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Abram Healy was born in Fall River, MA (or possibly Maine) on October 3, 1836 to Abraham and Nancy (Coombs) Healy. He died June 18, 1889 in Fall River, MA of apoplexy (stroke) at age 52. He married Sarah Thompson (born in Maine, June 26, 1837, died 1919 of old age at 80 years old), October 23, 1862 and they had three children, Caroline “Carrie”, born in 1863, Carl, born in 1871 and Hattie, born 1873 (died 1878 in Nagasaki, Japan). The family moved between Maine and Massachusetts.
It is reported in The Story of Anthony Coombs and His Descendants, by William Carey Coombs, that Abram had the desire to spend life on the sea from a young age. He did take to the sea at age nineteen (about 1855) and had a long, successful mariner career. He earned a First Mate certificate in 1862 and was listed as a seaman out of Lisbon, ME in June 1863 in Civil War draft records. By the 1870 census, he was listed as a sea captain.
He sailed aboard the American schooner “William Phillips” in and around China and Australia. The “William Phillips” was built at New Bedford, MA in 1874. Its home ports were New Bedford, MA and San Francisco, CA. The schooner would likely have been built by William Phillips (1801-1866), initially a clerk in New Bedford, hired by John Avery Parker in 1925 and served as his bookkeeper and secretary from 1836 to 1853. The firm of William Phillips & Son continued Parker’s business after his death in 1853.
The majority of letters are addressed to Joseph Healy, Abram’s uncle in Fall River. Joseph Healy was born in Fall River, Mass., January 27, 1828, a son of David and Meribah (Hathaway) Healy, and grandson of Joseph and Thankful (Stafford) Healy. For several years he was bookkeeper for the Fall River Iron Works Company. He began his successful career as a cotton manufacturer in 1871, when he became treasurer of the Osborn Mills. Early in life he began to take an active part in politics and was on the board of city assessors in 1860 and 1864. He was alderman in 1894 and 1895 and was chosen a police commissioner in 1894 and reappointed in 1896 for a three year term. His ability as a financier was acknowledged by his election to the presidency of the Pocasset Savings Bank in 1894. He was also director in the Manufacturers' Mutual Insurance Company and the Arkwright Insurance Company of Boston. In 1863 he married Harriet, daughter of Cornelius and Abigail Parker.
The letters in the collection are nearly all written by Abram Healy while either at sea or at ports in Asia and Australia between the years 1874 and 1878 while aboard the William Phillips schooner. The letters describe in detail his business transactions and issues he encounters, including ship damage, lawsuits, and issues with natives. Two of his letters include hand-drawn maps.