The Charles W. Morgan whaling ship is the last surviving wooden whaling ship of what once was a huge American fleet. Her maiden voyage began on September 6,1841, and she remained in service for the next 80 years. The Charles W. Morgan was formally designated a National Historic Landmark by order of the Secretary of the Interior on November 11, 1966. In 1971 the U.S. Postal Service issued a series of four Historic Preservation stamps, one of which commemorated the Charles W. Morgan. Today the former whaling ship is one of more than 500 historic vessels now owned by Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. She has undergone three major restoration efforts in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard.
What is the connection between a commercial whaling ship and a small mill town in southwestern Amboy Township? Charles W. Morgan gave his name to both the ship and the village in Amboy. Mr. Morgan, a Quaker whaling merchant, was half owner of the ship and the owner of extensive lands in Hillsdale County, Michigan and Williams County, Ohio, purchased for the purpose of establishing a timber industry. Richard W. Drinker, a Quaker physician in Pennsylvania, was sent west by Morgan to locate timber and establish the milling site.
The 1857 plat map of Hillsdale County shows Morganville at the fork of the east and west branches of the St. Joseph rivers in western Amboy Township. This area was for many years known as Morganville, and later as Drinker's Mill. The map abbreviations indicate a sawmill (SM), gristmill (GM) and post office (PO). One of the dots would also have indicated the Drinker home. The old legends indicate there was a school there. Morgan also owned land in Reading's Long Lake and Hemlock Lake areas. Robert Drinker eventually acquired much of Morgan's land.
The Drinker home, considered a mansion during the period, was said to have had 19 rooms. It had black walnut beams, a mahogany staircase and oak floors. Reports indicate the area was once a significant stop for slaves on the underground railroad. The back of the home was built against the bank of the bluffs, with a spring that ran into the home and across the floor of the three back rooms, which proved useful for preserving perishables. The grand home, once considered the social center of the community, was demolished in 1929.
Carol A. Lackey