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George Howland

Birthdate: (70)
Birthplace: Acushnet, New Bedford, Massachusetts, U S A
Death: May 5, 1852 (70)
New Bedford, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States
Place of Burial: New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Matthew Howland and Abigail Wing
Husband of Elizabeth Howland and Susannah (Susan) Howland
Father of George Howland; Eliza, M Howland; Hon. George, 2nd Howland, Jr.; Augustus Howland; Elizabeth Howland and 13 others
Brother of Joseph Howland; Allen Howland; Cornelius Howland; Abigail Howland; Wing Howland and 3 others

Occupation: Banker
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About George Howland


George Howland George Howland was born on November 7, 1781 in the Long Plain section of what is now Acushnet, Massachusetts. The Howlands had been among the earliest settlers in Old Dartmouth and George had numerous relatives in the area. At the age of 16 he began his career as an apprentice in the office of William Rotch Jr., one of the three leading New Bedford whaling merchants and shipping agents of the day. In 1797 George Howland began keeping a financial journal to record his own business affairs. (His financial journals, ledgers, cash books and other records which supplement the letter books are also a part of the Howland Collection.) He began building his career by investing in the ventures of other merchants and buying small shares in local ships. He acquired a 6/32 share in the ship George in 1802 and by 1803 had become principal owner of that ship holding a 5/8 share. He later acquired or had built for the merchant trade the Robert Barclay, Savage, Elizabeth, Ann Alexander, Howland, George and Susan, and the Hope. For many years George Howland’s ships carried freight and cargos from New Bedford, New York City, and Norfolk to a number of European ports including Dublin, Liverpool, Cadiz, Leghorn, Archangel, etc. and imported a variety of items, so it is not surprising to find him writing about “our Atlantic market” in his letterbooks. George Howland was successful despite the challenges to shipping imposed by the Napoleonic Wars, the Jefferson Embargo, and the War of 1812.

In 1817 George Howland began sending ships on whaling voyages. Some were converted from merchant use, others selected specifically for whaling. His whaling vessels included the George and Susan, Golconda, Ann Alexander, Hope, Cortes, Java, George Howland, Rousseau, and Corinthian. (A variety of records, including outfitting books, bills of exchange, bills of lading, and crew accounts for these ships are included in the Howland collection.) George Howland continued to send cargos of oil to Europe, especially to Bremen and Rotterdam; he imported Swedish iron as well as English-made try pots, which he sold to other merchants in the whaling industry. He also sent oil and candles to his American agents in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

On September 29, 1803 George Howland married his cousin, Elizabeth Howland, the daughter of John Howland. George and Elizabeth had three children: George and Elizabeth M., who died young, and George Jr., who at age 14 entered business with his father and went on to be a prominent public figure in New Bedford, serving as mayor from 1855 to 1865. Elizabeth Howland died on December 12, 1806.

On April 26, 1810 George Howland married Susanna Howland, the daughter of Cornelius Howland. George and Susan, as she was known, had 14 children, 8 of whom died young. The children who survived into adulthood were: Augustus, who lived in Scipio, Ledyard and Syracuse, New York; Elizabeth, who married William Chase of Salem; Massachusetts; Matthew, who entered business with his father and his half- brother; Charles Wing, who first lived in Union Springs, New York but later moved to Wilmington, Delaware; Susan R., who married Samuel Parsons of Flushing, New York; and Robert Bowne, who spent much of his adult life in Union Springs, New York but returned to New Bedford in his later years.

The New Bedford directories of 1836, 1838, 1839, 1841, 1845, and 1849 provide considerable information about George Howland. All but the 1849 Directory list him as a merchant and all list him as president of the New Bedford Commercial Bank. All show his home at 75 Walnut Street, at the corner of 7th Street. They list George Howland’s counting house office at 122 North 2nd Street and a wharf near-by at the foot of North Street. The 1836 Register shows a second wharf owned by George Howland at the foot of Union Street; later directories list this location as Merchants Wharf and today it is known as State Pier. Starting in 1838 a candle house and oil manufactory owned by George Howland are listed at the same North Street address as his office. In addition to his shipping and whaling activities, George Howland had other interests. He was the principal owner of the Weweantit Iron Company in Wareham, Massachusetts. He was on the board of Directors of the New Bedford and Taunton Rail Road Company during the 1840s. All of the Directories show George Howland serving as a trustee of the Friends Academy in New Bedford.

