Here to return to
FACING THE STORMY ATLANTIC
THE SUBLIME COURAGE OF THE PIONEERS — “NEITHER HOUSE NOR SHELTER” — A “TUNN OF GOODS” — CAPTURED BY A PRIVATEER — A MARRIAGEABLE YOUNG MAN — SELLING THEIR TIME TO PAY THEIR PASSAGE — SQUALLS AND PRIVATEERS AND AN UNEXPECTED DELIVERANCE — THE RAT AND THE WATERSPOUT — FAMINE ON SHIPBOARD — “THOSE WERE GREAT DAYS”
THEY were sturdy heroes, those men and women who left home and friends in “Merrie England” to seek they knew not what in the distant lands which had been placed under William Penn’s control. Possibly some of them were visionaries who did not count the cost, but most of them were people of practical common sense who realized what the breaking of home ties meant. Though they did not know exactly what was before them, they did know that they could not expect to see again their friends and loved ones in the home land; they had heard enough of the terrors of a long ocean voyage to understand that there were before them weeks, perhaps months, of tossing in what seems to us a mere toy of a boat; they knew that there were some who had set out on the long voyage who had never reached their destination; they knew that in the land they sought there were savages who had slain hundreds of emigrants from England; they understood well that when they reached the distant shores they would have to live for perhaps a year or two in a makeshift hut with only the barest necessities.
But they did not hesitate, for theirs was the high courage that was willing to face the unknown for the sake of what the future might bring to them and to their children, and for the sake of the part they might have in carving out a new state that would make life brighter for those who were to come after them.
Theirs was the courage of the pioneer who has been characterized by sturdy faith from the days of Abraham, who “went out, not knowing whither he went,” to the days of Christopher Columbus and Hendrick Hudson and John Winthrop and William Penn — the faith that enabled them not only to brave the Atlantic, but also to keep sweet while they faced the dark forests, swam swollen rivers or trudged over leagues of uncharted country where Indians might be lurking at every step.
Their courage was not less because they could know little of these things, and therefore went blindly ahead. There was something sublime in their readiness to drive into the unknown, and to go not as those who were under compulsion to do something they did not wish to do, but willingly, eagerly, devotedly.
It was in this spirit that Thomas Sion Evan, an emigrant of 1682, came to Pennsylvania. On a day in July, 1681, he was attending St. Peter’s Fair at Bala, Wales. He had left his comfortable farm home with no thought but of mingling at the fair with acquaintances and friends, as he had done many times before, and of returning home in the evening prepared to take up once more his accustomed duties.
But one of those to whom he talked that day had something to tell him that was to change the course of his whole life. This friend talked of a far-away land which he called Pennsylvania — a fair land, well watered, well wooded, where flowers bloomed freely and abundant crops were to be had for little labor. He was assured that there was room in that land for anyone who would cross the Atlantic.
These things took hold of Evan’s imagination. He thought how fine it would be to trade his Welsh home for the splendors of the wooded lands by the Delaware. Evidently he was a bold spirit, for his mind was soon made up: he would go himself to that far-away country and see for himself if the things of which he had been told were so.
With a promptness more characteristic of the twentieth century than the seventeenth century he put aside all the discouraging arguments of friends and relatives, and within three weeks he was on his way to London where he planned to take passage for America. But in the city by the Thames his impatient spirit was checked. Though he searched the waterfront, he could find no vessel bound for Pennsylvania. For weeks he waited, filling up the time as best he could by making inquiries concerning the land of his dreams. He was compelled to be satisfied with very meagre information, since William Penn had not then arranged for the publicity material that later led hundreds and thousands of others to follow in Evan’s footsteps.
At length, after three months’ delay, the eager Welshman was able to stow his possessions and himself in a small ship whose captain assured him that the voyage would not be too great an adventure.
But the emigrant soon learned the uncertainties of ocean travel. After a stormy passage he was in sight of the Delaware when adverse winds and boisterous waves drove them out to sea. The sails were torn and the rudder was injured. Reluctantly the captain turned his back on the promised land and made his way to Barbadoes. There three weeks were spent in refitting the ship.
The second attempt was successful; the Delaware was entered on April 16, 1682. The voyage of thirty weeks had given Evan ample time to learn to speak and read English tolerably well.
