Old Dartmouth Historical Sketch No. 26 - New Bedford Whaling Museum


Number 26

Being the proceedings of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, Water Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts, on 30 September, 1909.

by Edmund Wood

by George H. Tripp

[Note.—The “Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches” will be published by the Society quarterly and may be purchased for ten cents each on application to the Secretary and also at Hutchinson’s Book Store.]

Proceedings of the Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society
New Bedford, Massachusetts
September 30, 1909

William Bradford
By Edmund Wood

We have received a most interesting picture by William Bradford. The daughter of the artist, one of our members, and a diligent worker in our museum section, has wished to present to this society a characteristic specimen of his work. It is a cartoon in black and white, but drawn on regular canvas and is a finished study of whalers in the Arctic ice.

It is altogether fitting that it should hang upon these walls, for the artist was a son of Old Dartmouth, who by his acknowledged talent has brought renown to his birthplace and a favorable notoriety to our harbor and its ships and to many scenes along our coast.

William Bradford was born in Fairhaven in 1823. In his early youth, he showed some talent in drawing, but quite early became a clerk in a dry goods store in New Bedford. Trade had little attraction for him, and all his leisure moments were occupied with drawing, mostly with a lead pencil. There was nothing brilliant about these early attempts. They were very crude, for he was largely self-taught.

Bradford was born and brought up a Quaker and he married the daughter of Nathan Breed of Lynn, a stalwart leader of that sect in New England and a man of strong opinions.

For eight years after his marriage the artistic leanings were subdued and the young man strove to succeed in trade. But he had not the business faculty, and his nature did not respond to that exercise of his talents and the business failed.

It was scarcely to be expected that from his Quaker ancestry, and subdued surroundings, would be born an artistic soul. But should such a soul be born, it was still less likely that it would be nourished and encouraged to pursue the study and delineation of the beautiful in nature. There was little in the habits or the creed of the Society of Friends auspicious to the growth or development of the fine arts. This most prosaic of sects had little affinity with the practice of an art which, according to their strict tenets was allied with and directly conducive to vanity.

It can well be believed that the father-in-law in Lynn had little unity with the indulgence of an artistic fancy and little confidence in the making of pictures as a means to support a wife and family.

There is a similar situation described in a story of Benjamin West, the first painter of note which this country produced. Born of strict Quaker ancestry in a small village of Pennsylvania in 1738, he early evinced so decided a talent for painting that his parents called the elders of the meeting together to decide whether it would be possible to allow the pursuit of art by the youngster—without defying the testimony of truth and the penalties of the discipline. The record states that at this conference in the woods of Pennsylvania, one member was moved to considerable eloquence in his attempt to reconcile the alleged vanity of painting with the testimony of the society for plainness of speech, behavior and apparel.

It is remarkable that at that period and in the even primitive conditions light and liberality prevailed, and the meeting was led to see that the pursuit of Truth and the pursuit of beauty are not necessarily antagonistic, for Benjamin West was sent to study at Rome and later in England, where he eventually became the president of the Royal Academy.

Nathan Breed bought a farm for the young couple as his last protest against dabbling with pictures, and besought them to till the soil with healthy industry.

But this, too, failed, and then it seems that the young man was finally allowed to take up drawing as a means of a livelihood. For some time Bradford devoted himself entirely to the sketching of vessels, and for an income he painted a good many portraits of the whaleships, getting $25 a piece. It was this severe practice of painting the details of a ship’s form and rigging for the most critical of clients that afterwards served him in good stead and established his fame as the most accurate delineator of vessels in this country.

Up to this time there had been little attention paid to this department of painting, and a marine artist had not been evolved in America.

Bradford at this time had had no instruction in the use of color, and it was a fortunate event in his career when that roving Dutch artist, Van Beest, came to this city, and Bradford was associated with him in the same studio. The two men and their artistic methods were radically different. Van Beest was a skilful handler of oil colors. He scorned detail and sought for the general effect; and this he obtained by dash and what might be called a happy knack. Bradford had magnified the importance of details, and believed that his success depended on patient observation and minute accuracy. In the two years they were associated together Bradford received his first real instruction in the handling of a brush, the use of pigments, and in the technique of painting, and gained distinctly in force and breadth from the manner of Van Beest.

After leaving the studio, Bradford began a resolute and systematic study of nature, and for several seasons sketched the whole coast to the north of us. Then came his seven successive summer trips to the coast of Labrador, beginning in 1861. In some of these trips he penetrated beyond the Arctic Circle. Clad in the sealskin suit of the Esquimaux, and often in the light of the midnight sun, he depicted scenes of awful grandeur, of desolate, cheerless frost. He struggled with the marvelous color effects of that weird, unnatural light on the ever-changing faces of those drifting mountains of ice.

