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Austin Herrick, Southampton New York Whaling Captain

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

President Emeritus of the Southampton History Museum, Eric Woodward, has been working on this project for many years and we are so happy to be able to showcase his hard work here on our blog. Austin Herrick's story is an interesting one providing great examples of how difficult work it is to provide an accurate accounting of someone's life many decades later. If you haven't already, make sure to sign up for his lecture on how he put this all together on Thursday, June 8th at 11am live on Zoom by clicking here!


By Eric Woodward

Chapter 1

Austin Herrick: A Biographic Summary


Austin Herrick (4/12/1796-9/4/1862) was the seventh of nine children of William Herrick (1761-1825) and Phebe Pierson (1760-1846.) He was born. in Southampton NY; William was 35 and Phoebe 36. Austin grew up on South Main St.


Austin’s first whaling voyage was in 1816, at the age of 20, according to his daughter. We have no details of this voyage.

His next whaling adventure in 1818 has been told over the years with various fanciful details. The basic story: A young man proposes to an eligible local girl but she rebuffs him. Crestfallen, he signs on to a whaling ship which ends up shipwrecked on the coast of Brazil. All the sailors survive; one stows away to get home. Meanwhile in Southampton the castaway is given up as lost but makes a surprise return home and marries the girl he left behind. For years this story had multiple inaccuracies, but now the truth is revealed. See Chapter 2.


Austin penned his first whaling journal (extant): from “Sag Harbor to the Coast of Patagonia, on the good Ship Fair Helen, George Howell Master, July 26 1824.”


The next year Austin's father died on a boat trip home from New York City when the boom knocked him overboard. Austin’s daughter Mary Ann tells this story with details supplied by her cousin Elizabeth. Sag Harbor newspaper The Corrector confirms the story November 1825.

Additional voyages in Austin's whaling journal:

  • 1825/26 -Ship Fair Helen to Patagonia

  • 1829 -Ship Thames to Patagonia;

  • 1829/30 -Ship Thames to Patagonia;

  • 1830/31 -Ship Atlas of Lynn to South Atlantic

Note this ship Atlas also sailed from Lynn in 1831 and again 1832/1833, without Austin. See Chapter 3.


Austin’s last whaling voyage was on a different ship also named Atlas, sailing from Norwich, Connecticut on June 25, 1832 and returning May 5, 1834. This was Austin’s first voyage as captain. Three original letters from the voyage verify some details. Two of the letters are by crewmember James H. Foster and one of the letters is by Capt. Herrick reporting James’ death to his parents. See Chapter 4 and database entries in Chapter 7.


One story of his life says he sailed on a total of 17 whale voyages, another says 13. 13 voyages might even be overstated because this would average one voyage every year and four months during his whaling years.

Whale ships were required to work seven days a week. In 1834 or 1835 Austin chose to quit whaling rather than whale Sundays. See Chapter 5.

March 17, 1835 Austin married Mary Wells Jagger of Southampton, the sweetheart of his youth. He was 38 and she was 26. April 10, 1835 Austin purchased 17 N. Main St. for $1000 and did extensive renovations to the approximately 70-year-old house.

There was a small store attached to the south of the house. He ran it as a general store. Chace’s 1858 Southampton map includes a label at 17 N. Main St.- "A. Herrick's Store." See Chapter 5.


Son Samuel Edward Herrick was born 4/5/1841. He died in Boston 12/4/1904.


Daughter Mary Ann Herrick was born 3/23/1846. She died in Southampton 9/15/1927.


Austin was an elder of the Southampton Presbyterian Church. Notably, Austin once interrupted a pro-slavery sermon. "…with such calm solemn vigor that the length of the sermon was mercifully abridged... to the admiration of many."


Southampton's extensive early town records are digitally searchable. Searches for Austin find nothing major, but various entries in the record during the 1840s show him named as “Collector,” “Sealer,” and “Town Trustee.”

Austin's daughter Mary Ann c. 1893


Austin died on September 4, 1862, age 66. Wife Mary Wells was 54 and daughter Mary Ann was 16.


October 13, 1881, daughter Mary Ann, age 35, is wed to her fourth cousin Henry Foster Herrick. They make 17 North Main Street, newly inherited by Mary Ann, their home. See Chapter 6.

Henry owns and operates a general merchandise business on Main Street which he purchased in 1869. It eventually becomes “Herrick Hardware.”

Austin's wife, Mary Jagger Herrick, died on May 10, 1881, age 72.


Mary Ann and Henry had two children. Daughter Esther died in 1884, age three months. Son John Austin Herrick was born July 7, 1885. He ran Herrick Hardware until his death in 1969. For details on Austin and Henry's respective stores see chapter 6.


Chapter 2

Investigation of the Brazil shipwreck story.

When did it happen? Which whale ship?

Is it about Austin Herrick?

There is an exciting whaling story passed down in Southampton. The story grew over the years but was not verified. Here is a very short summary of the story:

A young man proposes to an eligible local girl but she rebuffs him. Crestfallen, he signs on to a whaling ship which ends up shipwrecked on the coast of Brazil. All the sailors survive; one stows away to get home. Meanwhile in Southampton the castaway is given up as lost but makes a surprise return home and marries the girl he left behind.

This story has been told in print three times. (Copies Attached)

First, in the book Historic Long Island by Rufus Wilson, 1902.

