The History of Middlesex County 1635-1885
J. H. Beers & Co., 36 Vesey Street, New York
[transcribed by Janece Streig]
TOWN OF WESTBROOK. PROMINENT MEN.
Of the pioneer families of the town many, as the GRINNELLS, BATES, and DUNCKS, have wholly disappeared. Of the LAYS, MURDOCKS, WRIGHTS, and JONESES, remnants remain, while the CHAPMANS, POSTS, STANNARDS, SPENCERS, and BUSHNELLS are yet representative families and numerous.
The PRATTS and KIRTLANDS were later comers, though their ancestor, Lieutenant William PRATT, of Potopaug, and John KIRTLAND, the first tavern keeper in Saybrook, were settled but a mile or two away about 1640.
For nearly 200 years Westbrook was not without a Samuel CHAPMAN, a John STANNARD, a William BUSHNELL, and a Jared SPENCER.
The name of Robert LAY and Ephraim KELSEY existed here for a century and a half.
THE CHAPMAN FAMILY.
The CHAPMANs were a race of thrifty farmers, located n the eastern part of the town, and were descendants of Robert Chapman, who settled in Saybrook in 1638. The family has been identified with Westbrook form its earliest permanent settlement.
Captain Samuel CHAPMAN, a worthy inhabitant, and leading man in public affairs in this village, was the grandson of Robert CHAPMAN, the first settler, and son of Robert jr., from whom he received an estate comprising a large portion of "Chapmantown" by gift or inheritance. This farm has been cultivated by successive generations of the family to the present time. Captain CHAPMAN was one of the most active in the organization of the ecclesiastical society in 1724, and in the formation of the church connected therewith, of which he was one of the 14 members in 1726.
Jedediah CHAPMAN, son of Capt. Samuel CHAPMAN, born in 1703, was a lawyer by profession and a deacon in the Congregational church. Deacon CHAPMAN was a man of distinction in the colony, probably being better known and more highly honored than any other citizen of the town in those days. He was a major of militia; a representative in the General Assembly for 20 years, alternating at times with Major Murdock; served on important commissions to the neighboring colonies, and was for a number of years one of the auditors of public accounts. Deacon CHAPMAN died in 1764. His two sons, Jedediah and Caleb, followed him as deacons in the old church, and every generation of the family have been represented in that capacity to the present time.
THE LAY FAMILY.
From the earliest settlement of the town the Lay family has been one of wealth and importance. Tradition located Robert, the progenitor of the family, here before 1640.
Documentary evidence shows him to have been one of those to whom the "outlying lands" here were distributed, in 1848. There is now living the sixth Robert Lay, in direct succession. The family increased rapidly and became the owners of real estate in almost every section of the town.
Among those of note may be mentioned Col. Asa Lay, who was born here in 1748, and died on the "Old Lay homestead," in 1813. Colonel Lay was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, and became a lieutenant, commanding the body guard of Baron STEUBEN. At the time of the declaration of peace, in 1783, he was stationed with the Baron at Fishkill, on the Hudson. General WASHINGTON's headquarters, at which he was a frequent visitor, were at Newburgh, on the opposite side of the river. He named his son after his commander, and Mr. Steuben LAY, who has been dead but a few years, was a man much respected in the town.
Judge Jonathan Lay, son and grandson of Jonathan LAY, and probably a great-grandson of Robert, the first, to whom and his widow, Nancy ELLIOT, the First Congregational Church and Society is indebted for many and valuable benefactions, was born in town, in 1748, and died in 1831. His widow survived him 21 years, dying in May 1852, at the age of 82. Judge LAY had three wives, but no children.
The present Congregational parsonage was a gift from him, as also 20 acres of woodland, the society coming in possession at the death of Mrs. LAY. The parsonage was first occupied by Rev. William HYDE.
Mrs. LAY gave by will, to the society, the building called the "Conference House" and $50-to keep it in repair, the sum of $300 to keep in repair the parsonage, and a small piece of land lying east of the parsonage." To this last gift she adds, "it is the will of the testator that the society to whom it is give, do not suffer any building to be erected thereon, neither to have it incumbered in any way, but that they have it kept as an open space or green for the benefit of the public forever."
Mrs. LAY also gave, to be under the care of the minister and deacons, the sum of $200, "to increase the Library already commenced by Doct. MURDOCK, the annual increase only to be expended for that purpose." Fifty dollars were left in the hands of the society "to keep in repair the graves and gravestones of Jonathan, Anna, and Nancy LAY, and the tomb of Rev'd John DEVOTION."