Scenes which hitherto had only been described by Arctic explorers in halting and insufficient word pictures were studied, and laboriously sketched with benumbed fingers, and later, in the milder climate of his New York studio perpetuated on enduring canvas.

Most of the sketches were of the floating field of ice and of icebergs, in endless variety of fantastic shapes. When the light was reflected directly on their face they were of a dazzling white, but the portions which were in shade are shown as blue or green or purple, fading into delicate tints of gray, and shot with rays of pink and saffron.

Now came quite a large measure of success to the struggling, persevering artist, and when Lockwood of New York paid $10,000 for that best-known painting, “Sealers Crushed Among the Icebergs,” then even the incredulous Quaker father-in-law was inclined to admit that there might be something in making pictures.

It is related of a rather shrewd member of the Society of Friends in England, who many years ago was waited on by a committee of elders to remonstrate with him because of his extravagant purchase of a picture, that he disavowed the protest and quieted all conscientious scruples by proving to his brethren that he had made an excellent investment.

There was a welcome recognition, too, when the great poet of the society, Whittier, paid an eloquent tribute to his friend the Quaker artist, dedicating to him the poem “Amy Wentworth.” Whittier, in his introduction to the poem, says:

Something it has—a flavor of the Sea
And the Sea’s freedom which reminds of thee.
A song for oars to chime with, such as might
Be sung by tired sea-painters, who at night
Look from their hemlock camps, by quiet cove
Or beach, moon lighted, on the waves they love.
So hast thou looked, when level sunset lay
On the calm bosom of some eastern bay.
And all the spray moist rocks and waves that rolled
Up the white sand-slopes flashed with ruddy gold.

After his last Arctic trip came the visit to England. His portfolios were filled with his sketches—but nobody wanted to look at them. London is not rash or impetuous. But at last when his money was exhausted, came the first influential caller. The next day he received the Princess Louise, the Duke of Argyle and Lord Dufferin, and soon many of the prominent nobility of England. His pictures at once became the vogue when the queen purchased his “Steamer Panther Among Icebergs in Melville Bay.” Bradford received $150,000 for his pictures sold during the English visit. He had won fame in his own country and established himself in the front rank of living artists. But now after years of struggle with debts —for his Arctic expeditions had been very expensive—he received an ample pecuniary reward.

He was elected an associate member of the Royal Society—and an associate of the National Academy of New York.

His pencil was never idle for any long period until his sudden death in 1892.

Opinions probably differ as to the comparative rank that Bradford holds. He belonged to a school which no longer flourishes and is unpopular with the art critics of the present day. There was little of the impressionist about Bradford. He knew a vessel to its smallest detail. He probably drew into his pictures more than he could see, because he knew it was there. But his detail is not finicky and the natural grandeur of the subjects he selected are handled with a breadth of treatment and an artistic feeling which secures animation and impressiveness.

The accuracy of his observation and drawing are best seen in his studies in black and white. To the excellence of these there is no dissenting voice. A contemporary artist in his comment says: “I am not sure that Bradford’s excellent drawings will not outlive even his work in color.”

We have in this review confined ourselves to Bradford the artist, and have said nothing of Bradford as a man. His exemplary life, not common in those of an artistic temperament, his genial, winning and affable manner, his unusual powers of conversation, his hospitality and above all his cheerful and joyous enthusiasm, compose the charming background to the picture of his artistic struggle and his artistic fame. The respect and the high honor which we accord to him as an artist, we can in the largest measure bestow upon his character as a man. His life and his work sheds glory upon the town of Old Dartmouth which produced him.

Early Tripps in New England
By George H. Tripp

The study of family histories, or technically, genealogical research, has been the pursuit of the few rather than the many until the various patriotic societies and other similar institutions have appealed to the pride of a certain class of Americans who have desired to link themselves with a distinguished past, possibly as a relief for a somewhat commonplace present.

Besides these seekers for reflected glory from distinguished ancestry there has been an increasing number of eager students who have felt a natural pride in tracing their ancestry from the present as far into the past as verified records would justify. There has been among some an indifference to record hunting, some possibly taking the ground that in families, as with potatoes, the best part is underground, while others take a contrary view and, as someone has expressed it, are afraid to climb too far in the family tree unless they find some of their ancestors hanging on the branches.

But it seems a perfectly legitimate and proper subject for a short paper before the Old Dartmouth Historical Society to trace the history of the family which numerically stood second in the directory of 1880, being surpassed only by the Smith family, with 108 names, while in the directory of 1908 there are 186 names, being surpassed in this instance by the Smiths, who are led by the Sylvias and Silvas, who figure largest in the number of names in the latest directory.