Second, The County Review, Riverhead, November 21 1924, by Harry D. Sleight

Third, Southampton Press, May 9 1929, by Lizbeth White.

This story makes good reading, and is said to be about Austin Herrick, but there is nothing in the Herrick family papers proving it to be fact or fiction. In 1924 Austin's daughter Mary tried unsuccessfully to find out the date of the shipwreck or the name of the ship, or even if Austin was involved. In the mid 1990’s Eric Woodward found that the Sag Harbor library had no records of such a shipwreck and no record of Austin making any voyages from Sag Harbor.

Perhaps the whole story was "historical fiction."

Here are the details that unravel the mystery:

First: the story is told by Rufus Wilson, 1902. The full text is attached; here are the key excerpts as he tells the story:

  • The captain’s memories are “attached to an old house yet standing on the angle made by Southampton's Main Street and the North Sea Rd."

  • His house is a "...Gambrel roof structure… bought by a whaling captain for his bride in the early part of the last century."

  • "He made 17 [voyages] in all, the last as Captain..."

  • The captain’s story "... belongs to his early manhood"

  • He wanted to marry a "certain maiden" but she refused and "he sailed away."

  • "There was no news of the ship"... "The vessel had been wrecked on the shores of Brazil."

  • A score of men were making their way through the jungle to Rio de Janeiro.

  • They reach Rio de Janeiro, talk to a captain heading for New Bedford and draw lots to see who could go.

  • The young man is not chosen, but he stows away on the ship and is allowed to stay on.

  • "On a September afternoon in the same year two men, one with a youthful face, approached Southampton"

  • Along the road a woman sees the two men and cries out "… There comes them two poor fellows who were drowneded at the bottom of the sea."

  • "Three years later, the young man bought the gambrel roofed house and took there as his bride, the maiden…"

Note there is no mention of the name of the ship, the name of the young man, the ship’s captain, nor the year. But the description of the house and its location match Austin Herrick. And if the story is of Austin, there is one useful detail that shows nowhere else in the family records--that he was a captain only on the last voyage of his career.

March 1924, local historian Harry D Sleight responds to a letter from Austin’s daughter Mary A Herrick, answering her questions about the shipwreck story and her father Austin(attached.) We don't have a copy of Mary’s original inquiry to him, but it is clear she had heard the shipwreck story and was looking for confirmation. Note Mary was only 16 years old when her father died, and her letter to Sleight was 62 years later, meaning there was plenty of time for the story to evolve or memories to get hazy.

Mr. Sleight had access to lots of records. Regarding the period 1820 to 1830, "I do not find any Sag Harbor whaleship as wrecked on Brazil's coast during that time." He focuses next on the period 1815 to 1820. "The ship Warren was owned and outfitted and for the most part manned by Southampton officers and crew..." His research showed that the Warren was an old vessel and made a voyage for the coast of Brazil in 1816, William Fowler master. "Here I lose the Warren… There is.... No record of her return which there would have been had she returned to Sag Harbor and renewed papers at customs House." He looks at the other voyages from this period, concluding none were shipwrecked in Brazil.

Sleight concludes, “I am inclined to believe (without positive proof) and in absence of a crew list that the only vessel which might have been lost on the coast of Brazil in 1816 was the Warren." As we shall see his assumptions turn out to be in error. His letter reveals another detail not previously known about Austin: his daughter says 1816 was his first voyage. This is logical because he turned 20 in 1816. From the Southampton Presbyterian church manual we also know Austin joined the church in March 1818.

Second: A short time later, November 21 1924, Harry Sleight writes for The Country Review, Riverhead, New York an article titled "A Pretty Romance of the Whaling Days, Southampton Young Man’s Proposal to a Fair Young Maiden Rejected until after He Had Been Shipwrecked on Coast of Brazil.” He starts by saying that the story of the wreck of the whaleship Warren is "a tradition," in Southampton. Then he references and quotes Wilson's 1902 writing, repeating the story verbatim, except he now names the ship “Warren” and dates the shipwreck 1817. He still does not mention Austin Herrick's name.

Third: The Southampton Press, May 9, 1929, prints a paper written by Lizbeth Halsey White. Her version of the story starts, "A certain young man…" and retells the full story with no change in details until the end when she says "...and not very long after this incident Austin Herrick and Mary Jagger went to live in the gambrel roofed house…" She does refer to the ship Warren but leaves out the date 1817, probably due to the unresolved major discrepancy of the story: family documents confirm Austin married and purchased the gambrel roofed house in 1835. In 1816, Mary Jagger was only eight years old. Primary records also show that Austin was on other whaling voyages from 1824 pretty much continuously through 1834. He presumably never went to sea after 1834. The story is looking a little shaky.

One other original source of information is the lengthy June 29, 1914 letter written to her family by Mary Ann Herrick, Austin's daughter. She says,

"When my father came home from sea for good [1834] he remembered that in his short stay at home from a previous voyage he had seen...a beautiful girl whom he had then and there vowed to make his wife someday. He learned her name was Mary Jagger… He began his courting.… Father bought this house from Dr. Doane. That was, in 1835--his marriage year."

Note, this account confirms that he first spied his future wife between voyages and later he came home for good. He got married and bought the house on North Main in 1835. Surprisingly there is no mention in this letter of the shipwreck story. In 1835 Mary was 27 years old and he was 39 years old.

