Biography of Capt. Thomas S. Lovell

Capt. Thomas S. Lovell was born in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, January i8, 1785. At the age of fifteen he went to sea as cabin boy, and, during his first cruise of three years, was advanced before the mast. Returning home he went to school for one or two terms, learned something of navigation and a little mathematics, then took to the sea again. He was successful in his calling, became master of a ship before he was twenty-one years old, and before he had reached his twenty-ninth year had crossed the Atlantic forty-two times. Capt. Lovell says:

“In 1812, when war began, I loaded my ship with corn in Philadelphia for a Spanish port, depending on the good sailing of my ship for safety. I went through safely, sold my cargo at a good advance, and lay in the harbor five months, waiting for an opportunity to get out, the bay of Biscay being alive with armed vessels. When I thought it was safe to come out I did so, but myself and crew were captured. My ship was ballasted with sand. The English were very anxious to know what had become of the proceeds of my cargo. I told them I had remitted it to London, but they thought that was a Yankee lie, and they probed the sand through and through to find the money, but to no effect. I was then taken before the admiral (I forget his name), and he finally cleared me and gave me a permit to St. Ubes in Portugal, there to load with salt, and I made a good voyage home.”

Finding times dull (in 1814), and commerce languishing, he resolved to quit the sea. We give Capt. Lovell’s language again:

“My brother Russell and myself were partners in business, and, as times were so very dull, we decided to emigrate to the west. So we sold our property, rigged what was called a Yankee wagon, and a small wagon and team of five horses, and started for Ohio. We traveled by land to Redstone, Fayette county, Pennsylvania, where we separated. My brother took the teams down by land, while I, with a flat-bottomed boat, a queer kind of craft without mast, jib, or sail, took the families and most of the effects by water to Marietta. From there we came on to Athens county, and settled on Sharp’s fork of Federal creek, in what was then Ames township. We reached here November 18, 1814, after a journey of ten weeks. For awhile both families lived in one cabin, not a large one either, belonging to job Phillips, and we had hard sailing to get along. I was willing to work, but did not know any more about farming than a land-lubber does about working a ship-however, we got along. Wolves were very troublesome; they killed our sheep constantly, and once they killed a yearling steer of mine. Elijah Latimer, who lived near us, was a famous hunter. I sold him thirty acres of land adjoining my farm, and took pay in hunting. He would furnish venison for my family, and also fight off the wolves whenever they invaded my sheep flock. Sugar making was quite an occupation when I came here. When I commenced I tapped trees without regard to kind-smooth-bark hickories, buckeyes, and sugar trees. The first pig I ever owned in Ohio got badly scratched by a bear. The men folks were all away from home, and the bear came into the door yard after some fresh pork, but piggy ran under the house and escaped with a severe cuff or two. My dogs would often tree a bear twenty or thirty rods from the cabin, when I would call Latimer and he would shoot him. They frequently weighed two hundred and fifty and three hundred pounds. Wild turkeys were very plenty. I have often set a square pen made of rails, then scattered a little corn about and into it, and caught eight or ten fine ones at a time. The pen being covered at the top the turkeys could not fly out, and they never thought of ducking their heads to get out by the same passage they came in. We had great difficulty in getting grain ground. We were far from any mill, and I have often ridden on horseback to Lancaster to get a bushel of corn ground. Before coming west I had heard that there was shipbuilding on the Ohio river, and my real object in coming to Ohio was to take out ships. There had been a few built at Marietta before I came out, but I think there was only one built after I came here, and I took that to New Orleans, where I fitted her for sea, then sailed across the gulf to Havana, and from there to Baltimore. There I bought a horse and rode home, and made a good trip.”

Touching this vessel and voyage we are able to add a little to Capt. Lovell’s reminiscence. We find the following item in the Cincinnati Gazette of April 15, 1816:

“Came to anchor before this place (Cincinnati), on last Saturday evening, the schooner Maria, Captain Lovell, of and from Marietta, Ohio, bound to Boston, Mass., full cargo of pork, flour and lard. The Maria is 50 tons burthen, has 51 feet straight rabbit, 18 feet beam, and draws six feet of water. She was built, rigged, and loaded at Marietta, and is owned by Messrs. Moses McFarland and Edmund B. Dana-the latter gentleman on board. The Maria sailed hence yesterday at 11 o’clock. The present state of the water is favorable to her descent of the river. May prosperous gales waft her to her port of destination.”

And in Niles’ Weekly Register, published at Baltimore, we find the following item in the issue of July 13, 1816:

“Singular arrival. A fine schooner arrived at Baltimore last week, in 46 days from Marietta, Ohio, with a cargo of pork. It is well observed that ‘the mountains have melted away before the enterprise and indefatigability of our countrymen.’ ”

The farmers of Athens county have a somewhat better mode now of getting their produce to market than by salt water. Captain Lovell is living on the farm where he first settled in 1814. At that time it was in Ames township, Athens county, then in Homer township, and finally in Marion township, Morgan county. Thus, living in one spot for fifty-four years, Captain Lovell has been a citizen of three different townships and two counties. He is in his eighty-fifth year and is unusually bright for one of his age.

The Lovell brothers married sisters and lived on adjoining farms for many years. Russell was a painter and was killed by the kick of a horse in the town of Athens-year unknown.



Collection: Athens County Ohio Genealogy.

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