Charles W. Morgan - Coope, Virginia T.

Log of Mystic Seaport, Vol. 32, no. 4.(Winter, 1981): 121-128.

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For many years the whaleship Charles W. Morgan has been studied, probed, analyzed, and restored, so that there is little that is unknown about her and her long, successful career. Less well known is Charles Waln Morgan, the man. His grandson, Reverend Alfred Rodman Hussey wrote the story of Mr. Morgan (see Log of Mystic Seaport, Summer 1966) telling of his ancestry and providing an insight into a man who was a typical merchant of his times, a man of deep religious conviction, a devoted husband and father, and one who gave generously to support his community.

Charles W. Morgan.

Recently, having read all of Morgan's diaries in the collections of the G. W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport Museum, I became fascinated with the glimpse these pages provided. The earliest is a journal in three small volumes of a trip west, 30 November 1817 to 17 February 1818. There are ten volumes of diaries covering the years 1818 to 1861, two folders of letters written by Morgan to his wife, and her letters to him. The collection also contains many business papers, letterpress copybooks, and account books. Charles's diaries and letters give a remarkable understanding of his intelligence, personality, philosophy, and his family and business lives. In fact, his diaries are second only to those of his brother-in-law Samuel Rodman, Jr., in delineating the economic, social, and moral tone of New Bedford in its great period of growth between 1820 and 1860.

From Reverend Hussey's account we know that Charles Waln Morgan was born in Philadelphia on 14 September 1796, one of six children of Thomas and Anne Waln Morgan. The Walns were Quakers and the Morgans were of Welsh ancestry. Thomas Morgan's father was a Baptist preacher but Charles's family were members of the Society of Friends.

We know little of his life until, on 30 November 1817, he started a journal of a trip west with his cousin, Richard Wells, which was made partly for business, partly for pleasure, according to Reverend Hussey. The journal of this trip shows him to have been a perceptive young man eager to learn many things. He described cities and towns in detail, architecture, prosperity of the people, and cultural activities.

Morgan and his cousin made the entire trip on horseback, enduring the hardships of snow and rain, "wet to the skin, floundering along in the mud." On 12 December in western Pennsylvania he lamented: "I am wandering in a strange land where the people are as rough and savage as the mountains that surround them, where no one cares for me and where I care for no one." At times they were able to find adequate lodgings with good meals, but they had their share of poor accommodations "with unwelcome inhabitants" in their beds. Money was often a problem since some innkeepers were suspicious that the notes Charles carried on the Bank of North America were counterfeit and refused them. Upon arrival in a town he would go to a bank and get five or ten dollars in specie, "notwithstanding the black looks of the clerk," and then pay small bills in specie, demanding the same in

* Funding for digitization provided by: Mystic Seaport