Home Port ° 2017 ~ 2018 Ongoing Updates

The Sea Captains

Pacific Ocean Sea Routes.

The Blethens: Captain James H. Blethen

Blethens in San Francisco, California
° C. P. Blethen ° J. B. Blethen ° J. C. Blethen ° James E. Blethen ° James H. Blethen ° James H. Blethen, Jr. 
° Captain Blethen and the Shanghai Yacht Club (1871)

Born 1814, New York, New York; Died 1897, San Francisco, California

The Maritime Heritage Project was started in 1997 as an historical research paper by Lauren Hewett, then a student at White Hill Middle School in San Anselmo, California. The subject, James H. Blethen, her great-great-great Grandfather, was a sea captain based in San Francisco during the mid-1800s. His life had not been recorded; her idea brought him to life, along with thousands of other captains, ships, merchants, merchandise and world migrations.

Beginning in 1852 Captain James H. Blethen sailed into San Francisco with thousands of immigrants seeking new lives and gold in Northern California. During the 1870s, Captain Blethen also opened the Pacific Mail Line routes sailing out of Benicia, California to Hawaii/Australia/New Zealand. When the Captain retired from life at sea, he was elected Chief Wharfinger in San Francisco. ~ Lauren Hewett Research Paper

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.

Captain James H. Blethen, Master Mariner, San Francisco, California. 1800s.

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.

Year Command Vessel Voyage
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 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

June 22, 1843, Washington Globe, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.


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 unpracticed 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.

(Wilmer & Smith's European Times.)

Sea Captains.Sea Captains.

Liverpool Docks

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893) painted landscapes that typified seasons or a type of weather; city and suburban street scenes and moonlit views of the docks in London, Leeds, Liverpool, and Glasgow also figured largely in his art. His careful painting and skill in lighting effects meant that he captured both the appearance and the mood of a scene in minute detail. His "paintings of dampened gas-lit streets and misty waterfronts conveyed an eerie warmth as well as alienation in the urban scene."

SS Liverpool

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.

Packet Ship Jamestown
Two voyages between Liverpool and New York
Steamship North America
New York to San Francisco, then seven voyages between San Francisco and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua; wrecked February 27, 1852
Steamship Prometheus
San Juan del Norte to New York
Steamship Sierra Nevada
57 passages between San Francisco and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Transport & Dispatch steamship Peerless
Captain of hospital ship during Civil War
Steamship Daniel Webster
Assisted in transporting the Army of the Potomac from Alexandria to the Battle of Antietam.
Steamship Moses Taylor
Passages between San Francisco and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
1865- 1869
Steamship Sierra Nevada
52 passages San Francisco to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Steamships Nevada and Nebraska
Benicia to San Francisco
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.

Paddle wheel mechanism of side-wheel steamerSea Captains.

SS North America

Sea Captains.Paddle Wheel Steamer Mechanism.

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.

June 16, 1851, Patriot, London, United Kingdom


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.

September 19, 1851, Alta California, San Francisco, California

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.


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.

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.

March 16, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The Loss of the North America

P.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.

Geo. M. Totten, Captain

Saturday Morning, March 27, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

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 . . .

"D. N."

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.

Sea Captains.Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Cornelius Vanderbilt
Shipping Tycoon c. 1877

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, untraveled 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 grumbly 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.

Respectfully yours,
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, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

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 of the PacificSea Captains., 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."

Edward Laxton writes in The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to AmericaShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports., 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.

March 20, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

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 nothing to do; but the blame the writer attaches to Capt. Blethen requires notice from me, because 1 do not believe he was derelict or negligent of duty. The wrecking of so true 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 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 the loss may seem.

Your obt serv't,
R. J. Vandewater, Agent, &c.
March 14, 1852


Sea Captains.Shipping.
The Port of New York
Currier & Ives

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.

On the morning of the 26th, we embarked again in a ship's 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:

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.

Captain Blethen returned to San Francisco to take command of the SS Sierra Nevada.

