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The Art of Love


(Southampton History Museum Collection)

There is no denying that James Killeen was madly in love with one of the daughters of Captain James Green. Although the story of James Killeen is apparently lost to history, we know that James Green was a successful whaling Captain from Southampton. Born about 1811, the Captain was part of a whaling family that sailed out of Sag Harbor, including four brothers serving as Captains and a sister who married Captain Mercator Cooper (the first American to formally visit Japan). James was a tall man, nearly 6 feet, with blue eyes. He had several successful voyages, but by 1860, the whaling industry in Sag Harbor was declining. As the nation was engaged in a great Civil War, the then 51 year-old Captain volunteered to join the 2nd New York Cavalry as a Private in 1862. He returned home in 1865, after serving as a hospital steward. But whaling was in his blood and James went to back to sea in December 1865. Perhaps he missed the sea, or perhaps he needed the money. In any case, James set out from New Bedford on the Janus II and would not return.


In the meantime, James Killeen became acquainted with the Captain's daughter Ella. It is uncertain how they met, but James fell madly in love. As an expression of his affection, he sketched this lovely drawing of Ella's home (on what is today Culver Street) in Southampton and gave it to her for her 20th birthday in May 1870.

Detail from Atlas of Long Island by F. W. Beers , 1873. (Southhampton History Museum)

In the sketch, a well dressed woman (possibly Ella?) stands outside the house's fence.

While a solitary figure (maybe James?) is standing at a respectful distance in the road, with Jobs Lane in the distance.

What happened between Mr. Killeen and Miss Green is unknown, but their courtship did not last. Captain Green died at sea on October 20, 1870 and the family's fortunes declined, resulting in their home being foreclosed in 1873. In February, 1879, Ella married John Eldridge (a farmer ten years her senior) and in 1880 they were living with her widowed mother in Southampton. The family eventually moved to Southold, where John and Ella had a son, Leslie. John died in 1913 and Ella died in February 1935. They are buried together in Sag Harbor's Oakland Cemetery.

Detail from 1909 Suffolk County Map by E. Belcher Hyde (Southold Historical Society)

Although the relationship between Ella Green and James Killeen did not last, his love for her has endured through the years in his art.

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