This is another section from the book regarding some geography relative to the family (Note that the formatting is rough here - in the book, the formatting is professionally-shown).
111.Capt. George HITCH (George3, John2, Adam1) was born on Jun 1 1773 in Bristol County, MA73,75. He died on Aug 15/16 1853 of apoplexy in
Fairhaven, Bristol County, MA73. He was buried about Aug 19 1853 in Fairhaven, Bristol County, MA.
A Hitch Orchardstates, “Captain George Hitch was a noted sea Captain in his day. He died while his youngest son was still a child. His sister Abby
then cared for the home. George Hitch seems to have owned land on or near Fort St., Fairhaven, MA, a part of which was known as Hitch Grove. In this
same locality a short street has been named ‘Hitch St.’”
The following is from The Autobiography of Joseph Bates [Joseph Bates (1792-1872), 1868] and gives an excellent view of what it was like aboard
Captain George Hitch’s ship in the early 19th century:
…We arrived safely in Baltimore, the beginning of Jan, 1818. From thence I returned to my father’s in Fairhaven, Mass., having been
absent some two years and a half. Feb 15 1818, I (ed: Joseph Bates) was united in marriage to Miss Prudence M., daughter of Capt.
Obed Nye, my present wife.
Six weeks subsequent to this I sailed on another voyage, chief mate of the shipFrances, Captain Hitch, of New Bedford. We
proceeded to Baltimore, Md., where we loaded with tobacco for Bremen, in Europe. From thence we proceeded to Gottenberg in
Sweden, where we loaded again with bar iron for New Bedford, Mass.
I will here relate an incident which occurred on our passage from Bremen to Gottenberg, to show how persons are wrought upon
sometimes in their sleep. We were passing what is called “the Scaw,” up the Cattegat, not a very safe place in a gale, in company with
a large convoy of British merchantmen bound into the Baltic Sea. Capt. H., unusual for him, remained on deck until midnight, at which
time the larboard watch was called. The night was uncommonly light, pleasant, and clear, with a good, wholesale, flowing breeze, - all
the convoy sailing onward in regular order. Capt. H. requested me to follow a certain large ship, and be particular to keep about so far
astern of her, and if we saw her in difficulty, we could alter our course in time to avoid the same. Before my four-hours’ watch was out,
Captain H. came up to the gangway, saying, “Mr. Bates, what are you about, carrying sail in this way? Clew down the topsails and reef
them! Where is that ship?” “Yonder,” said I, “about the distance she was when you went down below!” I saw his eyes were wide open,
but still I could not believe he was in his right mind in addressing me in the peremptory manner he did. Said I, “Capt. Hitch, you are
asleep!” “Asleep!” said he! “I never was wider awake in my life! Clew the topsails down and reef them!” I felt provoked at this
unusual arbitrary treatment without the least cause, and cried out at the top of my voice, “Forward there? Call all hands to reef the
topsails!” This waked up the captain, inquiring, “What’s the matter?” Said I, “You have been giving orders to reef the topsails!” “Have
I? I did not know it. Stop them from doing so, and I will go down again out of the way.”
As Capt. H. was part owner of the ship, with the prospect of making a few thousand dollars with a cargo of iron, he loaded the ship
very deep, but did not seem to apprehend any particular danger until we encountered a snow-storm as we entered the North Sea, which
determined us to go “north about,” and brought us in the vicinity of “Rockal” in a violent storm in the night, which aroused our
feelings and caused deep anxiety until we were satisfied we were past all danger from it.
OUR heavy cargo of iron, and prevailing westerly gales, caused our ship to labor so incessantly that she began to leak very freely. We
got up about twenty tons of iron and secured it on the upper deck. This eased her laboring some, but still the westerly gales prevailed,
and we gained westward but slowly. At length said Capt. Hitch, “We must come on an allowance of water;” and asked how much I
thought we could begin with? I answered, “Two quarts per day.” “Two quarts of water per day!” said he, “why, I never drank two
quarts of water a day in my life. I drink two cups of coffee in the morning, and two cups of tea at night, and two or three glasses of
grog during the day [temperance societies were not known then], and that is about all I drink.” Said he, “I have been following the sea
for about thirty years, and never have yet been put on an allowance.” I had not been so fortunate, but had been on an allowance of food
five years, and several months on a short allowance of water. I said to Capt. H., “The very idea of being on an allowance of water will
increase your desire for more.” Well, he knew nothing about that, but said, “We will wait a little longer, for I don’t believe I ever drank
two quarts a day.”
