Ship Captains in the Port of San Francisco
James H. Blethen
The Blethen Name in History
Born 1814, New York; Died 1897, San Francisco
The Blethen (John Blithen) was in the Record of Quaker Meetings during the 4th month of 1700. Family research indicates that the Blethens may have been among the earliest arrivals of Quakers in America: John Blethen of Lynn purchased land in on September 28, 1659.
July 31, 1999: A journal written by James H. Blethen was located in the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. He wrote it at the request of his granddaughter, the daughter of one of his sons -- Eugene O. Blethen -- and Eugene’s wife Leila Curtis.
The journal notes a long, illustrious career, early besmirched by the wreck of the SS North America and subsequent reports written by a subjective, opinionated press. One Daily Alta California reporter even suggested that Captain Blethen intentionally sank the North America. This is highly unlikely given that, as his hand-written record indicates, he traveled with those most precious to him.
The Maritime Heritage Project was launched to shed new light on the career of a great sea captain, and, by extension, other captains who may have suffered the same fate at the hands of an errant press.
The Captain's record of 44 years of service, his many awards and accolades, speak for him. His story developed into an historical web site, The Maritime Heritage Project, which has become a resource for researchers, educators and students, and which stands as a also a tribute to all who spend their lives on the high seas.
|1829||Sailor||Schooner Oliver||Bowdoinham to Boston and return. One trip.|
|1829||Sailor||Schooner Cash||Bowdoinham to Boston and return|
|1829||Sailor||Brig Statira||Bowdoinham Wilmington, North Carolina.|
|1830||Sailor||Brig Cordelia||Portland, Maine, to Havana and return. Two trips.|
|1830||Sailor||Barque North Star||Portland, Maine, to Havana and return. One trip.|
|1831||2nd Officer||Ship George||Hampton Rhodes to Havre de Grace, France to Shields, England to Boston to New Orleans|
|1831||1st Officer||Bark Hebeon||New Orleans to Liverpool and return to Newburyport, Massachusetts under Captain LeGrow.|
|1832||1st Officer||Schooner Harriet||Boston to Lisbon, Portugal and return under Captain Nathaniel Linary (spelling?).|
|1833||1st Officer||Barque Union||Boston to St. Iago de Cuba (map below) and Trinidad and return under Captain Wm. Paty.|
|1834||1st Officer||Brig Moses||New York to Charleston, South Carolina and return under Captain Brown. Four voyages.|
|1st Officer||Ship Plato||New York to St. Petersburg, Russia and return under Captain Bartol.|
|1837||1st Officer||Ship Plato||New York to Liverpool.
He was one of six officers surprised (difficult word to read) in Main Liverpool and charged with rioting in the Myish? (two words difficult to read)..
|1837||2nd Officer||Ship Powhattan||Liverpool to New York. (Note: He is now second officer and on a different ship.)|
|1837||2nd Officer||Ship Powhattan||New York to Batavia Island Java via St. Helena to Cowes to Rotterdam.|
|1838||1st Officer||Ship Romulus||To New York via Ramsgate under Captain Webster.|
|1839||2nd Officer||Packet Ship Europe||Blackball Line Packet Ship. New York to Liverpool. Two voyages under Captain Alex Marshall.|
|1840||2nd Officer||Packet Ship Lancashire||Savannah to Liverpool to New York to Liverpool to New York under Captain Alexander. Three voyages.|
||Between Liverpool and New York|
Washington Globe, June 22, 1843
THE NEW AMERICAN PACKET-SHIP LIVERPOOL
This vessel was built especially to occupy a station in the line of packets of which Messrs Fielden Brothers & Co., of Liverpool, are agents. The ships of this line sail from the place after which the above vessel is named on the 5th of each month. We had the gratification of inspecting the Liverpool a few days ago, as she lay in the Waterloo dock, at that port; and we can say, with entire sincerity, that a more perfect specimen of a passenger-ship, one more completely adapted in all points and departments, never came under our observation. Without fatiguing our readers, we may observe, that while she is the largest American packet that ever was launched, she is at the same time of such fine model and proportions, that her extreme beauty, apart from any consideration of mere extrinsic decoration, is evident to the most unpractised eye. She was built by Messrs, Brown and Bell, of New York. The ample experience of these eminent ship builders has, of course, suggested many improvements, all of which have been made available in the construction and outfit of the Liverpool. Of the internal arrangements of the Liverpool, for the comfort, and, we may add, pleasure and happiness of passengers, it is impossible to speak in terms of too warm commendations The principal cabin or saloon is of vast size; and we know not whether most to admire the tasteful elegance of its decorations or its ample conveniences.
The details are gorgeous and costly, while the effect of the tout ensemble is magnificent. The decorations and furniture are in a style of chaste and simple elegance, and the general aspect is that of rich but subdued splendor, while every appearance of gaudiness has been carefully avoided. The ladies' saloon, or retiring-room, is fitted up and furnished in the same just taste—in the same style of highly finished beauty. The state-rooms are unusually spacious and airy, containing numerous conveniences which we never before found in any other vessel. If anything could make an individual or a family feel at home on the ocean, it is the comforts of such a magnificent floating mansion as the Liverpool. As the visitor traverses her spacious saloons, surveys the elegance of the ladles' boudoir, wanders through her ranges of neat and inviting sleeping chambers, or promenades the wooden terraces in the open air above, we can well imagine him contemplating a voyage for the mere pleasure of being so agreeably domiciled; while, when he treads her fifth decks, surveys her ponderous timbers and numerous (we might almost say immovable) fastenings, and observers her compact and massive sides, he cannot fail to be impressed with a feeling of confidence and security which it would be difficult to subdue. The exterior decorations are handsome and appropriate. On her bow is a fine full-length figure of the Earl of Liverpool. It is said to be an admirable likeness; and it really reflects credit on Mr. Dodge, the artist by whom it was executed.
The Liverpool, built prior to the massive immigration caused by the potato famine, could carry 600 to 700 passengers. At the time of her construction in 1843, because smaller packets were not being filled, the decision to build a three-decker packet was considered "a little short of revolutionary," according to the news of the time. She was so extraordinary, the press covered her launching at length:
The beautiful vessel, the Liverpool, has three decks, and is eleven hundred tons burthen. The length of her upper deck, which is almost flush from stem to stern is one hundred and eighty-three feet, and has a small cabin for smokers and for the men at the helm. This will be exclusive for the use of the cabin passengers, who are to be kept entirely separate from the steerage passengers. No other ship has such a clear uninterrupted promenade as this deck gives. The main deck is one hundred and seventy-six feet long, and upon it are built the cabins, bathing houses, apartments for the cuisine, houses for cows, sheep, swine and poultry. We never saw such perfect arrangements as are presented on this deck.
The main saloon is constructed on the most improved idea. It is large enough for forty cabin passengers and is high enough for any man under eight feet in his boots. The staterooms are fitted up somewhat like those of the Ashburton and Stephen Whitney, and connect so that families can have a suite of rooms as at the Astor House. Then comes another cabin for the second class passengers, in which there is a large dining room, where they can live and be comfortable by themselves if they like. Next to this is the bathing room with shower baths and other conveniences for refreshing one’s self with pure salt water dipped from the ocean. But it should be recollected that this dipping does not make it fresh water. This bathing room is a new idea and it is as capital as it is new. It has heretofore been a desideratum in packet ships.
Forward of all are the pantries for making pastry, and two excellent cabooses, one for the cabin and the other for the steerage passengers. These are divided by an iron partition.
And then in the bows are the most ample and comfortable accommodations for the sailors we ever beheld. In their "cabins," for they have two, each thirty feet in length, they have stores, twenty or thirty berths, and plenty of light from above and through the sides. In these they can read, sleep, and mend their clothes, without being cramped for room, as they too often are on board merchant ships. And for the benefit of steerage passengers and sailors, and indeed all on board, there are vent holes between each timber head. These, however, can be closely stopped in bad weather. On either side of the mates’ cabins, cabooses, etc., there is a promenade for second class passengers.
On the lower deck are the coal and bread houses, and under them the water tanks, capable of holding four thousand gallons of water from the Croton. Between decks are six stern windows, besides six glass ports on each side, throwing plenty of light throughout the whole.
Everyone who has seen this ship pronounce her a "none such." Her appearance is striking in the highest degree. She looms up immensely, with a full length figure of Lord Liverpool beautifully carved by Dodge on her bows, and the cote d’armes of the City of Liverpool on her stern. She is complete and beautiful She is to be launched about the 15th inst., and the keel of another packet of 1250 tons is to be laid the same day. Both are for the New Line of packets to run between New York and Liverpool.
In 1849 Captain Blethen took Command of the Liverpool, part of the New Line which was to sail between Liverpool and New York.
|1840-1850||Captain||Packet Ship Jamestown||Two voyages between Liverpool and New York|
|1851||Captain||Steamship North America||New York to San Francisco, then seven voyages between San Francisco and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua; wrecked February 27, 1852|
|1852||Captain||Steamship Prometheus||San Juan del Norte to New York|
|1853||Captain||Steamship Sierra Nevada||57 passages between San Francisco and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua|
|1860||Captain||Transport & Dispatch steamship Peerless||Captain of hospital ship during Civil War|
|Captain||Steamship Daniel Webster||Assisted in transporting the Army of the Potomac from Alexandria to the Battle of Antietam.|
|1863||Captain||Steamship Moses Taylor||Passages between San Francisco and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua|
|1865- 1869||Captain||Steamship Sierra Nevada||52 passages San Francisco to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua|
|1870||Captain||Steamships Nevada and Nebraska||Benicia to San Francisco|
|1871-1872||Captain||Steamship Nevada, Webb's Australian Line||22 passages between New Zealand, Australia and Honolulu|
During 1849 and 1850, The Captain commanded the packet ship Jamestown and made two voyages between Liverpool and New York.
On my first voyage from Liverpool in January and February 1850, my late wife (Editors's Note: Obviously written after her death September 15, 1871), Miss Henrietta Emelia Osborne, and brother Frederick John Osborne, were passengers with me.
Married in New York on March 30, 1850 by Rev. Spencer H. Cone. On my next and last voyage across the Atlantic, she returned with me to visit her sister, Mrs. George Braddell, in Dublin. On my return to New York, I resigned my command and was appointed to command Steamship North America, then building and launched in the September following.
Builder: Lawrence & Sneeden, New York, New York. A wooden side-wheel steamer 2 decks, 4 masts, round stern, no head; 1,44029/95 tons; 260 ft. 6 in.x33 ft. 9in.x20 ft. 6in. Her vertical beam engine was built by Morgan Iron Works of New York; diameter of cylinder was 5 feet, length of stroke 12 feet. Owner: Vanderbilt’s Independent Line. br /> During the California Gold Rush
Patriot, June 16, 1851
London, United Kingdom
TRANSATLANTIC STEAM NAVIGATION. It appears from the Dublin Evening Mail of Wednesday, that the Americans, undaunted by the failure of the experimental trip of the Viceroy from Galway to New York, have themselves taken in hand the enterprise of establishing a first-class steam service from their coast to the nearest point of European shores. The Mail announces that "the splendid and powerful new steamship North America, Captain Blethen, United States Navy, is appointed to leave New York for Galway on Tuesday, the I7th instant. The North America has eighty staterooms with ample accommodation for two hundred passengers; and it is predicted that she will make the swiftest passage on record across the Atlantic . . . Directors of the Irish Midland Great Western . . . are already making arrangements to convey passengers with the greatest possible speed from Galway to Dublin.
Alta California, September 19, 1851
STEAMER NORTH AMERICA.--By the late Panama papers we perceive that the steamer North America, Capt. J.H. Blethen, which had left New York June 24th, arrived at Panama on the 31st August, at evening, making the trip in sixty-seven days. The North America arrived at Rio Janeiro on the 27th July, and at Valparaiso on the 15th August. She is a top-level steamer, constructed very nearly on the plan of the North River steamboats, and this run proves her to sustain their reputation in point of speed. She will be due at this port in a short time. She will probably bring a week's later news, or to the 25th of August.
The North America left in Rio, U.S. steamer Susquehanna Frigate Conterss and store ship Relief had sailed on a cruise.