Eagerly the passengers looked for a town on the banks of the Delaware, but when they reached the site of the present city of Philadelphia they found “neither house nor shelter,” nothing but the wild woods. Nor was there anyone to welcome them. “A poor lookout this, for persons who had been so long at sea, many of whom had spent their little all,” Evan’s son John wrote to a friend in 1708.
But the Welsh settler had neither time nor inclination to repine. In the spirit of the true pioneer he left the ship which had been his home for so long and began to carve out the home on the banks of the Delaware of which he had been dreaming since the day at the Bala fair, more than nine months before. And soon he was able to write to his stay-at-home neighbors an account of his experiences that must have helped some of them to follow in his steps.
By this time, however, Penn had prepared a pamphlet of “Information and Direction to Such Persons as are Inclined to America.” This was written in a convincing, personal manner. It began:
“Say I have 100£ sterl. If I am but six in Family, I will pay my Passage with the advance upon my Money, and find my hundred pounds good in the Country at last. Upon Goods, well bought and sorted, there is more profit: but some Money is very requisite for Trade sake.”
An estimate was made of the expense of transporting an ordinary family. For the husband, his wife and two men servants, twenty pounds would be required. A ten-year-old child would pay half as much as an adult. Each passenger would be entitled to a chest, but a “Tunn of Goods” additional would be required, and for these the freight charge would be two pounds. The ship’s doctor would cost 2 shillings 6 pence per person. Four gallons of brandy and twenty-four pounds of sugar would be needed for the voyage, and these supplies would cost one pound. The next important item; in the equipment was put down thus: “For Cloaths for my Servants, each 6 Shirts, 2 Waist-coats, a Summer and a Winter Shute, one Hat, 2 pair of Shoes, Stokins and Drawyers, twelve pounds.”
In arranging for supplies to be included in the “Tunn of Goods,” advice was given not to forget Building Material, Householdstuff, Husbandry, Fowling and Fishing, English Woollen, and German Linnen, Broad-Clothes Kereseys, Searges, Norwich-Stuffs, Duffels, Cottons, White and Blew Ozenburgs, Shoes, and Stockins, Buttons, Silk, Thread, Iron ware, especially Axes, Indian Hows, Saws, Drawing Knives, Nailes, Powder and Lead.
In a later document the Proprietor argued the advantages of sailing so as to reach Pennsylvania in the spring or the fall, “for the Summer may be of the hottest, for fresh Commers, and in the Winter the wind that prevails, is the North West, and that blows off the Coast, so that sometimes it is difficult to enter the Capes.”
The length of the passage was put down as between six and nine weeks, though the honest statement was made that “the passage is not to be set by any man; for ships will be quicker and slower, some have been four moneths, and some but one, and as often.” During one year twenty-four ships made the voyage, and only three of these required more than nine weeks for the trip, while one or two consumed less than six weeks.
Passengers were urged to spend as much time as possible on deck, “for the Air helps against the offensive smells of a Crowd, and a close place.” Advice was given to carry store of Rue and Wormwood and some Rosemary. Vinegar and Pitch were to be used as disinfectants.
The modern promoter could learn from the closing word of advice to the emigrants to “be moderate in Expectation,” to “count on Labour before a Crop, and Cost before Gain,” that thus they might be ready to “endure difficulties, if they come, and bear the Success as well as find the Comfort, that usually follows such considerate undertakings.”
Possibly some were deterred from making the venture by the appeal to be neither “Hasty” nor “Presumptuous.” “The even humble Temper will best endure the Change either way,” was the assurance. “A Wilderness must want some things improv’d Countries enjoy, but Time and Labour will reprize, where Industry sooner makes an Inheritance. And tho we have not the Ornaments of Life, we want not the Conveniences; and if their Cost were put in Ballance with their Benefit, the World would be greatly debtor on Account.”