THE MURDOCK FAMILY.
The MURDOCKs, though not of the first to settle here, were for more than three-quarters of a century one of the most wealthy and influential families in the parish.
Peter MURDOCK, the progenitor of the family, first appears in these parts as a peddler of scissors, pins, needles, etc., on Long Island in the latter part of the 17th century.
He married his wife at East Hampton, L. I., about 1805, and set up a small store in that town. Next he was running a small trading sloop along the coasts of Long Island Sound, leaving his wife to tend his store. In this business he was brought to Westbrook or West Saybrook, as it was sometimes called, and here he purchased between 800 and 900 acres of land bordering on Pochoug River, about half a mile on its west side. A few years later he built a dwelling on the bank of the river, to which he moved his family and store, and here he carried on the mercantile business with that limited stock necessary to the merchant of olden times, when each family produced its own prime necessities.
This was the first store in town, and its inventory must have been a simple affair indeed, his stock like that of a most merchants of the period probably of his own importation from the West Indies. His son and only child, John, carried on the business of farming on the plantation, with the aid of his slaves, who have left monuments of their labor in enormous stone walls surrounding it. His thrift and sagacity brought him a large fortune for the times, and made him a power in the community.
The family's connection by marriage with the influential LAY family, and also with the Rev. Mr. DEVOTION, the lordly long-time minister in the old church, gave it an additional prominence in public affairs. Peter, the first settler died at the hold homestead, in 1753, at the age of 74.
John MURDOCK, the only son of Peter, born in 1706, inherited his father's property and native sagacity, to which were added a superior intelligence, culture, and moral qualities, that made him conspicuous among the distinguished men in the colony.
He was a major in the colonial militia, a deacon in the Congregation church, judge of the Court of Common Please, and a representative in the General Assembly for the undivided town, for a number of years. His father settled upon him, probably at the time of his marriage, about 1730, one-half of his estate, and built for him a dwelling, where he spent his day. He carried on the farming business extensively, for half a century.
Major MURDOCK had thirteen children, seven boys and six girls. Three of the boys graduated at Yale College, and four continued the cultivation of the original estate.
A Son, ABRAHAM, married a daughter of Jonathan LAY sen., and sister of Judge Jonathan LAY, and a daughter became the wife of Rev. John DEVOTION, another the wife of Judge LAY. Major MURDOCK died at his homestead on the hill, in 1778, at the age of 72.
Dr. James MURDOCK, the eminent divine, oriental scholar, and author, was born in Westbrook, February 16th 1776. He was a grandson of Major John MURDOCK, and great-grandson of Peter MURDOCK, the immigrant.
His father, Abraham MURDOCK, dying when he was only 14 months old, his mother remarried and moved to Lyme, where he passed a portion of his childhood. His educational advantages were meager, yet he entered Yale College, poorly prepared, in 1793, at the age of 17. He graduated four years later, and such had been his patience, persistence, and industry, that he took the second appointment, and also carried away the Berkeleian Premium as the best scholar in the class, and as having passed the best examination in Latin and Greek; and this in a class with Dr. Lyman BEECHER, Henry BALDWIN (Supreme court judge), Samuel A. FOOT (governor of Connecticut), Horatio SEYMOUR (U. S. Senator), and others equally eminent in literature.
Soon after graduation he became preceptor of the Hopkins Grammar School, which position he occupied a little over a year, following which he was successively principal of Hamilton Oneida Academy, supply minister at New Hartford and Oxford, Connecticut, and was ordained and settled at Princeton, Massachusetts, in 1802. In 1815, he was appointed professor of the learned languages in the University of Vermont, and in 1819, professor of Sacred Rhetoric and Ecclesiastical History in the Theological Seminary at Andover.
Dr. MURDOCK took up his residence in New Haven, in 1829, and here, in retirement, the most of his time for 25 years was devoted to the study of ancient literature and ecclesiastical history. The Ancient Syriac, the language almost identical with that spoken by our Saviour and his Apostles, was his special delight.
