Voyages: 1845, 1852-1853
Ship: Unknown and Seth Sprague
Beulah Holmes was the daughter of Nathaniel Holmes and Sylvia Wadsworth. In 1835 she married Capt. Alexander Wadsworth. Two of Alexander’s sisters, Catherine and Marinda, were mariners’ wives as well and appear on this list. The Wadsworths built a substantial home on Washington Street (since burned down). Beulah “frequently accompanied her husband on voyages,” according to Two Hundred Fifty Years of the Wadsworth Family in America. Sally Freeman Dawes mentions a voyage in 1845, i.e., “two Duxbury ladys started for New Orleans this morning to go to sea with there husbands Elexander Wadsworths wife and Capt Rastus Sampson.” At the time the Wadsworths had one son, two-year old Frank.
In 1852 she was aboard the Seth Sprague on a voyage to San Francisco. While in port, Capt. Wadsworth went ashore. He returned to ship to find only his first mate, bound and gagged, and Beulah left aboard ship – the crew had run off to the gold mines.
Later in 1852 Beulah set sail again aboard the Seth Sprague with her husband and son, Frank. A portrait of the ship with Beulah and Frank on deck is in the collection of the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society. The ship was loaded with ice bound for India. Once on the ocean, Beulah realized she was pregnant. She gave birth on February 21, 1853 while the ship was becalmed in the Bay of Bengal. She died seven days later. Desiring to bring his wife’s body back to Duxbury, Capt. Wadsworth had a casket made and filled with brandy. She is buried in Mayflower Cemetery, Duxbury.
The infant, a son named Alexander Seaborn Wadsworth (1853-1934), was kept alive with goats’ milk and later, hardtack soaked in water.
Bradford, Gershom. “A Tragedy in a Calm,” in In with the Sea Wind: the Trials and Triumphs of Some Yankee Sailors, Barre, MA: Barre Gazette, 1962.