June 9, 1809

In 1809, Abiel Folger noted in her diary, “the ship Arora [Aurora] got to the kay.” Abiel and her husband Timothy Folger were among the 15 Nantucket families who moved to Milford Haven, Wales in 1792 to establish a whaling venture sponsored by the British government. The British offered Nantucket families political and financial incentives in exchange for developing a whale fishery in the southern oceans of the world.

At the time, Nantucket had been economically crippled by the Revolutionary War and then hobbled by a British tax on whale oil. The island families saw the Milford experiment as an opportunity to get re-established and also avoid the tax. First proposed by Sir Charles Greville in 1783, the British government was slow to back the idea. Three prominent Nantucket whaling merchants, William Rotch, Timothy Folger and Samuel Starbuck, Sr., decided not to wait and relocated to France and Canada. In 1791, Greville got British funding to create a new town called Milford Haven. The Nova Scotia-based families Folger and Starbuck relocated there immediately. In 1800, Rotch’s son Benjamin would move part of his whaling business there from France.

The Milford Haven whaling industry never really thrived, and its Nantucket families never abandoned their link to the island. The Milford Haven ships were provisioned in Nantucket and New Bedford because it was cheaper. Those ships carried Nantucket’s world-famous spermaceti whale oil candles back to England. And Abiel Folger’s diary records many visits by Nantucket ships stopping in at Milford to visit the transplanted islanders.

Excerpted from On This Day In Nantucket History
By Amy Jenness
The History Press
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The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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