Nimrod Headington Journal, 1852, part 15

Today’s blog post is the fifteenth in a series, the transcription of Nimrod Headington’s 1852 journal, Trip to California.

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

Nimrod, with several others from Knox County, Ohio, set sail from New York on 16 February 1852, traveling on the clipper ship Racehound. After 5 months at sea, rounding Cape Horn during the night of 4 May, and docking at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Valparaiso, Chile, along the way, they finally reached their destination, San Francisco, on 18 July 1852.

Sketch, not the Racehound

July 18th. This morning when we got up, we were right close to the land. Just as the sun came up, a pilot came on board to pilot us into port. We passed through the Golden Gate at 11 o’clock and dropped anchor. We had to pay one dollar to be taken on shore, as they would not allow our ship’s boats to land our passengers. One of them attempted to go but had to come back. The rules of the port had to be complied with. We landed at the Pacific Warf and took dinner at the Howard House, for which we paid fifty cents.

At 4 o’clock we went on board the river steamer Brighton for Sacramento and landed the next morning at 8 o’clock. Here we stopped at the Globe Hotel and remained there until the next day. Here we took the stage for Marysville and landed there at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and stopped at the Eagle Hotel. Our bills were 50 cents per meal and nothing for the lodging. [3]

To be continued…

I know, I know, today’s installment is very short. The next installment will resume in California, as Nimrod begins his quest for gold.

This portion of Nimrod’s journey, the sailing portion, has ended and I have some information about the ship he sailed on, the Racehound.

Just this past week I heard from a reader who found several newspaper articles that mention the clipper ship Racehound. These articles give a little history of the ship as well as some insight into the conditions on the ship, which confirm some things Nimrod wrote about.

The Racehound, as mentioned in these news articles:

The first article describes the passengers and crew on the ship, and not in a good way. This corresponds with one of Nimrod’s comments, “The steward killed a hog, which was the last hog with 4 legs we had on board.”

The Charleston Daily Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, 19 May 1852, A Rio [Brazil] letter in the Boston Journal dated April 12th says: “The weather is very hot and dry, and the yellow fever is making fearful havoc, particularly on board the shipping. No vessel can remain in this bay while the present state of things exists, more than five days without getting the fever on board—consequently there are not, and in fact, there have not been for weeks any of our naval ships in this port. They are mostly at Montevideo. Some of the American ships have suffered most severely, and I have known of several that could not muster hands sufficient to get out of the harbor. The American ship Victor sailed for New Orleans about a fortnight since, with only two men able to do duty. Many others have been here, as it were, entirely deserted. The Swedish brig Dolphin has lost three consecutive captains within the past two months, and the berth is now vacant. I notice, in-bound, a fine ship, the “Catalpa,” 120 days from the Sandwich Islands, for New Bedford with a cargo of oil. She sails today for home. We have also in from New York, in a passage of 39 days, the ship Racehound, bound for San Francisco, with 272 of the most filthy rowdies that it ever was my fortune to behold. I hope that they will get away before they contract this fever, for it would make terrible work among them. For the past day or two, we have had very fine showers, which we hope will occur with sufficient frequency to break up this pestilence entirely.”

The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Wheeling, West Virginia, 8 Oct 1852, Additional California Items by the United States “…The report of the discovery of new and valuable gold mines on the east range of the Sierra Nevada mountains, is confirmed. The mining news is generally very encouraging. The captain of the ship Racehound, from New York, had been discharged on an indictment of carrying an excess of passengers…”

The North-Carolinian, Fayetteville, North Carolina, 23 Dec 1854, “…The pirates in the Chinese waters are increasing in numbers and daring. Thirty trading junks and boats, many with valuable cargoes, had been taken by them in August and September. The captain of an English schooner, on the 4th of September, had been killed in the defense of his vessel. Several of his men were wounded. The British ships Rattler and Racehound had gone in pursuit of the pirates, but accomplished nothing…”

The Times, London, England, 19 Apr 1854, [John Smith faced possible scam charges. Smith represented his brother Adam Smith, of A. Smith & Co, New York, who owned seven ships and offered laborers free passage to Australia on the Waterwitch in March 1854.] Clerkenwell, England. …We [John Smith] sent the Racehound from New York to California. The complaint paid the deposit, and then he would not go. Inspector Brennan said, he could deny the prisoner’s statement with reference to the Racehound. He begged a remand for three weeks, in order to communicate with Mr. Smith of New York, and to get up necessary evidence…”

The name of the ship was changed from Racehound to Lady Pierce some time before May 1854. This probably occurred when wealthy San Franciscan Silas E. Burrows purchased the ship and converted it into a pleasure yacht.

The Guardian, London, England, 24 June 1854, United States (From a Correspondent)…The news from California is to the 16th of May. The mines were yielding abundantly. All the markets were quiet, but prices were well sustained…Silas E. Burrows, a wealthy citizen of San Francisco, and formerly a wealthy merchant of New York, sailed on the 11th May, in the Clipper Lady Pierce, for Japan, on a peaceable and private mission to the emperor. The Lady Pierce, formerly the Race Hound, is a fine clipper of 500 tons. Mr. Burrows took with him a number of fine goods for presents, and declared his intention to present his vessel to the emperor, if he was well received and permitted to remain. The vessel took no goods except stores and presents, and no passengers except Mr. Burrows and his son…”

The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 25 Aug 1854, Sandwich Islands…The clippership Lady Pierce (formerly the Racehound), Captain Burr, arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, in 16 days from San Francisco. This ship is owned by Silas E. Burrows, as is a sort of pleasure yacht, in which the owner is going down to have a look at Japan. She touched in unexpectedly, to have the barnacles scraped off her bottom, having discovered after leaving San Francisco that her sailing was impeded by them…”

Thanks to Frederick Scott, MSgt, USAF (Ret.) for his research, finding and sending these interesting articles about the Racehound.

The ship, renamed Lady Pierce, did sail to Japan in 1854. This, from one of several articles about the trip to Japan. Perrysburg Journal, Perrysburg, Ohio, 11 Nov 1854, p.3, “The American, Peace Expedition to Japan—We stated a few months ago that Mr. Silas E. Burrows had fitted out the ship Lady Pierce at San Francisco, at his own expense, and sailed for Japan, with a number of beautiful presents for the Emperor…The Lady Pierce arrived in Jeddo Bay 15 days after Commodore Perry had left, as a token of amity and peace, and without any preparations for war and the high Japanese officers said the visit was much more pleasing to them than that of commodore Perry, who had with him too many big guns and fighting men…The Japanese, it is said, were surprised on visiting the Lady Pierce, to find her so elegantly furnished. Her dimensions were taken by artists, who said the Emperor intended to build two vessels on the same model. With a party of officials from Uraga, the Lady P. made a trip to within ten miles of Jeddo, but the said officials objected to her going any nearer, saying that Commodore Perry did not go any closer…”  

And, from Japan and the Japanese, Richard Hildreth (Dayton: Bradley, 1860), p.535; Google “You have, Mr. Burrows, come here, relying on our friendship and hospitality…It has given the Emperor and all the Japanese great pleasure that you have returned to Japan our countryman, Dee-yee-no-skee, who was shipwrecked, and who has been residing for some time in your country, where he states he has been treated with the greatest kindness, and particularly so on board your ship, the Lady Pierce. That you should have made a voyage to Japan to restore him to his friends and home, without any other inducement, as you say, except to see Japan…We understand what ships of war are; also what whaling ships and merchant ships are; but we never before heard, till you came here, of such a ship as yours,–a private gentleman’s pleasure ship…”

It would be interesting to see a sketch of the ship, if there is one.

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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