Hart, Simpson
Archive of Correspondence of the family of Simpson Hart, mariner of New Bedford, Massachusetts, who spent two years in Tahiti, dated 1802-1902

168 letters, 335 manuscript pages, some mailing envelopes are retained, plus 40 pieces of paper and manuscript ephemera, including two photographs.

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Approximately 137 letters are written to Simpson Hart from his mother, brothers, sisters, brother-in-law, cousins, wife, friends and associates between the years 1820-1836. Hart spent two years (1827-1828) in Tahiti, working trade between that place and Hawaii while taking a Polynesian wife, whom he abandoned after he returned to New Bedford.

Simpson Hart, Jr. (1804-1876) was born at New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1804, the son of Simpson Hart, Sr. (c1763-1823) and Lois Bryant (1769-1844). There were a number of children born to the family: Gamaliel, Sophia, Deborah, Archippus (Charles), Simpson, George, and Francis. A sixth child died in infancy.

All of the brothers (Simpson, Gamaliel, Charles, and Francis), but George were mariners. The father appears to have been in hard circumstances, perhaps even abandoning the family. The younger Simpson went to sea as a young man (received his seaman's protective certificate at age 16 in 1820) and was serving as a ship captain by the age of 22. He was on a whaling ship in the South Pacific, but left his ship in 1827 and spent more than two years in Hawaii and Tahiti. Hart's Tahitian years are perhaps the most interesting aspect of the archive. His family was quite distressed by his decision and begged him to return, his mother wrote in April of 1828:

"I sit down once more to write to you with a heavy heart, and a disappointed mind, for till last evening, I had no thought but that you had left that country for England.... You are altogether destitute of civilized society; I don't see how you can bring your mind to live so, by staying there you derive yourself of all the advantages of the improvements that are making in the world."

A friend named James Young wrote from Oahu in that same month, passing on the rumor that:

"By the Brig Neio who is bound to Tahiti I take the opportunity of writing a few lines by the way of informing you that I am in good health hoping you are enjoying the same. Capt. Bunker of the Ship Origon informed me that he saw you at Emeio and that you were going to one of the Leeward Island[s] for a wife, but I hope you will not engage yourself with any of the Tahinis of the Society Islands."

The family historian, Francis Russell Hart, III, always joked that perhaps the family had Polynesian cousins due to Hart's Tahitian adventures. While at that time he was only joking, the family was surprised to find years later in Hart's papers, a letter from Hart's Polynesian wife after Hart abandoned her. He appears to have taken a wife in Tahiti and then left for America in 1829, without saying goodbye. This collection includes an undated letter (dated "Monday 23") from his wife "Toatoai," apparently dictated to a scribe, or missionary, in her native language, then translated in the same hand into English. The letter is rather interesting and is shown here (in English) in full:

"Captain!   May you be saved by the true God, Jehovah, by Jesus our savior and salvation. I would say to you that I still love you. My love has not failed through all the days that have past. It pained my heart exceedingly that you said to Hota, ‘If my wife wishes to take another husband, let her take one, and do not interfere with her.' I shall not take a husband, but shall live by myself. My thoughts are only of you. I shall not leave our home, but shall remain here by myself until you return, do write me, that I may know what you would say. I have not parted with the clothing that you left with me, and the other things that you gave to me, are still here. When you come, bring me some small presents for myself.  May you be save, Toatoai"

Hart left Tahiti and returned to New Bedford, where he continued working as a mariner, and then went into the sail manufacturing business, and later was a merchant specializing in outfitting ships. He married a second time to Ruth Swift Briggs (1804-1837) on 10 Aug 1834. The couple had one child, Thomas Mandell Hart, born 7 Sept 1837, ten days later Ruth died. There are several letters from Hart to Ruth in this collection.

Hart married a third time to Ruth Cummings Smith (1814-1887) in 1840. They had two children, Caroline & William, but both died in infancy. A third child, Emily Cummings Hart (1848-1905) lived to adulthood, dying unmarried. Simpson Hart, Jr. died in 1876, his third wife Ruth in 1887.

Approximately 16 letters are from business associates, including a number from R.H. Smith, who was operating in the South Pacific (Tahiti, Oahu, and Hawaii) relating news from those places, including some vague references to Hart's "special friend," possibly his former wife. Other letters relating to the sea include letters to Simpson Hart, Jr. from his three brothers who were also seamen. This group includes 23 letters from his brother Gamaliel Hart (1792-1834), many of which were written from New York City where he settled for a time failing in one business venture after another. There are 22 letters from his brother and fellow mariner Archippus "Charles" Hart (1800-1839) and 11 letters from the youngest brother Francis Hart (c1814-1877).