The results of these studies were those invaluable translations of his-"Mosheim's Institutes of Ecclesiastical History," "Mosheim's Commentaries on Affairs of the Christians before Constantine," and of the "New Testament from the Ancient Syriac." Says one who knew him well, "Doct. Murdock was a thoroughly learned man. In the number of ancient and modern languages at his command, in ancient and modern philosophy, in ecclesiastical and civil history, and acquaintance with society and the progress of civilization, in all ages of the world, he had, we think, no peer." Doctor MURDOCK was an honorary member of the New York Historical Society; president of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences; president of the Philological Society of Connecticut, and one of the founders of the American Oriental Society.
His death occurred at Columbus, Miss., in 1856, while he was on a visit to his son residing in that place.
Through all his busy life Doctor MURDOCK never forgot his native village, or ceased to show a strong interest in the home of his ancestors. His mother was a descendant of Robert LAY, one of the first settlers of Westbrook, a daughter of Jonathan LAY sen., and sister of Judge Jonathan LAY. His aunt was the wife of Rev. John DEVOTION, the learned and respected preacher in the old church for 45 years. A substantial evidence of his regard was the gift of a "Ministerial and Parish Library" to the Congregational church and society, with an endowment fund for its support.
In a letter accompanying his last gift, Doctor MURDOCK says: "And now Dear Friends, that Heaven may bless you and cause Westbrook to be the cradle of an enlightened, virtuous, and happy people through all generations, is the earnest desire of one born and passing much of his early childhood among you."
That the idea of submarine warfare originated in the brain of David BUSHNELL, as well as the fact that he invented and built the first torpedo boat for that use, is conceded by every authority on the subject. What is especially remarkable is the perfection of details of this boat when there had been nothing previous to suggest or guide in any way. Robert FULTON caught the notion from BUSHNELL, and, a few years later, built a torpedo boat called the Nautilus, which was no improvement on BUSHNELL's boat, except that by the use of compressed air he was enabled to stay under water a longer time. FULTON afterward sought out BUSHNELL, in Paris, and by accident found him living and at work in an obsure part of the city, under an assumed name.
The illustrious subject of this sketch was born in that part of the old town of Saybrook which is now Westbrook, about 1742. His parents, who lived in an obscure part of the town, were engaged in agricultural pursuits, and were in moderate circumstances. His early life was spent in this secluded spot, and tradition says that he was a quiet, unostentatious youth, who seldom, if ever, mingled in society, but was intensely interested in his books.
When David was about 27 years old, his father died, and the young man alienated the estate and removed to another part of the town. He was ambitious to enter college, and to that end placed himself under the instruction of Rev. John DEVOTION, then the pastor of the church at Westbrook. About this time he became the close companion of Elias TULLY, a fellow townsman, who gave him a welcome hone, and here he remained until he was admitted to Yale College, in 1771.
Just when he first entertained the idea of submarine navigation is uncertain, but he seems to have conceived the thought during the early part of his collegiate course, for at the time of his graduation, in 1775, the plan was matured in his mind.
The object of his first experiment was to prove that gunpowder would explode under water, and in the demonstration of this proposition two ounces of the explosive were employed. In the next trial, a quantity of the explosive was placed in a wooden bottle and fastened under a hogshead, from which it was separated by a two-inch plank. The hogshead loaded with stones so long as it would float, a pipe of wood extended through the lower end and also through the plank into the powder below. The priming was fired, and the explosion was so great that a mass of debris, stones, and water were violently projected many feet above the surface of the pond.
Other experiments were subsequently made, with satisfactory results; and finally a torpedo ship was constructed, which is known as the American Turtle.
The machine has been described as follows: "When finished, the external appearance of the Turtle bore some resemblance to two upper tortoise shells of equal size, placed in contact, leaving at that part which represent the head of the animal a flue or opening sufficiently capacious to contain the operator and air to support him 30 minutes. At the bottom, opposite the entrance, was placed a quantity of lead for ballast,* and was furnished with a rudder for steering. An aperture at the bottom with its valve admitted water for the purpose of descending, and two brass forcing pumps served to eject the water within when necessary for ascending. The vessel was made completely water tight, furnished with glass windows for the admission of light, with ventilators and air pipes, and was so ballasted with lead fixed at the bottom as to render it solid and obviate all danger of overturning. (* The operator sat upright and moved his boat forward or backward by means of a screw propellor turned by hand. There was a like screw on the top by which he could govern his ascent to the surface.)