After George Howland Jr. and Matthew Howland joined their father’s shipping and whaling business, the firm became known as George Howland and Sons. The letter books show George Howland that became less active in the business during the 1840s. Letters of direction to whaling ship captains from 1843 onward were signed by George Howland Jr., or Mathew Howland rather than their father.

George Howland died on May 5, 1852. At the time of his death, his estate, which had a net value of $615,000, included 9 whaling vessels with a book value of about $300,000 and a replacement value that could have been close to $1,000,000.

Source: "George Howland Letterbook"


Chapter IV

by Rose N. Yawger

Published 1893 by W. Bardeen, Syracuse, N.Y.

Early Life and Old Landmarks The few old landmarks of the early settlers which remain in Union Springs are being rapidly obliterated and it may not be considered out of place to locate a few of the more recent. When the old, red stone building of Pierson's, on the corner of Cayuga and Mill streets, was torn down, it took some time--even with the help of the date of the building, 1810, found on the corner-stone--for the oldest inhabitant to recall that it was built by William Burling. Asa Burnham kept a store there. William Burling built a mill on the site of the present stone mill. In the basement of the house was a small distillery. An old wooden house on the opposite corner was built by Jonathan Stout who had a tannery there. Timothy Bush had a blacksmith shop west of the house on the edge of the pond. The second mill on that location was a woolen mill, and the third one was built in 1839-'40 by George Howland, who came here from New Bedford. The canal into the lake was made at the same time, and the embankment around the pond was raised five feet. George Howland built boats in a yard west of the mill and north of the canal. He shipped flour to New Bedford and employed a cooper from New Bedford, named Dribble. They also made barrels and sold to the owners of whale ships. These barrels were made tapering at the top to fit the bulge of the whale ships, and after the flour was used the barrels were filled with oil. George Howland built a plaster mill on the north side which ground 700 tons a year, he also built a saw and lath mill still further north. This mill sawed great rafts of logs from Seneca Lake. Opposite Pierson's furnishing rooms, on the east side of the road, was a large, old, wooden tavern. The house now occupied by W. Pierson was built by Counsel Barnes who lived there, and the barn south was formerly a blacksmith shop. Samuel Richardson kept store in an old building which stood in front of the Mersereau house on Cayuga street. Another of the revolutionary soldiers who returned here to live was Samuel Jenny. He came in a one horse wagon with his family in 1813, and was six days finding his way here from Auburn. He built the Richardson place south of the Presbyterian church and lived in a house south of this where Miss Mary Richardson's house now stands. The houses in the country north of the village were full as many as at the present time. On the south side of the Auburn road, across the way from Roland Hammond's place [Northeast corner Hwy 326 and Crossroads Road], was a log house. A few trees of the orchard belonging to it can still be seen. The Stout and Milligan families lived here at one time. Henry Crane lived on the west side of the road opposite Roland Hammonds. On the main road one mile north of Union Springs was a house occupied by a Calligan. In a log house south of Calligan's place, that is north of the grey stone barn which stands on the north side of Robert Howland's grounds, lived a family of slaves. Where the red house at the head of Howland's lane stands was a blacksmith shop. Way north of this was the "Black House" on the Yawger place, and at some distance further north came the log homesteads of the Hughes, Thompsons, McFarlands, Fitches and Shanks. These log houses had chimneys built up from the ground on the outside. They were made of stocks plastered over with mud which was made more adhesive by a mixture of straw. The floors were made of split logs. The window panes in many cases were made of greased paper, while the doors were set opposite each other in order that the large logs, sometimes three feet through and eight feet long, could be brought in. In those days, bear meat, as well as venison and beef were eaten, while the common leeks were boiled for greens. The cows ate many of these leeks which gave a strong flavor to the butter. Some persons objected to this, so in time it became the custom to place a fresh green by the side of each plate at the table, so each guest might eat first of the leek, thus obscuring in a degree the strong flavor of the butter. Evan-root which grew in wet grounds was used instead of coffee. This tasted very much like chocolate and was sweetened by maple sugar. Watercresses, crinke root and ground nuts were used then, and for spices they had spicebush, sassafras and winter-green. Then the tools the men had to do with. Who now would think he could use an old "bull plow" with a wrought iron share, or a "crotch" drag? These same crops were harvested by hand with sickles and later by cradles. There used to be great rivalry among the men to see which could do the largest day's work. An ordinary man would cut about two acres of grain in a day, while an expert could handle four acres. The flax was pulled. The hours of a working day were from sunrise to