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  • Writer's pictureDon Wilding

Bing's Brewster connection

Bing Crosby is a direct 11th generation descendant of Elder William Brewster, a passenger on the Mayflower.

At this time of year, it’s hard to escape the music of Bing Crosby. A mainstay in TV Christmas specials and classic films such as Holiday Inn, White Christmas, and The Bells of St. Mary’s, his voice will be heard everywhere between now and Dec. 25.

However, outside of Brewster, there’s many that might not be aware of Bing’s connection to another holiday — namely, the one we just finished celebrating on Nov. 22. That’s right, the late actor/singer also fits right in with Thanksgiving, a celebration that this area of the world is all too familiar with.

It turns out that Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby is also a direct 11th generation descendant of Elder William Brewster, a passenger on the Mayflower, which qualified him for a life membership in the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants. Simon Crosby, another Mayflower passenger, married one of Brewster’s descendants.

The lineage also included some sea captains, including Brewster natives and Captains Nathaniel Crosby and Nathaniel Crosby Jr. Captain Crosby was the great, great grandfather to “Captain Bob Wallace” (Bing’s White Christmas character).

During the fall of 1945, Ted Crosby, Bing’s brother, came to town to track down some of the family’s lineage, and learned of the link to the captain, according to the Sept. 15, 1949 edition of The Cape Codder. Like many other Cape men of his time, “Capt. Nathaniel spent his active years roaming the far places of the earth in cargo vessels,” the Codder noted.

So how did Bing end up being a native of Spokane, Wash.? Well, Captain Crosby was an early boat captain on the Columbia River, who “had a reputation for being a shrewd but reliable trader in many distant ports,” according to The Cape Codder. He settled in Tumwater, Wash., and, during the 1850s, was active in the sea trade, especially timber, between the Pacific Northwest and China.

Historians credit Captain Crosby, who also had a home in Hong Kong, for founding the towns of Toulon and St. Helens, Ore. Crosby and Thomas H. Smith also operated a successful saw mill during the California Gold Rush, shipping timber on his bark, The Louisiana. Captain Crosby died in Hong Kong in 1856.

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Read more about Outer Cape history in Don’s books, A Brief History of Eastham: On the Outer Beach of Cape Cod, from The History Press, and Henry Beston’s Cape Cod: How The Outermost House Inspired a National Seashore, from the Henry Beston Society.

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