Perhaps some of this information was available for the forty friends of John Ap Thomas who planned to go with him to Pennsylvania in 1682. But Thomas’ health was poor. At first the company thought of waiting for him and his family, but he urged them to go without him, promising to follow as soon as possible. So they took passage in August, 1682, on the ship Lyon, taking with them some of Thomas’ household goods. One of the advance company was Edd Jones, who wrote to the sick man an interesting account of the voyage:
“This shall lett thee know that we have been abord eleaven weeks before we made the land (it was not for want of art but contrary winds) and one we were in coming to Upland, ye town is to be buylded 15 or 16 miles up ye River. And in all this time we wanted neither meate, drink or water though several hogsheds of water run out. Our ordinary allowance of beere was 3 pints a day for each whole head and a quart of water; 3 biskedd a day & some times more. We laid in about half hundred of biskedd, one barrell of beere, one hogshed of water — the quantity for each whole head, & 3 barrels of beefe for the whole number — 40 — and we had one to come ashoare. A great many could eat little or no beefe though it was good. Butter and chesse eats
well upon ye sea. Ye remainder of our cheese & butter is little or no worster; butter & cheese is at 6d per lb. here if not more. We have oatmeal to spare, but it is well, yt we have it, for here is little or no corn till they begin to sow their corn.”
Of the forty who set out on the voyage one only, a child, died. This fact led Jones to add:
“Let no friends tell that they are either too old or too young, for the Lord is sufficient to preserve both to the uttermost. Here is an old man about 80 years of age; he is rather better yn when he sett out, Iikewise here are young babes doing very well considering sea diet.”
John Ap Thomas did not live to reach Pennsylvania. But his family made their mark in the new land. An interesting record has been left by his son, Thomas Ap John (the father’s name reversed, or Thomas Jones, as he wrote it in America) in the shape of a letter which he wrote in 1709 to his cousin in Wales. In this he told of difficulties worse than storms which, were experienced by Owen Roberts and his company, friends of his, on the way to America.
“They were taken [by the French] within a few days’ sail (less than a week) good wind, of the Capes or mouth of the Delaware, being all alive and pretty well and hearty, and were carried by them, some to Martinico, and the rest to Guardalupa, islands belonging to the French. And so from thence to Monsterat and Antigo, islands belonging to the English, and so from thence here, where they arrived at Philadelphia about ye 7th of 8th month last, excepting nine of the servants that were pressed on board a ship (or man of war) at Monsterat.”
Two Pioneers of 1683.
The delays and dangers of some of those who made the venture to America in 1682 did not discourage other adventurous home-seekers. From London James Claypoole wrote in 1682 that he was thinking seriously of removing with his family to Pennsylvania, and that he was trying to arrange his “busyness” so as to leave in the spring of 1683. “I have 100 acres where our Capitall City is to be upon ye River near Schoolkill and Peter Cooks,” he wrote. “There I intend to plan & build my first house . . . We are in treaty for a good vessel to carry us. I am in Treaty wth one Jeffries Mr. of a Shipp of 500 Tunn, web will require 2 mos. time to gett ready in.” Though Jeffries had not yet made a voyage to the Delaware he had been several times to Virginia, and Claypoole felt confident he would be able to take passengers and goods safely. There would be room for “80 Passingirs and 50 Ton of goods,” so the anxious man, hoping to secure the load as soon as possible, recommended him highly to any friends in Ireland who had “a purpose of going to Pennsylvania or New Jarsy.” He assured intending passengers that late news from Pennsylvania was good, and he offered to write to any who might apply for information. He would be ready to tell how the country on the Delaware was “liked for Pleasantness.”
At length the complement of passengers and freight was made up and Claypoole began his voyage to America. Late in 1683 he wrote from Philadelphia the assurance that all had gone well:
“We went on board the Concord at Gravesend the 24 5 mo. and after we lost sight of England wch was in about 3 weeks time, we were 49 days before we saw land in America, and the 18 mo. some of us went ashore in Pennsylvania: the blesing of the Lord did attend us so that we had a verry comfortable passage, and had our health all the way.”
Another of the venturesome pilgrims of 1683 was William Hudson, Junior, a young man of twenty-one. When he learned of the advantages of Penn’s Plantation he asked his father’s approval of the journey. The father was not only glad to give his permission, but he added capital to the sum the young man had inherited from his mother.
In company with James Marshall, of York, and others, Hudson set out for Philadelphia, and when he landed he made haste to file for record the following curious record:
“James Marshall and Rachell his wife are now determined, through God’s assistance, to Transport themselves wth their family into ye Province of Pennsylvania in America, as also Willm Hudson, ye younger of ye said Citty of Wch they have acquainted Many ffriends . . . and further, touching the aforesaid Wm Hudson, he being in an unmarried state, we know nothing but that he is clear from all p’sons wtsoever, in relation to marriage. And if it shall please God yt he shall find Inclination in himself to alter his state with respect to Marry in Amerrica, his ffather hath freely given him up to the exercise of Truth in his own Spirit wth the advice and satisfaction of the Church of God there, In relation thereunto.”
