Old Dartmouth Historical Sketch No. 13 - New Bedford Whaling Museum


Number 13

Being the proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford, Massachusetts, on March 30, 1906

Containing the following reports:


[Note.—The "Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches" will be published from time to time and may be purchased for a nominal sum on application to the Secretary.]

Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society
New Bedford, Massachusetts
March 30, 1906

The third annual meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was held in the hall adjoining the rooms of the society on March 30, 1906, the president presiding. Officers were elected as follows:

President-William W. Crapo

Vice presidents-George H. Tripp, Henry B. Worth

Secretary-Elizabeth Watson

Treasurer-William A. Mackie

Directors for three years-Henry H. Rogers, Mrs. Clement Nye Swift, Ellis L. Howland.

Report of the Directors
by Elizabeth Watson, Secretary

The directors of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society present their third annual report. This society is no longer an experiment, it is a responsibility. The time has passed when we could quietly drop out of existence, unnoticed and unknown. We now have a recognized place among the historical societies of the country, as is evidenced by the many communications which are received from different parts of the United States. The last was from Oregon, asking for information concerning the landing of Gosnold, and for photographs of the island of Cuttyhunk. Through the publication and photograph sections we are able to satisfactorily comply with the request.

Our importance and resources are often overrated, and it is with regret that we are obliged to acknowledge our ignorance of various long lost ancestors, whose descendants write to us in the belief that our historical researches have resulted in complete genealogies of all the Old Dartmouth families. But such experiences show us how large a field for usefulness is open to us, and how much historical work is appreciated.

The details of the work of the various sections will be furnished by their respective chairmen and only matters relating to the society as a whole are here noted.

The education section has been unable to report any work thus far. Not for lack of interest, but because its plans for lectures and various instructive meetings would require an audience hall, and our limited income has not permitted the necessary expense. Another year this section hopes to add to the interest and attractions of the society.

In this connection we wish to thank Mr. Charles F. Wing for the free use of this room for several meetings, and also for many other kindnesses received.

Since the organization of the society 776 membership tickets have been issued, including 17 life members. Of this number 40 have died, 55 have resigned and 24 have been dropped for non-payment of dues. We have at the present date 631 members in good and regular standing, while sixteen are still hopeful possibilities, as it is not yet too late for them to atone for their neglect or forgetfulness in the matter of this year’s subscriptions. Several members have paid their dues in advance for next year; a pleasing precedent which others may like to follow.

The last year has taken from us by death many valued members, among them Captain Thomas R. Rodman, senior vice president of the society. We miss his cheerful help and wise counsel, and deeply appreciate his unswerving fidelity to all trusts reposed in him. From the foundation of the society, he was one of its strongest and truest friends.

With deep regret we note the other names which death has stricken from our roll since the last annual meeting:

  • George F. Bartlett
  • Gilbert Nelson Collins, a life member
  • Edward Taber Covell
  • R. Louisa Seabury Church
  • William Carruthers
  • Martin Luther Eldredge
  • George Samuel Fox
  • Frederick Grinnell, a life member
  • Charles B. Hillman
  • Sylvanus T. Hawes
  • Samuel Ivers
  • Gilbert Dean Kingman
  • Bethuel Penniman
  • Nathan Dodge Phinney
  • William Fearing Potter
  • A. Martin Peirce
  • George R. Reed
  • Jireh Swift
  • Kate Sweet
  • Walter Spooner Thornton
  • Sarah Jane Taber
  • Isaac Brownell Tompkins

The society has held quarterly meetings throughout the year. The meeting in June was at Smith Mills, where we were hospitably entertained in the Christian Endeavor Home. This meeting is memorable as being the only one where not only intellectual, but also liquid refreshments were furnished by the committee. The papers were read by Dr. Edward T. Tucker on “Historical Associations in North Dartmouth,” and by Job S. Gibley on “Historical Glimpses of Old Dartmouth Schools.”

By the courtesy of the New Bedford Yacht Club, the September meeting was held in the club house at South Dartmouth, when a paper was read by Mrs. Anna H. Swift on “A Day in Dartmouth, England.” Previous to the meeting a clambake was served in “Laban’s Folly,” when over 200 people were seated at the tables.

