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Captain Fessenden Chase (1829-1914) | Maine Maritime Museum Manuscript Collection Online Catalog

Name: Captain Fessenden Chase (1829-1914)

Historical Note:

                    Captain Fessenden Chase (1829-1914) was born October 11, 1829 to parents John Chase (1797-1874) and Nancy Merrill (1798-1879) of Edgecomb. Fessenden came from a long line of mariners making their living in the seafaring business as far back as to mid 17th century.          Aquila Chase (1618-1670) was first to come to early colonial America. He was a Mariner from Cornwall, England who settled in Hampton, New Hampshire with his brother Thomas around 1639/1640. He married Ann Wheeler in 1646 and they had eleven children.1 Listed below is a brief genealogical list showing Fessenden’s lineage on his father’s side:

<p style="margin-left:45.0pt;"> •        Aquila Chase (b. abt. 1618, d. Dec. 27, 1670)

<p style="margin-left:45.0pt;"> •        John Chase, son of Aquila (b. Nov. 2, 1655, d. 1729)

<p style="margin-left:45.0pt;"> •        John Chase [II], son of John and grandson of Aquila (b. 1680, d ?)

<p style="margin-left:45.0pt;"> •        John Chase [III], son of John II and grandson of John I, great grandson of Aquila (b. 1708, d. ?)

<p style="margin-left:45.0pt;"> •        James Chase, great grandfather of Fessenden Chase, son of John [III] (b. Jan. 30, 1730 in Hampton, or Searsbrook, NH (d. in Edgecomb, Maine June 14, 1808)

<p style="margin-left:45.0pt;"> •        Ebenezer Chase, son of James Chase of Edgecomb and grandson of John Chase [III] (b Jan. 31, 1767, d. June 22, 1855)

<p style="margin-left:45.0pt;"> •        John Chase, son of Ebenezer and grandson of John Chase (b. Mar. 3, 1797, d. May 5, 1874.

<p style="margin-left:45.0pt;"> •        Fessenden Chase, son of John Chase and grandson of Ebenezer Chase (b. Oct. 11, 1829, d. August 4, 1914) 1

            Fessenden’s great-grandfather, James Chase (1739-1807) was the first to settle in Edgecomb, Maine. James Chase purchased 100 acres of land in Cross Point from Jacob Colby on Nov. 25, 1762 for 5 pounds.2, 4  He cleared off a portion of this land for tillage and engaged in general farming.4 James married Elizabeth Steward Gove on April 13, 1752 and had eight children—four sons (Enoch, John, Moses and Ebenezer) and four daughters (Betsey Hannah, Anna and Lydia). 1 Both John and Moses were lost at sea in 1796 and there is very little information on Enoch other than he was the son of James. 3

            “Ebenezer Chase was born January 31, 1767 and settled on the old Chase homestead property. He was a ship carpenter with some connection in farming during his life but he may also have been a shipbuilder and ship captain.3, 4 Ebenezer married Jane Adams of Boothbay and had twelve children (four daughters and seven sons). All seven sons had some involvement in the seafaring business. Andrew died shortly after returning from a long voyage suffering from starvation. Ebenezer II (1802-1892) was skipper of the fishing craft, Dolphin, Gold Hunter and the Ellen. James (1808/9-1893) commanded and was part owner of the schooner Mary in 1833 and the schooner Morning Star during 1834 and 1835. He was also part owner and master of the Ellen in 1835 and master of brig Helen in 1843. James sailed for Nesmith & Sons during West Indies trade on the brigs Ava, Arcadian, Hesperus, and Ada as well as the large ship City of Brooklyn. He had part ownership of the Arcadian, Hesperus and Ada. Jonathan Herbert (1811-1863) commanded topsail schooners Azula, Morning Star and the bark Jonathan Chase during his twenties. In 1848, he was shipmaster for the new Ship Onward and during the 1850’s he commanded the new ships Progress and Marcia C. Day. He owned many vessels including the brig Sterling and was principal owner of schooner Yosemite. John was very interested in shipbuilding and his son Jonathan Herbert Chase II built the schooner Yosemite. Enoch (1813-1892) was a master at the very young age of twenty-one. When he was 24, he commanded the brig Sterling and later the brig Damascus of New York. At the end of 1846, Enoch Chase voyaged to Havana in the new Wiscasset brig Logan. In the “Sailor’s Magazine, and Naval Journal” of 1848, it was reported the brig Logan set sail from Bangor on September 20 for the West Indies “a perfect wreck, and water logged, was boarded 7th Oct. by brig Falcon, at Bermuda.6 Enoch then took command of the brig G. W. Kendall, barks Annie P. and Jonathan Chase and the ship Progress. Moses (1815-1898), the youngest son of Ebenezer Chase commanded the brig Ava and Ship Zaretan of Damariscotta in 1840. Moses was involved in the shipbuilding business in Sheepscot Bridge in Alna, Maine and constructed the bark Annie P. and schooner Annie P. Chase.  The Annie P. Chase was the last vessel built in Sheepscott Bridge, Alna, Maine.” 3

