“Poor little Willie”

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Clara Thomas Gault was a special kid. She really loved her little brother William Thomas Gault. In a written history it says,

His sister, Clara Thomas Gault, was not even born when her brother died, however she always refereed to him as her little brother, Poor Little Willie. She must have overheard conversations or been told about his death because she was so clear about what happened. After his death his mother kept one pair of his shoes, a pair of mittens, a scarf, and a small amount of change that he kept in a leather clasp change purse. Those items were very dear to his sister. (They are in the possession of Malcolm Phinney, Clara’s grandson.) She took lilacs from her mother’s bush up to the cemetery on Memorial Day every year just as her mother had always done. She told us it made her sad to think that he was all alone in that plot at Woodside Cemetery and wished he had been buried with his great grandparents, John and Hannah Cole Gammons or transferred to Centre Cemetery in Wareham where his parents were buried.  – Family History Record   ( William was five years old when he passed away). 

This little paragraph sums up the greatest love another can have for a sibling.

 

 

 

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Lysander Gault – A Whaler in the Hawaiian Islands

stereoview photographs of whaling during the time period of Lysander Gault (courtesy of https://pplspcoll.files.wordpress.com).

stereoview photographs of whaling during the time period of Lysander Gault (courtesy of https://pplspcoll.files.wordpress.com).

Cove at Buzzards Bay, Wareham Massachusetts (photo courtesy of Google maps)

It seems that the ocean is in our blood.

It isn’t hard to love the water, especially when your home is nestled against the salty ocean of Massachusetts. That was the the case for Lysander W. Gault. Born November 14, 1824 in Wareham Massachusetts, Lysander grew up near the Atlantic Ocean.

Onset Bay,  Wareham Massachusetts

Onset Bay, Wareham Massachusetts (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

click to enlarge. See how you are related!

click to enlarge. See how you are related!

There is not much information about Lysander’s childhood, but it must have been adventurous growing up with eight other brothers and sisters. He married Hannah Jane Francis November 11, 1861in New Bedford Massachusetts. Lysander was 36 years old, Hannah was 25.

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It doesn’t say when he began his career, but Lysander was a whaler. He spent much time off the coast of the Pacific – including Hawaii. Immediately I had scenes of Moby Dick swirling through my head when I found out he was a whaler.

“In the mid-1840s, when the industry was at its height, the vast majority of the 600 ships that arrived each year at Oahu and Maui came from the United States.” (Courtesy of http://www.theamericanmenu.com/2014/01/king-kalakaua-of-hawaii.html)

As it turns out, whaling is a very time and labor intensive job. Lysander was often away from his family for years at a time. According to the National Maritime Digital Library, one trip lasted at least two years! “The ships were outfitted with whaling gear and enough provisions to last for a cruise of up to four years” (New Bedford Whaling Museum).

American School, 19th Century Portrait of the New Bedford Whaling Ship John Carver. Unsigned

American School, 19th Century Portrait of the New Bedford Whaling Ship the John Carver. Unsigned

He departed in June of 1875 and returned May 1879. According to Records his ship the John Carver, caught 972 sperm whale and hauled 375 bones.

When I first read the log, I had two questions, “how do you get that many whales onboard a ship?” and “What did they do with the whale fat and bones?”

Before a world of iPads, before a world of electric lights, lighting was very important. Candles and lamps fueled with oil were used.

“When a whale was killed, it was towed to the ship and its blubber, the thick insulating fat under its skin, would be peeled and cut from its carcass in a process known as “flensing.” The blubber was minced into chunks and boiled in large vats on board the whaling ship, producing oil.
The oil taken from whale blubber was packaged in casks and transported back to the whaling ship’s home port (such as New Bedford, Massachusetts, the busiest American whaling port in the mid-1800s). From the ports it would be sold and transported across the country and would find its way into a huge variety of products.

Whale oil, in addition to be used for lubrication and illumination, was also used to manufacture soaps, paint, and varnish. Whale oil was also utilized in some processes used to manufacture textiles and rope.”  Whale bones were the new plastic and used in everything from corsets to piano keys. – (“What Products Were Produced from Whales, Robert McNamara, 19th Century History Expert.)

Corset made with whale parts. (Image courtesy of http://amhistory.si.edu/)

Corset made with whale parts. (Image courtesy of http://amhistory.si.edu/)

 Whaling was usually strenuous, unpleasant work. It was often said that “the stench of processing whales was so strong a whale ship could be smelled over the horizon before it could be seen” (am history).

The good news is that crews were often close knit.

Below are short notes written to Lysander from John A. Coffin who was a Master Mariner with Lysander on the John Carver.

notes exchanged between shipmates - Lysander Gault and John A Coffin. (Courtesy of http://pplspcoll.wordpress.com)

notes exchanged between shipmates – Lysander Gault and John A Coffin. (Courtesy of http://pplspcoll.wordpress.com) click to enlarge.

The notes are short and talk about important things such as, “I have sent a barrel of ale, put it in a safe place.”  Or, “please let Julian have his things when he comes for them.” It is remarkable that such simple everyday notes were able to be preserved for hundreds of years.

Lysander Gault's gravestone

Lysander Gault’s gravestone (courtesy of findagrave.com)

Standing in a small boat while battling tossing waves, trying to take down a massive and extremely powerful creature takes guts. Serious guts.
It was a grisly job that was probably part courage, and part crazy. It was all or nothing.
Yes, it is true whales are especially majestic creatures and should be preserved, but, I also have to remember that was a different time back then. Ideas were different. Life was different.
Although the age of whaling is esentially gone, the stories and lives of whalers such as Lysander Gault will always be remembered.

