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Augustus Hemenway was one of the most influential merchants of Boston. He was born in Salem in 1805, and like many boys of that period he was obliged to go to work when he was very young. His first position was as clerk in a small dry-goods store in Charles­town, and later he was employed by Benjamin Bangs & Co., going out as supercargo in their vessels. When he was fifteen years old, it is recorded, he was earning $60 a year and his board. With the Bangs firm he began trading for himself in a small way with the seacoast towns in Maine, then he branched out to the West Indies, and by 1836 he was in business for himself under the firm name of A. Hemen­way & Co. He owned eight large ships, which he built for his own business, under his own orders, and which plied to and from Val­paraiso, where he had his own warehouse and stores. The names of these vessels were "City of Valparaiso," "City of Santiago," "Inde­pendence," "Magellan," "San Carlos," "Prospero," "Sunbeam," and "Quintero." He also owned the entire cargoes which consisted of what­ever American products he considered would be salable on the west coast of South America, -- soap, candles, kerosene, refined sugar, boots, shoes, etc.; lathes, shovels, picks, and other tools and machines, woollen and cotton cloth; sewing-machines, organs, pianos, furniture, and other manufactures. For the homeward voyages the ships were loaded with copper ore, nitrate of soda, wool, hides, goatskins, etc. As all the cargo belonged to him, he never had to advertise for freight.

One of his captains said that when his crew was taken on board in Boston, one of them was very drunk and noisy, whereupon the mate told him to stop his noise and go below. The man made some insulting reply, whereupon the mate seized a belaying pin, struck him a heavy blow on the head which brought the blood over his face, and knocked him senseless to the deck. a lady passenger, who saw it, was horrified at the sight, and hastened to the cabin. a few days later, when the ship had sailed, this lady came on deck and observ­ing the man who had been belabored, at the wheel, steering the ship, exclaimed, "Oh, my good man, how is your head?" The man glanced at the compass and replied absent-mindedly to the puzzled lady, "East-north-east-half-east, Madam."


From a photograph Kindness of Augustus Hemenway, Jr.


One of the most influential merchants of Boston. He was chiefly interested in the Valparaiso trade.

Another captain brought home from Valparaiso a French ship­master whose vessel had been sold. He had with his baggage a quantity of fine French brandy. On the last day of the discharge of the cargo the Frenchman invited the custom-house officer on hoard to take a glass of this brandy, which the officer said was the finest he had ever tasted. The Frenchman asked if he would consider it a good thing to have in the house, and asked for a memorandum of his residence. Soon after that a man came from the cabin with a half-dozen bottles in a basket and started for the shore. Of course, the officer could not see goods taken ashore until the duty was paid, so he looked the other way. When he went home that night he was surprised and disappointed at not finding the brandy there and dis­covered a few days later that the address given to the man with the basket was that of one of the Frenchman's friends, and not his own address. The custom-house official could not say anything about the incident without showing his neglect of duty in allowing the brandy to be landed.

Mr. Hemenway's quiet manner of managing his affairs was appre­ciated by every one. One day the stevedores' engine, at work on the wharf, threw off a mass of soot which was blown into the office windows, covering the desks and papers. Mr. Hemenway spoke to the wharfinger about it, who must have been a punster, for he replied, "I am very sorry; we are always trying to suit you," and then proceeded with his work.

Besides his Valparaiso business Augustus Hemenway owned an entire township in Maine, where he procured pine-trees, floating the logs down to his own saw-mill at Machias. Here they were cut into boards and loaded on his schooners for Cuba, where he owned a large plantation and sugar-mill, in which he took a great interest. One winter evening, while on his way from Sagua to the St. George estate, Mr. Hemenway was captured by insurgents and held for ransom. The manager of the estate, who was with him, was very much terrified, but Mr. Hemenway showed no fear whatever and passed a good part of the night sitting on a log, smoking cigars, and endeavoring to beat down the exorbitant demands made for his ransom, in which he was largely successful. At daybreak he sent his manager, Mr. Bartlett, to the bank, in Sagua, for the necessary funds, paid his ransom, then went quietly on his way. Absolute fearlessness was one of his strongest characteristics. After this adventure, how­ever, he made it a point to go by train from Sagua to the estate.

