|"Barque" by Thomas Somerscales (detail)|
It is December 31, 1848. A young man of 19 from Augusta, Maine boards a sailing ship in Boston Harbor, bound for San Francisco, some 10,000 miles away. He is among 25,000 who will take that treacherous journey around Cape Horn in 1849. Between 1848 and 1850, San Francisco grows from a sleepy little town of 1,000 to a bustling city of 35,000. By 1852, California's non-native population increases from 14,000 to 250,000.
This great migration is, of course, occasioned by the discovery of gold at John Sutter's saw mill on the south fork of the American River. The young man from Augusta is my great -grandfather, Henry Weld Severance, who, in his own words, was "leaving all most near and dear, to seek a fortune among strangers in a distant land." He kept a journal of that journey, which I recently discovered among some family papers. I found the journal fascinating, even beyond the fact that this was my great -grandfather speaking. It provides a look into a very different time, when The world, and especially America, were young and expansionist. When self reliance and self improvement were critically important. When colonialism and the idea of manifest destiny were redefining political and geographic lines.
So my paper this evening will be to join Henry on his 10,000-mile adventure on the high seas.
To you, my dear parents, I now dedicate my journal, and although its various incidents may not be so interesting, as while detailing them gives me the hope that they will be, still I know that wherever I am, you feel interested in my welfare, and especially so at the present time. There may be trifling scenes connected with the voyage, which you will probably ascribe to me folly in detailing them, but still, any occurrence, however minute, seems to me worthy of note. Our voyage thus far has not been entirely monotonous, but some parts deeply fraught with peril, aye with danger from which we knew we could not escape, without the aid and guidance of him whose home is on the mountain wave, whose eye o'er spreads the deep.
Sunday, Dec. 31, 1848
We hove up anchor this morning at 8 o'clock, having been detained in the harbor four days on account of foul,weather and head winds. The captain and pilot coming on board at that time, the orders were given in quick succession to loose the topsails. As she swung around, and under the influence of the freshening breeze, slowly parted the water under her bow, gathering fresh impetus every moment, as sail upon sail was heaped upon her as she glided swiftly down the harbor before a strong northwest wind, presenting a cloud of snowy canvass to the breeze. I stood on the quarter deck and calmly surveyed the scene. I have known what is is to see friends hurried away upon the ocean to brave its power and thought it but a trifle, but for the first time felt what it was to be myself the wanderer, launching forth comparatively alone, while all most dear are far behind. When the pilot took his leave outside the harbor at 12 o'clock, I felt that the last connecting link with New England was broken. As we were rapidly leaving my native shore, a sad, uncalled for thought would often flitter across my mind, as I thought that I was leaving all most near and dear, to seek a fortune among strangers in a distant land. But I endeavored to suppress such feelings, and was enabled to bid farewell to New England's shores with a tearless eye, perhaps assisted some by the golden ore glittering in my mind's eye on the banks of the Sacramento.
We passed at 4 p.m. the ship Element, ashore on Cape Cod. She left Boston the day before us, and while in the City, I was frequently on board her, she having laid in the dock directly behind us. I stood on the wharf when she left it bound for New Orleans, and little did I imagine when I next should see her, it would be a victim of the fury of the elements. At 5o'clock we took our last observation from shore, Cape Cod bearing W.NW distant ten miles. And now as I stood gazing still on the west, while nothing but the heaving line of the watery horizon was marked against the clear blue sky, I,thought that I had now set forth to battle with the world, to endeavor to gain a living among honest people or rogues, I,know not which. I knew I had nothing now to rely on, but must gain a name, perhaps a fortune, by my own exertions. Not being in the best of spirits, I retired early and as I lay in my bunk, I keenly felt the reality of my departure and wondered that I could voluntarily have undertaken at the sacrifice of friends and home, so long and uncertain a voyage. But in my better judgement I cannot and do not regret it, hoping that my ardent and golden expectations will be fully realized. My friend, Mr. Morpheus, happened along about nine o'clock, and I willingly resigned myself to his charge, prepared in some degree by the soothing influence of the gentle motion of our Barque, as she rose and fell upon the soft and undulating swell of the billow.
