The Caleb Grimshaw
Immigrant Ship that Sank in 1849 with the Loss of 90 Lives
The Caleb Grimshaw, painted by Samuel Walters
The Caleb Grimshaw was an American-built packet ship that transported immigrants from Liverpool to New York in 1848 and 1849. It was built at the William H Webb shipyard and launched in early 1848. The ship apparently made five successful trips to New York before it caught fire and sank on its 6th trip in November 1849. Ninety of the 425 passengers lost their lives in the disaster. The Caleb Grimshaw was owned and operated by the firm Caleb Grimshaw & Company, which is described on a companion webpage. The ship was apparently named after Caleb Grimshaw, who is described on a companion webpage. Caleb Grimshaw died in 1847, the year before the ship was launched, so it may have been a posthumous naming.
Thanks go to Charles Addington for providing the biography of Sam Montgomery, survivor of the Caleb Grimshaw disaster. Thanks also to Richard Walker for providing the strong evidence of the family connections of Caleb Grimshaw, for whom the ship was named. Thanks to Pat Wilbur, Ships Plans Cataloger at the Daniel S Gregory Ships Plans Library, for locating the reference containing the information on the builder of the Caleb Grimshaw.
The Caleb Grimshaw apparently set sail on its ill-fated voyage on October 22, 1849. Advertisements announcing the ship’s sailing appeared in the Liverpool Mercury for several days before departure. One of the ads is shown in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1. Advertisement from the October 19, 1849 issue of the Liverpool Mercury1 announcing the upcoming voyage of the Caleb Grimshaw to New York.
As shown in a subsequent section, the 1165 tons is considerably overstated relative to its actual 987 tons.
On December 4, 1849, the Liverpool Mercury2 carried the following initial report on the event. Unfortunately, the article was erroneous in its report that there were no casualties.
AN EMIGRANT SHIP ON FIRE.
MIRACULOUS ESCAPE OF FOUR HUNDRED PERSONS.
The West India mail steamer, brings an account of the total loss of the emigrant ship Caleb Grimshaw, bound from Liverpool to New York, Captain Hoxie, by fire, sixteen miles S.E. of the island of Flores, one of the Azores. The emigrants, 300 in number, with the crew, were providentially saved from destruction. The cry of “fire” was raised at about eight o’clock on the night of the 12th ult. The decks were immediately flooded. On raising one of the fore hatches, the fire was discovered abreast of the chain locker. The heat was so intense that no one could live below, and the immense quantities of water poured into the ship by the crew and passengers generated steam, and the heat at length became insufferable. But this was the only means by which the ship was kept from being rapidly consumed. The boats were towed astern of the burning vessel for five days and nights, filled with poor emigrants bewailing their fate, while about sixty were on a raft, when a ship was seen bearing towards them, and which proved to be the barque Sarah, Captain Cook, bound from London to New Brunswick, in ballast. As soon as the captain of the Sarah saw the signal of distress, he immediately approached the Caleb Grimshaw, but was only able to get on board, during the night of the 17th three boatsful of passengers owing to the wind blowing hard. The next day, the 18th, he got on board about 150 passengers. Night approaching, and the wind still increasing, he was obliged to lay to. On the 19th there was a heavy sea, and no more could be got off. On the 20th, about ten persons, who had escaped from the burning ship, volunteered to return and relieve those who were on board at work, as by this time there was no more water or provisions to be got without raising the hatches. The mainmast was now settling down, and the upper deck was working each way. On this day the ship floated to the leeward of Flores into smooth water, and during the night all the passengers that remained on board got off. Before the last of the crew left, they lifted the hatches, and immediately the ship burst into a terrific blaze. The escape of all the persons, 309 in number, was almost miraculous. Consider a ship, filled with nearly 400 persons, on fire for eight days and nights, and not a single person lost his life. Nothing but the continual flooding the ship prevented her from being burnt to the water’s edge, and every soul on board perishing before relief could be had. The men and crew worked like heroes.
The conduct of the master of the Sarah was beyond all praise. For three days and nights did he hover about the burning ship amidst the most tempestuous weather, taking every opportunity to lower his boats to save some of the passengers. Nothing could exceed his heroism and humanity. To him, under Divine Providence, the unhappy emigrants owe their preservation. Although perpetually obliged by the tempestuous wind and heavy sea to leave them apparently to a dreadful fate, he always endeavoured keep in sight, and cheer their aching hearts with a prospect of escape. The Sarah arrived at Fayal with the crew and passengers of the Caleb Grimshaw in safety. The passengers had lost everything on board, and were perfectly destitute, for they had the greatest difficulty to get food from the burning ship to keep them alive. Captain Hoxie chartered the Sarah to take on the passengers to New York. The Sarah had not left Fayal when the West India steamer took her departure, but the American consul was using the most strenuous efforts to arrange everything for her leaving. The Caleb Grimshaw belonged to Messrs. Grimshaw, of Liverpool. The origin of the fire was not known.
A follow-up article in the New York Herald3 provides more detail on the horrendous conditions faced by the passengers of the Caleb Grimshaw, based on interviews of five survivors of the event.
The Burning of the Packet-Ship Caleb Grimshaw Further Particulars Terrible Collision at Sea, and Sinking of a Schooner, with all on board.
Since the thrilling account of the burning of the packet ship Caleb Grimshaw was published in the Herald on Monday last, from the London Times, we have seen five of the passengers, who confirm its truth in every important particular, their only fault with it being that it does not go far enough, and that, as regards the conduct of the passengers, it is somewhat exaggerated. From their statement we have gathered some additional particulars, which may interest our readers. The first omission which they noticed, and it is curious that it has never yet been published in any account, is the fact that on the night of the second day after the Caleb Grimshaw left Liverpool, and while in the British Channel, she came in collision with a schooner, which being of smaller size and inferior strength, went to the bottom, having disappeared almost immediately after the shock. The cries of those on board were heard as she went down stern foremost. It is worthy of remark, that it was the schooner that ran into the Caleb Grimshaw, striking her amidships and carrying away her bulwarks. Neither her name nor any other particulars could be ascertained about the lost vessel. So alarmed were the crew of the Caleb Grimshaw, that they got the pumps in requisition, but it was found that she was not injured. So great was the shock that it waked every passenger on board, and all feared the ship would sink. But it was a different element they had to fear most, and which was probably then smouldering treacherously beneath their feet.
There were four boats on board the Caleb Grimshaw, the larboard quarter boat, the starboard quarter boat, the stern boat, and the long boat. In the narrative copied from the Times and written by Mr. Hatton, a Quaker gentleman from the city of Cork, Ireland, it is stated that while the captain and mates were forward the ship, shortly after the fire was discovered, a number of passengers got into the larboard quarter boat, and lowered her. The last part of the statement turns out not be the fact. The passengers got into the boat, and were ordered out of it, while it was still slung by the ships side; they did not obey, and some one ordered the rope to be cut, which had the effect of precipitating the whole of them into the water, the end of the boat going down end foremost. She was still held on to the ship by the other end of the rope, but was bottom upwards in the water. Some were immediately drowned; some clung to the boat; and some swam to another boat occupied by some of the sailors, who left the ship immediately after the discovery of the fire. They were struck on the head with oars as they advanced, and one poor fellow, named Philip Holland, who was a first-rate swimmer, and kept himself up a great length of time, seized the side of the boat. Some one struck him on the arm, either breaking it or so injuring it that he was obliged to let go, and so perished in the wide abyss. One of the five passengers referred to above, named William Jackson, was in the boat immediately before she was cut down, but fortunately left it, having heard the mate say she would not live five minutes in the water if let down. All who were precipitated in that boat were lost. The number was from 12 to 14.
On Sunday night (the first night after the fire was discovered) John Selway, of Somersetshire, and his wife, with some other passengers, got into the starboard quarter boat, when they were ordered out. They refused at first to come out, but their lives being threatened, some of them complied, while others still remained. Among those who came back into the ship, were Selway and his wife.
The longboat was removed from its place during Sunday night, preparatory to being launched next morning, and the captain, when going into it, said he was only going temporarily, and that he would be immediately back. The captains wife and some other cabin passengers were got into it through the state room window, with a quantity of luggage. The captains wife got a bed in the end of the boat. By degrees some of the other passengers got into the long-boat and some, including women, were drowned in the attempt. The following is a list of those who were finally stowed into it:
Captain Hoxie, Mrs. Hoxie and child, George Slater Davis and wife, John Selway and wife, ____ Smith and wife, Doctor Hughes, the steward, the stewardess, Mr. Hatton, Mils Webster, Miss Doel Allan, Mrs. Burn and baby, Mr. Low, a sailor named Robert Graham, and two other sailors, two men and four women.
There were 28 in all. The rain fell in torrents, which, together with the waves washing over the side, drenched them to the skin; and were it not for a canvass awning fastened over the bow, which threw off the seas, the boat would have been filled with water frequently. As it was, it required every exertion to keep her bailed out. The situation of 28 human beings thus huddled together for four days, with little or no food or drink, unable to stir out of the same position, may be better conceived than described. Yet, so tenacious of life are we, that even this was considered paradise by those in the ship, who had plenty of room and more shelter. A poor girl, in trying to lower herself down, was lost, and another would have shared the same fate, the sailors refusing to admit her, one of them saying let her go, but that Mr. Slater Davis laid hold of her, and insisted upon bringing her into the boat.
On the Friday morning after the fire was discovered, the passengers who were in the long boat were ordered to return to the ship. To this they demurred, when they were threatened with being cut adrift unless they came at once into the ship. Notwithstanding this threat, they still kept their places when they were told they had their choice, either to go overboard or into the ship. The latter alternative they preferred, as a choice of two evils; and all left with the exception of the captain, his wife and child, the doctor, the steward and stewardess, and Allan.
After the captain left the ship on Monday, disorder and confusion reigned. Every one was his own master, and did what he pleased or what he was able to do. The strongest and most reckless and unprincipled, of course, had everything their own way. The sailors, with two exceptions, had deserted the ship, taking with them provisions, and there was none behind to work her, or man the pumps. The chief mate, one sailor, the cook (a colored man), and a steerage passenger named Browne, from Manchester, who had hardware goods on board acted nobly. Browne acquired an influence over the other passengers, and induced them to work, bravely setting them the example himself. Were it not for his efforts, matters might have been far more serious. So praiseworthy were his exertions, that the other passengers promised him a testimonial if they should reach the land in safety. The poor fellow had a wife and child with him, and lost the latter. The want of food and drink and rest prevented the passengers from working with any effect. Some of them were unable to walk, or even stand, from hunger and exhaustion. The food and drink that were available had been carried off by some of the sailors, and the ships provisions were below, and could not be reached through the smoke. John Watt, of Lincolnshire, states that he lived for a whole day upon one raw onion; and Joseph Kellow, a carpenter, of Wiltshire, who lost his wife, and his chest of tools, worth $250, kept several persons alive on butter and sugar mixed together. Some idea may be formed of the sufferings of the passengers, when it is stated they cut up some pigs alive, ate part raw, and devoured the remainder with the hair on. This, however, was as nothing for so many mouths. They were five days without drink, and some resorted to the drinking of salt water, which had a fatal effect. Others went to the medicine chest and drank tinctures, including tincture of opium (laudanum), which soon put a period to their sufferings.
A Catholic priest, an aged man who, we believe, went on from this to Washington, has been mentioned in connection with some bad conduct of a few of the passengers; but we are assured by every one of these passengers who have detailed to us the facts, of this narrative, that nothing can be more untrue. His conduct was pious, resigned and quiet in the extreme, and never murmured at his sufferings. That he was the most quiet man on board is the unanimous testimony of Protestants and Catholics.
When the passengers were taken on board the Sarah, they were no better off for food or drink, for the bark not being a passenger ship, had but a small quantity of provisions. John Watt states that they were for thirty-six hours on board of her without either food or drink, after their long previous exhaustion in the Caleb Grimshaw. It will be recollected that on the evening on which they fell in with the bark, the sea was too rough to take off the passengers. That night there was a fearful storm, when all thought they would go to the bottom. It had the effect, however, of putting the fire almost completely out, for the rolling about of the water that was pumped down, must have completely washed the sides of the vessel. It was observed, next day that she was quite cool. Scarcely any smoke was seen to issue after that, and as for the fire, it was never seen, from beginning to end.