The December meeting took place in the hall adjoining the rooms of the society. Mrs. Mary Jane Howland Taber read a paper of “Friends, Here and Hereaway, Continued.” At this meeting the society formally adopted the seal, designed and presented by Clement Nye Swift.

In addition to the regular meetings, the society joined with the Old South Historical Society of Boston in its annual pilgrimage on June 24, 1905. This included a visit to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society rooms, where an address of welcome was made by the president and refreshments were served by the museum committee; a trip to Fort Phoenix, with an al fresco luncheon; an inspection of the Fairhaven public buildings; a meeting in the Town hall; and finally an excursion down the bay.

Our society was represented by its president who took part in the exercises at the dedication of the Fearing memorial, at Fairhaven, on July 29, 1905.

We gratefully acknowledge the action of the members of the New Bedford Lyceum in voting to give to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society the accumulated interest for two years on the fund of the Lyceum.

The review of the past year shows much progress, much interest and a sure and steady growth. The wide-spreading influence of the society cannot be doubted. For many years the wish for an historical society has been universal among our people. Now that such an organization is fairly and creditably established we feel that we have the right to hope for and expect support and encouragement from the citizens of Old Dartmouth.

Report of the Treasurer
by Lloyd S. Swain, Treasurer

Statement of the condition of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society for year ending March 30, 1906:

Balance on hand March 17, 1905                          $56.34


From dues                                                    $633.00

From Unity club                                                32.20

From Institution for Savings (interest)           24.96

From N. B. Lyceum (income for 1903-4)     480.12

From sale of pamphlets                                  36.30

From sale of buttons                                       22.00

From Saturday admissions                             15.10

Total                                                    $1243.68                     $1300.02


Historical research section—

Gaylord Bros., $2.20, W.H. Collins & Co., $5          $7.20

Photography section-W.H. Collins & Co.                  2.40

Publication section-E. Anthony & Sons                  52.50

Expense account-

Miss Elizabeth Watson (salary)                           $200.00

W. A. Wing (salary)                                                    75.00

C. F. Wing (rent and chairs)                                    114.12

Mercury Pub. Co.                                                      21.37

N. B. Gas Co.                                                             22.52

Postage, $28.70, sundry bills,         $50.89            79.59


Museum account-

George F. Winslow                                               21.25

Buttons, $16.68, Standish Bourne,  $13.50.  30.18

W. A. Tripp, $5, Sherman & Perry, $10.  15.00

Sundry bills                               21.15


Total                       $663.28

Cash on hand         636.74


President William W. Crapo, in comment upon an item in the treasurer’s report, of $480.12 received from the New Bedford Lyceum, stated that at a meeting of the Lyceum last summer, Captain Thomas R. Rodman and himself, perhaps the senior members of the organization urged that the Lyceum had outlived the purpose of its incorporation and had been dormant for many years, and the Old Dartmouth Society was the logical heir to its fund, which would be of great assistance in the carrying out of the work of the society.

The suggestion was favorably received and cordially approved by the other members, and a vote was passed to pay over to the Old Dartmouth Society the income of two years from the fund. Steps were also taken for the transfer of the fund to that society, and for this purpose a committee, consisting of the president, F. A. Milliken, Thomas R. Rodman and Mr. Crapo, was appointed. The committee thought it wise that the transaction should have the approval of the supreme court of the commonwealth. The duty of presenting the necessary statements in regard to the two societies and the restrictions which should accompany the transfer has been assigned to Mr. Milliken, representing the Lyceum, and Charles W. Clifford, representing the Old Dartmouth Society.

In spite of many unavoidable delays, Mr. Crapo said, the work is well under way, and the society may hope for a favorable conclusion within a short time. The amount of the fund is in the neighborhood of $5000.

Report of the Historical Research Section
by Henry B. Worth

The results accomplished by this section during the past year have been chiefly in two directions. A considerable number of documents and papers have been contributed, of which particular mention should be made of those relating to the war of 1812, donated by Mrs. J. H. Page. Large scrap-books have been provided, and all the documents in the custody of the society will be mounted therein as fast as possible.

