Capt. Daniel Carpenter Bacon (1787 - 1856)

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Birthplace: Barnstable, Barnstable, Massachusetts, United States
Death: Died in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Managed by: Doug Robinson
Last Updated:

About Capt. Daniel Carpenter Bacon

Daniel C. Bacon was born in Barnstable around 1788. He went off to Boston in 1802 as a young man of 14 or 15, to sail as a mate on William Sturgis’s ship Atahualpa. He was first mate on the Xenophon, and became its Captain in 1807. He later sailed on Theodore Lyman’s ship and distinguished himself in trade with China and in the Pacific Northwest fur trade. In the 1820s he retired from the sea, moved to Boston with his family and became a prosperous merchant and owner of thirty ships. He built the Bacon Farm on Main St. in Barnstable, Ma. as a summer residence. He died in 1856.

The "Canton Packet" while in China, in 1820, was blown ashore by a typhoon, which left her almost high and dry on the rice-fields. Daniel Bacon had gone over as captain of the "Alert," and as soon as he discovered the mishap he rushed over to assist in floating the American vessel. He gave orders to one of the sailors to "bear a hand and loose that topsail" and "to cut away the stops," and was surprised to receive the answer that it couldn't be done, as he had no knife. "A pretty sailor without a knife," said Captain Bacon, not realizing at all that he was working with and talking to Robert Bennet Forbes, who was soon to become his most intimate friend. In fact, the two families have always maintained that in later life when either of these well-known captains was taking a nap, each one gave instructions to be waked only for his chum.

Captain Bacon was born in Barnstable, Cape Cod, the family hav­ing moved there from England in 1639, and the property where they resided still remains in the family, although the original house is not now standing. At this early date the Cape-Codders used to refer to "Goodman" and "Goodwife" instead of "Mr." and "Mrs." When the first railroad was built on the Cape, the Bacons relate that one of the women of the family had such an aversion to its being laid that when she went out to drive she carried a large turkey-feather fan to hold in front of her eyes so that she couldn't see the trains go by. Life on the Cape was excellent training for the sea, and it wasn't at all surprising that one of the later members of the family, Daniel Bacon, should at an early age set out on the old family white horse for Boston to seek his fortune as a sailor, hiring some one to ride his horse back to Barnstable. He shipped before the mast, rising quickly in rank until he became first mate under Captain William Sturgis, and then captain of vessels owned by Ropes & Pickman and by Theodore Lyman, both of whom were prominent merchants of this city. Bacon sailed several times under Captain Sturgis, and when the latter was married, the two brought their ditty-bags and sewed together the carpet for the bride to stand upon. It is interesting to record that, nearly a century later, a marriage took place between two of their grandchildren.

Captain Bacon commanded the "Atahualpa," the "Vancouver," the "Alert," and other ships, and later in life built the well-known "Game­cock," one of the first of the California clippers, and other vessels for his own use. For many years the "Gamecock" was the fastest ship afloat, and it was probably this vessel that prompted the famous challenge for a match race which was made to British shipbuilding in 1851 by the American Navigation Club, of which Bacon was president. The "Gamecock" had a figurehead of a flying bird with outstretched neck and head, ready for any contest. Captain Bacon besides being a successful captain was also a good trader, which was just as important in the early days of trading, when great judgment and secrecy had to be used. The "Gamecock" is shown on page 30.

An amusing entry in Captain Bacon's log of the "Atahualpa " reads, "All sail set that is of the least use to drive us along toward the Yankee lasses." A later entry, which rather disclaims this fond­ness for the fair sex, reads, "It is so fine and smooth that I should like to have about forty or fifty pretty lasses on board for two or three hours upon a tea-drinking party, if there is any pleasure in them, but for my own part, I had rather be excused any time than to go to one of them."

Long after Captain Bacon gave up the sea, Mrs. George Lyman, daughter-in-law of Theodore Lyman, became very ill and was ordered by her physician to go to Cuba. She refused to go unless Captain Bacon sailed her down, and, being of an obliging disposition, he donned his sea togs again and took her to Cuba, together with her carriage and horses. Another time he was obliged to undergo a severe operation, before the days of anaesthetics. Dr. Warren tied him down and operated on his patient, who suffered terribly. When it was over, Bacon said jokingly, "Dr. Warren, if I ever get you on blue water, I'll give you hell!"

An interesting incident in his life was the lodging of the Siamese twins in his woodshed, they having been brought to America as a speculation by Captain Abel Coffin, one of Bacon's under-officers. Daniel Bacon has been described as the "synonym of mercantile enterprise, honor and integrity." Captain Forbes when told that he had died of enlargement of the heart remarked that this was im­possible, for his heart couldn't be any larger than it always had been.

The family lived at one time in Temple Place, later moving to Jamaica Plain near the Pond.

A prized possession is a silver tray service given Captain Bacon by the underwriters for saving the cargo of his vessel which went ashore in a storm at Nantasket. Young Bacon hired an ox-team and drove back and forth through the icy water until all the cargo was safely on shore.

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Capt. Daniel Carpenter Bacon's Timeline

May 23, 1787
Barnstable, Barnstable, Massachusetts, United States
August 26, 1819
Age 32
Barnstable, Barnstable County, MA, USA
Age 35
November 13, 1856
Age 69
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States