When they reached Flores, and all the passengers were removed from her into the Sarah, two sailors were sent on board of her with billets of wood, to set her on fire, which they did; and she then began to blaze. This is sometimes done in the care of vessels abandoned at sea, lest other ships might come into collision with them at night.
We should mention that the passengers state that some of the sailors of the Caleb Grimshaw collected into one of the boats, on the day after she fell in with the Sarah, some of the most valuable things on board belonging to the passengers, and kept the boat in tow of the Sarah. But when Capt. Cook ordered those things to be taken on board, and brought into the cabin, they cut her away, lest the plunder should be discovered. The passengers having informed Captain Cook of the conduct of the sailors, he refused to take them with him from Fayal when setting sail for New York. The old lady, a cabin passenger, who, according to the statement in the Times, would not be permitted to come in the bark Clara C. Bell, for New York, is Miss Doel, of Suffolk, in England, sister to a milkman by that name, in this city. She wept bitterly on being refused. She was afterwards brought in the Sarah. In fact all the passengers lost every thing they brought with them, even to a change of clothes, and many of them are reduced by the calamity to a state of destitution. The second cabin passengers, who occupied the house on deck suffered most, for the steerage passengers having left their own traps below in the smoke, seized upon what they could get on deck.
The passengers, exhausted as they were with previous hunger and hardship, had only bread and water to live upon, which was insufficient for their sustenance; and some of them sunk under the privation, while others are yet ill. The first intention was to send the passengers to England, for which Captain Cook was to receive £800, but subsequently it was arranged to bring them to New York, for which it was agreed, by the British and American Consuls, he should be paid £400. These passengers, numbering 427, sailed from Liverpool on the 23d of October, and did not arrive here till the 14th of January, wanting only a week of a three months voyage, and eleven days in the burning vessel. We are informed by one of them that Christmas day was summer heat with them, while here the thermometer was seven degrees below zero.
It is due to the first mate of the Sarah, Mr. Coward, the second mate, and all the other officers and crew, to state that the passengers with whom we conversed wish to convey to them their warmest thanks, particularly to the chief mate. It appears, too, that the sailors held a meeting when they saw the flag of distress flying from the Grimshaw, and offered to go on short stowage, in order to save the lives which they believed to be in jeopardy.
The names of the passengers who related the foregoing particulars to us for publication are:- George Slater Davis, cabin passenger, Cheshire, England; John Selway, Somersetshire, England; William Jackson, county Kildare, Ireland; Joseph Kellon, Wiltshire, England; John Watt, Lincolnshire, England.
The origin of the fire is involved in the deepest mystery, as there was no communication whatever between the place where it broke out and the rest of the ship, the lower hold having been covered up and fastened before she left Liverpool.
The Caleb Grimshaw, according to the December 4 Liverpool Mercury article, “belonged to Messrs. Grimshaw, of Liverpool.” As noted in the advertisement to sail, Messrs. Grimshaw would have been the concern, C. Grimshaw & Co. An excellent description of Caleb Grimshaw & Company is provided in Cutler4 (p. 262-263) as follows:
While American merchants were establishing new and enlarging old lines to take advantage of the immigration boom, British and German merchants were by no means idle. From 1842 onward they engaged in the traffic in constantly increasing numbers, not only as agents of American lines but also as independent operators, sometimes combining the two functions. During the early part of the period under consideration by far the most active of such concerns was Caleb Grimshaw & Company, successor of the Messrs. Grimshaw who were specializing in emigration traffic as early as the late eighteen-twenties. When Sam Thompson decided to start his New York Liverpool line in 1842, the Grimshaws became his Liverpool representatives but their activities did not end there. They secured passengers and freight not only for the Thompson packets but for many others, ranging from ships of other lines to run-of-the-mill transients, looking for what business they might pick up. Regardless of size, age, or origin, all proved to have “magnificent cabin accommodations” and “lofty and spacious second-class and steerage quarters” when they sailed under the Grimshaw “New Line” flag.
By 1845 the line was advertising a dozen or more ships at a time and dispatching them every five to seven days. In addition to the Thompson vessels they handled ships of several other lines, notably Herdman’s, Kingsland’s and Kermit’s, besides helping out an occasional Black Baller for good measure. So much business was coming their way, in fact, that they could not take care of it properly. Accordingly, in 1845 they delegated the steerage traffic to William Tapscott and George Rippard & Son, both of Liverpool. It was all the dynamic Tapscott needed to start the great firm of W. & J. Tapscott on its long and prosperous career. Before the year ended he had established branch agencies allover Great Britain and Ireland and had opened an office in New York. It was also a profitable arrangement for the Grimshaws for they continued to collect their commissions all along the line, in addition to retaining exclusive control of the lucrative freight and cabin traffic.
Their first-class cabin rate was 16 guineas as compared with the 39 guineas of the steamships and the 25 pounds and upwards of the old line packets; the saving it represented was equivalent to several hundred dollars in present-day purchasing power, and it attracted large numbers of “those who wished to go at an easy rate.” That patronage explains in part the success of the Grimshaw and other similar lines soon to be established, although the unprecedented rise in emigration was by far the most potent factor. Grimshaw’s progress, indeed, was so rapid that the proprietors decided a more imposing title was in order. Accordingly, in January, 1845, the name was changed from “New Line” to “Black Star” and it may be noted here that during the boom decade then under way more American emigrant ships cleared under the Black Star flag than under any other.
Caleb Grimshaw & Co. was apparently a successor organization to one of the earliest emigration shipping concerns, Fitzhugh and Caleb Grimshaw, which is also described by Cutler4 (p. 199-200):
Baltimore’s first venture in the Western Ocean packet field came in 1829 with the establishment of a line of three ships, the Benjamin Rush) Dumfries and Ulysses) which sailed irregularly from Belfast and other Irish ports. It continued in operation for a number of years, always one of the looser organizations of the sort. William & Thomas Adair, 1 South Charles Street, were the Baltimore agents, with branches in Pittsburgh and St. Louis. They were essentially emigrant agents on the order of Samuel Thompson, of New York, the first to specialize in that field.
Thompson’s early activities are not well documented, but in later years he claimed that his business was established in 1817. In any case, he undoubtedly worked in close cooperation with the Black Ball from a very early date, and possibly from its founding. By 1825 he was doing a substantial business at 273 Pearl Street and advertising regularly in the local papers the establishment of his “Emigrant Offices”:
Where persons wishing to send for their friends from Great Britain and Ireland, Can secure their passage on the most moderate terms, in vessels of the first class, sailing from Liverpool every week.
By the time the Baltimore concern was founded, several other houses had engaged in the business, most 0£ them in New York City. All £ol- lowed closely the Thompson pattern. Their success led to the opening of a long series of “Passenger Agencies” of which Tapscott’s is perhaps the best remembered. Thompson’s, however, had the longer career, continuing long after the Civil War as Samuel Thompson’s Nephew.
American passenger agents, however, could hardly be expected to monopolize a business that originated 3000 miles away. With the renewal of emigration on a large scale it was not long before English and, to a lesser extent, German merchants began to engage in the traffic on their own initiative. One of the first ventures of the sort was the “Union Line of Packets for New York” organized in March, 1829, by Fitzhugh and Caleb Grimshaw, of 11 Brooks Square, Liverpool. The line consisted of 12 American ships, none of which were attached to any of the American lines, and the service started with the sailing of the ship Bowditch from Liverpool for New York on the 5th of April, Thereafter the line was scheduled to sail from Liverpool the 5th and 20th, and from New York the 12th and 28th of each month.
Although essentially an emigrant services, the Grimshaws advised the public that “a few respectable passengers can be accommodated in the first and second cabins: and that “no salt would be taken,” this as a special inducement to prospective first-class patrons, salt having a strong tendency to make a ship damp and uncomfortable. With the exception of one small vessel, the ships ranged around 400 tons, and the records show that they frequently carried from 150 to 200 steerage and several cabin passengers. The experiment was so far successful that by 1831 the firm was sending a ship every week or ten days. It was the forerunner of a number of similar lines, of which the famous “Black Star: was the most important.
Apparently most emigrant ships of the time were operated by various shipping “lines.” The Caleb Grimshaw operated in Samuel Thompson’s Line. The lines, in turn, had agents in New York and Liverpool; the New York agent for Samuel Thompson’s Line was Samuel himself (with the Old Established Packet Office, 273 Pearl Street, New York.) The Liverpool agent was Caleb Grimshaw & Co., 12 Goree Piazzas. Thus the Caleb Grimshaw was owned by Caleb Grimshaw & Co., who was also the agent for the Line in which the ship was operated.
Samuel Thompson’s Line was established in 1842 and was called “New Line” until 1845, when it changed to the “Black Star Line.” Cutler4 (p. 381-381) provides the following information on Samuel Thompson’s Line:
SAMUEL THOMPSON’S LINE
Called “New Line” in Liverpool, and later, Black Star Line. Samuel Thompson, Old Established Packet Office, 173 Pearl St., New York agent. Caleb Grimshaw & Co., 12 Goree Piazzas, Liverpool agents. Established May, 1842. Thompson, who had operated approximately 25 years as passenger agent, began clearing ships on his own account in Dec., 1841, including British vessels.
Sp. General Parkhill
John C. Hoyt
“Sarah & Arselia
J. H. Shumway
Name changed to Black Star Jan., 1845. ” Ap-
pointed days of sailing strictly adhered to.
P. P. Norton
Passage 15 guineas without wine. Fine goods
Francis M. French
20 shillings a ton. Steerage find own provi-
C. H. Coffin
J. G. Smith
General Parkhill retained in line. Richardson,
James C. Luce
Watson & Co., associated in operation. W. &
J. Tapscott handled steerage business in
Sp. Samuel Hicks
T. G. Bunker
On March 1st Samuel Thompson & Nephew
J. G. Russell
advertised as agents for the Black Star line of
W. B. Lane
packets from Liverpool to New York. Vessels
James D. Bennett
sailed every six days throughout year. Line
included Sea, Liberty, Cornelia, and Ohio, and
the 14 ships listed for 1847. The correct
F. W. Spencer
official tonnage given here is in general sub-
W. T. Thompson
stantially lower than the advertised tonnage.
The firm continued to use Britis ships, in
addition to those listed here.
J. L. Wilson
C. R. Crocker
J. D. Post
Sp. Caleb Grimshaw
William E. Hoxie
Burned Nov. 12, 1849, near Fayal.
E. D. Manson
Williams & Guion advertised Black Star Line
George Lunt, Jr.
of 12 ships, including most of the Thompson
vessels; Crook in Liverpool advertised a line
of 24 ships.
J. L. Lambert
C. R. Crocker
J. E. Hadley master in 1852
Sp. Star of the West
Alfred M. Lowbver
Eighteen ships in line; weekly sailings.
William E. Hoxie
Burned Dec. 28, 1853, in the Great Republic
Sp. Lady Franklin
William H. Russell
Charles B. Pendleton
L. J. Briggs
Sp. Jeremiah Thompson
Charles H. Blake
Samuel Thompson’s Nephews became New
Caleb Grimshaw & Co. also served as agents for other shipping lines, as indicated by Cutler — Empire Line (p. 382), Slates’ Liverpool Line (p. 383), and Patriotic Line (p. 389). After December 1847, Caleb Grimshaw and John Taylor
Crook operated separate divisions of the Black Star Line.
It is interesting to note that Captain Hoxie received command of another ship, the Joseph Walker, in 1850 – the year after the Caleb Grimshaw burned and sank. The Joseph Walker also burned, but this time in conjunction with another fire, of the Great Republic.
It was formerly thought that no pictures of the Caleb Grimshaw were in existence. A painting of a companion ship is presented in Cutler4 (p. 298) and is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Painting of the Huguenot, a packet ship probably very similar to the Caleb Grimshaw. Picture is from Cutler, where the original caption is “Packet ship Huguenot of Thompson’s Black Star Line, New York to Liverpool, being struck by lightning.” Image of painting courtesy of The Peabody Museum of Salem.