Monday, Jan 1st
All the passengers, eleven in number, are forced to yield to the disagreeable sensation of sea sickness. We find that among the six men shipped as seamen, only one can be called a sailor, although four of them represented themselves as able and experienced at sea. The wind is constantly increasing and blows this afternoon very fresh. It is directly behind us and we are running under single reefer topsails. We all feel much anxiety at weathering the gale with only one able seaman bit trust to his guidance, who is ever on the stormy sea.took an observation this noon and find ourselves in Latt. 40' 04" N. Night sets in cloudy and stormy, with the promise of an unpleasant morrow.
The sufferings which I have endured for the last three long days will not soon be effaced from my memory. Several of the passengers seemed almost ready to commit themselves to the waves to find relief, but luckily their sickness prevented them from getting on deck. I have lain in my berth nearly all the time, as in truth I was obliged to keep dry, as our decks every few moments would be swept by a heavy sea. We laid to thirty six hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, during which time we lost our quarter boat, broke off mizzen channels and had quite a number of things on deck swept away. As we were before the wind all of the time, our barque rolled tremendously and our cabin, with the incessant dashing of bilge water on the floor, causing a most nauseous and disagreeable stench, the tumbling of baggage about the room, and the almost total darkness in which we were shrouded, all the skylights being closed, and our only light being a dimly burning lantern, all combined in rendering our cabin a very undesirable place.
The gale has at last bated and this day is particularly fine and appears more so to us, having been for the last week clouded in gloom by the dismal sky above us. At 7 a.m. on Friday we bore away before the wind and have thus far made an excellent run from the coast, having by dead reckoning averaged three degrees daily.We lost on Friday twenty two hens, which were swept off by a heavy sea. I feel, this afternoon as well as usual, having entirely recovered from my sickness. Yesterday the Captain seized the cook to the main rigging and gave him two dozen lashes for disobedience of orders. He tried to leap overboard to escape the flogging but was fortunately caught. Every blow drew tears from his black eyes and blood from his back and he begged of the mate and passengers for their interposition, but it was of no avail. It struck me at once that the Captain was a tyrant and I believe that my future observation on his character will prove my opinion true.
Sunday, January 14
Another pleasant sabbath morn has arrived. I have been thinking of home and have wished myself there to attend church. I am quite sick this morning but am able to read in bed. Have read several chapters in the Scriptures. In the evening the passengers joined in singing some Psalms, which sounded very pleasant. Our observation is Latt. 26' 48"N.
Another Sabbath has come around and with it pleasant thoughts of home. On board here we are deprived of everything religious except as can be derived from books. It is rainy this morning but promises fair. We had some of the porpoises cooked for dinner. I have been reading all day in [Henry Ward] Beecher's Lectures to Young Men and [William] Jay's Sermons. Latt. 18'46"
It is the most beautiful morning that we have had since leaving Boston. I shaved today for the first time and feel much relieved. On account of head wind we have been running to the N.E. all the afternoon. I feel much better today. The sea is quite smooth, so much so that we can see a long distance to sea.
Wednesday, 24 th
Nothing this morning to disturb the dull monotony of the voyage. I have been reading a medical book this afternoon and have concluded to give up tobacco in every shape. Innumerable school of flying fish have been around us today. They present a fine appearance as they fly about, the sun shimmering on their wings. Three of them flew on board the Barque and the steward serves them for breakfast. Latt. 17'51"N
Friday, Jan 26
In was awakened this morning by a loud cry from the quarter deck of "there she blows". I hastened on deck and found it to be three sperm whales about a mile distant.they seemed to be playing with each other. The Captain said they were of small size. I had a severe fever last night but feel better this morning. Latt. 13'32"N
A fine morning. I arose at 5 o'clock and paced the deck till breakfast, which makes my appetite rather strong. Our quarter deck resembles a farmer's barn floor. It is covered with onions drying, which got wet in the gale. They remind me strongly of home. We are still close hauled on the wind. The weather is very warm. The thermometer at 80. Latt. 11'34". Long. 36'40"
Another beautiful sabbath morn has come. It seems it was made so serene and calm to remind us of our duty in improving it. I have been reading Beecher's Lectures this forenoon on the quarterdeck. I read six chapters in Genesis this evening. The night sets in still, calm and beautiful. Such an evening as this is likely to make one think of home.
