For me, names are one of the interesting aspects of genealogy. I enjoy learning about names and how they came about; which usually involves some geography. This was the case of my fifth great-grandfather John “Of the Mainland” Fosdick.
He was born in Charleston, Suffolk, Massachusetts. For a short history review, Charleston was founded in 1628. It was actually the first place the Pilgrims investigated before choosing to settle a little farther south in Plymouth. Later it was the sight of the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. Before the battle was over, the town, and its wharves and dockyards were destroyed by fire. So, Charleston is pretty steeped in American history.
I think, the only claim to fame my fifth great-grandfather can make is that he was of the mainland. But that does lead to a pretty interesting little story. The mainland is in reference to where he lived later in life and raised a family. He was born on 02 June 1732 in Charleston, Massachusetts. This was forty-three years before the Battle of Bunker Hill. However, by then he had removed himself to the island of Nantucket. Nantucket is about 15 miles SE of Martha’s Vineyard, and about 30 miles south of Cape Cod. It is shaped like an elbow and only has 49 square miles of land. It was once known as the whaling capital of the world. Since there were other John Fosdicks, namely his two sons, Jonathan and John, who were born on Nantucket, he was fated to forever be the John that was “of the mainland.” The older one that came over.
John “of the mainland” Fosdick at age 22, married Elizabeth Norton, who was a year younger, on the 28th of September 1754 at Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts. They had ten children in nine years named: Mary, Jonathan, John, William, David, Phillips, Jethro, Catherine, Elizabeth, and Sally, who was born a couple months after the Battle of Bunker Hill. John “of the mainland” died at age 77, on the 12th of October 1809 in Nantucket.
On the 1800 United States Federal Census, (1) there were 779 dwellings on Nantucket. Of the population of 5, 617 persons, 228 were of color, 2,772 were female, and 2,617 were male. The main industry was whaling. According to Century House, (2) an Inn on Nantucket Island, In 1766 the Nantucket wharves accommodated 118 whaling ships and at the peak of the activity there were 150. The island also became a sanctuary for persecuted Quakers who were very influential in business and government. After the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the whaling industry prospered until Pennsylvania began to refine underground oil, affecting the demand for whale oil lamps and sperm candles, and the California gold rush enticed the sailors away. In 1869 the last whaling ship left the island never to return. In the late 1880’s, vacations began to be a fad, and Nantucket was the ideal get-away destination which remains true today.
I am not sure what my fifth great-grandfather did for a living, but it was probably related to the whaling industry. It is a fact however, that at least two of his sons, William and Phillips, were Masters of Whalers. A whaler had 300 tons of carrying capacity, and could accommodate 35 crew members and 3-4 whale boats with a couple of spares.(3) According to the National Maritime Digital Library, under the search topic: American Offshore Whaling Voyages,(4) Phillips Fosdick was Master on the Harriet to Woolwich Bay in 1802. And returned in Dec 1803 with 1,000 gallons of whale oil. He was also Master of the Joanna on several voyages. One to the Pacific in 1794, returning in Oct 1796 with 1,100 gallons sperm oils which were light colored and most useful, and 400 gallons whale oil which is a darker oil. William also was master on the Joanna on a voyage to Brazil in 1792 with no cargo noted. William was master on the Industry for several voyages. The one to Brazil departed Aug 1793, and arrived in May 1794. The second voyage “supposedly” departed in 1797 with no return or cargo noted. I also noted on the logs for Nantucket, many Masters of ships had names of families the Fosdick women married into, such as: Gardner, Chadwick, Folger, Coffin, and Pease.
Two of Capt. William Fosdick’s brothers lost their lives at sea. On November 3rd in 1809, Phillips Fosdick died at sea near Sulawesi, Tengah, Indonesia, and Jethro Fosdick, who was listed as a crew member on a ship, died at sea after 1807, near West, Nimba, Liberia sometime after his last child was born. He had a son, Capt. Obed F. Fosdick, who was lost in the South Pacific in 1852. Neither David, Jonathan, or John had records of marriages, or children, and all three died in Nantucket. John died at age 39 in 1797, and David died at age 67 in 1830. Catherine also had a son, Captain Obed Alley who died near Peru.
Perhaps Capt. William Fosdick decided he had pushed his luck far enough. One of his voyages that “supposedly” departed in 1797 may not have happened, because in 1796 at age 36 he sold his land and property to his sister Sally and her husband, David Pease, and removed himself to Evington, Campbell, Virginia to try his hand at farming. Perhaps he never took that voyage, but whatever the mystery then, he stayed on the land the remainder of his life and died 10 October 1839 in Campbell county, Virginia. His son, John, born 19 April 1799, in Campbell County, Virginia, eventually migrated to Indiana where he learned the blacksmith trade, and died in 1867 in Elkhorn Grove, Carroll, Illinois. He had a son, Aaron Franklin Fosdick, born in 1849 in Ogle County, Illinois, who was a Farrier, and died in 1867 in Washington County, Illinois. Frank Fosdick had a daughter, Elva Mary [Fosdick] Reed Overboe, who was my great grandmother.
John “of the mainland’ Fosdick’s member’s birth/death data are attributed to DJ Cella Family tree on Ancestry.com., tree #9821477. I have enjoyed studying their research on the early years of the Fosdick family history. He has been very generous to make his tree public.
- Ancestry.com. 1800 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
Original data: Second Census of the United States, 1800. NARA microfilm publication M32 (52 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Second Census of the United States, 1800: Population Schedules, Washington County, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; and Population Census, 1803: Washington County, Ohio. NARA microfilm publication M1804 (1 roll).
- Century House. “History of Nantucket.” Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, MA, USA: http://www.centuryhouse.com. accessed 10 Feb 2018.
- New Bedford Whaling Museum. “Overview of North American Whaling/Whales.” https://www.whalingmuseum.org. accessed 10 Feb 2018.
- Lund, Judith N., Elizabeth A. Josephson, Randall R. Reeves and Tim D. Smith. “American Offshore Whaling Voyages: a database.” World Wide Web electronic publication. http://www.nmdl.org. (National Marine Digital Library.org). accessed 10 Feb 2018.