Much interest has been awakened in the study of old houses through the assistance of the New Bedford Public Library, and the Mercury. At considerable expense, the library procured a large collection of photographs of ancient houses located in Old Dartmouth, mounted them in a suitable book, and added much historical material in relation to land titles, and the whole has been fully indexed, and will be of great importance to future investigators. It was suggested that the contents of this book might be printed, but the cost of such a work would probably not be meet by the return from sales. The collection came to the attention of the editor of the Mercury, who discovered that the same could be used to advantage in the columns of the newspaper, and arrangements were made to print the picture and history of one house each Saturday morning. This was commenced the first of last July, and has been continued since that date, and several desirable results have been attained. In the first place, the engraved plates of the pictures have been made, and are available for future use on terms that would not have been possible if the affair had been left to private enterprise. The notes accompanying the pictures can be reprinted without great cost whenever thought necessary. Then the public has become interested in reading these articles, and it has given an opportunity to preserve material by pasting clippings in scrapbooks, and many are keeping such collections.

One of the scrapbooks of this society contains all of the historical articles published in the Mercury, and The Standard, together with compilations on other subjects. When these have been indexed they will be available in the preparation of family histories and genealogies.

The territory of the original town of Dartmouth is now divided into five municipalities, one city and four towns. These have concerned historical writers in varying degrees. New Bedford, although the latest section to be settled, has had two histories and been the subject of numerous special articles and pamphlets. During the Old Home Week, the committee prepared an attractive work on certain historical phases of Fairhaven, but no complete history of the four towns has ever been written. Captain Franklin Howland has devoted considerable time in the preparation of a history of Acushnet, which is now nearly finished. Although the charter of this town was granted in 1864, yet the locality was settled in the early years that witnessed the arrival of the English.

It would be a source of gratification if a similar history of Fairhaven could be undertaken. Here the first settlers of the town located their homes, and here the history of Old Dartmouth began. They loved the ways of the Pilgrim church, and clung tenaciously to its teachings in the years when the inhabitants were largely Quakers. Whoever studies the history of the early times cannot fail to discover that the peculiar feeling between the communities on the east and west side of the Acushnet were not due to the events of the war of 1812, but originated over a century before, when the 16 families, under the leadership of Captain Seth Pope, struggled with the powerful and aggressive majority of townspeople that belonged to the Society of Friends.

Here is a field which no student has investigated, and one full of the most engrossing interest: The history of Fairhaven on land and sea is a subject that will repay the attention of any student.

Both Dartmouth and Westport should be treated in the same way; their history supplements that of Fairhaven. These controversies over religion and church in the towns of the colonies furnish most fascinating subject for study. The conflict between the Pilgrims and Quakers in ancient Dartmouth, where the latter were largely in the majority, was not paralleled in any other locality in New England. When Captain Pope and his loyal band of Presbyterians were unable to cope with the Society of Friends, he secured a powerful ally in the Puritan establishment of the Province of Massachusetts, and all the forces of law and court were pressed home vigorously upon the Dartmouth Quakers. The principal charge against them was their refusal to pay taxes to maintain the Presbyterian meeting-house and minister. Four officials spent months in the Bristol prison rather than obey the mandate from Boston. Finally the imperial decree of the English crown settled the question in favor of the Dartmouth Friends. Whoever writes the early history of these towns will find some of the most unique and stirring events of colonial days.

A generation or more ago the labor of preparing a town history was an appalling task; the writer was obliged to collect his material not only in registries equipped with poorly prepared indexes, but in closets and garrets wherever he might reach unknown and forgotten books and documents. It naturally resulted that many writers relied upon local tradition rather than procure their facts from original sources. This difficulty has now been largely removed; the records of many registries have been printed, and all have been carefully indexed; libraries have become documentary museums; most librarians are students of history, and are on the alert in collecting and preserving valuable material. Whenever the town has a building that is a safe repository, people are ready to donate documents, books, and pictures. In this section there are three fire-proof buildings, each of which contains important collections more or less extensive. In the New Bedford library alone there are 225 log-books. The effect of this preliminary collection in other places is apparent in the town histories recently published; that of Ipswich, printed within a few months, may be cited as a type of the most thorough and complete ever compiled. Having the work of collecting material wholly or largely accomplished, the writer may give his attention to examination and arrangement.

The day when the Gosnold monument was dedicated, Rev. Dr. Griffis stated: “If I am correct in the opinion that the great events of the world for the next five hundred years will occur on the Pacific, the key to that history must be found in the records of the American made whaleships.”