I have taken off my thick clothes and donned my thin ones and feel much relieved in doing it. I thought while doing it of the vast difference in the climate between here and Augusta. The wind has hauled to the east and we are cracking along.
Wednesday, Jan 31st
I am this day by Divine permission able to call myself twenty years of age. This my birthday seems to be peculiarly fitted for my particular purpose. In the morning we were refreshed by a gentle shower which makes the deck agreeably cool. I took,out my rifle and cleaned and oiled it to preserve it from rust. We had mince pie for dinner, which to our greediness was very nice. We all,showered blessings on the old steward head in his being able to anticipate our wishes. This afternoon is very calm. The sails flap idly against the mast. The clouds so calm and still scarce seem to move. A painter would delight in such gorgeous scenery. This is the first calm we have had since leaving the States. Night closed in without a breath of wind to cool our heated brows. Henry and I slept on deck for the first time with an old sail to cover us from the sews. Latt. 3'34". Long. 31'3"
Friday, Feb 2nd
It is a perfect calm this morning on account of which the heatbisnvery oppressive. A brig is seen off the lee bow, but as she is standing to the westward, while we are becalmed, we shall not meet her. My hands and feet are very sore from having been burned by the sun. The Captain is pacing the deck very uneasy because we cannot get along. The vessel, which we supposed to be a brig proved to be a ship. At 3 a.m. She was observed standing for us. She proved to be the ship Tartan 98 days from China bound to Philadelphia. As she came down toward us before the wind, which had just sprung up, she looked like a thing of life. Every sail that she had was aloft and filled. She was a very handsome ship and seemed deeply laden. As the wind was bowing fresh we of course could get no,letters on board, which we very much wished to do. The only news we could give him were concerning General Taylor's election to the Presidency. We had time to,exchange but a few words and she passed on.
We had a very severe rain last night and it continues to rain this morning. All the empty casks have been filled. The mate filled our small boat with fresh water and we all washed our clothes. We were very fortunate in having so much rain as our water had got very low.
Welcome sweet day of rest. There is not wind enough to cool our heated brows. We are within thirty miles of the equator, exposed to a burning sun, lying almost motionless in the water. It has been so hot on deck that I am obliged to study in the cabin.
Wednesday, Feb 7th
We have had a regular breakout in the main hatch and find all things perfectly dry. It was feared by the Captain that there was a leakage through the hatch but it proves not so. I opened my chest of tools which were below and found them all in perfect order. Some books which were accidentally put in there while in Boston were now taken out, much to my gratification, as I needed some of them. My Spanish is very pleasant to me, as I think I am improving my time in a useful way, while others of the passengers are idling their time about deck. Today our Lattitude is 2'20"S. Slow work.
It is a beautiful morning but the sun is bright, which we do not like. Some of the passengers are employed cleaning their pistols. The revolvers lie around and remind one of an armory. We are nearly up to the island Ferdinand Noronha, but shall not be able to see it tonight as the wind is light. We are rather hard in on the South American coast and have now got the southeast trades.
The wind is still blowing fresh from the NE and we are in hopes of clearing the tropics by Sunday. I have employed my forenoon as usual with my Spanish. We had mince pie for dinner which is a great treat to us although it is made from salt beef. I have been studying chemistry this afternoon. The sun set tonight clear and with gorgeous splendor. Our Latt today is 14'33". Long 34'36"
It is perfectly calm this morning with a short, chop sea. Our deck resembles a busy town. We have the carpenter, the sailmaker, blacksmith and company all at work around the vessel preparing the barque for doubling the Cape.
