Diary of Betsey Alexander: Part 4 – Endings

Betsey gave birth to daughter, Catherine, on August 9, 1857, aboard the Scioto, while it was anchored off the coast of Peru loading guano. On October 21st, the Scioto rounded Cape Horn, hauling the odiferous cargo to England:

  • 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

Two days later, the Scioto passed the Falkland Islands. Heavy, cold weather upset the chickens, loneliness and a leak onboard the ship upset Betsey:

  • Thursday 22 cold and uncomfortable wind N.W. I have been Ironing and sewing for Cate so passes away the time and we moving along towards home
  • Friday 23 this morning is more Pleasant with wind N. W Passed the Folkland Islands in Lat 53.19 Lon 59.32. no Ships in company with us vary lonesome
  • Sunday 25 thick wether and cold with vary heavy sea and vary lonesome I did not dare to look out dore
  • Monday 26 thick and foggy with frequent sqalls midnight experienced a heavy hail storm accompanied with thunder and lightning lat 56.15 Lon 50.10 we have all sorts of wether here in this region
  • Tuesday 27 thick wether and cold with squalls of snow all well on board; the Chickens look rather stimsy as the cold wether did not agree with them
  • Wensday 28 thick and cold with high wind and heavy sea, I got vary much frightened Thomas came in and told me the Ship had sprung a leak but it Proved to be but trifling and I soon got over it
  • Thursday 29 this morning rather more Pleasant. P M the sun is shining. We all give it a harty welcome it is quite a stranger here I have been sewing for Cate to day so passes the time with me

Antique BottleIn November, shipboard life took a domestic turn and Betsey sewed and Thomas spent time with his wife and daughter. The ship was becalmed; Thomas once again seemed unwell:

  • Friday 6 rather more Pleasant the Ship is quite easy and it seems like home again
  • Saturday 7 this morning fine and Pleasant with fair wind I sewed most all day Thomas has been reading to me or taking care of Cate
  • Sunday 8 this Morning Wind N W and Pleasant the Ship gliding along like a bird but I feel lonesome when I think of home It is such a long road and thinking of all the storms we may have to encounter the burnd child dreads the fire so do I the storms and gales of wind
  • Monday 9 this morning clear and calm I mending a coat for Thomas and taking care of Cate the Ship siso [is so] still that I almost think that I am at home or on the land.
  • Wensday 11 clear and calm again not a bit of wind I have been on deck a number of times today drying my clothes Thomas has just taken a Portion of castor Oil the first for two years I hope it will make a breeze
  • Friday 13 still calm and vary Pleasant I have got tired of this calm wether Thomas is getting impacient waiting for a wind it is as still as if we were in a house I have been mending stockins most all day

Eli sighted a school of fish being chased by a shark, bringing prospects of rare fresh food. A sailor becomes deathly ill as the ship approaches the Equator:

  • Saturday 14 as calm as ever no Prospects of wind rather dull and lonesome I have been sewing this morning while Cate is asleep Thomas has a vary bad hed ache, Eli has been in and cried fish long side the Ship the fish accompanied by a Shark Thomas & the mates are trying to ketch them a fresh fish would be a great rarity
  • Monday 16 Wind NW fine breeze a Sailor vary sick, our Ship still in company. Afternoon fine breeze to the West and vary Pleasant saw a Barque Steering North we are nearing home now I think the Day ends vary Pleasant with a few Drops of Rain
  • Thursday 19 Wind N light breeze we seem to be alone again, Eli vary busy riging his Ship to day. Afternoon Lat 23.02 Lon 29.00 tacked Ship & Stood to the Estward the Sailor still vary sick but little chance for his recovery,
  • Friday 20 variable winds and vary warm I sewing to day Thomas complaining of a cold with bad headache the Sailor still vary sick and low. We are still alone no vessels in sight and I am homesick,
  • Saturday 21 head wind and lonesom time Thomas almost sick to day Evening Thomas took some Pills and a swet in hopes to drive away his cold
  • Sunday 22 this Morning Thomas is better but stiff head wind I am afraid the blues will set in and make him sick yet. Evening I have got a stiff neck for a comfort so ends to day


