Description of the Ship Belle Wood and its Voyage of April 29, 1865.|
Document Number: 228
Classification: ORIGINAL: EmigrationRecord
Date Range: BTWN 1865 and 1865
Description of the Ship Belle Wood and its Voyage of April 29, 1865.
Document Entry Number: 1
Ship: 1399 (later 1592) tons: 196' x 39' x 29'
Built: 1854 by George Greenman & Company at Mystic, Connecticut
It was the afternoon of 29 April 1865, and Captain Thomas William Freeman cleared the Belle Wood from Liverpool harbor and moved down the River Mersey. For the next thirty-two days he made every effort to make the voyage pleasant for his 636 Mormon passengers. Presiding over these Saints were Elder William H. Shearman and his counselors, Elders Charles B. Taylor and William S. S. Willes. There were also other returning missionaries: Frederick W. Cox, William Willes, Edmund F. Bird, George Sims, George W. Grant, Miles P. Romney, Robert Pixton, Alfred Lee, and Matthew Lyon. The crossing to America was described as "prosperous," and the one reported death was a child. The ship arrived at New York on 31 May. There the emigrants were detained at Castle Garden until 6 June while suitable rail transportation was arranged.
From various accounts certain details of this passage emerge. The Mormons, for example, were organized into nine wards, and there was also at least one romance. On shipboard, Martha Burrows, a twenty-six-year-old spinster who had paid three pounds eighteen shillings for her fare, met returning missionary Charles Barber Taylor and later married him.
During the first few days seasickness was so prevalent no meetings were held. However, a "female Sanitary Committee" was promptly appointed to help care for the sick, aged, and feeble. This committee "cheerfully accepted and faithfully performed the onerous duties devolving on them, dispensing sego, tapioca, arrowroot, hot tea, coffee, soup, boiled rice and dried apple sauce, with other little luxuries which were carefully prepared and proved very nourishing to the invalids. By the kindness of Captain Freeman in permitting these foods to be prepared in his own galley, it enabled us to supply the sick with a little refreshment at an earlier hour than could have been done at our own fire." The company was so organized it was possible to provide three "good meals a day" by rotating use of the galleys among the wards.
With the full cooperation of the captain, religious services were held on the quarterdeck. The mate, a Mr. Gravestone, prepared a pulpit "by spreading the Union Jack on the harness cask" and arranging seats for the elders. One-half hour before each meeting the ship's bell tolled. The captain, his officers, and crew members not on duty joined in the meeting and "paid marked attention." The ship's officers "maintained the strictest order and decorum among the crew." At these services sacrament was administered, sermons delivered and hymns sung.
There were also social activities. A recreation program featured musicals with a small brass band, group and individual singing, skits, and readings. Even a newspaper, the Belle Wood Gazette, was published and edited by George Sims. It carried announcements, health reports, notices of lost property, poetry, essays, editorials, and instructions. These planned events did much to keep morale high and materially contributed to the successful voyage.
The Belle Wood was an American clipper ship and for a time operated in the Brigham Line. She had been owned by John A. McGaw of New York. Her master, Captain Freeman, was a veteran mariner who once commanded the ship Resolute of the Patriotic Line. During the Civil War, when Yankee shipping was in jeopardy, the sharply constructed Belle Wood was sold to the British firm, Williams & Guion of Liverpool.
Passenger List Sources:
LDS Passenger List (Family History Library) Film: #025,692
Government Passenger List (Family History Library) Film: #175,608
Identification Number on Government Passenger List: #444
[Document Entry]: LDS Emigration Records, British Mission 1863-1874.
[Document Entry]: Emigration Records, Port of New York, 1865.
Associated Persons and Marriages:
WILSON, William (Id# 841) Emigration, LOW
WILSON, Selina (Id# 938) Emigration, LOW
WILSON, Annie Marie (Id# 499) Emigration, LOW