The Duxbury Rural & Historical Society

Lucy Bradford Nickerson

Lucy Bradford Nickerson (1831-1879). Private collection.

Home of Lucy Bradford Nickerson, 546 Washington St., Duxbury, MA.

Lucy Bradford Nickerson (1831-1879)

Voyage: 1879

Ship: Nereid

Lucy Bradford was born in Duxbury, MA, the daughter of Ephraim Bradford and Lucy (Peterson) Bradford. Her father was the manager of Ezra Weston’s ropewalk and the Bradford family lived in a cape-cod style house at 213 Powder Point Ave., not far from the Weston estate. In 1850 she married Capt. George F. Nickerson (1824-1890). During the early years of their marriage the couple resided with Lucy’s parents. Her brother, John Bradford, and his wife, Jane Mclauthlin Bradford, also lived in the house. Although the small house may have seemed crowded, Lucy and Jane could find solace in each other as their husbands were at sea. Eventually the Nickersons built a home at 546 Washington Street and had six children: Lizzie (b. 1853), George (b. 1855), Henry (b. 1857), Lucy (b. 1860), Helen (b. 1866) and Bertha (b. 1871). Son George died of typhus fever at age 12; Bertha died at 3 months.

It is likely that Lucy voyaged with her husband during the early years of their marriage. Her sister-in-law, Jane, certainly went to sea on many occasions. There is only evidence, however, of her going on a single journey in 1877-1879. She had been feeling poorly and it was thought that a sea voyage would be good for her health. She set sail with husband aboard the Nereid from New York for a voyage to Australia and the Pacific. She took her 17-year old daughter, Lucy, leaving her younger children at home.

After discharging their load of coal in Sydney, Australia, the Nickersons went on to Yokohama, Japan where young Lucy met and fell in love with an American clerk, Theodore Morris. The couple desired to be married but Capt. Nickerson insisted that his daughter finish the voyage. If, when back in Duxbury, she still felt the same, he would see to it that she returned to Japan. To this arrangement, she agreed.

All this time, Mrs. Nickerson’s health seemed to improve. As the Nereid was on its homeward passage, however, her condition worsened. She tragically died on May 27, 1879 while rounding Cape Horn in a storm. Capt. Nickerson placed his wife’s body in a box packed with some of their cargo of Chile saltpeter (sodium nitrate). Her body was preserved enough that even the customs officials in Liverpool, England, who had originally insisted she be brought off ship and buried, allowed Capt. Nickerson to continue with the coffin. Lucy Bradford Nickerson was eventually laid to rest in Mayflower Cemetery, Duxbury, MA.

True to his word, Capt. Nickerson sent his daughter Lucy to Japan where she was married to Theodore Morris. Lucy’s younger sister, Helen, eventually joined her. After 18 years abroad, Theodore, Lucy and Helen moved to Los Gatos, California where they opened the Japanese-themed Nippon Mura hotel.

Source:

Bradford, Gershom. “A Tragedy in a Storm,” in In with the Sea Wind: the Trials and Triumphs of Some Yankee Sailors, Barre, MA: Barre Gazette, 1962.

 

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