Whaling

Whaling and Gold Mining, An Amazing Relic Possibly Unique Outside of Institutions, Linking Two of the Most Important American Pursuits of the 19th Century, and Showing the Transition. Possibly Earliest Example of a Whaling Voyage that Ended in the California Gold Rush.

Ship’s Log for Whaling Voyage that Ended in California Gold Rush

 

“steered for the harbor of Sanfrancisco so ends this day with much joy to all on board after a long and tedious voyage.”

 

News of the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, California, in January 1848, brought approximately 300,000 people to California over the next seven years. The New York Herald was the first to report the discovery of gold on the East Coast of the United States in August 1848, but several months passed before more reliable reports appeared, beginning the peak of the Gold Rush in 1849.

 

There was no easy way to get to California from the East Coast, but prospectors generally followed one of four routes. Sailing around the tip of South American took four to five months and covered approximately 18,000 nautical miles. Some sailed to Panama, then took canoes and mules for a week to the Pacific side of the isthmus, where they waited for a ship bound for San Francisco. Another route traveled overland through Mexico from Veracruz to catch a ship on the western coast of Mexico heading to San Francisco. The most popular land-only route was along the California trail, as a branch of the Oregon Trail. After traveling through Nebraska and Wyoming, prospectors turned southwest in what is now Idaho to travel through Nevada to California. Each of these routes had its dangers and disadvantages, but hundreds of thousands of people made the voyage in search of riches.

 

Many groups of prospectors traveled in companies to share the expenses of the voyage and to provide mutual protection. Some men mortgaged their farms, clerks resigned their positions, mechanics packed their tools, merchants closed their stores, and physicians sold or abandoned their practices to join a company to head for California. The maritime professions of New England had an advantage in experience with sea voyages, and they could carry provisions not only for the voyage but also for several months of work in California, where the cost of provisions was extremely high.

 

The first vessel to sail from Boston to California left on December 7, 1848. The shipyards of New Bedford and Nantucket were soon busy converting whaling ships and fishing schooners into vessels outfitted for a California voyage. In the early months of 1849, dozens of ships of all sizes left Boston, New Bedford, and Nantucket bound for California.

 

The Chase was a 153-ton bark, built in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1835. It left New Bedford, Massachusetts, on April 17, 1849, under the command of Captain Henry H. Ricketson, for its seventh, and last, whaling voyage. It carried a crew of twenty-two, ranging in age from 16 to 39 or older. Instead of heading directly for California, however, the Chase spent the spring and summer of 1849 whaling in the North Atlantic Ocean.

 

Thirty-five-year-old James D. Hoxie of Sandwich, Massachusetts, was a member of this voyage and kept this log. Also among the crew were his older brother Obadiah D. Hoxie (1810-1873), and his nephew, sixteen-year-old George W. Hoxie (1832-1926). In addition to keeping this log of weather, activities, and location during the voyage, James D. Hoxie also wrote fifty letters to his wife back in Massachusetts.

 

[GOLD RUSH.] James D. Hoxie, Manuscript Ship’s Log for Bark Chase of New Bedford, Massachusetts, April 17, 1849-April 8, 1850. 226 pp. (93 pp. with text), 8.25" x 13.75". Entries for April 17-June 10, 1849, repeated at end of book from back with approximately ten pages cut out after June 10 entry. Contemporary half calf over boards. Joints splitting, wear to board and spine with surface losses.

 

Most entries describe the weather, the activities of the crew, unusual events, and the latitude and longitude of the Chase.

 

Excerpts

“Journal kept on board Bark Chase of New Bedford capt H. Ricketson Bound on a whaleing voyage in the atlantic ocean thence to California

                                                                        “James D. Hoxie”

 

Captain Henry H. Ricketson (1813-1850) was the master of the Chase for this voyage. He died in Sacramento, California, in September 1850, five months after this voyage ended in San Francisco. His widow obtained in December 1852 a posthumous patent for him for a machine to process whale blubber.

 

April 17, 1849: “begins with fine pleasant weather at 10 AM got underway from the wharfe with all hands on board and steered down the river so Ends this day”

 

April 27: “first and latter part fresh breeses from WSW at 4 PM picked up a barrel of turpentine at 6 PM picked up a large box of trunks harnices Bridles &c”

 

May 8: “at 7 A M saw spirm whales 5 miles dist at 7½ loward in persute of them succed in takeing one at 11 AM commenced cutting”

 

May 14: “at 6 PM loward for Blackfish [killer whales] but could not get any of them”

 

June 6: “at 6 PM spoke Bark ship agnes of London from Honduras Bound to London”

 

June 25: “the boats in persute of a large whale at 3½ PM gave up the chase and came on board at sunset”

 

July 11: “at 5 PM spoake Bark ship Heelay 42 days out with 40 bls oil capt went on board got som letters at 8 PM came on.”

 

July 19: “at 7 AM spoke the schooner Francisco of and from N York bound to Sanfrancisco 14 day out went on board and got some news pappers”

 

July 26: “fine weather and plenty of fish in sight at 6 AM saw spirm whales 2 Miles dist loward the boats in persute of them at 9 AM took one whale along side” [drawings of whales]

 

July 27: “begins with fine weather boats chasing whales at one PM took another whale along side and commenced cuting in at 8 PM finished cuting.... at 10 AM commenced boiling so ends with whales in sight going quick to windward”

 

July 31: “all hands imployed in storing down oil at 5 PM finished sto[r]ed down 60 bls Spirm oil”

 

August 20: “at 6 AM saw spirm whales at 6½ AM loward the boats in persute of them at noon still in chase of them”

 

August 21: “at 2 PM took one whale allong side and commenced cutting at 9  got the body in and sat the watch at daylight took the head in baled the case and cut up the Junk and commenced boiling”

 

“Bailing the case” was ladling the spermaceti out of the head with a bucket. The “junk” was a structure in the forehead of a sperm whale with compartments of spermaceti separated by walls of cartilage, which whalers dismissed as a worthless source of sperm oil.

