William Morrell Emery.

The Howland heirs; being the story of a family and a fortune and the inheritance of a trust established for Mrs. Hetty H. R. Green online

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Arctic Ocean. In 1847 while cruising in the Pacific
she was attacked by natives at Sydenham's Island,
and after a bloody fight, the crew finally beat off
the large horde of savages with their whaling guns,
harpoons and lances. The Nantucket ships United
States and Alabama arrived later and rescued
Captain Thomas Spencer and the other survivors.
Five of the Triton's crew were killed and seven
wounded, while several of the natives also met death.
The third mate, Elihu S. Brightman, killed three of



FOUNDING A FORTUNE 55

the attacking party single-handed. His prowess
was rewarded, on his return to New Bedford, by
the presentation of a costly gold watch by the man-
aging owners. In 1865 the Triton was sold to J. &
W. R. Wing, a leading firm of whaling merchants,
and sailed for them until crushed by the ice in 1895.

Ship Isaac Howland was a worthy namesake of
her owner. Sailing first in 1828 she made a total
of eleven voyages with gratifying success. At one
time she was dismasted in a gale off the Elizabeth
Islands, just before reaching her home port. Dur-
ing the Civil War she was sold to Charles E. Tucker
& Co., and was finally captured and burned by the
Confederate cruiser Shenandoah, which wrought
destruction on so many New Bedford whalers, in
Behring Strait in June, 1865. At that time she was
valued at $55,000. Ship Gideon Howland made
eight voyages between 1831 and 1862, when she was
sold to New York for the merchant service. On one
of her cruises, in January, 1845, her first mate,
Isaac C. Howland, died at sea.

Ship Richmond made fourteen voyages for the
Rowlands. On her last cruise the second and third
mates and nine men were lost, and she was finally
condemned at the Bay of Islands in the summer of
1839. During a voyage to the North Pacific in
1855 the Eliza F. Mason was fired by her crew and
considerably burned, but not destroyed. The Mary,
about the same period, had one of her boats stove
in while fast to a whale, and Captain Silas Cottle
and one man were drowned, and the other four
occupants of the boat were picked up the next day.
In 1856 the Bartholomew Gosnold lost four men



56 THE HOWL AND HEIRS

while the ship was fast to a whale. When the
America went into the North Pacific in 1857 she
carried a steam whaleboat as an experiment, but it
was not used. She was sold in 1862 to become one
of the "Stone fleet, " sunk off the harbors of
Charleston and Savannah to prevent blockade run-
ning in the Civil War. The Gypsy and the Waverly
met their fate in 1865, being sunk in Behring Strait
by the Shenandoah. The loss on the former was
placed at about $30,000. Bark Catalpa made but
two voyages for the Rowland firm. She subse-
quently gained fame, under Captain George S.
Anthony, for the rescue of the Fenian prisoners in
Australia.

Ship Charles W. Morgan, built in 1841 as the
namesake of her owner, is still afloat, and is
regarded as the oldest whaling vessel in the world,
as well as one of the most fortunate in her voyages.
In 1849 she was owned by Edward Mott Robinson,
and later made two voyages for Isaac Howland, Jr.,
& Co. In the fall of 1917 she returned to New
Bedford with a $35,000 cargo from a voyage of
fourteen months to Desolation Island, where she
killed enough sea elephants to make 1018 barrels of
oil. This ocean-going veteran has never been
ashore, and is noted for her avoidance of disasters
in her thirty-five cruises all over the world.

