Upon the Waves of the World

Dennis’ 400 sea captains earned their living upon the waves of the world. Their journeys took them to faraway lands inhabited by exotic peoples. Years, sometimes a good part of a decade would go by before they returned home to see family and friends. Yet this is the life they chose. Perhaps the spray and smell and salt of the ocean was in their blood, calling them from the rooted land to journey upon the rising and falling waves of the sea.
~ Jack Sheedy
(Dennis Journal)

My grandmother loved telling me stories about her own grandfather and often reminded me that the sea was in my blood. I’m pretty sure it was this sea captain who took his second wife with him on a few of his voyages and bought her a “monkey” in some foreign land. Apparently the creature was a “holy terror” on the ship but she adored him.

My 2nd-great-grandfather, Capt. Martin Edward Thompson, firstborn son of Martin and Ann Isabella (Hughs) Thompson, was born 4 August 1850 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died in 1928. He married (as his first wife) 5 July 1874 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Elisabeth Emma “Lizzie” Freeman, who was born 4 September 1851 in Harwich, and died there 4 October 1876, daughter of Warren and Elisabeth (Weekes) Freeman.

Martin was named after his father, a Norwegian immigrant, and followed in his footsteps, becoming a Master Mariner and captain of the schooner Nellie Lamphear. He also served on coasting vessels, tug boats, and was licensed to enter any port in the world. In 1910 he was elected port warden of Boston by the Boston Marine Society, the oldest association of sea captains in the world.

Elisabeth died of a “stoppage” when she was 25 years old and her baby son was only 18 months old. Her gravestone is inscribed:

Fled O forever from our view
A dear daughter, wife and mother, too:
She was a treasure lent, not given:
To be called away from Earth to Heaven.
Life to her looked bright and joyous
And her home was very dear:
To the summons of her Savior,
She gently yielded without fear.

1880 Captain Martin E. Thompson House, Dennis Port

The 1880 census indicates that, now a widower, Martin was living with his parents and his young son. Five years after Lizzie’s death, Martin married (as his second wife) her younger sister, Rosilla Ida “Rosie” Freeman, 23 February 1882 in Dennis. Rosie was born 6 March 1856 in Harwich, and died 18 March 1923, without children. In 1900, Martin and Rosilla were living as lodgers in the house of Nancy H. Merrill in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Beverly, Barbara and our cousin Matthew with Nellie’s carriage

Martin owned a beloved horse named Nellie (named after his schooner or vice versa?) who lived in the barn at 114 Depot St. in Dennis. He gave his granddaughter, my grandmother, her first three cars. According to my grandfather, Martin and his granddaughter Thommie worshiped each other. The first car was a Model T that had to have the carbon scraped every week. The next was a 2-door sedan Model T. Martin lies buried with his second wife, Rosilla, in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis, and Emma, his first wife, is buried in the same cemetery but in another lot with his parents and other members of his family.

Elisabeth & Martin were the parents of one son:

1. Capt. Martin Freeman Thompson (my great-grandfather), born 29 March 1875 in Harwich, died 13 July 1965 in Dennis. He married 1 February 1900 in Dennis, Amanda Eliza Hamblin, who was born there 2 August 1879 and died 6 July 1966 in Taunton (Bristol) Massachusetts, daughter of Capt. William Nelson and Anna Eliza (Baker) Hamblin. Martin & Amanda were the parents of one daughter.

In 1964 my grandparents inherited and moved into Martin’s house at 114 Depot Street, along with my great-grandparents, who they were caring for. Some of our happiest family memories were made there. My dear cousin Matthew bought the house in 2001 after our grandfather died. He renovated the place, keeping its historical integrity and was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Dennis Historical Commission in 2005. Sadly, the house had to be sold in 2009.

Cape Cod Seafaring

The decade of the 1850s was truly an incredible period in seafaring history. Clipper ships sailed the world’s oceans, bringing back fortunes and treasures from faraway lands to Cape Cod, and the town of Dennis. And some of the ships playing a part in this history were built right down the road at Sesuit Harbor. These vessels, built by East Dennis hands, outraced pirates, battled typhoons, and carried their cargoes to their Dennis homes. And some just seemed to fall off the edge of the world, their crews never to be heard from again.
~ Jack Sheedy
(Dennis Journal)

My 3rd-great-grandfather, Capt. Martin Thompson, son of Hans Mathias Tønnesen and Dorothea Larsdatter Strømtan, was born 23 July 1818 in Brevik (Telemark) Norway as Ingebrigt Martinus Hansen, and died 22 October 1896 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts. He married (as his first wife) after 2 July 1849 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Ann Isabella Hughes, who was born 6 January 1830 in Ireland, and died 16 May 1885.

