Biography of Albert Town
Chittenden County, VT Biographies





TOWN, ALBERT, was born at Waterbury, Vt., on the 7th of June, 1819. He is descended from one of the oldest families that have come to this country from England. The earliest known existence of the surname Town, or Towne, was in the year 1274, when William De la Towne, of Alvely, a village in Shropshire, about twenty miles southeast of Shrewsbury, England, was engaged in the prosecution of a law suit. The earliest mention of the family in America is dated 1635, when William Towne resided in Cambridge, Mass., and in 1639 was the town clerk. He died there in the spring of 1685, aged eighty years. Another William Towne lived in Salem, Mass., in 1640, and died at Topfield about 1672. Two of his daughters, Rebecca and Mary, were executed during the Salem witchcraft delusion, while another daughter, Sarah, barely escaped with her life. From this branch of the family the subject of this sketch is sprung. Albert Town's father, Salem, was a native of Waterbury, Vt., whither his father, As; immigrated from Salem, Mass. Albert Town's mother was Rachel, daughter of Major Poland, a prominent soldier of the Revolution. Of their ten children only two have deceased, George W., having been killed at the storming of Chapultepec, in the Mexican War, after having served in the Seminole War, while Salem died at the age of three years.

Albert Town received a common school education at Dunham, now in the Province of Quebec, whither his father removed when he was but two years of age. When he reached his eleventh year he left home and hired out on a farm for four years, at four dollars a month, his board and clothes, and the privilege of attending school winters. In 1834 he came to St. Albans, Vt., where he remained two years, and then came to the farm which he now owns and occupies, as a laborer by the month for Ransom Jones.

The most interesting part of his career began in the spring of 1840. On the 8th of March of that year he left Richmond with several friends, with whom, on the 2d of April, he embarked from New Bedford, Mass., on board the whaling vessel New Bedford, Captain Leonard Crowell, for a three years' whaling voyage in the Southern Pacific Ocean. On the 16th of April they landed at St. Jago, one of the Cape Verde Islands, and two or three weeks later touched at Fayal, on one of the Azores. After cruising around these islands for a time they directed their course directly for Cape Horn, which they doubled early in July, and on the morning of the 8th bore off to the north from the islands. They landed at Juan Fernandez, near Valparaiso, Chili, and then headed for Callao, Peru. On the 26th of September they reached this port, where they remained about six weeks, painting their ship, and getting supplies. On the 28th of April, 1841, they went on shore at Payta, on the coast of Peru, and recruited with cocoanuts and oranges. Thence they proceeded to the Marquesas Islands, a group of the French archipelago, called the Mendana Archipelago. By the loth of September they had returned to Callao, and on the 5th of April, 1842, landed at Tahiti, or Otaheite, one of the Society Islands, where they recruited, and painted and repaired the ship. On the 1st of August they touched at Chatham Island, and procured a number of terrapins. Thence they again repaired to the northern coast of Peru, where they obtained a supply of wood and water, and vegetables. On the 18th of January, 1843, they were quarantined at Talcahuna, less than a mile from the island of Caracana, whence, after a stay of nearly two weeks, they succeeded in eluding the vigilance of the officers and escaped, reaching Juan Fernandez on the 7th of February. Their next venture was towards the Sandwich Islands, which they reached in April, on the 22d of which month they landed near Honolulu, and again recruited with wood, water, potatoes, yams, etc. They cruised about here for a time, went to the Society Islands, and thence towards the coast of Japan. After cruising the Pacific Islands in this manner until the fall of 1843, they started for home, passing the little isle of Mas-a-fuera, near Juan Fernandez, and touching on the latter on the 2d of January, 1844 They doubled Cape Horn on the 2d of April, crossed the equator towards the north on the 8th of May, and in due time landed at New Bedford, and enjoyed a reunion at Richmond.

