Passenger Lists: San Francisco 1800s


SS John L. Stephens

Arrive San Francisco

February 16, 1854
John L. Stephens
Captain Pearson
From Panama


February 16, 1854, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Arrival of the 
Loss of the 
New Steamship San Francisco
and One Hundred and Sixty Seven Lives
Narrative of Sufferings of Survivors

The splendid steamship John L. Stephens, R. H. Pearson, Esq., commander, arrived last night from Panama, bringing 800 passengers and the mails of the 20th of January.

Gen. Wool is a passenger in the Stephens. Also, among the list of Gov. Foote, of Mississippi; Mr. Teschmaker and Mr. H. Bancroft, Mr. Winans andMr. De Fremerey, of this city; Dr. Hammond, Lieut. Hardie, AID to General Wool, and Jas A. Valentine, Esq., of New Orleans

The Stephens brings in later news via the Ramsay Route.

The Most important feature of the news is the sad account of the total loss of the new steamship San Francisco, with about two hundred passengers, the full particulars of which are subjoined.

February 18, 1854, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

This magnificent steamer has again arrived at San Francisco, after a rapid passage from Panama, bringing the passengers from New York of the 21st January through in twenty-five days, and numbering over eight hundred, without a single death or case of sickness on board. The strict discipline observed by Capt. Pearson, throughout every department of his noble vessel, renders a voyage upon her one of comfort and enjoyment, where every convenience and luxury, which the private mansion offers, may be found in profusion.

During the last trip down the passengers passed a series of resolutions highly complimentary to Capt. Pearson, his officers and vessel, and to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company for the liberal manner in which they had provided for their wants.

Presentation. During the upward trip of the John L. Stephens, the ladies on board presented to Capt. Pearson, a splendid diamond ring, on St. Valentine's day, the 14th, as a testimonial, for the unceasing efforts displayed by him in contributing to their happiness and safety. The presentation was made by Hon. H. S. Foote, speeches were made by several gentlemen present, and wine, wit and sentiment prevailed. It is probably the first time in the history of ocean navigation, that such an occurrence has ever taken place. The compliment wns alike creditable to those conferring it, as deserved by the recipient.


Passengers by the John L. Stephens, February 16, 1854. DAC.

February 16, 1854, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

On the 21st December, the steamship San Francisco sailed from New York, having on board the Third Regiment United States Artillery, and a quantity of military stores, for California through the Straits of Magellan; she had projecting guards, like the steamers on this coast, but was built with particular care, and was considered a remarkably staunch and seaworthy vessel; being deeply laden, however, in a heavy seaway she was slow to answer her helm.

On the morning of the 24th, when within about two hundred miles of Charleston, a violent gale springing up from the northwest, produced a heavy sea, and caused the vessel to labor much; several times she broached to, and her sails and upper rigging were blown away by furious gusts of wind ; at length the piston rod of an air pump giving way, the engine broke down, and the ship lay helpless in the trough of the sea. While in this position, and the gale not abating, at 9 a. m., the following day, she was struck amidships by a tremendous sea, which carried away her upper saloon, smoke stacks, and the afterpart of her hurricane deck, and at one blow swept into eternity more than one hundred souls. The main deck was partly crushed in, and each successive wave threatened to engulf the ill-fated vessel.

Not dismayed, however, Capt. Watkins, and his stout-hearted assistants, adopted all the means within their power to keep the ship afloat, and sustain the energies of those entrusted to their care. Pumps were rigged, and gangs of soldiers with buckets also contributed to relieve the ship of the water that was constantly pouring in through her broken upper works.

Several days of extreme suffering ensued, which, aggravated I by the crowded condition, and unwholesome odor of the between-decks, received jadditional horrors, from the appearance of a malignant species of cholora morbus — this caused the deaths of over sixty persons.

Being by good fortune within the track of the Gulf trade, the appearance of several vessels at length relieved the apprehension of the survivors, and eventually they were all rescued. The Antartic received the last of those taken off the San Francisco, among them being Capt. Watkins, and continued the royage to Liverpool. The first intelligence of the misfortune of the San Francisco was brought to Boston by a vessel which was unable to afford relief in consequence of the violence of the gale.

Vessels were sent out in search of her, from all the Atlantic ports, and ntil the arrival of the first detachment of survivors, the most intense excitement prevailed through the country. Great praise is awarded to Capt. Watkins and his first officer, Edward Mellus who were ably seconded by the army officers on board. Lieut. Murry, of the United States Navy, who was also in the ship, is spoken of in terms of highest praise. The Atlantic papers are full of the details of the disaster, but we must conclude this sketch with an enumeration of the names of a few of those lost; they were with few exceptions officers and men of the 3d regiment: Col. Washington, Major Taylor and lady, Capt. Field, Lieut. R. 11. Smith, and two ladies, names unknown.

The Mammoth Book of Life Before the Mast:
Sailors' Eyewitness Stories from the Age of Fighting Ships
Jon E. Lewis, Editor
Firsthand accounts of the real-life naval adventures behind the popular historical sagas of Patrick O'Brian and C. F. Forester. Twenty true-life adventures capture the glory and gore of the great age of naval warfare from the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth century -- the age of the French Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812 -- when combat at sea was won by sheer human wit, courage, and endurance. Culled from memoirs, diaries, and letters of celebrated officers as well as sailors, the collection includes accounts of such decisive naval engagements as Admiral Horatio Nelson's on the Battle of the Nile in 1798 or Midshipman Roberts' on the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and also offers glimpses into daily hardships aboard a man-of-war: scurvy, whippings, storms, piracy, press gangs, drudgery, boredom, and cannibalism.

Life of a Sailor (Seafarers' Voices) Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.Life At Sea.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
Frederick Chamier
Chamier went to sea in 1809 as an officer in the Royal Navy. Like his contemporary, Captain Frederick Marryat, he enjoyed a successful literary career and is remembered for his naval novels. This book, his first, is usually catalogued as fiction, although it is an exact account of his naval experiences, with every individual, ship, and event he described corroborated by his service records. Told with humor and insight, it is considered an authentic account of a young officer's service. From anti-slavery patrols off Africa to punitive raids on the American coast during the War of 1812, Chamier provides details of many lesser-known campaigns. His descriptions of British naval operations in America, which reflected his objection to bringing the war to the civilian population, were highly criticized by his seniors.

The Nagle Journal: A Diary of the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor, from the Year 1775 to 1841Stories of the Sea and Ships.
John C. Dann

Great Stories of the Sea & Ships Sea Stories and the history of America.
N. C. Wyeth
Life before the mast.High-seas adventures showcasing showcases the fiction of such classic writers as Daniel Defoe, Jules Verne, and Jack London, and also historic first-person narratives including Christopher Columbus’ own account of his voyage in 1492. Vivid tales of heroic naval battles and dangerous journeys of exploration to the stories of castaways and smugglers. The variety of works includes “The Raft of Odysseus,” by Homer; Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Mermaid”; “The Specksioneer,” by Elizabeth Gaskell; Washington Irving’s “The Phantom Island”; and “Rounding Cape Horn,” by Herman Melville. Eighteen black and white illustrations by Peter Hurd.

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



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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.

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