In 1996 George Finckenor replied to my inquiry about this story (attached.) His information: Ship Warren, 284 tons, built at Taunton, Mass. 1797. Sailed 1808/1809 from Sag Harbor. Sailed 1809/1810 from Sag Harbor. Sailed 1815/1816 from Sag Harbor to Brazil, Capt. Fowler, returned leaking badly. Ship was probably sold to New Bedford at this point. He did not have any account of a voyage in 1816. He also finds no crew list, or other information that ties Austin to the Warren.

The New Bedford whaling database also lists the Warren. It includes more early voyages, but also has 1815/1816 as the last voyage on record. No record of a voyage starting in 1816 and no record of a shipwreck.

A 2020 search on and on found no news of the Warren and its shipwreck, nor, in fact, any other shipwreck stories with slightly similar details between1816 and 1835. Other inquiries were dead ends, until finally, in June 2020, the genealogist at the Norwich Connecticut Otis library makes an important find. Newspaper confirmation from 1819 that the brig Harriet was cast ashore on the coast of Brazil. All the crew survive and seven are brought back to Boston.

Austin Herrick is on the list!

It turns out the History of the American Whale Fisheries comprehensive list of whaling voyages does list the Harriet's 1818 voyage and its fate, but did not say which port the ship sailed from; this explains why a search for a shipwrecked vessel sailing from Sag Harbor always came up empty. The New Bedford whaling database has this same information but nothing additional.

My Conclusion

The shipwreck story is true with the following clarifications:

  • It is the brig Harriet rather than the ship Warren.

  • They sailed in 1818 from an unrecorded location.

  • It is still unverified that Austin stowed away to secure his passage home.

  • Austin’s proposal to Mary Jagger took place much later than the shipwreck, possibly between his 1830/1831 voyage and his 1832 departure.

  • But yes, the record shows they wed in 1835!

As for the whale ship Warren? American Whale Fisheries records show that the ship returned from its 1815 voyage leaking badly. American Whale Fisheries and have no record of the 1816 voyage, but Sleight’s sources are solid that she sailed June 24, 1816 and was not heard from again. Her fate shall remain a mystery.

The first version of the story, Historic Long Island:

The second version of the story:

The third version of the story, 1929 Southampton Press:

Sleight’s letters to Mary Ann Herrick, including his well-researched but erroneous conclusion. Her letters to him have not been found.


Chapter 3

Austin’s Whaling Journal 1824 -1831

A journal of 276 handwritten pages: daily account of the weather, ships latitude and longitude, and activity for 5 separate whaling voyages. The document is handstitched, missing covers. The handwriting is all by one hand. Austin Herrick’s name appears only once in the Journal but the handwriting matches exactly a letter written and signed by Austin Herrick when he was master on a later voyage in 1832-1834.

1. “A Journal of a Voyage from Sag Harbor to the Coast of Patagonia, in the good Ship Fair Helen, George Howell, Master, July 26 1824.” Returning to Sag Harbor June 30, 1825. The New Bedford whaling database includes a map of this voyage with daily coordinates. The coordinates almost match those in Austin's Journal. It is a mystery, though, why the coordinates don't match exactly--were there two people taking coordinates each day on the ship? Or perhaps Austin was doing the log in the morning and taking readings again for his own journal later in the day?

2. “A Journal of a Voyage from Sag Harbor to the Coast of Patagonia in the Ship Fair Helen, George Howell Master, July 26 1825.” Returning to Sag Harbor June 26, 1826. [Note, Fair Helen was broken up in Sag Harbor in 1828.]

3. “A Journal of a Voyage from the Coast of Patagonia to Sag Harbor in the Ship Thames, Huntting Cooper Master.” First entry March 23 1829. Unlike the other journal entries this voyage only consists of two pages, March 23 and March 24; coordinates, South Atlantic off Argentina. There is no mention of why the journal starts in Patagonia, nor details of the completion. On the 23rd it does say headed “home with a full ship."

History of the American Whale Fishery table of whaling vessel sailings (attached) confirms the Thames left Sag Harbor July 7, 1828 and returned June 1st 1829. Note, there is a logbook at the Library of Congress that covers the ship Thames 1828 through 1832. The log was kept by Nathan H Cook; he lists two masters, Huntting Cooper and David Hand Jr. (New Bedford database records that David Hand died at sea on the 1831/32 Thames voyage.) This log should be researched to see what role Austin played. Historian Harry Sleight identifies Austin as boatsteerer, the crewmember at the front of the whaleboat who thrusts the harpoon into the whale.

4. “A Journal of a Voyage from Sag Harbor to the Coast of Patagonia in the Ship Thames, Huntting Cooper Master.” July 23 1829, Returning to Sag Harbor May 29 1830; "Off East Hampton." On May 5 the ship crossed the equator, so it averaged about 115 miles per day to return to Sag Harbor by May 29. [Note, Thames was broken up at Sag Harbor, 1838] On this voyage, Austin has achieved the position of second mate. Thames was broken up and sunk at Sag Harbor in 1838 and dynamited in 1932 to recover copper sheathing. The 92 foot long keel was pulled out of the mud in 1968 and is now displayed at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

The very next page in the journal appears to have been rebound out of order because it is a summary list of 18 whales taken by the ship Atlas from July 23 1830 to December 1830. Although Austin made no journal entries from July to September 1830, he lists a whale taken on July 23, coordinates close to Cape Verde off of Africa. On the backside of this page is an account of new sails for an unidentified ship in 1832. The page order is confused; instead of rebinding perhaps Austin just left a blank page here and then returned later to add additional information.