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
May 7, 1853: Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr., 500 passengers (estimate)
May 16, 1853: To Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr.
June 16, 1853: Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr., 400 passengers
July 1, 1853: James H. Blethen, Sr., Cleared SF on July 1, 1853 for San Juan del Sur, 342 passengers
July 31, 1853: Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr., 400 passengers
September 15, 1853: Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr.
November 17, 1853: Nicaragua/C. H. Baldwin, Commander
February 18, 1854: Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr., 927 passengers
April 3, 1854, Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr.
May 20, 1854, Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr.
July 2, 1854, Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr.
August 14, 1854, Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr.
October 16, 1854, Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr.
November 21, 1854, Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr.
January 7, 1855: Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr.
February 22, 1855: Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr.
April 9, 1855: Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr., 500 passengers
May 26, 1855: Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr. , 664 passengers (84 children)
July, 1855, Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr., Cholera!
October 21, 1855: To Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr. With well-armed military.
January 4, 1856: Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr., 315 passengers
March 29, 1857: Nicaragua/James H. Blethen, Sr., 600 passengers

Nicaragua Steamship Company

December 28, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

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 gentleman like 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.

--G.H. Devoe
--E. Conklin
--Jas H. Toole

Daily Alta California Sierra Nevada Ad 1854.

July 26, 1855, New York Daily-Times, New York, New York, U.S.A.

The News.

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.

August 6, 1855, New York Post Times, New York, New York, U.S.A.

From the Alta, July 16, 1855, San Francisco, California

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 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

December 3, 1855

Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Captain Blethen and the Sierra Nevada.

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.

Fortress Monroe and Old Point Comfort, Virginia. 1861.Fortress Monroe and Old Point Comfort, Virginia. 1861.

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 Merrimack (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).

Sea Captains.Sea Captains.
The First Encounter of Ironclads Monitor and Merrimack

Assisted in transporting the Army of the Potomac from Alexandria to the Peninsula to the Battle of Antietam.

Maritime.Sea Captains.
Battle of Antietam, also known as the
Battle of Sharpsburg
September 17, 1862

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, a mail steamer, was the first Ocean Hospital ship established under the auspices of the U. S. Sanitary Commission, a volunteer group of civilian medical professionals and other well-meaning citizens who filled critical gaps in the Army's medical system. By mid-May, the Commissions's Hospital Transport Service had seven ships working out of White House, Virginia on the York River and Harrison's Landing on the James River. Commission workers provided wounded soldiers with medical care, and several comfort items to allow the soldiers to keep their minds off the war. All of the supplies came from private donors and not the Government. Many patients remarked that they thought they were home again. Shortly after the campaign ended, Frederick Law Olmsted published a work entitled Hospital Transports: A Memoir of the Embarkation of the Sick and Wounded from the Peninsula of Virginia in the Summer of 1862.

"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."

Sea Captains.U.S. navy Hospital Boat, Civil War.

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.

Ad for Steamship Travel.

October 21, 1865, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

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 8, 1864, California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences, San Francisco

The Opposition Line of Steamers.

Several of the yeomanry of the old States, who have come here to purchase farms and become citizens of our golden land, have called at our "Reading Room," to report to us the condition of things on the "other side," crops, currency, etc. These new comers were passengers in the "People's' Line," and from them we learn that they were highly satisfied with the conveniences, food, treatment, etc. Two of our informers tell us that they have been here in former years, and they know the condition of "Ocean Steamers." They aver, also, that the "People's Line" has as many comforts and accommodations as any line of steamers that ever crossed the two oceans for the Pacific slope. Passengers have called on us, and written to us, who were on the America, who speak of Capt. Morton and his officers, as all that could be desired from passengers in their efforts to make the voyage comfortable and pleasant. Passengers, too, on the Moses Taylor, on her last trip, Feb. 9th, speak in high terms of Capt. Blethen and his officers, and all join in commending these steamers as great aids in advancing the people's interests. These new comers, too, say that were it not for the "People's Line," the People of the other States could not come here in such numbers, for the price of passage always advances in price when the "Opposition Line" is not up, and thus retards immigration. Passengers in particular, that have recently arrived, are agents, looking for homesteads for many more immigrants that wait their reports back borne, and all these new comers will take passage in the "People's Line," they having been written to to that effect by those who come on in this line. From these facts it is evident that amid all the excitement, pro and con, about ocean steamers, the "People's Line" is gaining favor every trip, and the great mass of the people are determined to patronize them.

The "Moses Taylor," since her last arrival, has been greatly improved by extensive repairs, newly painted, newly furnished, carpeted, etc., with many other conveniences and comforts for the passengers, so as to make this steamer one of the most commodious and elegant on the coast. The ability, skill,and gentlemanly courtesy of Blethen then is unanimously admitted, and with every additional comfort of an abundant supply of the best of provisions, the "Moses Taylor," thus newly arranged, is ready for a speedy and pleasant trip on the 23d inst. And to the I. K. Roberts, Esq., the agent, who has won, by his energy and courtesy, the people's good will, our State is indebted for it continued accession of new comers, and a low price of passage. Most certainly, for the people's sake, and the development of our State, we wish success to the People's Line.