sundown, and the wages were fifty cents a day. Afterwards good hands commanded six shillings which was thought to be a good price, until the wages rose to $1.00 which price made consternation among the employers. Woodcutters were sometimes paid by the cord. An ordinary day's work was two cords, but four cords were cut by some men. Twenty-five cents a cord was the price paid. One very important character in those days was the family shoemaker. There were many tanneries near Howland's Mills. Everybody carried the hides which had accumulated during the year to these places and had them tanned. Once a year the shoemaker came around with his blocks hand made shoes for the entire family. It was a great day when the shoemaker arrived. He went from house to house and with many stories and jests made himself entertaining company. These shoes lasted well and so did the clothes. The home-made suits of "butternut' and "lisey-woolsey" wore a long time, but it made a great deal of extra work for the women of the household. After the usual work was done, there was wool-carding, spinning, and weaving. The spinning-wheel and loom in those days was a familiar sight. They raised flax around here which was beaten out and linen made. The candle-dipping and soap-making made work too. There was no canned fruit in those days, and after the few earthen jars of rich preserves were done, they would set to and prepare great quantities of dried fruit. Apples, peaches and corn were preserved in this way. Some kinds were kept in shallow racks put up by the side of the wall, while apples and such fruit were strung in long strings and hung with the hams, sides of bacon, bunches of onion and sage which decorated the kitchen rafters. After the white settlers came, the wild game disappeared very rapidly as they were not as wise as the wily Indian in replenishing where they destroyed. This was as true of the white fish and salmon trout found here in such abundance, as of the deer and plover. Wild pigeons were used as food. Down at the "Black House" large nets were spread with tempting bait and pigeons could be caught at any time. Long before the Erie canal was put through, people had their own canal boats for plaster and used to go down the lake to Seneca River which they followed as far as Three River Point. Then they poled across Oneida Lake and the pole was called a "white-ash sail" They went up Wood Creek and near Rome they had a small old-fashioned lock which let them into the Mohawk. Thence by the Mohawk to Albany. They carried all the grain to Albany in this way and sold it there for two and six. Some plaster was also carried east in this way. The plaster which was found here did not have a very large market until the war of 1812. Then the Nova Scotia plaster being forbidden our ports the Cayuga Plaster had a large sale. The tavern-keepers along the Mohawk did not like to take in these western chaps, because they played so many pranks on them, so these fellows used to live on their boats and carry everything they needed to live on along with them. They went late in the fall and sometimes these journeys would take so long that their provisions would freeze. It was no uncommon sight while passing along the canal to see groups of canal-men over a fire, thawing out frozen pie or boiled food. On the return trip, they carried the inevitable keg of whiskey and a new bonnet for the housewife. One of the most important as well as interesting places in those days was the old time inn or tavern. These places abounded and were well patronized, especially on town meeting day, or when there was anything going on to call the people together. There were strange goings on in some of these places. One of these old taverns was on the east side of Cayuga street north of Yawger Bray's barn. It was a large square building. The entire upper floor was a dance hall, while on the first floor were the bar, the parlors, the general living and sleeping rooms of the inn-keeper's family, who always lived with him. Those were the days when men used to buy two gallons of whiskey and a quarter of a pound of tea. There was more drinking and less drunkenness in those days than now. Besides these many taverns everyone had his private cupboard or chest of well stocked liquors. The first thing when company came was to "liquor up" and he who did not treat company was known among his neighbors as a very low-down stingy person indeed. Even the children were included and while their elders were drinking hard cider, cherry bounce, apple or peach brandy, the children were given "black strap," which was a mixture of cider, molasses and water. The old inn was kept by John Yawger and here was held the first town meeting. That was a solemn affair I assure you. That is, it was at first! This was held in April, 1823, and William Cozzens was elected supervisor. He came from Rhode Island in 1812. He was then a sea-captain but here he farmed it and was also a merchant. Henry Yawger bought the tavern soon after this. One evening when the old stage lumbered in from Auburn, it brought a company of players who were going through the country. They put up at the inn and the following morning all hands were busy arranging a platform in the upper part of the dance hall. The play was well advertised by the patrons of the inn, and before dusk people began to arrive. No child ever listened more eagerly to a nursery tale, than did that audience to the "Babes in the Wood" which was the play actually performed there that evening.