While Isaac Howland, Jr. 's business energies
were naturally centered in his firm, he was interested
also in other enterprises. He was one of the found-
ers and a director of New Bedford's first banking
institution, the New Bedford Commercial Bank,
incorporated in 1803, and also the Bedford Com-



FOUNDING A FORTUNE 57

mercial Insurance Co. (originally the Bedford
Marine Insurance Co.), of which it was an out-
growth. The insurance company was established
to meet the needs of the times for protection against
maritime losses, and the bank which should finance
it was a natural sequence. In his personal capacity
Mr. Howland was a large money lender. When the
First Aqueduct Association was formed, to provide
New Bedford with a water supply, he was one of
the committee appointed by his fellow proprietors
who in 1805 purchased of Abraham Russell a quar-
ter of an acre of land for a reservoir location they
called it a fountain in the deed at the corner of
Walnut and Sixth Streets.

Mr. Howland lived in a large three-storied man-
sion at the southwest corner of Water and School
Streets, which was torn down about 1904. He pur-
chased this for $4000 in 1804 of his son-in-law,
Gideon Howland, Jr., who had acquired the prop-
erty prior to his marriage in 1795.* Governor
Henry H. Crapo of Michigan, a native of Dartmouth
and much interested in its history, who in 1840 pre-
pared an article on the British raid in the Revolu-
tion, is authority for the statement that the house

v

was occupied at the time of the invasion by Thomas
Hathaway, who built it. Subsequently it was let
for a rendezvous, and officers of the sloop Provi-
dence and other armed vessels, when in port, were
quartered in a part of this house. Henry B. Worth,
a New Bedford historian, is inclined to believe,



"Isaac Howland, Jr., previously lived in a dwelling at the
northeast corner of Bethel and Union Streets, "Johnnycake
Hill," which is still standing.



58 THE ROWLAND HEIRS

however, basing his views on the style of architec-
ture, that the Hathaway house of Revolutionary
days was torn down, and replaced about 1795 by
the Rowland mansion. In later years it was gen-
erally known as the Gideon Howland house.

Isaac Howland, Jr., was twice married, first, May
1, 1777, to Abigail, daughter of Giles and Sylvia
(Russell) Slocum of Dartmouth, who was born Oct.
4, 1757. Her elder sister Catherine married a
Gideon Howland, a second cousin of Gideon How-
land of Round Hills, who removed to Seneca, N. Y.,
and whose descendants eventually fell into the very
natural error of supposing themselves among the
latter Gideon's posterity. Mrs. Abigail Howland
died Aug. 27, 1814, and on Jan. 20, 1820, Mr. How-
land married Ruth, daughter of Abraham and Lucy
Butts of Dartmouth, born April, 1783, died Dec. 9,
1865. There were four children, two of whom
married sons of Gideon Howland of Round Hills :

i. MEHITABLE, b. 1778; d. July 7, 1809; m. Nov. 29,

1798, Gideon Howland, Jr.
ii. PHEBE, b. - -; d. before 1826; m. April 4, 1799,

Samuel Smith.
iii. SYLVIA, b. - ; d. Jan. 19, 1802; m. June 20, 1800,

John H. Howland.
By second marriage:
iv. ISAAC, b. April 11, 1821 ; d. March 17, 1822.

The relationship of Mehitable Howland and her
husband Gideon is made clear by means of a little
diagram. She was his second cousin, once removed :



FOUNDING A FORTUNE 59

Benjamin Rowland
(1659-1727)



Isaac Barnabas

(1694-1778) (1699-1773)

Isaac Gideon

(1726-1811) (1734-1823)

Isaac, Jr. Gideon, Jr.

(1755-1834) (1770-1847)

I
Mehitable

(1778-1309)

The death of Isaac Howland, Jr., occurred on
Jan. 12, 1834, his demise being recorded briefly in
the next ensuing issue of the New Bedford Weekly
Mercury as follows:

"In this town on Sunday evening last, from a stroke of
palsy, Mr. Isaac Howland, an eminent and successful mer-
chant, aged 78 years."