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, San Francisco

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 (north west of San Francisco in the Carquinez Straits) 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.)

May 6, 1871, Daily Southern Cross, Auckland, New Zealand


The luncheon given to the captain and officers of the steamer "Nevada" took place yesterday afternoon at 1 o'clock, in the New Zealand Insurance Company's Hall. About 150 of our leading citizens were present, and a number of ladies witnessed the proceedings from the spacious gallery above. The luncheon was provided by Mr. Hale, and was as creditable a spread as we have seen in Auckland. The music was furnished by the Volunteer Artillery Band, and was of a very choice description. Shortly after one o'clock, his Excellency the Governor arrived, and took his seat at the head of the table. The vice-chair was occupied by Thomas Henderson, Esq., M.H.A., and on the right of his Excellency was Captain Blethen, of the "Nevada," and on the left the Right Rev. Dr. Croke, Roman Catholic Bishop. Mr. Adamson, the American Consul for Victoria, who was a passenger by the "Nevada" was present. After luncheon, his Excellency rose, and proposed the toast of "The Queen." A true friend of the United States -- John Bright -- once publicly declared that the Queen was the best woman of the Anglo-Saxon race, and it was in the character of a true wife and a true mother as well as a Queen that she was revered by all people who spoke the English tongue on both sides of the Atlantic, and on both sides of the Pacific. (Cheers.)

Drunk with enthusiasm. -- Band: "God Save the Queen."

His Excellency then rose to propose the health of the President of the United States. He said: "General Grant is the chosen of the United people of America, and in that capacity as well as as a soldier he is justly entitled to the respect of all foreign nations. It was said of the first President of the United States -- George Washington -- that he was first in war, first in peace, and first in the heart of his countrymen. General Grant has already proved himself to be first in war, and I have no doubt that he will endeavour to emulate in all respects his illustrious predecessor. (Cheers.)

Drunk with cheers. -- Band: "The Star-spangled Banner."

Mr. T. Henderson then gave "His Excellency the Governor." The presence of his Excellency was an evidence of the interest which he took in the prosperity of the colony. He proposed prosperity to his Excellency and all his family. (Cheers.)

Drunk with three cheers, and one cheer more. -- Band: "God Save the Queen."

His Excellency, in responding, said "I was just now saying to Captain Blethen, of the "Nevada," that I recollect a great English lawyer comparing the chairman at a public dinner to a bagged fox, for as soon as he recovers breath he is let loose again for the diversion of the company. (Laughter.) I do not know whether you can all hear me at the further end of the table, but I certainly could not hear the remarks of the gentleman who proposed by health, eloquent as they doubtless were. However, I assure you, gentlemen, I feel so invigorated by the excellent luncheon you have given us, and the enthusiastic manner in which you have just drunk my health, that I am ready to perform any amount of public duty -- (laughter) -- especially so pleasant a duty as thanking my "friends, countrymen, and lovers," the people of Auckland, for the never-failing courtesy and respect which they have shown to me and my family during the two years and a half that Auckland has been our happy home. (Cheers.) My recent tour through the Southern provinces has been truly described as one long ovation, but in no part of New Zealand have Lady Bowen and myself received more general kindness than here in Auckland. (Cheers.) I shall always look back with proud and grateful remembrance to the princely reception which the people of Auckland gave to us on our first arrival; and I rejoice to think that, in your opinion, we have done nothing since that time to forfeit your esteem and regard, on which we set so high a value. (Cheers.) I will now proceed to propose the toast of the day. It is "The American Mercantile Marine," coupled with the name of the captain of the "Nevada." (Cheers.) I assure you, gentlemen, I was proud and happy to accept the invitation of the committee to be present today, and to contribute my share to the honors you are paying to your distinguished guests, the officers of the "Nevada," I shall endeavour to show my sense of the compliment you have paid me in placing me in the chair by being as brief in my remarks as possible. I know that the time which your guests have to remain in Auckland is limited, and I have no doubt that, during the short stay they will make, they will be anxious to extend their acquaintance with the people of Auckland. In fact, from the admiring glances which I saw my friend the captain casting up to the gallery just now, I have no doubt whatever that the officers of the "Nevada" will be glad to extend their acquaintance with the ladies of Auckland . . .

