Old Dartmouth Historical Sketch No. 35 - New Bedford Whaling Museum


Number 35

The Proceedings of the Annual Meeting held in the lecture hall of the New Bedford Public Library, on June 12, 1912.

  • REPORT OF THE TREASURER, William A. Mackie

[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 Old Dartmouth Historical Society’s
Ninth Annual Meeting
New Bedford, Massachusetts
June 12, 1912

The ninth annual meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was held in the lecture room of the Free Public Library.

Officers elected:

The officers elected are as follows:

President — Edmund Wood.

Vice Presidents — George H. Tripp, Henry B. Worth.

Treasurer — William A. Mackie.

Secretary — William A. Wing.

Directors for Three Years — Mrs. Annie A. Swift, Mrs. Clara L. Broughton, Abbott P. Smith.

President Wood addressed the meeting.

Tonight occurs the ninth annual meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, and we greet our members in a new place. It is a fitting place to hold a meeting of a society dedicated among other things to the preservation of the monuments of the past. This building has much local history woven into its structure. It was built with money which the city or town received. And it was a worthy structure of a dignified architecture—and deserving to be called the City Hall.

How much of New Bedford’s noteworthy history has centered about this building! To a historian the golden age of any community seems to be found in the early times when all the citizens could gather together yearly in one place and counsel together for the public good, and appropriate money prudently and judiciously.

Here too have been held the innumerable mass meetings of our citizens when they responded to some sudden call, and together determined on the proper action for the common good.

When the time came when this old City Hall was no longer sufficient for municipal purposes it was destroyed. In all the criticism of the recent exploits of our city fathers in the time of public buildings we have none of this one act—the handling of this historic monument. It has been treated reverently, and much good taste it has been allowed to suit the requirements of the new service which it is to bestow on the community. It is a dignified and worthy home for our Free Public Library, and building and library stands among the foremost of such institutions in the state and the nation.

This room has been wisely given to the varied movements for the education of the people, and there is commendable liberality in the way in which the trustees are handling it.

The Old Dartmouth Historical Society is glad to meet in it as one of the movements of this community connected with education and research and profitable public discussion.

When the Old Dartmouth Historical Society first thought of locating at its present quarters on Water Street, there were many who thought there were drawbacks in its inaccessibility for meetings. They called it pretty far down town. Still some of us are not willing to admit that it is not, all things considered an ideal place for the rooms and the historical collection. The place is still redolent of the odor of the past; the view from the windows is in sympathy with the relics inside; the ships and the wharves and the oil casks are visible and the old buildings have witnessed the doings of those early times. How curious it would seem to those workers of 75 years ago to hear that for mere convenience we had resolved to hold a meeting way back on what was beginning to be known as Cheapside. This place would certainly not be any handier to the majority of our citizens. There is another point to be considered in relation to our present location on Water Street. It will never be so inaccessible as it is just at present. As the city grows all the members will be further and further removed, and it will be necessary to take the trolley cars or other newer means of conveyance to get into the center of the city and then Water Street may be about as convenient as Cheapside. No, I for one, do not think we have made any mistake in our permanent location.

Report of the Directors
by William A. Wing

Another twelfth month has passed in the history of this society. A year older and, we trust, wiser—but we are still very young, comparatively, beside some of the other historical societies of Massachusetts; such birth years as 1790, 1797, 1811, 1822, 1824, make our own 1903 seem rather infantile. So we may take hope that when we have reached their advanced years we may have like honors, dignity and wealth, surely according to our deserts.

This society will ever hold

In Memoriam

Sarah C. Anthony.                     Standish Bourne.
Lydia L. Bryant.                        Emma C. Cornell.
Mary S. Cummings.                William B. Fisher.
Rebecca M. Frothingham.      John L. Gibbs.
Frances B. Greene.               Isake H. Gifford.
Albert W. Holmes.                   Lucy James.
Sarah D. Ottiwell.                   Anna C. Phinney.
Gardner T. Sanford.               Mary B. Sanford.
Charles F. Shaw.                    Susan S. Snow.
Humphrey F. Swift.                  William N. Swift.
Edmund Taber.                        Elizabeth R. Wing.
Walter P. Winsor.                    Adelaide F. Wood.

The death of Edmund Taber, our senior member, removes from our midst a charming gentleman, of the old school. Old only in years, the relation of his valued reminiscence and his interest in the aims of this organization are pleasant memories.

Respectfully submitted,

Wm. A. Wing, Secretary.

Report of the Treasurer
by William A. Mackie

Annual report of William A. Mackie, treasurer of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, from March 31, 1911 to June 12, 1912.


