.....There were two whaling ships registered in New Bedford with the name Frances. The subject of this article, referred to as "Frances II" or "Frances 2nd"(1) to differentiate it from an existing whaler Frances, was built in New York (perhaps Brooklyn) in 1824 and registered for the first time in New Bedford on 30 July 1831.(2) It was 368 tons, 105' long, 20' wide, 14' 1" deep. It had three masts and a female figurehead. The owners of record were William H. Allen, John Briggs, Gideon Allen, Timothy I. Dyre, Anthony D. Richmond,(5) John H. Coggeshall,(6) Joshua Richmond(7), John H. Clifford,(7.5) Samuel J. L. Vose,(7.75) Joseph H. Allen(8) and Thomas Allen 2nd.(9) Beginning on 2 September 1836, an advertisement in The New Bedford Mercury offers an eighth share of the ship and "appurtenances as she arrived discharged from her late voyage" by the "late" firm Coggeshall, Richmond & Vose. John Briggs was master between 1831 and 1840, followed by John's former 1st mate William A. Hussey in 1840. The ship may have been reconfigured or a new one built and named for the older vessel, since it was re-registered on 1 August 1845 as a bark with Allen & Briggs as primary owners. However, another reference to this registration leaves Briggs off the owner list. He may have been included in the first reference by mistake. He had moved to Rochester, NY, by then. The bark Frances burned off Mauritius in 1846.
John Briggs, master, voyage #1: left New Bedford about 1 August 1831 (crewlist entered 30 July, notice of clearance, 31 July issue of Mercury, for the So. Atlantic Ocean).(10) There is a logbook for this trip, which took them to Madagascar. The 27 April issue of the New York Spectator says it returned 22 April 1832 from the South Atlantic with 1400 barrels.
voyage #2: left New Bedford about 24 June 1832 (crewlist entered 30 July 1832. Notice of clearance, 29 June issue of Mercury, for the So. Atlantic Ocean). Frances was sighted off the island of "Tristan d'Acunha" (Tristão da Cunha, off the western coast of Southern Africa) on 12 September with no oil. The Frances log, excerpted on her return for the Mercury, says that the ship left Tristão da Cunha on 19 January with 900 barrels, "bound round the Cape."(10.25) Ship Hydaspe, on her return to New Bedford, noted that Frances had been "heard of" with 1600 barrels and was heading for the Indian Ocean.(10.5) Frances probably stayed in the South Atlantic after leaving Tristão da Cunha long enough to boost their production 700 barrles, then continued around the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean, perhaps in February. The 26 April issue of the Mercury says it returned 22 April 1833 from the South Atlantic and brought back 2000 barrels of oil.
voyage #3: left New Bedford about 6 June 1833 (crewlist entered 5 June, notice of a 6 June clearance in the 7 June issue of the Mercury). They were at St. Michael's and St. Jago in the Azores in July, "no oil - all well" and headed for the South Atlantic. (NBM 1/3/1834, p. 4 and 10/4/1833, p. 2, respectively) The ship Bramin reported that Frances had captured 10 whales by 30 October. (NBM 14 February 1834, p. 4) Two reports from ships say that the ship was heard from on 6 December with 1100 barrels, then on 22 December with 21 whales.(13) On 1 January 1834 he was sighted with 1500 barrels. Where isn't clear, but may have been in the St. Helena/Tristão da Cunha area.(14) He was at Rio de Janeiro on 19 May 1834, where one of his crewmen died in a hospital from injuries (NBM 11 July 1834 p1). He sold his cargo of oil and set sail on another cruise on 25 May. In "Memoirs Of The Life And Gospel Labors Of The Late Daniel Wheeler" (p. 291) Frances is mentioned as having been at Rio at this time, when John made the acquaintance of Wheeler, a Friends minister and missionary in the South Pacific. Wheeler recalled the event when he and John met again in Tahiti on 29 July 1835. This is confirmed by a news report that says John was at Tahiti 9 August 1835, bound for New Zealand, then to Chili, also in a report that Frances was southeast of New Zealand and headig for Tahiti on 25 June.(18) The previous February Frances was off the coast of Chile.(19) Ship Timolean reported her there with 300 barrels on 8 February and probably brought back a letter from Frances, referred to in The New York Spectator (9 July 1835), dated the next day, in which 350 barrels are mentioned. First mate William Topham requested a discharge in 1836 and was transferred to "the American ship Brandt." This was very likely the New Bedford whaler, Capt. Maxfield. Charles Darwin shadowed him that year in the Pacific, Beagle sailing around Cape Horn and up to Chile in the Spring, at the Galapagos in September, Tahiti in the late Fall and then New Zealand. Frances returned 14 August 1836. The Mercury (8/19) reports it brought 1900 barrels of oil, 600 of it from sperm whales, and had left Talcahuano on the 14th of May.