When Commodore Perry was preparing for his expedition to Japan, he considered it necessary to visit New Bedford to consult some shipmasters who had learned by observation and experience the dangers of the coast of eastern Asia.

In those quiet and unpretentious homes that look out upon the four rivers of Dartmouth have lived men who on sea and shore were bright examples of bravery, integrity and fortitude. Their exploits ought to be described and preserved in the annals of these towns.

Report of the Museum Section
by Annie Seabury Wood, Secretary of the Section

To the Members of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society:

The third annual report of the museum section is not so much a record of work accomplished, as an appeal for the future. We have done what was necessary to be done in the past year, but we certainly have not done all we might.

Many valuable and interesting articles have been sent to us, and we have arranged and cared for them as well as our space would permit.

Our Saturday afternoon teas have been held regularly, and have been fairly well patronized. We have met but few times, for there seemed to be nothing to meet for. Things have gone on smoothly, and no one has cared to disturb the serenity of our present existence. So far, so good. In this serenity, however, there is a danger-a danger of indifference and of cessation of effort. We need to go to work; we need to expand; we need to feel a more vital interest in our work; we need to devote more time and thought and energy to it, and to give to it more of our prized possessions.

We hope, and we have some little right to expect, that the coming year will see us in a different home. The fact that we have outgrown our present quarters speaks for itself. We need a building of many rooms, where our exhibits may be classified properly and arranged attractively. We need a building outside the fire district, standing by itself, to which beautiful and valuable3 articles may be entrusted without fear on the part of donors or owners of detriment to them or of loss. We need money-money to purchase articles that properly belong to New Bedford-articles which are going away from here and which can never be replaced. We need money to work with in every way.

I appeal to members of the community to become members of the society, and I appeal to every member of the society for active help. Help us with your sympathy, your interest, your possessions, your money.

When the old East Indian Society of Salem was founded, toward the end of the 18th century, it was the duty and the privilege of the ship masters and the merchants who were its members, to bring home from every voyage something of interest and of value to their museum. That same loyalty to the objects of the Society, continuous from the beginning, has made the Peabody Institute, into which the East Indian Society was merged, one of the most interesting museums of its kind in the country. I wish every one of our members might make a visit to Salem and see the portraits of the old Salem ships, the admirably arranged and classified ethnological exhibit, and come home inspired with a like zeal and enthusiasm, and a resolution to make our New Bedford museum one, too, of which this generation and succeeding generations would be proud.

It is surely worth our while to work for this, for “Whatever of strange, grotesque and curious past generations have collected in their wanderings by sea and land finds lodgment here. It is a home of half-forgotten histories, of valorous deeds grown dim through the lapse of years-a harbor of refuge for derelict gods, derelict weapons, derelict volumes, derelict instruments which once discoursed sweet enough music, but the fashion of which has now passed away. A fleeting procession of individual lives has ministered to its furnishings. How much vigorous endeavoring now over and done with, never to be recalled, has gone to supply the furnishing of this room! After all is not the most any human creature dare hope for, the more or less dusty corner of some museum shelf at last-the passion of the heart testified to by some battered trinket, the sweat of the brain by some maggot-eaten manuscript, the agony of death by some round shot turned up by the ploughshare? And how shall anyone dare complain of this since empires before now have only been saved from oblivion by a few buried potsherds, and whole races of mankind by childish picture scratchings on a reindeer bone?

“A museum is the individual, his arts, his possessions, his religion, his civilization!”

Report of the Photograph Section
by William A. Wing, Chairman

The photograph section of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society (established by vote at the last annual meeting) has been trying to tell the story of Old Dartmouth with a camera, which has proved an efficient help.

We are already the possessors of several hundred photographs of reference to Old Dartmouth’s history-and such subjects as:

Early sites, ancient houses, old whalers, hardy sea captains, former industries, present localities in the old days and foreign views where they have connection with our mother township.

Some choice gifts are old wharf scenes taken by the famous artist, the late William Bradford, and also a number of photographs taken by the artist, Bierstadt, also New Bedford-born, and showing many views of the old town nearly fifty years ago.