As shown in the table above on Samuel Thompson’s Line, the Huguenot and Caleb Grimshaw were both packet ships with similar tonnages (935 and 987, respectively) and dates of construction (1847 and 1848.) Thus it seems highly likely that the Caleb Grimshaw appeared very similar to the Huguenot as depicted in the painting.
In November 2008, a painting of the Caleb Grimshaw was found on the Mystic Seaport website; it is shown below with the associated description and webpage link.
Ship CALEB GRIMSHAW
23-5/8 x 35-9/16 in.
Framed oil painting of ship CALEB GRIMSHAW (bu. NY, 1848 by W. H. Webb; “Black Star” or “New Line” Liverpool Packet; burned at sea 11/12/1849) painted by Samuel W. Walters (1811-1882). Vessel is under partial sail & displays American flag & 2 pennants. Given in memory of Anne Mason Colton.
Given in memory of Anne Mason Colton
Image No: m179187-t.jpg
Interestingly, as predicted, the Caleb Grimshaw looks almost identical to the Huguenot.
The advertisement to sail shown above indicates that the ship was built in New York. An example New York firm that was building similar ships was Smith & Dimon, which built the sister ship “Argo” (described on handbill on a companion webpage). Morrison5 describes the shipbuilding activity in the New York shipyards during the period that the Caleb Grimshaw was built (in 1848) as shown below:
NEW ERA IN SHIPBUILDING – OCEAN STEAMSHIPS – FIRST CLIPPER SHIPS.
THERE now arrived one of the most important epochs in the industrial development of this country: no more in other mechanical pursuits than in the shipbuilding industry: and what is of interest to all citizens of New York City is the fact that this city contributed its full share of the progress in the arts and sciences of the time, and never flagged in its endeavor to keep up with the march of industrial progress in this country. Our renowned sailing packets had a few years before met competition in the European trade by steam vessels of foreign companies, and for a time the packets were able to hold their own in the passenger trade. In a few years these vessels were succeeded by sailing vessels of a sharper model. Younger men had in many instances come into control of the older yards. New yards had also been opened, and more progressive ideas were again taking hold of the shipbuilding business in the city, and in a few years the beneficial effects of these changes became apparent. The packets had been increasing in dimensions for ten years or more, so that by 1840 those under construction were near to 1,000 tons each. This type of vessel, with the full bow and wide square stern was the fast sailer from 1816 to 1840, but after the latter date there developed various branches of trade in which a quick delivery was as important for trade purposes as it was for the passenger trade. The restless energy of the American merchant began to show again in our foreign commerce. For instance there was the tea and spice trade from China and East Indies to the United States, in which a short time delivery had always been considered of much importance. The cargoes consisted of tea, coffee, dried fruit, etc., which were liable to deteriorate in a voyage of four mouths or more to the home port, and to shorten the voyage as much as possible was desirable for many reasons. The first tea clipper ships were the “Helena.” built in 1841 by W. H. Webb, then the “Montauk” by the same builder, and the “Rainbow” by Smith & Demon in 1844, and the “Houqua” in the same year by Brown C Bell, the “Sea Witch” in 1846 by Smith & Demon, and the “Samuel Russell” in 1847 by Brown & Bell. These vessels were not representative of the clippers of a few years later: they were much smaller, and the early ones were not so heavily constructed so as to stand the whip and spur for driving as were those of later years, though some made remarkably fast voyages, and passed through some trying occasions at sea.
It must not be thought that our packet ships, catering to the emigrant passenger trade on the Atlantic ocean, mainly with Great Britain, were making long voyages at this time, for there were several then running to New York after 1840 that made voyages from New York to Liverpool in 16 days, and from Liverpool to New York in 22 days. The average for one year was 23 days from New York to Liverpool, and 34 days from Liverpool to New York. These were all New York built vessels.
The system of construction of the larger vessels was not always the same at the different periods. Up to about 1830 the skilled mechanic in the shipyard performed work of any character that was necessary to the building of the vessel. He would aid in the hewing out to the lines, the frames of the vessel, and participate in setting them up in their proper places. Would line out his strake of planking on the timbers of the vessel, dub off the outer surface of the frames so that the plank might fit truly: put on the plank, bore the holes for the treenails and bolts, fasten the plank in place, and even caulk the seams of the planking: and when it became necessary to have a large and heavy stick of timber placed in position in the vessel, all hands were called from their work to carry on their shoulders these large pieces of timber, sometimes taking twenty-five or more men. After the ten hour system was brought into practice there was a breaking up of the labor in the yards, each man having a specialty, as a carpenter, caulker, fastener, etc., the men in each kind of work called a gang. This change took some time before it came generally into use, but it was a system under which time was saved and better work secured than under the old system. Subsequently derricks were installed at the better yards for handling the heavy timber, and some yards never made improvements in methods of building unless forced to do so. Treenails were at first made by hand, and were chopped out of sticks of wood with axes: but a treenail lathe machine was invented in 1838 to do this work more quickly and accurately.
A later view of the question of labor in the shipyards has been obtained by an examination of the payroll of one of the largest of our old-time New York shipbuilders, that runs from 1840 to 1845. It is found that in 1840 the ship carpenters were paid $2.00 per day, and the caulkers the same daily wage. This rate continued for the better class of mechanics for near ten years. The apprentices, of which there were six in this yard at the time, were paid from 50 cents to 64 cents per day, according to their length of service and their skill. A year later this yard had for its skilled labor 13 ship carpenters and 18 caulkers, and a few months later the number of carpenters had increased to 26 and there were ten apprentices. In the summer of 1842 there were 79 ship carpenters employed on seven sailing vessels and one steamboat. Among the apprentices now employed here, some of whom had been for a greater time than others employed in this yard, may be named those who were well known in the business at a later date as men of known skill in shipbuilding at New York: Eckford Webb, a brother of W. H. Webb, George Bell, these two subsequently became partners in business at Greenpoint, L. L : George Wilmurt and Leonard Bolles. They received now from 50 cents to 78 cents per day. There were now eight sub-contractors, or lumpers so called, at work in the Yard on eight vessels. In May, 1843, there were eight vessels under construction at one time, with twelve carpenters and fifteen apprentices, and eight sub-contractors. In September 1844 there were ten vessels under construction at one time. Christian Metzgar was the foreman at this yard during the whole period of its activity.
The shipyards of 1840 to 1845 were somewhat changed in location from what they were a decade before. There were now but. few yards, not more than four, at Corlears Hook, a new one being established in 1841 by Westervelt and Mackey, who in 1844 moved their yard to Lewis and Seventh street. This firm was of much prominence during the later years of prosperity. It is found that the shipyards extended in almost a solid line from Grand street to Twelfth street, where William H. Brown had for a few years been building vessels. William H. Webb “was then located at Sixth street, Smith and Demon at Fourth street, and Brown and Bell at Stanton street. William H. Brown and John English were now in control of the marine railway at Tenth street, and had most of the repair work on vessels of large tonnage in the city. Some of the other builders, besides those previously named, on the New York side of the river, were Jabez Williams, Devine Burtis & Co., Haythorn & Steers, Bishop & Simonson, Buckman and Casilear, Whitlock and Berrian, Bayles & Brown, William Bennett, and Lawrence & Sneeden.
The building of the first clipper ships had no more than got well under way than great improvements were made in the new steamboats put under contract: they were of larger dimensions, more commodious, having staterooms and more propelling power of machinery. These vessels were now for the large transportation companies mainly, though there were a few for individual owners. A few years later there began inquiries regarding the building of steamships for European service, and later it assumed the form of a postal contract with the United States Government, and in 1847 when a company had been organized Westervelt & Mackay were given the contract for building the first American ocean mail steamships. This was followed the same year by William H. Webb building the ” United States ” for Charles H. Marshall & Co. of the Black Ball line of packets: and in 1849 Westervelt & Mackay constructed two for the Havre line. This completes the list of ocean steamships built prior to the far-famed Collins line of steamships. The fleet of this company were the “Atlantic” and the “Arctic,” built by William H. Brown, and the “Pacific” and the “Baltic” by Brown & Bell, and the “Adriatic,” or at first intended to be named, the “Antarctic,” by George Steers. About the same time began the building of the steamships for the Southern coastwise lines, the “Northerner” for the Charleston line in 1847, the “Falcon” in 1848 for the California trade, both by William H. Brown; the “Georgia” in 1849 by Smith & Demon, and the “Ohio” by Jeremiah Simonson in the same year, both for the California trade. In the same year the first steamship for the Savannah line, the “Cherokee” was built by William H. Webb. There were a large number of steamships built during this period for service occasioned by the gold excitement in California. This latter factor added immensely to the business of the New York shipyards, as it did to the shipbuilding industry of other Atlantic coast cities, both for steam vessels as well as for sail vessels, that lasted for four or more years. The extension of our coastwise commerce with steam vessels at this period was a factor of much interest to the local shipyards, as the larger number of these vessels were built at New York. Then to increase the business still further there was a lively competition going on between the several established lines and outside interests on the Hudson river, and the demand for four or more years was very great for high speed passenger steamboats of large size, several of which made long runs on the river in record time that is even of interest at this day, and all of them built at New York. So we see there was a steady hum of the broad axe in our shipyards not many years prior to its first stage of decline.
Referring to the high speed steamboats of the Hudson river, built during this period of intense rivalry on the river at New York City shipyards, it will be of interest to refer to some incidents in the career of the “Empire,” built by William H. Brown in 1843, and the “Thomas Powell” by Lawrence & Sneeden in 1846, vessels that were well known on the river at the time. The facts referred to are those lately published in the Scientific American Supplement in a series of papers by the writer on “The Development of Armored War Vessels and Armor Plating in the United States,” where he says:
“What gave our naval architects, as well as Col. Ellet, the first practical demonstration of the value of the principles of high speed and strength of a vessel to destroy an enemy’s vessel by forcible contact was that of the occasion of a light-built river steamboat running into a solid-built pier in the City of New York, with comparative slight injury to the vessel. It was in the early morning of April 25, 1845, that the steamboat Empire of Troy of the New York and Troy line was coming down the Hudson river, and when opposite the upper part of New York City during a fog on the river, ran into the end pier of the new dock at 19th street, about thirty feet from the outer end, and cut her way through the timbers of the dock and stone filling of the cribwork. This pier of cribwork was 40 feet square. There were three of these piers under this dock, the latter being 265 feet long from the bulkhead and 40 feet wide, and lacked the heavy plank facing to be completed. The sills, string pieces, and heavy timbers of the dock were of rough timber 18 inches square, and the `Empire’ cut through these with a `tremendous crash,’ cutting them short off, as a light piece of wood would be cut with a sharp tool. These timbers were afterward found to be sound and free from defects, excepting those caused by the steamboat collision. The `Empire’ plowed her way through the solid rock filling of the pier some 27 feet before stopping. The opening by measurement at the time showed the 18 inches of timber, then solid stone filling of 8-1/2 feet thick, and then through earth and rubbish 17 feet further, making a total opening of 27 feet long, and 17 feet deep at the deepest point. The stem piece of the vessel was carried away, several of the forward ends of the planking on either side were badly shattered, and a few of the frames started. Both of the forward ends of the hog frames of the vessel were broken. “When the type of vessel is taken into consideration, being 307 feet long, 30 feet 6 inches beam, or about 1 to 10, and built with a flat floor that ran well out to the fore body of the vessel, to make her as light draft as possible; coming down the river with a strong tide, that was on the last hour of the ebb; and when the filling of the pier was the most exposed, it is certainly remarkable that the vessel was not more seriously injured; but as it was, the hog frarnes being partially broken and otherwise badly strained, showed the vessel received at the time a severe shock throughout the whole structure. It was only that the vessel was traveling at a high velocity when she struck the pier that saved her from being badly crushed, for it must be remembered she was not a heavy-built vessel, nor was she a shell. She was undoubtedly moving at the time of the impact at not less than 12 miles an hour. She had been racing all night from Albany with an opposition boat, and the time made from Albany to the pier when struck showed an average of 18 miles an hour. This was no accident.
