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Sally Freeman Dawes

Voyages: 1861-1871

Ship: Valetta, Annie W. Weston

Sally Freeman Dawes was born in Duxbury, MA, the daughter of Bradford and Waity (Winsor) Freeman. She grew up on her father’s farm on Standish Street in South Duxbury. In 1842 she married Capt. Josephus Dawes (1819-1910), one of three seafaring brothers from the Island Creek area of Duxbury. Letters written by Sally to her husband during their first two years of marriage demonstrate her desire to go to sea and her longing for the company of her husband. These letters are also a wealth of information about the voyages of other mariners’ wives from the town. Josephus Dawes was a very successful captain and, after boarding with her family for a few years, purchased a house for his wife and family at 158 Tremont Street. In this home they raised their children: Eunice (b. 1848), Wilfred (b. 1849) and Frank (b. 1854).

The first mention we have of Sally going to is sea is from her son’s memoirs which begin with voyage aboard the Valetta in 1861 and mention his mother. She made a longer voyage (1869-1871) aboard the clipper ship, Annie W. Weston. Also onboard this trip was her son, Fred as second mate, son Frank as seaman, and daughter Eunice. Eunice fell in love with the ship’s English steward, Henry Tanner, and once onshore, they married and opened a restaurant in Haverhill, MA.

An interesting event occurred during the Sally’s time on the Annie W. Weston. The ship was charter to bring supplies to Howland’s Island in the Pacific Ocean. Today, Howland’s Island is best known for its association with the aviator, Amelia Earhart. In 1937, during her trans-world attempted flight, Earhart was to have re-fueled on the island. She never arrived. In 1869, however, the island had only recently been discovered to hold a cache of fertilizer made of dead coral and was occupied by a few men mining the resource. Sally Dawes was the first woman known to have stepped foot on the island, almost 70 years before Earhart’s fateful flight.

Sally Freeman Dawes died at age 71 and is buried in Mayflower Cemetery, Duxbury, MA.  Her sister, Nancy Freeman Soule; sister in law, Eliza T. Clark Freeman; and three of Dawes her sisters-in law also appear on this list. Her letters have been transcribed and can be read here.


Dawes Family Collection, DAL.MSS.004

Sally Freeman Dawes. Collection of the Drew Archival Library, DRHS.
Bark Annie W. Weston. Original painting in the collection of the DRHS, 2007.046.001. Gift of Robert Alden Dawes.
Home of Sally Freeman Dawes, Tremont Street, Duxbury, MA. From “Topographical Atlas of Surveys: Plymouth County together with the Town of Cohasset, Norfolk County, Massachusetts,” published by L.J. Richards, 1903. Collection of the Drew Archival Library, DRHS.
Grave of Sally Dawes, Mayflower Cemetery, Duxbury, MA.