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.
Thursday the 15th
Our friend was as far off as you could see astern. Commenced to stow the cargo all over again as it was not stowed right by Mr. Rix who stowed it before and also the men would not work with him, his been very cross and ugly to them. Mr. Higins was having to stow it all over again thoroughly, he being an experienced stevedore. The lumber was to be taken out and all of the other baggage to get at the ground tics? of water aft and pump it out into the empty casks forward and salt water pumped into them as the vessel was getting light. This was all done with a great deal of danger and labor. We wished to be in good condition for Cape weather. We had a new set of sails made on purpose for the Cape. We have been at work pretty well every since left Boston.
In Lat. the 15th 1º 11' Longitude 26º 17' Today we had the SE winds, but light, very light, squalls with rain.
Friday the 16th
In Lat. 2º 12' Long. 26º 12'. This morning our visitor was out of sight and a brig about three miles ahead instead. To attract our attention she acted as though she would like to know who we was. We gained on here very fast. Within about a mile she showed her colors and we hoisted ours. We found by glass that she was a Swede. The Capt gave orders for the men to get their letters ready as he thought she was bound to Rio. All was confusion. The letters I had wrote I got ready as soon as possible, one to Father, one to Mother and two others, one to friend Rolling the other to W.W. Winchel. A letter bag was ordered that had been made for the purpose, letter wrote to the American council at Rio and sewed on the outside. She gave signal for longitude and showed hers which we could see by glass. We showed her ours and found that they agreed. She acted rather shy of us on seeing so many men on board, but with light breeze we had she could go away from us very fast. When within speaking distance, we spoke to them and she returned that she was bound for Rio and that she could not hear us. She being to the windward, it was difficult to hear. She kept off acting very shy. The Capt ordered the boat lowered which hangs on the starboard quarter. Four of the crew, one a Swede. On seeing our boat (we shows them our letter bag which they saw) she threw back her sails and kept shying us and then the boat not knowing what to make of us. The boat was soon along side. After informing them who we were and our object etc. we found them to be the Swedish brig Athela from Marseilles. Capt Thompson bound to Rio for coffee. Cargo not much, principally liquors. The took our letter bag with pleasure after treating our men with the best of times etc. Informing each of his Lat. and Long.
One of the men of the boat, the one belonging to the Company, Mr. Deling found in the Capt one that he had been well acquainted with in former days. He came from the same town. They congratulated each other on their meeting, and the Capt said that he did not know what to make of us seeing so many men aboard dressed in red shirts. He thought it could not be a pirate, we being so large, yet he felt rather anxious to know who we were, yet he thought it well enough to keep at a proper distance. After telling him of the gold fever and exchanging news etc., our men returned and both filled away, but the little Swede pulled ahead and by twelve O'clock was three miles ahead. At four it began to squall and we ?? the brig fast and before dark we left her astern.
Saturday Feb 17th
In Lat. 3º 01' Long. 27º11'. It now is five weeks since we set sail. So far we have had a delightful passage taking all things into consideration. By this time it would be a little singular if there was not a few little troubles. If the Company was, as the common saying is, a little fractious, the cause of these little troubles are this petty thieving, saying or or judging hard of one's character, and the living poor, complaining of the cooking etc. Some would get more allowances than others. One mess would crowd upon another. One was lazy. Did not do his part and numerous other little causes to make to make the Company irritable. Some complain of the living, and the complaint comes from those, I should judge, who had spent their money and other peoples two for living. But in my mind, if a man in the Company complains of the living and inconveniences of this ship, he ought to be put ashore the first opportunity. He is not fit to go to California, and he will surely die and the idea of going round Cape Horn. One such man would make a dozen cross, but as I have said before it would be singular if there were not some of that sort. I am fully convinced that it is best for everyone to mind his own business, stand up for your rights and be sure you are right and go ahead.