“This ramming incident was variously commented on at the time by those in the more progressive marine circles, and it caused much speculation and thought on the subject of steam vessels being brought into forcible contact at a high speed. It was a subject of much local comment for some time how the vessel escaped destruction.
“There was one other incident of the same nature that occurred some years later, and these complete the list of wooden-hull river steamboats running into stone crib piers with slight injury to the vessel, in the United States. The `Thomas Powell’ was running between New York and Catskill on the Hudson river as a night boat, and on July 23, 1868, when about four miles from her berth at the former city, ran into a dock at the foot of 59th street, North River, and met with comparatively slight damage when considering the age of the vessel. It seems that the vessel ran into a thick fog during the night on her trip down the river. The pilot on watch in the early morning had but a limited experience on steamboats, though he had seen several years’ service on the river. He was feeling his way down the river in the fog, and up to four o’clock, when the vessel ran into the dock, had been making a speed of about 12 miles an hour. The vessel struck the string piece of the dock with a fearful crash, and this was the first warning they had of the impending danger. Some idea of the velocity of the vessel when striking the dock may be formed, when stating that she tore diagonally through the superstructure of the dock between two piers of stone cribwork, and forced her way through until the paddle wheels struck the cribwork, and she did not bring up or stop her progress until about one-half of her length was laid on the pier, and the ends of the vessel hanging over the sides of the cribwork. Her port water wheel was badly damaged, its shaft forced two feet aft from its proper position, with the crank pin and main pillow block broken. There were one or two planks started on the port side, but not of sufficient damage to take her out on the drydock. The vessel was relieved from her dangerous situation at the next flood tide. The dock had been damaged by ice two years before this occurrence, and was partly overflowed at high water. The tidal conditions at New York this morning were low water at 5 a. m., so the vessel was running with a favorable ebb tide, and it was on the last hour of that tide when she struck the pier. This vessel was 231 feet long originally, and it is believed she was lengthened a few feet when staterooms were added, drew about six feet of water, and was twenty-two years old at the time. Her main shaft was located about 95 feet aft of the stem of the vessel. Taking into consideration the age of the vessel, and the manner of her striking the cribwork at such an angle as to bring all the strain on the port side of the vessel, it is a wonder that she was not irreparably damaged. It proved that she was still a sound and strong river vessel, even with her years of service. She was employed on the river until 1881, when retired after thirty-five years of service. There were material differences between these two cases that no doubt affected the result. The `Empire’ was a new vessel, and ran into a dock that was just about completed. The `Thomas Powell’ was then twenty-two years old, although in as good condition as any wooden vessel of her age: and ran into a dock that had been built for several years, and was then in a partly dismantled condition. What the result would have been had the vessel struck a more substantial pier under similar conditions is very problematical.”
The first steamships built at New York, if not in the United States, were the “Lion” and the “Eagle” in 1841 by Jacob Bell for the Spanish government. This takes no account of the “Robert Fulton” of 1819. The next year William H. Brown built for the Russian government the “Kamschatka,” a side wheel vessel of over 200 feet long for naval purposes. Then followed our domestic vessels just noted. Up to and including 1850 there had been constructed at New York 38 steamships: William H. Brown building nine, William H. W ebb building eight, Westervelt & Mackay building eight, Jacob Bell, Jeremiah Simonson, Thomas Collyer, Smith & Demon and Perrine, Patterson & Stack the remainder.
The only other fire in a New York shipyard that was considered of much moment after that at Adam & Noah Brown’s yard in 1824, was one that occurred at William H. Webb’s yard on April 8, 1848, about ten o’clock at night. It started in a stable next to the office of the yard that was located on Lewis street near 6th street. The flames spread rapidly from several points, and before the fire department could become active on the scene the flames had spread to the adjoining mold loft and the office, the former containing many old and valuable patterns and molds, and several historically valuable models. The fire also extended through its close proximity in the buildings to the Steamship ” Panama ” then on the stocks and nearly ready for launching in a few days, that was somewhat damaged, and required some rebuilding of a minor character before it was ready to launch. The fire department had to use great efforts on this vessel to save it from entire destruction, being ably assisted by the many employees of the several shipyards in the vicinity who had come at the first call. There was also a large quantity of, valuable timber that was lying near the vessel, some finished and some unfinished, and intended to be used on vessels then under construction in the yard, that was destroyed by the flames. The books and papers in the office were mostly all saved from the flames. The fire was believed to have been the work of an incendiary. During the fire a number of persons got on a workshed that covered the sawpit, to have a better view of the fire, and from the great weight on the roof the supports gave way, and all those on the roof were precipitated with a great crash of timbers into the sawpit below. Several persons had their limbs broken and others were more or less injured, and one died from internal injuries. This fire was the occasion when the owner of the shipyard was asked by one of the fire officials where the fire department could be of the most service at the time, and Mr. Webb told them, “if you can save my steam chest you will help me most.”
The conditions existing at this period were the results of the many changes that had occurred in the last decade. Some of the shipbuilders had broken loose from the practice of the past, and taking lessons from their experience had made changes in the forms of their new vessels that were in many cases of much advantage to the owners. We must remember that at this period, though no more than at an earlier one, it was running counter to old customs to propose any radical changes, let alone to carry them into effect, in any business or profession even though it promised much improvement. There were those of our naval architects at this period who were in the front rank of their profession, and the general form of vessel they approved for a given service have been but little changed to this day. An English naval architect at this time said: “It seems now to be admitted in Europe and in America, that if a shipbuilder wished to have a very easy and fast going ship, he must give her bow not the round, convex line which was formerly adopted, but a fine, long, hollow line. In this consists the great revolution of the last twenty years. Formerly the broadest part of a vessel was one-third part from the bow: now it is one-third part from the stern. This is the principle on which the American and English clipper ships are built.” The hollow entrance water lines were first used in this country by Robert L. Stevens in the early ’30s, on his Hudson river steamboats. There were some of our well-known New York shipbuilders, so wedded to their old theories of design, that after 1850 they constructed clipper ships having the broadest part of the vessel one-third the length from the stem, like the old style packet ships, but with finer entrance lines.
By 1848 there was seen to be a demand for increased drydock facilities in this city for large vessels for repairs and inspection, caused by the larger vessels; both steam and sail, building at that time. The Balance Dry Dock was the patents of John S. Gilbert of New York of March 25 and May 12, 1840. The first dock built on this principle was a small one of 110 feet long by 45 feet wide in 1841, and was located at first on the west side of the city. The New York Balance Dock Company was incorporated April 18, 1848, and they had built a dock 210 feet long. The “Big” Balance Dry Dock was built by William H. Webb in Williamsburg in October, 1854. The principal dimensions were 325 feet long, 99 feet breadth, 38-1/2 feet deep. There were twelve pumps operated by two horizontal engines, one on each side of dock, and two large locomotive boilers furnishing steam for the latter. “On each side of the dock, about six feet within the outer timbers, and extending from the bottom to top of dock, a very heavy and strong longitudinal truss or hog frame, formed of large uprights, top and bottom chords and large iron bars crossing each other diagonally, the whole being strongly secured to the bottom of dock, cross trusses, diagonal braces, and top deck frame. This hog frame is planked on the inside, thus forming water tight tanks the whole length of the dock, on each side and bottom.” This dock cost about $175,000 to build. The machinery was constructed by Mott & Ayres, machine builders of West 26th street, New York City, who built about the same period two or three iron hull steamboats for South America. This is the dry dock that was sold to the Erie Basin Dry Dock Company about 1890. In 1852 the United States Navy department had four floating dry docks, a balance dock of 350 feet long at Portsmouth navy yard, and a duplicate of this dock at the Pensacola navy yard, a sectional dock of 9 sections at the Philadelphia navy yard, and a sectional dock of 10 sections underway at San Francisco, Cal. There was a floating box dock to take up vessels of not more than 500 tons at Pittsburg, Pa., as early as 1831. This dock was fitted with four pumps that were operated by a steam engine. There were two of these docks at the same city in 1836.
The “heaving down” process is thus referred to by an authority as late as 1851: “The rapidity, safety and ease with which caulking and sheathing are now done contrasts strongly with the practice years since in vogue, and only completely discontinued within the last fifteen years, of heaving down vessels for this purpose by main force upon the beach occupying the space covered by our whole upper line of docks on the East river. This was performed at high water by fastening tackles from the head of a vessel mast, itself secured by heavy braces to heavy blocks and falls in the dock, until the keel of the vessel came out of the water, when on the succeeding tide she was thrown over. Previous to the construction of the United States Dry Docks even the largest government vessels were treated in the same rough manner.”
STEAMBOAT OREGON, BUILT BY SMITH & DEMON
CLIPPER SHIP “CHALLENGE.” Built by William H. Webb 1851.
S. S. “ADRIATIC” ON BALANCE DRY DOCK.
Candidate shipbuilders for the construction of the Caleb Grimshaw described in the above chapter from Morrison5 include William H. Webb, Westervelt and Mackey, Smith and Demon, Brown and Bell, Jabez Williams, Devine Burtis & Co., Haythorn & Steers, Bishop & Simonson, Buckman and Casilear, Whitlock and Berrian, Bayles & Brown, William Bennett, Lawrence & Sneeden, Jacob Bell, William H. Brown, Jeremiah Simonson, Thomas Collyer, and Perrine, Patterson & Stack.
In July 2006, Pat Wilbur – Ships Plans Cataloger at the Daniel S Gregory Ships Plans Library – provided a reference6 indicating the following information regarding the packet ship Caleb Grimshaw:
Builder: William Webb
Sank: Nov. 1949
166′ x 36’8″ x 21’8″
Thanks go to Pat Wilbur for finding and providing this information. The reference was subsequently obtained, and the following excerpt found on pages 170-171:
Thus the Caleb Grimshaw was probably commissioned in mid to late 1847 and was launched in February 1848. It completed its first voyage from New York to Liverpool and back by May 27, 1848, the arrival date noted below under “Successful Voyages”. Caleb Grimshaw, for whom the ship was named, died suddenly on February 1, 1847. So it seems likely that the ship was named for Caleb Grimshaw (“the Liverpool agent of the line” noted above) posthumously.
The ships plans library is at the Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea. Information on William H Webb, maker of the Caleb Grimshaw, is provided on their website:
Biography of Willilam H. Webb
William H. Webb was born in 1816. He began his career as an apprentice in the shipyard of his father, Isaac Webb (1794-1840). William Webb became noted as a designer and builder in New York City and later as founder of the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture, New York. He took over the shipyard upon his father’s death and built a variety of wooden-hulled vessels, including clipper ships, packets, steamships, military vessels, and others. In 1895, after retirement he published a two-volume set of books entitled “Plans of Wooden Vessels built by William H. Webb in the City of New York, 1840-1869.” William H. Webb died in 1899.
Additional information and a photo of Webb are found at the following webpage:
William Henry Webb (1816-1899) is generally considered America’s greatest nineteenth-century naval architect and shipbuilder, and up to the time of his death one of the foremost figures among the authorities on marine architecture.. Webb’s career began with his apprenticeship in his father’s shipyard, Webb “&” Allen, in New York in 1831. Upon his father’s death in 1840, William Webb took over the business and established the yard that would thereafter simply be known as “William H. Webb.” Asked at several points in his distinguished career what he considered the key to his reputation and success, Webb would always reply, “Attention to detail.” Webb’s mastery of the principles of ship design is demonstrated in both the variety and quality of the vessels he built. During the great “clipper ship” era of 1840s and 1850s, Webb built some of the fastest ships of this type. The extreme clipper Young America (1853) is recognized as the most beautiful of all clipper ships, “the acme of perfection” in this type of design. In the 1850s Webb gained international recognition for the warships General Admiral (1857), which became the flagship of the Russian navy, and for the Re d’Italia (1863) and the Re Don Luigi di Portogallo (1864), which were built for the Italian navy. His great ironclad warship Dunderberg, originally contracted for the United States Navy during the American Civil War, was sold to France in 1867. After the war Webb turned to designing Long Island Sound steamboats. The Bristol and Providence, both completed in 1867, are considered among the finest such vessels ever constructed. With the first great era of American shipbuilding obviously over, William Webb retired from the profession in 1869.
