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 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.
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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