"I trust that we shall realize in the days of Queen Victoria for the new Thames in this neighbourhood the glories foretold by the poet in the days of Queen Anne for the old Thames:

The time shall come when free as seas or wind
Unbounded Thames shall flow for all mankind:
Whole Navies enter with each swelling tide,
And seas but join the Empires they divide;
Earth's utmost bounds our glories shall behold;
And the new world launch forth to meet the old.

" . . . As I said just now, we are already 80 millions of Anglo-Saxons, bound together by common blood, by a common language, by a common literature, by glorious memories of the past, and by still more glorious hopes of the future. (Cheers.) . . .

"Now, gentlemen, I will give you the toast of the day, -- "The Mercantile Marine of America, coupled with the name of the captain of the "Nevada."

"Drunk with enthusiasm. -- Band: "Hail, Columbia."

"Captain Blethen, in responding, said that, like all the members of the fraternity to which he belonged, he had not been educated to public speaking, and he begged, therefore, to be excused from inflicting upon them a speech which could only be irksome to them, and painful to himself. He thanked them, on behalf of himself and of the American mercantile marine, for the manner in which they had responded to the toast, and he trusted the service which had just commenced would be more beneficial to the two countries than its most sanguine advocates ever anticipated. (Cheers.) He proposed "The New Postal Service."

Drunk with enthusiasm. -- Band: "Yankee Doodle."

". . . Mr. M. Webb, (son of Mr. Webb, the owner of the "Nevada") proposed the health of the ladies, which was responded to by Mr. Dargaville in a neat speech, in the course of which he alluded to the approaching departure from Auckland for a time of Lady Bowen, which, he said, would be a great loss to society.

"This being the last toast on the programme, the assembly broke up."

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.

July 1, 1871, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.


Our files from New Zealand have copious notices of the steamship Nevada, all highly eulogistic of the ship and her officers. The following we take from the Auckland News:

A Sono of Waitemata.

SACHEM Blethen, skilful sailor,
Paddled o'er the broad Pacific
To the Islands of the Maoir,
To the land of gum and fern-tree,
To the village they call Auckland,
In his Big Canoe, Nevada.
Many Maori chieftains met he
On the beach to do him greeting,
When from his canoe he landed;
And they bade him to a wigwam,
Where for him they had some kaikai,
And many nobblers waiting for him;
Thus the Maoris bade him welcome.
Then spake Blethen, skilful sailor,
He who was to them a stranger,
If you ask me, I will tell you
What I bring from California,
Bring from far beyond the mountains.
From the shores of the Atlantic,
From the land of beans and bacon;
Bring from the Hawaiian islands,
From the land of the Kanakas,
All in my canoe to Auckland.
Brooms and nutmegs have I for you,
High-heeled boots and apple-pearers,
Sugar sweeter than the honeyed
Words we always use in speaking
To the friends we wish to trade with.
Grecian bends in plenty have I,
For your squaws to wear upon them."
Thus said lie, the skilful Sailor.
Then spake out the Maori chieftains,
"We have listened to your message,
We have heard your words of wisdom,
We will think of what you tell us,
It is well for us, O brother,
That, you come so far to see us.
We have promised we will give you
Gold from out our little Thames creek,
If across the broad Pacific
You will paddle the Nevada
Often to and from our village.
Very fast we wish her paddled,
Else no gold from out our Thames creek,
We will give you for your trouble.
You must bring to us the tidings
Sent by our old tribe in England
To their friends who live in Auckland.
Caution you must use, sweet stranger,
When your big canoe you paddle,
And the waves are high and furious,
That she sink not nor blow over."
Then the mighty Maori chieftains
Smoked the calumet, the Peace Pipe,
Smoked cigars from out the South-land,
Where the cabbage Bad tobacco
Grows in all its wild profusion;
And they puffed the blue smoke, saying,
"Enter now our largest wigwam,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Here for thee is savoury kaikai,
Waipiro to make thine heart glad,
Rumginbrandy Alechampagnesir
Waitemata bids thee welcome!"

C. J. C. M.

September 9, 1871, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Steamship Nevada

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

September 17, 1871, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Death of Mrs. Captain J. H. Blethen

With regret we announce the death, suddenly, on the morning of the 15th instant, of Mrs. Henrietta E. Blethen, wife of Captain J. H. Blethen, commanding the steamer Nevada, sailing between Honolulu and New Zealand. The deceased was a most devoted mother and wife, and her death brings sadness to the hearts of loving children, and an affectionate husband, who is now absent.

