Posted by: Karlee A. Turner | April 14, 2013

Those TENACIOUS Young Captains’ Wives

Mary Brewster’s journal for her voyage from 1845 – 1848 ended on March 8, 1848 when the Tiger arrived home (Stonington, CT). Mary and her husband, Samuel did not return to sea for their last voyage until June 1848. However, Mary’s journal-writing did not resume until July 13, 1848.

Mary Lawrence’s journal will resume May 1, 1859.

Eliza Williams made sporadic journal entries from Feb. 27 – May 7, 1861.

Lydia Ann (Goodspeed) Landers

Lydia Ann Goodspeed Landers

As noted in numerous earlier blogs of this site, Mystic’s wooden whaling vessel the Charles W. Morgan, like so many other whaling vessels in the mid-19th century, carried several wives on board. Although comparatively and unlike many other New Bedford whaling vessels, the Morgan carried only five women aboard over the course of its eighty-year whaling career.  Anticipating the Morgan’s re-launch this summer (after four years of repairs/refurbishing) at Mystic Seaport Museum, I have been busy researching one wife in particular; Lydia Ann (Goodspeed) Landers.

Lydia accompanied her husband from 1864-1867 aboard the Morgan. And, as seems to be evident among most of the women who lived at sea with their captain-husbands, Lydia was a courageous, young woman barely twenty-two years of age. But Lydia’s story is a little different from the other five wives (or Sister-Sailors) who whaled aboard the Morgan because of HOW she began her years at sea. While the other five wives began their voyage onboard the Morgan when it left the port of New Bedford, Lydia was not with her husband (the reason why not yet determined).  Instead, she had to travel a few thousand miles across two continents and oceans to reach her husband, while the Charles W. Morgan was at Honolulu, Hawaii…..and during the years of the Civil War and numerous Indian uprisings in the mid-west.

So, how did Lydia get to Honolulu, Hawaii from New Bedford, Massachusetts – approximately a five thousand mile journey? Clearly, going across the continental United States was NOT safe during the turmoil as mentioned above. So, instead she went primarily by way of oceans and seas. Starting out in New Bedford, she went by train (and/or boat; exactly how not yet determined) to New York where she boarded a ship owned by the Atlantic and/or Pacific U.S. Mail Lines, headed for Aspinwall (Panama). Once at Aspinwall, she boarded a train that went across the Panama Isthmus to the west coast and boarded another steamship owned by the same company. That ship headed north toward San Francisco, California stopping at Acapulco along the route. Once in San Francisco she still had to get to Hawaii. She stayed at a hotel (not yet determined) for approximately three-four weeks, then boarded another ship (this time a clipper ship) for Hawaii.

Her entire journey from Massachusetts to Hawaii took approximately ten weeks. However, I might add – I know she traveled first class the entire time because she is listed as such in several of the “passenger lists” in two different newspapers (The Daily Alta California and The Friend). So, yes, Lydia Ann Goodspeed Landers was indeed courageous and tenacious, but she was also pampered – as were most captain’s wives.


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