Outliving all his children, Mr. Rowland's only
surviving heirs were his widow and two grand-
children, the daughters of Gideon Howland, Jr. In
his will, executed in 1826, he bequeathed to the
widow sixty shares of stock in the Bedford Com-
mercial Bank, five shares in the Bedford Commer-
cial Insurance Company, one-half his household
furniture, and the life use of his dwelling, the latter
to pass after her death to testator's granddaughter,
Sylvia Ann Howland. The residue was left to the
granddaughters, Sylvia Ann and Abby, wife of
Edward Mott Robinson. The inventory showed per-



60 THE HOWLAND HEIRS

sonal estate of $63,097.26 and real estate of $38,750,
and the executor's account later placed the value of
the share in the whaling firm at $169,573.60. Among
the personal property were included bank and insur-
ance company stocks, and considerable sums of
money loaned on notes well secured. The disposition
of the entire fortune, as disclosed in the accounting
of the executor, Gideon Rowland, Jr., was as follows :

Paid to widow:

Under the will, $6,683.63

By order of heirs-at-law, 3,500.00



$10,183.63

Paid Sylvia Ann Rowland, $130,512.31

Paid Edward Mott Robinson representing his

wife's interest under an agreement, 90,512.32

Paid Thomas Mandell, trustee for Abby S.

Robinson, 40,000.00

Paid bills and expenses, 318.95



Total $271,527.21

The share of Sylvia Ann Rowland was placed to
her credit on the books of the whaling firm. Some
years later she purchased of her grandfather's
widow the life interest in the old homestead, and
Mrs. Rowland went to live in Dartmouth. At her
death she bequeathed her inheritance from her hus-
band's estate to members of the Butts family. A
grand-niece still surviving is Mrs. Augustus S.
Eussell of New Bedford, to whom the writer is
indebted for the use of photographs of Mrs. Eobin-
son and Sylvia Ann Rowland. Gideon Rowland,
Jr., and his daughter Sylvia continued to reside in
the Water Street mansion until his death in 1847.




ABBY S. r HOWLAND > ROBINSON



FOUNDING A FORTUNE 61

Subsequently Miss Howland purchased a residence
on Eighth Street, at the corner of William, where
she made her home.

The whaling firm continued under the capable
management of Gideon Howland, Jr., and Messrs.
Robinson and Mandell. Among their employes was
Abner H. Davis, a native of Dartmouth, for many
years their outside clerk or superintendent, who also
had a part ownership in various vessels on his own
account. In 1861, a year after the death of his wife
Abby, Edward Mott Robinson withdrew from the
Howland firm, and joined that of William T. Cole-
man & Co., a large shipping house in New York City,
where he greatly augmented his very considerable
fortune. The following year Mr. Davis became out-
side superintendent for this concern, and after the
death of Mr. Robinson in 1865*, together with
Henry A. Barling, a fellow employe, formed the
partnership of Barling & Davis, commission mer-
chants. They were two of the executors of Mr.
Robinson's will. Mr. Davis subsequently retired
and returned to Dartmouth, where he purchased an
extensive farm at the corner of Slocum Road and
Allen Street, now in the possession of Charles S.
Kelley of New Bedford, a descendant of Gideon
Howland. This farm was called by the older in-
habitants the Pero place, from the Christian name
of a manumitted slave who once resided there. His
surname was Howland, and it is said he was once
owned by Isaac Howland.

Gideon Howland, Jr., was popularly known among



*See genealogical record for biographical sketch of Mr.
Robinson.



62 THE ROWLAND HEIRS

his fellow townsmen as "Uncle Gid. " The late
Rev. Dr. Alexander McKenzie, recalling him as an
old man and tall, said that the children had a tradi-
tion that if any boy could catch him with his shoes
untied and tie them for him, he would give the boy
five cents ; but failed to add whether any of the lads
succeeded in this achievement. It is recorded that
the first piano ever brought to New Bedford was
for Mr. Howland, but with his Quaker traditions he
was so shocked at his own temerity that he had the
instrument brought to his house in the night-time
and smuggled into the third story. There on one
Sunday, while the elders were at meeting, his only
grandchild, Hetty Robinson, and three of her girl
friends, enjoyed some hilarious piano music, greatly
to the consternation of Mrs. Robinson, who sur-
prised them on her return and broke up the party
without ceremony.