1852: On my eighth (voyage), was wrecked 42 miles East of Acapulco, February 27, 1852. 952 passengers on board were all saved with their baggage and proceeded from Acapulco to destination. Myself, wife and infant daughter, Evelyn Georgina (born in Corinto, then Realejo, Nicaragua, Central America on board Steamship North America, November 3, 1851) were the last to leave the ship’s wreck, and it was my daughter’s first time on terra firma, she being carried to Acapulco in a champagne basket slung to my side. Took passage from Acapulco in Steamship New Orleans for San Juan, accompanied by 14 other passengers; crossed to Virgin Bay on mules, my daughter still in the champagne basket. Crossed Lake Nicaragua in Steamer Director, the first one on the river and lake. From the lake, took a bungo down the San Juan River to the Atlantic Ocean (Greytown, or San Juan del Norte) after a tedious passage of 17 days. On the following day, embarked on board Steamer Daniel Webster for New York, where we arrived safely.
LOSS of the NORTH AMERICA
We have received from Captain Totten, of the steamer Tennessee, an extract from his report to the P.M.S.S. Company, in which he deprecates the formation of an opinion as to the cause of the loss of the North America, until Capt. Blethen can be heard in his own defense. The remarks of Captain Totten are alike worthy and considerate under the unfortunate circumstances in which Captain Blethen is placed; and, without expressing any opinion upon the subject ourselves, we may be permitted to regret that the crowded state of our columns prevents our publishing this morning the extract he sends us.
Daily Alta California, March 16, 1852
The Loss of the North America. To the Editors of the Alta California:-- I have received no list of passengers embarked on board the North America at San Juan del Sud, and therefore cannot comply with your request to furnish you a copy. I desire to preserve the name of Capt. Blethen from calumny, and therefore refer to the letter of Mr. Newell, printed in your Extra this day. With the descriptive part, so full of imagination and pathos, I have nothing to do; but the blame the writer attaches to Captain Blethen requires notice from me, because I do not believe he was derelict or negligent of duty. The wrecking of so fine a ship as the North America is a great public calamity at the present time—quite equal to the private loss to her owners. I know Captain Blethen to be a gentleman, a perfect sailor, and a man of unexceptional habits, and quite remarkable for always preserving a thorough discipline on board his ship. It is certain, however, that he has lost the ship, and the only way I can account for it is by supposing mirage (or optical illusion) to have deceived the Captain in regard to the proximity of the shore. I have every confidence now in Captain Blethen’s fitness to command any steamship in the world, unaccountable as the loss may seem.
The Loss of the North AmericaP.M.S.S. Tennessee, San Francisco Bar
Monday, March 14, 1852
Editors of the Alta California—
Gentlemen:--I enclose you for publication, if you think fit, an extract from my report to the Company’s agent, forwarded in advance of the report itself principally with a view to stay public opinion until Capt. Blethen is heard, regarding the loss of the North America. I do not know the gentleman, but he has heretofore stood very high in reputation as I am, in haste, with great respect,
Your obedient servant,
Geo. M. Totten, U.S.N.
Commander of Tennessee
Extract from the Report of Captain Totten to the Agent of P.M.S.S. Co., at San Francisco:
During the night of the 4th last, bright moonlight, were obliged to—very close in shore to keep it in sight, there being so thin a mist that when only just able to see the breakers, could I hear them above the noise of the wheels. Before daylight had run or distance for entrance of Acapulco and slowed the engine. At daylight (still misty) saw top of a hill above the fog to the eastward, that I supposed to be headland at Acapulco. Turned back running eastward close along shore. At 5 A.M. passed steamship North America ashore, apparently bilged and back broken; sea breaking heavily against her, (lying broadside to the beach.) Stood to the east of her some 8 or 10 miles, looking for a landing; sea broke too heavily for any of my boats, so gave up the hope of assisting her with the less regret, as I saw many mules.
At 8 o’clock 20 minutes, fog clearing off, discovered that the ship was still to the east of Acapulco; put her head to the west. At 11-1/2 A.M., passed a barque at anchor, tending to a strong easterly current. She hailed us as we passed; the officer in charge of the deck not understanding the hail stood on. Some of the passengers soon after stating that the barque reported being out of provisions, I turned back and learned that it was the New Grenadian barque Elizabeth, 63 days out, having sailed from Panama bound to San Francisco with 150 passengers, who all, except some 20 deceased, had gone on to Acapulco in boats; that they were short of provisions and water. Sent them a barrel of beef, some bread and a cask of water. She had been 17 days within as many miles of Acapulco, but could not reach it. The officer who boarded her reported Arrived at Acapulco at 2-1/2 P.M.; found that all the passengers from the North America had reached that port and were of course anxious to proceed in this ship. After consultation with the Agent, determined to refuse all applications. This in consequence of the face of the crowded state of the ship, and the fact that we had left some two thousand persons at Panama no better off than those at Acapulco; many of whom had been refused tickets at any price; and so imperative did the necessity appear, that I refused even to bring up one gentleman who stated himself to be a messenger from his ship to the Agent of the Vanderbilt Line in San Francisco; I offered however to take his dispatches. Spite of all my precautions, I found when at sea that some three or four persons.
Many of the North America’s passengers had money to pay their way up to San Francisco, but the majority were destitute; for the relief of these, and of those from the Elizabeth, a collection was taken up on board this ship, amounting to $713, and placed in the hands of the U.S. Consul and the Agent of the P.M.S.S. Co., to be expended in such manner as they might judge most fit to carry out the object desired.
Now, as to the cause of the loss of the North America, the public should not censure Capt. Blethen or make up their minds upon the subject until the Captain has had a hearing. It is said she went ashore on a bright night and smooth sea. If the sea was smooth, as I have often seen it in that vicinity, it would be very difficult to see the breakers until close upon them, particularly if the moon was over the land and the beach in shadow; and I can conceive of his being deceived as to the entrance of the port had he had such a fog with bright moonlight as we in this ship, which obscured everything but the tops of the hills; and particularly as the strong easterly current, running 3 to 4 knots the day we came up, would have deceived him as to the distance run. Much as I have talked with her passengers about it, I cannot yet decide.
Daily Alta California, Saturday Morning, March 27, 1852
The Shipwrecked Passengers of the North America--We have received, from a passenger now at Acapulco, an account of the shipwreck of the North America, but as it does not vary materially from our published report, we do not think it of sufficient interest to lay before our readers . . . Here is the extract:
The number of destitute passengers is indeed very large, and the funds raised, comparatively small and will soon be expended; after which I do not see how they are to subsist. Many passengers at the present time are sick with the measles and fever, and the number is increasing daily . . . Many rely upon the citizens of San Francisco sending a steamer down expressly to convey the passengers from here to California. One death has occurred: a son of a Mr. Norcross from Philadelphia, aged 4 years.
The North America still holds together, and will continue to do so for a long time, unless a gale should spring up . . .
In connection with the above we have received the following list of shipwrecked passengers who have sailed from Acapulco for this city on the schooner Guadeloupe. About the same number have sailed on the schooner Thomas, but the list sent us has not come to hand. The annexed list is incomplete, but it may serve to allay the solicitude of many who have friends on the list of passengers per Guadeloupe, from Acapulco to San Francisco via Mazatlan:
H.G. Kendrick and 2 others, G. Bently, B.P. Moore, Winreich Saml Head, John Perry, O Daniels, John K. Hoxie, D. Moore, J.J. Morton, A. Morse, E. Morse, J.C. Wingaby, W.S. Morse, P. Hanton, T. Friguarter, J.A. Jamison, C. Matthews and lady, C. Marriott, W.J. Armstrong, John Stafford, P. Ayres, P. Woodhouse, H. Kendricks, W.H. Kendricks, S.B. Whipple, S. Hart or Fert, S.A. Jamison, E.A. Burben, James Wood, Thos G. Andrews, E.R. Wolcott, John Chan, Jonathan Jones, W.P. Fowler, Abram Cole, 3 tickets; Austin Smith, D.S. Ely, D. Nattel, Joseph Porter, William Porter, Lloyd Porter, F. Farkey, Thos. Lake, Thos. W. Palmer, William Curtis, A. Houghton, C. Shandreu, ? P. Morgan, H.G. W. Cole, C. Bravo, F. Garlin, W. Blackwell, S. M. Mathews, Ira Berry, Levi Sears, Joe Loopen, S. A. South?, S.H. Olman, J. Baker, James Ely, James Harvey, C.G. Bergman, G.D. Drury.
The Steamer Panama, Captain James Watkins, "Arrive Acapulco, Mexico on March 19th at 3:30 p.m. At this port found about 500 of the passengers who had been on board the wrecked steamer North America. Received on board, of the foregoing number, 37 persons, including 16 ladies and 10 children, the ship being so crowded no more could be taken on board. Previous to arrival of the Panama some 200-300 of the wrecked passengers had left in sailing vessels for San Francisco." Passengers from wreck of North America received on board at Acapulco, Mexico:
Thomas Hunt and Servant; Mrs. C.A. Shattuck & six children; Mrs. E. Thompson; Mrs. E. Thompson; Miss A. Martin; Miss G. Coker; Mrs. R. Wheeler; C.J. Dempster; J.B. Crockett; J. Winchester, wife and two children; J. McDougal and lady; Mrs. H. Myers; A. Dickinson and lady; Mrs. M. Kerr; Thomas George; D. Norcross, wife and daughter; H. McCormick and lady; Miss S. Abbott; Mrs. S. Smith ; P. Moody and lady; Mrs. Lyons and daughter.
Articles in the New York Daily Times about the loss of the North America were equally harsh. An unnamed correspondent of the Times reported from Acapulco, Mexico on March 9, 1852
You will hear by this mail of the disastrous wreck of the fine steamship North America . . . which went ashore about 55 miles south of Acapulco, on the long sand beach which commences some seventy miles below here. The night was a bright moonlight one, and the ship had been steaming the whole day and evening within almost a stone’s throw of the shore. The Captain’s version of the affair is, that at 9 o’clock he went below to sleep, previously ordering the mate to keep her along, with the beach in sight, and call him at 11 o’clock. At that hour Captain Blethen came on deck and looking towards the land, saw the mountains in the distance, he completely overlooking the lowlands. Thinking himself a great distance from the shore, he ordered her one point nearer, standing at the time on the wheelhouse. In less than twenty minutes after he stepped on deck, the ship struck. The passengers, with a crew of 90 men, came on deck, and prepared to save themselves. Only a few boatloads, however, left the ship before morning, there being not the least danger. At daylight, the whole number landed, with a portion of the provisions, bedding, sails, and carpets, and erected tents on the scene at the wreck beggars all description. From fifty to a hundred tents had been erected – some covered with sails, others with costly carpets, and even with rich draperies. The different tents had stowed away in them, wines and cigars of all kinds, preserved meats and oysters, kegs of rice butter and jars of preserves. All was waste, profusion and confusion in this particular. Outside the tents, scores of natives were hanging around some with mules, and many were watching opportunities to steal.
We found the vessel firmly embedded in the hard sand, side on to the beach, partially filled with water, the sea breaking over her quarter. She had been drive in, by the force of the sea, until each retiring wave left her almost completely dry on the starboard or shore side, and persons were wading backward and forward to the ship. It was impossible to get anything from her to the vessels sent to her assistance from the larboard side of the steamer, and the breakers were so heavy that no ship’s boat could live in coming to or going from, the shore. Under these circumstances the passengers’ baggage and freight were packed off as fast as possible on the backs of mules.
The number of passengers on the list is 620, but the purser says they amount to about 700, and the crew to 100 more. It is generally said by the well informed, however, that there were over 800 passengers . . . The hotel keepers are each maintaining gratis thirty to fifty persons, but yet there is a vast deal of suffering. Two or three schooners have been badly fitted up and provisions, and will take away some three hundred of the crowd as have money to pay passage. A few of the balance hope to get on to the upward bound steamship, but the chance is exceedingly small, every steamer coming packed as closely as a barrel of herrings.
The steamer, at the time of the wreck, had some $5,000 or $6,000 on board, but the purser, as a matter of course, reports it all stolen, with the exception of less than a thousand dollars . . . The passengers were all in a remarkably healthy condition at the time of the wreck – indeed, I did not find a single person unable to ride a mule. There must be in the whole number at least forty women and a hundred children. We are afraid the worst is yet to come, if the agent at San Francisco does not send relief. God only knows the suffering there will be . . .
In the same issue of the New York Daily Times, immediately below the above report, was printed the following, which was written by "D.N." (who may or may not have written the above report):
Acapulco, Mexico, Monday, March 8, 1852
We sailed from New York on the afternoon of Feb. 5, "California bound," via Vanderbilt’s (Nicaragua) Line, in the steamer Prometheus, with over seven hundred passengers on board, and although the boat was badly crowded, we got along comfortably.
