Betsey Alexander Diary: Part 3 – A Passenger Comes Aboard

We left Betsey Alexander on July 4th, 1857, aboard the ship Scioto docked at the Chincha Islands, Peru: 

Saturday the glorious & all seem to respect the day  the Ships fireing Salutes. Thomas gon again to assist Capt Burges to Sea  Ship OS(?) Talbot bound to Callao and Gaudaloop  this is the evening of the fourth  the Americans are fireing and ringing their bells and sending up Ski Rockets and wherrawing and making all the noise they can except the Scioto and her crew. This is the fourth at the Chincy Islands.

Sea Birds
Betsey was in a nesting mood, cooking, sewing, and doing laundry. Visitors aboard the Scioto didn’t seem to cure her longing for home:

  • Saturday 11  in the morning Thomas went on board the Ship Oriental Capt Whipple Mary Bangs Capt Gomes  afternoon he went on the Island and got an Order for loading [guano]
  • Sunday 12  Pleasant Morning and vary still except the birds screaming  Afternoon Capt Edwards & Wife Children Capt Greeno & Capt Mitchell on board and spent a few hours
  • Monday 13  All well on board  Commenced taking guanno  all vary busy  Dr Cokea made a friendly Call  I made some cake  for a rarity some of my own cooking  sewing in the Evening
  • Tuesday 14  this Morning Thomas gon on board the Ship Cholo to assist in getting her to sea  Ship bound to Cows [Callao?] for orders  Ship Clarra Wheler gon to this morning & Ship Trombot Capt Richardson Barque Curant of Bath [Maine] arrived to day  as one Ship goes another one comes
  • Wenesday 22  Sailed this Morning Ship  Mountain Wave Hellet Master Hrey  Stone Capt McFarlin  Thomas gon this moning with Capt Mitchell on business  Eli Making types to prnt with  I am glad to have him in the cabbin with me for I am vary lonesome  afternoon a new Stewardess came on board and commenced work
  • Friday 24  all well on board Ship  I washing all day  Friday is my wash day  no callers to day  Thomas has been on board the Store Ship to mail some letters to go to the States.

The ship was moved to a better location for loading. Sailor Smith and Capt. Alexander became ill. Betsey, herself, was ill and in bed Sunday evening, August 9th, she still managed to welcome a new passenger on board — and to the family:

  • Thursday 30  this morning  Thomas gon on board Ship Tropic  Smith sick  sails to day  on his return help came on board and moved the Ship Scioto in a more convenant [convenient] burth  his help consisted of Capt Purinton Pilot Capt Mitchell his assistant Capt Gray & Capt Gay  at 3 dined on Fish & Turkey etc  so ends this day
  • Friday 31  gon again  Thomas gone with Capt M… to move the Oliver Gordon  Afternoon finished washing and sat down to rest. at 3 O’clock the Dr on board to see a sick sailor  Eve Capt Mitchell & Capt Stinson spent the Evening with us  so it ends
  • Saturday  August the 1  Ship Tarquin Capt Smith Sailed for Dunkirk  Capt Cousins Capt Purington & Wife Capt Edwards & Wife Capt Mitchell made a call Evening  Capt Roberson on board on business
  • Thursday 6  this Morning a new Cook came on board  the old one left and joined the Ship Corronet  Capt Purinton & Wife Mrs Gay Mrs York.  Ship Western Chief Capt Dyer arrived this afternoon
  • Saturday 8  this morning Thomas on board most sick and has got the blues, Afternoon Thomas & Eli gon on the Island again on business  I left alone and have to make my work company for me
  • Sunday 9  this morning fine and Pleasant   Afternoon Wind blowing and vary rough Evening sick and confined to my bed  20 minutes Past 7 Cate Cleveland was born  Dr Crosby Mrs Gray Mrs Purington Mrs York was with us  so Passed this Sabbath

A Chicken DrownedA passenger named Parker came aboard. The Scioto left Peru, headed for England. But first, they had to make it around Cape Horn:

  • Tuesday September the 1 [no entry other than date]
  • Tuesday 15  this morning all bustle and confusion bending Sails and getting ready to go to Callao  Thomas & Eli gon on the Island
  • Wensday 16  left the Chincha For Callao  Mr. Parker Passenger
  • Tuesday 22  this morning Thomas gon to Lima to clear the ship 7 o’clock in the evening sailed form Callao for Cows [?] England
  • Wensday 23 to sea, etc
  • Saturday 26  have not been on Deck for a week  Cate takes the most of my time  sewing some spare moment
  • Sunday 27  Lonesome as it is all Sabbaths especially to sea
  • Monday 28  the Ship going along beautifully  I have been sewing some to day on little Cate (a frock,) a Chicken flew overbord to day and was drowned
  • Thursday  Oct the 1  all well on board the Ship  fell in company with an English Ship  it seems good to have a Ship in sight
  • Friday 2  this Morning a fine shower  This afternoon the Sun is shining  Thomas & Cate are napping  Eli looking at the Sigs [Signal flags] and I am trying to write my Book  we have been out all day  beautifull wether and fine breeze  Ship under full sail
  • Sunday 4  fine Morning wind NW  a fine Shower  this Morning we have Pleanty of company three Ships  our English friend almost in speaking Distance  the sailors are washing to day  I have been on the Poop to day the first for a long time  so ends this day
  • Monday 5  this Morning Calm  our friend proves to be the Ship Collumbia of Liverpool  Thomas Spoke with the Capt this AM Lat 31 38 Long 90:00  this is like summer  Sun Shining and warm and I am almost homesick to day
  • Saturday 10  thick wether and squally with rain and snow  reefing Sails and vary unpleasant and rough and rather cool
  • Sunday 11, the wind bowing and a heavy sea  reefed topsails and vary unpleasant to day  reminds us of Cape Horn and sweet home
  • Tuesday 13  Wind S. W. and blowing a gale with heavy sea  all hands vary busy reefing and taking in sails  fine cape horn wether.
  • Wensday 14  thick wether fine breeze W S W & all well on board Ship  nearing cape horn  all hands in fine spirits
  • Thursday 15  thick wether strong breeze from the S. W.  cold and rough  I cant do nothing but take care of Cate except eat.
  • Friday 16  Clear wether  all sail set  wind to the west  fine wether for Cape horn  Eli is in fine spirits as fat as a Pig  he is riging a Ship for amusement
  • Saturday 17  commences with strong breeze from the Westward  8 AM wind halled to the NW  reefed fore and mizzen top sails Split main sail , blowing a gale from the N.W. with heavy squall and cold
  • Sunday 18  Wind N. W. and squaly with rain and Snow scudding the Ship  reefed Sail  it looks lonesome  Thomas is sober as a deacon


Cape Horn Return Map

On October 21st, 1857, the Scioto rounded Cape Horn, just north of the Antarctic Circle:

  • Tuesday 20  this day commences with strong breeze from the West with rain and snow and Lightning  so cold I kept to by burth all day  lived on gruel and broth  this is cap Horn in reality  it reminds me of winter at home  Thomas & Eli has been snowbaling on deck
  • Wensday 21  cold and a fine breez  Passed Cape Horn in Lat. 56.34 Long 66.00 and have bid good Bye to it forever  I hope all in good health and spirits  I have been washing to day and sewing a little so that I shall not forget [how]

Next Blog one week: Betsey Alexander Diary: Endings


  • The Diary of Betsey Alexander: September 25, 1856, to January 17, 1858. Photocopied by Arlene L. Bradbury, Pownal, before 2001
  • Digital image from
  • World Map with Continents Template.



About Barbara Desmarais

Writer and amateur historian
This entry was posted in Brunswick History and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Betsey Alexander Diary: Part 3 – A Passenger Comes Aboard

  1. Deb Gould says:

    The thought of all that guano just about does me in! What an awful cargo, eh? And delivering her daughter while going through all of that — yikes! Whatever makes us long for the “good old days,” anyway?

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