: Mr. Handy was my mother’s great-great grandfather. That means he goes back only four generations from my mother, Elinor H. Smith (1918-1973; nee Elinor Congdon Handy).

My mother was the daughter of Ralph E. Handy (1893-1947). Her grandfather was Henry T. Handy (1845-1916). Her great-grandfather was Henry Handy’s father, Joshua Handy (1813-1877). Joshua Handy’s father, my mother’s great-great grandfather, was the above mentioned William Handy.

Here’s a very interesting fact, among several, about William Handy. His Revolutionary War service required him to travel to New York State. Presumably, this would have been on foot. During his service, he was present at the execution of Major John André (1750-1780), the British Army officer who was hanged on October 2, 1780 in Tappan, Rockland Country, New York as a spy during the Revolutionary War for assisting Benedict Arnold’s attempted surrender of the fort at West Point to the British.

An account of Major André’s hanging indicates that a large crowd was assembled for the hanging, including many troops.

The hanging is described as follows in an eyewitness account by James Thacher, M.D., a surgeon in the American Revolutionary Army (in his The American Revolution: From the Commencement to the Disbanding of the American Army Given in the Form of a Daily Journal, with the Exact Dates of all the Important Events; Also, a Biographical Sketch of the Most Prominent Generals):

The fatal hour having arrived, a large detachment of troops [italics added] was paraded, and an immense concourse of people assembled; almost all our general and field officers, excepting his excellency [Washington] and staff, were present on horseback; melancholy and gloom pervaded all ranks, and the scene was affectingly awful.

In his History of Cape Cod, vol. II (1862), Rev. Frederick Freeman, who knew Mr. Handy personally, writes:

During the revolutionary period, at a time when it was most difficult to obtain men for the war, he volunteered and served in several campaigns. He was present at the execution of Andre, a scene the incidents of which he related at the very close of his life, not only with nice accuracy but with an exhibition of fine sensibilities and generous feeling.

The full account of Rev. Freeman is as follows:

Capt. William Handy was, in some respects, a remarkable man.

During the revolutionary period, at a time when it was most difficult to obtain men for the war, he volunteered and served in several campaigns.

He was present at the execution of Andre, a scene the incidents of which he related at the very close of his life, not only with nice accuracy but with an exhibition of fine sensibilities and generous feeling.

Endowed with an iron constitution, of good judgment and most determined will — fearless, resolute, and full of energy, his earlier life was chiefly devoted to maritime pursuits — first in the merchant service and then in whaling.

After one whale voyage as mate, he was for many years in command of some of the best and most successful ships engaged in that business, making repeated voyages from New Bedford, and also from Dunkirk in France in pursuance of an arrangement made first by Tupper with Bonaparte when First Consul and afterwards by Rotch with the Consul as Emperor.

Captain Handy’s ability, integrity, and success were proverbial, securing unlimited confidence. Retiring from the seas, he engaged still in maritime affairs, establishing a ship-yard near his house on Buzzard’s Bay and becoming largely a ship-owner.

He sent forth from his own yard the ship Rebecca, the brig Fame, schooners Resolution, Nancy [named after his daughter], Sophronia, Love [named after his wife], Acsah Parker [named after his daughter Acshah Handy, who married Calvin Parker], and sloops Betsy [named after his daughter], Nancy [named after his daughter], Deborah, and other smaller vessels designed for the Long Island Sound trade during the war of 1812. These last smaller vessels were, for greater security against the ravages of the enemy, built near his door at a distance from the shore, and then without great difficulty launched across fields to their intended element.

Capt. H. suffered greatly from French spoliations, as well as from the war of 1812; but cherished faith in the tardy justice of his country to the very last of life.

When more than 60 years old he resolved, to replenish his coffers and “to show the boys how to take whales,” to adventure one more voyage. His purpose was no sooner known in New Bedford than eminent merchants and ship-owners were ready to further his views. Put in command of the Com. Decatur in 1821, he accomplished in 15 months a most successful cruise to the admiration of all.

He had an utter repugnance to public life, and yet was elected Selectman, and commissioned as Jus. Pac.

