Posted by: Karlee A. Turner | March 21, 2013

Merchant Captain’s Wife – Susan Hathorn

Since September 2010, this blog has attempted to give insight into the experiences of several ordinary women who lead extraordinary lives while living at sea during the nineteenth century. However, between March 14-19, not one of the whaling wives we have followed over the past few years made any journal entries: Mary Brewster, 1848; Mary Lawrence, 1859; Eliza Williams, 1861.

Although there were numerous merchants’ wives who kept journals, I have not posted any. Susan Lennan Hathorn is one such wife. In 1854, at the age of twenty-four, after growing up in a small farming community known as Richmond in central Maine, she married (Sept. 20, 1854) a sea-captain named Joseph S. Hathorn (referred to as “Jode” in Susan’s diary). She set out on her first ocean voyage aboard the J.J. Hathorn to a foreign country and would give birth to her first child, a daughter, in November 1855. Although Susan was a country-girl, she was well-educated and before marrying had attended and graduated from Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.

However, unlike our whaling wives, there are no specific dated entries, only general ones for each o f the twelve months, beginning with January 1855.  Although she did keep a careful account of how she spent her time each day. On March 19 she ‘braided rags for rug’ and sewed a ‘Mat’; March 20 she sewed ‘Mat’; March 23 and 24 she noted she sewed ‘Mat’, ‘Orange Peel quilt piecing’, and ‘back to sleeve’.

Her journal entry below was dated for March 21, 22, and 23 of 1855:

Today has been pleasant. This morning there were five sails [ships] in sight – a Barque, two brigs and a schooner….The hills of Cuba cane be seen. The vessels we saw this morning are quite near us — one is the Clarissa from Trinidad.  

Blows fresh this  morning. Land of Cuba can be seen but very indistinctly. Our yesterday’s company still in sight, except the large ship.  

The wind continued through the night, and we have made a great run for this place. Long. 80″56; — Lat. by Sumner’s method, 23″30′ at 8 A.M.  At eleven o’clock, could see land — at 12, made Salt Cay, and took our departure therefrom, tacking ship, and steering to the westward. [The day before, or March 20 their coordinates were recorded as Morning 22.56 (Lat.) and 85.28 (Long.); 12:00, latitude was 22.58 and no longitude recorded].


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