Mar 20

Nimrod Headington Journal, 1852, part 8

Trip to California, Nimrod Headington’s journal, [1] details his journey by ship, sailing from New York to San Francisco, to pan for gold in 1852. [2]

This is the eighth in a series of blog posts, the transcription of Nimrod Headington’s 1852 journal.

Today’s installment begins on 24 May 1852, and they have just dropped anchor off the coast of Chile, near Valparaiso, and are ready to disembark. They had been at sea nearly 95 days.

[24 May 1852] Our ship was soon vacated, for all were anxious to set foot on land once more. I was a little late going ashore, and when I landed, I saw about 20 of our passengers mounted on horses and riding through a whooping and hollering as if trying to frighten the inhabitants of the city. The horses here are not so large as our American horse, but they are very fine and handsome, fine travelers, very great runners. They have their manes all close shaved off and are trained to stop at the least check of the rein, as the riders then all ride with a slack rein. They have very poor saddles. It is nothing but a pad, with stirrup leathers and a large wooden stirrup. Their wagons are all carts and gigs gotten up for one horse only. Their harness is composed of collar and harness and rawhide traces. Bridle bit with a strap tied on the end for a whip. They use no lines. Their mode of driving is for one man, the driver, to ride the horse, not the horse hitched to the gig. That horse he leads by the side of the one he is on. The driver wears a big pair of spurs and spurs the one he rides and applies the whip to the other. These vehicles are only made to carry two persons, and you generally see a gentleman and lady riding in them together.  

The driving is all confined to the city, for there are no roads leading into the city. Nothing but paths made by pack mules, as everything is brought in over the mountains by trains of pack mules.  They even pack all the wood and coal. They have great copper mines not far from the city, and we saw a mule train come in loaded with copper ore in company with three others of the party. I took a tramp out toward the mount, saw several flocks of sheep and lots of mules and horses grazing. It was very short nipping for the poor creatures. For as far as I could see, the sides of these mountains were almost barren. After we had strolled as long as we wanted to, we started back, but not in the same road we had gone out. We soon came to a shanty built of mud, where some persons were engaged skinning a carcass of some kind. When within a few yards of this hut, out came 5 or 6 dogs and came right at us with great ferociousness, but we kept right on and paid no attention to them and came out all right. It was all the way downhill returning to the city, and my knees gave out, and I was very tired and perfectly satisfied with strolling in the mountains of Chile.    

We went to a hotel and called for dinner. I was very hungry as well as tired. After dinner in company with about 20 of our passengers, we took in the sights of the city until evening and then returned to the ship. When we returned to the ship, we found our steward drunk and wanting to fight everybody. Finally he found one as willing as him, and they went at in fine style, and when the fight ended, the steward was not near so handsome as he was before the fight. I went to my quarters and wrote a letter to my wife and the next morning went ashore to place it in the hands of the American consul to be sent on the first vessel leaving that port for New York. I had to pay 56 cents postage on that letter.

That day the wind blew so hard from off the sea and the waves ran so high that we could not get back to our ship and had to stay in the city all night. We went to a hotel, called for supper and lodgings. After supper we sat in the office and chatted with the landlord, who spoke tolerable fair English. About 10 o’clock, we called for our beds and were piloted up a rickety pair of stairs to a room that looked more like a hay mow than a sleeping room. Instead of bedsteads, we had stalls. Instead of feather beds, we had shavings. Our quilts and sheets were all blankets, and instead of sleeping, we had to fight fleas and rats all night. 

The next building to our hotel was a resort for sailors—a terrible hard place and a lot of drunken Devils kept up a howl at night over the door of that place. The next morning I read the following sign:

Come, Brother Sailor,
As you pass
Lend a hand
To steep this mast

This a bad place for earthquakes. In these mountains are continuous burning volcanoes, which break out very often, causing the earth to tremble and quake so that it shakes down their adobe houses. They do not build any other kind of houses, and they are never more than two stories high on account of the oft recurrence of the earthquakes. 

The city of Valparaiso sank in 1836. A man who was there told me all about it. He said in the morning about sunup, the earth began to quake. Some of the houses began to fall, others cracking on all sides, ready to fall any minute. It was not long before another shock still harder than the first and the cry of men, women, and children could be heard in every direction. This shock left but few houses standing, and the falling caused hundreds of deaths. There were a number of shocks during the day. In the afternoon, the earth began to crack open, and water coming up made it evident that the city was sinking. And the inhabitants fled to the hills only a short distance off. In the morning of the next day, the city was out of sight. It had sunk into the sea, and it is probable that our ship was anchored over the spot where the city once stood.