We arrived at Grey Town on the morning of February 15, where we were delayed four days, by reason of the inability of the Transit Company to take all the passengers at one trip. The Company were compelled to make two trips from Grey Town to Virgin Bay, taking one half of the passengers at each trip. We arrived at Virgin Bay on the morning of the 22d, there leaving the Central America. A ride of twelve miles on mules, which I accomplished in two hours and a half, over a good road, graded most of the way, brought us to San Juan del Sur, on the Pacific, where we found the steamship North America, Capt. J. Blethen, ready to receive her passengers.
On the 23d, the passengers all having arrived on board at 81/2 P.M., the North America, with nearly one thousand souls on board, sailed for San Francisco. For the next four days all was pleasant. Every one seemed in the best of spirits, with the prospect of making a good average passage.
Having nearly all the time, except when crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec, kept very close to the shore – sometimes within half a mile – seldom more than two miles off – on the night of 27th of February, when a little over four days out, a quarter of an hour past midnight, in the first officer’s watch, the North America struck the beach about 55 miles south of the mouth of the harbor of Acapulco, and within a quarter of a mile of the shore. She is a total wreck. Nothing of any consequence that belonged to the ship was saved, although much of her furniture and stores were landed, but only to be stolen or destroyed.
Although there was great excitement at the time she struck, no lives were lost.
The cause of the catastrophe is inexplicable. The night was clear, there was no fog, the moon and stars shining brightly, and there was no wind at the time. The sand-beach was plainly in sight . . . when she went ashore. The sea was calm, and after the first few minutes in which all was uncertainly, consternation and excitement, everything was quiet as could be expected under the circumstances. We felt perfectly safe . . . unless the weather changed . . . and in an hour not one timber remain to give evidence of the disaster. A line was got out – the boats were lowered, and the landing of the women and children . . . was accomplished between daybreak and noon . . . Throughout the day, the utmost confusion and disorder prevailed among the crew, waiters, firemen, and others of the ship’s company.
Captain Blethen, from the time the steamer struck, seemed totally lost.
During the forenoon, thirty or forty of the crew, with a few of the passengers – all intoxicated – had been reveling in the hold, breaking open liquors, provisions, freight: in short, broaching everything that came within their Bacchanalian reach, and this without an effort on the part of Captain B. to stop it. The provisions, instead of being protected, and dealt out sparingly to such as needed them, were abandoned. The effect of this was that some had enough hid away to last them a month or two, whilst others had nothing. And strange as it may seem, there were found in that crowd, on that desolate beach, fiends (I must call them) in human shape who, having played the grab game with success, were actually demanding and receiving pay from their fellow passengers, for the provisions which were intended for and actually belonged equally to all.
I remained by the wreck thirty-six hours, going to and from the ship frequently, and during all this time there was not an effort made to save her – not an anchor got out – not a pound of coal thrown over to lighten her. To all appearance, the ship was totally abandoned from the moment she struck. She is now a perfect wreck – a total loss, of hull, furniture, machinery, all, all . . .
General J. Winchester
General J. Winchester, a passenger on the North America, followed the reporter’s account with his own. General Winchester’s letter from Acapulco, and his later letter home regarding the wreck, differ greatly from other accounts and writings of both press and passengers in that he does not place blame. With the exception of his scathing remarks about the American government, his writing is gracious and optimistic, unlike either the reporters or fellow passengers, most notably, William L. Newell. Also, General Winchester gives a clear portrait of how little liked Americans were in Mexico during the time.
On March 19th, the steamer Panama, R. H. Pearson Commander, arrived at Acapulco, Mexico and found a number of the passengers of the wrecked steamer North America anxiously awaiting the arrive of a vessel from San Francisco for them. The Oregon took eighty(+) of the passengers and the Northerner an equal number; all of the ladies of the wrecked vessel had left in the former steamers and in various sailing vessels. Mr. William L. Newell, with many of the North America’s passengers have boarded the Oregon for passage to San Francisco.
Complaints ceased only for a short time. Captain Blethen worked for a very unpopular individual (Captain Vanderbilt) and did not receive quarter from public or press.
Captains, crew, and agents of shipping lines were often ill-treated by the ship owners. When the 612 ton, 230-foot side paddle-wheeler steamboat Seawanhaka exploded and burned in New York Harbor, Captain Charles P. Smith stayed at the helm to move the boat to shallow waters to enable the passengers to escape. He was burned in so doing. Even those his deed was noble, he was made a scapegoat. The shabby treatment he received so outraged his colleagues, other pilots and captains that they formed a committee and that committee was the genesis of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, formed in 1880. Captain Smith was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and recognized for his heroism.
Probably no ocean lines of steam transportation were ever established, either in England or our own country, which have within so short a time after their founding realized such complete success and so few reverses as the steamship lines between San Francisco and New York, connecting at Panama and Nicaragua. And probably there never was a passenger route which subjected travelers to greater and more continuous hardships: certainly, for the facilities afforded for transportation, there never was. These hardships, not always arising from the difficulties inseparable from a new, untravelled and fatiguing route, are and have been too often caused by mismanagement and want of proper attention to the necessities and requirements of the traveling public and then, too, in many particulars and instances, these hardships of passengers are and have been self-imposed. The complaints and reproaches which have been entered so often, and sometimes so indiscriminately, are sometimes, too, quite proper, and always very natural.
Persons at sea in passenger vessels, under the most favorable circumstances, will be apt to find the curtailment of their ever-day shore pleasures, and commonplace incidents not at all in accordance with the poetical ideas of "life on the ocean wave." They will find the circle of their enjoyments narrowed down to very inconvenient and uncomfortable limits on board ship, and with plenty of time on their hands, like enterprising capitalists – according to Philosopher Franklin’s theory, that "Time is money" – the golden hours at sea will be best spent as their ill humors can be best-vented. There is no more fitting sphere for the habitual grumbley and fault-finder – no more inviting spot for the exercise of that amiable quality – than in the "rank and narrow ship" – "Housed on the wild sea with wilder usages," as the author of the "Ancient Mariner" very positively tells us.
On April 10, 1852, the following passengers from the wreck boarded the SS Independence, Captain Lucas:
Mrs. Bain, four children & servant; Miss Carr; Mrs. Durfee; Miss L.A. Miner; Mr. Winni and lady; E.D. Smith, lady, sister and 2 nieces; Mrs. Pouell and four children (sic - Powell?); J.P. Buckley; G. Flint, lady and five children; Mrs. Fogerty; Mrs. Morse and three children; J.Q. Adams
Acapulco, March 26, 1852
Messrs. Editors:--In the Alta California, of the 15th March, I see a communication from Mr. R. J. Vandewater, Agent of "Vanderbilt’s Line" at San Francisco, in which he calls in question the assertions which I made in any account of the loss of the North America so far as they tend to attach blame to Capt. Blethen. I will only say that I express the opinion of nine tenths of the passengers of the North America, when I state that Capt. Blethen was "derelict or negligent of duty" that he acted unseamanlike.
That Capt. Blethen, from the time the North America grounded, was perfectly inadequate to the emergency, and that every thing went by default, with hardly a single effort on his part to save the ship, is a fact which can be substantiated by nearly every passenger on board.
I have no desire to injure Capt. Blethen, and should let him pass, did I not consider it a duty to the public and the owners to make a statement of the facts, substantiated as they are by the almost universal opinion of the passengers, hoping that by so doing it may serve to prevent a like occurrence, from the same cause.
W. L. Newell
(Editor's Note: Mr. Newell's son died while waiting passage from Acapulco to San Francisco. Perhaps his ire partially stems from that painful tragedy. As noted, Captain Blethen's own wife and young daughter were on that ship; it is inconceivable that he was sufficiently careless to put them in harm's way.)
Daily Alta California
In connection with the above, the following letter from Capt. Blethen has been placed in our hands. We deem it but justice to all parties that it should be published.
Acapulco, March 28, 1852
To R. J. Vandewater Esq.,--Dear Sir:--As a number of statements have gone before the public in relation to the loss of the ill-fated steamer North America, I deem it proper to place in your hands a detailed statement of the facts connected with that unfortunate event
We sailed from San Juan del Sud on Monday evening, the 23d of February, and proceeded prosperously on our voyage, generally with good weather. On the 27th we had light breezes and fine weather, running along the Mexican coast generally about two miles from the beach. The evening was clear, with a calm sea and fine moonlight, the shore plain in sight about three miles distant, and also the highlands, at the distance of thirty miles. Up to 9 o’clock, P.M., I was on the starboard wheelhouse the whole time, was steering an off-shore course by my compasses of an half point, as I supposed; and have since proved to be the fact by comparing them at the wreck with the direction or trending of the beach which is W. N. W. half W., and E. S. E., half E., in a direct line by compass of at least thirty miles, both east and west of the wreck. I have before steered the same course, west by south, and have invariably issued when running in the vicinity of land, to call me if the weather becomes in the slightest degree hazy, and also to keep her off if necessary in order to preserve a distance of five or six miles between the ship and shore, at which distance I supposed it would with the adjacent land be distinctly visible while the weather continued clear and moonlight; also leaving orders to be called at 11 o’clock, P.M.
Accordingly, at that hour I repaired to the upper deck, starboard side, in company with the first officer, the weather apparently clear and moon about one hour high, the highlands plain in sight. At the northwestward, at a distance of from twenty to thirty miles, the beach and land intervening, though moderately elevated, not in sight. I inquired of the mate the courses steered. His reply was that he had kept her W., half N., an half hour, and afterwards W., half S., one hour, in order to be on the safe side and to preserve a distance of five or six miles from the shore, and that he had not seen it for the last half or three-quarters of an hour. I remarked to him that we must be some considerable distance from the beach, and that by our run, if we had experienced no currents, we should be within twenty-five or thirty miles of Acapulco, and it must be the highland in the vicinity of Acapulco and bearing N.W. by N., then in sight; that I would haul her in and make the beach before the moon set, at the same time changing the course W.N.W., and proceeded on to the starboard wheel-house, which I had reached by the time the ship had come up her course.
After a moment’s reflection, I decided that we had experienced a westerly current, and that the highland in sight was not in the immediate vicinity of Acapulco, and the only highland thereabouts that extends down to the sea. I changed the course to North-West. The order scarcely given, when I discovered a slight ripple some four to five points on the starboard bow. My first impressions was that it was caused by a whale, but immediately gave the order, "Starboard! --- hard to starboard!" at the same time range the slow bell; both of which orders were promptly obeyed, and the ship came up about West, when she struck aft, which had the effect to cause her to pay off some three points; upon which I instantly stopped and reversed the engine, in hopes to back her off.
By this time she was striking hard, and the sea breaking heavily against her broadside. The engine was stopped. To let go the anchors I knew would be useless. All the boats, agreeably to my orders, were immediately lowered. An officer sounded, and found five feet water on the in-shore or starboard side. The beach was not then visible, and was not even indistinctly seen until some thirty minutes had elapsed from the time she first struck; and some of the passengers will recollect having asked me when I dispatched the first boat with Col. Avery for Acapulco, if it was two miles to the shore, which I was unable to reply to until the boat had landed, when I discovered it to be about sixty yards to the shore. We found that all hope of carrying out our anchors though the then existing surf would be in vain.
The passengers were remarkably cool and collected. I saw no excitement, and I advised them to remain on board until daylight, as I apprehended no immediate danger. From three to four A.M., the work of debarkation commenced, by hauling the boats back and forth, by lines from the ship to the shore. This operation was attended with much difficulty and danger, in consequence of the strong easterly current, and heavy surf, but I finally succeeded in the course of the day in sending all the passengers, together with their baggage, some provisions, sails for tents, beds and blankets, and other necessaries requisite for the comfort of the passengers.
Early on the morning of the 28th, I discovered that the ship was breaking considerably, and that from 30 to 40 feet of her false keel had gone on shore. On Sunday, 29th, was employed in saving provisions, &c. Some of the passengers had already started on mules for Acapulco and by the 7th of March, had all arrived in safety. At 5 o’clock P.M. on the 1st of March, F. W. Rice, U.S. Consul at Acapulco, and Mr. Guys, agent for the Vanderbilt Line of Steamers arrived, and rendered all the assistance in their power. On the morning of the 4th of March, after having dispatched all the passengers, baggage, freight, &c, and taking a final survey of the ship, I started for Acapulco, leaving the first officer and two men in charge, where I arrived on the night of the 7th.
The steamer Independence is about to leave this port. I have only time to say that any statements of publications at variance with the foregoing, are false.
Very respectfully, your obd’t servant,
James H. Blethen, Late Commander of the SS North America
Shipping news from the East Coast was equally distressing. Not only did the New York papers report on the North America’s loss, they were also damning.