Dolphins are seen around the vessel. They are the most beautiful fish I have ever seen. I have been engaged in reading Lacon [or Many Things in a Few Words] by Rev. C[harles] C[aleb] Colton in the main topsail. A Portugese brig passed by this afternoon bound north about fifteen miles distant. After reading in the Bible like a good boy, I retired.
We have passed from the tropics into the temperate zone and have lost the trade winds. It is blowing nearly a gale and we are running on our course before it at 8 1/2 knots. It is cloudy and very cool. Latt 25'S. Long 41'
Wednesday, Feb 21st
There is no wind this morning. The weather has undergone a great change the last two weeks. The nights are quite cool so as to enable us to sleep below very comfortably. We shall now have to rely on the variable winds to carry us to Cape Horn. We are getting everything ready for doubling the Cape. The anchors were taken from their stocks and stowed away today.
Welcome thou birthday of our great and beloved countryman George Washington. It is a day well fitted to celebrate to his memory, warm and pleasant. We had a fine supper tonight and in the evening we respected his memory by toasts and sentiments. Doctor Shepard made a short speech and nearly all the passengers had something to offer. We enjoyed ourselves finely and adjourned to bed at half past eleven pretty well used up.
Monday, Feb 26th
The wind is blowing fresh and we are going close hauled over 7 knots. A French barque ran across our bow bound to the eastward. As we were passing about two miles at windward, we ran up our peak the Stars and Stripes. In a moment the tri-colored flag went aloft on board the stranger. She was a large barque and made a beautiful appearance with her ensign floating in the breeze far over her stern. I have been making a shot bag this afternoon.
Tuesday, Feb 27 th
We had a severe blow at midnight last night and we are under reefed sails. It is cold enough for thick clothing. We are today abreast of the River LaPlatta and about three hundred miles from land. At midnight we had a very severe squall. All hands, the Captain included, were aloft reefing the main topsail. It lasted for a half hour.
Saturday, March 3rd
As was predicted last night, the cloud which had arisen in the SW had at 4 p.m. brought with it a gale of wind. At 8 o'clock the troubled waters began to assume a massive form and threatened to overwhelm us in their mad career. The gale has not abated at 6 p.m. and the sky presents a dangerous appearance. The sea is very rough and as the decks were covered with spray, I have been lying in my berth nearly all day. The steward has been unable to set his table.
Monday, March 5th
The gale continues and the barque is as yesterday shipping much water. But she is still alive and we all hope for the best, and as long as she holds together that hope will serve to light us on our way. I have been lying in my berth all day engaged in reading and in studying Spanish. But it is tiresome work to hold a book and at the same time be incessantly rolling from side to side by the constant heaving of the vessel. At 11 p.m. A heavy sea broke over the bow and stove in both sides of the galley causing most admirable confusion amongst its culinary apparatus. The sound of tin kettles rolling with much force to leeward and then to windward contrasted fearfully with the deep, hoarse, threatening, grumbling of the storm. I got to sleep before midnight and was not again troubled.
We had a slight rumpus tonight between two of the passengers from New Bedford, but by the prompt interference of the Captain and the aid of some liquor which he furnished, the affair was amicably adjusted. This night was celebrated as the inauguration of Gen. Taylor.
Thursday, March 8th
The top of the mainmast was this afternoon discovered to be unsound, so much so that her gear above the top mast was all sent down and stowed away, as the Captain judged it unsafe to carry it around the Horn. Iis thought now that we shall be obliged to go into Valparaiso for repairs and water. It would suit me to go in there one or two days, but no longer, merely to see one of the South American cities governed formerly by the Incas.