There are 12 letters written by his sister Sophia's husband, merchant ship-fitter Thomas Mandell. There are 9 letters written by his mother and 7 letters from his sister Sophia Hart Mandell (1796-1849). Letters from a cousin Frederick Bryant number 6, (Frederick was the son of Simpson's mother's brother). There are 5 letters from his brother George Hart (1811-1863), who did not take to the sea and stayed in New Bedford living and working for shipbuilder William Coffin and 2 letters written by his sister Deborah Hart Congdon (1798-1871) who married the printer and newspaper publisher Benjamin Congdon, (who was the brother of Gamaliel Hart's first wife). There are also 2 letters from his Ann Hart, likely the second wife of his brother Gamaliel Hart. (Gamaliel's first wife committed suicide by throwing herself in the Acushnet River in 1830).


Also included is a small group of related Hart family papers, 1802-1902 and a 17 page, typed introduction to the correspondence, compiled by the family historian Francis Russell Hart, III, 2nd great grandson of Simpson Hart, Jr. (Six pages of introduction, and eleven pages of "notes" to various letters).

Description of Archive:

Correspondence written to Simpson Hart, Jr., 1820-1835

6 letters, dated 1820-1825; all written to Simpson Hart, Jr., 1 from his brother Gamaliel Hart, 2 from his sister Sophia Mandell, 2 from cousin Frederick Bryant, 1 from a friend A. Davies

8 letters, dated 1826-1827; all written to Simpson Hart, Jr., 2 from his brother Francis Hart 2 from his sisters Sophia Mandell and Deborah Congdon,  2 from associates in Tahiti & Oahu, 1 from his mother Lois Hart and 1 from a cousin Frederick Bryant.

14 letters, dated 1828-1829; all written to Simpson Hart, Jr., 2 from brother Gamaliel Hart, 4 from his mother Lois Hart, 2 from sister Sophia Mandell, 4 from brother-in-law Thomas Mandell, 1 from cousin Frederick Bryant, 1 from friend James Young of Oahu.

17 letters, dated 1830-1831; all written to Simpson Hart, Jr., 4 from his mother Lois Hart, 2 from brother-in-law Thomas Mandell, 2 from cousin Frederick Bryant, 2 from brother George Hart, 2 from brother Francis Hart, 1 from brother Charles (Archippus) Hart, 1 from sister Sophia Mandell, 1 from sister Deborah Congdon, 1 from niece Lydia C. Hart, 1 from an associate.

20 letters, dated 1832; 19 are written to Simpson Hart, Jr.:8 from friends (mostly J.H. Smith), 6 from his brother Gamaliel Hart, 2 from his brother-in-law Thomas Mandell, 1 from brother George Hart, 1 from sister Sophia Mandell, 1 from brother Charles (Archippus) Hart; plus 1 letter to Gamaliel Hart from John Howard Congdon, brother of his sister Deborah's husband.

18 letters, dated 1833, 15 are written to Simpson Hart, Jr., 10 from his brother Gamaliel Hart writing from New York to Simpson at New Bedford, 1 from brother Charles Hart, 1 from brother-in-law Thomas Mandell, 3 from associates (one of them being J.H. Smith writing from Tahiti); plus 2 letters written to Gamaliel Hart from John Howard Congdon, brother of his sister Deborah's husband; plus 1 letter written by Simpson Hart, Jr. to J.H. Smith of the Society Islands.

13 letters, dated 1834, all written to Simpson Hart, Jr., 4 from his brother Gamaliel Hart, 4 from brother Charles Hart, 1 from brother Francis Hart, 4 from associates (2 are from J.H. Smith writing from the South Pacific). All of the brothers' letters are addressed from New York to Simpson at New Bedford.

22 letters, dated 1835, 18 written to Simpson Hart, 9 from brother Charles Hart writing from New York to Simpson in New Bedford, 2 from his sister Ann Hart, 3 from associates (1 is from J.H. Smith writing from Tahiti), 3 from F. Smith Hart, 1 from brother Francis Hart; plus 3 written by Simpson Hart to his wife Ruth and 1 written by Simpson from Taunton to an unidentified person.

24 letters, dated 1836, 20 written to Simpson Hart, Jr., 6 from brother Charles Hart, 5 from brother Francis Hart, 2 from George Hart, 3 from brother-in-law Thomas Mandell, 4 from associates; plus 3 letters written by Simpson, 2 to his wife Ruth and 1 to Isaiah L. Burgess of Barnstaple, plus 1 letter written to Ruth Hart from D.M. Briggs of Roxbury (MA).