Mr. Howland was a director in the early Bedford
bank, and was one of the original stockholders in
the Wamsutta Mills, founded by his nephew, Joseph
Grinnell. He died Sept. 2, 1847, aged seventy-seven
years. His will contained the following bequests :

To nephew Gideon Howland, $1000; to nephews
Edward W., Gilbert, Jr., and William Howland,
$500 each ; to nieces Rhoda and Lydia Howland, and
Sylvia, wife of Benjamin D. Almy, $500 each; to
Gideon H. Smith of Dartmouth, $500 ; to his brother
Joseph, life use of the Stephen Howland farm in
Dartmouth and the livestock thereon, the farm to
pass eventually to Joseph's children; to his daugh-
ter Sylvia Ann Howland his share in certain real
estate on Water Street and also on School Street ;



FOUNDING A FORTUNE 63

to his daughter Abby Robinson one-fourth of the
ship Balance and appurtenances; to Ruth Howland
(widow of Isaac) and to Sylvia Ann Howland,
equally, his furniture, horses, and livestock; and all
the rest and residue to his two daughters. No
mention was made of his granddaughter, Hetty.
Testator named his partner, Thomas Mandell, as
executor of the will.

Mr. Howland 's real estate holdings were ap-
praised at $66,416.67, including the Round Hills
farm of one hundred acres, $4500, and the Stephen
Howlaud farm adjoining, seventy-five acres, $2500;
and his personal property was placed at $104,802.43,
not including his share in the firm of I. Howland,
Jr., & Co., "value unknown. r It is generally sup-
posed that the entire estate reached the very hand-
some total of $800,000. The executor transferred
one-half of the interest in the whaling firm to
Edward Mott Robinson and the other half to Sylvia
Ann Howland.



CHAPTER IV
A FAMOUS WILL

The New Bedford of the period in which the great
Howl and firm flourished was a city of quaint charm.
11 Nowhere in all America will you find more patri-
cian-like houses, parks and gardens more opulent, "
wrote Herman Melville, author of the oft-quoted
whaling classic, "Moby Dick. " "All these brave
houses and flowery gardens came from the At-
lantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. One and all
they were harpooned and dragged up hither from the
bottom of the sea. In summer time the town is sweet
to see; full of fine maples, long avenues of green
and gold. And in April, high in air, the beautiful
and bountiful horse-chestnuts, candelabra-wise,
proffer the passer-by their tapering upright cones of
congregated blossoms. And the women of New Bed-
ford, they bloom like their own red roses. But roses
only bloom in summer ; whereas the fine carnation of
their cheeks is perennial as sunlight in the seventh
heavens. ' '

Bedford village, in the early days of the firm, in
1810, numbered about 5600 inhabitants, and some-
what less than three times as many when a city
charter was secured in 1847. At the outbreak of
the Civil War the population had increased to up-
wards of 22,000, this being the high-water mark of



A FAMOUS WILL 65

the whaling era, and before cotton manufacturing
became the chief industry. "We were nothing if
not maritime, in New Bedford," wrote Charles
Taber Congdon in his "Reminiscences of a Jour-
nalist. ' : "We were a town of tars. Bluff whaling-
skippers were a large and extremely respectable
part of our population. The town was anti-slavery
from the start, being full of Quakers. I shall al-
ways esteem it a privilege that I knew something
of Quakerism while it yet retained much of its
primitive quaintness and simplicity." Nathaniel
Parker Willis, who married a great-granddaughter
of Gideon Howland, describing New Bedford of the
fifties in his "Hurrygraphs," said: "Luxurious as
the town is now, and few and far between as are
the lead-colored bonnets and drab cutaway coats,
there is a strong tincture of Quaker precision and
simplicity in the manners of the wealthier class in
New Bedford, and among the nautical class it mixes
up very curiously with the tarpaulin carelessness
and ease.' : We may add that whaling merchants
created their fortunes without the aid of stenogra-
phers, adding machines, or telephones.

