Laura's Family

Many of Laura's relatives were involved in whaling and life at sea. Her father, Jared, was a successful whaling captain whose career began at age 13 when he went to sea for the first time as a cabin boy. Her mother, Helen, was a schoolteacher who became the only Island woman to sail twice around Cape Horn in the 1800s. Jared's brother Nathan was the captain of a well known whaling vessel from Edgartown, the Splendid. While on the whaler Janus, Helen's brother, Henry, had the opportunity to visit her in Honolulu. Even Laura and her two year old brother Prescott "went to sea."

Laura's father Jared married Helen McClellan Clark in 1861, after his first wife and two of their children died while he was at sea. Although in the mid-1800s there were eleven physicians on Martha's Vineyard, five in Edgartown, most medical care took place in the patient's home and infant mortality was high. At age 12, Helen had moved to the island from Gorham, Maine to live with her Aunt Chloe, who was married to Dr. John Pierce. Even though she married a local man and raised a family there, she was considered by some "Edgartonians" forever an "off-islander." This sense of being an outsider may have fueled her sense of adventure and quest for life at sea.

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Martha's Vineyard Museum