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The Exploits of Captain Augustine Heard 

“And as to catch the gale 
Round veered the flapping sail,
Death! was the helmsman’s hail, -
  Death without quarter! -
Midships with iron keel
Struck we her ribs of steel,
Down her black hulk did reel
 Through the dark water!”

In this manner did Captain Augustine Heard at racing speed suddenly bring the “Emerald” about and send to their watery grave, with a howl of dismay, a shipload of pirates. Captain Heard would never confirm this story; nevertheless, it was often related by the captains of the early days and they believed it to be true.

Another story is told of Captain Heard when in command of the same ship. It was during a hurricane off Sand Heads and the pilot had just boarded the vessel at the risk of his life. The bower anchor had been lost. The pilot inquired how much water the ship drew, and learned that it was nineteen feet when on an even keel. “Well,” he replied, “we shall all be in hell before to-morrow morning; there is only eighteen feet on the bar, and no ship that was ever launched could claw off with this wind and sea—but,” he hissed into Captain Heard’s ear, “there is one chance; send all the men you can spare aloft, and shake a reef out of your topsails.” Although the Emer aid” was carrying all she could bear safely, her commander rose to the occasion and softly gave the order to his astonished mate to make more sail. She was laid almost on her beam ends, thus drawing a little less than when upright, and with a few bumps she dragged over the sand bar and anchored in the smooth waters of the “Hooghly.” 

While in Brazil, Captain Heard wanted to return to Boston, but there was no vessel in which he could ship. An African slaver with a full cargo of human beings put in for water, and Heard decided to take passage to the nearest large seaport, Rio Janeiro. He put on his oldest clothes to disguise himself as a shipwrecked mariner, as he wanted to take with him his chest, which was full of valuables, including a large -amount of gold. During his passage he slept on his treasure chest, and Rio was reached without the contents being discovered by the slavers. On his arrival he went to the office of the American Consul and there opened the chest, handing out to the astonished captain the small amount of passage-money. Great was the surprise of the pirates at seeing so much gold, even a hundredth part of which would have induced the ruffians to cut his throat and throw him overboard.

Captain Heard was a partner of the firm of Russell & Co., fifteen years after the firm was founded, later retiring and forming his own house, Augustine Heard & Co., then third largest American firm in the East. At one time he was employed by Ebenezer Francis, a leading and rich merchant of his time, and a few years later, when Heard sailed as supercargo to Calcutta, three of the young Francis children ventured their first investment by giving one dollar each to spend in Eastern goods as he deemed wise. On other voyages, William and Nathan Appleton, William Gray, - William Lawrence, Ebenezer Francis, Robert G. Shaw, Peter C. Brooks, Patrick T. Jackson, Robert Hooper, and many other Boston merchants intrusted funds to him for investment.

George B. Dixwell was a partner at one time of Augustine Heard & Co., and the exciting experiences of Mr. Dixwell and Mr. Heard at the time of the opium war are worth reading.

Heard’s chambers and later his office, at 8½ Tremont Street, were owned by his friend William Appleton. He always referred to it as “The Loft.”

A partner of Russell & Co. and a great friend, said of Heard, that "to forget him in connection with Russell & Co. would show a want of appreciation of untiring industry, activity, and courage, of which he was the very incarnation"; adding that “he sleeps among the pilgrims in the graveyard at Ipswich, but in some memories he still lives, a world of courage, truth, and honesty.” 

Free genealogy resource from genealogy finds . com

Source:  Other Merchants and Sea Captains of Old Boston, State Street Trust Company, Boston, Mass., 1919

  

 


 

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