As we were still hindered in our progress, and the ship increasing her leak, Capt. H, said, “It is your morning watch to-morrow, I think
you had better begin and measure out the water, and fasten up the water casks.” “Very well, sir,” said I, “but how much shall I measure
for each man?” “Well, begin with two quarts.” This was done, and the captain’s two quarts taken to the cabin. As I was walking the
deck about 7 o’clock in the evening, the after hatchway being open, I heard Capt. H., in the dark, say in a loud whisper, “Lem! you got
any water?” (Lemuel T. was a nephew of Capt. H., and messed in the steerage.) “Yes, sir.” “Give me a drink, will you?” In a few
moments I heard the captain gurgling the water down out of “Lem’s” bottle as though he was very thirsty, and yet it was but twelve
hours since his two quarts had been measured out. At the breakfast table next morning, said I, “Capt. Hitch, how did you make out for
water last night?” He smiled, and acknowledged he was mistaken. “The thought of being on an allowance (as you said) makes one feel
thirsty. I never tried it before.”
After encountering another heavy gale, Capt. H. became seriously alarmed, fearing the Frances was too deeply laden to cross the
Atlantic in safety. A council was held, which decided to relieve the ship of part of her burden by casting the twenty tons of iron
overboard. In a few hours this work was accomplished, and the long bars of iron were gliding swiftly to their resting place some five or
more miles below us, into what the sailors call, “Davy Jones’s Locker.”
Twenty tons more were taken on deck. This change relieved the ship very perceptibly, and enabled her to make better progress. But
still the captain was fearful of carrying a press of sail for fear her leak would increase, and carry us all down to the bottom. Our stock
of provisions getting low, we came on a stated allowance of beef and bread, our small stores being about exhausted. We all began to
feel anxious to get to our destined haven. When the captain was asleep, we would venture sometimes to crowd on a little more sail.
After a westerly storm, the wind had come round to the east during the night. To improve this favorable wind, by the time the morning
watch was called, we had all the reefs out of the top-sails, top-mast and lower studding sails set with a good top-gallant breeze, but
rather a heavy head-beat sea. Capt. H. came on deck and looked around a few moments, and said, “Mr. Bates, you had better take in
the main-top-gallant sail. Also the lower and top-mast studding sails. Now we will double and single reef the top-sails.” This done, he
concluded the ship would get along much easier, and almost as fast.
At length, the winds favored us, and we were making rapid progress. The last three days the wind had been increasing from the southeast,
and according to our reckoning, if it continued, we should reach New Bedford in three days more, making our passage in seventy
days from Gottenberg. In this we were sadly disappointed, for by the third day at midnight, the gale had increased to a dreadful height.
The raging elements seemed to set at defiance every living creature that moved above the surface of the sea. In all my experience I had
never witnessed such portentous signs of a dreadful, devastating storm in the heavens. The sea had risen to such an awful height, it
seemed sometimes that it would rush over our mast-heads before our heavy-laden ship would rise to receive its towering, foaming top,
and the howling, raging wind above it, straining every stitch of sail we dared to show, and then dash us headlong again into the awful
gulf below. All the canvas we dared to show was a close-reefed main-top-sail and reefed foresail. We needed more to hurry the ship off
before the foaming sea, but were in great fear that the heavy gusts of wind would wrench them from the bolt-ropes and leave us in the
power of the next sea to be overwhelmed, and sink with our iron cargo to the bottom of the sea.
We charged the watch that were going below not to lay off any of their clothing, but be ready at a moment’s warning. We considered
ourselves in the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream, one of the most dreaded places for continual storms on the American coast, or any
other coast in the world. Cross it somewhere we must to reach our home. I entered the cabin for a moment to inform Capt. H. of the
increasing storm. He was unwilling to see it, but said, “Mr. Bates, keep the ship dead before the sea!” That was our only hope. Our
tiller had been broken off within four feet of the rudder-head, a short time previous, by a violent sea that struck us on the bow. We had
spliced it, and now with tiller-ropes and relieving tackles it required four experienced men, with our utmost skill in “cunning” them, to
manage the helm, to keep the ship running directly before the foaming, mountainous seas. Our continual work was something like the
following: “Starboard your helm!” “Starboard, sir,” was the reply. “Steady, here comes another dreadful sea!” “Steady,” was the reply.
“How do we head now?” “N. W.,” was the reply. “Steady, keep her head just so. That was well done!” If the ship had not answered her
helm as she did, it appeared that that fearful sea would have rushed over our quarter, and swept us all by the board. “Port your helm!
here comes another on the larboard side! Steady now, the sea is square on our stern,” &c
With the dawn of the morning the rain came down upon us in such torrents that it was with much difficulty that we could see the shape
of the sea until it was rushing upon us. This rain was ominous of a change more dreadful (if possible) than our present situation. My
short experience had taught me that the Gulf Stream*(*The Gulf Stream is caused by a large body of water issuing from the Gulf of
Mexico, flowing north-easterly from the southeast point of the coast of Florida, in some places passing close in with the land, widening
as it flows onward by our northern coast, where it branches off toward the banks of Newfoundland, where it is sometimes found to be
several hundred miles in width narrowing and widening as influenced by the heavy winds. This current sweeps along our southern
coast sometimes at the rate of three miles per hour. In passing from or approaching the coast of the United States, mariners always find
the water much warmer in this stream than on either side of it. Also, changeable, tempestuous, stormy weather, such as is not found
elsewhere.) was more dangerous for navigators on this account than any other navigable sea.
Between seven and eight o’clock in the morning, without a moment’s warning, the wind suddenly struck us from the opposite quarter,
and our sails were struck against the mast. The simultaneous cry was uttered, “The ship’s aback!” “Hard aport your helm!” “Quick!
quick!” It seemed as though I touched the deck but twice in getting some thirty feet to the mainmast, where the weather forebraces
were belayed, and whirled them from the pins, and shouted, “All hands on deck in a moment!” Descending from the top of the sea, the
ship answered her helm; her head paid off to the N. E. The foresail filled again, or we should inevitably have gone down stern
foremost, from the overpowering rush of the next sea. The wind came furiously from the west for a few moments, and suddenly died
away, leaving us in a dead calm. “Lash your helm to the starboard!” “Call the captain, one of you!” “Clew up the main-top-sail!” “Haul
up the foresail!” “All hands aloft now, and furl the main-top-sail.” “Make haste, men, and secure it to the yard as fast as you can!”
The ship was now unmanageable. The sea described above, was now on our lee beam, and seemed as though it would either run over
our mast-heads or roll us bottom upward to windward. As the captain came up from the cabin and saw our situation, he cried out, “Oh,
my grief!” and for a while was silent. The ship was now writhing and wrenching some like a person in perfect agony. Her tumbling in
such a tumultuous and violent manner, made it very difficult for the men to get aloft. Before they reached the topsail-yard, the wind
came rushing upon us like a tornado, from the W.S.W. This was what we feared, and why we hurried to save our storm-sails if we
could. It was some time before the men could secure the sails. When this was done, and the ship pumped after a manner, the crew were
all clustered on the quarter-deck, except Lemuel T. and George H., the captain’s nephew and son, who, by the captain’s orders, were
fastened below for fear they would be swept from the deck; also one passenger. Said the captain, “Cook, can you pray with us?” The
cook knelt down where he could secure himself, the rest of us holding on upon our feet, and prayed most fervently for God to protect
and save us from the dreadful, raging storm. This was the first prayer that I ever heard uttered in a storm upon the ocean. Sinners as we
were, I believe it was remembered by Him whose ear is not closed to the distressed mariner’s cry; for the Scriptures testify that “he
commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the
depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. Then
they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.” Ps. cxii, 25-28.
We seemed to be placed in the very position the Psalmist speaks of. After we had done all we could to save our lives from the raging
elements of the past night, until our ship was rendered unmanageable, our sails secured and the helm lashed a-lee, then we were at our
“wit’s end,” and prayed to the Lord for help, and secured ourselves to the mizzen rigging and quarter-deck, there in deep
contemplation and utter silence to wait the issue of our case. Captain H. doubtless felt that he had neglected his duty in commending us
to God daily, during our long voyage, and now in this perilous hour, when we were at our “wit’s end,” his confidence failed him.
Himself and the cook were the only professors of religion on board. They both belonged to the Close-Communion Baptist Church, in
New Bedford, Massachusetts. The cook was the only colored man on board. I have always believed that the Lord specially regarded his
prayer. Once only during the voyage I heard the captain pray. I had become almost exhausted from extreme labor in some of the storms
I have before mentioned, and was losing two hours of my evening watch to get some rest, when I overheard Captain H., in a dark part
of the cabin, praying the Lord to raise me to health and strength. In saying this I mean no disrespect to Captain H., for he was a
gentlemanly, good-hearted man, and treated his officers and men with kindness and respect.
After the cook’s prayer I secured myself to the weather foremost mizzen shroud, to watch the furious, raging storm. Captain H. was
next behind me, the second mate and crew all ranged along the weather side of the quarter-deck, waiting in silence the decision of our
case. The wind was so unabating in its fury that it would whirl the top of the contending seas over us, and drench us like pouring rain
from the clouds. The labor of the ship seemed to be more than she could long endure. The marvel was that she had held together so
long. It seemed sometimes, when she was rushing from the top of some of those mountain seas, broadside foremost, that she would
either turn clear over or rush down with such impetuosity that she never would rise again. After a while the sea became furious from
the west, and the two seas would rush together like enemies contending for victory. We had remained in silence about three hours,
when I said, “Our ship can stand this but a little longer.” “So I think,” replied the captain. I said, “It appears to me that our only hope is
to loose the wings of the foresail, and drive her between these two seas on a N. E. course.” “Let us try it,” said Captain H.
Soon our good old ship was making her way through between these two tumbling mountains, being most severely buffeted, first on the
right and then on the left. And when our hearts would almost sink for fear of her being overwhelmed, she would seem to rise again
above it all, and shake herself as though some unseen hand was girding her from beneath, and with her two little, outstretched wings,
filled to overflowing with the howling, raging wind, she would seem to move onward again with more than mortal energy. Thus she
wallowed along until midnight between these tumbling seas, trembling, wrenching and groaning, with her heavy iron load and precious
living souls that she was laboring to preserve, in answer to the poor negro sailor’s prayer, that had passed from her upper deck, away
from amidst the distracting hurricane and dreadful storm, to the peaceful mansions of the Governor of Heaven, and earth, and seas.
My wife was visiting one of our relatives, a few miles distant from home, where a Methodist minister called in to visit the family. He
asked why she appeared so sober? He was told that the ship her husband sailed in was out of time, and much fear was entertained for
her safety, and particularly at that time, as there was a violent raging storm. Said the minister, “I want to pray for that ship’s company.”
His prayer was so fervent, and made so deep an impression on my wife, that she noted down the time. When the ship came home, her
log-book was examined, which proved it was the same storm.
Somewhere about midnight, as the wind had veered round to the north and west, and the furious sea from that quarter had become very
dangerous, and was continuing to subdue and overpower the one that had been so dangerous from the S. E., we deemed it for our
safety to still bear away and head the ship on to the S. E. sea, and give her the whole of her reefed foresail to drive her from the
irregular, furious cross sea, that was raging from the west. Thus for four days, by the furious hurricane we were driven onward to save
ourselves from what we considered a more dangerous position than lying to under bare poles, exposing the ship to the irregular cross
seas that might render her unmanageable, and wrench her in pieces. First steering N. W. before a most violent S. E. gale, and in a
moment of time our sails all aback with the gale from the N. W., then in a few moments a dead calm for about fifteen minutes,
rendering the ship unmanageable; and then a raging hurricane from the W. S. W., veering in four days round by the N. to the E., our
course being N. E. between the seas; then E. and S. E., S. and S. W. In this manner, in about four days, we run three-quarters of the
way round the compass, some hundreds of miles further from home than we were at the height of the storm. This was the most peculiar
and trying storm in all my experience; neither have I read of the like in its nature and duration. The marvel with us was that our good
old ship had weathered this most trying time. Her leak, however, had increased to twelve thousand strokes of the pump in twenty-four
Again, by a unanimous decision, we launched another twenty tons of our iron cargo into the sea. We endeavored to steer in for a
southern port, but the westerly winds continued to check our progress westward. Winter had now fairly commenced, and our
provisions and water were getting so low that we were about to reduce our allowance, while our constant labor at the pumps was also
reducing our strength. We saw vessels occasionally, but at too great a distance to approach them. We made an extra effort, and sailed
for one until night-fall, and then, to induce her to approach us, we rigged a spar over our stern, on which we fastened a barrel with tar,
and fired it, to make them believe we were on fire, and induce them to come to our relief, but to no purpose.
Soon after this, when things began to look more dubious, just at the close of a gale of wind, about midnight, we saw a vessel directly
ahead steering toward us. She soon answered our signal by hoisting her “lanthorn,” and soon we met within speaking distance. “Where
are you from?” “New York,” was the reply. “Where are you bound?” “South America.” “Can you spare us some provisions?” “Yes, as
much as you want; I am loaded with them.” “Lay by us and we will send our boat.” “Very well.”
Captain Hitch’s heart began to fail him as we began to clear away our small boat. Said he, the swell is so high the boat will be
swamped, and I dare not have you go, Mr. Bates. To lose some of the crew now would be very discouraging, and how could the ship
be saved in her leaky, sinking condition?” “But, Captain Hitch, we are in want of provisions, and can now get a supply.” He still
declared himself unwilling to command any one to attempt it. Said I, “Allow me then to call for volunteers.” He continued irresolute.
Fearing we should miss this opportunity, I inquired, “Who among you will volunteer to go with me in the boat?” “I will go for one,
sir.” “I will go;” “and I will go,” said others. “That will do,” said I, “three are enough.” In a few moments we were almost out of sight
of our ship, steering for the signal light. One sea boarded us, and about half filled the boat. With one hand bailing out the water, and
the other two at the oars, we reached the brig. On account of the rough sea we could carry but a few barrels of bread and flour. I gave
the captain a draft on our owners in New Bedford. “Your name is Bates,” said he; “are you related to Dr. Bates, of Barre,
Massachusetts?” “He is my brother.” “Well, I am his near neighbor; I left there a few weeks ago. Don’t you want some more?” “No,
sir. Only if you will fill away and tow us up to the windward of our ship we will be much obliged.” This done, we reached the ship in
safety, and soon had our supply of bread and flour safely landed on deck. Our boat was stowed away, and each vessel filled away on
their course. Captain H. was almost overjoyed at our safe return with a supply of provisions to carry us into port. The westerly winds,
however, prevailed, and our ship’s bottom had become foul with grass and barnacles that she moved very slowly. We prepared a
scraper, with which we were enabled in a calm to scrape some of it off. Bushels of barnacles, as large as thimbles, and green grass, two
feet long, would rise under our stern as we hauled the scraper under her bottom, all of which had accumulated during our passage.
Again we met with a vessel from the West Indies, which supplied us with three casks of water; after which a ship from Portland
supplied us with potatoes from her cargo. These were very acceptable, not only for a change of diet, but also to check the scurvy,
which is common with those seamen who are obliged to subsist on salted provisions. In a few weeks we obtained another short supply,
and were animated with the hope of reaching some port on the coast in a few days. But our buoyant hopes would sink again with the
increasing westerly gales, and we would wish that we had taken a larger supply of provisions. Thus we continued to toil on, gaining
sometimes a considerable distance westward, and then in one gale losing almost as much distance as we gained in a week before.
Three times after this we obtained a supply of what could be spared from different vessels we met with, making in all seven different
times. And it had become a common saying with us, that the very time we needed relief, it came. Wicked as we still were, we could but
acknowledge the hand of a merciful God in it all. Finally, we began to despair, contending with the almost-continual westerly winds in
our disabled condition, and called all hands in “council,” to determine whether, in our perilous position to preserve our lives, we
should change the voyage and run for a port in distress. It was decided unanimously that we bear up for the West Indies. After running
about two days south, the wind headed us from that quarter. As the ship was now heading westward, Captain H. concluded he could
reach a southern port in the United States. But the wind changed again, which cut off this prospect. Captain H. now regretted that he
had taken it upon him to deviate from the decision of the council, and wished me to call another, and see if it would be decided for us
to bear up again for the West Indies. The whole crew expressed themselves in favor of adhering to our previous decision, to steer for
the West Indies, but what was the use in deciding? Captain H. would turn back again as soon as the wind came fair to steer westward. I
stated if he did I should oppose him, and insist on abiding by the decision we then made in council. It was a unanimous vote to bear up
in distress for the West Indies. Captain H. was not present.*(*When a deviation from a policy of insurance is made in a vessel’s
voyage, it is required to be done by the majority or whole crew in council, that they do so for the preservation of lives, or vessel and
cargo; this transaction being recorded in the daily journal or log-book of said vessel, that the owners may lawfully recover their
insurance, if a loss occurs after deviation. The same is required when casting cargo overboard to preserve life.**)
Shortly after we changed our course we met a schooner from the West Indies, bound to New York. We requested him to report the ship
Frances, Hitch, one hundred and twenty-two days from Gottenberg, in Sweden, bound to St. Thomas, in the West Indies, in distress. As
letters had reached our friends, advising them of our sailing from Gottenberg for New Bedford, some four months previous, one-third
of the time being sufficient for a common passage, various conjectures were afloat respecting our destiny. Few, if any, believed that we
were numbered among the living.
As the New York packet was leaving the wharf, for New Bedford and Fairhaven, the schooner arrived and reported us. In about
twenty-four hours the New York packet touched at Fairhaven wharf with the report, one day in advance of the mail. My wife, father,
mother and sisters were on a social visit at my sisters, near the wharf. Mr. B., my sister’s husband, left them a few moments and was
standing on the wharf with other citizens of F., when the first item of intelligence from the packet as she touched the wharf, was that a
schooner had arrived in New York from the West Indies, which had fallen in with the shipFrances, Hitch, in lat. -----, and long. -----,
one hundred and twenty-two days from Gottenberg, bound to St. Thomas, “in distress.” With this unexpected item of news, Mr. B.
hurried back to the family circle, declaring that the ship Frances was still afloat, bound to the West Indies. In a moment the scene was
changed, and the news spread throughout the village to gladden other hearts, for there were other husbands and sons on board the longlooked-
for missing ship. On the arrival of the mail the next day the news was confirmed. No piece of intelligence for many years had
caused such universal joy in F. The principal owner of the ship and cargo (Wm. Roach, of New Bedford,) said it gave him more joy to
hear that the crew was all alive, than all his interest in the ship and cargo. Owners and friends were exceedingly anxious to hear
particulars how we had been sustained such a length of time with only provisions and water for about half said time, also what had
caused our delay.
We had a successful run and passage to St. Thomas, one of the Virgin Islands in the West Indies, belonging to Denmark. The night
preceding our arrival, a schooner came in company with us, bound on the same course. By request of Captain H., she consented to keep
our company during the night, as he professed to be well acquainted with that region. The night was delightful, with a fair wind. The
schooner took in all her sail except her top-sail lowered on the cap. We were under a cloud of sail, lower, top-mast, and top-gallant
steering sails, all drawing and filled with the pleasant gale. The captain of the schooner seemed out of all patience with us because we
did not sail fast enough to keep up with him. About midnight he sheered up within speaking distance, and cried out, “Ship ahoy!”
“Halloo!” replied Captain H. “Do you know what I would do with that ship if I commanded her?” “No,” was the reply. “Well, sir,”
said he, “if I had charge of that ship I would scuttle her and send her to the bottom with all hands on board!” Our ship’s bottom was so
full of grass and barnacles that she sailed only half her speed with a clean bottom.
We arrived, however, the next day, and thought we felt thankful to God for preserving and sustaining us through the perilous scenes we had
experienced. Even when our ship was safely anchored and our sails all furled, for a while we could hardly realize that we were safe in the
harbor of St. Thomas. Careening our ship to clean the bottom, it was wonderful to behold the quantity of green grass, from two to three feet
long, and large barnacles on the bottom. The “survey” decided that the ship could be repaired to proceed to the United States.
WHILE we were refitting in St. Thomas, Capt. H. was going to visit an acquaintance of his on Sunday, and I proposed to spend a few
hours on shore to see the place. Said he, “George wants to go on shore; I wish you would take him with you, but don’t let him go out of
your sight.” While I was conversing with an acquaintance, George was missing. When I returned to the boat in company with the mate
of the vessel where Capt. H. was visiting, we saw George lying in the boat drunk! When we came to the vessel where his father was, he
was exceedingly aggravated, and endeavored in several ways to arouse him from his stupor and induce him to pull at the oar, for his
father arranged that we three alone would manage the boat, and leave the sailors on board. George was unable to do anything but reply
to his father in a very disrespectful manner, so his father had to ply his oar to the ship.
After George had somewhat recovered from his drunken spell, he made his appearance on the quarter-deck, when his father began to
reprove and threaten to chastise him, for disgracing himself and his father among strangers as he had done. A few more words passed,
and George clinched his father and crowded him some distance toward the stern of the ship before he could check him and get him
down with his knee upon him. He then turned to me, saying, “Mr. Bates, what shall I do with this boy?” I replied, “Whip him, sir!”
Said he, “I will!” and slapped him a few times with the flat of his hand on his back saying, “There! take that now!” &c George was so
vexed and provoked because his father whipped him, that he ran down into the cabin to destroy himself. In a few moments the cook
came rushing up from thence, saying, “Captain Hitch! George says he is going to jump out of the cabin window and drown himself!”
“Let him jump!” said I. He had become sober enough by this time to know better, for he was a great coward.
George Hitch was about thirteen years of age at this time, and when free from the influence of strong drink was a generous, goodhearted
boy, and with right management would have proved a blessing instead of a reproach and curse as he did to his parents and
friends. His father in unburdening his heart to me about him, said, “When he was a child, his mother and I were afraid that he would
not be roguish enough to make a smart man, so we indulged him in his childish roguery, and soon he learned to run away from school
and associate himself with wicked boys, and the like, which troubled his mother so exceedingly that she could not have him at home.
This is why I have taken him with me.”
His father was aware that he would drink liquor whenever he could get it, and yet he would have the liquor in the decanter placed in
the locker where George could get it whenever he pleased in our absence. Sometimes his father would ask the cook what had become
of the liquor in the decanter. He knew that neither the second mate nor myself had taken it, for neither of us used strong drink; hence
he must have known that George took it.
Our merchant in Gottenberg had placed in the hands of Capt. H. a case of very choice cordial as a present to Mrs. H. After our small
stores and liquors were used up during our long passage, I saw George with his arms around his father’s neck one evening in the cabin.
Capt. H. said to me, “What do you think this boy wants?” “I don’t know sir,” I replied. “He wants me to open the cordial case of his
mother’s and give him some of it.” The indulgent father yielded, and very soon the mother’s cordial case was emptied. This thirst for
liquor, unchecked by his parents, ripened with his manhood, and drove him from all decent society, and finally to a drunkard’s grave in
the midst of his days. His mother mourned and wept, and died sorrowing for her ruined boy before him. His father lived to be
tormented, and threatened with death if he did not give him money to gratify his insatiable thirst that was hastening him to his untimely
end, and went down to the grave sorrowing that he had been the father of such a rebellious, unnatural child. Another warning to
surviving parents and children who fail to follow the Bible, in obedience to God’s infallible rule. Prov.xxii, 6.”
On our passage from St. Thomas to New Bedford, Mass., we met a very tempestuous storm in the gulf stream, off Cape Hatteras.
During the midnight watch George came rushing into the cabin, crying, “Father! father! the ship is sinking!” The second mate, who
had charge of the watch, followed, declaring the ship was going down. As all hands were rushing for the upper deck, I asked Mr. Nye
how he knew the ship was sinking? “Because,” said he, “she has settled two or three feet.” We raised the after hatchway to see how
much water was in the hole, and found no more than usual. The almost continual cracking thunder and vivid lightning in the roaring
storm, alarmed and deceived them, for the whole watch on deck also believed the ship was sinking.
In about three weeks from St. Thomas we saw Block Island. In the morning we were about twenty-five miles from New Bedford, when
the wind came out ahead from the north in a strong gale, threatening to drive us off our soundings. We clinched our cables round the
mast and cleared our anchors, determined to make a desperate effort, and try the strength of our cables in deep water rather than be
blown off the coast. Then with what sail the ship could bear we began to ply her head to windward for a harbor in the Vineyard Sound.
As the sea and sprays rushed upon us it froze on the sails and rigging, so that before we tacked, which was often, we had to break off
the ice from our sails, tacks and sheets, with hand spikes. In this way we gained about ten miles to windward during the day, and
anchored in Tarpaulin Cove, about fifteen miles from New Bedford. Our signal was seen from the observatory in New Bedford just as
we were passing into the Cove. When our anchor reached the bottom, the poor, half-frozen crew were so overjoyed that they gave three
cheers for a safe harbor. After two days the gale abated, and we made sail and anchored in the harbor of New Bedford, Feb 20 1819,
nearly six months from Gottenberg. So far as I have any knowledge of ship-sailing, this was one of the most providential and singular
passages from Europe to America, in its nature and duration, that is on record.
This voyage, including also our passage to the West Indies, could in ordinary weather be performed by our ship, when in good sailing
trim, in less than sixty days. Our friends were almost as glad to see us as we were to get safely home. The contrast between the almost
continual clanking of pumps to keep our ship afloat, and howling winter storms which we had to contend with, and a good cheering
fireside, surrounded by wives, children and friends, was great indeed, and cheered us exceedingly. We thought we were thankful to
God for thus preserving our lives. This was the third time I had returned home during ten years.
“The Old Frances,” as she was called, apparently ready to slide into a watery grave, was soon thoroughly repaired and fitted for the
whaling business, which she successfully pursued in the Pacific and Indian Oceans for many years. Capt. L.C. Tripp and myself are
now the only survivors.
In the Federal Census of 1800, George Hitch Jr. is indicated in Bristol County, Massachusetts (pg 426) in a household comprised of one male age 26-
45, one female under age 10 and one female age 26-45. In the Federal Census of 1810, George Hitch Jr. is indicated in Bristol County, Massachusetts
(pg 289) in a household comprised of one male under age 10, one male age 26-45, one female age 10-16 and one female age 26-45. In the Federal
Census of 1820, George Hitch is indicated in Bristol County, Massachusetts in a household comprised of one male age 16-18, one male age 16-26, one
male age 45+ and one female age 26-45. The record indicates the one person in the household “manufactures.” In the Federal Census of 1830, George
Hitch is indicated in Bristol County, Massachusetts in a household comprised of one male age 20-30, one male age 50-60, one female under age 5, one
female age 5-10 and one female age 40-50.
George and Joshua Hitch helped incorporate the Fairhaven Institution of Savings (Bank) in 1832 in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
In the Federal Census of 1850, George Hitch is indicated in Fairhaven, Bristol County, Massachusetts (pg 169) in a household as follows:
- George Hitch, mariner, age 77, born in MA
- George Hitch Jr., mariner, age 46, born in MA
- Frederick D. Hitch, age 16, born in MA
- Joseph F. Hitch, age 13, born in MA
- Abby Briggs, age 58, born in MA
- Elisha Babcock, male, age 27, born in MA
- Elizabeth A. Babcock, age 27, born MA
- Abby L. Babcock, age 6 months, born in MA.
The above is the signature of George Hitch copied from an original deed dated Jul 8 1813 for a lot in Fairhaven, MA (courtesy, Ernie Towers).
He was married to Nancy TRIPP (daughter of Job TRIPP and Hannah CARVER) on Nov 22 1795 in Fairhaven, Bristol County, MA73,74.Nancy
TRIPPwas born on Apr 12 1773 in Fairhaven, Bristol County, MA73,75. She died on Aug 18 1825 in Fairhaven, Bristol County, MA68,73,74,77. Capt.
George HITCH and Nancy TRIPP had the following known children:
+247 i.Eunice Tripp HITCH.
+248 ii.George HITCH Jr.
He was married to Abigail CHURCH (daughter of Joseph CHURCH [1752-??] and Deborah PERRY ) on Dec 14 1826 in Bristol County, MA70,73,75.
Abigail CHURCHwas born on Jan 17 179073. She died of inflammation of the throat on May 23 1848 in Fairhaven, Bristol County, MA70,73,75. Capt.
George HITCH and Abigail CHURCH had the following known children:
249 i.Nancy Franklin HITCH was born on Feb 23 1828 in Fairhaven, Bristol County, MA73,75. She died on Nov 12 1830 in Fairhaven,
Bristol County, MA73,78.
+250 ii.Frederic Delano HITCH.
+251 iii.Joseph Franklin HITCH.