Anecdotes might be related of him … showing the energy and daring of the man; and one … would be of thrilling interest — that of a rencontre by himself and one other with a white polar bear, engaged upon the ice and snows without firearms. The contest was desperate; but the bear weighing more than 500 lbs. labored under the disadvantage of breaking through the snow-crust, whilst his assailants were supported by it and finally conquered.

William Handy married Love Swain (ca. 1779-1857), who was born on Nantucket. Love Swain Handy was a descendant of the first settlers of Nantucket, including Peter Folger (ca. 1618-1690), Benjamin Franklin’s maternal grandfather.

The couple had nine children, the youngest of whom was Capt. Joshua Handy (1813-1877), our mother, Elinor H. Smith’s great-grandfather.

Love (Swain) Handy, William Handy’s widow, applied on April 14, 1855 for a pension based on her husband’s service in the Revolutionary War.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     May 2016

 

James Bunker Congdon

 

Posted here is a photograph of a portrait of James Bunker Congdon (1802-1880), a leading nineteenth century citizen of New Bedford, Massachusetts in its heyday.

Also posted here is a photograph of Mr. Congdon from the archives of the New Bedford Free Public Library.

The Congdon portrait currently hangs in the New Bedford city council chambers. It belongs to the New Bedford Free Public Library, where it was originally hung (and where I saw it some 15 years ago).

The painting was commissioned by the library in 1868 by several prominent members of the community and presented to the library. Joseph Eaton, a noted New York painter whose students included William Merritt Chase, was the portraitist.

 

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James Bunker Congdon is of interest to me because – while not a direct ancestor – he was an illustrious member of a New Bedford, Massachusetts family from which my mother, Elinor Smith (nee Elinor Congdon Handy), was descended.

My maternal grandmother, Annie Congdon Handy (nee Hart; 1894-1972), was the great grandniece of James B. Congdon.

Here’s how the descent works.

James Bunker Congdon was the son of Caleb Congdon (1767-1832), a hatter and whaler.

Caleb Congdon’s daughter Lydia Congdon (1793-1830) married Gamaliel Hart (circa 1791-1834), who was the great-grandfather of my maternal grandmother, Annie Congdon (Hart) Handy.

Caleb Congdon and his wife, Susanna (Taber) Congdon, had ten children. Besides a daughter, Lydia – mentioned in the above paragraph – their children included their third son, James B. Congdon.

James B. Congdon (my maternal grandmother’s great-granduncle) held numerous important positions in adulthood:

— He was the first cashier of the Merchants Bank.

— He served as city treasurer and collector for many years.

— He was named registrar of the Acushnet Water Board upon its establishment.

— He was the first president of the New Bedford Gas Light Company and afterwards its clerk and treasurer for a quarter of a century.

— He served as sectary and treasurer of the New Bedford Railway and Wharf Company.

— He was treasurer and one of the directors of the Acushnet Iron Foundry.

Mr. Congdon held government posts as Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, City Treasurer and Collector of Taxes, and member of the school committee for eleven years.

He was dedicated to civic causes:

— He was recording secretary of the New Bedford Anti-Slavery Society.

— He was president of the New Bedford Society for Aiding Discharged Convicts.

— He was a vice president of the New Bedford Society of Natural History.

Mr. Congdon was instrumental in the founding of the New Bedford Free Public Library and was chosen as one of its trustees.

Mr. Congdon also attained distinction as a writer. In an obituary, it was stated that he “was a writer of good ability, well versed in local history, and prepared reports, historical sketches and other publications of the many institutions of which he was an officer. The appendix of historical details in the `Centennial of New Bedford,’ published in 1876, was edited by him.”

His obituary states that James B. Congdon “was at his death probably the best known citizen of New Bedford, and enjoyed the general respect of the community.”

 

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Thank yous are due to Janice Hodson, Curator of Art, Special Collections Department, New Bedford Free Public Library, who sent me a photograph of James B. Congdon’s portrait and the photograph of him; and to Marsha Parham, who responded to an initial inquiry by me and also sent me a photograph of the Congdon portrait. Ms. Perham’s husband, James Perham, a former City Auditor of New Bedford, is a Congdon descendant.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     April 2016

 

 

James Bunker Congdon.jpg

 

 

 

 

James Bunker Congdon photograph.jpg