5. “A Journal of a Whale Cruise in the South Atlantic in the Ship Atlas of Lynn, Mr. S H Gardiner [New Bedford whaling database has “Gardner”] Master.” First entry September 10 1830, the ship was near Tristan da Cunha in the center of the South Atlantic; last entry January 10, 1831, still sailing in very much the same location. There are no daily entries describing when the ship left Lynn or when it returned. (I have not read all of every page.) These details match a voyage listed in the New Bedford museum database from Lynn in 1830, WRI AV01367. History of the American Whale Fisheries also lists this voyage starting from Lynn on June 26 1830, returning 1830 or 1831. Also, that the ship was purchased from New York in 1830.

There are no crew lists in this entire journal but there are occasional lists of $ accounts of individuals, presumably debts of the crew. These 5 voyage dates and ships match the New Bedford whaling Museum database. Also, the database shows the actual logs exist at other institutions for two of the voyages, leading us to identify this document as a journal rather than a log.

In 1832 and 1833 Austin is no longer making any daily journal entries. The last five pages of the journal are all $ accounts with dates from 1831 to September 1833. This is significant because in June of 1832 he started a new voyage from Norwich Ct. as Capt. Herrick.

“Here ends this Journal.”

But the story continues; the ship Atlas makes additional voyages from Lynn in 1832, 1833, 1834 without Austin. Austin Herrick becomes master of ship Atlas of Norwich Connecticut, starting June 25, 1832, returning May 9, 1834. See Chapter 4. We can only conclude that there were two different ships Atlas and that Austin went from keeping a journal on the first out of Lynn in 1830 to being master on the second out of Norwich in 1832! Also See Chapter 7, Database.

Catalogue listing for 1828 Logbook at the Library of Congress

The Journal, First page

The journal was in the Herrick family papers with no label as to its author or origin. At the start of the 21st century the family did not even have any oral history about the journal. The journal’s entire 276 pages, from 1824 to 1832, are all written in one unique handwriting, but who was the author?

Austin’s journal October 1825

The name Austin Herrick appears in only once, toward the middle of the journal, shown above. This handwriting matches the handwriting in the rest of the journal.

Below is a separate 1833 letter with Austin Herrick's signature. The writing matches! This proves the journal was written by Austin Herrick.

Austin’s 1833 letter from ship Atlas

A typical journal page: “ Friday, December 3 [1824] … Saw one whale. Lowered the boats and struck her killd her and cut her in...”


Chapter 4 Austin becomes Captain Letters home, and sad news from faraway seas, 1832

After 16 years at sea Austin was ready to be master of his own vessel. It might be assumed he would sail out of the bustling whaling port of Sag Harbor; but opportunities continued to present themselves elsewhere. An initial search of Sag Harbor waling records finds nothing about Austin. Why not? One reason, perhaps, many of Sag Harbor’s records were lost in a fire some years ago. The Herrick family oral history reveres Austin as a whaling captain, but their papers also have nothing about his years as a captain. Fortunately, the New Bedford Whaling Museum has assembled a very complete database and Austin's next voyage is well documented. He sailed the ship Atlas from Norwich Connecticut June 25, 1832 and returned May 5, 1834. Interestingly this is a different ship Atlas than he previously sailed from Lynn Massachusetts. See Chapter 7 for details. The Southampton History Museum has three original letters written from this voyage. Two are by crewmember James Harvey Foster, age 22, and one is by Captain Herrick.

In addition at the end of this chapter see the 1833 map of the Cape of Good Hope from this voyage.

1. Letter from James H. Foster to his parents James Foster & Phebe Cook Foster

Letter transcribed by Hilary Herrick Woodward. [Brackets] are transcribers additions. The handwriting is reasonably good, but some of the presumed spellings may not be accurate.

On Board the Ship Atlas on the River Thames opset Gales Ferrey. About 5 miles from New London-- July the first 1832

Dear and Beloved Father I now take my pen in hand to inform you how I am and in what situation we are in. I am well and hope that these fue [few] lines will find you enjoyin[g] the same blesing. June 27 I wrote a letter to you but not knowing if you will get it or not I shal take the liberty to write a fue [few] lines to you. We started from Stod[d]ards bay on Friday the 28- Came as far as Gales Fery we run our ship a ground and here we have stade ever sens [ since] this morning. We cared[?] out our Cages and hold over where we now are mord. Hed and Stern redy for sea as soon as the wind shifts and is fare. we had very hard luck all way down the river working from sun to sun. O my Dear and beloved parents you little know what what sailors has to under go but I am well and very contented-- you little know how the Sab[b]ath is regarded. Here dome fishing and some orsting [oystering? resting?] and some howing [hoeing?] corn[?] and some not only some you will see most all over the river thames. Sale Boats out plesureng and braking the Sabath day O that these shores and these mountings and valles war filled with Mishennares [missionaries] and the word of eturnal life. Those pore soles little knows how swon[?] Thay are to go down to on His woe and punsehment. I have had No time for reading nor hardly time for shocal [social?] hour or prase [praise?]. Othat I could be with you to day I would give what I now possess but I am from Ill society and among some very wicked men and among some good men. Kanen [?]is not the man that I expected to find. Mr. Pain is a very smart man.

