Monday, March 3, 2014

The Captain's Well Amesbury

Story on the Captain's Well made famous by J G Whittier.


According to "Contemporary American Biography: Biographical Sketches of Representative Men of the Day Representatives of Modern Thought and Progress, of the Pulpit, the Press, the Bench and Bar, of Legislation, Invention and the Great Industrial Interests of the Country, Volume 1, Part 1" Mr. John Greenleaf Whittier received some high prices for his poems—so high, he used to say, that he could hardly bring himself to accept them. The highest of these was one thousand dollars paid by the New York Ledger for ninety-six lines entitled "The Captain's Well." See full poem at Bartlelby


 "Captain's Well" in Amesbury Is Rededicated Thursday, August 7, 1930 


Residence of Valentine Bagley; now the Huntington Home and The Amesbury High School and the Captain's Well. Photos from Warren NH Site Whittier is not the only one who has made use of Bagley's experience, for Mrs. Harriet Prescott Spofford, of Deer Island, Amesbury, has also written a poem on the same theme.

The January 11, 1890, issue of the New York Ledger included a "Souvenir Supplement" featuring "The Captain's Well," a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, illustrated by Howard Pyle. Here is one of the illustrations, untitled, and engraved on wood by Henry Wolf. From Howard Pyle

This poem, which was written in 1889, and may safely be set down as Mr. Whittier's last one of great length, has an interesting bit of local history for its theme. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, Valentine Bagley, a young man living in Amesbury, went to sea and soon became Captain Bagley. (by Charles Dehlin)

When he was yet young his vessel was wrecked in the Red Sea, and he was cast upon the shore of Arabia, where he was seized and sold into slavery by the Bedouins. After many years he escaped and fled to the great Arabian desert, where he wandered until he nearly perished of thirst. Then, for the first time in his life, he thought of prayer. As he supplicated Heaven for aid, the picture of his home in Amesbury rose before his mind, and, with the finest regard for detail, he vowed that if the Lord would help him back to Amesbury, he would dig a well in a certain spot by the roadside near his home and dedicate it to the Lord.

In time Captain Bagley was rescued and brought home. On the first morning after his arrival, he proceeded to dig in the designated spot. His neighbors asked whether he was digging for gold, and he said no, he was digging for something more precious—water. Finally he came scrambling out of his well, followed by a gush of pure, cool water which rose almost to the brim. The Captain built a curb over the well and spent the remainder of his days sitting near it, keeping the ample trough full and cool, and inviting man and beast to stop in passing, and partake freely of "God's best gift to earth."

Captain Bagley died in 1839, at the age of sixty-six, but the well still remains, though the decayed curb was taken down about ten years ago. Mr. Whittier was thirty-one years old when the Captain died, and had known him for many years.
Info from "Genealogy of Richard Currier of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts (1616--1686-7) and Many of His Descendants"
Sarah Currier, (Daniel, Thomas', Deacon Thomas'. Richard) daughter of Daniel and Electra (Currier) Currier, was born in Amesbury, Mass., July 5, 1743. She married Dec. 21, 1763, Valentine Bagley, son of Colonel Jonathan and Dorothy (Wells) Bagley of Amesbury, who was born in Amesbury Jan. 1, 1742-3. He was a miller and yeoman and lived in Newbury, Mass. He died April, 1780, and she married, second, David Blaisdell (published Nov. 13, 1790). They had seven children:— John, Dorothy, Dolly, William, Sally, Valentine, and William Bagley. She died Dec. 7, 1821.
Captain Valentine Bagley, son of Valentine and Sarah (Currier) Bagley, was born in Newbury, Mass., January 17 1773- He lived in Amesbury, Mass., and was a sea captain and he was a charter member of Warren Lodge, A. F. & A. M., of Amesbury*, in 1822, and its first treasurer. He married July 24, 1796, Hannah Currier, daughter of Timothy and Anne (Colby) Currier, granddaughter of Thomas and Jemima (Morrill) Currier, great granddaughter of Thomas and Sarah (Barnard) Currier, great-great-granddaughter of Deacon Thomas and Mary (Osgood) Currier, and great-great-great-granddaughter of Richard and Ann Currier, who was born January 27, 1774, and died Oct. i, 1859. He died January 19, 1839, and was buried in the Union cemetery at Amesbury. (See tombstone).

Captain Bagley's tombstone burying-ground on the hill, only a stone's throw from the well.


From Dr. Tony Shaw's blog
Within the same enclosure is the Friend's little half-acre, and in this lie the ashes of Mr. Whittier's dear ones—Uncle Moses, Aunt Mercy, his father and mother, sisters Mary and Lizzie, and brother Franklin—and at the westerly end of the row there was just room for one more mound to be made, and one more plain little headstone to be set up, where the poet intended finally to lay him down to rest. His home was at Amesbury, Mass., and there he was buried in accordance with the following request contained in his will:

"It is my wish that my funeral may be conducted in the plain and quiet way of the Society of Friends with which I am connected, not only by birthright, but also by a settled conviction of the truth of its principles and the importance of its testimonies."


J G Whittier attended many meeting here as well in Dover, NH 



*Warren Lodge was chartered in 1822 and named for General Joseph Warren (1741-1775); an American Patriot, writer and activist, medical doctor, and Freemason. In 1769 the Grand Master of Masons in Scotland appointed Joseph Warren “Provincial Grand Master of Masons in Boston its surrounding territory. In 1772, his appointment was extended by the
Grand Lodge of Scotland to be Grand Master of Masons in Continental America. He died commanding soldiers at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. Widely remembered as a General, he held the rank of Major General for only three days before he was killed, but he was a pioneering doctor for 13 years and part of a dynastic medical family—his younger brother, founded Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Medical Society.
Lodge Address
8 West Whitehall Road
Amesbury, Essex 01913

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