This section naturally takes great interest in collecting photographs of the old sea captains who “hailed” from this port. There has been a generous response, but many more are needed to make our collection complete. One very interesting donation is the photograph of Captain Mellen, murdered in the mutiny of the ship Junior, whose tragic voyage is a far more thrilling sea tale than many in fiction.

The card system is used in cataloguing our photographs.

To those who are interested in climbing the family tree, this photographic section is of special value, for in many Old Dartmouth families we can show pictures of the place in Old England whence the family came, and what is nearer to us, photographs of ancestral homes in Old Dartmouth, Massachusetts-quaint shingled farmhouses, of the lean-to gambrel and Dutch-cap types. Then we have views of some of their rooms, with the huge fireplaces, and attractive old paneling, and of such household [goods] as the tall clock, old china, quaint mirrors, the various tables and desks with secret drawers.

Then there are pictures of the old Friends’ meeting-house, where those of the early faith worshiped, and the quiet God’s acre, where they lie at rest; photographs of old-time marriage certificates, signed by many an early worthy of Old Dartmouth.

There are the old grist mills, sometimes for generations in one family, and where all went with their grain to be ground, and which were general meeting places and headquarters for all news.

Then, too, we have the pictures of many old whalers, whose “greasy voyages” in the heyday of whaling made the fortunes of many Old Dartmouth lads, who built great mansions for their homes, photographs of which we have; but the houses themselves are being demolished all too fast. In fact, our photographs tell the story of many a family of Old Dartmouth.

A great service has been done the society by Henry B. Worth, who has been indefatigable in seeking out the histories of the interesting ancient homes in Old Dartmouth, which have been attractively photographed by Fred Palmer.

This section-as well as the whole society-has just met with a loss in the death of Gilbert Kingman, whose interest in photography and rare collection of old New Bedford views have been of much service to us.

The souvenir post-card craze has reached this section, and we have a classified collection of over a hundred, on such subjects as New Bedford, Fairhaven, Whalers and Whaling, Society of Friends, Early Industries and Present Manufactures, arranged in the typical post-card albums.

We are considering the most advisable way of presenting our photographs to the public view. At present, cramped quarters and a more cramped purse forbid the attractive arrangement we hope for in a permanent home. At present we are forced to show our photographs piecemeal in a case about three feet by two-but arranged by subjects, the effort is not unattractive.

Our aim is to make this collection of “picture memories” as complete as possible, and we ask you to help us in telling the history of Old Dartmouth by photography.

Report of the Publication Section
by Elizabeth Watson, Chairman

The publication section reports the printing and distribution of pamphlets containing the papers read at the regular meetings of the society, with additional accounts of the dedication of the Fearing Memorial in Fairhaven, and the Old South Historical Society pilgrimage to Old Dartmouth.

Through this section the society receives exchanges from many historical organizations and keeps in touch with what is being accomplished in other parts of the country. There are frequent calls for our pamphlets by societies and individuals who have heard of our existence through the general circulation of historical society news.

Perhaps this committee realizes more than any other, the opportunities for making our work of permanent and of great value. We look with envious eyes upon the publications of such societies as the Essex Institute, which issues quarterly most interesting volumes, plentifully illustrated with pictures of the ships and masters that made old Salem famous. And away from Kansas comes a large and fascinating book telling about the early settlement of that state; the troubles with the Indians, the laying of the first railroad, General Custer’s gallant record and the history of the west; so entertaining that we quite forget it is simply a report as we turn the pages.

We long for the means to publish something equally attractive, for our locality is surely rich in material, especially in regard to the whaling industry; while we have exceptional fine opportunities for illustrating our printed articles.

At present we can only strive to make our little sketches as attractive as possible and look forward to greater and better things in the future.

Memoir of Thomas R. Rodman
By Henry H. Crapo

Thomas Rotch Rodman was born in New Bedford, September 27th, 1825, and died in New Bedford December 18th, 1905. He was the son of Samuel Rodman (Junior) and Hannah Haydock Prior, and grandson of Samuel Roadman and Elizabeth Rotch, daughter of William Rotch and Elizabeth Barney, his wife.

