Nimrod Headington Journal, 1852, part 10

Joe and I continue to shelter at home, as are many others. Today is Good Friday and this will be the first time ever that I have not attended Holy Week and Easter services. But through modern technology we are able to see our vicar give sermons on Facebook and listen to local Sunday services on the radio. In addition, here at home we continue to pray, read the Bible, and have devotions. Yes, this year will be different. We will not be able to gather in our churches to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, but we can still celebrate and rejoice in our homes, knowing that we are all still together in spirit.

Easter Blessings to all. He is risen. He is risen indeed!  

Here are a couple family Easter photos from 2009. Such good memories.

Easter 2009

Easter 2009

Now for today’s blog post, the tenth in a series, the transcription of Nimrod Headington’s 1852 journal.

Trip to California, Nimrod Headington’s journal, details his 1852 voyage from New York to San Francisco, where he would stake his claim and pan for gold. [1] [2]

They set sail from New York on 16 February 1852 and they docked at Valparaiso, Chile, on 24 May, where they stayed several days. Today’s installment begins 2 June 1852, as they sail from Valparaiso.


June 2nd. At 4 o’clock p.m., the wind and tide both being favorable, we weighed anchor, set sail, and were soon out of sight of the city. The next morning, the [Burning] Andes mountains were still in sight, but by 4 o’clock, we were out of sight of them.

June 4th. We had fair winds, running 10 knots an hour, heading northwest. Quite a number of the passengers were seasick again, and several of them with bad diarrhea, two of which were considered dangerously ill. They were William Adams and Joseph Gregg. That night we had a hard storm, but nothing serious happened. We were then in latitude 31°45’, longitude 14°15’.

June 5th. We had continuing winds all day so that we could not make any headway. The sun did not come out, so the observations could not be taken.

June 6th. Fair weather and light breeze from the southeast. We headed southwest and ran 4 knots an hour. 

June 7th. Fine weather, and we had the best day’s sailing we had since crossing the equator—a 12 knot breeze all day and heading straight on our course. Which made us feel good.

Our manner of living was also changed, which was also encouraging to us. As we had previous to running into Valparaiso, lived very poor. About all we had to eat was hard bread and salt beef and tea, and sometime not enough of that, but now we have potatoes and onions. This morning, we had a fight between decks. Two men in mess No. 11 fought over the matter of the knives not being scoured.

June 8th. We had fine weather and fair winds. The carpenter, who is always called Chips at sea, and all the sailors are engaged putting up [rogel masts] on the foremasts, mainmasts, ad mizzenmasts so that we can put on three sails more than we have ever had up, and when they were up, we sailed at a rapid rate, often making 15 and 16 knots an hour. Our sick are all getting better again, which makes all of us feel much better, for we dread to see our fellow mortals buried in the sea. And when this happens, everyone on board cannot help but think who will go next. The very thought of sight of a burial at sea is anything but pleasant to anyone.

June 9th. Cloudy weather and light winds but fair to take us on our course, which was northwest. I thought as the ship was running so steady and the sea was so smooth that I would join the army of washers that were on the upper deck and wash a couple of shirts for myself, and at it I went. This made me think of home more than ever, as I never before undertook to wash clothing. I used to think when at home and see women washing and singing that it was a light job to wash, but now after this trial at washing with salt seawater, with soap having no effect on dirty garments, it was rather amusing at all events. Gentlemen from all over the States came marching out on deck with their dirty garments and laughing and [guying] each other. Some would say, “Oh, Lord. Did I ever think that I should come to this.” Some would say, “If I were at home, I have a good wife, a mother, or a sister to do this kind of work.” This is the fate of all persons going to sea on a long voyage. They must expect all manner of trials and hardships.

If it is a man of a family and of any feeling, he is forced to reflect on his home and friends, a wife and children, or perhaps a father and mother, sister or brother, whose minds are perhaps troubled on account of him who is at sea. If it be the wife, this will undoubtedly be her song:

Come sing a song of absent friends
Who left us all alone
I feel so sad I scarce can smile
For husband dear is gone.

I miss him when from my sweet sleep
I rise at morning light
And, oh, I wish him back again
When mother says good night.

I miss him at the social board
I miss him at my play
Who is so serious when we are sad
Or lively when we are gay.

Oh, haste, good ship and bring him back
Across the ocean’s wave.
I’ll pray to heaven every night
My husband dear to save.  [3]

To be continued…

Well, Nimrod and the other male passengers considered doing laundry onboard ship a trial and hardship. Women’s work. And Nimrod thought it was a light job because he knew women who sang as they did laundry. Seriously? Too funny!

I will post Nimrod’s journal in increments, but not necessarily every week.

[1] Nimrod Headington at the age of 24, set sail from New York in February 1852, bound for San Francisco, California, to join the gold rush and to hopefully make his fortune. The Panama Canal had not been built at that time and he sailed around the tip of South America to reach the California coast.     Nimrod Headington kept a diary of his 1852 journey and in 1905 he made a hand-written copy for his daughter Thetis O. Tate. This hand-written copy was eventually passed down to Nimrod’s great-great-granddaughter, Karen (Liffring) Hill (1955-2010). Karen was a book editor and during the last two years of her life she transcribed Nimrod’s journal. Nimrod’s journal, Trip to California, documents his travels between February of 1852 and spring of 1853.

[2] Nimrod Headington (1827-1913) was the son of Nicholas (1790-1856) and Ruth (Phillips) (1794-1865) Headington. He was born in Mt. Vernon, Knox County, Ohio, on 5 August 1827 and married Mary Ann McDonald (1829-1855) in Delaware County, Ohio, in 1849. Nimrod moved to Portland, Jay County, Indiana, by 1860 and during the Civil War served in the 34th Indiana Infantry as a Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, and Major. Nimrod died 7 January 1913 and is buried in Green Park Cemetery, Portland. Nimrod Headington is my fourth great-granduncle, the brother of my fourth great-grandfather, William Headington (1815-1879).

[3] Nimrod Headington’s journal, transcription and photos courtesy of Ross Hill, 2019, used with permission.

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