to Yarns Index
By Annie E. (Brown) Spencer
following is transcribed from a document written by Captain
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
children – 9 Grandchildren – 30
E = C.N. Spencer
= N.C. Haley – her children
A 1865, Minnie [?] d 1866, Amy d 1868, Mary, Charlotte,
Frederick, Annie, Edith
H = Robt. Abrahms – her children
||Richard, Robert, Norman, May, Violet, Mildred
|Amanda died at Kahuku 1866
= R.O. Cutler – her children
||Ruth, baby Cutler (died), Beth
E. = James Parker – her children
= Mary E. McAllister – his child
|Nina C. = Lincoln D. Spencer
||Alura, Eunice A, Rhodes Vaughan, Dorothy Heppingstone,
Morgan = Margaret Crosby – his
Notes on the text:
most glaring inaccuracies in Aunt Annie’s text pertain to to
the vessels and
crews in her father’s early career.
stories attribute him with training as a cooper and/or
blacksmith, but we have yet to find him listed as such in any
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
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
Electra before command passed to his younger brother, Theophilus
Brown. From 1850-55, he commanded the North Star.
Brown met his wife, he was sailing under Captain Baker as 3rd
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,
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,
John Hempstead also joined the Mentor cruise at Geographe Bay;
he had been an
which was wrecked on the
coast. Hempstead later married Harriet Layman, whose widowed
mother was married to Captain Brown’s brother-in-law, Robert
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
Brown purchased the New London whaleship Black Warrior at
Honolulu in December of 1854. In 1859, he was attempting to repeat
Charles Scammon’s success hunting gray whales in a lagoon
at Vizcaino Bay on the coast of Baja California. He entered an
neighboring Scammon’s Lagoon and, finding took no whales
there, decided to give up the
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”.
you have material to add to this page,
please contact the site administrator: