A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at No. 25 Beacon Street, Boston, on Thursday, 24 December, 1908, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Henry Lefavour, LL.D., in the chair.
The Records of the Annual Meeting in November were read and approved.
The President announced the death at Newport, Rhode Island, on the ninth instant, at the age of eighty-seven, of Wolcott Gibbs, a Corresponding Member, and spoke as follows:
Professor Gibbs graduated from Columbia University in 1841, taking his master’s degree in 1844, meanwhile receiving the degree of doctor of medicine from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1843. After studying in Germany and France and lecturing at Delaware College, in Newark, Delaware, he became professor of Physics and Chemistry in the College of the City of New York. After a service of fourteen years in this institution, he was appointed in 1863 Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts in Harvard College. He became Emeritus Professor in 1887. He received the doctorate of laws from Columbia University in 1873 and afterwards from four other universities.
The contributions which Professor Gibbs made to physical and chemical science were of such a character and of such importance as to give to him a world-wide reputation, and to render him one of the very foremost of American men of science, and a veritable pioneer in the realm of physical chemistry. Added to his great talent as a scientific investigator, he was a rare teacher and a much beloved friend. His closing years were spent withdrawn from the activities of the academic world, but not from the hearts and memories of those who knew him.
Mr. Ogden Codman of Lincoln, and Mr. Morris Hicky Morgan of Cambridge, were elected Resident Members; and the Hon. John Taggard Blodgett of Providence, Rhode Island, was elected a Corresponding Member.
The Rev. Henry A. Parker gave some account, which was discussed by Mr. Henry E. Woods, of the sixteen quarterings of the children of Kiniard Russell of Strensham from whom Richard Russell (1611–1676) of Charlestown, long Treasurer of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, is said to have been descended through the Russells of Hereford: but said that on examination the line of descent of the Hereford Russells from the Strensham family did not seem to have been proved: that the armorial seal used by the sons of Richard Russell seemed to show that they claimed descent from the Strensham family: but that the escutcheon on the seal—a chevron between three cross crosslets fitché within a bordure charged with (bezants?) impaling a saltire charged with a (?)—seemed to have been misinterpreted. It had been supposed to be a seal cut for Richard Russell after his marriage with his second wife, whose maiden name was Nevill, The arms, except that the bordure does not seem to have been engrailed (the tinctures not being known), resemble the arms of John Russell of Little Malvern, Worcestershire, impaling the arms of Alderford, of which family he married an heiress.464 Mr. Parker said, however, that the descent of Richard Russell from William Russell, Mayor of Hereford, seemed to be well established. From this Mr. Woods dissented, saying that the descent of Richard is not proved. On reviewing the pedigree Mr. Parker found himself obliged to agree with Mr. Woods.
Dr. James B. Ayer read some notes, covering the period from 1764 to 1785, concerning Harvard College taken during a recent visit to London from the records of the New England Company.
Winthrop’s fleet of four ships—namely, the Arbella, admiral; the Talbot, vice-admiral; the Ambrose, rear-admiral; and the Jewel, captain—left Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, for these shores April 8, 1630. Of these vessels the masters were, of the Arbella, Captain Peter Milborne; of the Talbot, Mr. Thomas Beecher; of the Ambrose, Captain John Lowe; of the Jewel, Mr. Nicholas Hurlston. Governor Winthrop was on board the Arbella, having in his possession the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Seven other vessels which left Southampton for the Massachusetts Bay a few weeks later are hereinafter referred to. As the voyage of Winthrop’s fleet, transferring, as it did, the Charter and government of the Colony from England to the territory of the Company in America, was of vast importance in its consequences, all the features of the voyage, including the course pursued by the ships across the ocean, must ever be of historic interest. Fortunately we have in Winthrop’s Journal465 the data whereby, though we may not be able to fix the positions of the ships from day to day, we may yet lay down in a general way the track of at least three of them for practically the entire course.
The accompanying sketch has been reduced from a plotting of the voyage made under the direction of two nautical experts upon a government chart of the North Atlantic Ocean, issued by the Hydrographic Office of the Navy Department in September, 1908. The chart and sketch are based upon Mercator’s Projection. Much of the matter on the chart not material to our subject has been eliminated, while divers descriptive words have been added to illustrate statements in the Journal.
Winthrop states that the captain of the Arbella ascertained his latitude by means of the cross-staff.466 But while the elevation of the sun above the horizon could be measured with this instrument with a fair degree of accuracy and the latitude afterwards determined, it was impossible from the lack of accurate marine time-keepers at that period to ascertain longitude at sea. It was not until the year 1761 or thereabouts that John Harrison perfected his time-keepers so as to comply with the conditions named in the Act of the British Parliament in the year 1714, providing for a reward of £20,000 to any person who should discover a method of determining the longitude to one-half of a degree of a great circle, or thirty geographical miles. Harrison had to wait until the year 1773 before receiving the balance of the reward due him.467
Winthrop therefore does not express his estimation of east or west positions or distances in degrees of longitude, but in terms of geographical places or distances, such as “about 90 leagues from Scilly, W. and by S.,” and “in the midway between the false bank and the main bank,” these east and west positions being estimated by dead reckoning, and sometimes, perhaps, by soundings.
In plotting the voyage, positions defined in the Journal both by their latitude and their bearing from geographical places have first been fixed. The line has then been run through these positions and, with one or two exceptions, through points whose latitude has been given and whose longitude has been estimated from the not too plentiful data which Winthrop has furnished as to courses and distances. The lines connecting positions are with few exceptions straight lines, there being a lack of adequate data from which to determine the length of minor courses. It is believed that the tracing of the voyage on the sketch does not vary much from the course actually pursued.
The fleet passed the Scillys before eight o’clock on the morning of April 11. Notwithstanding the courage and high purposes of both men and women, there must have been many sad regrets as the last of the Fatherland faded in the distance.
On the 15th the ships were in 47° 30′ north latitude. That night the wind grew very strong, and before midnight the Talbot was lost sight of. Every day for some days thereafter a man was sent to the top to search the horizon, but nothing more was seen of her until her arrival at Charlestown on July 2, twenty days after the Arbella had reached Salem. The three remaining ships kept on together, and on April 21 Winthrop writes, “Our captain, overnight, had invited his consorts to have dined with him this day, but it was such foul weather as they could not come aboard us.” But it is pleasing to learn that the bad weather only occasioned a postponement of this dinner, for there is the following entry under date of the 23rd: “About eleven of the clock, our captain sent his skiff and fetched aboard us the masters of the other two ships, and Mr. Pynchon, and they dined with us in the round-house, for the lady468 and gentlewomen dined in the great Cabin.”
On April 25, when in about 45° of latitude, the fleet fell in with Captain Kirke’s two ships.
In July, 1629, Quebec had been surrendered by Champlain, then in command of the French at that place, to David Kirke, commander of an expedition sent out by his father, Gervase Kirke, Sir William Alexander, and others under authority of a commission and letters of marque from Charles I. In this expedition David Kirke and his younger brothers Lewis and Thomas were each in command of one of the ships of the fleet. The writer has given a brief account of the capture of Quebec by the English, of its re-surrender to the French three years later, and of the subsequent career of the Kirkes, in the paper entitled, “An Incident in Winthrop’s Voyage to New England,” read before the Society in March, 1908.469 Therein also he gives his reasons for believing that the two ships of which Winthrop speaks were under the command of Thomas Kirke, and were carrying recruits, stores, etc., for the English garrison at Quebec.
Upon the five ships thus gathered in mid-ocean were representatives of divers of the types of men who have contributed to British expansion.
Under date of April 26, Winthrop tells us that about one o’clock Captain Lowe sent his skiff to desire the captain of the Arbella to come aboard his ship, which he did, and there met the masters of the other ships and Captain Kirke, and that before night they all returned to their ships again. This meeting of the captains on board the Ambrose must have been an occasion full of interest. Captain Kirke undoubtedly told of the stirring incidents attending the expeditions against Canada and the capture of Quebec. The chances of a renewal of the war with France must have been talked over. We can easily picture them exchanging experiences as to soundings, currents, banks, prevailing winds, courses, distances, and other like matters. They could not have failed to discuss the question of their then position at sea.
On April 29 Winthrop states that they were not come above three hundred leagues, “being about one third part of our way, viz., about forty-six north latitude, and near the meridian of the Terceras.”470 There may be some error of statement here. It appears as if Winthrop must have put his position this day too far to the north. It is not stated that this latitude was obtained by observation. On the next day, the 30th, the Journal reads that their position was in forty-four north latitude. The conditions, it would seem, did not favor the traversing so great a distance in twenty-four hours. There being these doubts, no position has been located for the 29th.
On the 30th there was a strong gale which grew into a violent storm during the night. This storm continued through May 1 and 2. The Ambrose, the Jewel, and Captain Kirke’s ships were lost sight of the first night of the storm. The Ambrose and the Jewel rejoined the Arbella, however, on May 2, but Kirke’s ships were not seen again unless in the distance on May 18.
On May 3 the ships were by observation in latitude 43½° north. This it will be noted is just about the latitude of Cape Sable. The accompanying sketch shows that during the next few days the course was west along this parallel.
The purpose of the navigators of Winthrop’s ships appears to have been to reach a position directly to the north of the Azores in the latitude in which they now were, and then to sail due west. The Azores are generally in latitude 37° to 40° north. At that time the course of vessels from a great part of western Europe to the West Indies lay more or less near the Azores, and they were perhaps a convenient point of departure for vessels bound for Virginia. Probably the islands were sometimes sought for and sighted merely to make sure of a vessel’s position at sea, especially in going west. Some of the officers of Winthrop’s fleet had doubtless many times sailed to them, or by and in sight of them. This experience must have invested them with considerable skill not only in finding the islands themselves, but also in reaching positions in their neighborhood from which to take departures.471
By May 9 the course of the ships had brought them further north and they were in latitude 44½°, while their longitude was supposed to be a little west of Corvo, the island which with Flores makes the northwesterly group of the Azores. On May 14 they were still in latitude 44½°, having made some progress, though they had encountered heavy weather.
On the 17th the Journal says they sounded and found no ground at one hundred fathom and more.
On the 18th towards night, while the rear-admiral was to leeward of them, they saw some two leagues more to leeward two ships which they conceived were Captain Kirke’s. From this it would appear that Kirke was sailing for the time being on a parallel not very far to the north of 43½°.
On May 19 Winthrop states that they were in 44° 12′ north, “and by our account in the midway between the false bank and the main bank.” The “main bank” is the Great or Grand Bank of Newfoundland. I have succeeded in identifying the “false bank” as the bank now called the Flemish Cap. This bank has been, and perhaps sometimes now is, also called the Outer Bank. It lies about 120 miles eastward of the northeast part of the Grand Bank.472
The origin of the name “False Bank” is not, it would seem, far to seek. In the time of the early voyages to the banks and coasts of Newfoundland, fishermen and other mariners, not knowing their longitude, must sometimes, finding ground here, have mistaken this bank for the Great Bank. Discovering their error later, they got to bestowing this uncomplimentary name upon the innocent object of their misapprehension. As stated above, no ground was found on the 17th. Perhaps the captain was then sounding for the False Bank. It does not extend so far south as their then position; but its limits were probably not definitely known at that time. It may be, however, that they wanted to verify their latitude and make sure that they were not so far north as the False Bank; and that when Winthrop states that on the 19th they were midway between the False Bank and the Main Bank, he meant on the meridian which runs between those banks.
This is the entire entry under May 31:
Wind N. W. a small gale, close and cold weather. We sounded, but had no ground. About noon the wind came N. by E., a stiff, constant gale and fair weather, so as our ship’s way was seven, eight, and sometimes twelve leagues a watch. This day, about five at night, we expected the eclipse, but there was not any, the sun being fair and clear from three till it set.
I estimate that they were in about latitude 42° 30′ and longitude 61° 25′ when they expected the eclipse.
Robert W. Willson, Professor of Astronomy in Harvard University, has kindly furnished me with the following data regarding this eclipse, having computed time of day and duration as a partial eclipse at the position assumed above. The eclipse in question was a total solar eclipse, and is number 6732 of Oppolzer’s Canon der Finsternisse, Vienna, 1887. The path of totality began at sunrise in the mid-Pacific, was over Hudson’s Bay at local noon, thence traversed Greenland, Ireland, Land’s End, and the British Channel, passed through France, and ended near Marseilles at sunset. In latitude 42° 30′, longitude 61° 25′, the eclipse began at 1 h. 55 min. P.M. local mean time, and ended at 3 h. 8 min. p. M. The maximum phase was at 2 h. 32 min. when the sun was still giving about 70 per cent of his whole light; at 3 P.M. he was giving about 92 per cent, and the eclipse was practically over. At maximum phase the diminution would not have been noticeable unless one were looking for the eclipse at the time. We are, of course, not sure that Winthrop’s time was within several minutes of correct local mean time. The language quoted may imply that the sun was more or less clouded before three, and that they were not looking for the eclipse before five. Winthrop or some of his associates had undoubtedly seen predicted the time the eclipse would take place in Great Britain and Ireland. Their failure to see it was on account of the sun’s being obscured before three, or because they failed to make sufficient allowance for the difference in local time between England and their position plus the difference in absolute time of the occurrence of the eclipse in the two regions.
On June 2 the captain of the Arbella, knowing that there were dangerous shoals to the south, fitted on a new mainsail that was very strong and double, not liking to adventure with his old sails as before, when he had sea-room enough. The shoals referred to must have been the Georges.
On June 3 there was thick fog. About two p. M. ground was found at about eighty fathoms,—a fine gray sand. They tacked and stood S. S. E. and shot off a piece of ordnance to notify the consorts, who had not been seen since the previous evening. As there is no further mention of the Ambrose and the Jewel until after their arrival in port, those vessels probably remained separated from the Arbella after June 2.
On June 6 the wind was northeast and later north, a good gale, but still foggy at times. The Journal goes on, “We stood W. N. W., both to make Cape Sable, if we might, and also because of the current, which near the west shore sets to the S., that we might be more clear from the southern shoals, viz., of Cape Cod.”
At this time navigators evidently knew of the Arctic current setting to the south and southwest off the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. The general directions of this and of the Gulf Stream current to the south and east of it, the Gulf Stream current flowing northeasterly, are shown on the sketch. The ships had to contend against the Gulf Stream current until about May 14. Thereafter the Arctic current helped them south and west to Cape Sable. The following is the rest of the entry for the same day, June 6:
About two in the afternoon we sounded and had ground at about eighty fathom, and the mist then breaking up, we saw the shore to the N. about five or six leagues off, and were (as we supposed) to the S. W. of Cape Sable, and in forty three and a quarter. Towards night it calmed and was foggy again, and the wind came S. and by E. We tacked and stood W. and by N., intending to make land at Aquamenticus, being to the N. of the Isles of Shoals.
The land they saw was undoubtedly Cape Sable or other land on the south shore of Nova Scotia. The first paragraph quoted under June 6 indicates their desire to see land, the object being to learn their position, especially as regards longitude. They had had no means of estimating this since they had left the Scillys some eight weeks before except by dead reckoning, soundings, and possibly at some positions by noting the variations of the compass.473 If they could have ascertained longitude as it is ascertained, now, they could have sailed on a great circle from the Scillys to or near to Cape Sable, and this would have been a great saving in time and distance, while their knowledge of their exact positions would have minimized the danger of shipwreck on the coast.
As illustrating the difficulties under which navigators labored before they had the means of finding their longitude, I would cite two instances which occurred during Commodore George Anson’s voyage around the world, 1740 to 1744, more than a hundred years after Winthrop’s voyage. Captain Legge, in command of the Severn, after doubling Cape Horn, steered, as he thought, for the island of Chiloe, but, to his astonishment, found himself on the wrong side of South America, having the high land of Patagonia to the westward of him, and being twelve degrees out of his longitude.474
Commodore Anson himself, in command of the Centurion, gained the west coast of South America, but a great number of his men were afflicted with scurvy. To recruit them by life on shore and with vegetable food he determined to steer for the island of Juan Fernandez. It was resolved, if possible, “to hit the island on a meridian.” But when they had reached its latitude no island was in sight. Upon consultation of the officers it was the consensus of opinion that they were west of the island, and it was decided to sail east on its parallel. The result was that in two days they made the mountains of Chili. Nothing remained but to reverse their course; but their progress west was much slower than it had been east, and it took some eleven days to reach Juan Fernandez. In consequence of this error of judgment it was estimated that from seventy to eighty men were lost, who might have been saved if the course of the ship had been originally directed west.475
It will be observed that the next landfall intended was at Agamenticus, now York, Maine. A settlement had been made at Agamenticus in or about the year 1623, on land included in a patent issued by the Council for New England to Sir Ferdinando Gorges of 24,000 acres on both sides of the Agamenticus (York) River.476 It lies in latitude between 43° 5′ and 43° 10′. The elevation now called Mt. Agamenticus lies in the north part of York and in latitude between 43° 10′ and 43° 15′. It was therefore clearly their intention to continue west on practically the same parallel on which they were until they should see land, and then to keep on along the coast to Salem.
It would appear, however, that wind and weather did not serve this purpose, for between head winds and calms they were on the afternoon of the 8th brought to within sight of Mt. Desert, then about ten leagues to the northwest of them. Their general course was now along the coast. On the 10th they lost sight of “the former land,” which I assume to have been the high lands from Mt. Desert to the Camden Hills, and made other high land on their starboard as far off as they could descry,477 but lost it again.
I make this extract from a further entry under the 10th:
About four in the afternoon we made land on our starboard bow, called the Three Turks’ Heads, being a ridge of three hills upon the main, whereof the southmost is the greatest. It lies near Aquamenticus. We descried, also, another hill, more northward, which lies by Cape Porpus. We saw, also, ahead of us, some four leagues from shore, a small rock, called Boone Isle, not above a flight shot over, which hath a dangerous shoal to the E. and by S. of it, some two leagues in length. We kept our luff and weathered it, and left it on our starboard about two miles off. Towards night we might see the trees in all places very plainly, and a small hill to the southward of the Turks’ Heads. All the rest of the land to the S. was plain, low land.
The question arises, to what elevation of land does Winthrop refer when he speaks of the “Three Turks’ Heads.” In search of an answer I will cite certain features of Mt. Agamenticus as laid down on map “Maine—New Hampshire—York Sheet” of the United States Geological Survey, “Edition of Oct. 1893 reprinted Mar. 1904.” This shows three peaks or hills on a ridge, the height of the most northeasterly peak being 513 feet, that of the central 504 feet, and that of the southwesterly (and “southmost”) 675 feet. The northeasterly peak is about seven-tenths of a mile from the central peak, and the latter is about the same distance from the southwesterly peak. Some two and one-half miles to the south of the southwesterly peak is a hill or peak 348 feet in height. South of this on the map there are no elevations above 169 feet, and the conditions, in my opinion, accord with Winthrop’s statement that “all the rest of the land to the S. was plain, low land.” On the map the name “Mt. Agamenticus” is written on the southwesterly of the three peaks. The characteristics of Mt. Agamenticus above recited conform to those of the Three Turks’ Heads as described by Winthrop, and I know of no other prominent elevations having those features. My conclusion is that when Winthrop mentions “Agamenticus” or “Aquamenticus” he means the Gorges settlement at what is now York; and that by the “Three Turks’ Heads” he means the hill now called Mt. Agamenticus together with its two companion hills as above.478
On June 11 the wind was still southwest, and they stood to and again all day within sight of Cape Ann. On the next day the Arbella arrived at Salem, passing through the narrow strait between Baker’s Island and Little Island and coming to anchor a little within the islands. On the 13th the Jewel arrived—also at Salem. The Ambrose reached the same place June 18. On July 2 the Talbot arrived at Charlestown as before stated. Her voyage had lasted nearly three months, during which she had lost fourteen passengers.
Besides the historic importance of Winthrop’s voyage considered by itself, it seems to me that it must have been more or less typical of many of the voyages from England to Massachusetts in the seventeenth century. In such case, by carefully studying that voyage we may be learning considerable about other voyages also. This view would particularly apply to the paths taken by the ships over the ocean. On inspecting the accompanying sketch it will appear that a vessel from Britain sailing southwesterly until it struck the parallel of, say, 43° 15′, might well run down that parallel, get soundings on the southerly end of the Great Bank of Newfoundland and on the banks off Nova Scotia, keep away from Georges Shoal, obtain sight of land at Cape Sable and ascertain position, and thence run down the same parallel until Mt. Agamenticus was sighted.479 This landmark is unique, and there are no other high hills or mountains in the neighborhood. Seeing it at a distance out at sea, the navigator would know his position and could at once shape his course for Massachusetts Bay. The above, like any other intended course at sea, is to be sailed subject to conditions of wind and weather. If after passing Cape Sable the wind was adverse for a considerable time, for the purpose of determining position the coast of Maine to the north might be sought with comparative safety because of their having the means of ascertaining their latitude. Such may have been the reason for the Arbella’s coming within sight of the Maine coast. After Agamenticus had been sighted, there would seem to have been no necessity for making a tack inside Boone Island. The purpose of so doing was probably to obtain information as to the lay of the land and the general conditions of the region; perhaps to study Mt. Agamenticus as a landmark. In this way the men on the Arbella doubtless acquired a knowledge of those parts which it would not have been practicable for so many to have attempted to do after they had become located in the Bay. But whatever the tracks of other ships bringing passengers across the Atlantic at that period, or whatever their build or characteristics, they appear to have been in the hands of skilful navigators.480
There were seven other ships destined for the Massachusetts Bay which it was intended should be of Winthrop’s fleet, but not being ready for the voyage they remained for the time at Southhampton. They sailed, however, in May and all arrived here early in July.481
Thus there were eleven ships in this particular expedition, though sailing in two separate fleets or divisions, for we may assume, I think, that the seven ships sailed from Southampton together as they all arrived at Charlestown or Salem between July 1st and July 6th, inclusive.482 Not only were some seven hundred men, women, and children transported in these eleven vessels, but, as before stated, the Charter and government of the Colony were transferred to Massachusetts. An English commercial and colonial company had become an American Commonwealth. In the accomplishment of this great purpose one cannot fail to see the exercise of wisdom, of courage, of business ability, and of the power of organization, all in a high degree.