"Behind the submarine vessel was a place above the rudder for carrying a powder magazine; this was made of two pieces of oak timber large enough when hollowed out to contain one hundred and fifty pounds of powder, with the aperture used for firing it and was secured in its place by a screw turned by the operator. It was lighter than water that it might raise against the object to which it was intended to be fastened. Within the magazine was an apparatus constructed to run any proposed period under twelve hours; when it had run out it term, it unpinioned a strong lock, resembling a gunlock, which gave fire to the powder.
"With this machine the operator could sail within a short distance of a vessel without the danger of being detected. He could sink quickly, and stay for a considerable time under water rowing in any direction he pleased."
The first person retained as an operator was the brother of Mr. BUSHNELL, who was also a very ingenious man, and became master of the invention, but ere he could make an exhibition of his skill he was attacked by sickness. A sergeant of one of the Continental regiments was then procured to serve in operating the machine, and ordered to make an experiment on the Eagle, a ship of 64 guns, lying at the time in the New York Harbor, and under the charge of Lord Howe.
The illustrious General PUTNAM, cognizant of the proposed attack on the vessel, stood upon the wharf to behold the explosion. The manager of the contrivance tried to insert the screw into the bottom of the ship, but was not successful in the attempt, because, as he thought, the point of the instrument came in contact with a bar of iron. Being a tyro in the management of the machine, he moved out from under the vessel and after searching in vain for her, subsequently came to the surface, when owing to the daylight he did not repeat the experiment on that occasion. In going back to New York, the sergeant, when near Governor's Island, believed that he was seen by the enemy, whereupon he let go his magazine, the clock work of which was set so as to cause an explosion in one hour, and on the arrival of the appointed time the torpedo exploded, when great quantities of water were thrown to an enormous attitude to the amazement of the British.
Other attempts were made on the Hudson. In 1777, while the frigate Cerberus was lying at anchor off New London, Mr. BUSHNELL made an effort to blow her up from a whale boat, but the torpedo came in contact with a schooner in the rear of the frigate and demolished the former.
Commodore SIMMONS of the Cerberus addressed a communication to Sir Peter Parker, in which he alludes to the strange occurrence.
"Being at anchor to the westward of the town with a schooner which we had taken, about eleven o'clock in the evening he discovered a line thrown astern from the bows. He believed that some person had veered away by it, and immediately began to haul in. A sailor belonging to the schooner, taking it for a fishing line, laid hold of it and drew in about fifteen fathoms. It was buoyed up by small pieces tied to it at regular distances. At the end of the rope a machine was fastened too heavy for one man to pull up, for it exceeded two hundred pounds in weight. The other people of the schooner coming to his assistance, they drew it upon the deck. While the men, gratifying their curiosity, were examining the machine, it exploded, blew the vessel into pieces, and set her on fire."
Three men were killed and another blown into the sea and greatly injured. Wheels, having sharp irons at the end, about an inch in length, were attached to these machines, so that on being hauled up they would strike against the sides of the ship, and in five minutes after they were put in motion they caused an explosion.
Mr. BUSHNELL also loaded several kegs with powder, and furnished them with an apparatus whereby they would explode on coming in contact with any object while floating in the water.
A squadron of these explosive kegs was placed on the Delaware, above the English shipping. They were set afloat in the night season, with the idea that they would fall with the ebb of the tide and strike against the shipping; but there was an error in the calculations, and they fell in with the ice. One boat was blown up, and great consternation spread among the British. The English soldiers manned the wharves and fired at everything they saw floating in the river. This ludicrous occurrence is known in history as the "Battle of the Kegs," and is the subject of a quaint poem by Hon. Francis HOPKINS.
All their efforts having proved abortive, Mr. BUSHNELL became very much dejected, and his disappointment was deepened by the failure of the government to give him the assistance which he had expected.
After the "Battle of the Kegs," the British commander offered a large reward for the capture of BUSHNELL, "dead or alive," and he finally enlisted as a private in the Continental army. During one of the engagements he was captured, with others, and sent on board a British frigate lying in Boston Harbor. Here he played the fool, and one of the officers finding him one day hacking at the rigging with a hatchet, asked him what he was doing. BUSHNELL told him that in the spring time he always had to cut away the brush and clear up the land. The officer informed the commander of the frigate, who ordered the "fool" to be put ashore. On arriving at a tavern near by, BUSHNELL asked the officer to take a drink, and then sat down, wrote a note to the commanding officer informing him who he was.
BUSHNELL rendered valuable assistance to the government throughout the war, and at its close he went to France and was for some years in the employ of the French government.