Friday, March 9th
Our course is now SW to enable us to go to the westward of the Falkland Islands. The nights are cold now, mercury ranging from 30 to 50 degrees. The butter, which while in the tropics was so soft that we used a spoon to dip it out, is now hard as ever. It is too cold for bathing. Latt. 45'. Long 54'
Saturday, March 17th
The weather this afternoon is quite severe and as I expect a rough passage around the Cape I shall write nothing until I make the passage.
Passage around Cape Horn.
Three long, tedious, disagreeable weeks have at last passed away, weeks in which we have been exposed to all the rigors, all the furious tempests which are predominant in this inhospitable region, weeks which have seemed to me an age, confined as I have been to my berth on account of the severity of the weather. We are today in Latt. 54'22" Long. 77'10" and as far south as I ever again desire to be. The weather for some of the time has been very severe, we being one day within a few miles of the frigid zone. At the junction of the two great oceans at Cape Horn there is probably the roughest sea and the the most rigorous weather to which the mariner is exposed. The black concave of the sky above us has too well assisted in adding terror to the picture. Clouds dark and threatening were constantly rushing by us, seeming as they flew past to be combining with the lashed and raging sea to crush us. We were constantly assailed by heavy squalls of snow and sleet, in the morning perhaps a perfect calm, nothing to disturb us but the long, regular heaving of the angry sea, and at night with but momentary notice exposed to the terrible fury of the elements. One night it blew a perfect hurricane.I went on deck to view one of the most sublime spectacles in the majesty of nature, the furious battling of the elements. The cold, wintry moon would now and then peep forth and again vanish instantly, throwing a deep gloom over the scene. During the whole period, the ocean presented a succession of varied scenes, heightened in appearance by our gallant barque struggling in majesty amid the tumultuous conflict of billows raging against billows on every side. We were under very short sail but the mass of rigging which was still presented to the storm, caused a sound as the wind swept by, resembling the roaring of a tempest through a thick forest. But our vessel plunging through the heaving billows, dashing broad beds of snowy foam far around, seemed as she proudly rode the mountain wave, to be conscious of her power. She is well suited to bear us to the land of promise. As wave upon wave came rushing down upon her, threatening to engulf us in their mad career, she rising proudly upon their summits, seemed poised on their crest to scorn their power. I have been confined to my berth nearly all the time, as it was the only place in which I could keep warm. The chief part of my time has been employed in books, but I can assure you it was no pleasant task to hold in hand the book and at the same time suffer from the severe cold. We were obliged to beat entirely around and therefore our progress was very slow. The wind was all the time from NW to SW. We made land several times, the islands of Diego Ramirez and Ildefonso, but derived little pleasure in viewing their bleak and barren shores. We have passed a great many vessels but the rugged weather prevented us from speaking to any of them.
Tuesday, April 3rd
The sea today is very rough and the wind very strong. We are standing to the north under reefed topsails. At nine o'clock the cry of "sail ho" was heard. Going on deck I decried a large ship bearing down toward us before the wind and was soon by the aid of the glass was enabled to make her out a Yankee Frigate. To attempt, my dear parents, to portray to you in favorable coloring the beauty, the noble sublimity of her appearance, as she proudly plunged her way along, scorning alike both wind and wave, would utterly defy the loftiest stretch of my imagination. As I clung to the shrouds watching her swift progress in all the majesty of her nature, I could not but exclaim with all my heart: what a glorious scene for the artist, or poet, or any one of nature's enthusiasts, who could do justice to the scene. From her distance as she passed us we were unable to ascertain her name, but the hoisting of the Stars and Stripes at her peak, to receive ours in return, betokened one of America's proudest ornaments, her gallant navy. She looked like some monster compared to our puny barque and her noble and majestic appearance spoke favorably of the object and power for which she was built — the protection of America's Freemen. She was under close reefed topsails and seemed a very fast sailor. Her tall and slender masts were soon lost to sight in the dim and misty horizon.
