Descendants of
 Captain Robert Brown
                            1809 – 1894



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My Reminiscences
By Annie E. (Brown) Spencer

(The following is transcribed from a document written by Captain Brown’s eldest daughter. While much of it is faithful to the truth, one must forgive the imperfect recollections of a sixty-six year old woman writing of events that took place before she was born. The document contains several inaccuracies, which are discussed below her narrative. In the few places where her handwriting was unclear, the word in question is followed by [?])

My father, Robert Wilcox Brown (later he dropped his middle name) was born at Ledward [Ledyard] New London Co, Conn, 1809. When 19 years old, he went to sea. Before this he had learned the trade of blacksmith and had learned to play the fife as a militia man in the training [?] time of those early days. He sailed on the Montezuma, the Moctezuma, and the barque Electra, but I do not know in what order. He entered in the ships’ books as an armorer, was a fine whaleman and was second mate when Capt. Baker of the Electra I believe brought Mother from Geographe Bay, Australia in 1839-40. John Hempstead was first mate. He was married to my mother, Charlotte Heppingstone, who was sixteen, August 27, 1840. Their oldest daughter was born June 18th 1841 at Groton where she is buried near the Groton monument. I was born Feb 1, 1845, and Charlotte was born March 8th 1848 in New London. Mother said I was born of a Saturday in a driving snow storm on St John St. I think in the home of Mrs. Bishop Charlotte was born.

In 1850, April, Father took his wife and his children to sea in the ship North Star. We stopped at the Fayal Islands where we saw Mrs Webster, wife of the murderer Professor Webster of Boston, a noted criminal of the ‘40s. She was living at the time with her relatives who was consul at Fayal. We stopped again for water at St. Paul’s in the Indian Ocean. We later stopped at Geographe Bay where we remained two weeks visiting Mother’s relatives – Aunts Elizabeth & Ellen, Grandmother, Uncle Robert, his wife Mary, Uncle Thomas Turner, and Alfred Bussell, Aunt Ellen’s husband, also saw Aunt Hannah and Uncle William Bryan. Cousin Harriet Layman joined the family on the North Star and sailed for the Arctic.

On the ship were Uncle Jeffrey, father’s brother, 1st Mate and Uncle John Heppingstone, mother’s brother, who was boat steerer. We sailed through the Straits of Timor into the Okhosk Sea where Mary Harriet was born April 22, 1851. We arrived in Honolulu 1851, October. I do not know the date. Father bought a plot of ground in Nuuanu Valley and had a home built of Australian iron wood. Some formed [?] houses had been brought from Australia. He sailed from Honolulu for some years in the North Star & Black Warrior.

The Black Warrior was lost in 1859 in Margarita Bay, full and uninsured. In 1853 July 22nd, Amanda Williams was born. In 1855, Aug. 24th Father’s birthday (he being 46 that day) Alura Eliza was born. In 1857 Oct. 6th, Edith Emily was born. In 1860 May 4th, Thomas Spencer was born. Father had had a hard struggle since the loss of his ship. He started a blacksmith shop. At another time he had a butcher shop to sell to the whaling ship.

In 1865 he moved to Kahuku Kau & was doing well there. Amanda died and in April 1868 the place was ruined & the family burned out. He stayed until 1870 when he left for Puget Sound. In 1871 July the family moved there except Charlotte and me. We stayed on in the Islands. He had varying fortunes. Mother died July 11th 1879 just after her return from a year’s visit at the Islands. And in 1894 Aug 25th Father died at Tom’s house in Seattle.

His children – 9                Grandchildren – 30
Annie E = C.N. Spencer
Charlotte = N.C. Haley – her children
  Ellen A 1865, Minnie [?] d 1866, Amy d 1868, Mary, Charlotte, Frederick, Annie, Edith
Mary H = Robt. Abrahms – her children
  Richard, Robert, Norman, May, Violet, Mildred
Amanda died at Kahuku 1866
Alura = R.O. Cutler – her children
  Ruth, baby Cutler (died), Beth
Edith E. = James Parker – her children
  Harriet [?], Edith, Victor
Thomas = Mary E. McAllister – his child
  Dorothea Heppingstone
Nina C. = Lincoln D. Spencer
  Alura, Eunice A, Rhodes Vaughan, Dorothy Heppingstone, Robert Nichols
Theophilus Morgan = Margaret Crosby – his children
  Ethel, Renée
Jan 2, 1911

Notes on the text:

The most glaring inaccuracies in Aunt Annie’s text pertain to to the vessels and crews in her father’s early career.

Family stories attribute him with training as a cooper and/or blacksmith, but we have yet to find him listed as such in any ship’s roster.

To date we have documented records of Captain Brown sailing on the Montezuma on two consecutive voyages out of New London, CT, from 1841-44 and 1844-47. Most likely, he first sailed aboard the Hydaspe, which left New Bedford on June 15, 1827 with a 19-year-old crewman named Robert Brown. Most of Captain Brown’s whaling voyages sailed from New London, CT. From 1847 to 1850, Robert Brown was listed as master of the Electra before command passed to his younger brother, Theophilus Morgan Brown. From 1850-55, he commanded the North Star.

When Brown met his wife, he was sailing under Captain Baker as 3rd mate on the Mentor. According to the Mentor’s log entries for the fall of 1840, Charlotte Heppingstone was taken aboard to look after another female passenger, Miss Kennedy, who was the sister of her employer. Charlotte was 18 at the time. She parted company from Miss Kennedy when the latter disembarked at the Cape, and she returned to Connecticut under Captain Baker's protection. Robert and Charlotte were married in Connecticut on August 27, 1841. John Hempstead also joined the Mentor cruise at Geographe Bay; he had been an officer on the Governor Endicott, which was wrecked on the Australian coast. Hempstead later married Harriet Layman, whose widowed mother was married to Captain Brown’s brother-in-law, Robert Heppingstone.

The idea of bringing iron wood from Australia to build a house is entirely plausible. The struggling colony of Augusta, W.A., where the Heppingstones first settled in Australia, was rich with hardwood karri and jarrah trees, which the Turner family cut for the lumber trade. James Woodward Turner had been an builder in London, and shipped his own pre-fabricated house from England to Australia.

Captain Brown purchased the New London whaleship Black Warrior at Honolulu in December of 1854. In 1859, he was attempting to repeat Captain Charles Scammon’s success hunting gray whales in a lagoon at Vizcaino Bay on the coast of Baja California. He entered an inlet neighboring Scammon’s Lagoon and, finding took no whales there, decided to give up the location. On crossing the bar, the ship was caught in a current and driven ashore. To this day, the place is known as Laguna Guerrero Negro, which is Spanish for “Black Warrior Lagoon”.

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