October 17, 2020

A Career Aboard the Midas of Baltimore

My lineage has its share of sea captains including my 3rd great grandfather, David Bill Dickinson.  Born in New London, Connecticut in 1787, David was the son of  Nathaniel Dickinson, another seaman and mariner, though David’s father died when he was only 10 years old.  

By 1801, David Bill Dickinson was only 13 and already listed in the Seamen’s Protection Certificate Register for the port of New London.  He was working aboard sloops and ships that sailed out of the New London port from a young age, likely to help support his widowed mother and sisters.

Not long after the Revolution, the War of 1812 found the United States once again in conflict with the English.  Congress authorized letters of marque which commissioned private vessels, known as privateers, to attack and seize enemy vessels including British merchant ships.  The privateers were required to keep journals of their encounters, and to keep logs of any cargo that was seized.  Captured seamen were either put ashore in port or put aboard a vessel that was released.  When possible, the privateers were to deliver the captured cargo, including the actual ships seized, to naval authorities in various ports.  The privateer ship’s owners and crew would subsequently receive a percentage of the seized goods when sold.

David’s father, Nathaniel, had sailed with privateers during the Revolution, and David himself was aboard several United States commissioned privateer vessels from the early years of the War of 1812 including the Sloop Juno of New London.  In July 1812, the privateer letter of marque for the Sloop Juno records David as a Lieutenant under Captain John Howard.  And later in 1814, he was aboard the Row Galley that was part of the Torpedo Expedition off the harbor of New London.

The Midas of Baltimore was a schooner built in Baltimore in 1813.   The ship began sailing as an American merchant vessel and also a privateer during the War years often on a route between the Chesapeake, the West Indies and France.  The Midas was armed with four six-pound cannons, four six-pound carronades and 35 crewmembers.  The captain was Commander Alexander Thompson who was also a partial owner of the ship.   David joined the Midas in 1814 as the 2nd Officer; and by June that year, David was noted in the ship’s journal as the 1st Officer.

After a successful trading and privateering voyage from Chesapeake to Havana, France and Spain, the Midas returned and sailed the Atlantic seaboard where they added four more six-pound carronades and additional crew.  At that time, the British were blockading American ports to hamper American merchant business.  In 1814, the Midas had many successful encounters with British vessels in the waters of the eastern coast and the West Indies.  The Midas captured over a dozen British ships that year.

By August of 1814, the British had attacked and burned Washington, and turned north towards Baltimore.  The Midas of Baltimore was in The Bahamas where on September 13th Captain Thompson authorized a raid – led by David – on Harbour Island in retaliation for the British burning of Washington.

With the raid on Harbour Island in The Bahamas, the Midas had violated the rules of conduct for privateers issued by the State Department.  President James Madison ordered a commission to look into the incident.  Captain Thompson took full responsibility for the action, even noting in his journal that David was involved under his direct orders.  As a result, the privateer ship’s letter of marque was revoked.

In December of 1814, the owners of the Midas proceeded to remove Captain Thompson from command, loaded the ship with a cargo of flour for the West Indies, and placed the ship under the command of David whom it was noted was a “prudent man”.  The owners applied for a new privateer commission, though the War of 1812 was soon over.  And with the end of the conflict, the Midas of Baltimore was once again a merchant vessel.

Captain David Bill Dickinson sailed as the commander of the Midas of Baltimore for the next several decades until the late 1830’s.   The ship’s voyages were typically routes through the Atlantic or the Caribbean to ports in the West Indies, St Bart and Havana, Havre and Marseilles in France, Gibraltar south of Spain, and often to Smyrna, now known as Turkey. 

David was married to Mary Rogers of New London, Connecticut in 1812, and they had one daughter, Mary Ann Brown Dickinson born in 1816.  Baltimore was always the home port for the Midas, however I believe that David’s family remained in New London, Connecticut until around 1819 and the death of David’s mother.  After that time, the Dickinson family made their home in Baltimore, Maryland.  David died in 1846 in Baltimore at 58 years of age.  His widow, Mary, lived many more years after his death.

"New London County, Mystic, CT.  Mrs. Mary Dickinson, whose death we chronicle at the ripe age of 84 years, at her daughter's Mrs. Hale, was one of our most aged citizens.  Her husband, Capt David B Dickinson, was a native of New London, and a shipmaster.  He was a bold privateersman during the war of 1812, having been one of those daring young men that was constantly organizing and successfully executing plans to annoy, elude, and drive the British fleet from our waters.  Later in life he removed to Baltimore and was a well known master of that port.  He died about eighteen years ago [sic].  His widow, whose decease we notice, was also a native of New London where her remains have just been interred, and by whose side her husband's remains are to repose, as they are soon to be removed from Baltimore to rest with his relatives and early companions of the sec. in Cedar Grove Cemetery.  Mrs. Dickinson's maiden name was Rogers, an elder sister of Mrs. Charles Mallory, and Capt Henry Rogers of Mystic Bridge." – June 1875

*  *  *  *  * 

Key individuals:

     Nathaniel Dickinson  (1749 – 1797)

     David Bill Dickinson  (1787 – 1846)

     Mary B Rogers  (1790 – 1875)

     Mary Ann Brown Rogers Dickinson  (1816 – 1880)


David Bill Dickinson appears in the London, England Grand Lodge Freemason membership registers in 1811.  He was a member of the London Naval Tavern Mason’s Lodge and is noted as a “Captain” in the log.  It appears that in 1816, David transferred his Freemason membership to Baltimore where he became a member of the Washington Lodge of Freemasons until 1828.  This Mason lodge was mostly made up of individuals involved in building and sailing ships and was located near the Baltimore dockyards.