Captain Herrick has the patience of Jobe or he could not get along as he does for the ship is aground every now and then - we are dispointed in our under takings where ever we be but trials and perplescity[?] and difuculte and tempations are wating for us poor short sited Crechers [creatures]. I have been to Norwich twice to meting heard some very good sermons= Norwich is a very large place but they are yankies[?] and Now how to trade with folks. The ship oners [owner] is very Clever and oblegen [obliging?] pade for ourboard. I beleve that it has dun me good to go about among people. I have left my hat and short jacket and under jacket in the Care of Mr. Stodard. The are Pios [pious] people and very clever in deed. Corneals is well and sends his respect to all enquiring friends is very contented. I hope that you will get the other leter and this also that other leter was wrote in a great hurry expecting Captian Sain [?] would carret[?] but he went by and did not stop so I do not know whether will get it or no but I hope you will and this Allso. You must Escuse this bad writing and this spelling give my love to the gerls and enquiring friends. Hope that you willall get alongwith your work and all your under takings hoping that you will be prospered. I reseved your leters and thank you for them. And the good advise that was in them. I must bid you good by. Good by. This is from your Sun James H Foster

2. Letter from James H. Foster to his parents Letter transcribed by Hilary Herrick Woodward. [Brackets]are transcribers additions. The handwriting is reasonably good, but some of the presumed spellings may not be accurate. At sea on board the ship Atlas of Norwich February the 23rd..1833 In the Latitude 42..30 Longitude 5..20

Dear beloved Father and Mother I now take it in contemplation to wright a fue lines to you by way of the Marcus of Sag Harbor [this boat must have been headed back.] Dear Father I think a great deal about home so by this opportunity I must inform you that I am well and hope that this letter will find you all enjoying the same blessing….I have ben by the Mercy of God well in health. During all the time that I have been tested[?] up on the Wicked[?] Elements of the deap. I have reason to be thankful for so many mercys that my redeemer has brought me through. My mind and thoughts is all most constantly on home. I make them none to no[?] one but that All seaing eye who is every where presant I must now turn and tell you something about our voyage for we have had as hard luck as any poor whale man ever had then has bin but a fue whales where we have been. We have had dreadful rugged weather. It is not because we have not got good offierces nor becaus we have not good boat sterrers. Some will think that we have not got whale men because we have not got a voyage[?] But I will tell you that we have got as good whale men as need to be we have been Crusing where we got whale last year but this season the whale is very scarce. Near us a number of ships that has got full and gone home. Those ships found whales in the latitude 32..15 (south) Long 8 east. And the four first months we cruised for whale from 9 west to the merredian and in the latitudes 35 and 36 and 37. The other 2 months we have been in the latitude 42 and 45 south and 5 west saw some whale here but we do not have any good weather we lay too under cloest[?] -reeft mane top sail day after day and sometimes for weaks. We have chased a good many whale and have chased all weathers (moest-west?) but after we board the boats we saw no more whales had very hard luck in giting hold of whale. What whale we have got we have killed very quick; it seems as tho thar was no whale for us. Captain Herrick is a very fine man. He has got the pashiants of Job if he could never have bore it with fortitude as he has don, but we can not help it for we have had hard luck- Now I will tell you one surcomstance which happened to us December the 21 we board the Botes as yousal and went of and chased some time. Finely Mr. Raynor struck the whale. The whale run about 20 rods then brot[?]-too one rold fin out.

Thay immeately hold[?] up to the whal but the whale went down had the Appearrence of sounding tool[?] . About he took About 15 fathoms of line then the whale turned under water and came up very quick and breach onto the boat and kild poor Gorge Pelletreau we do expect instantly for the Boat upset and he went down never to rise any more heare in this world. Mr. Raynor was very much hurt has bin lade up not able to go in the botes for beter than 5 weaks the rest of the crew scaped unhurt. George was at the bough, Mr. Raynor was in the head of the bote. You can not tell how we felt when thar was one taken from our number for a few days it had quite an impresshion on our crew. Poor George was a fine young man. Was a good deal of Company for me. He talked about religion a good deal. I believe that he had a change of hart he is very much mist with us. I am sorry to tell you that we do not expect to go home this season O father do not worry about me for I am in the hands of that God who is every whar present. I think a good deal about home and what you have to do thar and I am hear spending a good deal of time. whar I can not give you any assistance I hope that I shal return wonce more to my dear native shoar. I tell you dear parents that I shal stay with you if you will permit a prodical to return once more under your roof. I think that I shal not worry anymore about giting anything All that I ask is one small place in your kitchen. We do expect to leeve here whar we are now and go round the Cape of Good Hope to Madegascer and into Moisembek Channel Crusing for Sperm Whale hoping by the mercy of God that we shall go home by next fall. We have put in eleven Whale which has made moest 700 barrels. The crew is all well now but everyone wants to go home but Captain Herrick thinks that it wont do to go home with so little oil.