The Caleb Grimshaw apparently made five successful trips from Liverpool to New York in 1848 and 1849, before it was destroyed by fire, according to records kept by the New York Harbor (Steuart7, p. 203.) Passenger lists were prepared for each of these voyages and have been compiled by the U.S. National Archives (NARA.) Microfilms of the passenger lists are available at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, The five arrivals and passenger records for the Caleb Grimshaw are summarized from Steuart7 as follows:
LDS Film No.
27 May 1848
Hoxie, Wm. E.
11 Sep 1848
Hoxie, Wm. E.
IREL, ENGL, GERM
18 Jan 1849
Hoxie, W. E.
3 May 1849
Hoxie, Wm. E.
ENGL, IREL, WALE
175432 or 175433
15 Aug 1849
Hoxie, William E.
WALE, ENGL, IREL
The passenger lists prepared by the Port of New York included the following entries:
Name (First, Last)
Age (Years, Months)
The country to which they eventually belong
The country to which they intend to become inhabitants
Died on the Voyage
An example of the first page of the passenger list for the Caleb Grimshaw (from the second voyage, arrived September 11, 1848) is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Example first page of passenger list for the Caleb Grimshaw (second voyage). Note the signature of Captain Wm. E. Hoxie on left side of header. Record from LDS Family History Library, Microfilm No. 175426
Images of the ship lists have been obtained from the LDS Family History Library and are provided below. Because the files have high resolution for maximum readability, the file sizes are quite large and take awhile to load. For the same reason, three of the lists have had to be broken up into three or four parts; each part has a one-page overlap with the preceding part.
Trip 1, Arrival 27 May 1848, LDS Film No. 2318
Trip 2, Arrival 11 September 1848, LDS Film No. 175426
Trip 3, Arrival 18 January 1849, LDS Film No. 175430
Trip 4, Arrival 3 May 1849, LDS Film No. 175433
Trip 5, Arrival 15 August 1849, LDS Film No. 175438
The advertisement in Figure 2 above indicates that the Caleb Grimshaw departed from “Loading Berth, South Side Waterloo Dock” when it sailed on its fateful voyage on October 22, 1849. Figures 4 and 5 show two parts of a map of the Liverpool port and include the location of Waterloo Dock near the Observatory.
Figure 4. Map of Liverpool Dock area, showing major features, such as Kings Dock, Queens Dock, Albert Dock and Prince’s Dock. Note Waterloo Dock on the west side of the map (near the Observatory), from where the Caleb Grimshaw sailed in 1849. The map is from the inside front cover of Cutler4 and is indicated to be “From Austin’s survey of 1851.” The heavy black line and out-of-focus area are caused by the binding of the front cover of the book.
Figure 5. Second map view of the Liverpool dock area, again showing Waterloo Dock. The Caleb Grimshaw sailed from the south of the Waterloo Dock in 1849, which would have been just west of the Observatory.
A map of the Port of New York, where the Caleb Grimshaw arrived at the end of its five successful voyages, is also shown in Cutler4 and is included in Figure 6 below. Note in the figure that the “Black Star Line” had its berths in the area of Docks 28, 29, and 30 on the East River, just across from Brooklyn. Since the Caleb Grimshaw was operated by the Black Star Line, it no doubt berthed at one (or more) of those docks during its five voyages before it sank on its sixth voyage.
Figure 6. Area of the Port of New York on the south tip of Manhattan Island. Map is from the front cover of Cutler3 and is is entitled “Lower Part of New York City, 1851. Heavy broken line marks the waterfront below City Hall park in 1784. Area filled in prior to 1820.” The docks of the Black Star Line are in the upper-right quarter of the figure.
A book on the Irish emigration to North America during the famine years of the middle 1800s (Laxton, 19968) provides additional detail on the sinking of the Caleb Grimshaw. The relevant portions of Laxtons book are excerpted below. (Two parts of Laxtons book are included in the excerpt the Foreward, which provides background for the Irish emigration, and Chapter 13, which includes the story of the sinking of the Caleb Grimshaw.) Note that the Captain Hoxie’s name is erroneously reported as James rather than William.
The only encouragement we hold out to strangers are a good climate, fertile soil, wholesome air and water, Plenty of Provisions, good pay for labor, kind neighbors, good laws, a free government and a hearty welcome.
These words were spoken by Benjamin Franklin, who did so much to promote the American cause of independence, a hundred years before the Famine Emigration. But they held true for a million and more citizens of Ireland, the men, women and children who sailed to America between 1846 and 1851, so that they might escape the Famine and survive. For as little as US $10, a passenger could sail 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, a voyage of fear, hunger, sickness, misery … and hope. But a million more would die at home, from starvation and fever, after the failure of the potato crop in successive seasons.
Were those voyagers alive today, what stories they could tell, of the agonizing decision to leave their beloved Isle of Erin, of the lamentations on their last night at home and the American Wake, as it came to be known, of the arduous journey to the port and the search for a ship, of the misery they endured on the voyage! But what joy when they arrived, what relief they must have savoured as they stepped ashore! They were released from tyranny, no longer tormented tenants. Free at last, they could start to live again.
In fact emigration from Ireland to America had begun in the early 1700s. A trickle swelled to an average of 5,000 a year by 1830 and grew steadily until the Famine arrived and the exodus began, 150 years ago. The emigrants sailed to New York and Boston, to Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Orleans, and they spread across America’s heartland. They sailed to Canada, a British colony to which the passage was cheaper, from where an estimated 200,000 immediately went south across the border.
Before the Famine the population of America had risen to around 23 million. The Statue of Liberty, with its famous welcome for immigrants, was not yet built – Ellis Island was many years away. But the Irish looked upon America as their natural choice and by 1850 the residents of New York were 29 per cent Irish.
Seven million are believed to have left Ireland for America over the last three centuries. For a million, over a period of six years, there was no option. Now more than 40 million American citizens can claim Irish blood.
While books on the Famine period have dealt with the journey, no publication has dealt specifically with the Irish-owned ships, the Irish crews who sailed them, the Irish ports they sailed from and the Irish passengers they carried in those years.
The ships featured in this book made these crossings on the dates shown, at the times stated; passenger lists are from US Immigration files, crew’s papers for the specific voyages from marine archives, and a wealth of first-hand reports have contributed to the stories. Details have been taken from eyewitness accounts; original Certificates of Registration, paintings and contemporary lithograph drawings have been reproduced.
SOURCES: National Library, Dublin; Linen Hall Library, Belfast; American-Ulster Folk Park; Famine Museum, Strokestown, County Roscommon; Royal Maritime Museum, Greenwich; Liverpool Maritime Museum; Public Record Office and Guildhall Library, London; the libraries of Cork, Cobh, Galway, Limerick; the Bodleian and Rhodes House Libraries, Oxford; Irish Historical Society, New York; Balch Institute and Maritime Museum, Philadelphia.
Flags for Convenience
During the 19th century, thousands of ships plied the seaways, rivers and canals, loaded with cargoes and passengers. Sea transport was a haphazard and ill-regulated trade until the latter half of the last century. At any one time, ten or 20 ships, often very similar in size and design, and sometimes bearing the same name or ensign, might cross the ocean. Certain much-loved names abounded, such as Eliza, a popular Christian name for a girl. Constitution was also common; at least three ships of that name sailed between Liverpool and New York during the Famine years; and two Hannah’s, registered to ports in Ireland, carried Famine emigrants. Though a ship could be identified by its owner’s pennant, this was normally only hoisted when entering or leaving port.
At the time of the Famine, however, Lloyd’s Register introduced a series of identification flags which corresponded to ships’ identification numbers in the Register. Captain Joseph Marryatt, an officer in the Royal Navy, suggested this system of identifying ships in the 1830s and by the following decade it was accepted throughout the world. Ten coloured flags represented numbers from zero to nine, and each ship flew the four flags corresponding to the number by which she was known in the Register. One was signified by the colours white with a blue square; five by a red flag; eight by blue with a yellow square; and nine by blue and yellow quarters. But configurations involving double numbers, such as 2102, 3103 or 9109, were avoided. As a result, far fewer than 9,999 ships could be identified by the use of the four flags. To overcome the problem, ships introduced later in the century flew a First Distinguishing Pennant either from a different mast or above their own signal flags. This was a long, triangular flag in white with a red spot near the hoist. Later, Second and Third Distinguishing Pennants were added and, by the time Marryati’s Code of Signals was published in 18S6, some 30,000 separate identities were established
Possibly these identities were not of such great consequence once a ship was at sea, but if lost or wrecked, a ship’s position and identity was of paramount importance to the owners and especially to the insurers and Lloyd’s officials. To help keep track of ships’ movements, all vessels were logged on entering and leaving port, and when sighted by another vessel at sea, such sightings being reported to Lloyd’s local agents. As all sea-faring nations, especially America, began to increase their tonnage on the high seas, these new identification systems and enforced regulations became essential for the smooth running of an expanding shipping trade. There were other flags in the system which conveyed a particular message when flown alone, such as ‘I have lost my anchor chain – request assistance’. Lighthouses and coastguards also flew special flags signifying various warnings for ships at sea.
There were also time-honoured distress signals: the Red Ensign, a red flag with the Union Jack in one corner, identifying the British merchant fleet, was flown upside down on a halyard at the stern to signal distress. Two ships in distress were forced to fly the signal in 1849. First, the 460-ton barque Atlantic left Liverpool in January bound for New Orleans with more than 300 Irish emigrants. On their second day at sea they were hit by severe gales which blew the ship miles off course and ripped the sails to shreds as the captain, William Rose, tried to maintain some sort of headway. Rose plotted a course to take his ship north around Ireland, into the ocean, heading much further north than was ideal, especially for such a southerly destination, but the fierce south westerly winds gave him no choice. With such little canvas left, the Atlantic drifted towards the Pladda Lighthouse, positioned to warn ships to keep clear. The west coast of Scotland is wild but luckily the Atlantic was in the vicinity of the mouth of the Clyde, leading up to the docks at Glasgow where the steam-tug Conqueror circled, waiting to tow ships into port. The Conqueror’s captain spotted the upside-down ensign flying from the Atlantic and on closer inspection saw the tangled mass of spars where the sails had been attached and the battered state of the ship. The master of the tug exchanged signals with his opposite number on the Atlantic and both agreed that the sea was too rough and the weather too unpredictable to attempt any transfer of passengers. With the Conqueror steaming close by, Captain Rose headed slowly towards the nearest harbour at Ardrossan. The few sails remaining allowed him little opportunity to manoeuvre and as they sailed over the bar, with the harbour in sight, the barque went aground and stuck fast in the sand. To add to their problems the ship started to leak; now there was no choice but to abandon ship. By using the long-boat, the passengers were ferried in small batches to the tug. The Atlantic was fortunate both in being so close to land when disaster struck, and in being sighted within three days by a steam vessel, powered independently of the prevailing winds.
(Caleb Grimshaw Story)
By no means so fortunate was the Caleb Grimshaw (named after its owner) which left Liverpool later in the year, bound for New York with 425 passengers aboard. Misfortune fell early on in the voyage when the ship was becalmed despite the late season, but the Atlantic Ocean and its weather are fickle and often unfriendly. The ship drifted for 19 days at sea before a decent breeze blew up. Just as Captain James Hoxie set about making up for lost time, fire in the forward hold was reported. The passengers were naturally terrified, as there was not another ship nor land in sight. The ship was reasonably equipped, and its crew of 30 managed to pump water on to the seat of the blaze; but the flames were fanned by the fresh winds. While the crew battled with the fire, some passengers took matters into their own hands and lowered one of the ship’s boats but it crashed into the Water, and swamped the passengers. Twelve of them were swept away and drowned while the rest clambered back on board. On deck, the scene became chaotic. Another boat was lowered but this time by the crew, equipped with a compass, a chart and supplies of food and water. They escaped the burning ship and raised a sail to remain safely in the lea of the Caleb Grimshaw.