       Folders A thru J, Description and Contents

Folder A: Introduction and Notes

17 page typed introduction to the correspondence, compiled by Francis Russell Hart, III, 2nd great grandson of Simpson Hart, Jr., includes six pages of family history and eleven pages of "notes" to forty-six particular letters in the collection (the early letters of 1820-1836, written to Hart from his family).

Folder B: Undated and Misc.

3 undated letters to Simpson Hart, also Hart's Seaman Protective Certificate of 1820, fragment of note book with notes.

Folder C: Simpson Hart - Misc including "Remarks on Theology"

1 letter of Simpson Hart to his son, dated 1866; 1 letter of Maria W. Bryant to Simpson Hart, dated 1865; 1 letter of H.H. R. Green, not dated; 15 mss page "Remarks on Theology"; 1 page family genealogy; 1 receipt dated 1806 for Simpson Hart, Sr.; 1 page genealogy of Russell family [Francis R. Hart's mother was Sarah Russell]; eight pieces of other mss ephemera, notes.

Folder D:  Late Letters to Simpson Hart from his surviving brother Francis

2 letters of Francis Hart to Simpson Hart, 1872, detailing his trip to London, and the sights which he saw.

Folder E: Letters from Edward W. "Ned" Hart to Francis R. Hart (younger brother) from Europe

6 letters, with envelopes, of Edward "Ned" Hart to Francis R. "Frank" Hart (younger brother) from Europe (London, Paris, Venice, 1879, includes a letter written while on board ship.

Folder F: Sarah W. Hart's (Mrs. Thomas M.) illness and death and final letters to her son Francis R.

4 letters, with envelopes, of Sarah W. Hart (Mrs. Thomas M. Hart) to son Francis "Frank" R. Hart, dated 1898, written from San Francisco, California, where she had surgery, dying soon after on her way home while visiting her son Edward in Iowa. Ephemeral items include receipt for the undertakers expense of preparing and transporting the body back east; 1 letter of Edward "Ned' Hart to Francis R. Hart (younger brother), concerning mother's estate, dated 1900; 1 letter of Jas. C. Briggs to Francis R. Hart, dated 1898, concerning mother's estate. Briggs was a partner with Francis in "Thos. M. Hart & Co."; 1 photograph, presumably of Sarah W. Hart; five other pieces of ephemera relating to her death.

Folder G: Civil War Memorabilia - T. M. Hart

Civil War era ephemera of Thomas M. Hart: Check/receipt for monies claimed in the famed "Alabama" Case, dated 1889 to Thomas M. Hart; a "postage pass" for Thomas M. Hart, dated 1863, allowing him to remain at "post" as pursuer on Steamer Karnak that sailed in the southern waters; "Good Day & Night" pass, allowing Thomas M. Hart to "pass the entrenchments & on dock" at Hilton Head District.

Folder H: Letter to Captain Simpson Hart from his Polynesian Wife

1 letter, with envelope, in Polynesian Language with translation in same hand in English, dictated to a scribe or missionary, by Toatoai, the Polynesian wife of Capt. Simpson Hart, written by her after learning that her husband left without saying goodbye and without ever coming back again.


Folder I: Misc. Francis R. Hart, Sr. (1868-1938)

1 letter of New Bedford Cemetery Board concerning family burial lot in Rural Cemetery; penciled chronology recording trips, chiefly to Caribbean, 1887-1902; penciled diagram of map for family burial plot; small photo of child; lock of child's blonde hair; Memorandum made by the Artist (Mrs. Russell) in 1902 (4 types pages); Printed price list for Jamaican Preserves; Notes in re U.S. Frigate "Constitution" water color copy, dictated by the artist Mr. Russell, 4 Mach 1903 (2 typed pages);  typed list of the contents of 13 barrels (5 pages); Insurance Policy for F. R. Hart; paper pattern for shirt/blouse; 3 typed pages, Official Bulletin No. 36, concerning Civil and Military Chief of Bolivar; plus 3 other manuscript pages or notes.


Folder J: Misc. Letters, Simpson Hart, Sr. & others, 1802-1857

      Includes 2 letters (1802 & 1804) written to Simpson Hart, Sr., Merchant of New Bedford, by Nicholas Smith of Richmond, concerns business between the two and others. Simpson Hart, Sr., is the father of Capt. Simpson Hart, Jr.; one letter dated 1844 and posted from Dayton, addressed to "Mr. Rooney Gale, Cleveland," with letter starting out "Dear Bro. & Sister," and signed by "Affectionate sister [Ewall]; last letter dated 1851 to "Cousin," signed "Cousin John," the recipient is a high school student and was posted from New York.