The name Tripp has been given numerous derivations. One speaks of Tripp or Trippner or Trippenmaker as a maker of short gowns. Another derivation more pleasing to the pride of the owners of the names is as follows:

“Tradition says of Lord Howard’s fifth son at the siege of Boulonge that Henry V asked how they took the town and castle. Howard answered, ‘I tripped up the walls.’ Said his majesty, ‘Tripp shall be thy name, and no longer Howard,’ and honored him with a scaling ladder for a coat of arms.”

The Tripps, probably a branch of the same family, lived in Kent, England, and trace their line as far back as the Norman conquest, the name being found in Doomsday Book in a title of land. In 1234, Nicholas Trippe gave his estate in County Kent to Elham Church. There was a Tripp mentioned who was a governor of Calais about 1500, and a Thomas Trippe is mentioned by James, the Duke of York, afterwards King James II, in his autobiography, as aiding him to escape from St. James palace after the beheading of Charles the First.

There seems to have been two landings of representatives of the family in this country. The first John Tripp, living in Portsmouth, R. I., in 1638, and a Colonel Henry Trippe, who came to Maryland in 1663. He was born in Canterbury, England, 1632; he had fought in Flanders under the Prince of Orange, and brought to the provinces three of his troopers.

The principal interest, however, of this society would naturally be confined to the descendants of John Tripp. It is supposed that he came over from England as an apprentice to Holden; the Age of Chivalry had passed, and so the Tripps of this country had to make other uses of the scaling ladder in their coat of arms, so John Tripp, as a carpenter, could fairly use the same armorial design.

John Tripp was born in 1610, was a carpenter by trade, married Mary Paine, daughter of Anthony; in 1693 was appointed administrator for the inhabitants of the island of Aquidneck, and during his busy life occupied many positions of dignity and importance. In 1639 he signed a compact with 28 others, who declared:

“We, whose names are underwritten, do acknowledge ourselves the, legal subjects of his majesty King Charles, and in honor do hereby bind ourselves into a civil body politic, unto his laws according to matters of Justice.”

He was a deputy, corresponding to our present day representative, for 13 years between 1648 and 1672. In 1655 he was a commissioner, and in the same year he was made a freeman. He was a member of the governor’s council at least five years between 1648 and 1675. In 1655 he deeded to his son Peleg a quarter section of land in Dartmouth formerly bought of John Alden.

An old record shows the following finding of a commission in 1666:

“Whereas, Mary Tripp, wife of John Tripp Sr., some 25 years ago, bought of Richard Searle for a pint of wine, three acres of land, the said Richard Searle living then in Portsmouth, she being then unmarried, about which time Searle removed, but left no deed to Mary, now therefrom said sale is confirmed by commissioners”

He had 10 children, and his sons likewise had many children. They were pioneers in a new land and race suicide was unheard of.

John’s children were:

John, born in 1640, died 1719; married Susanna Anthony.
Peleg, born 1642, died 1713; married Anne. He was constable, surveyor of highways, member of the town council and a deputy.
Joseph, born in 1644; married Mehitable Fish. He was a freeman, member of the court of trials, deputy, and a selectman of Dartmouth.
Mary, born 1646, died 1716; married Gersham Wordel and Jonathan Gotchell.
Elizabeth, born 1648, died 1670; married Zuriel Hall.
Alice, horn 1650; married William Hall.
Isabel, born 1651, died 1716; married Samson Sherman.
Abiel, born 1653, died 1684; married Deliverance Hall.
Martha, born 1658, died 1717; married Samuel Sherman.
James, born 1656, died 1730; married Mercy Lawton and Lydia _____ and Elizabeth Cudworth.

The Hon. John Tripp was one of the proprietors of Portsmouth, R. I., and he was representative to various courts. He was a member of the governor’s council in 1648, 1670, 1673, 1674 and 1675.

From this man, prominent in early political affairs of Rhode Island, descended a very numerous [progeny], who, first moving into Dartmouth, then into other sections of New England, were able in the first United States census of 1790 to establish the following record:

Of heads of families names in this first census, in Massachusetts there were 61 Tripps; in Rhode Island 28, Connecticut 4, Maryland 3, North Carolina 7, New Hampshire 2, New York 40, Pennsylvania 6, Vermont 2, South Carolina 2, Maine 4.

Mentioned in the first part of the paper is the present predominance of Tripps in the New Bedford directory, while the last Wstport and Dartmouth directory shows nine names in Dartmouth and 83 in Westport. Such a large family, of course, by marriage soon became allied with practically every old family in Portsmouth and Old Dartmouth. The first generation united with members of the following families: Anthony, Sisson, Fish, Wordell, Getchell, Hall, Sherman, Lawton and Cudworth.

The first migration to Dartmouth occurred very early in the history of the Tripp family in America. In 1665 John Alden deeded to John Tripp Sr., land undivided in Dartmouth, which later Tripp divided among his sons, Peleg, Joseph and James. The Tripp farms were in the section of Dartmouth, now Westport, east of Devoll’s pond, while Peleg had a farm at the south end of Sawdy Pond.

