(CONNECTICUT.) Ingraham, John D. Diary of a pilot on the Connecticut River.  manuscript pages. Narrow folio, 12 1/4 x 4 inches, stitched; first leaf detached and worn, moderate dampstaining and wear. Saybrook, CT and elsewhere, 6 June 1841 to 28 July 1849
Estimate $600 - 900
John Dickinson Ingraham (1804-1875) was an official river pilot for the customs house in Middletown, CT. He was stationed in Saybrook, CT at the mouth of the Connecticut River, and helped guide merchant ships upstream to Middletown and as far as Hartford. This diary records some of his pilot journeys, as well as his personal adventures. He often mentions the ships and captains he brought upstream. On 6 November 1841, "left for home in Bunker Hill, lost her on Seal Rocks . . . had to swim ashore with clothes on back, very sick till 23 Nov." On 17 March 1843, he recounted the tragedy of the whaling ship General Williams, returning to Connecticut after a 27-month voyage, but damaged in a terrible gale just off the coast: "Capt Baily left ship in whale boat with 7 men, got in the breakers on east part bar and swamped boat, all in her perished but John L. Kimball, a New Hampshire man. He was picked off the bottom of the boat." His purchase of a small ship named the Zerviah apparently triggered financial troubles, and he left on a merchant voyage to as soon as he was able, musing en route "I blame Chauncey & myself more for being drawn into this scrape. If I can but get out of this concern as well as when I went in, I shall be thankful, but if I have robbed my wife & children of any bread that I have labored hard to get, I shall be sorry enough" (December 1841). The voyage was difficult, and the booby hatch door was shattered in an accident: "I hope we shall none of us be killed with something tumbling from aloft" (26 December 1841). The ship stopped in Jamaica, Belize, and Charleston, SC before returning home on 9 March 1842. Many of the later entries from 1847 to 1849 are by his wife Almira Whittlesey Mather Ingraham in her distinctly tidier hand; she signs her first one "AWI" on 21 February 1847. These entries are more family-oriented, but still include details on John's piloting work. For example, "John went off and found the anchor for sloop Jasper" (16 April 1849). Ingraham does not sign this diary in full, but numerous details match his life, including the birth of a son on 25 October 1841, and a mention that his father-in-law was the captain of the ship Peace & Plenty and had drowned in a gale. He refers to a son as "Little J D Ingraham Jr." on 20 February 1846. He was named as a Saybrook river pilot in the 1850 census and 1866 Connecticut Register.