            Now we come to John Chase (1797-1874), the eldest son of Ebenezer and father of Fessenden Chase, who commanded the schooner Corinthian of Wiscasset and the bark Chase in 1848, constructed and owned by the family. He was also the first master of the ship Chicago, built on the east side of Davis Island by Walter Chadbourne. The ship Chicago was not profitable because of its high construction cost.  It is important to note that the shipping firm for which John Chase sailed for was Walsh, Carver and Chase of New York as one of his brothers was a partner. In 1874, John Chase overseeing the erection of a derrick was killed instantly when the chain parted striking him on the back of the head. 3

<p style="margin-left:.25in;"> John Chase was married to Sarah Cunningham (b. abt. 1800, d. ?) on May 8, 1822 and they had two children, Jane (1817-1854) and Sarah (1820-1912).  John then married Nancy Merrill and they together had twelve children (5 sons and 7 daughters): 2

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> John, who died at infancy

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> Eveline (b. 1825, d. 1880)

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> John Howard (b. 1827, d. 1872)

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> Fessenden (b. 1829, d. 1914)

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> Edward Payson (b. 1831, d. 1832)

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> Ellen (b. 1833, d. 1870)

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> Emma Gordon (b. 1834, d. 1910)

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> Joseph (b. 1836, d. 1878)

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> Mary (twin to Joseph) (b. 1836, d. 1916)

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> Azelia (b. 1838, d. 1841)

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> Edward Weston (b. 1841, d. 1880)

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;"> Nancy (b. 1916, d. 1837)

<p style="margin-left:1.5in;">

              Fessenden and his brothers Edward Weston, John Howard and Joseph were all ship captains. Edward Weston often took over for Fessenden on the ship Pleiades so he could come home and be with his family. John Howard was often identified with the ship Marcia C. Day. He married Eunice Mara Schoff of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and took his wife on many voyages. Sadly, they both contracted yellow fever during one of their voyages to Havana, Cuba.  They died there on December 6, 1872. John’s son Joseph died at sea in 1878. 3

            Captain Fessenden Chase started his career as a seaman in 1846 at the age of 17 on the topsail schooner Corinthian coasting between the Kennebec and Boston ports. He continued as a seaman a year later aboard both the topsail schooner Caspian and the bark Chase. In 1849, Fessenden made one coastwise trip as seaman on the brig G. W. Kendall and a year later aboard the ship Taretan. 3

            Fessenden moved up the ranks from seaman to Second Mate aboard the hip American of Wiscasset and First Mate on the bark Chase. He remained aboard the Chase for three years as First Mate making North Atlantic voyages until 1856 when he made a New York to Liverpool voyage and back as First Mate on the ship Chicago. 3

            Captain Fessenden Chase took his first command aboard the bark Henry Warren of Bath in 1857 and remained with this vessel for two years making several successful voyages. In 1859, Capt. Chase took over the ship Ironsides of New York and stayed with this vessel until 1863 experiencing his own action during the onset of the Civil War in New Orleans. The ship Ironsides was delayed in loading cotton long after Fort Sumter fell placing the ship in harms way.  Southern sympathizers set fire to the ship causing enough damage to force the unloading of her cargo. The ship was quickly repaired, refitted and cleared from New Orleans. Capt. Chase sailed her down the river hoping to “cross the bar” by daylight. Unaware what lay ahead, Ironsides was met by two river steamers anchored on each side of the channel in hopes of capturing her. They were unsuccessful for the ship Ironsides was able to keep ahead of the steamers for about half an hour keeping her pursuers approximately twenty miles back. By the time the steamers were able to catch up, a United States man-of-war was sighted and that ended their pursuit. 3

            On July 1863, Capt. Fessenden Chase took over the new ship Melrose taking her to New York where he arrived in August 1863. From there, Capt. Fessenden Chase took over the ship Success. 3