Our ship is poorty[?] good all but the riggin that is very poor. Franklin seas that I must write a word for him he is a sick of whaleing. But is well, Groes[?] fast and is a smart man on board goes in the botes steady and roes hard most All the day he is good companey for me seas that he thinks a good deal about home sends his love to all his friends and relations tries to git along and put up with the hard luck that we have.

Dear Mother I think of you when I go to my chest and sea what you have dun for me. I never shal repay you for what you have dun for me. Mother I have got Cloes to last me another year if we do stay. O in mercy remember me all of you dear cister I love you and I thank you for your cindness.

Isaac and Albert

How much I do think about you Isaac do go to school give my love to all enquiran frends and do pray for me I can not write any longer. Here is a good by. James H. Foster

3. Letter from Capt. Austin Herrick to Mr. James Foster: his son has died at sea.

Letter transcribed by Hilary Herrick Woodward [Brackets] are transcribers additions.

Simons Bay Cape of Good Hope September 21, 1833

Dear & respected Friend

It becomes my most painful duty to apprise you of a most Afflicting dispensation of Gods Holy providence which has lately taken plase …..I seem to shrink back from the painful task when I attempt to pen it. But so it is ~ my Dear Sir. Our Heavenly Father does not afflict willingly------------your dear son James Hervey is no more he died on the 27th of August of a lingering complaint. I think Consumption. Last April we went into Madagascar to wood & water & also refreshments & after leaving a number of our crew were attacked with Fever and Ague. I had a slight attack myself – but Hervery & John Woolley was attackd more violently- Johns Case I thought was Dangerous but he soon got relief. but Hervey was quite sick for Some Length of time. he however got better and was Soon about. I kept him in the Cabin a long time & did everything for him that Coud be done.

I Supposed he was nearly well but Still was debilitated. I frequently told him it was my wish that he Should remain in the Cabin where I Could have him more under my Care & he could be more Comfortable - but he got better and chose to go forward & do his Duty. I often told him it was not my wish for him to do anything Nor expose himself in the least & many times asked him to come back & live with me & I would do for him all that was in my power but he said he felt well except weak & feeble. & he was very ambitious & did not like to give way & was gaining Daily. but I soon found he was not able to do anything & at length forbid him. but he never Complained about any thing more than weekness & a Cough. He had not said much until a few Days of his Death. I had not an Idea that he was Dangerous & thought if I got in he would Soon get well.

But alas our hops were soon cut off. This has been an afflicting event to me. But my Dear friend how must your heart bleed as you who are a parent when you hear of the Death of a beloved child. My heart bleed for you. Be assured I deeply simpathise with you -. He was much respected & beloved by all the Crew. He was a kind friend & often when I lay almost at the brink of the grave did Come down to se me & administer to my wants. but alas he is gone. O may God make up this loss to you & your beloved Consort & Dear Surviving Children in the enjoyment of himself. I should be glad to write more at length- but the vessel by which this goes is on the point of Sailing & I must therefore Close. for a statement of my own misfortunes & sickness. I shall refer you to my brother to whoom I have written mor at length- please Give my respects to Mrs. Foster & your dear children & believe me your Sincere Simpathising Friend Austin Herrick

Austin’s map of Cape of Good Hope Did he draw it?

The name Austin Herrick appears nowhere on the attached map of Cape of Good Hope but it clearly has his handwriting. The map label matches Austin’s letter to James Foster written from the Cape of Good Hope September 21, 1833.

The Map Label
Austin's Letter

The letter also verifies he was in Simon’s Bay, which is also visible on the detail below.

But even on this this detail “Cape of Good Hope” matches his writing.

Perhaps Austin only wrote the map header while someone else did the cartography and detail labeling? Also, compare the current aerial photo--- the map is so accurate! The map is clearly by a skilled cartographer who spent some time in the area. There are no other maps attributed to Austin.

Conclusion? The map was Austin’s but he did not draw it.

Below images are orientated so the top of the images are East.

Austin's Map
Aerial image from Google Maps

Chapter 5

Austin retires whaling

Settles down in Southampton, 1835

Why did Austin Herrick retire from whaling after his 1832- 1834 voyage? At age 38 He was young enough to continue working, and the whaling industry was at its peak. Although the whale boat owners made the most money from whaling the captains also earned well and were highly respected.

The attached 1924 article from the Brooklyn Times Union describes the most likely reason for Austin’s retirement, insistence from the Shipping Board that he whale seven days a week. According to the article Austin's crew complained at the end of his voyage that he wouldn't let them catch whales on Sunday. Mary Ann Herrick, Austin's daughter quotes her father, "I owe allegiance to a higher than human law and cannot break my [religious] pledge."

The newspaper article concludes, "He lost his ship." Unfortunately, no detail accounts of this story have been found in the Herrick family papers. Note also the anthropomorphic humor: the whales knew the ship Atlas wouldn't be hunting on Sundays and therefore they "played around." more on Sundays.

Austin lost no time setting up his new life in Southampton.

March 17, 1835 Austin married Mary Wells Jagger of Southampton, the apple of his eye from earlier years. See Chapter 2. He was 38 and she was 26. Mary was born in Southampton October 12 1808, one of seven children of Samuel Jagger and Deborah Howell.

In 1914 Austin's daughter Mary Ann started writing a long letter to her son about the family heritage. Here is an excerpt from the letter (as typed in the 1930’s ?) about Austin and his new wife.