 

August 31: “at 5 PM came to anchor at Fayall [Faial Island, Azores] and could not be permited to go on shore.... all hands imployed in discharging oil”

 

September 2: “all hands imployed takeing in water last part fine weather on wash ashore on liberty so ends this day”

 

September 9: “all hands employed in takeing off recruits [additional supplies] at 5 PM finished.... at daylight got underway and went to sea in company the Brig Juno of N Bedford Bound to Calafornia”

 

The brig Juno, Edwin T. Cook, master, had sailed from New Bedford on August 15 with twenty-four prospectors of the Juno Mining Company.

 

October 21: [crossed the Equator]

 

October 27: “at 10 AM spoke ship B Aymar of New York from Boston bound to Buenos Ayres loward our boat went along side and got som papers”

 

The bark B. Aymar was built in Searsport, Maine, in 1840. It initially carried immigrants from Europe to New York but began making runs to California during the gold rush and then remained on the West Coast.

 

November 1: “at 11 AM saw spirm whales and loward the boats about noon struck one large whale”

 

November 2: “all hands imployed in whaleing at 1 AM took the whale along side at daylight began to cut in”

 

November 7: “all hands imployed in stowing oil at 7 PM finished stowing down one hundred bls spirm oil”

 

On this entire voyage, the crew of the Chase harvested 460 barrels of sperm oil.

 

November 29: “at daylight made the land at 10 AM wend into St Josephs Bay to look for wood but found none”

 

November 30: “beating out of the bay at 9 PM blowed on to a heavy gail from the NE ship under short sail beating to windward at 1 AM moderated and hauled to the westward with light winds and calm at 9 AM loward two boats and went on shore captured som seals at 11 came on board and run out of the bay”

 

December 1: “at 10 AM sent two boats on shore after wood at noon came on board with som wood”

 

December 15: “laying off Posseshin Bay with pleasant weather”

 

Possession Bay, or Bahía Poseión, is an ocean bay on the north shore of the Strait of Magellan.

 

December 16: “at half past 1 PM came to anchor with a head tide midle and latter part pleasant weather beating through the narrows”

 

December 17: “at anchor by elesebeth Island went on shore and got som gees.... at 9 AM got underway and got as far as Port Fammin”

 

Port Famine, or Puerto del Hambre, is a settlement on the north shore of the Strait of Magellan

 

December 25: “at 5 PM run into Monday Bay and tied the old Bark up to a tree droped the anchor under foot”

 

January 2, 1850: “at 4 PM got out into the Pacific ocean”

 

January 27: “imployed in painting ship at 1 PM loward the boats for whales which proved to be hum[p]backs came on board at 2 PM with light winds and calms at 4 PM finished painting”

 

February 3: “steering in for callao at 10 PM came to anchor at 7 AM hauled up in front of the town and droped the anchor”

 

Callao, Peru, is the chief seaport for Lima.

 

February 6: “imployed in discharging oil last part imployed in landing it”

 

February 10: “one watch on shore the other takeing in water”

 

February 12: “imployed in getting ship ready to take passingers”

 

February 17: “at 5 PM took the anchor and went to sea steering WNW by compass”

 

March 2: [crossed the Equator]

 

April 6: “at daylight steered E by N weather pleasant the wind SW at 10 AM made the land and steered for the harbor of Sanfrancisco so ends this day with much joy to all on board after a long and tedious voyage of two hundred and sixty four days from New Bedford.”

 

Some ships managed the voyage from Massachusetts around Cape Horn to San Francisco in as few as 150 days, though many took much longer. Hoxie’s calculation of 264 days is curious, as the Chase left New Bedford on April 17, 1849, 354 days earlier, and there is no indication in the log that it returned to New Bedford. Perhaps Hoxie did not count days spent in ports in the Azores, Peru, and elsewhere on the voyage.

 

April 7: “at 10 PM got a shore with the vessel on a sand flat at daylight got of and came to anchor in 7 fathoms water last part pleasant so ends this day with the most of the crew on shore”

 

Hoxie’s brother Obadiah D. Hoxie settled in Oregon, while his nephew George W. Hoxie lived for the rest of his life in northern California. In addition to James D. Hoxie, crew members Urial F. Sherman (1822-1889) of Dartmouth and Henry P. Macomber (1831-1864) of Freetown also returned to Massachusetts. Whether other members of the crew remained in California or returned to the East Coast remains uncertain.

 


James D. Hoxie (1814-1887) was born in Massachusetts, a direct descendent through both his father and mother of Lodowick Hoxie (1630-ca. 1704), who arrived in the Plymouth colony about 1650. He married Deborah Braley (1821-1853) in 1843, and they had five children.  After her death, he married her older sister Mary Swift Braley (1816-1888) in 1855. In 1860, Hoxie was a master mariner, living in Falmouth, Massachusetts. In 1880, he was a clerk in a union store in Falmouth.

 

 

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.

 

WE PROVIDE IN-HOUSE SHIPPING WORLDWIDE.



Item: 66857

Price: $12,500.00
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