Dates of Service: -
Birth Date: 1789
Ezekiel Darling was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts in 1784 or 1789. He was the son of David and Elizabeth Appleton Darling of Marblehead.
Darling first sailed on Constitution as a boy in 1800, and was discharged in 1801. He joined the ship again in 1803 and stayed on board until July 1804 when he was transferred to USS Scourge at Syracuse in Sicily. His subsequent career is not known, but he presumably remained in the navy.
Darling joined Constitution’s crew before October 28, 1812. He was appointed gunner by Captain William Bainbridge. He left the ship sometime after 17 February 1813.
The gunner was responsible for all of the ship’s cannons and their equipment, small arms, gunpowder, shot, and magazine tools. Gunpowder is highly flammable, so great attention was paid to properly securing the powder magazine; the captain kept the keys, and only the gunner was allowed to open the space. The gunner also supervised gunnery drill and in some cases small arms drill. In battle, the gunner’s station was the magazine, where he oversaw the filling and passing of cartridges. He made $20.00 per month and two rations per day.
Battles and Engagements
His exact date of entry is not known, but he may have been aboard for the battle with HMS Guerriere in August 1812. He was on board for the battle with HMS Java on December 29, 1812, during which he attended the main magazine.
After the war, Darling returned to Marblehead, where he was for a time “engaged in commerce.” He may have sailed on some successful merchant voyages, because he was often addressed as “Captain” Darling in later years. In 1825, he became a trustee of the Methodist Religious Society of Marblehead. His prominence in the local community grew, and in 1834 he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for Marblehead. After leaving office, he became the keeper of the newly erected Marblehead Lighthouse in 1835, a post he held for 25 years. He was paid $400 per year. In 1843, Inspector I.W.P. Lewis praised Darling, saying “perfect order, cleanliness, and apparent comfort reign throughout the whole establishment, much to the credit of the keeper.” The job was not without its risks, however. In the same year, he won a gold medal from the Massachusetts Humane Society for helping to rescue the crew and passengers of the brig John Hancock when it wrecked on Tinker’s Island off Marblehead. By 1860 he was blind “from the glare of the lamps.” He resigned his post as keeper to Miss Jane C. Martin, one of the first women lighthouse keepers in the country.
Darling died March 28, 1865 in Marblehead of “old Age”- he was 76 years old. In his will he bequeathed all his “goods, chattles, and effects of every description” to his “dear beloved wife” Maria. As an aside to her he wrote, “if you have any property to leave, I would have you to leave it to those that stands by you and treats you the best.”