By Connie Farrington
‘Twas on a Friday in November 1810, so they say, that 34-year-old Captain Chauncey Brainerd and his crew sank to the briny deep on a schooner he had built, named the Mary Ann. Chauncey had been born in Haddam Neck on the second of June in 1776, just in time to hear the Declaration of Independence read to him by his parents, Josiah and Lois Brainerd. He married Jemima Brooks about 1801 and had a daughter Jemima, the wife dying a few months thereafter. Before long he married Cynthia Tyler, resulting in the birth of a daughter Mary Ann on August 22, 1805, and followed by at least two other offspring.
A son, Chauncey, was born about the time his father Chauncey launched his new ship, heading for the West Indies. Or so it is said. According to the Brainard-Brainerd Genealogy of 1908, quoting The Middlesex Book, “…the keep was laid on Friday, and every important part was commenced on Friday; launched on Friday, sailed from New York on Friday and, it is supposed, was lost on Friday, with Captain Brainard and all his crew.” That crew included his brother David and two brothers named Strong. I found no evidence that the ship’s remains were ever located.
Chauncey’s widow, Cynthia, married the widowed John Smith, whose first wife had been Elizabeth Brainerd. Cynthia and John Smith had children Edgar, Elizabeth and Caleb Smith.
And what, pray tell, became of 5-year-old Mary Ann Brainerd, for whom the schooner was presumably named by her father? Based on census records of 1850, 1860, and 1870, and a gravestone inscription, she died on November 26, 1879, having never married. She appears to have lived in Haddam with her mother and some or all of her three half-siblings for the rest of her life. Interestingly, the 1870 census reports 65-year-old Mary as having no real property, but personal property of $10,000, significantly more than her half-brother, Edgar Smith, 54, head of household. How she acquired her fortune, I know not.
To my surprise, if Google calculates the dates correctly, Mary Ann died on a Wednesday, not a Friday. Her gravestone is in New Rock Landing Cemetery.