However, few received the extensive coverage and criticism given to the North America. This is strange, given that no lives were lost on the North America and many lives were lost in other shipping disasters. Even taking into account that reports of the North America’s loss were due to negligence, it seems from news clippings that "accidents" and misjudgments by agents, captain and crew happened all too frequently, as indicated by stories of overloaded ships . . .
Perhaps press reports were tainted by the fact that journalists are often democratic and "for the little people," whereas the Vanderbilt’s were of New York society, and Cornelius Vanderbilt was a member of the Whig National Convention and wrapped up in electing Daniel Webster to the office of President of the United States. Could it be that the "objective" press was not being objective in their reports?
Gold Rush Steamers
In his book Gold Rush Steamers, Ernest A. Wiltsee points out the prejudice of the Alta California, suggesting that the newspaper seems to be on the payroll of the Pacific Mail Line. Mr. Wiltsee wrote that the Daily Alta California clearly favors the Pacific Mail Line and is unfair to the Vanderbilt Line (owner of the North America).
Hundreds of ships were lost to the Pacific. Dozens sunk just outside the Golden Gate, including Pacific Mail's Tennessee , which wrecked on March 6, 1853 due to tides/fog/rocks off San Francisco, losing goods and passengers. In a shocking display of subjective journalism, not a negative word was printed in Alta California about this and other losses, quite a few of which cost lives as well as goods.
Ernest A. Wiltsee wrote that Captain Blethen "later became the outstanding captain of the coast in the early days."
Daily Alta California, March 20, 1852
Edward Laxton writes in The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to America, that "trial by newspaper was very much in vogue in the 1850s . . . the laws of libel were practically non-existent (and) journalists were free to adopt a flamboyant, accusatory style, inciting strong reactions and steering public opinion." Columnists in this day are still allowed that license.
June 21, 1852
The Loss of the North America
To the Editors of the Alta California.—
I have received no list of passengers embarked on board the North America at San Juan del Sud, and therefore cannot comply with your request to furnish you a copy. I desire to preserve the name of Capt Blethen from calumny, and therefore refer to the letter of Mr. Newell, printed in your Extra this day. With the descriptive part, so full of imagination and pathos, I have nothiog to do; but the blame the writer attaches to Capt. Blethen requires notice from me, because 1 do not believe he was derilect or negligent of duty. The wrecking of so true a ship as the North America is a great public calamity at tbe present time — quite equal to the private loss to her owners. I know Capt Blethen to be a gentleman, a perfect sailor, and a man of unexceptionable habits, and quite remarkable for always preserving a thorough discipline on board his ship. It is certain, however, that he has lost the ship, and the only way I can account for it is by supposing mirage (or optical illusion) to have deceived the Captain in regard to the proximity of the shore. I have every confidence now in Capt Blethen's fitness to command any steamship in the world, unaccountable as tbe loss may seem.
Your obt serv't,
R. J. Vandewater, Agent, &c.
March 14, 1852
DISTRICT OF NEW YORK – PORT OF NEW YORK
I, Oliver J. Graffam do solemnly, sincerely and truly swear that the following List or Manifest of Passengers, subscribed with my name, and now delivered by me to the Collector of the Customs for the District of New York, contains, to the best of my knowledge and belief a just and true account of all the Passengers received on board the Steam Ship Prometheus whereof I am Master, from San Juan Del Norte to New York. So help me God Sworn to this June 21st 1852 Oliver J. Graffam
List or Manifest OF ALL THE PASSENGERS taken on board the Steam Ship Prometheus whereof Oliver J. Graffam is Master, from San Juan.
Columns represent number on manifest, name, age in years and months, sex, occupation, country to which they severally belong, country in which they intend to become inhabitants. An * beside a passenger name indicates that the passenger died on the voyage, notes follow the list.