This morning we were still ahead of our letters, but she was about five miles to the windward of us. About a four knot breeze. If we have a good breeze, we shall beat her or anything else.
This eve a meeting was held to take into consideration of publishing a paper. To be devoted to Art, Literature, and Science. Fun, gass and wittings. No articles to be received calculated to make trouble or any personalities received but to be devoted to the interest of the Company generally. To be called the Barometer or The Gold Diggers Log. The articles received to be wrote off on sheets to be read read on the quarter deck semi weekly by one of the editors. Mr. G.H. Campbell was chosen leading editor. Tombes Horner. Abbe MD. First Mate Wells. I think it will be a great benefit to the Company if conducted properly. It will be open for all articles that are for the interest of the Company from any one of the Company.
Sunday Feb. 18th at sea
In Latitude 3º 29' Long. 28º 33'. Today first, as usual on Sunday, the decks were cleaned up fore and aft and everything put in its proper place more than is usual on week days. After that everything is at rest. Some devote their time to reading, others conversing, and the sailors have a general clean up as this is the only whole day they get. Then comes the religious services which pretty much the whole on board attend. Mr. Bradbury preached today. He is not generally liked because of his hypocrisy. Here is also a fine chance to find out the sincerity of a minister. A fine school to study human nature. This morning both of our friends keep our Company. The Aurora and Athela, but about five miles to the windward. This morning one of the Company caught a shark, a large one.
Monday Feb. 19th at sea
Lat. 4º 23' Long. 29º 44'. For four or five days we have had very light winds, not making more than three degrees. We can hardly call them the Trades. As the Capt says, he has passed here twenty times and has had the wind very strong always Last night it was squally, and this morning our friends were out of sight. Wether we passed them or they us is rather doubtful in telling. I commenced writing more letters as the Capt. thought he could speak another vessel this week, as he was getting where we should see vessels bound home if anywhere on the voyage. Today one of the D-----s was arranged for bad actions and was warned for the future. Whiple. The Company don't like his actions at all, and if he does not better himself, he will loose his office. If these wrongs are countenanced how shall we keep order in the Company when one of the D---s commit them. I hope not long.
Sunday the 20th at sea
In Lat. 6º 26' Long. 30º 11'. This morning we had a fair breeze going about six knots with foretop and royal and main top studing sail set. Mr. Bryant, the 2d mate of the ship, on washing up decks this morning started the sleepers on the quarter deck (rather in a hurry this morning) by throwing a bucket of water on to them. This gentleman I fear will get into trouble with some of the Company if he is not careful. This morning an altercation took place between him and Mr. Drake one of the Company. Mr. Pierce complained to the Capt that he had been abused by Bryant several times and that he should not stand it much longer. The Capt. heard the story both sides and told them not to have any more words about it, and let it drop. If not, he would take the subject into his hand.
Wednesday the 21st at sea
This morning dashing along at the rate of seven with a ten knot breeze the ship braced up very sharp. In Latitude 8º 42' longitude 30º 56'. We are today about 24 miles from Parambuco steering WSW. Today the Barometer was issued for the first time. It was very interesting having poetry, notices of things lost, telegraph briefs, dispatches, a long article in the gentleman conundrums, etc., anniversary of Washington’s birthday tomorrow. It was voted that the paper be posted in the archives of the Company. Today wrote letters home as the Capt thought it likely we should see a vessel this week. Tonight a meeting was called on the quarter deck (a volunteer meeting) called by two conspicuous members Mr. Price and Mr. Pike to take into the consideration of celebrating the anniversary of the battle of Buena Vista and the birthday of Washington. It was proposed to celebrate it by firing thirteen guns and hoisting our colors. It struck the Company as very foolish, and it was voted down. A conundrum was got up my one Mr. Grove as a black on the proposers. Why is celebrating the day tomorrow like two conspicuous men aboard? Ans. It would be paying a great price to have our guns spiked. The meeting dissolved.
Next Sunday: Week 7
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!