Five years after the arrival of young Hudson in Pennsylvania he took advantage of his father’s permission and married Mary, daughter of Samuel Richardson, Provisional Councillor, and a justice, one of the most prominent of the settlers.
Not long after William Hudson began his voyage in search of a wife John Chapman and his family closed the doors of the farmhouse in Yorkshire where they had lived joyfully together and went to New Castle upon the river Tyne. There they embarked for America.
A few weeks after the beginning of the voyage “they had a mighty Storm which blew so tempestuously that in short it carried away” much of the rigging. “It likewise took their awnings above the Quarter Deck and left not as much as a Yard of rope above their heads. All which was done in the space of half an hour and they lay thus distressed by a pitfull wreck all that night (they having lost their Masts about 12 oClock in the Day).”
Two days later they were lying “without hopes of recovery, being then about 200 Leagues from the Land of America but through God’s mercy they Got in Sight of the Capes of Virginia.”
The time from Aberdeen to the Capes was about nine weeks. The remainder of the voyage was without special event.
George Haworth was not so fortunate when he set out from Liverpool in 1699. After he had recovered from the effects of his fourteen week’s voyage, he wrote to members of his family in Yorkshire:
“A long and tedious journey we had, for we being over many throng’d in the Ship, I believe hurt many, for we had many distempers among us, as Fever, Flux and Jaundice, and many died at Sea about 56 and at Shore there died about 20.”
One of the dying passengers asked that his goods be returned to kindred at Liverpool. The writer’s sister did not live to reach land, and she left her household goods to a sister who was also among the passengers.
These trying experiences did not lead Haworth to urge kindred at home not to follow him, though he took opportunity to warn them to be careful not to come “too many in the Ship as we did.” Then he added that the crowding in the hot weather of midsummer increased the mortality and made provisions short. “We wanted Water and Beer to drink,” he wrote, “for having salt Beef, we were much athirst . . . the seamen stowed the Hold so full of Goods that they had not room for Water and Beer. But if any come, let them bring for themselves over and besides the Ships allowance Spices and Brandy and Cheese let the Seamen pretend what they will; or else victual themselves and bargain for being carried over and goods and then bring for yourselves but a little Beef and some bacon, and wheat flour is very good.”
Two years later, in the light of experience gained in the new country, Haworth wrote:
“Be sure to come free, but if you come servants, they must be sold for 4 or 5 years and work hard.”
Evidently he had been in touch with many who, unable to pay their passage, had engaged to the captain to sell their services on landing. To have to work four or five years in return for the advance of five pounds of passage money would seem a hardship; but there were hundreds and, later, thousands who made their beginning in the new land thus.
This would seem an especially bad bargain to those whose passage was as hard as that of Abel Morgan, a Baptist minister who sailed from Bristol with his family on June 28, 1711. At once after leaving port they were compelled to put back to Milford Haven, and three weeks passed before they could resume the voyage. Then they were driven by a storm to Cork, Ireland. Here they remained five weeks. At last they started on the voyage for the third time. In December Mrs. Morgan died, as well as her little son. Not until February 12, 1712, was the voyage completed. But in a letter to his old congregation in Wales, Morgan had no word of complaint to offer, but said, merely, “The will of God must be done.” The passengers were hungry, “but all this is ended, and we arrived in the land of bread,” was the message.
Samuel Sansom had a trying experience in 1732. On September 9 he set sail from England on the ship John. There were many tempests during the voyage, but the worst of these came on November 13, when the vessel was within sight of land. The passenger whose account of the hazards of the voyage is still treasured by his descendants, said:
“We were beat off the coast by a terrible N. W. wind, . . . On the ninth of December about eleven O’Clock in the forenoon, we made the Capes, and got in good anchoring ground. The next business was to get a Pilot. For which purpose our Captain sent his boat with Samuel Neave1, Anthony Duché, and Robert Best, passengers, and three sailors. The wind blew fresh when they went off, and in the evening blew hard, so we could not expect them that night; but the next morning being pretty still we fully expected them, with a pilot; not knowing that the Creek they were to go over was frozen so hard occasioned their stay. So we lay four days in expectation of a pilot, but none came off to us, nor was there but one in the place, and he was engaged to another ship.”