1 Thos. B. Yale 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
2 C.F. Reichardt 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
3 E.H. Ryder 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
4 L.I. Pearson 32 Male Miner U.S. of America
5 I.H. Force 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
6 J. Moore 42 Male Miner U.S. of America
7 H. Pierce 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
8 J. Cogill 28 Male Miner U.S. of America
9 G. Buyer 32 Male Miner U.S. of America
10 D. Mahoney 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
11 D.B. Merritt 25 Male Miner U.S. of America
12 D. Ziel 33 Male Miner U.S. of America
13 H. Meinertshegen 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
14 Gregory Messenger 26 Male Miner U.S. of America
15 Capt. Battersby 32 Male Miner Ireland U.S. of America
16 S.B.F. Clarke 25 Male Miner U.S. of America
17 Geo. Mason 32 Male Miner U.S. of America
18 Capt Calhoun 28 Male Miner U.S. of America
19 Mr. Sprague 31 Male Miner U.S. of America
20 *D. Olendorf 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
21 Isiah Koop 35 Male Miner U.S. of America
22 J.B. Watson 28 Male Miner U.S. of America
23 R.W. Crenshaw 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
24 R. Tuttle 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
25 R. H. Downs 41 Male Miner U.S. of America
26 T. A. Rollins 22 Male Miner U.S. of America
27 A. Mandit 28 Male Miner U.S. of America
28 M.M. Boyd 25 Male Miner U.S. of America
29 A. Packard 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
30 Mr. Sheldon 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
31 Mrs. Sheldon 30 Female Miner U.S. of America
32 Capt. J. Blethen 36 Male Mariner U.S.A. U.S.A.
33 Mrs. Blethen 27 Female U.S.A. U.S.A.
34 W.S. Valentine 34 Male Miner U.S. of America
35 Mr. Sylva 24 Male Miner U.S. of America
36 Mr. Pickering 27 Male Miner U.S. of America
37 S. H. Barrett 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
38 W. H. Barrett 24 Male Miner U.S. of America
39 Mrs. Neatsell 28 Female U.S. of America
40 Capt. Walker 40 Male Agent U.S.A.
41 Mr. Burgess 40 Male Agent U.S.A.
42 C. H. Allen 31 Male Miner U.S. of America
43 S. C. Langworthy 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
44 James ?lyerusey 27 Male Miner U.S. of America
45 David I. Smith 26 Male Miner U.S. of America
45 B. D. Larkin 38 Male Miner U.S. of America
47 L. T. Barton 24 Male Miner U.S. of America
48 J. Sulden 39 Male Miner U.S. of America
49 D. McDonald 45 Male Miner U.S. of America
50 Sarah M. Kennedy 8 Female U.S.A.
51 Ann A. Kennedy 5 Female
52 James B. Kennedy 4 Male
53 A. Griffen 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
54 *O. Lillery 33 Male Miner Died June 19th
55 P. Kirkham 38 Male Miner U.S. of America
56 H. Everitt 41 Male Miner U.S. of America
57 R. P. Wilkins 36 Male Miner U.S. of America
58 Wm. Crawford 31 Male Miner U.S. of America
59 O. T. Blake 19 Male Miner U.S. of America
60 S. Fleming 25
61 W. C. M'Lanahan 27 Male Miner U.S. of America
62 M. Swirfston 34 Male Miner U.S. of America
63 T. H. Lake 39 Male Miner U.S. of America
64 Aulcey Faucett 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
65 C.P. Ferguson 35 Male Miner U.S. of America
66 Jos. Cook 38 Male Miner U.S. of America
67 Jas. Wi??redge 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
68 P. Merrill 32 Male Miner U.S. of America
69 J. G. Cate 22 Male Miner U.S. of America
70 Jno. Evans 26 Male Miner U.S. of America
71 W. Hanson 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
72 V. Dyer 28 Male Miner U.S. of America
73 O. C. Shaw 34 Male Miner U.S. of America
74 R. L. Bennit 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
75 J. S. Wright 38 Male Miner U.S. of America
76 F. Weaver 36 Male Miner U.S. of America
77 J. M. Newton 38 Male Miner U.S. of America
78 W. Philo 33 Male Miner U.S. of America
79 A. Jacobs 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
80 H. H. Anderson 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
81 P. Stowe 28 Male Miner U.S. of America
82 I.B. McDounal 26 Male Miner U.S. of America
83 W. Owen 48 Male Miner U.S. of America
84 Jno. McLaughlin 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
85 W. H. Chipps 23 Male Miner U.S. of America
86 L. Levitchell 43 Male Miner U.S. of America
87 D. A. Gardner 50 Male Miner U.S. of America
88 Jas. Westervelt 26 Male Miner U.S. of America
89 Jno. Mitchell 34 Male Miner U.S. of America
90 S.S. Osgood 35 Male Artist "
91 A. Donahue 31 Male Miner U.S. of America
92 Jos. Gutshall 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
93 A. G. Warull 34 Male Miner U.S. of America
94 W. H. Albro 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
95 Oliver A. Post 38 Male Miner U.S. of America
96 J. Moufort 41 Male Miner U.S. of America
97 ? McDowell 32 Male Miner U.S. of America
98 Chas. Edwards 37 Male Miner U.S. of America
99 Jno. Corky 41 Male Miner U.S. of America
100 Wm. Forshay 39 Male Miner U.S. of America
101 G. Sort 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
102 Jno. Davitt 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
103 W. L. Poole 38 Male Miner U.S. of America
104 Jus. Lambert 34 Male Miner U.S. of America
105 Jos. Atkinson 33 Male Miner U.S. of America
106 G. O. Gross 34 Male Miner U.S. of America
107 C. Dill 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
108 S. Mifler 44 Male Miner U.S. of America
109 G. Shannon 37 Male Miner U.S. of America
110 J. M. Framberg 33 Male Miner U.S. of America
111 Mr. Stater 39 Male Miner U.S. of America
112 Robt. Rogers 45 Male Miner U.S. of America
113 J. Lake 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
114 G. W. Jackson 48 Male Miner U.S. of America
115 James Chase 45 Male Miner U.S. of America
116 J. W. Stamford 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
117 Thos. M'Gown 32 Male Miner U.S. of America
118 H. B. Wilbur 33 Male Miner U.S. of America
119 E. Haskell 46 Male Miner U.S. of America
120 S. Temple 41 Male Miner U.S. of America
121 J. Spear 31 Male Miner U.S. of America
122 Mr. Evans 26 Male Miner U.S. of America
123 Daul R. Marsh 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
124 Saml Sweezy 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
125 J. J. Clarke 31 Male Miner U.S. of America
126 Jno. Bowlby 24 Male Miner U.S. of America
127 E. Wright 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
128 Jno. Richards 26 Male Miner U.S. of America
129 M. Anderson 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
130 I. Gardner 23 Male Miner U.S. of America
131 Wm. Barstow 39 Male Miner U.S. of America
132 L. Downs 51 Male Miner U.S. of America
133 I. Kangchal 38 Male Miner U.S. of America
134 R. W. Jefforts 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
135 Saml. M'Crea 32 Male Miner U.S. of America
136 Wm. Harylin 21 Male Miner U.S. of America
137 ? ? M'Breen 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
138 J. Ela 50 Male Miner U.S. of America
139 E. N. Low 44 Male Miner U.S. of America
140 Capt. Barstow 38 Male Miner U.S. of America
141 *Capt. Beebe 41 Male Miner U.S. of America
142 Ino. Fiske 34 Male Miner U.S. of America
143 W. Barnum 27 Male Miner U.S. of America
144 Davis Perry 37 Male Miner U.S. of America
145 J. N. Harrison 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
146 Jus. Bryant 34 Male Miner U.S. of America
147 Jas. E. Arlington 36 Male Miner U.S. of America
148 D. K. Nuinor 28 Male Miner U.S. of America
149 Mr. Cheever 43 Male Miner U.S. of America
150 Mr. Brick 48 Male Miner U.S. of America
151 H.O. Collins 50 Male Miner U.S. of America
152 W. Agate 41 Male Miner U.S. of America
153 J. Sherman 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
154 S.M. Worthby 39 Male Miner U.S. of America
155 Moses Hill 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
156 S. Worthley 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
157 S. F. Woodruff 25 Male Miner U.S. of America
158 Joseph Brower 35 Male Miner U.S. of America
159 E. Griffin 31 Male Miner U.S. of America
160 Willard McGregor 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
161 John A. M'Crea 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
162 Abrm M'Crea 36 Male Miner U.S. of America
163 Thos Wm Boswick 41 Male Miner U.S. of America
164 Albert Denis 31 Male Miner U.S. of America
165 Geo Griswold 38 Male Miner U.S. of America
166 Manuel Leewer 29 Male Miner U.S. of America
167 A. Freeman 30 Male Miner U.S. of America
168 L.Kinney 31 Male Miner U.S. of America
169 David Coswith 27 Male Miner U.S. of America
170 Russell Bassett 31 Male Miner U.S. of America
171 Nicls. Hubbell 40 Male Miner U.S. of America
172 T. Rice 48 Male Miner U.S. of America
173 Jno. A. Reed 50 Male Miner U.S. of America
174 Jno. Work 41 Male Miner U.S. of America
175 Mr. Silver 35 Male Miner U.S. of America
176 Mr. Campbell 36 Male Miner U.S. of America
177 Mr. Frater 22 Male Miner U.S. of America
178 Mr. Tilman 19 Male Miner U.S. of America
179 Mr. Harmer 21 Male Miner U.S. of America
180 Manuel Silver 31 Male Carpenter U.S.A.
181 J. M'Clure 26 Male Carpenter U.S.A., U.S.A.
182 R. R. Kinney 40 Male Carpenter U.S.A.
183 R. H. I. Kinney 32 Male Carpenter U.S.A.
184 A??? Withey 31 Male Carpenter U.S.A.
185 I. B. Simmons 29 Male Carpenter U.S.A.
186 G. A. Ellsbury 38 Male Carpenter U.S.A.
187 H. N. Arnold 45 Male Carpenter U.S.A.
188 L. A. Morse 37 Male Mason U.S.A.
189 G. Johnson 30 Male Mason U.S.A.
190 H. Andrews 27 Male Mason U.S.A.
191 G. Grant 41 Male Mason U.S.A.
192 W. Green 32 Male Mason U.S.A.
193 Nsn. Hall 38 Male Mason U.S.A. , U.S.A.
194 T. Cramer 31 Male Mason U.S.A.
195 G.W. McLellan 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
196 Wesley J. Irwiney 50 Male Miner U.S.A.
197 Mr. Lewis 47 Male Miner U.S.A.
198 D. Gonl?? 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
199 J. J. Campbell 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
200 G. Bishop 37 Male Miner U.S.A.
201 D. Ringnell 24 Male Miner U.S.A.
202 K. F. Nabor 27 Male Miner U.S.A.
203 G. F. Merrill 50 Male Miner U.S.A.
204 T. J. Calkins 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
205 J. G. Vincent 35 Male Miner U.S.A.
206 W. Curtis 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
207 D. Bell 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
208 F. Surinnalr 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
209 W. N. Nolan 45 Male Miner U.S.A.
210 J. Binney 36 Male Miner U.S.A.
211 L. O Nickhohn 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
212 S. E. Kenney 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
213 H. J. Doolittle 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
214 R. Moolock 33 Male Miner U.S.A.
215 J. Cromack 37 Male Miner U.S.A.
216 J. Hutchings 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
217 D. Dolson 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
218 J. J. S. Knox 43 Male Miner U.S.A.
219 P. Oberson 26 Male Miner U.S.A.
220 B. Latham 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
221 Robt. Ritzrow 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
222 J. F. Bachelor 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
223 Geo. W. Stockwell ?0 Male Miner U.S.A.
224 Jas. Merchant 42 Male Miner U.S.A.
225 J. D. Bishop 48 Male Miner U.S.A.
226 Norman Mills 41 Male Miner U.S.A.
227 Aaron Mgown 37 Male Miner U.S.A.
228 Robt. Percival 26 Male Miner U.S.A.
229 Fred R. Prost 45 Male Miner U.S.A.
230 F. Thomas 20 Male Miner U.S.A.
231 Mr. Wheatley 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
232 Jas. A. M'Queen 35 Male Miner U.S.A.
233 W. W. Nichols 41 Male Miner U.S.A.
234 W. C. Canfield 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
235 E. H. Gardner 51 Male Miner U.S.A.
236 Henry Shewfeldt 61 Male Miner U.S.A.
237 E. W. Mounp 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
238 Andrew E. Chase 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
239 Henry G. Smith 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
240 Mr. J. Smith 25 Maile Miner U.S.A.
241 Henry W. Brown 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
242 Dr. Blowers 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
243 Mr. Rosensbell 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
244 D. N. Noyes 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
245 J. N. Avery 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
246 W. W. Gross 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
247 E. Melcher 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
248 N. G. Everson 32 Male Miner U.S.A.
249 J. B. Sillsber 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
250 J. Everitt 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
251 W. W. Hyde 36 Male Miner U.S.A.
252 G. Bidliugmeiser 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
253 R. O. M. Willson 36 Male Miner U.S.A.
254 W. S. Rosenswell 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
255 S. N. Stowe 25 Male Miner U.S.A.
256 S. B. Brown 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
257 Mr. O'Donalutt 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
258 S. Dealy 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
259 D. S. Wade 26 Male Miner U.S.A.
260 J. Polsth 37 Male Miner U.S.A.
261 J. Dickson 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
262 J. R. Dinber 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
263 N. K. Rowsly 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
264 E. Doutly 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
265 L. Fuller 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
266 R.S. Peterson 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
267 H.W. Robinson ?? Male Miner U.S.A.
268 Jno. C. Smith 48 Male Miner U.S.A.
269 Jno. A. Smith 42 Male Miner U.S.A.
270 S. S. Hussen 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
271 C. C. Frensh 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
272 Thos H. Kelsey 37 Male Miner U.S.A.
273 H. Holmes 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
274 D. Wakeman 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
275 Jno. Gardner 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
276 D. Evans 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
277 Orange Crain 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
278 J. G. Stanley 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
279 Mr. Goff 32 Male Miner U.S.A.
280 Mr. Brown 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
281 Jno. Nudson 26 Male Miner U.S.A.
282 Abm. W. Voorheer 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
283 V. Stetson 25 Male Miner U.S.A.
284 Moses Clark 22 Male Miner U.S.A.
285 I. H. Schultz 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
286 Chas. F. Lucker 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
287 Mr. Callahan 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
288 H. K. Burroughs 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
289 E. Hughes 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
290 A. Wilson 45 Male Miner U.S.A.
291 Austin Hawkins 35 Male Miner U.S.A.
292 A. Murch 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
293 A. Baker 36 Male Miner U.S.A.
294 J. Fletcher 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
295 C. Rohlfling 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
296 S. M. Asle 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
297 J. A. Kenney 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
298 Jno. Leffler 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
299 Jos. Leffler 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
300 A. Halsey 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
301 P. Halsey 35 Male Miner U.S.A.
302 R. F. Strange 33 Male Miner U.S.A.
303 N. L. Dodd 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
304 J. W. Danf 33 Male Miner U.S.A.
305 B. W. Maeder 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
306 N. J. Haws 36 Male Miner U.S.A.
307 J. See 33 Male Miner U.S.A.
308 S. Father 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
309 J. A. Patterson 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
310 B.M. Adam 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
311 Leo. N. Beebe 35 Male Miner U.S.A.
312 W. Munroe 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
313 H. Howe 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
314 O. Mooney 32 Male Miner U.S.A.
315 E. Snow 26 Male Miner U.S.A.
316 G. W. Shannon 2? Male Miner U.S.A.
317 W. Ware 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
318 Bullers 37 Male Miner U.S.A.
319 Ducks Elzino 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
320 James Brough 19 Male Miner U.S.A.
321 Smiley Neen 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
322 Mr. Murray 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
323 A. H. Ware 33 Male Miner U.S.A.
324 Chas. Murch 37 Male Miner U.S.A.
325 L. B. Lane 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
326 Thos. Nights 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
327 Alex Liken 36 Male Miner U.S.A.
328 S.C. Bellamy 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
329 Geo. Daimor 24 Male Miner U.S.A.
330 L Gratton 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
331 A. T. Avans 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
332 R. N. Coffin 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
333 L. Wilcox 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
334 Jno. Miller 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
335 Alfred Norton 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
336 C. Graves 55 Male Miner U.S.A.
337 S. Hollenbeck 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
338 T. J. Burke 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
339 N. Miller 24 Male Miner U.S.A.
340 S. Chase 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
341 G. H. Clifford 20 Male Miner U.S.A.
342 I. Brown 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
343 S. Edwards 44 Male Miner U.S.A.
344 C. J. Julyen 49 Male Miner U.S.A.
345 M. L. Cakin 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
346 Mr. Hartsook 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
347 Mr. Hearst 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
348 E. L. Skinpson 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
349 Geo. W. Moran 36 Male Miner U.S.A.
350 J. Pritchett 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
351 J. Dunn 42 Male Miner U.S.A.
352 W. Hill 35 Male Miner U.S.A.
353 W. Zabrilkie 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
354 J. W. Cole 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
355 J. M. Elrath 36 Male Miner U.S.A.
356 J. Y. Donald 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
357 J. Munday 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
358 A. W. Stearns 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
359 J. D. Hoyt 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
360 F. Wheeler 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
361 Miller Shaneberger 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
362 James Shaneberger 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
363 M. Farrar 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
364 W. Bishop 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
365 Caleb Falkendon 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
366 Daul Bryant 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
367 Jesse Johnson 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
368 F. P. Pillsbury 44 Male Miner U.S.A.
369 S. H. Parks 32 Male Miner U.S.A.
370 B. F. Parks 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
371 C. Wheeler 25 Male Miner U.S.A.
372 L.A. Waterhouse 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
373 R. Wheeler 25 Male Miner U.S.A.
374 Nathan Stevens 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
375 B. F. Richardson 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
376 Jno. Brown 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
377 R.B. Allen 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
378 Orin Cobb 52 Male Miner U.S.A.
379 J. Spear 46 Male Miner U.S.A.
380 A. Troop 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
381 C. J. Gross 41 Male Miner U.S.A.
382 H.W. Tyler 44 Male Miner U.S.A.
383 Phil. M. Latte 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
384 H. Whitcomb 34 Male Miner U.S.A.
385 Nathan Severdock 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
386 Mr. Stevens 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
387 Jno. Harris 40 Male Miner U.S.A.
388 E. Patterson 36 Male Miner U.S.A.
389 Thos. Pearson 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
390 L. Palmer 24 Male Miner U.S.A.
391 I. Stowell 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
392 R. Stowell 26 Male Miner U.S.A.
393 P. Beauchamp 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
394 G. Kinnicon 19 Male Miner U.S.A.
395 E. Dudgeon 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
396 W. Peurbrook 27 Male Miner U.S.A.
397 L. Thigas 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
398 T. Harwood 33 Male Miner U.S.A.
399 S.G. Johnson 41 Male Miner U.S.A.
400 A. Devoe 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
401 Frank Lager 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
402 H. Gregory 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
403 B. F. Porter 19 Male Miner U.S.A.
404 Jno. Kinkain 24 Male Miner U.S.A.
405 Russell Hendric 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
406 W. Zenno 33 Male Miner U.S.A.
407 O. A. Norde 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
408 H. Bartholomew 41 Male Miner U.S.A.
409 G. Whitney 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
410 L. Hurley 41 Male Miner U.S.A.
411 H. Gregg 32 Male Miner U.S.A.
412 Jas. Bell 21 Male Miner U.S.A.
413 L. M. Kerran 40 Male Miner U.S.A
414 S. Holmes 23 Male Miner U.S.A.
415 Jas. E. Hubbard 45 Male Miner U.S.A.
416 Josiah Hubbard 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
417 Thos. D. Jacobs 27 Male Miner U.S.A.
418 J.W. Bryson 29 Male Miner U.S.A.
419 Jas. P. Nyillins 41 Male Miner U.S.A.
420 Wm. M. Johnson 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
421 Jas. Ranch 19 Male Miner U.S.A.
422 W. H. Henricks 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
423 H. Coulbeck 41 Male Miner U.S.A.
424 D. B. Easton 25 Male Miner U.S.A.
425 W. Easton 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
426 Robt. Cook 27 Male Miner U.S.A.
427 R. Graves 33 Male Miner U.S.A.
428 *Luke Shroeder 51 Male Miner U.S.A.
429 J. Beals 30 Male Miner U.S.A.
430 G. Dibble 22 Male Miner U.S.A.
431 Jno. Fletcher 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
432 H. Esmonds 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
433 Selah Ferris 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
434 C. S. Beckman 38 Male Miner U.S.A.
435 T. Brent 26 Male Miner U.S.A.
436 Mr. Hackley 27 Male Miner U.S.A.
437 Mr. Ridgell 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
438 Clinton Thomas 33 Male Miner U.S.A.
439 Jno. Pray 35 Male Miner U.S.A.
440 M. Pray 39 Male Miner U.S.A.
441 Simon Raff 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
442 H. Lucas 28 Male Miner U.S.A.
443 Thos. G. Keller 31 Male Miner U.S.A.
444 Jane Elwell 26 Male Miner U.S.A.
445 Sarah Lott 21 Male Miner U.S.A.
Transcriber's Notes 4 deaths recorded: 20 D. Olendorf Died June 14; 54 O. Lillery Died June; 141 Capt. Beebe Died June; 428 Luke Schroeder Died June; 20 b.
