One of the things my visits to the cemeteries and graveyards of Plymouth
County over last summer brought home to me was the importance of the
sea in 18th and 19th century New England. Most people think of Boston,
Salem and other towns in the northeastern part of Massachusetts when
they think of the era of the "Yankee Clippers". But some of the earliest
ships were built along the North Riverand they were owned and manned
by crews from the surrounding towns.
I found an example of one Plympton family's coonection to the sea when
I visited Hillcrest Cemetery last April. There's a large square monument
at the front of the cemetery close to the roadside which memorializes
the family of William Marshall Bisbee and his wife Catherine Warren
Harrub. Bisbee men sailed and died upon the sea in the 19th century
and one had an illustrious career with a foreign government.
The front, facing west, simply gives the family name:
On the North Side (on the left had side as you stand in front), the
Capt. William Marshall
Died January 1859 in his 54th year
in command of the ship Eceria, bound to China
And was buried off the N.W. Coast of Australia.
Catherine Warren Harrub, his wife
died August 1887 in her 80th year.
William Wallace, died Sept. 1834 in his 2nd year.
Rachel Magoun, died Feb.1846 in her first year.
Then on the South Side (right hand side):
Felicia Hemans, died March 1847 in her 3rd year.
William Wallace, Lost overboard from the ship Esther May
of which he was Second Mate off the Cape of Good Hope,
homeward bound from Manilla , December 1859 in his 21st year.
Capt. Aelius Marcellus, died in Shanghai, China, Sept 7, 1901
in his 60th year.
Late Harbour Master and Coast Inspector at Shanghai;
He served in the Imperial Maratime Customs Service
For over 30 years.
Finally on the East Side (the back of the monument):
Eva Bisbee born April 16, 1851 Died March 13, 1938
Ida M. Riehl(Eva's Bosom Friend)
But whether they die on the seas or shore
Or lie under the water, or sand, or sod,
Christ give them the rest he keeps in store
and anchor their souls in the Harbours of God
The story of this family caught my imagination. I was especially
struck by Catherine enduring the deaths of her husband and four of her six
children. Her husband and one son died on opposite sides of the world, and
she probably never saw her only surviving son again after he went to sea.
And how did Aelius Marcellus Bisbee from Plympton, Massachusetts in the
United States become the Harbour Master in Shanghai, China?