Mrs. Blethen has long been a resident of this city, and most highly esteemed for her womanly virtues by friends of many years standing. Her death will be a serious loss.

The funeral will take place this (Sunday) afternoon, at two o'clock, from Trinity Church, corner of Post and Powell streets. The friends of tho deceased and of Captain Blethen are invited to attend the funeral.

November 3, 1871, The Argus, Melbourne, Vic., Australia

(From Our Own Correspondent)

SYDNEY, October 28, 1871

Maritime.New South Wales.
Sydney, New South Wales

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
Website: http://mariners.records.nsw.gov.au/index.htm

13th December, 1871


Burthen 1267 Tons from the Port of AUCKLAND to SYDNEY, New South Wales, 13th December 1871

Crew on the SS Nevada, December 1871

Blethen J. H. Captain   U.S.
Allan H. S. Purser 38 U.S.
Davies David Mate 41 Wales
Rennell N. J. 2nd Mate 35 U.S.
Beer Antonia A. Waiter 31 Spain
Austin Issav Fireman 33 New Zealand
Bruce Charles Fireman 30 England
Branch Joseph Sailor 32 U.S.
Bryan John Cook 34 England
Booth John Sailor 42 England
Bushridge James Waiter 44 England
Clark O. N. Stewart 40 U.S.
Carlisle William Porter 30 U.S.
Cummings John Sailor 36 U.S.
Davies John N. Surgeon 38 England
Douglas David Coal Passer 30 England
Dunn Thomas Coal Passer 26 England
Edwards Charles Mess Room 25 U.S.
Ferguson Franck Coal Passer 29 U.S.
French Robert Waiter 30 U.S.
Fielding Mike Fireman 34 U.S.
Flanigan William Fireman 28 U.S.
Falk B. Coal Passer 26 U.S.
Galen John Coal Passer 27 England
Herbert George Waiter 27 England
Hoyle William Water Tender 27 England
Hitchcock Benjamin Sailor 31 England
Hutton John Chief Engineer 42 Scotland
Einpicks Charles T. Water Tender 26 Germany
Halpin A. J. Coal Passer 28 England
Hutton Henry Coal Passer 32 England
Halpin Thomas Coal Passer 34 England
Heron James Coal Passer 31 England
Irvine William 2nd Stewart 30 U.S.
Jamieson Andrew Fireman 29 U.S.
Jackson William Boiler 32 U.S.
Lavery James Clerk 24 U.S.
Laborvoisier Charles Coal Passer 34 England
McNichols Stephen 3rd Stewart 40 U.S.
Munroe Prudence J. Stewardess 35 U.S.
McClosky Thomas U.S.    
McKenzie Daniel Sailor 29 U.S.
McNamara Mike Fireman 38 New Zealand
McCardell Mike Fireman 29 New Zealand
Manot Louis 2nd Cook 30 Germany
Mack H. S. 1st Asst. Engineer 32 U.S.
Mils Phillip Sailor 31 U.S.
Nagel John Mess Boy 28 U.S.
Navey John Sailor 29 U.S.
Owen John Sailor 25 U.S.
Pritchard W. 1st Porter 22 England
Power Martin Fireman 36 England
Patterson John Fireman 30 England
Rogers Alex Coal Passer 28 England
Stackpole Martin Coal Passer 37 England
Smith W. Carpenter 32 Germany
Swanson John Sailor 37 U.S.
Short Edward Sailor 29 U.S.
Snook J. G. 2nd Asst. Engineer 32 U.S.
Smith K. W. Waiter 31 U.S.
Spandoni L. Waiter 30 Italy
Smith James Fireman 39 England
Stanton Henry Mess Boy 21 England
Faynton W. 3rd Asst. Engineer 27 England
Vase S. Butcher 42 U.S.
Vallar George Baker 30 Germany
Warner F. P. Waiter 36 England
Williams George Sailor 29 U.S.
Reilly W. Coal Passer 28 Ireland
Jupiter J. 3rd Officer 34 England


Rogers R. Passenger Cabin
Rogers J. C. Passenger Cabin
Snow Col. Passenger Cabin
Higgins H. Passenger Cabin
Shoobert W. A. Passenger Cabin
Edwards Capt. Passenger Cabin
Hasleden J. Passenger Cabin
Nicholls D. Passenger Cabin
Stead G. Passenger Cabin
Page Capt. Passenger Cabin
Horocksbery Mr. Passenger Cabin
Pratt Mr. Passenger Cabin
Pratt Mrs. Passenger Cabin & Troupe of 6
Zerlonel Mr. Passenger Cabin
(Document notes "Crawfrod" which may be an error)
Mr. Passenger Cabin
Lewis Rev Passenger Cabin
Robb Mrs. Passenger Cabin
Downer J. H. Passenger Cabin
Barnett J. T. Passenger Cabin
Perry John Passenger Cabin
Perry Mrs. Passenger Cabin
Parker Mr. Passenger Cabin
McClements Mr. Passenger Cabin
Cutler Miss Passenger Cabin
Irvin Mrs. Passenger Cabin
Gaston A. Passenger 3rd Class
O'Sullivan D. Passenger Steerage
Curry W. D. Passenger Steerage
Lynch M. Passenger Steerage
Keating J. Passenger Steerage
Fergye C. Passenger Steerage
Penn A. Passenger Steerage
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, California, U.S.A.


Visit of the Assembly to the Nevada.

Daily Alta California, June 18, 1872.

The "Hawaiian Gazette" 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), L. P. Barber, G. White (United States Consul), W. A. Graham, J . E . Coney, J . L. Campbell, W. C. Wilson, L. I. 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.

9 Hereturikoka, 1872, Daily Southern Cross (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.

--Sydney Morning Herald.

August 31, 1872, Taranaki Herald

Latest Dates to July 17

The mail steamer "Nevada" arrived in Auckland harbour at daybreak on Wednesday last, and was boarded by Dr. Philson. The "Nevada" had a very stormy passage to Honolulu, and had a portion of her paddle-wheels carried away. This caused a detention of nine days at Honolulu for repairs. The passage to Honolulu was done in seventeen days, and the return in sixteen days ten hours.


Captain Blethen reports leaving Honolulu on the 9th instant, and stopped for twenty minutes off the Island of Tutuilla in the Navigator group. At Honolulu small-pox had prevailed, but for seventeen days previous to her arrival at that port only one case had been discovered on the island. There were six cases supposed to be at the hospital. There has been so sickness on board during the voyage. The total number of persons on board is one hundred and six.

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.
Johnston, Mr.
Shield, Mr.
Hardy, Mr.
Garwool, Mr.
Inhiman, Mr.
Richards, Mr. and Mrs. Richards
Burly, Mrs.
McDonald, Mr. J.
Korako, Hoani Wetere
Unknown Maori
Macandrew, Master



The Splendid steamship
N E V A D A,
J. BLETHEN , Commander, Will sail on
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, 1872: 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


Will be the
2140 tons,
J. BLETHEN, Commander.
Leaving Auckland 31st OCTOBER

Particulars in future advertisement.
McMECKAN, BLACKWOOD and Co. 1 King Street

Passenger Isabella L. Bird wrote in great detail about the SS Nevada in works that were published in 1875. She said of Captain Blethen, who had 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.

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.


November 14, 1873, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.


Election of Captain J.H. Blethen as Chief Wharfinger

Captain Blethen appointed Chief Wharfinger.

February 19, 1875, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, USA


Captain Blethen, the Head Wharfinger, sustained severe injuries by being thrown from a truck on the 16th instant. It is said that one of the small bones of his foot is broken.

March 30, 1875, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Captain Blethen, Chief Wharfinger, made his first appearance yesterday after his late injuries, and was attending to business as usual during the day.

July 2, 1886, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Two Hundred and Fifty Pounds of Opium Seized Yesterday.
A Skiff Loaded With the Drug Nailed by Two Policemen
Lucky Find of Two Inspectors on the Steamer " Gaelic"

Another chapter in the history of opium-smuggling business was written yesterday, and was developed by an accident. About 2:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon a police officer while standing at the foot of Second street observed a boat under the stem of the steamer Gaelic, lying at the Pacific Mail Company's wharf. Knowing that the boat had no lawful business where it was, the officer kept his eye on the skiff, and saw some bundles lowered into it from the stern of the steamer. This made certain to the policeman that something was wrong, and suspecting that there was smuggling going on, he watched carefully keeping out of sight in the meanwhile. As soon as the boat received its load the two men who were in it pulled quietly from the steamer, and as though plain, ordinary boatmen pulled easily over to the steps at the foot of Third street, where there are stairs leading down to the water's edge. The policeman who first discovered them followed along the wharves, being joined on the journey by another officer, to whom he told his suspicions. The two policemen M. O. Anderson and Gallagher reached the landing before the skiff, and kept themselves in the background until the boat landed and the occupants got ashore. The officers then stepped out, their stare astounding the two men and took a look at the packages in the bottom of the boat.