Balance, March 31, 1911                                         $235.03

Membership and Dues,                                           550.00

Lyceum Fund (Merchants Nat’l Bank),                   27.00

Lyceum Fund (Mechanics Nat’l Bank),                 180.00

Lyceum Fund (N. B 5c Savings Bank),                    255.51

Lyceum Fund (N. B. Inst, for Savings),                    389.12

Life Membership Fund (N. B. Inst, for Savings,      166.03

Legacy Est. C. A. M. Taber,    150.00

Rebate of Tax,            48.30



Salaries,              1350.00

Supplies.             248.12

Labor,                    350.85                           1948.97

Balance,                52.02


Respectfully submitted,

Wm. A. Mackie, Treasurer.

Report of the Museum Section
by Annie Seabury Wood

In presenting the 8th annual report of the museum section we have to confess to a year of inactivity on the part of the committee. In November Roy C. Andrews gave a lecture under our auspices describing his wanderings in the South Seas and the Orient, but other than this nothing in this line has been attempted.

The friends of the society, however, have not been idle, and it is gratifying to be able to report that many important additions to the museum have been made, some as gifts, others as loans. The annual meeting is the time when the society makes public acknowledgment of these acquisitions and we take this opportunity to extend our thanks to all contributors. While it is impossible to enumerate all of them we desire to make mention of the more important gifts received during the year.

Historically, one of the most interesting is a kneeling stool used at the first Methodist meetings in New Bedford. At the foot of Mill Street, which took its name from a windmill standing at the top of the hill there still stands a plain, old, two storied house. The house was built by George East during the Revolution and was afterwards known as East’s Tavern. It became a great center for ministers, and as there were at that time no churches, religious services were often held there. On the eastern slope of the roof of the house is a scuttle and here, it is said, Mrs. East, a woman noted for her piety, used to screech and shout to the good people across the river to announce a meeting. In 1795 Jesse Lee preached in this house, the first Methodist sermon ever listened to in New Bedford. The landing on the old stairway where he stood remained unchanged within, but the praying stone upon which he knelt has found a home in the rooms of the society. It is a plain old piece of work, guiltless of paint and absolutely without ornamentation, made apparently by rather unskilled hands with rather crude tools, and it is now somewhat shaky from age. A brass tablet, suitably inscribed, has been affixed to it by its donor, Mary East Coggeshall, a great grand-daughter of George East.

Mrs. Clement Nye Swift, whose interest in the society never flags, and who has always been untiring in her devotion to the work, has given, among many other things, the Men’s High Seat from the old Friends’ Meeting House built at Acushnet about 1740. This, too, is a very valuable acquisition from a historical standpoint.

Abbot P. Smith is greatly interested in the ancient household furnishings of the homes of old Dartmouth, and one of his many valued donations is a folding bed of unusual pattern from the Handy house at Hix’s Bridge. This house which has lately come into the possession of Mr. Smith was built in 1714 (almost 200 years ago) by George Cardman. From him it descended to his daughter, the wife of William White. About 100 years ago it became the property of the Handy family and it is still known as the old Dr. Handy house. It is a most interesting place with big low rooms, fine old woodwork, a huge fireplace, a brick oven, and a smoke chamber for smoking hams.

The old packet ship New York of the Black Ball Line running between New York and Liverpool was commanded by Captain Thomas Bennett, and a carved mast-sheath of beautiful design and workmanship from that ship has been presented by Captain Bennett’s grand-daughter, Miss Clara Bennett.

An ancient try-pot used about 1750 on the Fairhaven shore for trying out blubber from whales brought in from shore cruises, is the gift of Miss Anna Robinson at the request of her mother, Mrs. James Robinson.

From William W. Crapo we have received a set of Benjamin Russell’s drawings, which have been previously acknowledged; from Charles W. Clifford, an artistic and interesting medal in bronze, and from Frank H. Gifford, old account books and log books.

The following bequests have also been received and are gratefully acknowledged: A pair of brass whale oil lamps bequest of Lydia H. Church; a grand Chickering piano, the first in Fairhaven, brought by Captain Arthur Cox for his daughter; a portrait of Captain Arthur Cox, both bequest of Sarah Cox Anthony; portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Hoag, bequest of their daughter, Abby Hoag; portrait of Captain Caleb Kempton, from his son, George Kempton.

One word in closing. Many interesting articles have been placed in the rooms of the society during the year as loans, and although they are not mentioned in detail in this report, they have been gladly received and are fully appreciated.”

Respectfully submitted,

Annie Seabury Wood,

Secretary Museum section.

Report of the Publication Section
by William A. Wing

In Old Dartmouth’s early days, the comparatively few who could write rarely took their “pen in hand,” save on some occasion of import. The daily struggle for existence left little time for letters—paper was valuable and conveyance of news seldom and dangerous. Of the few letters that the vicissitudes of time have preserved for us, there are three of more than passing interest.