For this reason the captain thought it best to accept the offer made by a passing ship captain of his boatswain, who, he said, could serve as a pilot, since he had made two trips up the Delaware to Philadelphia.
“Orders were given to weigh anchor and make sail directly, our sails were set, our top-sails unreefed, and away we went at the rate of ten miles or knots an hour,” the account continued. “The tide being strong drew us very fast . . . we had not sailed above 7 or 8 leagues before we found to our very great surprise our ship fast aground, . . . everybody was very eager to save their lives which we had no hopes of but our long boat . . . everybody being willing to save some clothes, as well as their lives, the captain himself setting an example, he permitted every person to put in a bundle, which was no sooner done but the women, and those that could not so readily help themselves, were ordered to get in first . . . before the boat was hoisted along side it was almost half full of bundles, and seven people went in, but . . . she went down headforemost, and stood right on end. The water flowed in immediately and the boat stove along side. Seven people went in, but four came up alive, and one of the four died presently after.”
The boat being lost, the remainder of the ship’s company had to depend on the “cracked ship” for safety. So they did their best to lighten ship, throwing overboard about twenty tons of ballast. The main-mast, too, was cut away. But it was still impossible to free the vessel from the shoal. In despair, a lookout was kept for ships. No less than six approached. Distress signals were made, but “they would take no notice of us,” the author of the account wrote sorrowfully. Then he went on:
“We contrived at last to make a little boat, though we had no tools fit for it, for the carpenter’s tools were lost in the long-boat; however, they nailed a few boards together, and three people were appointed to go in it — two sailors and a clergyman, who went purely to serve the company and to get relief with a letter from our captain of my writing. These poor creatures were twenty-two hours upon the open sea, in this small thing, and the weather being excessive cold froze the sailors’ legs to the boat, and the clergyman, who was not used to such hardships, was froze to death soon after he got to shore. . . . I with many more, although our number was now reduced, was five days and nights on a wreck in the coldest time in the hard winter, which has been so severe that the inhabitants here say they scarcely ever saw the like, and to be in a cold wrecked ship in the open sea surely it was the greatest of mercies we perished not with cold.
“On the sixth day of our calamities, when we had given over all thoughts of being saved, . . . a sloop came into the bay, which the inhabitants of Lewes- town forced to come and save us.”
The survivors were landed at Lewestown, where they remained twelve days. At the end of that time “Nathl Palmer, starch maker, in Philadelphia,” helped Mr. Neave and the annalist to reach the city where he lived, promising to care for them in his house.
“It may not be amiss to give thee some account of our travel by land,” the story went on. “Lewestown is 150 or as some say 160 miles from this place. So N. Palmer bought S. Neave & I each a horse to ride to this town, which we accomplished in three days, and about three hours, which was very hard traveling indeed, being short days, and the roads deep with snow, and through woods that for a great many miles we could see no house.”
Ten years after Samuel Sansom’s experience there was begun the adventurous voyage of the first Moravian colony, which came to Philadelphia in 1742, on the way to make settlement on the estate of the Church in Pennsylvania. The party set sail in the “skow” Catharine, which had been bought by Bishop Spangenburg for 600 pounds. The Bishop’s experience in fitting out the Georgia Moravian colony, some time before, assured those who were following his guidance that their comfort would be well provided for. But they were doomed to disappointment, for the voyage to America brought them many trials.
First the single men took up their confined quarters in the Catharine. After a few days the married couples and the English colonists followed them. In all there were fifty-six passengers on board, as well as the captain, the mate and six sailors. There was much anxiety, for they knew that not only would they have to brave the perils of the Atlantic at a stormy time of the year, but that they ran grave risk of capture by men-of-war of France and Spain, with which countries England was at war. But the passengers were ready to face any necessary danger because of their desire to make their way to Philadelphia and beyond. Courage was renewed when Bishop Spangenburg boarded the vessel at Gravesend and commended the little company to God’s protection.