At the time of her death in 1865, Sylvia Ann How-
land, a Quakeress of quiet life and simple habits,
was the wealthiest resident of New Bedford. She
divided her time between her well-kept mansion on
Eighth Street and the Eound Hills farm, which she
retained as her summer home. Following the death
of her father, her business affairs were managed
by her trusted friend, Thomas Mandell, one of the
partners in the Howland firm. Almost from birth
she had not been strong, and the latter part of her



66 THE ROWLAND HEIRS

life was a long period of invalidism, passed with the
ministrations of care-takers and nurses. It was fre-
quently necessary to administer opiates to relieve
her suffering. At times she had to be wheeled from
room to room. Dr. William A. Gordon, whose resi-
dence was close at hand, was the family physician.
Miss Howland was very fond of reading, and took
much enjoyment in works of travel. A great many
books were read to her by her attendants. Bayard
Taylor was one of her favorites, and other authors
whom she liked were Frederika Bremer and Mrs.
Stowe. The discovery has been made within a few
years that on at least one occasion she tried her
hand at writing verse. The following lines in an
old autograph album, brought to light by an enter-
prising collector, were secured by the New Bedford
Free Public Library, and suitably framed, have
been given a place on its walls :

TO ESTHER.

In your Album I descry a page
On which no pen has left its trace;
I will endeavor to portray
A wish that may not be erased.

May much happiness attend you,
And the love of God may you implore;
May His blessings rest upon you,
And His name may you adore.

Composed by
Dec. 4, 1845. SYLVIA ANN HOWLAND.

She always signed in full as ''Sylvia Ann How-
land," Sylvia being a not uncommon name among
the numerous branches of the Howland family. The



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A FAMOUS WILL 67

first to bear it, so far as known, was her great-aunt,
Mrs. Jonathan Smith, sister of her grandfather
Gideon, and her middle name was that of her great-
grandmother on the other side of the house, wife of
Captain Isaac Howland. Both of these ladies were
living, at a great age, at the time of her birth in
1806. Miss Howland was very fond of the venerable
Mrs. Ruth Howland, her grandfather Isaac's second
wife, and occasionally invited her to come in from
Dartmouth for a visit of several weeks.

In 1860 Miss Rowland's only sister, Mrs. Abby S.
Robinson, died, and subsequently Edward Mott
Robinson removed to New York and engaged in
business. Her only niece, Hetty Howland Robinson,
remained in New Bedford for a time, and was the
invalid's chief companion, but in 1863 went to live
with her father in New York. An only child, the
only niece of Sylvia Ann Howland, only grand-
daughter of Gideon Howland, Jr., and only great-
granddaughter of Isaac Howland, Jr., she was the
only person in the fourth generation of the family,
and heir-at-law to them all, as well as to her father.

A portion of Mrs. Robinson's inheritance from
her grandfather, Isaac Howland, Jr., in 1834,
amounting to $40,000, had been given by a joint
deed of herself and husband to Mr. Mandell, to be
held in trust for the benefit of Mrs. Robinson.
Upon her death much doubt was entertained to
whom the property should be conveyed. The ques-
tion was submitted to Hon. B. F. Thomas of Boston,
and was thought by him to be one of great difficulty,
but it was finally decided that the realty should go
to the daughter, the personalty to the husband.



68 THE ROWLAND HEIRS

The parties acquiesced in this decision and gave a
release to the trustee who conveyed the property
under it. But as the personalty now amounted to
$120,000 and the realty $8000, some feeling was
created in the hearts of the daughter and her aunt,
Miss Howland. It was thought by them that this
money should have followed the Howland blood. In
1862 Miss Hetty's possessions were a house valued
at $8000, some $20,000 in stocks, a present from her
aunt, and a reversionary right to certain real estate
held by her father as a tenant by curtesy, but she
was presumptively to succeed to the five millions of
her father and the two millions of her aunt.

