May 29, 2021

The Tale of Captain Hale

Philip Moore Hale, my 2nd great grandfather, belonged to an old Baltimore family with a pre-colonial history.  Philip grew up on a property spanning over 500 acres in Baltimore County which included a home, timber acreage and a farm.  In 1815, Philip’s grandfather, Aquila Hall, had bequeathed a portion of his plantation to his daughter, Susan Hall Hale, as a life-estate for use during the lifetimes of Susan and her husband, Henry.  The terms of the will required that the property be sold after their deaths with the proceeds to benefit the Hale children, which included Philip and his seven siblings.

Philip was a mariner, so it’s not surprising that in 1835 he married Mary Ann Brown Dickinson, the daughter of the successful Baltimore sea captain, David Bill Dickinson.  Philip was seven years older than Mary; he was 28 years old and Mary was 21 when they wed.  Mary was born in New London, Connecticut, but had moved to Baltimore with her parents by 1820. 

A letter written by Philip to his wife, Mary, in 1842 includes mention of several family financial decisions, and indicates that their relationship was close during those early years of their marriage.  “My love, … I take up my pen to converse with my wife a few moments, upwards of six years have passed since we have been married and with truth I can say we have never closed our eyes at night with an unkind feeling together.”  Philip and Mary had six children between 1836 and 1856 while living in Baltimore. 

I don’t have any information on when or how Philip began his life as a mariner, but he was already a well-respected ship’s captain by 1837 at age 30.   In 1846, Baltimore shipmasters and builders, mates and pilots sent an address to President James K Polk, asking that Baltimore be selected as the location for building ships of war as the US-Mexican War was in its early stages.  Philip M Hale was among the group selected to deliver the plea to Washington on the 18th of May, 1846.

News articles found in various newspaper archives and books have established that Philip sailed as the captain of at least five ships in the twenty-plus years between 1837 and 1858.  He sailed mostly vessels transporting merchant trade goods to ports including Boston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Liverpool, Callao Peru and San Francisco, as well as some passenger vessels.  In 1856, while at port in Liverpool, England, Philip shows up as a member in a nearby Freemason’s lodge.

During Philip’s years as a ship’s captain, he invested in a variety of ventures, including the purchase of small parcels of land near his parents’ home estate in 1840.  He acquired land adjacent to his parents’ farm from a neighbor in 1853.  Philip’s mother, Susan Hall Hale, died in March of 1858, and later that year Philip purchased 225 acres from the estate for $17,500. 

Capt Philip M Hale sailed a ship named the Damascus, a cargo and passenger vessel, during 1848 through July 1850.  The ship’s passenger manifest records the sailing of the Damascus leaving from Liverpool, England on May 23, 1848, and arriving in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 11, 1848.  The ship manifest shows that 239 immigrants were aboard and the ship’s Master was Philip M Hale.

Capt Philip M Hale commanded the Sea Nymph of Baltimore on her first voyage in December 1850.   The ship sailed from Baltimore to New York where it was loaded with cargo and left for San Francisco on December 15th.  The Sea Nymph then sailed from San Francisco to Honolulu, on to Hong Kong, and then back to New York that year.

In 1856, Capt Philip M Hale was the commander and partial owner of the new ship John Clark of Baltimore on her first voyage.  On the return leg of that maiden voyage after leaving Liverpool, the ship encountered a hurricane and lost the main topsail and the foretop mast. 

The next year in 1857, Philip’s 1/8th partial ownership of the John Clark was transferred with a Bill of Sale to his mother-in-law in exchange for $14,000.  I don’t know if that tells us that she was the original source of the money invested, if it might have been a move to provide liquidity for another investment, or if Philip was simply in debt or needed the cash.  Philip sailed the John Clark of Baltimore through 1858, however it appears that the John Clark might have been the last ship on which Philip held the position of captain.  