            It was between August 1863 and December 1880 that Capt. Fessenden Chase commanded three ships Success (1863-1865), General Butler (1865-1872) and Pleiades (1872-1880) a period the majority of this collection covers. These manuscripts, although not complete, do give us a glimpse into Fessenden’s voyages as ship captain to these three vessels. 3

            During his time on the ship Success, Capt. Fessenden Chase traveled from New York to San Francisco, Callao, Chincha Islands, and Liverpool and back to New York ending his time on the ship by June of 1865. Papers in the collection document a small part of his experience on the ship Success and the level of trust and respect that was afforded him by the shipping agents he worked with.  Capt. Fessenden Chase was an integral part of the decision-making process and was trusted to make decisions that would help make the ship profitable for all involved. In letters dated March 14 and April 22, 1864 from the shipping firm Walsh & Carver of New York clearly is an example of such trust:

<p style="margin-left:.5in;"> “We have chartered the “Success” to load at Chincha Islands for the United Kingdom @ £3.15.— without the War premium ... If you can make it profitable at the Islands to purchase part of your lay days and thus make better dispatch you will please do so. You will exercise your own discretion in matters of this kind both at Callao and the Islands...” 14 Mar 1864

<p style="margin-left:.5in;">

<p style="margin-left:.5in;"> “We beg to remark that if you find it will be cheaper to draw on Baring Bros & Co., London for the disbursement of the vessel at Callao and the Islands we would recommend you to do so in which as it will be necessary for you to give them full advice of your draft amount of freight & c. that they may make proper insurance to cover. However, we leave this to your own discretion.” 22 Apr 1864

<p style="margin-left:.5in;">

            Captain Fessenden Chase took charge of the ship General Butler of Bath November of 1865 and sailed to Liverpool from New York. From there his voyages took him to Melbourne, Callao, Guanape, Chincha Islands, Antwerp, Queenstown and Cardiff.  Capt. Chase kept the owner of the ship, Jacob P. Morse, informed of his dealings at various ports, upkeep and repairs, loading and unloading cargo and accounting information. An excerpt from one of his letters to J. P. Morse, owner of the ship General Butler, expresses his dissatisfaction at Chincha Islands, Peru on October 25, 1866:

<p style="margin-left:.5in;"> “I can see no economy in buying time at the rate they are charging now. They have deducted 6 inches from our draft, allowing us to load no deeper than 21 feet. Every year they have some new method of extorting money from ships.”

            The Captain also kept the owners and agents abreast of any events that happened during his passage to various port destinations. A letter written on January 12, 1868 Capt. Chase reported a near miss with another ship with great embellishment.

<p style="margin-left:.5in;"> “We came very near having a colision [sic] of [sic] Cape Horn with the ship Laurens. I think she belongs to Kennybunk [sic] ... standing to the westward he running to the eastward with yards square dead before the wind. About mid day  & fine clear weather when he had approached us to within, say five miles. I told the Mate they were going to give us trouble for they acted like dame [sic] asses with the ship. I then ordered all hands on deck & stationed to the braces & c. & held our ship under ready command. When he had come so near that we could toss biscuits from one to the other. He got excited or crazy or something worse & then wanted to know why I did not get out of his way. Holy St. Peter. I forgot every Sabbath school precept that I ever learned. But I gave him several little bits of information & advice which he undoubtedly did not appreciate but perfectly understood for my language, although not very polite was very impressive.”

            Captain Fessenden Chase handled trade primarily in guano and cotton during his command of ship General Butler. The General Butler was sold in 1872 and Capt. Chase took charge of the ship Pleiades from Capt. Ballard in October of that same year which was then in Hamburg, Germany.  Around that same time, Fessenden’s wife, Susan gave birth to their first child—a son—whom they named John Parks.  He was born September 24, 1872 on the Morse farm in Phippsburg, Maine. 2 (p. 58)

            During his command of the ship Pleiades, he made voyages to New Orleans, Savannah, Liverpool, Cardiff, Rio de Janeiro, Havre, Hamburg and Rotterdam. It was during his time as Captain of the Pleiades that his brother, Captain Edwin Weston Chase would from time to time take over the ship Pleiades allowing Fessenden to be home with his wife and young son, John. Records show that Capt. Edwin W. Chase took the ship Pleiades from Savannah to Liverpool in 1876 with a cargo of cotton. Capt. Fessenden Chase stayed with the ship Pleiades until September 1881 when it was sold.  In his recital of his sea life to a relative, Fessenden says he left the “deep waters and square-riggers for good in September of 1881” 3  However, it appears that Fessenden Chase took the schooner Celina loaded with ice and bound for Philadelphia in 1884.1

            He lived the remainder of his life with his wife Sue and their children at Cross Point Road in North Edgecomb. The seafaring life did not extend to his sons. John Parks Chase (1872-1968) is listed as a “draughtsman” in the United States Federal census of 1910 at the age of 37. He married Sarah Chase Cate in 1906. John Parks died February 29, 1964 and his wife Sarah died August 22, 1968. They had no children.