Plus, its always cool to say that sailing runs in the family.

So farewell my love until I return

love

Joseph Bryant’s original handwriting copied from a letter he wrote to his wife Amanda. (Background embellished for historical feel).

Love letters, ship voyages – a devoted husband that never returns.
It sounds like a Nicholas Sparks book. However, it is so much more.
Our ancestors were real people with real feelings and challenges.

I came across this letter written in 1839 because of a lovely woman named Marcia Messie. She gave my grandmother dozens of pages full of priceless family history. In turn my mother copied the pages and sent them to me. I was so excited.

This information doesn’t belong tucked in a book or in a file cabinet. I feel it is meant to be shared with all of you.

family

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Joseph Bryant was married to Amanda Melvina Fitzalin Gault. Joseph worked on ships and was often away at sea for months at a time. I have the a copy of a letter he sent to Amanda. The family legend has it that was his the last letter he wrote before he died at sea. Although it is true he died at sea (seven days from New Orleans). Thankfully,  this was not his last letter. He died nine years later on the 9th of May 1848. (See New Orleans, Louisiana Death Record Index, 1804-1949 about Joseph Bryant.)

A merchant ship similar to the one Joseph Bryant would have sailed in the 1830s (courtesy of http://forum.woodenboat.com/printthread.php?t=80245&pp=40

A merchant ship similar to the one Joseph Bryant would have sailed in the 1830s (courtesy of http://forum.woodenboat.com/printthread.php?t=80245&pp=40

That does not take away from the heartfelt beauty shown in his handwriting. It is a testament of his loyalty and love for his family.

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Although the handwriting is beautiful it is hard to read and so my wonderful Mother-in-law helped me type it. (Question marks mean we were unsure what was said.) We tried to preserve his original punctuation. (If this version is still hard to read, scroll down to the bold print for the edited version.)

New York May 8th 1839

My Dear

Amanda I have been to the post office untill my feet are sore to finde a letter but have been disapointed every time I got your letter of the 2nd? in the two day and I wrote to you immediately but I have not had any answer from you if you have not got it you had Better see if I did not direct it to Wareham for I was in a grate hurry when I directed and I might have made a mistake and not poot an West Wareham

My dear I have been so much ingaged since I have been hear that I could not come home but I shall come as soon as I get hear again my dear I sail tomorrow for St Thomas and Chayses? and with the blessing of god I shall be back in two or three months my Dear I wrote you that I should send you some thing home but there has not been any vessel hear that was bound to Wareham direct So I will weight untill I come home my Self you wrote me you had some money By? you I will send you Some more which will be enought to last you untill I get thereI hope I have bought a grate quantity of things to take out with me for to sell out there and I hope that I shall do well on this for last voyage I made out well and What I carried? out my dear I want to see you so I cannot hardely think of going without comeing home but I shall be ablidged if you get my other letter you will h? all the particulars my dear keep up good Spirits for I hope to be with you in three months from this day god Bless your sweet? hart a my dear a how I long to see you and little Sis a amanda you must take good care but there is no need of that caution my dear I send you twenty dollar in this letter I would send you more but I do not like to send money in letters but I have two hundred that I wish you had but I dare not send it and you say you have some I hope that you will have enough to last you untill I come home my dear give my love to father and mother and mary and my most sincier thank for there kind to you and little sis and rember me to all the rest of the famely and I must conclud wishing healthe and happiness and I Remain your affectionate husband.

Joseph Bryant

PS my dear I shall wright from St Thomases but I should been more happy if I could heard from you again but there has been some mistake about it or I am shure that I should? I am shure that John he must bare a hand? get marred So fare well my love untill I  return,

JB
The type does help, but I also attempted to post an edited version here

New York May 8th 1839

My Dear

Amanda, I have been to the Post Office untill my feet are sore [trying] to find a letter but have been disapointed every time I got your letter of the (2nd? in two days .) I wrote to you immediately but I have not had any answer from you. If you have not received it you better see if I did not direct it to Wareham; for I was in a great hurry when I directed [it] and I might have made a mistake and not put West Wareham.

My dear I have been so engaged since I have been here that I could not come home.  But I shall come as soon as I get word again.  My dear I sail tomorrow for St Thomas and ? With the blessing of God I shall be back in two or three months. My Dear I wrote you that I should send you some thing home but there has not been any vessel here that was bound to Wareham directly. So, I will waight until I come home myself. You wrote me you had some money? I will send you some more which will be enough to last you until I get there. I hope I have bought a great quantity of things to take out with me  to sell out there and I hope that I shall do well.  On this last voyage I made out well with what I carried. My dear I want to see you so I cannot hardly think of going [out] without coming home. I shall be obliged if you get my other letter you will h? all the particulars. My dear keep up [the] good Spirits for I hope to be with you in three months from this day. God Bless your sweet hart, my dear how I long to see you and little Sis, oh Amanda you must take good care, but there is no need of that caution my dear. I send you twenty dollar[s] in this letter. I would send you more but I do not like to send money in letters. I [do] have two hundred that I wish you had but I dare not send it. You say you have some [so] I hope that you will have enough to last you until I come home. My dear give my love to Father and mother and Mary and my most sincere thanks for theire kind[ness] to you and little Sis. Rember me for all the rest of the family. I must conclude [by] wishing health and happiness. I remain your affectionate husband.

Joseph Bryant

PS my dear I shall write from St Thomas but I should [have] been more happy if I could [have heard] from you again. There has been some mistake about it or I am sure that I should? I am shure that John he must bare a hand? get married So fare well my love until I  return

JB

I do not know how he died, or what he sold on the ship. I do know that he loved his wife.
That’s all that matters.