In July 1859, a Baltimore Sun newspaper noted that Philip made a $50,000 pledge.  According to the news story, his pledge for a new railroad subscription project was included among a "rush" of late subscribers on the very last day.  Such a large last-minute pledge raises plenty of questions – was the family wealthy enough to be  able to afford such a large financial obligation?  I think that it's doubtful, as it soon becomes clear that Philip had a drinking problem.  It is unlikely that Philip ever fulfilled the $50,000 pledge for the railroad project.

Less than a year later, in June 1860, the U.S. Census showed Philip’s wife, Mary, living in Brooklyn, New York with the children – but without Philip.  And in 1861 after the death of their son Henry in the early days of the Civil War [see blog post Young Life Lost at Bull Run, June 2020], Mary wrote that Philip had abandoned her and the family and that she needed the Union pension of their late son, Henry P Hale, who had died in the Battle of Bull Run to help support her and her other children.  Mary wrote in her pension application that her husband, Philip, was a “common drunkard”.  She was granted the pension of $8.00 per month beginning July 21, 1861 due to the “Abandonment of Claimant by husband since Aprl 1st 1860, celibacy of soldier and support, by furnishing nearly all of Wife’s necessaries for several years…”

We will never know what caused the dissolution of Philip and Mary’s marriage.  Drinking could have been the cause or a symptom of challenges related to money. Ideological differences could also have been at play with Mary having been raised in the northern state of Connecticut, and Philip having been raised in a family with a slave holding tradition, creating issues that were just too much to reconcile in the years of rising tensions leading up to the Civil War.

Between 1860 and 1866, Philip worked as a seaman aboard several Union vessels during the Civil War.  And in 1867, he applied for a U.S. Naval pension claiming that he had contracted illness in service aboard U.S. Naval ships.  His petition was denied with a comment that there was no evidence of his disability resulting from his activities in the line of duty.

Family records show that Philip Moore Hale died on March 1, 1870 in Baltimore, Maryland.  His wife, Mary, had moved with her children back to Connecticut by mid-1860 to be near her family.  She died in 1880 and Mary was noted in her obituary as the widow of Philip Hale.

*  *  *  *  *

Key Individuals:

     Philip Moore Hale  (1807 – 1870)

     Mary Ann Brown Dickinson Hale  (1816 – 1880)

     Susan Hall Hale  (1778 – 1858)

     Aquila Hall  (1750 – 1815)


Philip Moore Hale’s date of death is included in a family document that does not give any other information or details.  To date, I have not been able to find either a death certificate (death records were not kept in Baltimore until 1875), newspaper announcement of his death, or a grave location for Philip M Hale that might provide more information on his death.  I suspect that he could have died in Baltimore as that is where he was living as late as 1867. 

If Philip M Hale's name pops up in anyone’s research, I would love to hear from you.


- Jane Scribner McCrary

May 14, 2021

My Grandfather Remembered

I only knew one of my grandfathers, Charles Henry Hughes, my maternal grandfather.  My paternal grandfather had died long before I was born.  My earliest memories of my mother’s parents, Charles & Nina, were at their Chesapeake, Virginia home.  They had a 2-story home built near the river with a dock, small boat, and a barn, though I don’t remember any animals.  I do remember often eating crab in the summer, and the lovely meandering river.  Also there were plenty of wonderful trees and flowering azaleas along with magical fireflies in the evening. 

Granddaddy worked for the City of Norfolk, Virginia and held positions of Superintendent of Highways and also Director of Public Works prior to retirement.

Charles Henry Hughes was born nearby in Berkley, Norfolk County, Virginia in 1898.  He was the youngest son of Luke G Hughes & Jane Roberts Hughes who had eight children.  The Hughes family had moved from North Carolina to Virginia when their family was young [see my 21 Nov 2020 blog post on Charles’ father titled Lamplighter Luke].

In the earliest photo that I have of Charles, you can clearly see the mischief in his eyes – I love this photo.  Charles married Nina Cecelia Nash in 1920, and they had two daughters, Ann Hart Hughes (my mother) and Nina Nash Hughes (my Aunt Teene).  I wish I had a wedding photo for Charles & Nina, as I’m sure they made a handsome newlywed couple. 