Let it not be supposed that this voyage was filled with unmixed pleasures. The sailors often suffered from sickness, induced by exposure and ovenvork in a climate to which they were unused; their food, except at the infrequent intervals of their landing at some tropical island, was unwholesome and unpalatable in the extreme, many of the men were subjected to the cruelties of a drunken mate and the severity of his brother, the captain; add to which the continued perils incident to the life of a whaler, from the whales which they pursue, from pirates, and from tempest and calm, and you have not recited one half of the discomforts of this career. On the way south, when about twenty four hours' sail from the Cape Verde Islands, they were in great apprehension from the movements of suspicious looking craft having the appearance of pirates; and while off the coast of Japan, upon which they could not land, being placed under the commercial restrictions which that country had not then surrendered, they were in constant fear of Japanese junks. Notwithstanding this fear, they took about 500 barrels of sperm oil in the space of four weeks while in that region. At Otaheite they had a difficulty with the natives, which resulted in the capture by the latter of six sailors, including Mr. Town, who were put in the calaboose with their feet in stocks. They were all released in the course of a few hours, and Mr. Town was forced to pay a fine.

During his leisure moments Mr. Town was always engaged in some profitable employment for himself; instead of carousing or idling as did the greater part of the crew. He took advantage of his opportunities for reading. One accomplishment should not be omitted. He made two pairs of swifts - one for the captain, and one which is still in his possession, from the ivory teeth and the bones of whales captured on the voyage, fastened with silver rivets. The mechanism of these swifts is wonderful, and is the result of many hours of patient and careful labor. He also made four canes, one of ivory, one of cocoanut wood, and two of whalebone. He gave the ivory cane to the American consul at Honolulu.

After leaving the sea in August, 1844, Mr. Town at once repaired to the farm which he had left, and took charge of it for Ransom Jones, and also worked for a time on the railroad then building. After working here for five years he went to Granby, Canada, where his father was living, and where he remained until 1860. In the spring of that year he returned to Richmond and purchased the same farm, which he still occupies, of the estate of Ransom Jones. Since then he has remained on this place without intermission. His property now consists of this farm of about 33o acres, including one or two lots of wild land, and a farm of 25o acres in Underhill. He has been quite closely confined to his farm, not mixing much in politics, though he is a decided Republican, and has been frequently honored with office by his townsmen. He is now and for several years has been overseer of the poor.

He first married, in March, 1850, Zerviah, daughter of Oliver Shepard, an early settler then living in the next house west of this farm. By her he had one child, which was named after her, and which died with her on the 28th of June, 1853. In March, 1856, Mr. Town married again, his second wife being Marietta, daughter of William Williams, and a descendant of John Williams, cousin of the famous Roger Williams, whom he accompanied from the Old to the New World. Her grandfather, John Williams, was the first of the family in Richmond, and settled at a very early day on that farm on Richmond Hill now occupied by Benton Williams. He came from New Hampshire. Her mother's father, Robert Towers, came from Stromness, Orkney Islands, Scotland, was impressed on board an English man-of-war, captured with the rest of the crew by a French vessel, and confined in a French prison until released by an exchange of prisoners; came to this country, married Lucinda Soper in the State of New York, lived for a time in Jericho, and finally removed to Richmond.

Mr. and Mrs. Town have had nine children, all of whom are living, and all but two of whom are at home. Following are their names and the dates of their births: William A., born September 3, 1860; Kate D., born December 13, 1862; Ira E., born April 17, 1864; George V., born May 18, 1865; Clarence S., born August 1, 1866; Jennie M., born February 17, 1868; Herbert C., born March 23, 1874; Edgar Earl, born May 18, 1875; and Grace M., born March 4, 1877; William A. married Jessie Sayles, of Richmond, in 1882, and in 1879 Kate D. became the wife of H. C. Gleason, of Richmond.

From:
History of Chittenden County, Vermont
Edited by: W. S. Rann
D. Mason & Co., Publishers
Syracuse, New York. 1886


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