He eventually returned and invested his capital in a stock company in New Jersey, which did not prove successful, and after parting with his interest he went to George and established a large practice as a physician, under the name of Dr. BUSH. Before his death he communicated with his relatives in Westbrook, where most of his effects were sent.
There were few men during the Revolution who rendered more effective service to the government than he did, and while his torpedoes were only partially successful, for lack of means to perfect his invention, still the same terror he inspired among British officers and seamen, undoubtedly did much toward preventing the raids along our coast, and other damages from the British fleet.
FREDERICK WILCOX SPENCER.
It would be difficult to find in the annals of this State a record of three more remarkable men than the SPENCER brothers. Launched upon the ocean of life, at an age when most boys are engaged in the rudimentary branches of education, and having no claims to birth, education, or fortune, with only a mother's blessing and a father's advice, they have achieved a reputation as navigators and seamen of which any American might well be proud. They all followed the sea for upwards of 30 years, and never lost a vessel or met with a serious accident.
Timothy SPENCER, the father of these men, was a son of Caleb SPENCER, and a direct descendent of Thomas SPENCER, who settled in Pochaug, now Westbrook, in 1685, and soon after commenced working the iron mines of Pond Meadow, the first mining operations in what is now Middlesex county. Timothy was a carpenter and shipbuilder, and as his business called him from home much of the time, he could give but little attention to his children. He married Polly BUSHNELL, a descendent of the BUSHNELLS, who settled in Saybrook about 1644. By her he had seven children: Mariette, born in 1806; Emeline, born in 1807; Frederick WILCOX, born in 1810; Joseph WHITTLESEY, born in 1812; Alfred Goodrich, born in 1814; Eloise, born in 1816; and Harriet, born in 1820.
Frederick WILCOX, the oldest of the boys, was born in Westbrook on the 7th of January 1810. His education was limited to a few weeks at the public school during the winter months, and a brief period under the tutorship of Rev. Mr. SELDEN. The remainder of the time was spent in doing odd jobs of farm or other work. At the age of fifteen he shipped as a boy on one of the numerous small coasters that plied between the several ports of Connecticut and New York. At the age of 21 he shipped as an ordinary seaman on the Tuskina, a ship of 430 tons burthen, commanded by Captain Joseph POST of Essex, Connecticut, and represented by E. W. HURLBURT & Co., of New York, as agent. This was in 1831. In 1837, six years after he entered the forecastle, he was mast of this ship. He made several voyages to Europe and to different Southern ports, and during the Seminole war was engaged in transporting troops and munitions of war to Florida. He continued in the employ of the HURLBURTs for seven or eight years, and during this period commanded other vessels, some of much greater tonnage. He afterward entered the service of EVERETT & BROWN, and was for several years in the employ of Lawrence GILES & Co. During this period he commanded several well known vessels, among which were the Tuskina, Elizabeth Dennison, Silas Greenman, E. C. Scranton, West Point, David Crockett, and Monarch of the Sea, the latter of 1,900 tons burthen. He was engaged a portion of the time during the Mexican war in transporting troops, etc., for the government, and during the war of the Rebellion was also in the service of the government. His was the second vessel that entered Charleston Harbor. His whole seafaring life covered a period of over 30 years. He was frequently transferred from one ship to another, sometimes remaining ashore for a few months at a time. In 1859, while spending a few months at hone, he received the unsought nomination of the republican party of his native town, for the Legislature, and was elected by a large majority, and at different periods before he quit the sea, he was captured by his fellow citizens and sent to represent them in the Legislature. He was re-elected in 1864, 1866, and 1871. In 1865, he retired from his long and eventful career as a seafaring man to his quiet home in Westbrook. In 1877, he was elected to the State Senate from the Nineteenth Senatorial District, and was re-elected in 1878 and 1879. During each term he was a member of the committee on fisheries.
Captain Spencer has always been a staunch republican since the organization of the party, and was a firm and active supported of the government during the war of the Rebellion. He is not only deservedly popular in his native town, but throughout his Senatorial district. His long and successful career as a seafaring man has by no means unfitted him for the duties of public life. His sterling integrity, unflinching courage, and cool judgment are qualities which have been duly appreciated by his constituents, and have made his power and influence felt in both branches of the Legislature.
August 21st 1836, he married Ann Eliza, daughter of Philip Kirtland, of Westbrook, by whom he has had four children: Sarah Casey, Charles Frederick (died in infancy), Adelaide Ely, and Charles Frederick 2d, who lived to be 22 years of age.