            Capt. Chase’s son Fessenden Merrill born on November 6, 1874 owned a candy store in Wiscasset. He married Rosa Lulu Rines in 1900 and they had three daughters. He died June 24, 1958 and his wife Rosa died June 11, 1959.

            Capt. Chase’s son George Adams was born February 3, 1883. He married Annie Laura Colby, daughter of Capt. James L. and Susan Preble Colby and they had three children: Katherine Lee, the donor of this collection, (1910-1994), Raymond Merrill (1912-1976) and John (1916-1986). George Adam’s occupation at the time of his marriage was listed as “grocery man”. George Adams Chase died April 18, 1969 and his wife Annie died December 18, 1952.  Capt. Chase’s young son Bernard was born August 11, 1885 but died at a very young age April 14, 1890 not yet 5 years.2

            Captain Fessenden Chase also had interests in other vessels as is indicated in this collection. A dividend receipt to Capt. Fessenden Chase from Edwin Reed for 2/32 interests on the bark Edwin Reed for the amount of $777.83 was the only document in the collection that ties Captain Chase to this vessel. An account summary for the three-mast schooner Normandy built by Adams & Hitchcock in 1878 in Bath, Maine is also in the collection.  It shows Samuel R. Percy in account with the schooner Normandy and owners dated January 14, 1902. It gives an account of all disbursements for voyages from Newport News, Virginia to Cardenas, Cuba as well as at Darien [NY], Bath, Savannah and Waldoboro. Freight consisted of 727 tons of coal from Newport News to Cardenas, 408,000 feet of lumber and 387,615 feet of lumber from Darien to Bath, and 401,352 feet of lumber from Savannah to Waldoboro. Because this account summary was with Capt. Fessenden Chase’s paper, I have to assume he had a vested interest in this vessel.  There is also a Bill of Sale for the three-mast schooner S. P. Hitchcock indicating that Capt. Fessenden Chase purchased 2/64 interest from Mary C. Ryan of Edgecomb dated 1879.

            There seems to be very little information about what Fessenden did after “retiring” from sea. The 1880 and 1900 United States Federal census tells us only that he was head of household.  However, the 1910 census lists Fessenden as a Farmer/General farming. A receipt dated Dec. 9, 1899 shows that Fessenden Chase paid Osborn H. Trask $30 for 30 days labor. Although the receipt does not indicate what type of labor Mr. Trask is being paid for, the United States Federal census for 1900 and 1910 tells us that Osborn H. Trask of Edgecomb was a farmer and did general farming. It may be that Fessenden paid Mr. Trask for general labor that involved some sort of work on his land. 5

            Captain Fessenden Chase died on August 4, 1914 in Edgecomb, Maine at the age of 84 from heart failure. His wife, Sue, died September 21, 1930 in Portland, Maine. 5


<p style="margin-left:.35in;"> 1.    Owen, Katherine Chase. Dear Capt. Fess. c. 1977. p. 113, 145. [CS71 .C487 1977]

<p style="margin-left:.35in;"> 2.    Owen, Katherine Chase. Dear Sue. c. 1976. pp. 230, 232.  [CS71 .C487 1976]

<p style="margin-left:.35in;"> 3.    Rice, George Wharten. The Shipping days of old Boothbay. New Hampshire: New England Press History in collaboration with the Boothbay Region Historical Society, c1938, 1984. pp. 342-347. [VM24 .M25R3 1984]

<p style="margin-left:.35in;"> 4.    Biographical Review, vol. XX, c. 1867, pp. 266.

<p style="margin-left:.35in;"> 5.    Ancestry.com

Disasters. (1849, August). The Sailor's Magazine, and Naval Journal, XXI, 119. http://books.google.com/books?id=mJQ9AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA119&lpg=PA119&dq=Brig Logan reported wrecked&source=bl&ots=WMH6x7zMWt&sig=EgYUIs-pgrUW4NsEcnTfBoeIFds&hl=en&sa=X&ei=kfH2UJiaFIPG0QGOpoHgBQ&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAA

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