Ingebrigt was vaccinated on 18 September 1832 in Brevik by Dr. Schmidt. [In 1995, my brother-in-law John located the birth record for Ingebrigt Martinus in the regional archives in Kongsberg, Norway.] According to naturalization papers, Ingebrigt arrived in America in the port of Philadelphia on 10 June 1837, and filed a Declaration of Intention in New York City 6 April 1848. The naturalization was processed by the Boston Municipal Court and he became an American citizen 17 April 1854. According to his great-granddaughter, my grandmother, Martin came to America to help test steamships which were just becoming commercially useful.

By 1850 the newly married couple was living in Dennis and Martin worked as a mariner, master mariner and sea-captain and had accumulated some wealth by 1870, claiming real estate valued at $4000 and a personal estate of $8000. On 2 March 1866, while Martin was captain of the Schooner Niger, two Swiss sailors with the same name attempted to land in a boat from the schooner but capsized and drowned. On May 13 the body of John P. Erixson was picked up on the shore of Harwich Port and on May 14 the body of John Erixson came on shore close to the same spot. John had sailed with Capt. Thompson for about 4 years and boarded with him and Mrs. Nehemiah Wixon. The sailors were buried together in Swan Lake Cemetery.

I have not been able to identify Ann’s Irish parents. She died of a tumor when she was 55 years old. The following is from Saints’ Herald Obituaries, 1885, p. 426:

Ann L. (Thompson) was baptized and confirmed a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on 30 September 1874 at Dennisport, Barnstable, Massachusetts, by C. N. Brown.

Birth Date: About 1830
Death Date: May 1885
Death Place: Dennisport, Barnstable, Massachusetts
Spouse: Captain Thompson

Martin married (as his second wife and as her second husband) 1 February 1887 Frances Jemima (Turner) Turner, his housekeeper, who was born about 1848 in England, daughter of James Turner and Jemima Frances (Best) (Turner) Tyrode, and widow of John Turner. After Martin & Frances married Frances was able to bring her 18-year-old daughter over from England. Her daughter by her first husband was Eugenie Helene Maud Turner (1869-1939). By this time Martin had settled down as a merchant, and at the time he died he owned a spice store, his occupation being noted as trader. Apparently he left most of his estate to Frances and her daughter.

Martin died of bronchitis, at the age of 78. His will was written 24 March 1890 and proved 8 December 1896. Martin & Ann are buried together in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis. The inscriptions on their tombstones are identical:

Rest till the morn
Of the resurrection,
When we hope to Meet thee.

Ann & Martin were the parents of three children:

1. Capt. Martin Edward Thompson (my 2nd-great-grandfather), born 4 August 1850 in Dennis, died 1928. He married (as his first wife) 5 July 1874 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Elisabeth Emma “Lizzie” Freeman, who was born 4 September 1851 in Harwich, and died there 4 October 1876, daughter of Warren and Elisabeth (Weekes) Freeman. Martin & Elisabeth were the parents of one son.

Martin married (as his second wife) 23 February 1882 in Dennis, Elizabeth’s younger sister, Rosilla Ida “Rosie” Freeman, who was born 6 March 1856 in Harwich, and died 18 March 1923, daughter of Warren and Elisabeth (Weekes) Freeman. Martin & Rosilla did not have any children.

2. John “Hanse Ingebrath” Thompson, born 19 June 1853 in Dennis, died 1917. John was also a mariner and was named after his grandfather, Hans Tønnesen and his 2nd great-grandfather, Engelbret Olsen Baar. He married (as his first wife) Thankful M. (—). John married (as his second wife) 13 February 1881 in Harwich, Etta Lee Kelley, who was born 1858 in Dennis and died 1929, daughter of Joseph and Barbara A. (—) Kelley. According to my grandmother, Uncle John had quite the temper, and made a big impression on her when he threw a frying pan out of the window, shouting out after it emphatically: “I said that there will be no onions fried in this house!!!!” John, Etta and their daughter Annie are buried with John’s parents in Swan Lake Cemetery.

3. Anna Thompson, born about 1863 and probably died young. She was in her parents household and attending school in 1870, when she was 7 years old.