Modern history

Epilogue 1

William Fish Williams made a fourth whaling voyage with his father as captain, shipping aboard the Florence, as a boatsteerer, from December 25, 1873, to November 12, 1874, sailing from San Francisco to the Sea of Okhotsk and back. At the end of that voyage, Willie, aged fifteen, decided he had had enough of the sea and wanted instead to become an engineer. He entered the School of Mines at Columbia University, in New York, in 1878, and in 1881 earned the degree of civil engineer. In 1882 he earned the further degree of engineer of mines. He worked as a mining engineer, far from the sea, in several places in the United States, but eventually settled in New Bedford, where he became the first city engineer. He wrote several accounts of his voyages as a boy aboard whaling ships. Williams died at home in New Bedford in 1929, at the age of seventy.


HIS FATHER, Captain Thomas William Williams, continued whaling in the Arctic until 1879. That summer, on his last voyage, aboard the bark Francis Palmer, he carried on deck a small steam launch in which he chased whales at speed through the ice. “He would be gone for days at a time,” wrote his son Willie, “and suffered hardships from exposure, poor food, and water, beside worries which broke his health.” He died at home in Oakland the following summer, in August 1880.

Eliza and her daughter Mary returned to Wethersfield, Connecticut, where Eliza died in 1885.

MATTHEW’S SON, Dick—Richard Smith Howland—finally found the right outlet for his talents. In 1884, his wife Mary’s uncle died and left her a large amount of stock in the profitable Providence Journal Company, publisher of the Journal and Bulletin newspapers in Providence. Dick, Mary, and their five children returned east to the city in 1885, and eventually Dick became manager of the Providence Journal Company. According to the centennial history of the Journal, published in 1962, his twenty-year stint as manager was a happy one. Circulation and income climbed.

Morrie never made a success as a businessman. He accepted Dick’s offer of a job as the Journal ’s book review editor. Dick also moved his mother, Rachel, to Providence, where she lived until her death in 1902. In 1905, Dick left his position at the Providence Journal Company and moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where he bought local railroad, quarrying, and textile stocks. With Dick gone, Morrie was let go from the Journal and joined his brother in Asheville, as his bookkeeper. The two retired and died in Jacksonville, Florida.

George Howland, Jr., died in 1892, outliving his younger half brother, Matthew, by eight years, and his wife, Sylvia, by two. Four years before his death he was forced to sell his mansion on Sixth Street, in which he had lived for more than half a century. He died penniless, but he had seen worse than the loss of his wealth. George’s three children, sons, had all died before him, two as infants, and the third at the age of twenty-eight, in 1861, more than thirty years before his father.

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