Skip to main content

James White was a 21 year old farmer from Quincy, MA.  In 1849 he sailed from Boston around Cape Horn to San Francisco and the gold diggings of California.  In all he spent 6 months at sea and a year in California.  I've transcribed his journal and am publishing it here as well as on Amazon/Kindle and Apple/iBooks.

Mr. White, being a good Democrat, addresses the immigration issue and the threat the Irish present to jobs for real Americans.  Will nothing ever change?  Sigh!

Thursday the 22d
This day is noticed as the birthday of the father of his country in the New England states. This day it will be noticed more as the anniversary of the Battle of Buena Vista. We are dashing along with a strong breeze at the rate of eight knots. In Lat. 10º 42'  Long. 32º 10’.

Yesterday we lost hel of molasses by hoisting it out of the hold. The staves broke, and it all went down to be pumped out with the bilge water. This we regretted very much as we was rather short of the article. The Capt thinks or says he shall speak a vessel. He is confident of it. He probably knows as much about it as I do. All hands, excepting what are at work, are busy writing letters to their friends and expecting to see one this week. Our ship is the scene of industry. About thirty are to work in the hold fixing the hold, making sails etc.

Friday Feb. 23rd
This morning strong trades wind nine aft and squally. In Lat. 13º 31'  Long. 33º 50'. Experienced heavier squalls than ever. Rent the flying jib and foretop studding sails. Driving along at the rate of nine knots all day.

A ship was seen in our wake all day yesterday, but today out of sight. Probably the Athela or Aurora. Well, this life is rather a monotonous. It is the same thing over and over again. The sailors come on deck in the morning, commence washing and scrubbing the deck. All the old sails are brought on deck to be made up and mended. Sailors are putting on chafing gear which employs one hand all the time. Making preparations for Cape weather. New ropes are reeved, rigging is overhauled and every put in complete order for the worst. We are making two or three degrees every day, and the days fly like minutes and ere long we shall be tearing along before a perfect Cape typhoon.

Saturday the 24th
This morning a ship passed us probably bound to the states. When first seen on our starboard beam about five miles off, but she was soon out of sight. We have strong wind on our starboard quarter. Going nine knots. In Lat. at noon 16º 44'. Long. 34º 50.

Today the second number of The Barometer was issued. It was very interesting having some good poetry and the foreign news was particularly entertaining giving an account of the state of affairs in France, the Queen blessed with another child, or fools. By this we learn the Long. and Lat. The distance we have made from home by dead reckoning which was 4648 miles. This distance sailed over six thousand. There was a long piece of poetry on duff which is considered by a majority to be our best repast. When a duff is this heavy and hard,  great deal of complaint is made. It's this or our living is the most we have to talk about.

I must give a little sketch of the principle meals we have for my own amusement for after days it is almost out of my power to give a description of the whole, but to the principle the first is duff. There is two or three kinds. The best is duff with raisins in it and then duff with stewed dried apples. Duff is made or is simply flour and water mixed up and put into a bag to suit the mess and boiled about four hours or more. Indian duff with pork cut up and boiled in the same fashion as is the old fashion suet pudding at home. This is considered the best pudding by some. We have mush and boiled rice. The last is not a great favorite. Mush is Indian meal and boiling hot water stirred up and then there numerous other dishes. Hash. Scrouse. Soft tuck. Beans. Beef is the least used of any meal as boiled beef, but if put before them and if they don't eat is, it is carried to the pantry and stewed with bread and pork and made up into a mess called scrouse. Hash is fish mixed up after the same fashion. If there is any vegetables they are put in. Beans are the favorite vegetable dish which are cooked excellent. When the pork is good, our pork is excellent.

The 25th
In Lat. 19º 34' Long. 35º 50'.
Sunday the 25th 1849
Well there is another of those beautiful mornings. At sea such mornings make one feel perfectly contented. After taking a refreshing bath under the head pump, attend to the toilet, we look around take a puff of fresh air and look around. Perchance we may see something to attract our attention. See if we can see a sail or the long lost land. We then take a book of some kind or other, most generally the Bible. We take a read of about two hours, and then we hear the joyful sound of eight bells that gives us notice that breakfast in near ready. Bells are rung one bell to every half hour. One at half past twelve. Two at one  Three at half past. Four at two and so on to eight which is at four, eight and twelve. Sunday after breakfast all hands clean up for Sunday service and notice as they would at home. Mr. Benton preached today, principally on the morals of man. Today a ship was seen as far as the eye could reach astern. Probably the one we saw the 23rd. Another one was seen on the starboard beam, steering N by looks.

Monday Feb. 26th
Commenced with a pleasant six knot breeze dead aft. All light sails set. In Lat. at noon 21º 47' Long. 36º 42'.

This morning a very interesting conversation took place between decks on the Irish that migrate to this country. There was some twenty interested in the conversation. I with one Farnnain battled the whole giving them a good argument in favor of the poor ignorant tyrannized Irishman who are driven by absolute necessity to this country to live. I gave my opinion as always before in favor of the oppressed. Superstitious on account of their ignorance. Ignorant on account of their tyrannical government. The principle argument on the opposite side was that they reduced the wages of the Americans and they would soon have the power over the Americans.
Today the Trades left us. Caught two skip jacks and hooked a large dolphin. One of the men threw a spear at him and knocked him off. Bent new spanker, new mizzen top and top gallant sails.

Tuesday Feb. 27 1849
Today wind N or dead aft. Going eight and nine knots all day. Saw a ship a stern as far as could be seen. Probably a Californian looks. Stormy rained in the eve. In Lat. at noon 23º 41’. Long. 38º 05'. Cape Horn is the topic of conversation. Cape H in the morning . Cape Horn in the eve. Some are frightened already.

Last Sunday night a meteor the brightest one I ever saw. The North Star was out of sight. Five degrees S. of the line the dipper as well as a great deal of the other stars. New ones are seen in their place. The stars are very bright. We have a new moon. After ?? we shall lose more stars and see more new ones. Today at eight o'clock got out of the Tropics.

Wednesday the 28th
The last of winter in New England but here it is the last of summer. It begins to feel chilly, and the baths are rather cold. I have bathed every day for more than four weeks and shall continue till so cold I can't. Today the wind aft, as yesterday, going like a race horse. In Lat. 26º 13'. Long. 39º 50'.

Today finished stowing the cargo which makes the ship in better trim. The cargo was throwed in and then Mr. Rix tumbled it round and made it worse than it was before. We should have been a great many degrees farther on our journey if the cargo had been properly stowed in the first place. It is now properly stowed. It has kept the men fifteen to thirty a day to work in the hold ever since the 15th. Sent down royal studing sails and rigging belonging to them. This begins to look like Cape weather. The sail seen yesterday out of sight. She is a light vessel and can't sail so fast as we in a heavy breeze.

In the afternoon the clouds indicated a storm. The barometer fell, clouds began to gather and at five a heavy squall lay in the west. The wind hauled round from the NW suddenly to the SW, and it came with perfect madness. By the time it struck us, had in all light sails, reefed fore main and mizzen. Top gallant sails clewed up. Cross jack spanker and main sails and ran off before it. By six o'clock it blew with great fury. Carried away foresail and fore topsail. Bent two others in their place and layed to under a double reefed main top foresail and fore top stay sail. In the gail about seven the galley was thought to be on fire by the quantity of sparks coming out of the chimney. An alarm was given foolishly and the greatest confusion prevailed for a minute. Those below were some frightened, I among the rest, and well we might be for an alarm of fire in a gail three hundred  miles from any land is not so pleasant. I kept below in the gail as I was of no service and in the way.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site