Sea Letters. Letters and Journals of the Captain Andrew Pinkham family of Nantucket and Ohio, 1813-1870.. By Renny A. Stackpole. Published by Maine Authors Publishing. 2013. 161 pages.
Mr. Stackpole writes in his introduction, “Sea Letters reflects this writer’s experiences exploring the letters of the Andrew Pinkham family of Nantucket, who emigrated from their island home at the outbreak of the War of 1812. They and eleven other families from Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard sought a new life in the rich farmlands of the Ohio valley.”
Mr. Stackpole writes about Captain Andrew Pinkham and his wife Deborah Bunker and their sons, focusing on detailing the lives of their sons, two of whom were in naval or merchant service. He had access to a number of letters written to and from them, and a variety of other written materials including journals and diaries. He weaves a narrative story of a period of history of this country and of the times of these people from a large collection of papers. From Mr. Stackpole’s extensive knowledge of the family and the places, he is able to make inferences as to the Pinkhams’ thoughts and actions.
Captain Andrew Pinkham, in the honored tradition of Nantucket, was a seasoned mariner who had pursued whales in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. He also served as the master of merchant vessels, sailing from New Bedford and from London at different times. He was gone for long stretches of time, leaving his wife Deborah with 4 sons to raise.
Mr. Stackpole describes, briefly but persuasively, the experiences of the people of Nantucket from the American Revolution to the War of 1812 and the hardships they endured. The ships of Nantucket, which provided most of its income, had suffered great losses of life and money during this period history and therefore the population of Nantucket had suffered. Ships were captured or sunk, sailors were impressed into service by enemy ships, cargoes and the money they represented were lost. Having endured his own losses, in the Fall of 1812 Captain Andrew Pinkham decided to move his family from Nantucket to the country, to Clermont County, Ohio where he purchased land.
I was immediately interested in this book when I saw this connection between Nantucket and Ohio. This is the time period when my Coffin family made the same move and I have long wondered about their motivation. There are tantalizing clues in this book from the brief history given in the Introduction and first chapter, and references to letters written between those who had traveled already to Ohio and those still in Nantucket which promise to answer some of my questions.
Mr. Stackpole’s book will appeal to early Ohio and Nantucket historians, as well as those interested in life on the seas and naval history. The use of so many letters (and careful references), which are written so well, gives us a window into lives and events as they happened, and will likely draw an even wider audience.