  • Monday 23 this morning the wind is rather more favorable and vary pleasant  This evening at half Past 9 o clock the sick man die, so we all must pass away,
  • Tuesday 24 this morning Wind N E and Pleasant at 8 o clock committed Andrew Johnson,s [sic] body to the deep in Lat. 20.58 Lon. 26.40. he was a native of Winesburg was sick about 2 weeks was a great sufferer one week he had his senses for a moment, it was a Sollem sight to see a burial to Sea
  • Wensday 25 this morning calm vary warm and I have commenced to wash some for little Cate afternoon light breeze to the E evening the Sailors squaring the yards & Thomas seems like him self again he has had the blues for a week it is quite a common complaint with him especialy when we have had wind or calm I think it never proves fatal

In December the Scioto passed the Equator :

  • Saturday 5 this morning still fine and Pleasant a nice breeze to the S.E Past the Equater Lon 24.40 getting nearer a christian land I hope Cate is a wake and I must stop writing
  • Thursday 17 a fine breeze to {ink blotch] N E some Prospects of getting home   once more the sun is shining and is quite a stranger, afternoon still clear and Pleasant a fine breeze but not so fair as we would like to have it better than none but we are never contented always something not just right with us Thomas has got the blues again.
  • Saturday 19 fine morning bright sun not vary warm just right for comfort I have been Ironing to circulate the blood and not forget how, 7 bells and I will rest I think Thomas is homesick to day he is talking of home
  • Friday 25 this is Christmas morn and vary Pleasant with a light breeze saw two sail an American Ship on the windward bow a Bark on the lee low not near enough to speak them, P m Calm hardly a breth of wind dull times this

The Scioto was still becalmed when 1858 arrived:

  • Friday January the 1 of the new year begins with Calm and head wind I think we have vary bad luck saw one Ship to day so we are not alone in trouble.
  • Saturday 2 head winds and calms with frequent Showers saw a Brig on the wether quarter Thomas is getting Cross and the mate is no better so we have a happy time Evening saw two Ship lights this is Saturday evening and it is lonesome enough and I am homesick enough
  • Friday 15 commences with Pleasant weather wind from the S.E all well on board Thomas rather cross thinking of our long Passage I think we have a Jonah on board

Betsey ended her diary Sunday, January 17th, 1858:

  • Sunday 17 this day commences with fine wether but rather cold for comefort Thomas & Cate are both asleep and it is rather lonesome but a fair wind makes me think we shall get in soon I long to get on the land once more and smell the earth it would be a treat to me

Last MapRecords show the Scioto reached Liverpool, England, with its cargo of guano and then headed to New Orleans, most likely to load a cargo of cotton. During that summer of 1858, yellow fever raged through New Orleans. On August 3rd, nearly two years after leaving Portland, Maine, Capt. Thomas Alexander died. He was one of 4,845 people who succumbed to yellow fever that year.

Betsey, Eli, and Cate returned to Brunswick, Maine. Though Eli had taken to shipboard life, he became a farmer and house joiner, living in Pownal and Harpswell. Cate’s place of birth in censuses was listed variously as South America, Spain, and Cuba.

Capt Thomas AlexanderBetsey Alexander








Though Capt. Thomas is probably buried in New Orleans, there is a headstone for him next to Betsey’s in Growstown Cemetery, behind the First Baptist Church in Brunswick, Maine.


  • Sinnett’s genealogy of the Merriman family states that their farm on the River Road became Riverside Cemetery. I predict another deed search is in my future.


  • United States Federal Census Records, Brunswick, Cumberland, Maine. Ancestry.com.
  • Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004
  • The Diary of Betsey Alexander: September 25, 1856, to January 17, 1858. Arlene L. Bradbury, Village Press, before 2001
  • Deeds. Cumberland County Registry of Deeds
  • Digital images from http://www.morguefile.com
  • http://nutrias.org/facts/feverdeaths.htm
  • World Map with Continents Template. http://www.printableworldmap.net/
  • “A Singleness of Purpose” The Skolfields and Their Ships. Reynolds, Ermini S, and Kenneth R. Martin, Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, 1987
  • Walter Merryman of Harpswell, Maine: And His Descendants. Charles Nelson Sinnett, Rumford Printing Company, 1905
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878

About Barbara Desmarais

Writer and amateur historian
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