CAPTAIN WILLIAMS HOWLAND
Williams Howland was born October 20th 1804 in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
His parents were Jonathan Howland (1765-1846) and Desire Taber (1779-1822).
The Howlands were well-known seafarers all the way back to the Mayflower.
John Howland gained notoriety by falling off the ship,
was rescued by his shipmates,
and settled in Massachusetts.
John’s brothers Arthur and Henry followed around 1622.
Williams is a descendant of Henry.
HENRY -> ZOETH -> NATHANIEL -> JAMES -> JAMES JR -> JONATHAN -> WILLIAMS
Fortunately, Williams was a more able seaman than his distant relative, John!
CLICK BELOW TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WILLIAMS’ ANCESTORS
NEW BEDFORD VILLAGE 1807
Williams Grew Up in New Bedford, Massachusetts
Read about New Bedford & Whaling
was one of the wealthiest cities in the world
in the first half of the 19th century
due to the thriving
Williams’ brother Charles Howland Sarah wrote of Charles in her Journal and what she thinks of Whaling!
Williams had about 10 siblings, many of whom were involved with the sea
His brother Charles was a Whaling Captain
Why Did Whaling Decline?
Whaling Declined in the mid-1800’s
The Hathaways of New Bedford Fun Fact About the Hathaways The China Trade
But some savvy New Bedford merchants were prepared
Williams Got His Sailing Start on The Horatio
The Hathaway family of New Bedford built The Horatio for the New York to China Trade Route in 1833 and appointed Williams Howland as the first Captain.
He remained in command for about 10 years.
They may have given Williams his start as a sea captain,
but he seemed to be destined for the sea.
The Horatio was a beautiful piece of workmanship,
extremely fast for her day –
she played a large part in the China Trade.
Captain Williams Howland was a good navigator, but not much of a sailor, having taken command without going through the forecastle – one of those masters whom sailors facetiously described as being “blown in through the cabin window” instead of “crawling through the hawse pipes and working their way aft”.
Williams Married Mary R. Wood in 1832.
Sadly, their first 2 children Angeline (1834) and Mary Williams (1837) died at birth.
Mary must have accompanied Williams on at least one voyage, since they had a daughter born on the ship in the Indian Ocean in 1839, whom they named
A son Francis Hathaway was born in 1842.
Another son Angelo (1845) did not live
and Mary died – presumably of complications – a few weeks later.
Williams Commanded Packet Ships
from New York to Liverpool from 1845-1849
The Grinnell family of New Bedford, cousins of Williams,
started the first regular American Packet Line
from New York to Liverpool in 1810
and ran them until the 1880s
The Grinnell Family of New Bedford Fun Fact About the Grinnells
In the 1840’s Grinnell, Minturn & Co was the foremost sailing packet ship owner and operator and one of the leading general shipping houses in New York.
Packet ships were created to carry mail, in this case across the Atlantic. They later added cargo.
In the 1840’s they also transported Irish immigrants who were coming to America to escape the Potato Famine.
Williams became the Commander
of the packet ship Ashburton in 1845.
ASHBURTON, Captain Howland, sails
from New York April 6, August 6, December 6;
from Liverpool, May 21, September 21, January 21.1846
In 1849 he was transferred to the Henry Clay of the same line.
He was in command of her until she burned
at the East River Pier on Sept 5 1849.
Williams Married Sarah Phillips Nitchie from New York City
on October 3rd 1849
Their son Williams (Willie) was born a year later
on October 24th 1850
in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Williams Superintended the Construction of 2 Ships in 1850 to Rave Reviews
Both were build for Grinnell, Minturn & Co.
The Packet Ship Cornelius Grinnell
Read what the New Bedford Mercury said
built by Donald McKay – 1118 tons. 172 ft
The Extreme Clipper Ship Sea Serpent
Read what the New Bedford Mercury said Read what the Boston Herald said Read what the New York Herald said
built by George Raynes – 1402 tons. 212 ft
The Sea Serpent was not only beautiful, but very well built.
Most Extreme Clippers only lasted a few years
It is a testament to George Raynes and Williams Howland
that the Sea Serpent was such a seaworthy vessel
that it remained in service for over 40 years!
Captain Williams Howland Commanded the new Sea Serpent from 1850-1855
He Made Four “Around the World” Voyages
New York around Cape Horn to San Francisco – with supplies for the Gold Rush
San Francisco to China – for trade in tea, hemp and silk
China through the Indian Ocean back to New York
Sarah and Willie accompanied Williams on at least three of those voyages
Her Journal was written on the Third Journey
February 12 – December 20, 1853
What was Williams like?
Captain Williams Howland was known as the
“Mysterious Kid Glove Captain”
“Williams early began a seafaring life; arose soon to officer of Commander, and became financially interested in shipping.”
“He was noted for extraordinarily good fortune and success on the ocean. Never lost a ship or had a serious accident even though he became captain at an early age and traveled all over the world.”
“Captain Howland was a gentleman of much dignity, who usually wore kid gloves when he came on deck and seldom gave his orders to any one but the officer of the watch.”
“He had the reputation of being an A-l seaman and navigator.”
“There appears a mysterious kid glove captain Williams Howland.
He was a real passenger captain and upheld the dignity of his position.
His orders were only issued to the officer of the watch, he never came on deck without kid gloves and when there, kept strictly to that sanctum sanctorum of sailors, the quarter deck.”
What are Kid Gloves?
“Captain Howland was an aristocratic captain, an oddity in the American packet service.
He would never allow himself forward of the mainmast and very seldom spoke to a sailor,but gave all his orders to the chief mate.
He only came on deck at stated times and wore kid gloves.”
Sea Captains Had Immense Responsibility
Read what Sarah says about Williams as a Captain
Going out to Sea
GOING OUT TO SEA
Coming Into Port
COMING INTO PORT
Difficulties with the Crew The Possibility of Mutinies Burials At Sea
MANAGING THE CREW
SEAS THAT ARE TOO ROUGH
SEAS THAT ARE TOO CALM
GOING AROUND CAPE HORN
How Did Williams Spend His Free Time?
Newspapers from each Port Took a High Priority
CATCHING UP ON CURRENT EVENTS
Reading Aloud with Sarah
READING BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS
Williams and Sarah Converse While Walking on Deck Every Evening Williams Participates in Parenting They Even Find Time to Play
SPENDING TIME WITH SARAH & WILLE
Williams Read a Sermon Aloud Every Sunday Williams Had a Spiritual Side
Williams Let Authors Know if He Did – or Did Not – Like Their Writings