Tuesday, April 10th
I was awakened this morning by the cheerful cry on deck from the sailors of "O hi yo" When I went on deck I found all hands at work sending up top gallant mast, top gallant and royal yards, bending on the sails, stocking the anchors, sending out the flying jib boom and doing other necessary things preparatory to going into port, which we are expecting. The change in the air becomes every day more perceptible and we hail every fair wind with joy, so anxious are we to leave this cold and barren region for the pleasant weather and serene skies of the tropics where we can lie on deck or sit in the main topsail with our books, while fanned with soft and humid winds.
Wednesday, April 18 th
We are within twenty four hour sail of Valparaiso and shall probably, if the wind holds, go in tomorrow. Our object in making port is want of water. I intend, as far as I am able, to visit as many objects of interest as are near the City. Land has been in sight nearly every day for the last week. We have some of the time been within fifteen miles of shore and seen the snow capped summits of the Andes towering far above the coastal mountains. It was a beautiful scene and little did I dream one year ago that I should be almost in reach of them, gazing with wonder and admiration on their gigantic forms, as they almost vied with the heavens in loftiness and grandeur.
Saturday, April 21st
It is a beautiful morning and Valparaiso's light house is two miles ahead. The wind is light and we have a fine opportunity to view the mountainous coast. On a lofty hill on our right is a telegraph and by the aid of the glass we can discern the keeper hoisting his signals. Next comes what is called The Fort but it much resembles a dilapidated mud hovel. Two guns are seen with their rusty mouths protruding from the muddy ramparts. Two or three boats with their dark occupants are seen near the shore engaged in fishing. The bay, which is gradually opening to view, is a small indenture in the coast, forming a curve of about three miles from point to point. It is entirely unprotected from the heavy north winds, which are prevalent in the winter season and in consequence for three or four of the winter months their commerce is nearly at a stand.
At eleven o'clock we dropped anchor among twenty or thirty flags. We were immediately surrounded by a great number of boats from shore, some with merchants, others with what are truly called at home Land Sharks - but most were natives come off to take us on shore and they exhibited as much cunning and energy in getting a passenger as the hackmen at public depots in the States. Three of us were soon seated in a boat by the polite invitation of a merchant, Mr. Montgomery, and after a short row we landed on a quay which was covered with dark skinned Chileans, some to inquire the news, some to get a job, but very little of their jabbering did I understand. Accompanied by Mr. Montgomery we took a stroll through the town to take a flying view of the people, and we returned at four o'clock to the Fonda de Estrelle, the hotel, where we dined. There were several merchant Captains at the table but none whom I knew. Everything was served in the same style as at a hotel in Boston, and I assure you that a dinner of green vegetables after having lived on salt provisions for so long a time was much sweeter than the fabled ambrosia to Jupiter. Although the price was very extravagant, I felt but little reluctance at paying for so great a treat.
Tuesday, April 24th
We got underway this noon and are slowly leaving the harbor towed by four boats. I once more am seated in the cabin and have resumed my pen to give a passing description of Valparaiso. It has a population of forty thousand and is the principal commercial port in Chile. My first impression of the Chileans on landing at the quay and seeing so many natives standing idly around was that they were a lazy and indolent people. But I afterward learned that these were boatmen and that one-eighth of the population was employed on the water. On advancing into the street, the first particular object that attracted my attention was the chain gang, and on enquiring of an Englishman standing near, I was told that this was the only punishment for every offense and that after being in this gang four times the penalty is death. They were guarded by soldiers and engaged in paving the streets with cobblestones.
Walking along I noticed a church door standing open and having a curiosity to seeing the sacred as well as the profane, I entered without ceremony and found but two or three persons there, who were going through some form of service. While watching their movements I heard a muttering noise behind me and turning beheld a woman with shaven pate coming toward me with a mug of water. By her own motions and my little knowledge of Spanish, I was able to understand that she wished to anoint my head with holy water. I, being a good heretic, of course refused to acknowledge the power of this Catholic's healing medicine. Her earnest entreaties and supplications caused me at last to smile, and she uttered a most piteous cry, which caused to appear from behind the altar four priests who told us that we, not willing to be anointed, must leave, which we did after taking one more stroll around the room.