The fire raged all night and during the early morning another boat was lowered with the captain’s wife and daughter safely aboard, later to be joined by some of the cabin passengers. The unfortunate men, women and children in steerage had to fend for themselves. In the afternoon of the second day, when the captain himself abandoned ship, the poor emigrants felt certain they were heading for a watery grave. From his long-boat, Captain Hoxie tried to reassure them, promising to sail alongside and direct the rescue efforts from his boat. There were no more boats left aboard the ship: one was wrecked and two were at sea, attached to the mother-ship by tow-lines. The remaining crew decided to build rafts. The first raft, launched with a tow line, was quickly overloaded with 30 passengers, some of whom cast themselves adrift – never to be seen again. A salutary lesson was learned and fewer crowded onto the second raft; both rafts were kept in tow, forming a flotilla with the two boats.
Though water-logged holds prevented the fire from spreading, it had taken a firm grip amidships and experienced seamen knew that the Caleb Grimshaw was doomed. But as big ships can be seen from distant horizons (unlike small boats riding low in the waves), the victims’ best chance of rescue was to remain close to the burning barque. The ship’s course was set to sail towards the busy shipping lanes leaving from England and Ireland. On the fourth day of the fire, the ship seemed to revive, at least momentarily, and the crew put her before a freshening wind while everyone prayed for help. Their prayers were answered at midday when the look-out spotted the barque Sarah, sailing from London to Halifax in Canada. Within two hours, the Sarah had drawn alongside the Caleb Grimshaw. Her captain, David Cooke, first rescued the passengers on the boats and rafts which, once cast adrift, sank immediately. By midnight, a storm arose, the sky darkened and the flames devoured the Caleb Grimshaw, while over 250 passengers still on board clung to the burning wreckage. With dawn on the fifth day, the weather turned, and half the survivors on the stricken ship were transferred to the Sarah until there was literally no more space aboard the rescue barque.
For three more days and nights the two ships moved slowly through the water, the Sarah’s sails reefed in to slow her down. There was little canvas aloft on the Caleb Grimshaw and she was lying very low in the water. The coastline of Europe was closer than America or Canada but not close enough, about 750 miles according to the sea charts. Over 100 stricken passengers still clung to the burning ship. Weakened, without water and subject to freezing nights on deck, they began to sicken and die. Though eight days had passed since the fire broke out, their ordeal was far from over. Two more days passed before land was at last sighted, when the peak of a 3,000-feet volcano broke the horizon, and gradually the island of Flores in the Portuguese Azores came into view. But the burning ship could not go on much further, nor could her stricken passengers. Forty had already died. As the Caleb Grimshaw keeled over and sank, the Sarah was forced to take on board the last of the survivors. With all the extra passengers and an unkind wind, it took the Sarah another four days to make port in Flores. There she remained, tied-up for five days in quarantine while fresh fruit and water were ferried daily to the survivors aboard.
Altogether, 90 passengers were lost. When the survivors eventually went ashore, they found that, though 40 days out of Liverpool, they were still 2,000 miles from their destination, and with their ship on the ocean floor. A few continued their journey aboard the trusty Sarah while others waited to take passage on the small ships which called by the Azores regularly, to re-provision. There was praise indeed for gallant Captain Cooke and his crew, praise for some of the Caleb Grimshaw’s crew, but a great deal of scorn was heaped on Captain Hoxie.
When his ship reached New York and news of the two-week episode spread, Captain Cooke was granted the Freedom of the City and he and his crew shared a reward of US $8,000 dollars for their bravery. What happened to Captain Hoxie? He was lambasted in the editorial columns back home but he escaped official censure for leaving his ship when she was still ablaze. Once again the Board of Trade seems to have been fairly inactive. Questions were raised in Parliament as to the cause of the fire, and letters exchanged in the Colonial Office denying responsibility for the outbreak of the fire: ‘It is denied there was anything on board capable of spontaneous combustion . . . it is suggested ships be forced to carry means of making signals at night.’
Returning to Liverpool where one version of events was preferred to many others, Cooke showed great courtesy to Hoxie and wrote a letter to the editor of the Liverpool Mercury defending his fellow officer. He emphasised that the wild behaviour of the passengers, who clambered aboard a lifeboat immediately the fire was discovered, had led Captain Hoxie to believe that he could direct rescue operations better from a boat at sea, than combat the pandemonium on board. Thereafter he did all he could to save as many as possible and secure onward passage from the port of Fayal, reported Captain Cooke. Captain Hoxie kept quiet.
Evidence from Richard Walker indicates that that Caleb Grimshaw is descended from the “Yorkshire” line of Grimshaws, whose earliest known ancestors are Edward and Dorothy (Raner) Grimshaw. Examination of the extensive descendant chart on Edward and Dorothy’s webpage shows that there is a line including three Caleb Grimshaws as follows:
Edward Grimshaw (About 1559 – 22 Jun 1635) & Dorotye Raner
|–Abraham Grimshaw (1603 – 1670) & Sarah ( – 21 Sep 1695)
|–|–JeremyJeremiah Grimshaw* (21 Jul 1653 – 12 Aug 1721) & Mary Stockton ( – 6 Jan 1692/1693)
|–|–|–Joshua Grimshaw (12 Apr 1687 – 8 Jan 1764) & Jane Oddy (1686 – 1771)
|–|–|–Caleb Grimshaw (20 May 1688 – 1751) & Esther Hudson
|–|–|–|–William Grimshaw (24 Nov 1713 – 6 Oct 1714)
|–|–|–|–Mercy Grimshaw (28 Sep 1715 – )
|–|–|–|–Caleb Grimshaw (3 Aug 1718 – 3 Jun 1794) & Ruth
|–|–|–|–|–Betty Grimshaw (4 Sep 1754 – )
|–|–|–|–|–John Grimshaw (29 Mar 1756 – )
|–|–|–|–|–Jeremiah Grimshaw (6 Nov 1759 – )
|–|–|–|–|–Leonard Grimshaw & Eliza
|–|–|–|–|–|–Caleb Grimshaw (1799 – 1847) & Sarah Thompson
|–|–|–|–|–|–|–Elizabeth Grimshaw (14 Mar 1825 – )
|–|–|–|–|–|–|–George Grimshaw (12 Aug 1827 – )
|–|–|–|–|–|–|–Edward Grimshaw (22 May 1828 – 25 Oct 1828)
|–|–|–|–|–|–|–Charles T Grimshaw (About 1831 – ) & Hannah Walker
|–|–|–|–|–Jonathan Grimshaw (1770 – 20 Jun 1798) & Hannah Burley
|–|–|–|–|–|–Mary Grimshaw (17 Jun 1792 – 4 Feb 1842)
|–|–|–|–|–|–John Grimshaw (22 Nov 1793 – 23 Nov 1794)
|–|–|–|–|–|–Elizabeth Grimshaw (7 Feb 1795 – ) & Isaac Clarke
|–|–|–|–|–|–Hannah Grimshaw (16 May 1796 – 29 May 1796)
|–|–|–|–|–|–William Grimshaw (1 Dec 1797 – )
|–|–|–|–Jeremiah Grimshaw (30 May 1721 – )
|–|–JeremyJeremiah Grimshaw* (21 Jul 1653 – 12 Aug 1721) & Sarah Overend ( – 16 May 1699)
|–|–JeremyJeremiah Grimshaw* (21 Jul 1653 – 12 Aug 1721) & Rebecca Jowett ( – 12 Dec 1736)
The most likely candidate for whom the Caleb Grimshaw was named is the one who was born in 1799, married Sarah Thompson, and died in 1847. Since the ship was launched in 1848, it seems likely that the ship was named after Caleb Grimshaw posthumously.
Richard Walker is related to Hannah Walker, wife of Charles T Grimshaw, fourth child of Caleb and Hannah (Thompson) Grimshaw. Charles and Hannah (Walker) Grimshaw are subjects of a companion webpage, which indicates that the Grimshaws and Thompsons were Quakers and were from near Leeds in Yorkshire. Thanks to Richard Walker for providing the information indicating the family connections of Caleb Grimshaw. Richard has also provided the following bibliographic information on Caleb Grimshaw.
Caleb Grimshaw was born about 1799 within Knaresbrough Quaker MM, probably in Rawden near Leeds, Yorkshire . A certificate of removal was issued by Knaresbrough Quaker Monthly Meeting of which Rawden Preparative meeting was a part, to Hardshaw West Quaker Monthly Meeting. This was a Liverpool Meeting. Named in the certificate of removal were Caleb Grimshaw, his first wife Sarah, (born Thompson of Rawden) and three children: 1) Edward who subsequently died 26 x 1826 (when the family address was Edge Lane, Liverpool ); 2) a daughter Elizabeth born 14 iii 1823; and 3) a son George born viii 1827.
The familys arrival into Liverpool would therefore appear to be after August 1827. By 1829 the family lived at 1 Queen Street, Edge Hill, Liverpool. Two further children were born in Liverpool to Caleb and Sarah a son Charles Thompson Grimshaw born 1 v 1830 and Ann Thompson Grimshaw born 16 x 1831. By 1832 the family home was at 6 Cambridge Street, Liverpool. Sarah Grimshaw, Calebs wife died 9 ii 1833 and the following year his daughter Ann Thompson died 6 iv 1834. In 1835 the family lived at 22 Slater Street, Liverpool. Between 1837 and 1841 their address was 5 Upper Stanhope Street, Liverpool.
Caleb married a second time, on 4 ii 1841 to Hannah, (surname unknown) and in April 1841 they were living at Windsor, Toxteth Park, Liverpool. Elizabeth (age 16) and George (14) are shown as the children present, also an Anne Smith (22) and a female servant. The birth of Sarah Margaret their daughter is recorded for 7 xii 1842. In this year their address was Bootle Villas, 50 Derby Road, Bootle cum Linacre. This is north of Liverpool and in a very up and coming area overlooking the entrance to the river Mersey, their neighbours being other ships captains, merchants and captains of industry at that time. From a map of that date it is clear that Caleb would have a clear view from his house of his ships passing out to sea and also those entering port.
Caleb died 1 ii 1847 and was buried two days later at the Quaker burial ground, Hunter Street, Liverpool. His death was sudden and a coroners verdict was required before burial. Hydrothoria and lived 15minutes was recorded by John Heyes, Coroner. His age was given as 48 years so his date of birth would have been about 1799.
In April 1851 Hannah Grimshaw was still living at Bootle Villas and so was a George Grimshaw, ships broker. This address, (G. Grimshaw and Co., Bootle Villas) was Georges business address but his private address was 2 Mersey View, Birkenhead. It is not known for certain at this time of writing if George was a relative.
Charles Thompson Grimshaw married Hannah Walker, daughter of John and Mary (Thompson) Walker of Rawden at Rawden Quaker Meeting House on 7 xi 1855. A certificate for his removal to Rawden was written by Hardshaw West in December 1856. This would suggest that the couple lived in Liverpool following the marriage for a year and that they decided to live in Rawden.
Hannah, age 77, Calebs second wife was living in April 1881 at 10 Claremont Road , Birkdale, a part of Southport . (This house still exists, June 2005). The above Census Return showed her as a Lodging House Keeper with a servant Ann Thompson age 73, born at Geld near York. Hannah Grimshaw died 18/19 ii 1887 aged 83 and was interned from the above address in Southport Public Cemetery . From the above it would suggest Hannah Grimshaw was born about 1804. There are two dates given in two different documents for her death.
Apparently several attempts were made by Senator Seward, on the Committee on Commerce, to get a bill passed to compensate Elisha W.B. Moody for his losses when his ship, the Sarah, rescued the crew and passengers of the Caleb Grimshaw; records of these attempts are shown below.
Bills and Resolutions, Senate, 32nd Congress, 1st Session, Mr. Seward, from the Committee on Commerce, submitted a report, (No. 112,) accompanied by the following bill; which was read, and passed to a second reading. A Bill To reimburse to Elisha W. B. Moody the moneys paid by him, as owner of the British barque Sarah, in the rescue of the passengers and crew of the American ship Caleb Grimshaw.
Committee: Committee on Commerce
March 10, 1852
Mr. Seward, from the Committee on Commerce, submitted a report, (No. 112,) accompanied by the following bill; which was read, and passed to a second reading. A Bill To reimburse to Elisha W. B. Moody the moneys paid by him, as owner of the British barque Sarah, in the rescue of the passengers and crew of the American ship Caleb Grimshaw.
