Voyages: multiple, 1853-1871
Ship: William Sturgis, Garnet, Frederic Tudor
Jane West McLaughlin was born in Marshfield MA to Lewis McLauthlin and Polly Hathaway. Her father worked for Ezra Weston, the largest shipbuilder in Duxbury. Her grandfather, Rufus Hathaway, was a portrait painter and Duxbury’s town doctor.
Jane was raised in Duxbury until her father purchased a farm in Pembroke, MA. As a young woman, she taught school. In 1849, at the age of 24, she married Capt. John Bradford (1823-1893). He was the son of Ephraim Bradford, the manager of Ezra Weston’s rope walk. After her wedding, Jane moved into the Bradford’s home on Powder Point in Duxbury. During the early years of her marriage, while John was away at sea, she was kept company by her sister-in-law and fellow mariner’s wife, Lucy Bradford Nickerson, who also resided in the house.
Jane went to sea, perhaps for the first time, in 1854 aboard the William Sturgis. She brought along her three-year old daughter, Ellen. Little Ellen spent much of her childhood at sea, describing herself as “pretty salt” by the time she was six years old. The Bradford family continued to sail together for years, aboard various vessels. At times Ellen was left at home in the care of relatives to continue her schooling, but upon graduating from high school, she immediately rejoined her parents’ ship.
Because Jane and Ellen spent so much time at sea, the Bradfords did not own a house on land until Capt. Bradford’s retirement. The family’s stateroom aboard ship Frederic Tudor included Jane’s piano lashed to the cabin floor. They maintained a library and a menagerie of animals. Daughter Ellen’s memoir, A Home on the Rolling Deep, contains fascinating details about life aboard a merchant ship in the mid 19th century.
Of all the mariner’s wives from Duxbury, Jane W. McLaughlin Bradford may be the most well-traveled. Her husband estimated that she voyaged 307,300 miles. After they left the seafaring life behind in 1874, the Bradfords purchased a home in Winchester, MA. John Bradford died there in 1893. Jane died in 1920 at the age of 95. She is buried in Mayflower Cemetery, Duxbury, MA.
Bradford, John. “Grandfather’s Voyages,” 1893. Drew Archival Library.
Stebbins, Ellen Bradford. A Home on the Rolling Deep: Seen Through Journals, Letters, and Mists of Memory, [West Roxbury], 1939