The following were prominent in town affairs in Dartmouth:

In 1689 James Tripp was appointed ensign.
In 1672-1673 Peleg Tripp was appointed surveyor.
In 1686 Joseph Tripp had taken oath of fidelity.
In 1687 and 1692 he was a selectman.
In 1688 James Tripp was a selectman, also in 1699.
In 1717-1723 John Tripp was town clerk.
In 1685 Joseph Tripp was representative to Plymouth.
In 1672 Daniel Wilcox deeded to John Tripp 114 acres of land.

James Tripp, in company with Benjamin Waite and George Lawton, established the mills between Westport Factory and the Head of Westport.

When the sons of John came to Dartmouth they settled in the region occupied by the homesteads of Portsmouth people, mainly in the west edge of the town, in the part now in Westport. Peleg Tripp owned a large farm at the south end of Sawdy Pond, in the region that was Dartmouth until it was annexed to Tiverton, and then, in 1861, returned to Westport. This farm was owned in 1718-1773 in the family of Philip Tabor, the Baptist preacher. In recent years it has been owned by Weston Tripp and his descendants.

Ebenezer Tripp’s homestead lay along the south side of the Adamsville Road, from Central Village west of the junction of Sodom Road. Ebenezer Tripp owned tracts on the east side of the latter road, now its southern terminus.

North of Central Village, about two miles, is a locality called Kirby’s corner. A road extends from this place northwest towards Devoll’s Pond. This is called the Charlotte White Road. South of Kirby’s corner, on sides of the main highway and extending down to the Noquochoke River, was a group of farms owned by Tripps, the homesteads being on the east side of the highway. The north was laid out by Joseph Tripp and the south by James.

On the west side of the road the land was owned by James, Abiel, Peleg, Joseph, James, John and Peleg Tripp.

Of some of this land the present owners are Tripps. So numerous have been the Tripp residents in this locality that the region south of Kirby’s Corner has been known as Tripptown.

The atlas of Bristol county in 1871 discloses the fact that the residents of Westport were as follows:

C. Tripp, Adamsville Road.
R. P. Tripp, Sodom Road.
Weston Tripp, south end Sawdy Pond.

Seven other families of the same name south of Kirby’s Corner were in occupation of land laid out to descendants of John Tripp soon after 1700.

As we could expect from the customs of the time, some peculiar wills are to be found from members of this second generation of Tripps in America. Some extracts are worthy of record.

John second willed: “To son Benjamin a Bible which he hath already. To son Othniel biggest pewter basin at death of wife. To son Lot biggest pewter platter at death of wife. To daughter Susanna Potter, wife of Thomas, my bell metal skillet. To daughter Mary Potter my brass kettle. To son John great chest, spit and dripping pan. To wife of Susanna rest of movables.” The inventory of his estate showed 9 pounds 14 shillings, viz., apparel five pounds, chest, table, three chairs, three bedsteads, etc.

Joseph’s will read: “To wife Mehitable, 5 pounds per year and her diet and house room for life, with most of the movables in the dwelling house. To daughter, Alice Sherman, brass chafing dish. To daughter, Mehitable Sherman, a Dutch pewter pot or flagon. To daughter, Mary Wait, 10 shillings.”

The will of Abiel provided: “To son Abiel all real and personal estate at death of testator’s wife, and at age of 16, he to have a cow and 10 sheep, which are to be improved until he is of age. To son at age, a silver cup, set of silver buttons; pair of silver buttons for breeches, chest marked with brass nails with letters I. T. and a feather bed.”

The will of James, who was the plutocrat of the original family, made the following bequests: “To wife Elizabeth, feather bed, use of five cows and horse, use of housing, profit of half orchard, negro boy Tobey, firewood, £5 yearly and use of all household goods while widow. To son John, great Bible, ivory-headed cane and great silver spoon. To daughter Elizabeth Mitchell, son Robert and James, 5 shillings each. To son Francis, certain land, etc. To son Stephen, 100 pounds, paid by brother John, and negro boy Tobey, when his mother dies, and a feather bed. To son Israel, half of 100-acre lot. To daughter Isabel Tripp, a feather bed, good cow and £10.” The inventory of the estate showed £860, viz., apparel, £11; two canes, Bible, negro boy, £100, five swine, poultry, £4 18 shillings, eight cows, heifer, pair of oxen, pair of steers, three yearlings, two calves, real estate, £500.

In closing this brief sketch, which has been confined almost entirely to the first settlers, the only excuse I can offer for writing is that I consider any attempt to enlist the legitimate interest of the people of today in the people of their own related past is worthwhile.