The first was written in Dartmouth in 1727 by Jabez Delano (son of Jonathan) to his brother, Jonathan, who had moved to Tolland, Conn., and became an ancestor of President U. S. Grant:

Loving Brother—I was moved to write to you before now, both within myself and from mother, but I put her off because of the sickness that was in my family.

Our eldest has had a long lingering illness. I am but poorly, but the sickness has been very general in our town. Four grown persons died in our village, viz.: Jonathan Hathaway, Rose Spooner, Jemima Babcock and Amos Taber’s wife.

We have indifferent good crops. We have had a great drought, which lasted from English morning till about ye middle of Sept. (The usual farmers’ complaint of the weather!).

Of an earthquake—A week yesterday, about ten at night, which shook both ye land and water, the islands and seas at that degree that several doors were shook of ye latch in our village, and ’tis said that at Nantucket ye hearthstones grated one against another and that Car, ye boat builder, run out of his house, got in a boat for fear ye island should sink.

My love to all our friends, farewell.

Your Brother,

1727.           Jabez Delano.

Whaling correspondence is shown as early as 1745-6, in the following letter by Philip Taber to his son, Tucker Taber, at Dartmouth:

Sandy Hook, ye 6 of 12 mo., 1745-6.

Loving Sons—Having this opportunity thot proper to rite to you to inform you that we are well and that George Sisson arrived here last second day and thay are very desirus to go off a whaling as soon as possible and want you to come as soon as possible and to bring a good boat and if thee can bring som good hands it would not be amis. Thomas Akins will not haul his boat very soon for his sloop is gon to Cape Britton (the Louisburg expedition). Our love to you and all friends is what offers at present from your

Ever loving father,

Philip Taber.

The servant problem was vexatious even then, for Thomas Hazard—known as “Bedford Tom,” the president of the Bedford Bank on the very site of our Historical Society—writes from New Bedford, July 8, 1803, to his brother, Rowland Hazard, Esq., of Kingston, R. I.:

Patience that our father and mother brought up has been here about 10 days. She is so much demented and so troublesome in our house that I was obliged to apply to the authorities and have her sent to the workhouse, where she now is, as we do not know in what town in the state of Rhode Island she belongs. I shall be much obliged by they informing me immediately on receipt of this, what town has to maintain her so that our selectmen may take the right steps to get her where she belongs and to be clear of the expense and trouble of her.

We are as well as usual, with much love to dear mother, thy wife and children, in which we all join.

Thy affectionate brother,

Thomas Hazard Jr.

Respectfully submitted,

Wm. A. Wing, Chairman.

Report of the Photograph Section
by William A. Wing

In the year of our Lord 1555, there was born near Bedford, England, one Lewis Latham. He was gently bred and trained in the art of falconry, becoming sergeant falconer to King Charles I. In those days an office of importance and distinction. It was his brother, Seymour Latham, who wrote the authority on that art, Latham’s Falconry.

In 1655 at the ripe age of 100 years ‘Lewis Lathame Gent was buried,’ according to the parish register.

His daughter, Frances married respectively Lord Weston William Dungan, Jeremiah Clarke, William Vaughan, and came eventually to live in Newport, in Rhode Island, bringing among her household goods a portrait of her father painted in his advanced years. This portrait bears in one corner the Latham arms and is today the property of descendants, the heirs of Mr. Elkins, whose daughter it was said might become allied with the Royal House of Italy.

Walter Clarke, the grandson of Lewis Latham, inherited his mother’s propensity for marrying frequently. His wives were: Content Greenman, Hannah Scott (an aunt of Mary (Holder) Slocum, Freeborn Williams (a daughter of Roger Williams) and Sarah Prior. Descendants came eventually to Old Dartmouth and one married an early owner of the Howland farm at Round Hills, and so Lewis Latham became an ancestor of many old Dartmouth folk.

We have lately acquired an interesting photograph from this ancient portrait for our photograph room. So bringing us of the present here in New Bedford in New England back into the past to that Court Falconer, who saw in his one hundred years of life so many historic happenings, Lewis Latham, Esq., of old Bedford in old England.’

Respectfully submitted,

Wm. A. Wing, Chairman.


George H. Tripp paid a tribute to what the Old Dartmouth Society had accomplished. “Either of its three objects,” he declared, “would be an excuse for its existence. There is the collection, which is on exhibition at the rooms of the society. Then there is the publication of the society, the thirty odd numbers of which now contain an immense amount of valuable material. We use them a great deal in the library, and the society ought to take a great deal of pride in them.

“Another work that is hardly recognized is the monumental work done by Mr. Worth, in preparing an index of the local papers, which involved looking over the files of nearly a hundred years, and gives almost a complete chronological history of New Bedford. It was a labor of love by one man, and is worthy of a great deal of honor.”