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  • A Davidson Family of Boston and Charlestown

    Roger D. Joslyn

    Published Date : February 1986
     In the fall of 1982 I became the proud owner of an original edition of Thomas Bellows Wyman’s The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown (Boston, 1879), a gift from my good friend and colleague, David C. Dearborn, the Society’s Reference Librarian.  Two and a half years earlier he had purchased the two-volume work from a New Hampshire bookdealer.

    Tucked among the printed pages was the following handwritten account of an Alexander Davidson family, unsigned, but doubtless written by Mary Ann Goddard (Davidson) Stowell.  This account may have been a copy of one she furnished Wyman, who acknowledged some information from her on page 1005 of his work.

    The original handwritten account has been donated for the Society’s manuscript collection (MSS L 1511). What follows is a literal transcription of the manuscript.

    Davidson Family Records.

    Alexander Davidson was born in the city of Aberdeen, in Scotland, iii the year 1734.  He followed the seas 40 years, was shipwrecked and taken several times, was at the taking of Quebec, by Gen. Wolfe, in 1759, and at the taking of Havana.  He came to the United States in 1761, and principally resided in Boston.  His first wife was Ann Goddard of Boston, by whom he had four children, who all died young, except my father.  His second wife was Mary Waters of Salem, by whom he had one child who died.

    George Davidson, (my father) was born in Boston, July 25, 1768.  He had considerable genius, and a talent for drawing and painting, and might have been eminent in his profession, but being naturally very enterprising as well as ingenious, he was induced to make a voyage to the Northwest Coast and Canton, a very profitable voyage, but one full of peril in those days, owing to the limited knowledge possessed by [sic] the Pacific Ocean, and to the hostility of the Indians, who were always on the watch for a favorable opportunity of cutting off a boat’s crew, or even of taking a ship, which they attempted in his first voyage, but owing to the good conduct and courage of the officers and crew were defeated.  He sailed from Boston, in the ship Columbia, Capt. Gray, Sept. 7, 1790, and was absent about three years.  This ship first visited Columbia river, to which it gave its name.

    In 1799 he was persuaded to take command of a vessel, the Rover, for the same voyage.  He arrived on the coast, was very successful in obtaining a cargo of furs, skirts &cc. and sailed for Canton, but was overtaken by a tremendous hurricane occasioned by the changing of the trade winds, and vessel and all hands perished.  When last seen he was in so perilous a situation as to preclude all hope of his surviving the gale.  Capt. Benj. Swift, who was on the coast at the same time, told me that he was second to none on the coast for talents and ability in that trade, and had he returned, it would have been a very profitable voyage.  He was about 32 years old when he was lost.  He married Miss Mary Clark of Boston, 27th of Apr. 1794, and had two children.

    Mary Ann Goddard Davidson was born in Boston, March 14th, 1795.  She married John J. Stowell of Worcester, July 23d, 1818.

          George Stowell born in Charlestown, Oct. 16, 1819.

          John Stowell        "    "      Boston Feb. 7, 1822.

          Frank Stowell      "    "   Charlestown June 28, 1825.

          Charles Stowell born in Charlestown Apr. 30, 1828.

          Edward Stowell   "    "           " Aug. 26, 1831.

    (George Davidson Jr. was born in Charlestown, Jan. 12, 1798.)

    Samuel Stoddard born in Charlestown Oct. 23, 1805. Sarah Elizabeth Stoddard born Aug. 30, 1809, and died of croup, May 30, 1811.

    (Mrs. Sally Clark, my grandmother by my mother’s side, died in Charlestown, of bilious fever, Feb. 3, 1808.) She was a woman of strong mind, and excellent principles; few surpassed her in patience in encountering difficulties, of which she had a large share, or in the humane feelings which prompted her to alleviate those of others when in her power.  She was much esteemed by her friends.  (Her husband was among the hand who destroyed the tea in Boston, in 1774, and was also in the revolutionary army.  He died soon after.  They had five children beside my mother, viz. Sally, who married Mr. Charles Wymart.  John commanded one of Capt. Webber’s ships out of Charlestown, S.C., and died three days out of yellow fever.  William went [on] a voyage to the Northwest coast.  The ship was only heard from once,


    as having touched at Rio Janeiro, and probably foundered at sea.  Joseph went to sea with Capt. Webber.  He died in Savannah Geo. of yellow fever, 15 yrs. old.  Seth went out when quite young in the Belle Savage to the Spanish Main was taken by the Spaniards and died in Lima, of putrid fever.

    Capt. Seth Webber, uncle to my mother, and brother to Mrs. Sally Clark, died in Liverpool, Oct. 1821.  He was the most fortunate person in our family for acquiring property.  He was worth nearly 200,000 dollars when he died.  For a long time he carried on ship-building in Boston, with Mr. Thomas Page.  Their shipyard was where part of Broad St. now is, afterwards at Barton’s Point, where the Almshouse was built.  He afterwards sailed his own ships between Boston, Charleston, & Liverpool, and though he was in the trade several years, never met with a serious disaster.  He was three times married, and had but one child, Sally, who died unmarried, 1797.  His second wife died May, 1819.  In 1820 he married Miss Mary Bourne, of Middleborough, who survived him, and married Amos Farnsworth, (a physician of Boston, born at Groton) March, 1823.  She died Oct. 26, 1828, and left three children, Mary, Henry, & George. Capt. Webber’s property was left principally to his wife and her relations, who had about $70,000.  Capt. Wilson, who served his time with him, got $30,000 or $40,000.  He was in Liverpool when Capt. W. died. Lot Wheelwright, formerly his apprentice had a large share, and his immediate relations, the Grammer family, (Mrs. G. was his sister), over $20,000, Mrs. Wyman & my mother handsome legacies.  I also was remembered. Capt. W. was 66 years old.  Mrs. Elizabeth Grammer, sister to Capt. Webber, died Nov. 20, 1831, aged 68.  Her son William died in Woburn, Aug. 1832, aged 34.

    Contributed and Transcribed by Roger D. Joslyn, C.G., EA.S.G.
    Tenafly, New Jersey

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