The following information, from a website on the McCardell family indicates that there was another “Grimshaw” ship operating during the same timeframe as the Caleb Grimshaw.
1) “Les McCARDELL” had posted a note searching for the “HESS Cemetery.” Unsure if he was searching for a McCARDELL ancestor. There is a Hans Hess graveyard, Baumgardner Road, Pequa twp – http://www.horseshoe.cc/pennadutch/graveyards/cemeteries/cemetery.htm – However, there are numerous HESS buried in Marticville Methodist Cemetery, Conestoga Township, Lancaster County PA – AND in Marticville cemetery there is a John McCARDEL b. 1790 who could be related to the McCARDEL, Unknown, age 56 Passenger List for Silas-Grimshaw which sailed from Liverpool on 2 May 1849 ALONG with other McCARDEL/McCARDLEs AND RINEAR and variations. Our “James Patterson McCARDELL married “Hester Rinear” so these could be some of her relatives. Also his 12th son was named Walter McCARDELL and there are three graves numbered 503-505 with the last name WALTER next to the McCARDLE graves of 500-502.
Further down the page is the following entry:
Searching for the town or area that JAMES PATTERSON McCARDELL immigrated from.
1. Parents of James Patterson McCARDELL – names unknown but if “naming conventions” were followed in later generations it would provide clues. – Best lead to pursue now:
Passenger List for Silas-Grimshaw which sailed from Liverpool on 2 May 1849 to US included:
McCARDEL, First name unknown, male, age 56, occupation: Shopkeeper
McCARDEL, First name unknown, female, age 56, occupation: Shopkeeper
McCARDEL, Mary, female, age 16, occupation: None
McCARDEL Terence, male, age 12, occupation: None – no other listings for
Terence/Terrance – and it is suspected that James Patterson McCARDELL had at least two brothers- Terrance & John – see 12 year old above
McCARDEL John, male, age 11, occupation: None
McCARDEL, Felix, male, age 8, occupation: child – could be same Felix in 1860 census for Philadelphia
McCARDEL, Anna, female, age 5, occupation: child
It may be that this record is an erroneous entry for the Caleb Grimshaw, which arrived in New York on May 3, 1849 on its second voyage.
Sam Montgomery, after surviving the disaster, eventually found his way to the mining town of Barkerville in time for the 1870 Cariboo Gold Rush in British Columbia. The following biography of Sam shows some of the details of the horror of the burning of the Caleb Grimshaw (Ramsey9, p. 79-81). Thanks are again extended to Charles Addington of Ontario, Canada for providing this information.
MONTGOMERY, Samuel. Born Oct. 28, 1814, Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland. June 1, 1904. Sam Montgomery was one of the most colourful characters in the Cariboo, and the late Harry Jones MLA …, in a series of articles with Louis LeBourdais which appeared in The Vancouver Province In April 1935 recalled at length the story of Sam.
“Sam Montgomery had been a sailor for many years before he struck Cariboo in ’62; had a captain’s certificate, but used to’ say that he preferred the companionship of the men in the fo’c’stle and invariably shipped as an able seaman. When he was “half seas over” he would sometimes tell us of his experiences. At other times, however, he had very little to say of the sea.
“He must have caught the gold fever from the ’49ers, for his vessel had called at different California ports as early as 1847. He was aboard the Blackball liner Caleb Grimshaw when that vessel took fire at sea some time in the 1840s, I think it was. Only after he had been an a fairly legendary spree would he speak of the harrowing incidents which occurred; but from snatches of his conversation on these occasions, we gathered that the tragedy must have been terrible indeed. Passengers and crew totalled more than three hundred souls; some had gone stark mad and many jumped overboard, upsetting liferafts and boats. The fire had been battened down but the ship got so hot that the men were finally forced to climb into the rigging. The water supply became exhausted and for days the only moisture available was whiskey, and with this the poor thirst-crazed wretches moistened their lips to prevent them from cracking open. The few survivors were eventually rescued by passing vessel.
Sam was forty-two years in Cariboo, most of on Lightning and Nelson Creeks, without a single trip outside. Forty‑two years of hard work with very little return in the way of comfort or luxury… At the age of 82 Sam staked a claim on part of the old Van Winkle ground, which was abandoned, sunk a shaft to a depth of fifty‑three feet, and then ran a seventy‑eight foot drift. He handled and hoisted every bucketfull of dirt in the entire operation. He found course gold, but not in paying quantities.
“Montgomery partnered with us in one or two ventures in which he made a little stake, but unfortunately, the money did him little good. The ‘Little Van Winkle’ commonly known as the ‘Montgomery Company’ was his last strike, and no doubt hastened his end.
“In 19 02 the Montgomery Company ran on to a piece of very rich around which paid handsomely its five shareholders — Sam Montgomery, Fred Tregillus, George Rankin, Joe Spratt and myself [Harry Jones]. (Harry Eden was one of the originals, but he did not get along with fighting Joe Spratt and dropped out). The ground, which once belonged to the South Wales, paid as high as 100 ounces to a ten‑foot cap.
“No books were kept. Enough gold was sold after each cleanup, which took place almost daily when the company was in good ground, to pay the wages. The rest was divided up equally, by weight, and g any small balance thrown back in the common ‘jackpot’ for current expenses.
“Stanley was a lively place while the Montgomery was working and its consumption of playing cards, I once heard a commercial traveller declare, had any wide‑open frontier town beaten that he had ever heard of. It was the custom in those days at least, for a man to throw his cards on the floor and call for a new deck if he was having a streak of bad luck. Usually, by morning, the floor would be literally carpeted with layers of brand new cards which had been tossed over the shoulders of disgruntled players. One single night’s card bill at Len Ford’s Hotel, I recall, totalled $77. And cards were cheap in those comparatively tax-free days.
“Toward the end of May 1904 Sam was taken to the hospital in Barkerville. He was then in his 90th year. On the morning of June 1, I called to see him. He asked me to stop in again on my way back to Stanley.
“‘I want you to get me out of this place,’ he pleaded. ‘I would like to do a little prospecting at the head of Jawbone Creek. John Fobiana told me he found good prospects there. And John would not say so unless it was true.
“I promised to call, and I did. But the old prospector’s spirit had proved to be stronger than the flesh. Sam’s frail frame lay on the hospital bed; but his spirit had gone.”
Sam Montgomery is buried in the Barkerville Cemetery.
An interesting article that provides the context for the events around the Caleb Grimshaw appeared in the New York Daily Times10 in 1891. Note reference to the Caleb Grimshaw in the 9th paragraph:
Days of the Old Packet
Contrast between Present and Past Atlantic Liners
Reminiscences of the Old Passenger ShipsMost of them were FlyersHardships from which Present Passengers are Exempt
What a contrast there is between the present facilities for transportation between Europe and America and those of years ago. Now there are daily departures from either side of the Atlantic at large, well-appointed steamships. The ocean greyhounds now land passengers at Queenstown, Southampton, or New York within a week from the day of sailing, and the longest transatlantic voyage can be made in a fortnight.
The voyager has a roomy, well-ventilated stateroom, a liberally appointed table, with liberty to indulge in as many meals as seasickness will allow, the cuisine generally being in keeping with the surroundings and on a par with the current fare at a first-class hotel. He has plenty of room to move about without coming in contact with his fellow-passengers. If he desires privacy, the 300 feet of promenade deck and the limites of his large stateroom permit him to isolate himself. If on the other hand, he wants company to relieve the monotony of a sea voyage, he can always some congenial fellow-traveler among the 500 passengers. In fact, a European voyage to-day by any of the standard lines partakes largely of the nature of a picnic.
The great size and power of the present transatlantic steamer makes a very long passage almost impossible unless by accident to the machinery. The arrival of many of the steamers can be gauged in hours. In Winter, when heavy gales are common in the North Atlantic, if the sea is not too heavy twenty-four hours will cover all delays on the voyage. Bound eastward, the strong westerly and northwesterly winds common on this coast in Winter are a potent factor in shortening the passage.
The surroundings of the emigrant on the voyage are very far in advance of those on the old packet ships. The saloon passenger has better attendance, luxurious stateroom fittings, and a more dainty bill of fare, but the comfort of the steerage passenger is assured by legal restrictions imposed on the vessel. He must have so many cubic feet of room and a proper quantity of wholesome food. he is debarred from taking his promenade on the quarter deck, but there is lots of room forward on these big steamers, and, take it altogether, he receives a better return for the amount of his passage money than the saloon passenger.
The accomodations for passengers on the old packet ships were much more confined, mainly owing to the smaller size of the vessels. These ships were the very best as to hull, spars and fittings. Most of them were built in New York by Webb, Smith & Dimon, Westervelt, and other builders on the East River. A few were the outcome of the best builders in the Eastern States. The cabin was under a poop deck that reached forward to the mainmast. Sometimes a few feet of the forward part of this deck was partitioned off and made a second cabin, and utilized for light freight when not carrying second cabin passengers. In the first cabin there were generally twenty staterooms as large as the size of the ship would allow, and comfortably furnished. The fittings of the second cabin, not being permanent, had but little to recommend them other than that the occupants had a table to themselves, and were entirely separated from the steerage passengers. The steerage occupied the whole of the ‘tween decks. Single and double and upper and lower berths were arranged all around the sides of the ship. As far as possible, families were placed together and the women passengers given all the privacy possible in the limited space available. the steerage was reached by ladders at the fore and main hatches which were always open except in bad weather, and ventilators through the deck and a windsail or two furnished the fresh air to the steerage. Should weather become stormy and the sea heavy the hatches were closed and the poor emigrant had to make the best of his surroundings until the weather moderated.
The number of passengers was limited by law, each vessel being measured by Custom House authorities, who issued a certificate as to the number the ship could carry. The provisions wer also under legal supervision as to quality and quantity. Stringent rules were in force bearing on the cleanliness of the passenger, and all possible sanitary precautions were taken to prevent sickness and death during the voyage and with the view of landing the emigrant here in health and with only the inconveniences inseparable from a long voyage in rather confined quarters. The passage in old times was a very long one at best. Three weeks either way was considered a good run, and in the Winter time ninety days has been consumed in the western passage. The ship might reach soundings on our coast and be even within sight of Sandy Hook Lightship, when suddenly a heavy northwester might swoop down over the Highlands and drive her before it perhaps hundreds of miles, with the perilous task before her of beating back again to Sandy Hook against a heavy head wind and a temperature in the neighborhood of zero. Contrast this with today’s experience.
The progress made in railroad traveling since first the locomotive appeared is wonderful. The European passenger of to-day who in his youth came to this country in the steerage of one of the old packets, can see greater improvement in the accomodations for passengers now available by any of the European steamers. The old packet ship filled all the wants of transit in their day. They are no longer a neccessity. Progress has put steamers in their place.
In their day the sailing vessels were the pride of the New-Yorker and a credit to our merchant marine. They were all American. No foreign flag ever flew at the peak of a packet ship out of New-York that was worthy, and no foreign vessel ever competed successfully for the trade we had inaugurated and made successful. to-day we look in vain for an American vessel among the large fleet of fast European steamers. The Ohio and her sister ships that formerly constituted the line from Philadelphia to Liverpool are occasionally heard of as ocean tramps, available for charter to any port where a paying freight is to be had. Philadelphia had a Liverpool line of the fine ships managed by the Copes. Boston had a Liverpool line owned by Enoch Train & Co. The senior of the firm was the uncle of George Francis Train, who made his first extended trip in his uncle’s ship, Anglo-American, under the command of Capt. James Murdoch.