The most amazing thing to me were the mules and the drivers. All the produce of the country is brought to town in two panniers lashed on either side of the animal, while the driver seated behind these, upon the mules tail, with whip and spurs three inches long, dash through the streets presenting a novel and laughable picture. Walking along, a sign Jardin de Publico, attracted my notice. Entering as usual without ceremony, I found myself among nature's smiling works, in the most beautiful garden I ever beheld. Oranges, lemons, figs, dates, bananas and a great variety of other fruit were hanging in rich profusion from the over hanging limbs and vines. What a contrast between this Paradise and the cabin of the Carite. It seemed the happiest moment of may life when I entered this sweet and fragrant Elyseum. I did not leave until every part had been minutely inspected, and then with much reluctance.
In the evening I attended the Opera and was much surprised to see so many well dressed people. It is opened once a week and is chiefly supported by foreign residents. Lucretia Borgia, of whom you may have heard as a successful actress in Boston, is now the prima Donna. The house was filled with the elite and gay and among the number I recognize the British and American consul. The performance was in Italian and of corse was unintelligible to me, but the tragedy and comedy seemed to have as successful champions as at home. I returned at twelve o'clock in a cabriolet to my hotel.
On Monday we went to the market to purchase some fruit to carry on board the barque.It is tended altogether by females and we created much laughter among the fair superintendents of the surrounding stalls at our earnest endeavors to reduce the prices. Americanos! Yankees! echoed through the hall and we were treated very respectfully and kindly. Henry and I purchased as much fruit for $1.25 as could be bought in the States for treble the sum.
We called at eleven o'clock on the American consul, Mr. Wm. G. Morehead of Ohio, formerly a U. S. Senator. He gave us much interesting information of the gold region and also a list of vessels which have sailed from Boston for California since Feb. 26. In a New York Herald which he gave me I notice an association had been formed in Augusta of thirty members, but no names were given. We have, however, got the start on them and hope to welcome them at the Gold Region with our purses well lined. Everything from California is bright and cheering. A large number of people have gone from Chile and the clipper ship Ann McKim, which arrived three days ago, reported the price of everything but provisions as extravagantly high. I was informed that the prices paid for clerks were from $1500 to $2000 and that if I wished to remain here I could receive $2000, but California is my aim and a much larger sum would hardly change my determination.
I have by the kind offer of Captain Smith of the American Merchant ship Independence deposited with him my Journal to April 20th. He sails for Boston in a few days. The postage to the Sates by the way of Panama being very high, and my Journal rather weighty, I did not think it advisable to send by that route.
By the polite invitation of Mr. Peel, grandson of Sir Robert, a mid shipman on board the Asia, I went on board the vessel accompanied by Henry at three o'clock. I was much pleased with the order and regularity and neatness of everything about. The officers and men consisted of about seven hundred and were mostly fine looking men. The old motto, England expects every man to do his duty was wrought in large guilt letters over the cabin door. We were shown through every part of the ship and returned on board the Barque at five p.m. highly pleased with the visit.
I went ashore again this morning to purchase a few things and returned at noon just as the vessel was getting under weigh. As little as I have seen of Valparaiso, I am much pleased with everything concerning it. The market is at all seasons fine and she can boast of as good eating and drinking as any part of the world. The climate is at all times healthy, and in the winter season which is now just coming, not surpassed in any section of the globe. Chile is the most advanced in republicanism of any of the South American states, but the Catholic religion, that tyrant's support, that poor man's master, still encircles and enslaves them as a yoke of iron. But for this and they would be a free, intelligent, enlightened people, and worthy representatives of their guiding star, the glorious confederacy.
This brief description of our short and pleasant visit will, I trust, suffice and I hope some future day to revisit this coast.
