Monday, February 18, 2013

Travel Tuesday - Belinda's Story

Fanny Belinda Cleveland (1820-1853) was the 11th child of Josiah and Fanny (Lathrop) Cleveland.  Fanny Belinda was born in Jacksonville, Tompkins County, New York. In 1842 at the age of twenty-two Fanny Belinda married Samuel W. Howland. They soon relocated to Waupun, Fond du lac, Wisconsin and had three children: Alanson b: 1843, George b: 1845, and Nelson b: 1847.

This is where the history gets a little fuzzy.  A letter dated March 25, 1849 to her father Josiah Cleveland, transcribed and included in Adaline (Cleveland) Hosner’s Cleveland Family History pamphlet tells how Samuel had started for California on the 6th of March.  Apparently Samuel caught the gold bug and went to California to realize his fortune.  Belinda tells how her husband could hardly eat, drink or sleep thinking about California. Again in April she writes that she feels almost like a widow. She wonders if she will ever see him again, and if not, she writes that she did all she could to have him stay there contented.

However, the 1850 U.S. census (taken 13 September) reports that Samuel W. Howland was living with his family in Waupun, Fond du lac, Wisconsin, working as a carpenter. At this point I do not know if Belinda falsely reported that her husband was in the household, or if he was back in Wisconsin for a short period of time before returning to California. 

 Tragedy strikes. By January 1853 Belinda could no longer stand to be separated from her husband. She and her children traveled by stagecoach to Chicago, by train to Cleveland, and then on to New York where they boarded the steamer Vanderbilt. 

In San Juan del Sud, Nicaragua they transferred to the steamer Independence. On 15 February 1853 the ship struck a sunken reef a mile from shore and 125 (or more) lives were lost, including Belinda and her three children. The steamer sank near the island of Margarita, off the coast of Southern California. The accident wasn’t confirmed until 2 April 1853. The list of passengers is listed in the Daily Alta. Several Howlands are listed, including a Mrs. Howland, but none of the other initials match her three boys.  

  And where is Samuel?  The 1860 census reports a S.W. Howland living in Anderson, Mendocino, California working as a wheelwright.  


  1. What a tragedy. My gg grandfather left his family in Illinois to pursue mining interests in the West. I'm sure it was hard for his wife to be separated from him. At one point, she did live with him in California. My blog was started to give me an incentive to post the letters he wrote home.

    Regards, Grant

  2. Grant: You will have great stories to share. I look forward to reading them. I am glad I was able to share Belinda's story and especially grateful that I have Adaline's journals from the mid-1800s. I continue to mine them for family stories not before told. Keep writing and sharing.

  3. What a sad tale. It's hard to say what I would have done, but my 21st-century mind says forget him!

  4. Heather: We shall never know what prompted Belinda to take that journey with three small children. Maybe she also had a spirit of adventure.