April 10, 1835 Austin purchased 17 N. Main St. for $1000 and did extensive work on the approximately 70-year-old house. Among other things, the house had been used as the commissary for the British troops during the Revolutionary war.

There was a small store attached to the south of the house. Austin ran it as a general store. Chace’s 1858 Southampton map includes a label at 17 N. Main St.- "A Herrick's Store." See Chapter 6 for details.

Son Samuel Edward Herrick was born 4/5/1841. Why did six years pass from Austin and Mary’s marriage to their first child? We will probably never know. Samuel attended Amherst College and Princeton theological seminary. He married and had one daughter, Margaret. He was the esteemed pastor of the Mount Vernon Church in Boston, Massachusetts for 33 years. Samuel died in Boston 12/4/1904

Austin and Mary Wells begat daughter Mary Ann Herrick March 23,1846.

Handmade stepstool. Carved “A. Herrick” Date unknown.

Austin was an elder of the Southampton Presbyterian Church. Attached are two accounts of a notable event in Austin's life. Once again, the details of the story have become inconsistent with time, but the essence of the story is quite clear. Rev. William Cleveland at the Southampton Presbyterian Church was giving a pro-slavery sermon: Southampton’s residents "could do nothing better for the black race than to build and equip a ship to enter the African slave trade." Austin made a significant protest; during the sermon (or the next day) he boldly walked out of the church. The Southampton Press version of the story says Rev Cleveland. "soon after resigned his charge." But in fact, the Rev. kept his post until 1863, whereas Austin passed away in 1862. Church records have not been found that might confirm the circumstances of the Rev.'s departure.

Southampton's extensive early town records are digitally searchable. Search for Austin finds nothing major, but various entries in the record during the 1840s show him named as “Collector,” “Sealer,” and “Town Trustee.”

Austin died on September 4, 1862, age 66. He rests in peace across the street from the family home.

Wife Mary Jagger Herrick was 54. Daughter Mary Ann Herrick was 16. She lived another 65 years after the passing of her father.

Austin's wife, Mary Jagger Herrick died May 10, 1881, age 73.

A short time later, October 13, 1881, daughter Mary Ann wed Henry Foster Herrick. She is age 35 and he is age 34. She has just inherited 17 N. Main St.; the bride and groom make it their home. Henry is Mary Ann’s distant relative, fourth cousin.

In 1869 Henry had purchased a general merchandise business on Main Street which later becomes “Herrick Hardware.” For details on Austin and Henry’s respective stores See Chapter 6.

Mary Ann and Henry have two children. Daughter Esther died in 1884, age three months. Son John Austin Herrick was born July 7, 1885. Mary Ann is 39.

Austin’s Daughter Mary Ann Herrick at the 17 N. Main St. gate with her son, Austin’s grandson, John Austin Herrick ca.1893.

Mary Ann died September 15, 1927, 81 years old.

John Austin died December 26, 1969, 84 years old.


Chapter 6

The Story of Herrick Hardware

Yes, there were 2 separate Herrick stores in Southampton

Austin Herrick gave up his prestigious occupation as whale ship captain in 1834. See Chapter 5. Quick to settle down, he marries Mary Wells Jagger on March 17, 1835 and on April 10, 1835 he spends the substantial sum of $1000 to purchase the well-built ca.1765 gambrel style house on N. Main St. The house remains in the family to this day. As described in the purchase deed between Austin and Mr. Joseph Doane, the property comes with a store.

Also reserving the store for one year from the 10th June next to Frederick Howell and the privilege of removing from the premises a small building adjoining said store according to the terms a contract executed by me to said Frederick Howell”

The Herrick family papers include very little about this store. But in her long family heritage letter (excerpt above) Austin's daughter Mary Ann describes that Austin “decided” to "keep store." Her phrasing almost implies that his was a casual decision influenced because there already was a store attached to the house.

Small-town stores in the 1800s often sold a variety of merchandise. The receipt here shows A. Herrick buying supplies for the store from a New York City confectioner.

Here is a bigger purchase in 1838 of fabrics including flannel and gingham.

The Herrick house is strategically located at the intersection of North Main Street and North Sea Road. The 1858 Chase map above shows the property labeled "A. Herrick's Store."

Austin passed away September 4, 1862. There is no record concerning the status of his store. Perhaps Austin’s wife and/or daughter ran the store for a few years, but there is no evidence in family papers. Again, in her 1914 family heritage letter about the family home Austin's daughter wrote:

The earliest photo of the house is labeled 1862, but it is likely it was somewhat later. The house faces east onto North Main St. The store faces south, overlooking the North Sea Rd. intersection.

A photo later in the 1800’s shows the store building has been removed and a bay window added to the south parlor. The picket fence is extended around the yard south of the house, indicating it is now private.

Austin’s wife Mary W. Herrick passed away May 10, 1881, age 72.

It is often assumed that Austin's 1835 store became "Herrick Hardware", a favorite emporium on Main Street to this day.

But no...

Austin's daughter, Mary Ann Herrick, wed Henry Foster Herrick October 13, 1881. She is 35 years old and has just inherited the N. Main St. family home where the bride and groom start their life together.

Henry Foster Herrick was born February 2nd 1847 at his family home at 20 S, Main St. Southampton. Henry is Mary Ann's distant relative, her fourth cousin.