Sunday, May 13
Daily we grow impatient to reach the El Dorado but none more so than our Captain who superintends the carpenters on the quarter deck. Thank God we shall not always be exposed to a meanness of character as is the chief authority on board the Barque - so destitute of every gentlemanly quality and embued with sordid desires as is exhibited by him and which we are daily in contact with. How pleasantly would time pass were things different, but time will soon bring a change and I sincerely hope and trust for the better. How pleasant would it be to hear from home, but I cannot and must patiently wait for our arrival in San Francisco. I have been engaged today in reading Kingsberry on the Sabbath and Alcott on self education. Had porpoise for dinner.
Sunday, May 20th
I have been reading Dr [Dionysius] Lardner's Scientific Lectures. Also several numbers of the Democratic Review. We are today 141 days from Boston, 26 from Valparaiso. Every day increases our anxiety to reach the El Dorado and we trust for a favorable wind the rest of the voyage.
Monday, May 28th
At six p.m. A vessel was seen astern standing the same course with us, apparently anxious to speak to us, his flag was at half mast. We of course hove to, thinking him in distress. She came rapidly up to us and proved to be the American barque Elvira from Boston to California. She sailed three days after us, had refreshed at Rio and had a passage of forty days around the Cape. At dark we parted company. She was a very swift vessel and in Boston was thought to make the shortest passage to California that would be made. But she has beaten us but little and will probably arrive at San Francisco one or two days ahead. We hope to arrive in twelve days and are gradually preparing our things. My leisure time I have employed in reading Shakespeare.
Saturday Eve, June 16 th
After a long and constant succession of head winds it has at last hauled to the NW and we are able for the first time for two weeks to stand a direct course to San Francisco. The Port bears NE 1/2 E distant 420 miles and if the wind holds where it is, three days will find us at anchor. The weather has been rather unpleasant, the temperature having been cold, and much rain, and as we gradually approach the coast we are subject to heavy fogs. Nothing has occurred worthy of notice except on Sunday last, made memorable by the committal to the deep of our esteemed and favorite cat. Being subject to fits, we thus relieved her from future trials and tribulations, after having given her a leaden pill from a trusty revolver. We are all anxious to arrive and daily we beseech for a speedy deliverance from this floating prison and the vile presence of our worthless Captain. We have finally got a chance to promenade, the carpenters having completed their work on the deck. I have finished the Life of Peter the Great [by John Mottley(?)], the History of Rome [by Henry Malden(?)], Shakespeare and part of Lady [Marguerite] Blessington's works during the last fortnight and the remainder of my time will be occupied in preparing for shore and finishing letters.
Saturday, June 23rd - San Francisco, California
We made the land off Monterey on Wednesday, June 20 and have been obliged to beat up to this port before light head winds. We made the land off this port this morning at nine o'clock and at half past three were safely at anchor among a fleet of 150 sails. Two US sloops of war are at anchor nearby. The Ohio, on board which I had expected to find Midshipman Phil Johnson has sailed for the Sandwich Islands to return in a few days.
This finishes my Journal, which all must excuse, as the sea is a poor place for writing or composing.
175 days passage.Epilogue
I have not yet been able to determine what success Henry might have had in California. I do know that his father, Luther Severance, of Augusta, who was a member of the House of Representatives as a member of the Whig Party, was appointed by President Taylor to serve as the consul general to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), that he arrived in Honolulu in January, 1851 with his wife and Henry's younger brother and sister. Luther Severance served in that capacity until December, 1853. I think that Henry joined his family in Hawaii and stayed there after his father left. He was married in Hawaii and his older daughter was born there. His younger daughter, my maternal grandmother, was married there in 1895. He was appointed Hawaiian consul at San Francisco in 1876 and American Minister and consul general at San Francisco from 1889 -1893. So I suspect that the direction of his life after 1849 had little to do with the gold rush and everything to do with his journey from Boston to San Francisco.