Edward Howe and the Ferry

“One Mr. Howe, of Lynn, a godly man, and a deputy of the last general court, after the court was ended, and he had dined, being in health as he used to be, went to pass over to Charles-town, and, being alone, he was presently after found dead upon the strand, being there (as it seemed) waiting for the boat, which came soon after.”  So states page 299 of Winthrop’s Journal, “History of New England,” 1630-1649, by John Winthrop and James Kendall Hosmer, and published by C. Scribner’s Sons in 1908.

Site of the Boston- Charlestown Ferry

Site of the Boston-
Charlestown Ferry

A ferry between Boston and Charlestown, across the Charles River, was needed as soon as settlements were established there, according to an article on the Harvard College Ferry, which provides the quotations in this post.  It’s worth reading in detail at http://www.kellscraft.com/EventsBoston/EventsBoston05.html (accessed 5/19/2013.)  This may have been one of the first enterprises undertaken by the new colony, and it continued for 155 years.

The first ferries were probably operated by individual entrepreneurs.  The ferry operation became more formalized, when “…on June 14, 1631, it was ordered that Mr. Converse should receive twopence for every single person, and one penny apiece if there were two or more persons to be ferried.”  “Oars were probably the sole means of propulsion, the channel being narrow and the current strong.  In winter, when the ferry could not run, no doubt the thick ice made a convenient bridge between the shores for a least part of the season. At first the ferry served only foot-passengers…”

“On November 9, 1636, the ferry was leased to Mr. Converse for three years, at £40 a year, on condition that he should see that the ferry was efficiently run and equipped with the proper number of boats, and that he

Boston ferry area

Approximate site
of ferry today

should build a convenient house on the Boston side of the river and keep a boat there when it was needed.  Besides the fees for persons…he was allowed to charge sixpence for every pig ferried across.  ‘And if any shall desire to pass before it be light in the morning, or after it is dark in the evening, he may take recompense answerable to the season and his pains and hazard, so as it be not excessive.'”  Since Edward Howe died in April 1639, Mr. Converse would have been the ferryman at the time.

The ferry had a long history thereafter.  “In 1640 the General Court ordered that the ferry privilege between Boston and Charlestown be granted to Harvard College for the financial benefit of the institution.  In 1639 £50 had been received from the ferry, and it was expected that this sum would increase yearly with the growth of population.  For one hundred and fifty-five years Harvard received the ferry tolls…”

Boston ferry area

Charlestown Bridge

A bridge was approved for construction in this area in 1785.

Although Boston’s terrain has been altered over the years by considerable landfill, the photos show the approximate location of the old ferry today, overlooking the Charles River toward the U.S.S. Constitution and Bunker Hill and near the Charlestown Bridge.  The banks of the Charles River, as it looked 374 years ago, provided the last view of this earth experienced by Edward Howe, the respected gentleman who brought the Howe line to America.


Hiram How’s Grave at Vicksburg National Cemetery

Vicksburg National Military ParkIt’s sad for a young man such as Hiram T. How/Howe to lose his life, leaving his wife and daughters forever.  But, what a place to be buried!

The Vicksburg National Cemetery is located in the Vicksburg National Military Park, and  we recently visited to pay our respects.  It was a powerful experience.

Union StoneA 16-mile driving tour describes the Siege of Vicksburg.  Along the way, there are many monuments.  The one at the right honors all the Union forces.

Iowa PlaquesIowa MonumentsHiram How was from Iowa, and there are many plaques and monuments commemorating Iowa’s role in the battle.  We found only one specific mention of Hiram’s unit, the 38th Iowa Infantry, and that was in the large state monument that was being refurbished.Iowa State MonumentIowa Monument PlaqueIowa Monument SignPortion of Iowa Monument Plaque honoring 38th Infantry

It is probable that the men of the 38th Infantry were not otherwise thanked at this site, because they did not participate directly in the battle.  Hiram and his buddies may, however, have been responsible for digging some of the trenches and constructing bunkers on the site.Vicksburg CannonsVicksburg Bunkers

Vicksburg National Cemetery Graves

Vicksburg National Cemetery EntranceVicksburg National Cemetery is located within the Vicksburg National Military Park.  There are nearly 17,000 Union soldiers buried here, along with veterans of the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean Conflict.  It was closed to burials in 1961.

Hiram How's Grave at Vicksburg National Cemetery

Grave of H. T. How
Photo by B. Sugden

Ron Vargason at H. T. How's Grave

Ron Vargason at the grave of his Great Grand Uncle

Corporal H. T. How is buried in the I section of the cemetery in grave number 7480.  His tombstone notes that number, his name, rank, and his state, Iowa.


Hiram died in 1863, and Vicksburg National Cemetery was not established until 1866.  As with many Civil War soldiers, his remains were moved here from an earlier resting place.

For more information about Hiram How/Howe and his role in the Civil War, click here.

First edition is complete

After four months of nearly daily writing and researching, the first edition of the Vargason/Howe Family History is complete!  There are many more important facts to be learned, theories and suppositions to be proved or disproved, historical details to be discovered, and, hopefully, more photos to be found.  I will continue to make additions and changes in the pages as new, documented information surfaces, and I will post blog entries for major discoveries.

This is a long and facsinating history of two families in America.  Enjoy reading about your heritage!


The web pages are under construction.  While intended primarily for the descendants of Uriah Howe Vargason, this site will also have something to offer other family lines.  I warmly welcome all readers to provide more detailed information, stories, and photos.  I expect to change the pages as new information becomes available.

The blog will be a place to share discoveries, debate theories, and announce news.

My thanks to Alice for providing me with my initial information on the Vargasons and Howes and for motivating a fascinating hobby that has consumed much of my life the past several years.  Thanks also to the many family members who have provided pictures and stories and discussed and debated possibilities with me.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading the story of the Vargasons and Howes as it continues to unfold.