He started working for Charles Parsons in 1866, age 19. Parsons was postmaster and ran a general merchandise business on Main Street. Note, the 1858 Chase map above labels the property in the middle of Main Street: "Store and P.O.-- C. Parsons"

Handwritten notes by Henry Foster Herrick’s son John Austin Herrick tell that Henry bought the Main St. business from Parsons in 1869. Soon after, Henry was also appointed postmaster.

Perhaps one of the gentlemen posing in front of the store in the photo below is Henry himself? The photo must date between 1869 and 1876 because in 1876 an entirely new building was built on the same piece of land.

So, was there a connection with Austin's store? Most probably not, because:

  • Henry was only 15 years old when Austin passed away in 1862.

  • Henry worked in Parsons store starting when he was age 19, 1866.

  • Henry and Mary Ann’s son John Herrick’s writing about the history of the store makes no mention of Austin's store.

Gradually Henry’s Main St. store transforms from a general store to a hardware store, the well known and highly esteemed "Herrick Hardware."

H. F. Herrick Store, 1895 Henry Herrick is 48, John Herrick is 10


Chapter 7 Details of Austin Herrick's 1830 and 1832 whaling voyages. Austin sailing on two different ships named Atlas.

Atlas of Lynn (Vessel ASO926) and Atlas of New London/ Norwich (Vessel AS0930)

Data for this chapter comes from:

Austin Herrick sailed on the ship Atlas from Lynn, Massachusetts 1830-1831. He also sailed on the ship Atlas from Norwich, Connecticut 1832-1834. Logical assumption---it was the same Atlas on each voyage? No, the record shows these were two different ships!

Atlas, Showing 5 Voyages from Lynn Massachusetts, Vessel AS0926

The vessel database AS0926 (copy above) shows that Atlas made five separate voyages from Lynn Massachusetts starting in 1830. First, Austin's whaling journal details the 1830 Atlas voyage and confirms Stephen H. Gardiner as master. American Whale Fishery confirms the ship sailed from Lynn on June 26, 1830; Austin’s journal lists 16 whales killed on this voyage including one July 23 1830 near the Cape Verde Islands. For some reason the daily entries in Austin's journal don’t start until September 10 1830, near Tristan de Cunha, a very remote island in the South Atlantic. Last entry is January 10, 1831, with essentially the same coordinates.

The second Atlas voyage from Lynn was 1831. The listed vessel is also AS0926. History of the American Whale Fisheries lists this voyage starting on May 25 1831, returning 1831 or 1832. There is no mention of Austin on this voyage.

Third is the 1832 voyage of Atlas from Lynn. The listed vessel is still AS0926. American Whale Fisheries lists this voyage starting on June 8, 1832 returning April 12, 1833. There is also no mention of Austin on this voyage.

Atlas, 1831 Voyage from Lynn Massachusetts, Vessel AS0926

Atlas, 1832-1833 Voyage from Lynn Massachusetts, Vessel AS0926

So, what about Austin sailing on the Atlas in 1832?

Yes, confirms Austin Herrick as master on the Atlas (vessel database AS0930) sailing from Norwich Ct 6/22/1832 returning 5/9/1834. Three original letters from 1833 support this. One letter is from a crew member on board referring to "Atlas of Norwich" and "Capt. Austin Herrick." Another letter is from Austin Herrick reporting that crew members death to his family. See Chapter 4.

Interestingly, although Austin’s journal does not include the 1832/1834 voyage, it does include some $ accounts, dated 1832 and 1833. These are written starting on the same page as the Jan 10 1831 journal entry. In other words, he makes his last daily journal entry, and then starts writing some dollar accounts which he continues for 1832 and 1833. Is it safe to say that he continued using his same journal book even when he became master in 1832 on the other ship Atlas sailing from Norwich?

Atlas, Showing 6 Voyages from Norwich or New London, Vessel AS0930

The Atlas, database Vessel AS0930, sailing from Norwich/New London is listed as making six voyages. Austin was only on the 1832-1834 voyage.

The database includes a few personal details recorded nowhere else, even in the family papers. Note entries below: his height at 5'10" tall with dark complexion and dark hair.

Also note below the crew list for this voyage. This list did not exist in the Herrick family papers nor the Southampton History Museum, nor the Sag Harbor historical collections. Included on the crew list is James Foster, who wrote the letters home and then died on this voyage. See Chapter 4.

Even though the ship sailed from Connecticut many of the crew members were residents of Southampton. The Atlas sailed again the next year with a new master and none of the crew were from Southampton. See Chapter 5, "Austin retires whaling."

Note also the crew list confirms the crew to be racially diverse.

This crew list was compiled by the Mystic Maritime Museum from customs house collector’s records for New London and Norwich whale ship voyages. There was bureaucracy even in 1832. Before departure, the ship had to submit a crew list and a $400 bond. Immediately upon returning they had to account for all crew as either present, deceased, or deserted.

History of the American Whale Fisheries has no mention of the Atlas 1832 Norwich voyage nor of Austin Herrick. We know of no reason why. This does explain, though, why previous searches locally came up with no information on Austin Herrick as whaleboat captain. Thank you Mystic Maritime Museum and New Bedford Whaling Museum for compiling such abundant information!

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