voyage #4: left New Bedford 6 December 1836 (crewlist entered 3 December, 6 December sailing reported in the 9 December issue of the Mercury for the Pacific Ocean), returned 26 June 1840 with 1310 barrels of oil, 950 of it sperm oil (NBM 3 July 1840 p1). Frances was reported at Valparaiso on 17 April 1837 with no oil (NBM 4 Aug 1837 p1). A Capt. Taber (of Maria Theresa?) said that he spoke with the ship off the Coast of Chile with 50 barrels (NBM 13 Oct 1837 p1). At Lima on 19 August, the desertion of two men was reported. They had 650 barrels by the time the were at Payta on 10 September to hire more men. They may have been at Callao.(NYS, 8 March 1838) By 25 November the crew had upped their catch by 800 barrels (NBM 23 Mar 1838 p3), and by 17 December, to 900 (reported at Payta, NBM 18 May 1838 p1). On 4 April 1838 the ship was in the Marquesas (Washington Islands) with 1000 barrels of oil (NBM 16 Nov 1838, p2). Crewmember Frederick Stevens died in August 1838, and on the 15th of that month, John B. Jones deserted while they were anchored off Tutuila Island (now a part of American Samoa). On the 18th Abram Knapp jumped off one of the whale boats, presumably while they were on a chase, off Savai'i (now an independant island in Samoa). The Columbus, Capt. Ray, arrived in New Bedford on 15 July 1839 carrying as freight 950 barrels of oil from Frances, probably transferred when both were at Talcahuano in mid April (NBM 19 July 1839 p1). It was also reported that Frances was headed for Valparaiso to hire men for another cruise. On 17 and 18 April 1839 Frances crossed paths with the United States Exploring Expedition, better known as the Wilkes Expedition, the mission of which was to document geography, natural resources and ethnology across the world in places largely unfamiliar to Americans. The ship Peacock was one of the vessels involved, and Titian Peale, one of the documenting artists, says in his journal that John Briggs approached them and came aboard their ship, then officers of Peacock went to Frances and brought back "island lances and shells." Although not mentioning Briggs by name, he refers to the number of months the ship had been at sea, the number of barrels the ship currently had and the amount sent home and the intent to go to Valparaiso. This leaves no doubt which ship Frances was referred to, aside from the fact that it could not have been the other Frances of New Bedford. The journal of Peacock captain William Hudson may reveal more. In expedition leader Charles Wilkes narrative, he summarizes Hudson's journal entry, saying they encountered Frances and offered medical assistance. It was probably in the summer of 1839 that the ship Swift saw Frances with 100 sperm and 1 right whale.(NYS, 27 February 1840) In the return notice he is said to have been at Valparaiso on 29 Jan 1840 and at Talcahuano on 1 April. The ship must have been cruising the Chilean coast in these months, since another report (NBM 1 May 1840 p1) says he was at Valparaiso on 3 February with 1250 barrels of oil, 900 of it sperm oil.
1. The other was captained by Obed Alley and Stephen C. Christian (Henry Crapo, The New Bedford Directory, etc., (New Bedford:1839) p. 44) in the 1830s, primary owner William R. Rotch and or James Arnold (ibid, pp. 96, 146).
2. Ship Registers of New Bedford, Massachusetts, vol. I (Boston:1940), p. 109
5. brass founder, 103 No. Water, New Bedford (Henry Crapo, The New Bedford Directory, etc., (New Bedford:1836) p. ), house 24 High.
6. house 81 Middle (ibid, p. 46); New Bedford (Henry Crapo, The New Bedford Directory, etc., (New Bedford:1839) p. 60) shipping house, 7 Rodman, house 90 Hillman.
7. dry goods, 31 No. Water, house 56 Fifth. (ibid), house 20 Seventh (the Elisha Thornton house), 1839.
7.5. (Colby & Clifford) house Orchard. Ibid. Colby (H.G.O.) & Clifford (John H.), counsellors and Notaries Public, office 29 North Water. Harrison G. O. Colby...house 66 Purchase.
7.75 (Samuel John Sprague Vose b. 1805, Augusta, ME, d. 1886, Lancaster, MA, or MI, m. 1839, Chester, MA, all from IGI) Samuel J. S. Vose, boards 13 South Sixth, co. Spring [Humphrey & Bethia Russell house], also Henry, clerk. Samuel was a a witness to Humphry Russell's codicil, written in 1831.
8. merchant, counting room 9 Hazzard's Wharf, house 58 Fifth. (ibid).
9. Thomas Allen, 2nd, & Co. (Joseph H. Perry), ship chandlers and grocers, 9 Hazzard's Wharf, house 86 First. Ibid
10. The New York Spectator, 4 February 1833.
10.5. Ibid, 18 April 1833. Mercury didn't report this, so Spectator got the news from a different NB paper.
10.25. Ibid, 24 April 1833.
13. New Bedford Mercury, 7 March 1834, p. 4 and The New York Spectator, 17 March 1834.
14. The New York Spectator, 31 March 1834.
17. The New Bedford Mercury, 19 February 1836.
19. Ibid, 9 July 1835.