Thomas R. Rodman was the seventh in descent from John Rodman, who died in the island of Barbadoes in 1686, having been banished from Ireland in 1655 “for wearing his hat on in the Assizes of New Ross,” for which offence he was committed to gaol for three months, and refusing to purge himself of the contempt of court was “banished that country.” This intense loyalty to the doctrines of that “despised sect called Quakers,” to whom New Bedford is indebted for so much that is best and highest in her development and history, was the distinguishing feature of the six generations of Rodmans from whom Thomas R. Rodman sprang.

Thomas Rodman, a son of the exiled Irishman, came to Newport, Rhode Island, where he became a leading citizen and a prominent member of the Society of Friends, being clerk of the monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings of Rhode Island for thirty years. His grandson, Samuel Rodman, was born in Newport November 11, 1753. After his marriage to Elizabeth Rotch he resided in Nantucket and became a member of the firm William Rotch & Sons, organized to carry on the whale-fishery at Dunkirk, France. In 1798 he removed with his family to New Bedford, where he died Dec. 24, 1835. He was a man of upright and benevolent character, largely identified with the mercantile affairs of New Bedford, and clerk of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends and the Meeting for Sufferings for New England for many years.

Samuel Rodman (Junior), son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Rotch) Rodman, and father of Thomas R. Rodman, was born in Nantucket March 24, 1792, and died in New Bedford August 1, 1876. He was one of the leading merchants and manufacturers of New Bedford, a birthright member of the Society of Friends, and a constant worker in the cause of anti-slavery, peace and temperance. He was foremost in all local charitable and educational movements. He was largely instrumental in the establishment of the Free Public Library, and was for sixty-three years a trustee of the Friends’ Academy.

In 1812, at the age of 20, he began a daily meteorological record, which was maintained and continued by his son, Thomas R. Rodman, to the time of his death in 1905. The observations taken daily with the aid of approved instruments possessed a positive scientific value, which has been widely recognized. To this laborious and indefatigable work of both father and son may in some degree be attributed the establishment and success of the present leading industry of New Bedford, the manufacture of cotton goods, since the data so collected demonstrated the peculiar adaptability of the local atmospheric conditions to the processes of spinning and weaving.

Thomas R. Rodman was educated at the Friends’ Academy of New Bedford, at Haverford College and at Harvard College, where he graduated in the year 1846. Among his college classmates and lifelong friends were Senator George F. Hoar, Professor Charles Eliot Norton, Professor George M. Lane, the Rev. Walter Mitchell, and others who took high rank in the several occupations of their lives.

The love of study, the keen appreciation of the best in classical and modern literature, the alert inquiring mind which seeks without cessation to know the world’s accumulated store of knowledge of arts and sciences, of history and philosophy, found in Mr. Rodman’s case no interruption as the cares of life succeeded the freer period of youth, remaining with him throughout his life in an exceptional degree, a constant inspiration and delight. He was one of the fourteen young men who in 1845 formed an interesting literary society called the Blue Club, whose meetings for many years were of unusual interest. During all of his life as a student his interests and sympathies were broad. He was not only familiar with the literature and history of the past, but he kept in touch with contemporary matters both in this country and in England, and was deeply interested in all movements seeking the betterment of social and civic conditions. This interest he made effective by active co-operation in the work of many societies and movements having such objects in view. He was an interested supporter of the New Bedford Lyceum, himself a lecturer in the earlier days, and often on its lecture committee and at one time its vice president. He was the vice president of the Brooks Club from 1899 until his death. He was from 1856 until his death a trustee of the Friends’ Academy, in the establishment and maintenance of which his family had been always foremost. He was a member of the school committee of New Bedford from 1857 to 1860, and again by virtue of his position as president of the common council in 1878 and 1879. He was president of the Association for the Uplifting and Relief of the Indians of the United States and always an earnest friend of the nation’s wards. To many philanthropic movements he gave his unstinted aid and support.

Especially was he interested in matter sers of local history, and through him much of the earlier history of this community has been preserved, our local historians constantly referring to him for facts and traditions, and always finding in him a ready and generous collaborator. He was a charter member of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society and its vice president from its organization until his death.