Mr. Hemenway was an industrious, quiet, and unassuming gentle­man, and was a most successful merchant. He was so conscientious about his business that he was seldom willing to leave details to others. sometimes even superintending the loading of his vessels. He married Mary Tileston, the daughter of Thomas Tileston of New York, who was one of the foremost merchants of that city From 1820 until his death in the late sixties.

There was another Hemenway in the family who was a noted captain, and it was said of him that he was such a good pilot that he could "take a ship to the White Mountains, gather a freight of cool air and return on time with his eyes shut."


From a photograph       Kindness of B. C. Bradlee



From a photograph       Kindness of B. C. Bradlee



From a painting owned by Barclay Tilton,  Esq.


The Tilton firm has had offices in the same location, 10 Central Wharf, -- now to Milk Street, -- since 1830. The ships of the firm used to dock opposite the counting-house.



The firm of Stephen Tilton & Co. was composed of Stephen and his two sons, Stephen, Jr., and Joseph B. Tilton, the latter the father of Barclay Tilton, and their offices since 1830 have been at the same location, formerly 10 Central Wharf, now 10 Milk Street. The old sign over the door is still there, although no longer legible. The firm had started business a few years before in Newburyport. The ships of the firm used to dock right opposite the "counting-room," the dock itself being situated where the present Chamber of Commerce is. Central Wharf in the early days was the continuation of what is now Milk Street, below India Street. The Tilton firm at first traded with the West Indies and later with Calcutta, where some of the cousins and uncles lived as agents, handling chiefly tobacco sent out there from Virginia. The two best known of their ships were the "Dashing Wave" and "Water Witch." When the "Dashing Wave" was converted into a barge a shot from the Confederate cruiser "Ala­bama" was found in her timbers. At present writing she is still used as a barge. The logs of the firm's ships were found in the offices at 10 Central Wharf.

The grandfather and uncle of Stephen Tilton had a thrilling ex­perience with some Penobscot Indians, which is most interesting, and which has been described in "A Brief Narrative or Poem, giving an account of the hostile Actions of Some Pagan Indians towards Lieu­tenant Jacob Tilton, and his brother Daniel Tilton, both of the town of Ipswich, as they were on board of a small vessel at the Eastward; which happened in the summer-time, in the year 1722. With an ac­count of the Valiant Exploits of the said Tiltons, and their victorious Conquest over their insulting enemies." This narrative was discovered stowed away in the Newburyport Town Hall.

The two Tilton brothers went off on a fishing voyage, and, to quote the first few lines of this poem: --

"Down at an eastward harbour call'd Fox Bay,*
They in a Schooner at an anchor lay,
It was upon the fourteenth day of June,
Six stout great Indians in the afternoon
In two Canoes on board said Schooner came,
With painted faces in a churlish frame."
*Fox Bay was undoubtedly North Haven.

The warriors ran down into the cabin and demanded to know the reason why the white men retained one of their Indians as a hostage, to which Lieutenant Tilton expostulated that

"Great while since we from Boston hither came
We poor fishermen are not to blame."

