Table of Contents
Henry Chase Robbins (b. 1820) was a mariner and master who worked out of Harwich, Massachusetts from 1831-1876. He was married to Sarah Robbins with whom he shared two sons, Edwin Robbins and Parker Robbins. His family also included an uncle, John Robbins and brother, Roland. Robbins’ job as a mariner caused him to travel throughout the eastern seaboard, focusing mostly on Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Connecticut. He worked on ships such as the Schooner Eagle, Schooner J. Nickerson, Schooner Wide Awake, and Schooner Monitor where he caught and transported mackerel and cod and shipped lumber, corn, wheat and coal. He also took on side jobs such as painting and curing fish. Robbins spent much of his time, both business and personal, in New Bedford, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island. He was a Lodge member as well as a supporter of the temperance movement and an active participant in local government meetings.
The papers of Henry Chase Robbins consist of twelve journals, 1859-1876, which describe his daily life and activities, both business and personal. The journals recount Robbins’ experiences as a mariner, his personal money accounts, updates on his wife, Sarah, and sons, Edwin and Parker, and daily weather observations. Robbins also records funeral notices, a wedding, and his attendance at Lodge, temperance, and town meetings. While Robbins does not comment much on current events, he does observe President Lincoln’s funeral date – April 19, 1865. Additionally, he comments on the sinking of the Steamer Potumska in 1859.
Robbins’ journals consist mostly of his business activities. Working out of Harwich, Massachusetts, he spent time on different schooners, such as the J. Nickerson, Wide Awake, and Eagle. On these ships, Robbins fished for mackerel and codfish, and transported corn, wheat, lumber, oats and coal. Robbins’ work as a mariner kept him based mostly near the eastern seaboard in places such as: New Bedford, Fall River, Gloucester, Provincetown, all in Massachusetts, and New York, New Haven, Connecticut, Newport, Rhode Island and Alexandria, Virginia. The Robbins papers highlight the struggle of being a mariner as Robbins comments extensively on failed attempts to find freight to transport. For example, in 1874, he spent a majority of the year waiting for freight at Erie Road, New York. He records men who were added to his crews, their wages, and when they departed from the ship, as well. The accounts for the Schooner Monitor are listed in his 1869 journal from January 1 to February 21. When not working on board ships, Robbins took side jobs. He cured fish for one dollar per day, painted, worked on the wharf, and performed an unspecified job for four dollars per day.
Robbins also discusses his personal life and the lives of his wife and sons in the journals. During his travels, he writes letters to his wife, his children, his brother Roland, and several different acquaintances including members of the Chase and Kelley families. He also records his visits to his uncle John Robbins and other friends and acquaintances. Robbins comments the most on his son, Parker, who became a mariner as well. He records when his son leaves port, the places he visits like San Francisco, Cuba and Liverpool and his wages. He also discusses personal trips he takes to Dartmouth, Boston, Barnstable and Harwich Center, all in Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island. In Barnstable and Harwich Center, Robbins makes note of his bank trips and personal bank accounts. When at home, Robbins records his daily activities such as painting his fence and helping his wife with cleaning. Beginning in 1873, Robbins started to discuss his cranberry swamp and the work surrounding it. Additionally, he frequently comments on being ill although he does not provide his symptoms. Robbins’ personal expenses are listed in the back of all journals.
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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 160, Series A, [Volume]
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Materials in this collection were gifted to the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library by Betsy Robbins Strasser in 2014. Accession #2014.73
Processed by: Angela Farias, 2017
Encoded by: Angela Farias, 23 June 2017
Bank accounts -- 19th century
Connecticut -- Description and travel
Harwich (Mass.) -- Description and travel
Maine -- Description and travel
Merchant mariners’ spouses
New Bedford (Mass.) -- Description and travel
New York (State) -- Description and travel
Providence (R.I.) -- Description and travel
Robbins, Henry Chase (1820-)
J. Nickerson (Schooner)
John Randolph (Schooner)
Wide Awake (Schooner)
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