The handwriting in many places had been overwritten to such an extent that it was practically unreadable. Every effort has been made to transcribe as much of the information as was possible. I have transcribed accurately, obvious spelling and other errors included. c. In some instances, most notably persons 444 Jane Elwell and 445 Sarah Lott, the sex indicated is obviously in error. The transcription is true and accurate as it appears on the photocopied original manifest. Note from ISTG: As the port on the Manifest is only written as San Juan del Norte we are unsure if this is the port in Nicaragua. San Juan del Norte (formerly Greytown), Nicaragua, port on Caribbean Sea at mouth of San Juan River, at extreme s.e. point of Nicaragua; once a major port; in California gold rush, it thrived as e. terminus of trans isthmian transportation company; port identified with filibustering activity of William Walker; pop. 440.
(Editor's Note: 7/31/99: Included below is an excerpt from a gold rush diary in which the writer describes their approach to the port in 1851 and taking passage on the Prometheus. Of course, this is in 1851, not 1852, but it is reasonable to assume the ship was visiting the same port. The passage from the diary is also notable because it describes the cost of passage and the conditions on board.)
EXCERPT: "Monday, Jan. 5th., 1851 I will again note the incidents of journey which have lately been but indifferently drawn. We passed Christmas in Granada, to me it was an unhappy Christmas, for it brought to my mind strong reflections of home. How I wished to be there, and how they might be spending it there, but enough of this, and a short description of Christmas in Central America. We left part of our company guarding our baggage, which we left in an open shed, and went to Granada to spend the night. In the evening commenced the holidays by marching in great numbers, and singing about the streets. The church bells continued ringing all night, which with the continual bursting of rockets, kept a continual noise. In the morning cock fighting and carrying the priest about the City in his chair which was the principle amusement of the day.
Las Isletas, Archipelago of 365 Islands.
Lake Nicaragua, Granada, Nicaragua
On the morning of the 26th, we embarked again in a ships long boat at $20 passage, we stayed all night at the Islands, then started across. after a fatiguing sail and row of eight days and five nights we landed at San Carlis, after eating out our provisions, much of which was spoiled and starving two days. San Carlis is situated on Lake Nicaragua at the head of San Juan river and has about 15 dwellings, The fort is situated here.
On the morning of Jan. 2nd. we left San Carlis in bungos for San Juan about 120 miles down the river, on the Caribbean Sea. Here we had an unpleasant journey like all the rest. but good luck happened to be with us once, by which it was rather shorter than we expected, for in one-half day and two nights we landed in San Juan. The river is rather a pleasant river. The banks are covered with trees and vines very dense so that you could scarcely see 20 feet from the edge of the water in many places. The bank is very low, probably one-half the water flows back among the trees and brush for miles and miles What is strange, is the foliage being so dense you may be within one hundred feet of the edge of the river and cannot tell whether it is 20 feet bank or 10 feet water. There are two considerable rapids, on the lower of which lies the steamer Nicaragua. The other steamer having passed up a few days since and now plying in the Lake. San Juan looks rather more Americanized than we have seen since we left the States but bad enough at best. It contains about 500 inhabitants but no more. A man has just told us that a steamer is coming in and we are waiting and boarding ourselves. Saturday, Jan. 11th, The steamer proved to be the Prometheus of New York, and landed at 5 o'clock. Passage from $100 to $125. We thought it too high and called a bluff and decided not to give it. They would not take less.
We then decided to take passage for Chagres at noon on the 9th. Passage the same. Took steerage. Very bad. Much crowded. Can't sleep below. Little to eat and hard to get it. but will try and bear it out to save $45. U.S. Steamer arrived on the 10th. few passengers. Left Chagres on the 10th. at 11 P.M. with about 200 strange passengers & 100 cabin men. This morning we find ourselves in a fine steamer some 60 or 70 miles start. pointing toward home, now I begin to calculate on getting there. With the best prospect yet, with fair luck in about two weeks I will have the pleasure (and how great will be that pleasure) of embracing those dear to me from whom I have been separated nearly two years. Sunday, Jan. 14th, 1851 We are still on our way making but tolerable speed on account of the wind being very heavy against us. We are now off Haiti or St. Domingo As for fare we have had it rough enough. there being about 200 to eat and not more than 30 can get to the table at one time, so when anything is brought up, there is a dead rush, every one grabbing what he can get and some none. Each one taking what he can get and taking a seat where he can get it. Often when there is a great rush the ship will strike a heavy sea and men, plates, cups & provisions will be scattered all over deck. but we are now one third the way and there is some hope of it terminating." My greatest hope is that some ship expert can tell more about this vessel, the Prometheus/Prometheus and its voyages, particularly the one mentioned in the diary. Contact John National Archives and Records Administration, Film M237, Reel 415.
Transcribed by Duane Goertson for the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild 16 November, 1998
The Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild Copyrights, Trade Marks, & Registered Trade Marks within this web site are protected under international copyright law. All rights reserved by the respective holders of any ™©® included within this site. ISTG™ NOTICE: These electronic pages may NOT be reproduced in whole or part in any format for presentation, distribution or profit by anyone without the express written consent of the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild. Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild is independently owned. Created & Maintained by the ISTG™Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild
April 3, 1853
From Captain Blethen’s log:
Captain Blethen returned to San Francisco to take command of the SS Sierra Nevada.
Left New York on Steamship Star of the West, Captain Tinklepaugh, for the Pacific Coast via Greytown, having been engaged by Charles Morgan and C.K. Garrison, owners of Steamer Sierra Nevada, as Master.
Joined her at San Juan del Sur, April 30, 1853. Made 57 successful passages to and from San Juan and San Francisco.
My wife and infant daughter, Evelyn Georgina, and nurse left New York April 5, 1853 for Dublin, Ireland on a visit to her sister, making the voyage going and returning in the Steamship Asia, Captain Lott. They arrived in New York last of August, and met me at Nicaragua.
I will here record as an incident of future history facts and circumstances:
Mrs. Blethen and child Georgina were the first individuals to cross the Isthmus in a wagon drawn by the first horse team (two white mustangs that had never before been in harness) ever driven across the Isthmus of Nicaragua. They were also the first white females to cross from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean and made the entire trip down the San Juan in a canoe in June 1852. Mrs. Matsett and child also accompanied us under my charge, but my wife was the first to set foot on shore at Greytown.
I also claim for my wife and Mrs. Geary of Philadelphia, on the authority of Mr. Stephens and Col. Totter, the President and Engineer of the Panama Railroad, the honor of having been the first white Ladies to travel by locomotive and car over so much of the road as had been completed from Aspinwall; this was in February 1851.
SS Sierra Nevada Sailings and Passenger Lists include:
Captain Blethen joined the Sierra Nevada at San Juan del Sur, April 30, 1853. Made 57 successful passages to and from San Juan and San Francisco, including:
March 23, 1853:
Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr., 450 passengers
Nicaragua Steamship Company
Daily Alta California, December 28, 1853
PRESENTATION TO CAPT. BLETHEN.--A service of plate was presented to Capt. J.H. Blethen, commander of the Nicaragua steamer Sierra Nevada:
New York, October 19th, 1853
Captain J. H. Blethen, steamship Sierra Nevada:--
Dear Sir: A number of gentlemen whose good fortune it was to be on board the noble steamship under your command, on her trip from San Francisco to San Juan del Sur, July 1853, before their arrival at New York, resolved to present you with a substantial testimonial of their appreciation of your skill as a commander, and gentlemanlike qualification.
In accordance with which resolution a subscription was raised by the passengers, the result of which will be presented you by Mr. A. Stewart Lum on behalf of the Committee.
Accept, sir, this slight token of our esteem--not for its intrinsic value, but as the voluntary gift of those who can appreciate the many acts of kindness extended to them and others while under your command.
--Jas H. Toole
New York Daily-Times
New York, New York
July 26, 1855
The steamers Sierra Nevada, Captain Blethen, and Golden Gate, Capt. Leroy, left San Francisco on the 16th inst. with 920 passengers -- the latter taking 500 and the former 420.
New York Post Times, August 6, 1855
From the Alta , July 16, 1855
Considerable excitement exists throughout town regarding the appearance of the cholera on board the steamer Sierra Nevada during her passage from San Juan to this port.
The disease was in New Orleans at the latest dates, where nearly 150 per week were dying. No signs of it appeared among the passengers until, at Virgin Bay, a young girl who had been eating fruit imprudently was taken with a severe cramp and died in a few hours; those who were accustomed to the disease pronounced it at once cholera of the most violent type. On the arrival of the passengers at San Juan dl Sur, several others died, and at Consul Priest's American Hotel there were three dead bodies at one time. Twenty dollars were offered and refused to bury them. The natives generally left the town.
A few days out from San Juan, the cholera appeared among the passengers and continued to rage with great fury up to the day of arrival here (Saturday.) The deaths on board amount to 30.
Our informant, one of the passengers, states that in one four hour watch, seven cases terminated fatally. The chief mate of the steamer, Mr. Perry, died on Friday. The doctor did not succeed in saving one case. Most of them were among the steerage passengers, though several died in the upper and lower cabins. Among these was Rev. C. B. West, who was on his way here to take charge of a congregation in one of the interior towns. There are now three cases on board the steamer at the wharf, which the Coroner asserts are likely to prove fatal. Two women died yesterday morning, one named Mary Ann Allen, aged twenty one years, who was to have been married to a gentleman in Nevada, who had written for her to come out and join him. Her body is now at the office of the Coroner.
Ex-Mayor Garrison is taking the most energetic steps in the matter, and has dispatched the best medical aid in the city to attend the sufferers on board the steamer. We hear the most flattering accounts of the conduct of Capt. Blethen during the trying scenes on board The Sierra Nevada. For a number of nights he did not take his clothes off, and, regardless of danger, was in attendance in all parts of the ship to lend assistance and soothe the last moments of the dying.
We furnish herewith a list of the dead, as reported by Purser Foster, who, we learn, did every thing in his power to alleviate the distress around him. Miss Rebecca Hirschman, whose name appears on this sad list, was a lovely girl from Europe, aged sixteen years. The two brothers, who had sent for her, resided at Nevada. One of them, who had not seen her for seven years (Henry Hirschman) was in the city awaiting her arrival. As soon as the steamer was telegraphed, he procured a small boat and proceeded on board. After inquiring of several passengers, he received the dreaded intelligence that she died when the steamer was four day's sail from this port. She is said to have been one of the most lovely of her sex. The gentleman that attended her during her sickness showed her every attention and did all in his power to restore her to health, but to no avail. Her brother obtained her trunks and found a lock of hair, which she clipped for her loved brothers in California.
In one instance, a whole family, husband, wife and child, died in three successive days.
Add to the following the name of Miss Mary Ann Allen, who died yesterday morning, and we have a total of thirty-one. There are now three cases in the Cowley Hospital, on Stockton Street, and four in the U.S. Marin Hospital, at Rincon Point, some of which cannot but prove fatal. The steamer has been hauled away from the wharf, and will be thoroughly renovated and painted.
Passengers who died on board The Sierra Nevada, July 1856.
July 4: Joshua Lord
July 7: C. B. West
July 10: Miss R. Hirschman
July 8: Infant of T.H. Brown
July 10: T. H. Brown
July 11: Mrs. T. H. Brown
July 7: Chas. Berg
July 7: Thos Mormon (spelling?)
July 7: James Rogers
July 7: G-rd Pelinken
July 7: John Collins
July 8: Infant of Mrs. Haley (spelling?)
July 9: Mrs. Sarah Mullins
July 9: Wm. Slatterly
July 10: Charles Bole (spelling?)
July 10: William Scotley
July 10: S. Camps (or Campo)
July 10: Pat Connell
July 11: J. H. Pope
July 11: Jesse Barstow
July 11: Hugh Sealy
July 11: James Fox
July 11: Ang Maher (spelling?)
July 11: Haph (spelling?) Seymour
July 12: James Gallagher
July 13: J. Madden
July 14: Jas. Perry, 1st Officer
July 8: J. Buckley, Seaman
July 8: Major ?, Seaman
J. G. Foster, Purser
April 20, 1860
12M: Left San Francisco by Steamer for the East with my family.
On the breaking point of the Rebellion, I was appointed to the command of the Transport & Dispatch steamer Peerless, ordered to Fortress Monroe and detailed for the Port Royal Expedition composed of 48 vessels, abandoned off Charleston, North Carolina after a disastrous hurricane and sunk.