 – Jane Scribner McCrary

October 3, 2020

A Mayflower Connection, or not …

For many years, I was fairly certain that we had a Mayflower ancestor in the family, actually two of them – John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley who both arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 as young adults, and then later married.  My 2nd great grandparents, Islethera Howland & David Scribner were married in 1821 in Topsham, Maine.  And I felt certain that Islethera Howland’s family, an old New England line, was our Mayflower connection. 

When I originally researched Islethera Howland’s family, I found that her line appeared to go back to Henry Howland who arrived in the Plymouth Colony just a few years after the Mayflower arrived.  Henry wasn’t a Mayflower passenger, however, his older brother, John Howland, was aboard the Mayflower in 1620 – a close relationship, but not a direct descendant line to a Mayflower passenger. 

   Henry Howland (1604-1671) [bro. of John Howland of the Mayflower]

      Samuel Howland (~1648-1716) m. Mary Sampson

         Abraham Howland (1675-1747) m. Ann Rouse

            Benjamin Howland (1724-1755) m. Experience Edgerton

               Abraham Howland (1762-1853) m. Anna Staples

                  Islethera Howland (1802-1843) m. David Scribner

Later in my research, I found an alternate path that took me back directly to John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley.  There were a lot of intermarriages, and also large families in those times, so a number of links are always a possibility.  This Howland line seemed pretty strong to me as I found documentation in several early published family genealogies.  And interestingly, it once again connects to my 2nd great grandmother, Islethera Howland Scribner. 

   John Howland (1592-1672) m. Elizabeth Tilley (1607-1687) 

      John Howland (1627-1702) m. Mary Lee

         Experience Howland (1668-1728) m. James Bearse/Bierse

            Experience Bearse (1692-1735) m. Dennis Edgerton

               Experience Edgerton (1725-?) m. Benjamin Howland

                  Abraham Howland (1762-1853) m. Anna Staples

                     Islethera Howland (1802-1843) m. David Scribner

For decades I believed that we were connected to the Plymouth colonists as descendants of John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley.  In more recent years, there has been extensive research done on the Mayflower passengers and their descendants. And presently, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants lineage group seems to be regarded as the best authority on the descendant lines.

Now I have never been interested in joining a Mayflower descendant’s lineage society, or any other lineage society.  For that matter, joining groups in general has never really been my thing.  But, I did feel confident that if I wanted to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, that I could probably do so. 

The application process requires a lot of paperwork and documentation proving direct ancestry; so you have to get together a lot of birth, marriage and death certificates for many generations along with relevant research.  An applicant submits their case along with supporting documentation, and it is reviewed for acceptance or declination which includes a process of comparing the earlier generations to known lines that the Society accepts as “proven”.  The earliest generations have already been reviewed in historical documents and early lineage books which have been determined as either good or questionable sources.

That takes me to a posting that I found online that was added to an Ancestry.com tree in 2008.  It is a response that was posted regarding someone’s application to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.  It reads:

31 Aug 2007 - We are delighted to learn of your interest in the Mayflower Society. We have received your Preliminary Review Form and have attempted to determine a best approved lineage paper that we might have which follows your stated lineage. Unfortunately, it has never been proved that John and Mary (Lee) Howland's daughter/son Experience married James Bearce, and the Mayflower Society does not accept this line as a Mayflower lineage. As found in "John Howland of the Mayflower" Volume 2, on the Descendants of John2 Howland: "There is no proof that Experience married James Bearce of Barnstable, who moved to Halifax, Mass. Experience was considered a man until 1930 when the Bearse Genealogy suggested that this Experience might have been a woman who could then have married James Bearse. No proof has been found for such a marriage." So, I'm sorry, but you have no accepted Mayflower lineage here.

   Regards, Paul S Bumpus Librarian, General Society of Mayflower Descendants GSMD.

Well, this shoots down what I thought was the link that I had to a Mayflower line of descent.  I had connected our line with Experience Bearse, the daughter of Experience Howland & James Bearse in my chain of descent. 

Oh, but wait!  In writing this story, I thought I might check and see if any more research had turned up, and it has.  Only a few months ago in April 2020, it was posted that the General Society of Mayflower Descendants now accepts that James Bearse/Bierce did marry Experience Howland.  I found the following online:

“The Mayflower Society did recently discover evidence that proves that Experience Howland (granddaughter of Mayflower passenger John Howland) married James Bierce. We are currently accepting applications that go through this couple. Currently we have approved applications going through these 4 different children of Experience Howland and James Bierce: 1) James, 2) Priscilla, 3) Rebecca, and 4) Shubael.” – Mayflower Lineage Match, April 30, 2020, Erin Gillett, Research Assistant, General Society of Mayflower Descendants GSMD.

I’m getting closer now with “official acceptance” that Experience Howland (a Mayflower descendant) married James Bearse.  That helps – except that my family line is through a daughter, Experience Bearse, and she isn’t listed as one of the 4 children noted above for which they have already approved applications.  My research sources indicate that James & Experience had at least 8 children, so it might be just a matter of time before the Society receives an application descending through Experience Bearse, daughter of James Bearse & Experience Howland, and expands their acceptance criteria.

However, if you are connected to my family line, and want to apply to a Mayflower lineage society, be prepared for the possibility of this hang-up.

*  *  *  *  *

Key individuals:

   Henry Howland  (1604 – 1671)

   John (the Mayflower) Howland  (1592 – 1672)

   Elizabeth Tilley Howland  (1607 – 1687)

   Abraham Howland  (1762 – 1853)

   Islethera Howland Scribner  (1802 – 1843)

 – Jane Scribner McCrary

John Howland overboard on the Mayflower

In October 2020, my blog post was about our family Mayflower connection and my research that connects our family back to the Mayflower voyag...