Journal of passage on the ship “Mary”

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Journey of our family from the old world to the new world

The journey to America was divided into three stages; the first part was down the Rhine to Rotterdam, which was slow and time consuming; the second was from Rotterdam to some English port, usually Cowes on the Isle of Wright where ships were provisioned and clearance papers were obtained; the third was the crossing of Atlantic ocean itself.

All immigrants from Germany and Switzerland were supposed to be supplied with several papers; a passport from the town mayor certifying to the good character of the immigrant family, and a letter of recommendation from a pastor of the church to which they belonged.

When the ship reached Philadelphia, a medical officer boarded it and examined all passengers. If anyone had a contagious disease, the ship stood a mile offshore until cleared. Then all male passengers above the age of 16 were marched to the Philadelphia courthouse and signed the oath of allegiance to the British crown. They also signed the oath of abjuration and fidelity to the proprietor and the laws of the province. Then they were all brought back to the ship. Announcements were printed in papers stating how many of the new arrivals were to be sold and how much they owed. Those who had money or could borrow enough were release and the others were sold into servitude.

Passage cost from $27 to $90 per person. Supplies were often consumed before the journey was half over. These were supplemented from the ships stores which had to be paid for before the passenger was released. Supplies and baggage were sometimes lost or stolen and as a result many became indebted who originally had enough to pay their passage. Seven years of service per passenger was required at one time during the early period of immigration. Sometimes two brothers served three and one half years each for the one who could not pay. There is no evidence found that indicated that joseph or any member of his family were unable to pay for the trip over which could indicate that he was somewhat a man of frugal means and had a little money. In 1733 only 7 ships crossed the Atlantic with new immigrants into Philadelphia. The ship "Hope" was the third and arrived on august 28, 1733.

This ship was chartered from London, England and was mastered by Captain Daniel Reid. It arrived into the port of Philadelphia with 389 passengers–83 males over age 16, 81 females above age 16, and 225 children under age 16.

Our immigrant fathers’ passage ship was by far the most crowded. (according to researched list and manifests) the other ships passenger lists contained from as many as 291 to as few as 63 passengers. The annual total in 1733 was 1,432 immigrants.

In order that posterity may get a true picture of the hardships endured by those early immigrants in crossing the Atlantic, I have decided to include in this volume an account of passage as recorded by a passenger. While I concede that our immigrant father, Joseph, crossed on the ship "Hope", arriving in Philadelphia on august 28, 1733, I could find no lengthy diary or letter from any member or passenger of that particular journey.

I have selected sections of a lengthy narrative compiled by a man journeying on the fourth ship to cross named "Mary" that arrived in Philadelphia on 9/29/1733. Conditions and circumstances between these two crossings would have been the similar norm since there was only one month difference in time between the two ships passage.

passage diary

"Heartily beloved son,

The 24th of June we went from Rotterdam to within half an hours distance from Dort, where we lay still, the wind being contrary.

On July 3, we started and the ship was drawn by men several times on the river Maas, as far as the neighborhood of Helvoetsluys. Then the seasickness began along the people, that is, dizziness and vomiting. The greatest number, after having vomited, could begin to eat again.

On the 13th of July, early in the morning, we arrived in port of Plymouth, which lies in midst of rocks. We had to lie in middle of the harbor until the ship was released by the customs officers and provisioned.

On July 21 we sailed into the big ocean and on our left we lost the land, France and Spain.

The 24th we also lost it on our right, namely England.

The 25th a little child died. It came upon the ship very sick; the next day about 8:oo it was buried in the sea. When the body fell from the plank into the water, i saw with great astonishment that a large number of fish appeared and darted quickly away in front of the ship, as if they wished to flee from the corps. For ten days we had steadily a good breeze, so that we sailed a long way on the big ocean.

The 28th of July, before daylight, a French Man-of-War by the name of Elizabeth came near us. This captain examined our captain in French. After having made themselves known to each other, they wished one another a happy trip and each went on his course. After this day we had very changeable weather so that in three weeks we made only sixty hours (about 180 miles), which in a very good wind we could have done in one day.

On august 4th, the crew early in the morning spiked a big fish with a harpoon. It was a long fish as long as an ordinary man and shaped in its head like a pig, also in body and insides like a pig.

The 7th of august during the night again a little child died and in the same hour a little boy was born and dead child buried at sea on the 8th.

The 11th and 12th we had a storm, which was not very strong, however it lasted 48 hours, so that all the sails had to be reefed. The rudder fastened, and the portholes boarded up, so that we were sitting in darkness, while the force of the waves truck through the porthole glass into the beds. Some people always have to vomit during every storm and strong, stiff winds.

On the 13th again a little boy was born.

The 17th we had another storm which was much stronger than the first for six or eight hours and blew the sea very high up. It lasted for one and one half days and one half nights, but towards the end was not so strong. Sails, rudder, holes, everything was hurriedly fastened up and left to the wind and sea. After that it grew so calm that we did not get much of the feel of being on the ship. The people who were ill got well again from dizziness and vomiting. Then we got again strong wind from the side by which we made good headway.

On the 23rd of August again a child was buried at sea that evening.

The 26th about 5:00 p.m. we passed by a mast standing fast, the point of which showed a half yard above the water, quite immovable and with ends of rope still on it. By good fortune, our ship passed it at about a rod’s distance. The captain had just been drinking tea. Many people were very much frightened by this sight, because it was impossible for this mast to be standing on the bottom and yet it was immovable.

The 30th the last mentioned man again lost a child and it was buried at sea that night. Then we saw the first little fish with wings flying over the sea for two hours.

On September 6th and in the morning the first mate spiked a dolphin, which are quite different from what they are pictured in Germany. This day we had much heat and little breeze.