Was rescued by the Steam Sloop of War Mohegan (Mohican) after having been run into by the steamer Star of the South when in a sinking condition. All hands were saved and participated in the taking of Port Royal – was transferred to the steamer Atlantic for New York and there took command of the SS Daniel Webster, Transport, proceeded to Annapolis – passing Cape Henry saw the Congress frigate blown up by the Confederate Merrimac (a 684 ton iron-hulled gunboat that served in the East Coast Blockading Squadron and foundered in a gale off the Florida coast on 15 February 1865).
Assisted in transporting the Army of the Potomac from Alexandria to the Peninsula to the Battle of Antietam.
Captain Blethen writes of this battle only in passing, yet these were among the bloodiest battles this world has seen. Thousands of foot soldiers were killed in the first few hours of battle. The dead, shown right, were laid end to end awaiting movement and/or burial. At sea, ship Captains and their men faced annihilation from storms and from the Confederates, and danger from European blockade runners bent on transporting goods such as tobacco and cotton from the Southern states to European ports.
Captain Blethen entered Hospital Service. The Daniel Webster was the first Ocean Hospital ship established under the auspices of the Sanitary Commission.
"I transported over 10,000 sick and wounded from the Army of the Potomac – 11 loads to New York, 1 to Boston . . . This accomplished, I took command of Mr. Morgan’s new iron Steamship Crescent at Wilmington, Delaware, when complete. Took her to New York and thence New Orleans with troops, etc."
Resigned and took passage to Key West by the SS Philadelphia, thence to New York in time to take steamer with my family for California, where I was proceeding under engagement to command the Steamer Moses Taylor.
March 30, 1863
Arrived at San Juan del Sur and took command and continue running to San Juan and occasionally to Panama until the final close of the Nicaragua line of passenger travel.
1863: James H. Blethen is noted as sailing in an Opposition Steamer as Captain between Panama and San Francisco with James H. Blethen, Jr., Second Officer
In 1864 and 1865, James H. Blethen commanded the Moses Taylor with James H. Blethen, Jr., as Second Officer.
Daily Alta California, October 21, 1865
The steamship Sierra Nevada, Captain Blethen, left her berth yesterday at 4 p.m. Among her passengers were several well known residents of this city, the principal of whom was Col. E.J.C. Kewen, one of the Pioneers of California, and ranking among her most esteemed and valuable citizens. Col. Kewen has the command of seventy eight, well armed and able bodied men, whose destination is San Juan del Sud, to join Walker in the conquest of Nicaragua . . . Rifles, bowie knives and Colt's revolvers, were the weapons worn by all . . . Considerable quantities of powder and ammunition are said to have been smuggled on board. Messrs. William Miller, John Evans and Mr. Oliver, well known as constables in this community, were among the recruits . . . It is rumored that several pieces of heavy field ordnance found their way in a mysterious manner on board the Sierra Nevada, the truth of which we cannot vouch for. Such implements of war however could probably be shipped to Realejo by the schooner Julius Pringle (of Cocos Island celebrity), which vessel is now bound to the Bay of Fonseca to touch at La Union and Realejo . . .
The arrival of the Cortez, now hourly expected, will possibly bring the news of the battle at Rivas more desperate than any that had previously taken place.
S. S. Moses Taylor
From 1861 through 1869, Captain Blethen brought thousands of passengers to and from San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on the S.S. Moses Taylor.
April 28, 1876, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
Captain J.H. Blethen Elected Chief Assistant Wharfinger.
A regular meeting of the Board of Harbor Commissioners was held yesterday. Bills amounting to $3969 US were ordered paid. Bids were received ranging from $350 to $150 offering to clean the wharves. A communication was received 'rum Captain J. H. Blethen, Chief Wharfinger, stating that he had designated a place for the training ship Jamestown , to wit: five hundred yards northeast of Mission Rock. A resolution was adopted instructing the Secretary to read a communication to Admiral J. Rogers, Professor Davidson and Colonel Mendenhall requesting them to act with the Engineer of this Board in recommending a new line for a sea wall.
The Board then went into Executive session, for the purpose of electing a Chief Assistant Wharfinger. Captain J. H. Blethen, whose term of Chief Wharfinger will expire on the 1st of May, was elected to the position. The Board then adjourned.
October 21, 1869, Daily Alta California
SS Sierra Nevada: In the spring of 1853 the SS Sierra Nevada made her first trip from this port to San Juan in the Transit Line, and was there met by Captain J. H. Blethen, by whom she was commanded for fifty-two successive passages. The first passage on this steamer made by Captain Blethen will long be remembered by him with pride, as upon that occasion he was the recipient of a token of esteem from the passengers, in the shape of a magnificent gold watch, which to this day serves to mark time for him as faithfully as the sun.
S. S. Nevada
1870 Christmas Day
Proceeded to Benicia by order of Wm. H. Webb and took possession of Steamships Nevada and Nebraska under attachment; brought them to San Francisco and during the Winter was engaged in making repairs and fitting them for the Australian and New Zealand Mail Service.
April 8, 1871
Sailed from Mission Street Wharf in command of the Steamship Nevada, the pioneer of Webb’s Australian Line, under the control of the Colonial Governments of Australia and New Zealand for transportation of the mails. This was my 57th birthday and subsequently proved to be the saddest day of my life. It was here, accompanied by our beloved EGB that I pressed her lips, and bade my devoted and adored wife a long last final adieu – only to return to a desolate home, after an absence of nearly two years, February 21st, 1873, having made 22 passages between San Francisco (one trip) , New Zealand, Australia and Honolulu and run a total distance of 107,196 miles. Mrs. Blethen died on September 15, 1871 From Auckland Maritime Museum Vessel Records (Notes taken May 2002):
- Auckland, May 4, 1871: SS Nevada, 2146 tons, Captain J. H. Blethen, arrived from Honolulu with 13 in steerage.
- Auckland, June 23, 1871: SS Nevada, 2466 tons, Captain J. H. Blethen, arrived from Honolulu.
- Honolulu, June 30, 1876: SS Nevada, to various New Zealand ports
- Auckland, August 16, 1871: SS Nevada, 2466 tons, Captain J. H. Blethen, arrived from Honolulu.
Daily Alta California, September 9, 1871
The Bulletin of last evening contains the following: "The steamship City of Melbourne arrived this morning, 37 days from Sydney. At the time she left Auckland, no news had been received of the Nevada, which should have connected with the Moses Taylor at Honolulu. Some anxiety is felt for the vessel."
It is seldom that you can find a more mischievous and erroneous item that the foregoing. To relieve the anxiety of friends of Captain Blethen, officers and crew, as well as the passengers, we find on inquiry at the office of the Webb lines that the City of Melbourne did not call at Auckland and could not have brought any such report; and the Nevada should not have connected with the Moses Taylor, but did connect with the Ajax at Honolulu, and there is no anxiety whatever felt for the ship, as there is no occasion for it.
Auckland, October 12, 1871: SS Nevada, Captain J. H. Blethen, arrived from Honolulu
November 3, 1871
The Argus, Melbourne, Vic., Australia
(From Our Own Correspondent)
SYDNEY, October 28, 1871
At the date of my last letter it had been ascertained that the state of the stern of the United States, New Zealand, and California mail, steamer Nevada justified the suspicion that the collision reported in her log was of a more serious nature than was at first represented. On Tuesday morning the Alice Cameron, barque, from Auckland; brought in the master and crew of the A. H. Badger.
They had been taken from the vessel last mentioned, which had been rendered unseaworthy by reason of a collision at the time specified in the log of the Nevada, and within a degree or so of the latitude and longitude therein stated. On Thursday last an official inquiry into the circumstances of the collision was made by the Steam Navigation Board, at the instance of the Treasurer. The Steam Navigation Board is not a legally constituted tribunal for such a purpose, but the investigation seems to have been made to show the interest of the Government in the matter, and to enable those who desired to afford information to give their evidence under official sanction. The Navigation Bill passed last session makes special provision for inquiries into unfortunate occurrences of the kind, but it is reserved for the signification of Her Majesty's pleasure thereon, and that pleasure has not yet been expressed, or, if expressed, has not yet been communicated. An advertisement appeared in the Herald inviting persons possessing knowledge of the facts to give evidence, and the board-room was numerously attended by nautical and legal men. You will see from the accounts which have appeared in the press that a good deal of evidence was given by the master and crew of the A. H. Badger, and by passengers on board the Nevada. In the prospect of legal proceedings, the captain of the steamship did not place his case before the board.
The two points of greatest public interest relate to the injuries inflicted on the abandoned vessel and the conduct of the officers in charge of the steamer in not stopping to render assistance to those on board the A. H. Badger. The evidence given by the master of the Badger and his crew, as well as the evidence of the master of the Alice Cameron, shows that after the collision the barque was unseaworthy, and that everything possible was done to save her before abandoning her. In regard to the latter point there are only two witnesses whose evidence bears very directly upon the matter. One is Mr. William Watson, a passenger, who, being a seaman, said he watched particularly what was going on aboard the ship. In his evidence, after observing, "I can say that a better or more carefully lighted ship than the Nevada never floated," he says that Captain Blethen did not know until he told him on the morning following the collision that his ship had received any injury, and that when he was told of it he "turned as white as a sheet." Some of the passengers were awakened by the collision; but Mr. Watson slept through it all, and he placed before the board several facts to show that from the construction, weight, and velocity of the steamer as compared with the barque, it was not likely that any severe shock would be experienced by the steamer under the circumstances. It seems that the stem of the Nevada received some injury at Auckland from a chain cable being hauled across it.
Another witness, James Smith, a blacksmith, working his passage from Honolulu, said he saw the steamer pass over a portion of the barque, and that he heard the crash of the collision, and saw splinters flying. He says the wheel of the steamer must have struck the barque about the mizzen rigging, and have gone over the counter. He says further that the chief engineer came upon deck, and that upon the fact of the collision being reported to him, although he gave an order to "stand by," he did not "stop" the steamer, but remarked, "they ought to have kept out of our way." There is not much concord in the evidence as to some of the minor facts, which will be elucidated when the matter comes before a legal tribunal; and pending that investigation perhaps it is not desirable to enter more fully into the subject One seaman describing the hole made in the side of the ship, said that in the morning, when engaged bringing up bags of maize, "he saw the sun shining through it." The arrival of the captain and crew of the A. H. Badger in Sydney so soon after the collision, and when the state of the Nevada's stem had become better known, caused considerable sensation in Sydney. An extract from the log was posted in the Exchange at 9 in the morning, and formed the principal topic of conversation during the day.
Speaking about the Sydney Exchange, it is worthy of remark that a great change has been effected in this institution. A few months ago it was the sleepiest of sleepy hollows. One might have expected to stumble upon a Rip Van Winkle in every corner. The very atmosphere of the place was soporific, but there has been a complete transformation. The exchange has become one of the most bustling places in town. Its arrangements and appointments are up to the requirements of the times, and the crowd of business men to be seen every day "on Change," shows that its advantages are largely appreciated. The list of subscribers is gradually lengthening, and the wonder is, not that the benefits conferred should be shared by so many, but that the infusion of a new and active spirit should not long ago have made the Sydney Exchange what it is at the present time-an establishment highly valued by, and of great service to, commercial men.
December 13, 1871
Source: State Records Authority of New South Wales: Shipping Master's Office; Passengers Arriving 1855 - 1922; NGS 13278, [X125-126], reel 425.
Mariners and ships in Australian Waters
13th December, 1871
NEVADA of New York, J. H. BLETHEN, MASTER
Burthen 1267 Tons from the Port of AUCKLAND to SYDNEY, New South Wales, 13th December 1871
Crew on the SS Nevada, December 1871
|Einpicks||Charles T.||Water Tender||26||Germany|
|Mack||H. S.||1st Asst. Engineer||32||U.S.|
|Snook||J. G.||2nd Asst. Engineer||32||U.S.|
|Faynton||W.||3rd Asst. Engineer||27||England|
|Pratt||Mrs.||Passenger||Cabin & Troupe of 6|
(Document notes "Crawfrod" which may be an error)
|Galvin||J.||Passenger for Melbourne|
|Wilson||J.||Passenger for Melbourne|
|Robinson||Passenger for Melbourne|
|Otago||Passenger for Melbourne|
|Gordon||Passenger for Melbourne|
|Sitterley||Passenger for Melbourne|
|Boyce||W. T.||Passenger for Melbourne Lic 2.2.72|
|Ferdinand||A.||Passenger for Melbourne|
|Kroackler||Passenger for Melbourne|
|Hanley||S.||Passenger for Melbourne||3rd Class|
|Gill||M.||Passenger for Melbourne||3rd Class|
|Grey||Passenger for Melbourne||3rd Class|
|Hurst||Passenger for Melbourne||3rd Class|
|Wilhoum||Passenger for Melbourne||3rd Class|
|Lurvus||Passenger for Melbourne||3rd Class|
|O'Neil||Passenger for Melbourne||3rd Class|
|Meyborn||Passenger for Melbourne||3rd Class|
|Edwards||Robert||Passenger Lic 23/12/71|
|Rogers||Williams||Passenger Lic 15/1/72|
|Jenkins||Passenger for Melbourne||3rd Class|
|Leahy||Passenger for Melbourne||3rd Class|
|Brown||Passenger for Melbourne||3rd Class|
|Levy||Passenger for Sydney||3rd Class|
|Nott||Passenger for Sydney||3rd Class|
|Berry||Passenger for Sydney||3rd Class|
|Renny (?)||Passenger for Sydney||3rd Class|
|Bell||Passenger for Sydney||3rd Class|
|Richaarson||Passenger for Sydney||3rd Class|
June 18, 1872
Daily Alta California, San Francisco
Visit of the Assembly to the Nevada.