From Previous to 1835, George Howland, Esq., of New Bedford, purchased a large amount of property in and about the village, new vigor being added to its growth by his entereprise and liberality. At this time he ertected the largeflowering mill at the north pond. This mill is four stories high, is built of limestone, cost forty thousand dollars, and has four runs of stone. There is adjoining it, a mill for girinding plaster, and a saw mill. These three mills are connnected with the Lake by a canal, so that all articles from them can be shipped without cartage. The pond covers four and a half acres, the water rising in it two and a half inches per hour. The fall is about eighteen feet. These mills are now the property of Messrs. Howland, Robinson & Co. This firm is now building a propeller of forty horse power, fourteen inch cylinder, and sixteen inch stroke, to make trips between Ithaca and Syracuse, by way of the Cayuga Lake, and Seneca and Erie Canals. It is to carry both freight and passengers. In 1854, the prosperity of the town received a sever shock by fire. The entire agricultural works of Anthony and Rowentree, besides numerous stores and offices were destroyed. These works had employed a large number of hands, who shortly after this disastere moved away. In the Fall of 1861, another conflagration broke out in buildings, which though adjacent, had escaped the former fire. By it were consumed a leather harness and shoe store, a grocerey, a dentistís office, a jewelerís store and a large amount of other property. In spite, however, of these great losses, the village promised to again become very prosperous. In addition to the large and flourishing shcools, othere improvements are being made, and new buildings erected. A stranger who had merely passed through the main street could form no idea of the large amount of business done here. It is by the Lake that the life of the village is to be found. On the south side of the town, we first see the large limestone quarries of Hamburg, connected with the Lake by a pier and horse railroad, so that the stone can be loaded direrctly on the canal boats; then on the right, in entering the village, is one of the large nurseries of Thomas & Herendeen; on the left, a tile yard, a lumbef yard, large store house for greain, etc., the basin and the pier. Four schooners and several canal boats owned in the village, are employed in carrying away the grain, flour, plaster, limestone, and manufactures of the place. The teown is connected with New York, Buffalo, and imtermediate places by water, through the Erie and Seneca canals and Cayuga Lake, with Cayuga Bridge by two daily steamers,and with Auburn by a daily stage. We next come to the agricultural works and foundry close by the Lake shore, a grist mill and saw mill by thesouth pond, then the various establishments of Howland, Robinson & Co., on the north pond. These include, besides what we have already mentioned, a lumber yard, and a steam factory, on an extensive scale, for the manufacute of felloes and other articles of wood, then another tile yard, and finally, north of the village, the large plaster and limestone quarries belonging to Mr.Howland, and several other proprietors. Theamount of ground plaster shipped fromthis place annually, is estimated at from seventeen to eighteen thousand dollars worth, and the limestone and unground plaster to over eighty thousand dollars.

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George Howland's Timeline

July 11, 1781
Acushnet, New Bedford, Massachusetts, U S A
August 8, 1804
Age 23
August 27, 1805
Age 24
October 20, 1806
Age 25
New Bedford, Bristol, MA, USA
January 29, 1811
Age 29
New Bedford, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States
September 27, 1812
Age 31
August 27, 1814
Age 33
New Bedford, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States
August 27, 1814
Age 33
New Bedford, Bristol, MA, USA
June 21, 1817
Age 35
New Bedford, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States
Age 37