The 7th, another big fish was caught by the crew, which was very large and strong and of about a fingers’ thickness, to this they fastened one and one-half pounds of bacon. When they saw the fish near the ships side they threw the hook with bacon to him, which he swallowed at once and his tail, as well as in as out of the water they drew him into the ship with a hard pull, and drove back all the poor people, so that it should not hurt anybody, as he struck the deck so powerfully with his tail that if he struck anyone he would break into two. But after the ships carpenter had cut off his tail with his ax after ten strokes, his strength was all gone, and his mouth was so big that he might have swallowed a child of two years. The flesh the captain ordered to be distributed to the delighted people.

On the 11th again a little child died, without anybody having noticed it until it was nearly stiff, and the 12th it was buried at sea.

The 13th a young woman who had always been in poor health died in childbirth and was buried at sea on the 14th with 3 children, two of them before and now the third one just born, so that the husband has no one left now.

On the 16th in the morning about 4:00 a woman 50 years of age died; she had not been well during the entire trip and always repented having left her native place. She was buried at sea the same time.

On the 7th a small land bird, which they call the little yellow wagtail in Germany, perched down several times on our ship, and the people had a good look at him. This caused great rejoicing along them, that they clapped their hands with joy.

On the 19th, a strange looking fish came upon the ship. It was shaped like a large round table and had a mouth like two little shallow baskets. The same evening a large number of fish came from the north towards our ship and when they had reached the ship, they shot down into the deep, in front, behind and under the ship so that one could not see one anymore on the other side of the ship.

On the 20th again a young woman died and was buried at sea on the same night, and on this evening again came a large number of countless big fish from the north, which one could see from high above the water and which did just like the former, that one could not see one on the other side of the ship. Thereupon we had a very heavy fall of rain that some people caught half kegs of water, only from the sail and from the captains’ ship. This was followed by a powerful windstorm from the northwest. The sea rose up so high, that when one looked at it, it was just as if one were sailing among high mountains all covered with snow; and one mountain wave rose over the other and over the ship so that the captain and first mate and the cook were struck by a wave that they kept not a dry thread on them; and so much water poured into the ship that many peoples’ beds which were near to the holes were quite filled with water. The holes were hastily boarded up, the rudder bound fast, and the ship was with a very lowly reefed sail, set sideways to the wind, so that it should not roll so hard on both sides. The storm lasted the entire night with great violence, so that without any fear one could well see that it was not alone the seaworthiness of the ship, that it could weather such powerful blows, but that it was preserved in the almighty hand of the lord, in order to make known to man his might. To him be above all and for all the glory, amen.

The ships’ carpenter the next morning made new window boards. The storm also abated a little and thus the anxiety of the people grew a little less and towards 2:00 in the afternoon it cleared, the wind ceased, and the portholes in the ship were opened and it was beautifully calm weather. Then the captain quickly ordered a kettle of rice to be boiled, in order that the people might get something warm to eat that day and night for their supper.

On the 22nd at noon the ship lay as still as a house, then the people dried their clothes again. A good breeze sprang up at dinner time and blew all night, so stiff and so steadily that one did not know in the ship that it was moving an yet made two miles and a half in one hour. At midnight the first sounding were made, 150 rods deep and no bottom found.

The 23rd at 9:00 another sounding was made and at 55 rods ground was struck, at 11:00 at 35 rods; shortly after, 20 rods; and yet we did not see any land, but were nearing the river (Delaware). Then the people became very joyful and on account of the good breeze and the ground being found. But the captain did not trust himself to reach the river by daylight; since one could not see land even, and at four o’clock in the good wind he reefed the sails, and had the rudder tied fast, because there are many sandbanks in front and inside the river. Early in the morning all sails were set again and we headed for the river although the breeze was not favorable and there was a heavy fog. Then again they made soundings and found 15 rods, and an our later 7 rods. At 12:00 we saw the land with great rejoicing. Towards half past four we neared the river, for one is till six hours away from it when one gets in sight of it. I and the captain caught sight of three boats sailing towards us. These are the pilots or steersmen.

On the 25th, the before mentioned last born baby died and was buried in the river. That same day during the night we sailed into the narrows of the river, which in indeed very delighted to see, as wide as the Rhine where it is the widest, and on both banks are the most beautiful woods and groves and here and there houses stand on the banks which have fish nets hanging to dry in front of them.

The following day, the 27th, we passed new castle with little breeze and in a very dense fog. This town lies forty miles distant from Philadelphia, and we sailed during 28th and on the afternoon of the 29th we arrived safely in Philadelphia. We were met by brethren and sisters in small boats who brought us fine bread, apples, peaches, and other refreshments of the body, for which we gave thanks to the highest publicly on the ship near the city, with singing and ringing shouts of delight. See dear children, brethren and friends, this is in short the description of our journey across the very big sea.

The hardships of this journey consist of many kinds and things and although there were a good number of educated people among us, yet it was with them too, on account of the sad decline in their business affairs by the hard oppression of the government, that caused them to leave or become poor, and as poor people they could no longer help themselves from getting into debt and becoming beggars. One can never do what one wants on a ship. There are some who will consume all the food they have taken with them while the ships’ fare is still good; this they will become sick with and throw into the water. But later on when the ships fare has long been lying in salt, the water grows foul smelling, so that rice, barley, peas, and such can no longer be boiled soft in it, then the people have devoured and drunk everything they had and then necessity compels them to begin with the poorer stuff and they will find that very hard; and because the people live so closely together some will then begin to steal whatever they can get. Then there are such quantities of lice on the people, that many persons are compelled to louse for a whole day at a time, and if one does not do this very frequently, they might devour one.

I will make an end of this and wish patience to whomsoever reads this.

God be with you all,


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