Charles & Nina lived in the Norfolk and Chesapeake area of Virginia for most of their life together.  However after Charles retired from the City of Norfolk, they decided to move to New Mexico to be near our family. 

In the mid-1960’s, my family was living in Alto, New Mexico, and Charles & Nina made the decision to cross the country and move closer to us, settling in nearby San Patricio, New Mexico.  At one point, the family of my mother’s younger sister, Teene, also came to New Mexico for a year or more. Those were wonderful years for me as I got to spend so much time with my mother’s side of our family.  For the first time in my life I actually lived near grandparents, and for a time saw much of my aunt, uncle and five cousins.  It was so great!

Charles & Nina Hughes, Granny & Granddaddy to me, lived only about 45 minutes from our family.  They purchased a small 2-bedroom home in the Hondo Valley of New Mexico.  It was a sweet, lovely stucco southwestern style home located on the banks of the small the Hondo River.  There were also several acres with the property including a small apple orchard, a pear tree, and space for a large summer garden.  They even had a few lambs to eat the grass under the apple trees.  In the summer, we (the grandchildren) would often play in the river. There was a rope swing hung from a tree that would arc out over the deepest part of the water, and we could let go and drop into the water hole.


I would sometimes pack a bag to take with me to school on a Friday, and then after school I could get on the bus that headed down to the Hondo Valley.  Granddaddy would meet the bus, and I got to stay with my grandparents until Sunday when my parents would come to visit and fetch me.  I would help Granny fix and prepare meals, do odd jobs, and in the summer I helped Granddaddy sell apples from the orchard at his small apple house, sort of a roadside apple stand that was along the highway.  I remember being so proud of myself one weekend when I sold $20 worth of apples for my grandparents!

In the summer of 1965 the Hondo River, which was just behind their home, had a flash flood and filled their home with several feet of water and mud.  I think that a tree stump even took out the front window.  During the storm Granny & Granddaddy took refuge in the apple house which was built on a higher elevation than their home and the river.  The flood was devastating for everyone in the Valley, and it took all summer and into the next year for them to get everything dried out and cleaned, repair the damage, and replace what could be replaced.  I remember that my grandparents were so grateful that they were fine and their home could be saved, and they never complained about the hardship and the mess of it all.  Granny’s only real sadness was the loss of all their early family photos, letters and papers.

Granddaddy was tall and thin, and he wasn’t a man of many words, so when he talked, we listened.  He loved the land and spent most of his time outdoors working in his garden or the orchard, puttering around with his projects, or just sitting on the back porch enjoying life and nature, reading and listening to the sound of the river.  He would get up early and after a big breakfast, weather permitting, he would spend all morning working outside before coming in for lunch.  I remember that he loved lots of gravy and plenty of salt & pepper on everything.  Lunch was always followed by a short nap stretched out on the sofa in the living room before he headed outside again. 

In their later years, Granddaddy usually did the grocery shopping, and Granny would give him a list of what was needed, but at the bottom of that list she would add a NO list, i.e. NO toilet paper, NO napkins, NO milk, etc. because he often would come home with extras that he thought they “just might need”.

Granddaddy died in early January of 1973 at home in San Patricio, New Mexico at age 74.  Charles & Nina had been living in New Mexico for their last 9 years together, and both he and Nina truly loved it.  On the day he died, Granddaddy spent the morning outside, came in for lunch and took his short nap, and then went back outside again.  He had a massive heart attack and died instantly, surrounded by his lovely fruit trees. 

*  *  *  *  * 

Key Individuals:

     Charles Henry Hughes  (1898 – 1973)

     Nina Cecelia Nash Hughes  (1896 – 1977)


I’m not ignoring Nina, I will give you more information on my Granny and her story in a future blog post.

- Jane Scribner McCrary

John Howland overboard on the Mayflower

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