The "Hawaiian Gazette" (clipping above) of June 1st says: On Saturday last at 2 P.M. by special Invitation through the agents of the Webb line, Messrs. H. Hackfield & Co., the members of the Legislative Assembly in a body visited the steamship "Nevada," lying at the Esplanade, and were entertained by Captain Blethen and Mr. Glade, on behalf of the agents of the line. The magnificent ship was decorated with flags and streamers in honor of the guests, and everything about the noble vessel was in the finest order, as she is now ready for the voyage to New Zealand on the arrival of the connecting steamer from San Francisco, due during the present week.
Some time was spent by the Honorable members in inspecting the different parts of the ship, which were shown and explained by the gentlemanly officers. The country members particularly, many of whom had never been on board a larger steamer than the "Kilauea," were astonished and delighted at the immense proportions of the "Nevada," her spacious and palatial saloons, and the perfect arrangements for the comfort and convenience of passengers. The powerful engine and the immense walking-beam ware objects of wondering admiration. In the capacious main saloon the company sat down to a sumptuous collation, the table being loaded with the choicest viands in bewildering abundance, to which ample justice was done by the guests. Captain Blethen proposed the health of the King, which was drunk with the honors and briefly responded to by His Excellency, the President of the Assembly, who gave the health of Captain Blethen and the owners of the Webb line of steamers. The King's band was in attendance and discoursed appropriate music during the afternoon. The occasion was a very agreeable one and the visitors expressed themselves highly pleased with their entertainment.
June 22, 1872
Australia and New Zealand Gazette, London, United Kingdom
On April 17, in accordance with previous invitation, a large number of the prominent citizens of Auckland paid a visit to the splendid sidewheel steamer Nevada, to partake of luncheon with her commander, Captain J . Blethen. The favourite little steamer Devonport was employed to convey the guests aboard. As the steamer rounded-to under the Nevada's side-wheel, a welcome was thundered forth from the brazen throat of one of the ship's guns, and Captain Blethen cordially received his guests as they swarmed through the gangway.
The following gentlemen were among those who accepted invitations : — His Honour Judge Beckham, Messrs. E. Isaacs, H. Isaacs, E. Bucholz (German Consul), II. P. Barber, G. White (United States Consul), W. A. Graham, J . E . Coney, J . L. Campbell, W. C. Wilson, L. 1). Nathan, L. A. Nathan, J . Farmer, W. T. Buckland, A. Buckland, T. Broham, D. B. Cruickshank (Chilean. Consul), C. Williamson, James William, his Worship the Mayor, P. A. Philips, Esq., John Williamson, Captain M. Bailee, Captain Roberts, Captain Mellen, Captain Freeman, Captain Geerkens, Captain Dyson, Captain Whithead.
Daily Southern Cross, 9 Hereturikoka, 1872 (page 5)
ACTION AGAINST CAPTAIN BLETHEN of the NEVADA
In the Vice-Admiralty Court of Sydney, on August 2, before Sir Alfred Stephen, C.J., Judge Commissary, and Mr. Justice Cheeke, Deputy Judge, the action re steamship Nevada, James Henry Blethen, master, was called on. This was a suit by Thomas Brooks, John Goodsir, and Joseph Leddra, owners of the barque A. H. Badger (whereof the said J. L. Leddra was master), against the American mail steamer Nevada, and all persons interested in the said steamer. Mr. Gordon and Mr. Darley, instructed by Messrs Norton and Barker, appeared for the promoters (the plaintiffs), and Sir William Manning, Q. C., and Mr. Henry Stephen for the respondent (the defendant master of the Nevada). The suit was brought to recover compensation for the loss of the said barque at sea, occasioned, as was averred, by injuries inflicted upon her by collision with the said steamship through negligence on the part of those in charge of such steamship. The principal questions of fact in contest were--whether the collision had been occasioned by such negligence or by a want of proper care and caution by those on board the barque, or whether it was an inevitable accident? --whether the barque could or could not have been saved after the collision (on October 17, 1872)? --and what was the extent of the claimant's actual loss? There was a further question which was one of mixed law and fact--namely, whether the Nevada must be presumed to have been in the wrong because of her not having remained by the barque after the collision? The English statute relative to collisions at sea contained a provision in favour of such a presumption, and the United States, by convention, accepted this statutory liability of American ships.
It was contended for the defence that, as an effect of this statute, the onus probandi, as to "knowledge," by those on board the Nevada, of an injury having been inflicted on the A. H. Badger, rendering it necessary to remain near her, was cast upon the promovents. On the other hand it was maintained that, there having been enough to show those on board the Nevada at all events, that the steamer had come in contact with some vessel, she (the steamer) ought to have been stopped until it was seen whether any--and if any what--damage had been done. The great contest, even on this branch of the case, however, was as to the question of fact--whether those on board the Nevada had, or had not, sufficient knowledge that there had been an actual collision with the barque. The evidence and portion of the speeches were taken in March last, and the addresses were not resumed and concluded. Their Honors reserved judgment.
From Australian Newspapers:
Saturday, September 21, 1872: The Argus, Melbourne: The Nevada, Captain Blethen, 31st October from Auckland:
The Otago Witness, October 26, 1872 reported the following passengers on the Nevada arriving at Port Chalmers on October 22, 1872
Maitland, Mrs.; Maitland Children (2)
Bradshaw, Mrs.; Bradshaw servant
Buchanan, Hon. Dr.; Mrs. Buchanan; Miss Buchanan
Fraser, Hon Captain, M.L.C.
Macandrew, Jr. M.H.R.
Calder, Mr. W.H., M.H.R.
Simpson, Mr. J.
Richards, Mr. and Mrs. Richards
McDonald, Mr. J.
Korako, Hoani Wetere
UNITED STATES, NEW ZEALAND, and AUSTRALIA MAIL STEAMSHIP LINE--STEAM to SAN FRANCISCO, via AUCKLAND and HONOLULU, connecting with NEW YORK and LIVERPOOL.
The Splendid steamship
NE V A D A,
J. BLETHEN , Commander, Will sail on
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 31
With passengers and cargo.
M'MECKAN, BLACKWOOD, and Co., 2 King Street.
From Auckland Maritime Museum Vessel Records (Notes taken May 2002):
- Auckland, November 2, 1876: Mail steamship Nevada, 2466 tons, Captain J.H. Blethen, arrived from Sydney
- Auckland, December 8, 1872: Mail steamship Nevada, 2460 tons, Captain J.H. Blethen, arrived Auckland from Honolulu.
- Auckland, February 7, 1872: Mail steamship Nevada, 2466 tons, Captain J.H. Blethen, arrived from Honolulu.
- Auckland, April 6, 1872: Mail steamship Nevada, Captain J.H. Blethen, arrived from Honolulu with 9 in steerage.
- Auckland, June 21, 1872: Mail steamship Nevada, 2466 tons, Captain J.H. Blethen, arrived from Honolulu with 3 in steerage.
- Auckland, August 28, 1872: Mail steamship Nevada, 2466 tons, Captain J.H. Blethen, arrived from Honolulu.
- Auckland, October 17, 1872: Mail steamship Nevada, 2466 tons, Captain J.H. Blethen, arrived from Honolulu with 6 in steerage. On October 15, 1871, in waters off New Zealand, the Barque A.H. Badger, 337 tons, built at Chenyfield Maine, U.S.A., collided with SS Nevada, Master Captain Blethen. The Badger sank under command of J.L. Leddra. It was written that the Nevada did not stop. No lives were lost in the accident.
- Auckland, December 28, 1872: Mail steamship Nevada, 2413 tons, Captain J.H. Blethen, arrived from Honolulu with 10 in steerage.
Saturday, September 21, 1872
The Argus, Melbourne, Vic. Australia
UNITED STATES, NEW ZEALAND, and AUSTRALIA
MAIL STEAMSHIP LINE.
For AMERICA and EUROPE, via NEW ZEALAND,
Will be the
J. BLETHEN, Commander.
Leaving Auckland 31st OCTOBER
Particulars in future advertisement.
McMECKAN, BLACKWOOD and Co. 1 King Street
Editor's Note: During one of Captain Blethen's sailings between the Sandwich Islands and Tahiti, passenger Isabella L. Bird wrote in great detail about the SS Nevada, and said of Captain Blethen, who has just taken the old steamer and its passengers through a hurricane:
At nine, Captain Blethen appeared, smoking a cigar with nonchalance, and told us that the hurricane had nearly boxed the compass, and had been the most severe he had known for seventeen years. This grand old man, nearly the oldest captain in the Pacific, won our respect and confidence from the first, and his quiet and masterly handling of this dilapidated old ship is beyond all praise.
(Editor's Note: The above writings are from 1875, which must have been after her journey as the Captain had left this route earlier.)
Newspaper stories heralded his seamanship and related stories of festive crowds, merchants and officials and public receptions greeting the Captain at every port. While at sea taking mail to New Zealand, his wife Henrietta died. A newspaper notice reported that she was "most highly esteemed for her womanly virtues by friends of many years standing. Her death will be a serious loss."
March 5, 1873
Sailed for Honolulu in SS Moses Taylor, arrived back March 30th, just 23 years from the date of my second marriage.
THIS CLOSED MY CAREER OF 44 YEARS SEA SERVICE
Daily Alta California, November 14, 1873
Election of Captain J.H. Blethen as Chief Wharfinger
Daily Alta California, March 30, 1875
Captain Blethen, Chief Wharfinger, made his first appearance yesterday after his late injuries, and was attending to business as usual during the day.
Oakland Tribune, Monday Evening, May 3, 1897
By Associated Press to The Tribune
SAN FRANCISCO, May 3—Captain J. H. Blethen, one of the oldest and best know mariners on the Pacific Coast, died here today. For thirty years, he sailed from this port to Panama, and afterwards to Australia.
Oakland Tribune, May 3, 1897
Oakland, California, U.S.A.
CAPT. BLETHEN IS DEAD
By Associated Press to the Tribune.
SAN FRANCISCO, May 3--Captain J. H. Blethen, one of the oldest and best know mariners on the Pacific Coast, died here today. For thirty years, he sailed from this port to Panama, and afterwards to Australia. He was subsequently Chief Wharfinger
The Call, Tuesday, May 4, 1897
CROSSED THE LAST BAR
Death of Captain J. H. Blethen, Formerly Chief Wharfinger
He Was a Pioneer and Well Known in Shipping Circles -- First Skipper of the Webb Line.
Captain J. H. Blethen, a well-known pioneer and at one time chief wharfinger, died at the residence of his son-in-law (George Dwyer), 518 Divisadero Street, last Sunday night. He was one of the best known men in the State, and both he and his sons have been connected with the shipping of California from the days of '49. His son, J. H. Blethen, Jr., was at one time "captain of the watch" at Meiggs wharf, and since that time he held various positions of trust along the front.
Captain Blethen was 83 years of age and was born in Brunswick, Maine. When a youth he came to San Francisco, and in 1850, he was running as master of one of the Central American packets. Later he joined the Pacific Mail Company and was one of its most trusted employees.
Captain Blethen was the first skipper that ever piloted one of the old Webb line from San Francisco to Australia. This was years ago and the big side-wheeler was a revelation to the people of Auckland and Sydney. The company did not make expenses, however, and the vessels were withdrawn. Captain Blethen retired from the sea and a few years later was appointed chief wharfinger of the port. When his term was up he retired from active life and eschewed politics.
He was the father of J.H. Blethen, Jr., E.O. (Edwin O.) and Constance Blethen and Mrs. J. R. Dwyer (Evelyn Georgina).