CAPTAIN JOSEPH WHITTLESEY SPENCER.
The second son of Timothy SPENCER is probably better known among seafaring men, from New York to San Francisco, than any man who has trod the deck of a ship during the last 50 years. His life has been an eventful one; and during his 57 years of service, either upon the sea, or as manager and part owner of a line of vessels, he has witnessed the rise and decline of an American commerce, and no man in the county is more familiar than he with the causes that has led to this decline.
Born and bred amid hardships and toil, he has experienced little of the pleasures of childhood that fall to the lot of most boys. Working the farm, and doing other jobs in the summer season, he managed through the days and long winter evenings to acquire a fair common school education. With this much capital he, like his other brothers, commenced life in the coasting service in and around Long Island Sound. At the age of 16, he made the voyage to Carthagena, as ordinary seaman, on the Athenian, of which Capt. Wm. A. CHAPMAN, of this State, was master. He subsequently sailed with Capt. Richard WOOD, of Saybrook, on a voyage to the south side of the island of Cuba, and thence to Constantinople. While lying off the island of Cuba, the captain and all the crew, except Mr. SPENCER and another man, were taken sick with the yellow fever. The captain and one man died. The mate took charge of the vessel for the remainder of the voyage, and young SPENCER took the second mate's place. He subsequently returned to the employ of Silas E. BURROWS, a New York shipping merchant, formerly of Mystic, Conn., and made several voyages on the Athenian and other vessels, which made frequent trips to Carthagena, then a favorite resort for consumptive invalids, and as there were no steamers in those days the sailing vessels carried a good many passengers. Young SPENCER made rapid advancement and in 1834, when he was but 22 years of age, he was placed in charge of the brig Medina. In 1835-6, Silas E. BURROWS, owner of the line of South American Packets sold his interest in those vessels and fitted out a fleet of whale ships. Captain SPENCER assisted in this work, and by this means obtained a pretty thorough knowledge of the theory of whale fishing. On their completion he was placed in charge of the bark General Brown, and sailed for Patagonia, Cape Horn, and the Faulkner Islands. Although this was his first experience in whale fishing he managed one of the boats and captured the first whale. The entire voyage occupied about 32 months, and was considered very successful. After completing his work he took the bark into Rio Janeiro, where he disposed of both vessel and cargo. Captain SPENCER's share amounted to between two and three thousand dollars. He soon after returned home and purchased an interest in the Crusoe, and renewed his connection with the South American trade which he continued for two years. Being ambitious to command a larger vessel, he sold out his interest in the Crusoe, and not long after he built and took command of the Rose Standish, of 476 tons, then in the employ of E. D. HURLBURT & co. He continued with this firm until their failure in 1848. Soon after this, assisted by his friends, he built the William Rathburn, a three deck ship of 1,100 tons burthen, and entered the Liverpool trade.
In 1853, he entered the service of Everett & Brown, and while there, with the assistance of his friends in Mystic, Connecticut, he built the David Crockett, the largest ship every built in the State of Connecticut, and one of the fastest as well as one of the most successful ships ever built in this country. From the command of a brig of 180 tons burthen in 1834, he had risen, in 1853, to the command of one of the finest clipper ships, registering 1,680 tons, that ever sailed out of the port of New York. He continued in command of this vessel for four years, at the end of which period he had attained the height of his ambition, as commander of a vessel. In 1857 and 1858, he became manager, joint owner, and advisor of all the shipping interests controlled by Lawrence GILES & Company, of New York. They had at this time from 12 to 15 vessels, aggregating upwards of 15,000 tons, and the American flag gloated from the peak of every vessel, but owing to our ruinous navigation laws, which prevented American ship owners form buying ships in foreign countries, the grade gradually fell into the hands of foreign ship owners, and only one vessel registering about 1,500 tons is all that now remains of the large shipping interests once controlled by this firm. Captain SPENCER has lived to see the death blow administered to our commerce by the protection afforded to American ship builders, who, through their own folly, have been protected to death. "Sic transit Gloria mundi."
While the snows of 72 winters have whitened his locks, Captain SPENCER is still hale and hearty, and, from present indications, it will be a long time ere he reached the final port and lets go the anchor.
He is a man of large stature, of fine, commanding appearance, open and generous in his nature. He still devotes a portion of his time to his business interests in New York, but finds his greatest delight amid the scenes of his childhood, at his beautiful residence in Westbrook.