John Philip Meurer, one of the pilgrims, told in his journal of the events of the weeks that followed. Graphically he spoke of the mountainous waves of the Bay of Biscay which caught the little bark and tossed it up and down like a nutshell. Of course nearly everybody was seasick. Later, when a sudden squall struck the Catharine, the sails and the tackling became entangled. Many of the colonists assisted the sailors at the ropes. The captain was surprised and delighted at the calmness and courage of his passengers.
Twelve days after England had been left behind, a mysterious vessel was discovered standing directly towards the Catharine. But suddenly there was a calm, and both vessels became motionless. Darkness fell before the wind rose. During the night the vessels drifted apart. Next day, when the Catharine entered the port of Funchal, Madeira, the captain learned that the stranger which they had so providentially escaped was a Spanish privateer.
But a still narrower escape was to follow. One day a privateer approached and it was felt that capture was inevitable. This would mean spoliation at least, perhaps even death. The Catharine was unarmed, so resistance was out of the question. When the vessels were so close that all that took place on one could be observed plainly on the other, the captain ordered all male passengers on deck and stationed them so that sails could be lowered in an instant when the demand for surrender should come. For some reason the demand did not come. The Spaniard did not fire a single shot; evidently the preparations on board the Catharine were misunderstood. At length the vessels began to draw apart, and in half an hour the enemy was far astern.
The hazards of the voyage were not yet over. When almost within sight of Philadelphia, the watchman one night accidentally disarranged the windlass. The anchor cable began to unwind and the vessel threatened to go ashore. Prompt action by the captain, the crew and the passengers averted the danger, and the voyage was continued to the Schuylkill.
Four years later an emigrant who arrived in the Delaware after an uneventful voyage on the John Galley, found that the hardest part of the journey was to come. It was December 22 when Cape Henlopen appeared. The Delaware was closed by ice. After a week the sturdy homeseeker left the vessel in a boat, which landed with difficulty one mile below Lewes. The snow was deep, and the town was reached only after a hard struggle. There a horse and sled were bought and the last stage of the journey to Philadelphia was begun. On December 30 it was possible to make but fourteen miles through the deep snow. At the house of the settler where refuge was found that night, a second horse was bought. But by the next day the snow had become so much deeper that, even with two horses, it was again impossible to make more than fourteen miles. The last night of the year was spent at what the traveler called with disgust “a miserable inn.”
On New Year’s Day, Dover, Delaware, was reached after many trials. In one of the twenty houses of the settlement the night was spent, and strength was secured for the next day’s struggle — nineteen miles through heavy drifts. Next day it proved impossible to do so well, for the thick crust of the snow cut the legs of the horses.
To Wilmington the traveler came after two days more. There two extra horses were hired and it proved possible to push on to Chester for the last night out of Philadelphia. Finally, on January 6, eight days from Lewes, the emigrant completed his weary progress to the town which he had been seeking since September 27.
Fortunately such tales of hardship did not deter others from following in the steps of the ardent pioneers who conquered the storms of both sea and shore in their eagerness to make a home in the wilderness. Each year there was an increasing number of emigrants until at length, long before the close of the first century of Philadelphia’s history, the town of Penn’s founding was the leading town of the colonies.
One of the most picturesque accounts of an Atlantic voyage told by an emigrant came from the pen of John Henry Helffrich, who came to Pennsylvania in 1771-72.
The first days out were so stormy that it was impossible to make fire on the ship, and the captain cooked soup for a child “over candle light.” The sailors “had to stand in water on the deck up to the calves of their legs.” One morning a wave came through a window to a cabin of a passenger and he was nearly drowned in his bed . . . “The waves came rolling like mountains, now we were high up, now deep down, now lying on one side and then again on the other . . . Many chickens and ducks perished on deck because of the quantities of sea water there.”
Other odd entries were made in Helffrich’s journal:
“A rat tried to take the comforter away from the child, and, as it did not want to give it up, it was bitten on the finger. . . . The child screamed, the mother awoke and the rat ran off . . . All sails were taken in during a heavy downpour. We passengers helped to haul the sails in . . . Our terror was still more increased when the captain called to us to load our rifles . . . The danger was this, the water around us here and there was drawn up in the form of an arrow. When it falls, it comes down with such force that, if it hits a ship, it breaks it to pieces, and even if it touches the ship but slightly it smashes the deck. It follows the ships. The English call it a water spout. . . The only means to scatter the rising water is to break it up by shooting.”