It was, however, as a soldier patriot of the Civil War that Captain Rodman was best known and will be best remembered. Above all else he was a lover of his country, and notwithstanding his nurture in the Quaker abhorrence of war, and his tastes which drew him to the studious paths of peace, he responded unreservedly to the call of patriotism to defend the union against the rebellion of the secession movement. In the summer of 1862, then in his 36th year, he assisted his cousin, William Logan Rodman, in organizing Co. H of the 38th regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was mustered into service Aug. 21, 1862, and his cousin having been promoted to major, he was commissioned captain of the company, and after only ten days in camp was ordered to the front, serving continuously until the close of the war. He was engaged with his company in the battle of Bisland, and in the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana, during which there were two unusually severe engagements, one on May 27th, 1863, in which his cousin, William Logan Rodman, was killed, and one on July 14th, 1863.

A comrade thus describes him: “In the midst of battle he regarded not self, and while there was a pallor on his face, indicating the realization that at any moment the whizzing bullet or the screaming shell might cut off suddenly his life, with compressed lips and face to the enemy he unflinchingly performed his full duty. In one of our battles during the siege of Port Hudson I remember he stood erect when everybody else was lying down, for we were close to the enemy’s breastworks, and not until some of us pled with him did he change his position. Under his leadership, no matter what the risk, his men obeyed his orders, and he never demanded more of them than he himself was ready to do. . .He was ever solicitous of the comfort of his men, and the encouraging words spoken to them in hospital were inspiring and helpful. He was tender and considerate when a comrade died and the sad information to the comrade’s friends conveyed by him was couched in words of sympathy which were of real comfort to those bereaved.”

Captain Rodman would have wished to remain always with his company, but his superior officers, recognizing his abilities, detached him on Sept. 28th, 1863, from his company and he served on special staff duty until the close of the war, being mustered out July 11th, 1865. Not until July 14th, 1865, in New Bedford, at the old railroad depot on Pearl Street, did he again welcome “his boys,” and then, as they marched through the home streets, with his characteristic courtesy and humility he refused to lead them, falling back into the ranks, since, although their captain, for two years they had marched under another’s leadership.

The ties of comradeship thus formed in these years of mutual service to the nation were ever afterward the strongest interests of his life. He joined Post 1 of the Grand Army of the Republic at an early date, and in 1888 became a member of the Richard A. Pierce Post 190, serving as junior vice commander, and senior vice commander, and as commander in 1891 and 1892 being the only comrade in the post who served two consecutive years as such commander. He also served as commander of the Bristol County Grand Army of the Republic association.

To his comrades of the Grand Army he was an ever ready helper. His benefactions both in personal effort and in financial assistance were unstinted. He was faithful in attendance at the camp fires and reunions. His uncompromising adherence to what he regarded as right, his hatred of trickery and hypocrisy, his lofty ideals and his strong prejudices, sometimes made him appear cold and austere, but to every worthy call his tenderness and considerateness always responded.

After the war Captain Rodman was in charge of certain gold mining operations in Colorado for several years, and subsequently purchased a farm in Kansas, near Lawrence, where he lived until about 1871. It was during this western life that he became interested in the various races of Indians, to whose cause he was afterwards devoted.

After returning from the west he was with William J. Rotch and Leander Plummer for a time and then entered the employ of the Wamsutta Mills in April, 1880, serving in that capacity until April, 1890, when he retired from active business life.

While Mr. Rodman’s paternal ancestry were so conspicuously identified with the Friends Society, he became a devoted member of the Protestant Episcopal Church. While always preserving in a marked degree the traits of spirituality and simplicity which characterize the Friends, he was an earnest supporter of the church of his adoption, serving as a vestryman and as senior warden of Grace Church of New Bedford, and for many years representing the parish in the diocesan conventions.

Mr. Rodman had three children, all of whom survive him-Julia W. Rodman of New Bedford; Effie Rodman, married George W. Goethals, lieutenant (now major) United States Army; and Samuel Rodman, formerly of the United States Army.

William L. Sayer, in writing of Mr. Rodman’s influence and character, most aptly summed up the real achievement of his life: “’What is it?’ asked a discriminating Englishman, ‘what [is it] to be a gentleman? Is it to have lofty aims, to lead a pure life, to keep your honor virgin; to have the esteem of your fellow citizens and the love of your fireside; to bear good fortune meekly; to suffer evil with constancy; and through evil or good to maintain truth always?’ This was Mr. Rodman, brave, courteous, loyal, the living example of the genuine Christian citizen, patriot, friend and man.”

Last modified: May 26, 2014