A hurried examination satisfied the officers that they had made a large seizure of opium, and they arrested the two men and levied upon the packages. The men and opium were put in a wagon and taken to the Southern Police Station. The Custom House authorities were notified of the affair, and later in the afternoon the prisoners and opium were turned over to them.

The names given by the men arrested were James Hackett and George Delap. Hackett was formerly steerage watchman on the steamer Oceanic, and is the same individual who went on the bond of Brandt, one of the smugglers caught by Secretary John T. Fogarty the other day. Hackett qualified on Brandt's bond, on Tuesday, in the sum of $500. The other man, of whom nothing appeared to be known last night, is supposed to be a bay boatman.

The opium was examined after the seizure and the captors found they had taken 226-1/2 five-tael boxes of prepared and 11 balls of crude opium, in all about 251 pounds, worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000. As the law allows the captors of smuggled goods a moiety of 50 per cent, of their value, the policemen may be considered to have made a very fair day's work. The boat was seized at the same time, and is as liable to confiscation as the opium itself.

Another Opium Seizure

The officer who caw the landing of the boat from the Gaelic observed something else at the time that he kept, while telling the story, from everybody except the most interested parties. What he saw was that one or two bundles, after being lowered into the boat, were hoisted on board again. After he had got through with his part of the business, after he had made the arrests and captured the opium, the officer went to the Pacific Mail Dock, about 6:30 p. m., and told what he had seen to Inspector Jeff. Powers, captain of the night-watch on the Gaelic.

While the two were talking, Inspector Holmes, captain of the day watch, came up and was informed of what the policeman had seen. Deputy Surveyor Brown, happening along while the three were discussing the subject, was also told about the suspicions circumstance. After a short consultation Brown and Holmes thought they would get a Custom House lock end fasten the steerage store-room and examine that part of the ship afterwards. Captain Powers, however, concluded to search the storeroom himself, without losing any time, and calling Inspector Blethen, who had charge of the deck of the steamer, the two proceeded to the steerage store-room in the lower deck of the boat. As it was fastened only by a ship's lock, an easy entrance was obtained and search was begun. A close inspection soon uncovered several packages of opium hidden under three sacks of rice in the extreme end of the room and close to the stern post of the ship. On examination the find turned out to be 154 five-tael boxes of prepared and nine balls of crude opium about 101 pounds in all. Nothing else was found in the store-room last night.

The seizures from the Gaelic yesterday aggregated 380-1/2 five-tael boxes of prepared and twenty balls of crude opium, or over 245 pounds, worth somewhere near $4,500.

What the Opium Seizure Shows.

San Francisco's Chinatown. 1885.
Opium dens, gambling halls, and houses.

Maritime.Opium Dens.

The boldness of the attempt to smuggle each an amount of opium as was seized in the skiff shows either that the smugglers had become desperate after the captures made within the last week, or that the men were pursuing a course ordinarily followed by them. Since the seizures made Monday and Tuesday the guards at the steamer have been increased and a patrol boat has been put on at night, but at night only.

The smugglers, taking advantage of the time when all the Customs Inspectors were watching the dock and the chutes and entrances to the steamer, saw a chance and took advantage of it. The desperate effort would undoubtedly have succeeded had it not been for the accidental observation of an intelligent policeman, who saw his opportunity and made the trial a failure. During the night under the watchfulness and careful supervision of Captain Powers and Inspector Blethen, and the watch that succeeded them toward morning, there has been no opportunity for the smugglers to get anything off the steamer, and they probably concluded to take their chances daring the busiest hours of the day when the attention of everybody was directed to the shoreside.

September 30, 1886, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Peter Powers Arrested with a Lot of the Drug on His Person.