Among the practicing attorneys in New Bedford
at this period was William W. Crapo, a man of bril-
liant attainments and high character, who had
served in the state Legislature, and was at the time
the city solicitor. He enjoyed the fullest confidence
of Mr. Robinson, Miss Hetty, and Miss Howland,
for whom he often acted in a legal capacity. One
Saturday morning, on a week-end trip to New Bed-
ford from New York, Mr. Robinson entered Mr.
Crapo 's office and asked abruptly, "How much do
you make in your practice?'' Mr. Crapo did not
care to divulge his private affairs, and Mr. Robin-
son went out. A week later he returned and said:
"Mr. Crapo, I cannot blame you for not answering
my question the other day. But I had an object in
view. My business is prospering, and I am worth a
great deal of money. Now, I am thinking of start-
ing a private bank, and will pay you a large salary
to come to New York and take charge of it. Re-
member that I have a daughter, and after I am



A FAMOUS WILL 69

gone, I want her interests well cared for. You are
just the man to do it." Mr. Crapo considered the
proposition, but decided he did not wish to leave
New Bedford. The years went by, and subsequently
it fell to Mr. Crapo to care for certain of Miss
Hetty's interests and to play a large part in the
handling of Sylvia Ann Howland's residuary estate.

Mr. Robinson died in New York on June 14, 1865.
His will bequeathed to his daughter about a million
dollars outright, and the remainder, excepting small
legacies, amounting to nearly five millions, to trus-
tees, to pay the income to the daughter during her
life and upon her death to pay the principal to her
issue, in such shares as the daughter should direct
by will, and giving his daughter, if she should leave
no issue, a power of appointment as to all the prop-
erty excepting $400,000, and should she not exercise
such power, bequeathing the property to her lawful
heirs. Within three weeks, on Sunday, July 2,
Sylvia Ann Howland died at her home in New Bed-
ford, at the age of fifty-nine. The New Bedford
Standard, in its obituary notice, spoke of her as the
city's wealthiest inhabitant, and said that her
income for the year preceding had been nearly
$200,000.

Miss Robinson was in New York at the time of
her aunt's death. Immediately on her return to
New Bedford, she called at Mr. Crapo 's residence,
and confided to him her suspicions that Miss How-
land had been unduly influenced to make a will
which would divert a large part of the fortune from
her (Miss Hetty), and she desired to retain his
services in the event of a contest. In due course the



70 THE ROWLAND HEIRS

will was offered for probate. It was executed Sept.
1, 1863, and there was a codicil made Nov. 28, 1864.
The fortune was estimated at $2,025,000, about half
of which was disposed of in personal legacies and
public and charitable bequests, and the income of
the other half went to Miss Hetty. Thomas Man-
dell was designated as executor, and Edward D.
Mandell, George Rowland, Jr., and Dr. William A.
Gordon as trustees to have charge of the various
trusts created. A summary of the provisions of the
will is as follows :

To the city of New Bedford, $100,000, "for the intro-
duction of water into the city; or for the encouragement
otherwise and more general introduction into the city of
heavy manufactures, which require the use of steam. I
give this legacy to my city because I believe that its pros-
perity depends much upon the establishment and en-
couragement of manufactures within the city."

Also to the city of New Bedford, $100,000, "the income
therefrom to be expended and used for the promotion and
support within the city of liberal education, and for the
enlargement from time to time of our Free Public Li-
brary. ' '

To the New Bedford Orphans' Home, $20,000.

The sum of $50,000 in trust for the benefit of the poor,
aged and infirm females of the city of New Bedford.

To the trustees (by codicil), $20,000, to be held until a
corporation shall be organized as a National Sailors' Home,
and then paid to such corporation.

To Thomas Mandell, $200,000.



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