Soon famine was added to the difficulties of the voyagers:
“For eight days we have had no beef, nothing but some sides of bacon and peas. All the flour, which we intended to save up, has been spoiled by the rats. What will become of us. But God will help us . . . This afternoon we caught the first fish with the lines. It was a dolphin, weighing between 40 and 50 pounds . . . This afternoon we saw for over an hour, as far as the eye could reach, everywhere full of fish, now they showed their heads, now their backs above water. They were the kind that eat up people. The English call them porpoises . . . This morning they began doling out the water. Everyone, passenger as well as sailor, gets daily about two and a half pints. Of this he must again give up some for tea and soup. In the forenoon each passenger gets a little glass of wine . . . We have only a small supply of peas. We get them twice a week with bacon. Then we have yet four hams and some pickled beef. Occasionally cold beef, cut into small pieces, together with biscuit and water are cooked into a soup . . . We are already suffering hunger and thirst . . This morning our last hog was washed overboard.”
At length, on January 14, 1772, the three months’ voyage ended and the hungry, storm-tossed passengers ate heartily and rested in comfort among the hospitable people of Philadelphia.
Most of those who were called upon to endure such privations as these were sustained by the hope that they were about to better their fortunes. There were some, however, for whom the end of the voyage must be the beginning of servitude; for a period of three, four or five years they were to be at the direction of some master who would advance the cost of their transportation. But probably there was not among these redemptioners, as they were called, a heavier heart than that of Richard Annesley, whose story gave Charles Reade the foundation for his novel, “The Wandering Heir.” Annesley was spirited away from his English home in 1728, and was carried to the Delaware, where he was sold to a master who made good his passage money. The story of the journey and the later experiences was told in the curious volume, “Memoirs of an Unfortunate Young Nobleman,” published in London in 1743. In this book Annesley told his adventure in the third person, under the name of Baron de Altamont. Unknown to himself, his father had died, and a scheming uncle carried him aboard a ship bound for America, informing him that the captain would take him to school. The knowledge that he was not to be a pampered passenger but a servant came to him with a great shock. The story is told thus:
“The Hurricane, which had continued Near three hours, being ceased, and the Waves resuming a More smiling Face, a Cloth was spread in the Captain’s Cabbin for him to take some Refreshment after the late Fatigue. . . . The Chevalier James, who had been there during the Storm, was going to sit down at the Table. ‘Hold, youngster,’ cried one of the rough Tarpaulins, pulling him away, ‘Do you think you are to be a Mess-mate with the Captain?’ ‘The Boy will know his Distance better hereafter,’ the Captain said . . . The Chevalier . . . now began to mutter, and say, that as soon as he got out of the Ship, he would send his Father an account how they used him . . . Then, the unhappy Youth became acquainted with the Treachery of his inhuman Uncle, and that instead of being made an accomplished Nobleman, he was going to the worst kind of Servitude.”
The captain began to fear that the unfortunate young man would throw himself overboard or would starve himself. That the passage money, to be secured from the purchaser of the services of Annesley, might not be lost, the captain did his best to calm his troubled mind, assuring him that there was nothing so terrifying in the name of slave, after all, for this was only another name for an apprentice, and many noblemen’s sons were apprenticed.
But when land was reached Annesley’s worst fears were realized. A master appeared, the first of many who made him toil for thirteen long years, or until a fortunate accident restored him to his English home and estate.
But Annesley’s case was exceptional. For most of the emigrants, even the redemptioners, the landing on Pennsylvania soil was the beginning of better things.
The perils of the passage across the Atlantic were forgotten, or were perhaps recalled with reminiscent pleasure during the long evenings after the work of the day was done, when neighbors gathered for gossip about the blazing hearth. “Rememberest that day of the storm when the mast was carried away?” one might ask. “And what of the time when they had to measure out the water and the meal?” another memory would follow, perhaps. So for an hour or two the days of the past would be lived over again, until the signal for breaking up would be given by one who would say, as he lifted back his chair, “Those were great days!”
1 Samuel Neave was for more than twenty-five years a prominent merchant of Philadelphia. He was one of the signers of the Non-Importation Agreement.