Peter Powers, a crooked opium operator, with a record, was arrested by Inspector Holmes at noon yesterday, down at the Mail Dock, for opium smuggling. Powers was boss, or head, of a gang of dock-workers down at the steamer Gaelic. Inspector Holmes was suspicious of Powers, watching his movements closely, and when Powers walked out on the dock, ostensibly to get his lunch, the officer stopped him and inquired if he had any opium on his person. Powers said he had not, but nine five-tael boxes of the drug were found on him. He tried to get rid of the opium, and showed fight, but Inspector Blethen came to the assistance of his brother Inspector and the opium was secured. Powers was then marched up to the Appraisers' Building, where a complaint was made out, a warrant issued and the opium smuggler was placed in the custody of the United States Marshal. Powers is an old hand at the business, having been convicted in 1884 of smuggling opium, when he got off with a fine of $50. In conversation with an Alta reporter, Powers said he found the opium on the wharf, but when questioned as to why he denied having it on his person, he assumed an air of ill-fitting dignity and said he had nothing to say. The opium is the prepared article and is worth about $70. Powers will probably be brought before the United States Commission today for examination.

January 14, 1887, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Custom House Appointments.

Of the sixteen appointments of Customs Inspectors recently authorized by the Treasury Department, the following were yesterday announced:

Night inspectors, class A H. L. Bienfeld, Frank J. Fuller and Matthew C. Harrison.

Promoted from Class A to Class 2 William J. Shepman, John Critcher, James H. Blethen and Angelo Bailey.

Those In the first-named class receive $3 per day and the others $4.

Herman A. Bellum, of Sacramento, was yesterday appointed Assistant Storekeeper, vice James E. Squire; resigned. The salary is $1,400 per annum.

February 4, 1887, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

A Fruitless Search By Custom Home Officers A Prisoner's Story.

Not many days ago a prisoner at San Quentin managed to get the ear of one of the Custom House officers long enough to tell him a story of opium. But the sole condition of giving the location was that the prisoner should be pardoned. The promise was readily given and the prisoner concluded his story. The officer came to town and reported to his superiors. No time was lost and preparations were made with the utmost secrecy to hunt for the treasured drug. About 4 P.M. on Wednesday two Whitehall boats pulled out from Meiggs wharf under command of Inspector Blethen. He had four trusted men armed with heavy grappling-hooks and with long chains. The boats were headed for the Golden Gate, and after several hours steady pulling the spot pointed out by the prisoner at San Quentin was reached. It was near Lime Point, and just in the track of incoming steamers. The current ran at the rate of thirteen miles an hour and the night air was very chilly, but the five searchers thought only of the opium lying at the rocky bottom. They lost no time in getting their grappling hooks in order, and for several hours they dragged the rocky bottom. They found nothing but water, seaweed and a few crabs, but of opium there was not a trace. At length they became exhausted, and Blethen gave orders to pull up anchors and bead for home. The order was cheerfully obeyed, but when opposite the fog station the proposition was made to stop and get a cup of hot coffee. A few minutes later and the boats were made fast to the wharf. The only way to reach the house was by means of a chain dangling from a swinging crane. The first man made the landing in safety, but the next two failed to connect and were soused in the briny waves. They were rescued with some difficulty, and refused to make another attempt. The last two managed to reach the house, where they were kindly entertained by the keeper.

February 22, 1890, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

City Front Notes

Captain James H. Blethen, father of Boarding Officer J. H. Blethen, of the Customs Service, is lying seriously ill at home from pulmonary trouble. Captain Blethen is well known on the Coast, having come here in early days. In 1850 be brought the steamer North America out around Cape Horn. He is 76 years of age.

July 25, 1890, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

A Sailor's Narrow Escape

Thomas Hayden, a sailor aboard the bark Eme, which vessel is lying off Meiggs wharf, had a narrow escape from being drowned late last Wednesday evening. Hayden was coming Hayden was coming ashore from the vessel in a small boat. When about half way between the ship and the shore a squall struck his boat and she was overturned. Captain Blethen of the Custom House, who was sitting in the barge office, heard Hayden's cries for help and immediately put off in the launch Hartley. Hayden was taken aboard the launch and conveyed to shore. Were it not for the timely appearance of Captain Blethen the probabilities are strong that Hayden would have been drowned, as he was so weak that he was hardly able to keep himself afloat.

Monday Evening, May 3, 189, Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California
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.

May 3, 1897, Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California, U.S.A.


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.

Tuesday, May 4, 1897, The Call, San Francisco


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 James H. Blethen, Master Mariner, San Francisco, California. 1800s.

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).


The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Kindly Kindly support our work.


kurt @


Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

Please inform us if you link from your site. Please do NOT link from your site unless your site specifically relates to immigration in the 1800s, family history, maritime history, international seaports, and/or California history.