On the 2d of September 1838, he married Amelia A., daughter of John STOKES, of Westbrook, by whom he has had five children: Joseph Timothy, James Hicks, Winfield Scott, Arabella, and John Stokes.
Joseph Timothy followed in the footsteps of his father, and commenced his seafaring life on the David Crockett, making three successful voyages, rising rapidly from the forecastle to the quarter deck. He subsequently commanded a transport steamer for two years during the war. Soon after this he entered the service of the MALLORYS as commander of one of the Galveston steamers. In 1870, while in command of the steamer Varuna, he was lost off the Florida coast by the foundering of his vessel by a hurricane, only five persons having been saved.
The three other sons of Captain SPENCER are engaged in business in New York, all of whom inherit many of the qualities which made their father successful.
ALFRED GOODRICH SPENCER.
The youngest son of Timothy SPENCER and Polly BUSHNELL, while possessing characteristics in common with his brothers, retained a strong individuality. In personal appearance, he was of large and commanding stature, and bore a face with strongly marked features. Mentally, he was a positive character, with firm convictions, which he never lacked the courage to declare, and deeply rooted principles, which were never considered as something apart from the man himself. Naturally of conservative temperament, he was nevertheless a man of broad and liberal views, and was always among the foremost to lend his aid and influence to what he considered the common good. He was born the 9th of July 1814. His childhood was passed much like that of his brothers, and like them, he early chose the avocation of a sailor. He carried into his pursuit much of physical energy and a natural quickness of perception. A faithful application to the study of navigation, and an identification of himself with the interest of others that spared no pains to insure the faithful discharge of a trust, joined to a soundness of judgment, explain the honored success he achieved. His life as an ordinary seaman commenced at the age of 15, in the coasting service of Long Island sound, and at the age of 26 he was in command of the ship Hector, of 860 tons, at that time one of the largest ships which sailed from the port of New York, and in the employ of E. D. HURLBURT & Co. On the failure of the HURLBURTs he entered the service of Everett & Brown, and while with them he built and commanded the Silas Greenman, of 1,000 tons, and later the E. C. Scranton, of 1,400 tons. Subsequently he entered the Black Star line, controlled by Williams & Guion, with whom he remained until his retirement from the sea. He commanded at different periods the Bella Wood, Australia, and Chancellor, of 1,800 tons, in the European trade, and the steamer Wilmington, in the employ of the United States Government. While in command of the Chancellor he collided with a british bark in mid ocean. Seeing that a collision was unavoidable, it was his duty, under the law governing such cases, to port his helm, but he saw that by doing it would inevitably involve a loss of life; he therefore exercised his own judgment in violation of the law, and thus prevented the serious consequences which must have followed. A suit for damages was brought by the owners of the bark against the Chancellor. After an adverse decision to the defendants in a lower court it was appealed to the English Admiralty Court. It was supposed to be a hopeless case, but in Capt. SPENCER's testimony he showed that he was influenced by motives of humanity which he considered paramount to all existing codes, and to the surprise of all the decision was rendered in his favor. Considering the circumstances, it was a signal triumph for an American shipmaster, in an English court against an English plaintiff.
During the French Revolution, when Louis Napoleon accomplished his grand coup d'etat, Captain SPENCER arrived with his ship in Havre. His business required him to proceed to Paris to deposit a considerable sum of money. It was time of excitement and uncertainty. Paris was said to be in a state of siege, but with the $14,000 concealed in his boots, he took the risk, accomplished his purpose and returned in safety.
In 1862, he stood on the dock in Liverpool, and, with hundreds of others, watched the confederate privateer, Alabama, as she passed down the Mersey to begin her work of destruction of American commerce, and was obliged to listen to the enthusiastic expressions of interest in her mission to be heard on every hand. His faith in the ultimate success of the Union cause was strong, and, turning to an English friend, he remarked that he believed the day would come when England would make good to the United States government the damage done by that vessel. He lived to see his prediction verified, and the discomfiture of his rebel sympathizing friends.
On the 15h of September 1840, he married Diana MAGNE, daughter of Joseph Nicholas MAGNE. Three children were born to them, viz.: Alice Adelaide, Franklin Timothy, and Alfred Goodrich.
The latter years of Captain SPENCER's life were spent in the quiet of his pleasant home in his native town, but his interest in the world's work and progress continued until his death, which occurred the 2d of June 1880.