The Indians with considerable difficulty then managed to bind their two captives, and danced around them, flourishing their long knives. Presently two of their number rowed ashore to carry back the good news of the capture, leaving on guard the other four, who felt so certain that they had their prisoners secure, that they left them and began to plunder the ship of all food and valuables on board. The following lines plainly describe what ensued:­

"While they were plundering so busily,
He saw a splitting knife that was near by,
To which he goes and turns his back about
Eyeing them well, lest they should find him out:
And so he works said knife into his hand,
With which he cuts his line, but still doth stand.
Although two of said Indians him ey'd,
They did not know but he remained fast ty'd.
Two of said Indians were, plundering,
Down the Forecastle while he did this thing,
The other two so watchful and so sly,
And on him kept a constant Indian eye,
That he stands still waiting till he could find
A time when they did him not so much mind;
But when for plunder they to searching goes,
Then his contrivance presently he shows:
He to his brother Jacob runs with speed,
And cuts his line; now both of them are freed.
The Indians now alarmed, hereby,
In Indian language, made a hideous cry:
Crying Chau hau, chau hau; for they espy'd,
That both these Englishmen were got unty'd;
Like roaring Lyons with an ax and knives
Made violent assaults to take their lives;
But God who had determined to save,
Undaunted courage unto them He gave;
That they with such a manly confidence.
Altho' unarm'd stood in their own defence;
And tho', they had from these blood-thirsty hounds
Received many dismal stabs and wounds,
While in their skirmish blood was up and hot,
No more than Flea bites them they minded not,
Said Daniel still retained his splitting knife,
Who nimbly ply'd the same and fit for life;
With one hand fended off the Indian blows,
And with the other crossed the face and nose
Of Captain Sam, until his pagan head
Was chop'd and gash'd, and so much mangled;
Bits of his Indian scalp hung down in strings,
And blood run pouring thence as out of springs."

Jacob Tilton was able to hurl one of the wounded Indians overboard.

"Then Daniel presently took Captain Sam,
And brought his hand about his Indian Ham,
And to the vessel side he nimble goes,
And his black carcass in the water throws."

Jacob then threw the third over the side, the fourth deciding that he would jump of his own accord. Two of the wounded men in the water then climbed on board a canoe which was lying alongside the vessel. The poem goes on to say: --

"Said Indians on board had left a gun,
Unto the same said Jacob Tilton run,
Catching it up to shout them, it mist fire,
Which disappointed him of his desire,
He catching up a stout great setting Pole,
With all his might he struck them on the jole,
Giving them many blows upon the head;
Over the turns, and sunk like any lead.
We think our Country now at Peace might rest,
If all our Indian foes were thus supprest.
Let God the glory of such conquest have,
Who can by few as well as many save.
Then having thus dispatch'd the savage crew,
They presently consulted what best to do.
Three more Canoes ladden to the brim
With Indians as deep as they could swim,
Came padling down with all their might and main
Hoping the valiant Tiltons to retain.
Daniel, which was both nimble, stout and spry,
He fetch'd an ax, and running presently,
He cuts the cable; then they hoist their sail,
Leaving their Neighbors, that they might bewail
Over their Governor who in dispute,
Had term'd himself as great and good as Shute.*
After they had from foes escaped thus,
They sail'd and came into Mintinnicus" (now Matinicus).

*Shute was then Governor of Massachusetts.

     Here their wounds were dressed by the English and then

"Their course for Ipswich town they next contrive,
Where in a few days their Vessel did arrive:
Through so much danger, misery and pain,
They are returned to their friends again.
Thus I have summed up this tragick scene,
As from their mouths it told to me has been."


1867. BOSTON, MASS. 1892.



Kindness of J. Chany
The Sailors' Home and the waters of Boston Harbour can be seen in the background of the picture on the left.

From a print                                                                    Collection of State Street Trust Co.


Showing the ports of Hong Kong, Canton, Whampoa, Lintin, Macao, and other ports so well known to the Boston mer­chants in the old shipping days. 1 Canton 2 Whampoa 3 Macao 4 Hong Kong 5 Victoria 6 Formosa 7 Shanghai 8 Golfe de Petchili 9 Pekin 10 Lintin


From a photograph                                      Kindness of F. B. C. Bradlee


Showing the "Defender" built by Donald McKay in 1854, lying at the end of the wharf on the right of the picture.

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