In New-York there were in the Liverpool trade the Swallowtail Line. (so called from the shape of the private signal) of Grinnell, Minturn & Co., comprising, among others, the ships New World, Queen of the West, Henry Clay, Ashburton, and Albert Gallatin; the Dramatic Line of E.K. Collins, (who afterward operated the Collins Line of steamers,) comprising the Roscius, Sheridan, Siddons, and Garrick; the Black Ball Line, consisting of the Columbia, New York, Fidelia, Montezuma, Yorkshire, Manhattan, Isaac Webb, Harvest Queen, Neptune, Great Western, and James Foster Jr., and the Red Star Line of Robert Kermitthe Waterloo, West Point, John R. Skeddy, Constellation and Underwriter. Woodhull & Minturn ran the Constitution, Liverpool, and Hottinguer ; Taylor & Merrill the Ivanhoe, Guy Mannering, and Marmion; Williams & Guion the Cultivator, John Bright, Australia, and Universe ; D.& A. Kingsland the America, Columbus, Webster, and Orient ; David Ogden the St. Patrick, St. George, Racer, Victory, and Dreadnaught ; Taylor & Ritch the De Witt Clinton, Enterprise, and Jacob A. Westervelt ; Slater, Gardner & Howell the Chaos, Saratoga, Senator, and Jamestown; Samuel Thompson‘s Nephews Company the Star of the West, Caleb Grimshaw, Excelsior, Joseph Walker, and Jeremiah Thompson.
Those ships, with others, were run at regular intervals, and had stated days of sailing, only varied by bad weather or some other unavoidable delay.
There were two prominent lines to London, one by John Griswold, consisting in part of the Devonshire, Amazon, Victoria, Hendrik Hudson, Palestine, and Southampton. Grinnell, Minturn & Co. operated the other line with the Sir Robert Peel, London, Prince Albert, Yorktown, and Rhine. There were three lines to Havre, Messrs. Boyd & Hincken ran the St. Denis, St. Nicholas, Oneida, Quesnel, and Mercury. Fox & Livingston had the Havre, New-York, Admiral, and Zurich. Two of the Havre packets, the Iowa and the Duchesse d’Orleans, were selected to carry Stevenson’s regiment to California at the time that Territory was ceded to the United States. William Whitlock had in his line the splendid Bavaria, the Helvetia, Germania, Gallia, Logan and, Rattler. The Bavaria is credited with receiving on her first voyage, the highest freight rate paid to Europe during the excitement in rates consequent on the famine in Ireland.
There is a great change in the appearance of the docks on West Street and South Street since old packet days. The East River is still the resting place of the bulk of the sailing vessels entering this port. On the North River, below Twenty-third Street, an occasional schooner can be seen, but never a square rigger. In past days on South Street. William Whitlock‘s Havre packets berthed near Old Slip, almost opposite his office ; E.K. Collin‘s ships were at the first pier below Wall Street ; Griswold’s London Line at the foot of Pine Street; Kermit’s Line, Grinnell, Minturn & Co.’s London and Liverpool Line, and the line of Woodhull & Minturn lay between Malden Lane and Burling Slip ; Marshall’s Black Ball Line was at the foot of Beekman Street, while Taylor & Merrill, Williams & Guion, and others filled the piers up to Roosevelt Street and above Peck Slip.
On the North River, the piers from the Battery to Cedar Street, now covered with sheds and monopolized by the trunk lines of railroads and one or two lines of steamers, were the berths for many of the lines : Boyd & Hinken‘s and Fox and Livingston‘s Havre lines, and David Ogden and D.& A. Kingsland, for their Liverpool lines, found room at the piers between those points. Fox and Livingston were situated near Albany Street, being the furthest up town of all lines on the North River.
There was great rivalry between the lines. The fastest ship and the most popular Captain secured the largest passenger list. Full cabins were always assured on certain vessels, while other ships commanded by men equally worthy in every particular, but perhaps a little less affable and a little more “salt” had to be content with second place. When the steamship lines between here and Europe were first inaugurated several of the old packet Captains were placed in command of the steamers, in many cases simply by reason of their popularity with the traveling public. Capt. West of the Philadelphia packet ship Shenandoah took the Collins steamer Atlantic, Capt. Nye of the Henry Clay took the Pacific, Capt. Luce of the Constellation the Arctic, Capt. Hackstaff of the Fidelia the United States, and Capts. Wotton and Lines of the Havre packets took the Fulton and the Arago.
Many of these old ships were exceptionally fast sailers, keeping up their reputation for speed after their usefulness had ended in the packet service and they had been transferred to some other trade. On this list should be placed the names of the Roscius, Independence, Henry Clay, John R. Skiddy, Devonshire, Constitution, Marmion, John Bright, Enterprise, St. Denis, New-York, and Admiral. For continuous short passages, covering the whole time the ship was in the trade, the palm would probably be awarded to the Yorkshire of the Black Ball Line. Capt. Bailey, who commanded her, generally managed to keep his ship at the front most of the time, and it was seldom she was beaten on the passage by a ship leaving at the same time. Later on, when the demand for clipper ships began, the Dreadnaught, built at Newburyport, Mass., by John Currier, and commanded by Capt. Samuels, was added to the fleet of Liverpool packets by David Ogden. Under the command of Capt. Samuels she made some notable passages to and from Liverpool, and claims the record for the shortest passages between the two ports. A peculiarity of this vessel is worthy of note. After Capt. Samuels gave up the command of the Dreadnaught, and up to the time she foundered she never made more than a fair passage in any direction, and is credited with some quite long ones, worse than average.
Capt. Nye of the Henry Clay, afterward in the Collins steamer Pacific, claimed to be pretty nearly perfectly in everything pertaining to nautical matters. On one occasion some unlucky Captain managed to put his ship on Sandy Hook Beach while inward bound. Commenting on the occurrence, Nye remarked that any man who put his ship ashore within ten miles of Sandy Hook Light was a fool. On his next voyage the Henry Clay went ashore so near to Sandy Hook Lighthouse that you could almost jump on the lantern from her flying jibboom. After that Nye did not pose as instructor in navigation.
Capt. Larrabee of the Sir Robert Peel was a perfect sailor and gentleman, and was gifted with quaint abilities at repartee. Once his ship was lying in the Mersey, outward bound and ready to sail, waiting for the tide and the pilot. Among the passengers was a young Englishman, whose large ideas as to the great superiority of his own country had, so far, never been contraverted. he went up to Capt. Larrabee, who stood by the wheelhouse, earnestly watching the landing stage. The ensign was flying from the peak, and our English friend, after a few commonplace remarks to Larrabee, said, pointing to the ensign: “I say, Captain, that flag has not braved for a thousand years the battle and the breeze.” “No,” quickly replied Larrabee, “but it has licked one that has.”
Instances of heroism on the part of the captains of the old packets are numerous. On one midwinter homeward voyage of the ship John Bright fell in with another ship in distress, likewise bound to the westward, and, like the Bright, with a full complement of steerage passengers. The passengers of the disabled vessel were transferred to the Bright. Ship fever soon broke out and spread rapidly. The overcrowded steerage, bad weather, and slow progress helped the spread of the disease. Death held high carnival, and the Captain was doctor, nurse, chaplain, as well as navigator. To help the ship’s doctor, assist the convalescent, bury the dead, and at the same time work the ship was what this man had to do, and he did it well. After reaching port and docking his ship, the Captain himself succumbed to the disease, and for a long time his life hung by a thread. He is now filling a responsible position on shore with one of the prominent European lines of steamers.
There were other lines of packets than those to Europe. The coast-wise trade, now handled by such fine steamers as ply almost daily to Charleston, Savannah, New-Orleans, and Galveston, was carried on by sailing vessels. The ships Anson, Sutton, South Carolina, and Charleston were among those in the Charleston Line. The Anson and the Sutton were of barely 400 tons. In their day they transported many a bale of cotton and many a passenger. I have seen them with their decks completely filled with cotton, space only being left for the sailors to get around the decks to work the vessel.
There were three prominent lines in the New-Orleans trade. William Nelson whose loading berth was at Pine Street, had the Memphis, Vicksburg, St. Louis, and John G. Costar. Frost & Hicks had a loading berth at the north side of Wall Street, where the Ward Havana steamers now lie. They had the Indiana, Niagara, Mediator, Wisconsin, and others. At the south side of Wall Street was the line of Thomas P. Stanton, comprising, among others, the Quebec, Oswego, St. Charles, and Hudson. The New-Orleans packets sailed as often as the trade warrented, semi-weekly or weekly. They carried large cargoes both ways and made money for their owners. J.H. Brower & Co. had a line of ships to Galveston. Their vessels were built in Connecticut, and owing to the shallow water on the Galveston bar had to be very light draught. The Stephen F. Austin and the William B. Travis were part of their fleet. Twelve feet draught, loaded, were the mark for a Galveston packet in those days.
There were lines to Savannah, maintained by Sturges, Clearman & Co., R.M. Demill, and Dunham & Dimon; Mobile was reached by the Hurlbert‘s ships, and there was intermittent service to Apalachicola and other Gulf ports. Hargous & Co. had a monopoly of the Mexican trade by means of fine vessels running to Vera Cruz.
The old business houses which inaugurated and developed to such large proportions our foreign and coastwise trade have likewise faded from sight. A walk through South and Front Streets from Coenties Slip to Dover Street does not result in finding the old signs on the stores and offices to-day. Howland & Aspinwall, Grinnell, Minturn & Co., Josiah Macy’s Sons, and James W. Elwell & Co. are about all there are left. The present members of these firms were boys when the packet lines were in existence.
The old sailing ship was pushed to the wall by the steamer. To-day the great improvements in steam machinery, securing greatly increased speed with less expenditure of fuel, is forcing into the rear rank many of the steamers which not long ago were considered perfect. The Algiers and the New-York of the Morgan Line are now extra boats, useful in emergent cases, but not fast enough for the regular service. Boats like the El Sol, El Mar, and El Monte, that can make the trip to New-Orleans in less than five days, are what is wanted. In the Galveston trade we find the Concho and the Comal replacing the City of Dallas and the State of Texas. The Kansas City and the City of Birmingham take the place of boats like the R.R. Cuyler and Knoxville in the Savannah trade. The Yucatan and the Yumuri are better adapted to the Havana Line than the old Moro Castle, and even on the daily line to Boston the wants of the trade demand the substitution of steamers like the Herman Winter and H.F. Dimock for the old Glaucus and Neptune. It has been satisfactorily demonstrated that the United States can build and equip steamers equal to any afloat in their adaptability to the wants of our domestic commerce. May the time be near when the American flag will be seen at the peaks of the steamers in the European trade!
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1The Liverpool Mercury, October 19, 1849 (v. 39, no. 2147), p. 1
2The Liverpool Mercury, December 4, 1849 (v. 39, no. ?), p. ?
3The New York Herald, January 24, 1850 (No. 5709), p. 1, col. 1-2.
4Cutler, Carl C., 1961, Queens of the Western Ocean – the Story of America’s Mail and Passenger Sailing Lines: Annapolis, MD, United States Naval Institute, 672 p.
5Morrison, John H., 1909, History of New York Ship Yards: Empire State Historical Publications Series No. 86 (Reissued 1970 by Ira J. Friedman, Inc., Kennikat Press, Port Washington, NY,m 165 p.).
6Dunbaugh, Edwin L. and William duBarry Thomas, 1989, William H. Webb: Shipbuilder: Glen Cove, NY, Webb Institute of Naval Architecture, 240 p.
7Steuart, Bradley W., 1991, Passenger Ships Arriving in New York Harbor, v. I (1820 – 1850): Bountiful, UT, Precision Indexing, unk p.
8Laxton, Edward, 1996, The Famine Ships The Irish Exodus to America: New York, Henry Holt, 250 p.
9Ramsey, Bruce, 1961, Barkerville, a Guide in Word and Picture to the Fabulous Gold Camp of the Cariboo: Vancouver, BC, Mitchell Press, 92 p.
10New York Daily Times, December 13, 1891, p. 17 (http://www.theshipslist.com/accounts/packets.htm)
Webpage posted August 2000, revised April 2001, March 2002. Revised December 2003 with the addition of the piece on Sam Montgomery. Revised January 2004 with addition of family connections of Caleb Grimshaw. Revised January 2005 with addition of companion webpage on Caleb Grimshaw & Co. and “Days of the Old Packet”. Revised March 2005 with addition of article from the New York Herald. Revised July 2006 with information on William H Webb as builder of the Caleb Grimshaw. Revised November 2008 with addition of image of painting of the Caleb Grimshaw from the Mystic Seaport website. Updated August 2014 with addition of website