This man related circumstance that happened. There was a young man of his acquaintance at the time who had a beautiful head of black hair on the morning of the earthquake, and at 5 o’clock that same evening, his hair was white as snow from fright. I cannot vouch for this, but I believe the man told the truth.

The next day I visited some of the fine gardens in the city. These are mostly kept up by the French and English inhabitants of that city. They are very fine. All the enterprising people here are foreigners. The natives of this country are a very indolent and slothful race of people as a rule. Ten Americans can command double and triple the wages here that of a native. They tried hard to hire some of our men—blacksmiths and carpenters—offering them five and six dollars per day, but could not persuade any of them to stop off. [3]

To be continued…

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

[1] 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. He married Mary Ann McDonald (1829-1855) in Delaware County, Ohio, in 1849. Nimrod moved to Portland, Jay County, Indiana, by 1860 and a couple years later served in the 34th Indiana Infantry during the Civil War 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).

[2] 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.

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

Mar 17

Tombstone Tuesday–Nicholas Geisler

Nicholas Geisler, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Van Wert County, Ohio. (2012 photo by Karen)

This is the tombstone of Nicholas Geisler, located in row 9 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Van Wert County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

GEISLER
Nicholas
Geisler
June 27, 1832
Feb. 16, 1912

Johann “Nicholas“ Geisler was born 27 June 1832 in Gruengraben, Bavaria, according to Zion Lutheran Schumm’s records. He immigrated to America in about 1849. [1] Zion Schumm’s records indicate he had a sister Anna Geisler, who married Conrad Baals.

Their father was likely Michael Geisler. The Michael Geisler family in 1850: Michael, 50; Anna, 21; Nicholas, 18; George, 21; Barbara, 15; and Margaret, 11. Michael Geisler was a farmer and all were born in Germany. [2]

In 1860 Nicholas was living with his sister Anna (Geisler) Baals and her family in Willshire Township. The Conrad Baals family in 1860: Conrad, 40; Anna, 32; George, 6; Augusta, 4; Mary, 2; and Nicholas Geisler, 27. Conrad, Anna, and Nicholas were all born in Bavaria, while the rest were born in Ohio. [3]  

Nicholas Geisler married widow Elisabeth (Coffitz) Stemler/Stemlin 3 July 1862 in Van Wert County.

The Nicholas Geisler family in 1870, living on a farm in Willshire Township: Nicholas, 38; Elisabeth, 41; George, 6; and John 4. [1] Their daughter Anna was born in the fall of 1870, so was not enumerated in this census. [4]

The family remained on the farm in Willshire Township for the next several decades. The Nicholas Geisler household in 1880: Nicholas, 49; Elisabeth, 50; George, 16; John, 13; and Anna J, 9. [5]

The Nicholas Geisler family in 1900: Nicholas, 66; Elisabeth, 72; George, 34; John, 32; and Anna, 30. This enumeration indicates that Nicholas and Elisabeth had been married 38 years and that Elisabeth had given birth to 3 children, all of whom were still living. Nicholas was a farmer and none of their 3 children were married. It also indicates that Nicholas immigrated in 1849 and Elisabeth in 1853. [1]  

Nicholas’ wife Elisabeth died of old age in Willshire Township on 12 May 1905, at the age of 76 years. [6]

The Nicholas Geisler household in 1910: Nicholas, 77; George, 46; John, 43; and Anna, 41. The two sons were farming the family farm by this time. [7]

Johann Nicholas Geisler died in Willshire Township of a bladder infection and senility on 16 February 1912. He was 79 years, 7 months, and 19 days old and was buried on the 18th. [8] He was survived by 3 children, George, John, and Anna; a sister, Mrs. Anna [Conrad] Baals; and a niece, Mrs. August Heim. [9]

Nicholas and Elisabeth (Coffitz) Geisler had the following children:

George Johann Conrad (1864-1943)
Johann George Conrad (1866-1916)
Christoph (1869-1869)
Anna Johanna (1870-1934)

Nicholas Geilser is buried next to his wife Elizabeth.

[1] 1900 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED98, dwelling 198, family 203, Nicklos Giessler;  (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7602/ : viewed 17 Feb 2020).

[2] 1850 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, dwelling 108, family 124, Michael Geshler; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8054/ : viewed 14 Mar 2020).

[3] 1860 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, p.424 [stamped], p.147 [penned], dwelling 1051, family 1045, Conrad Baltz; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7667/ : viewed 14 Mar 2020).

[4] 1870 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert Ohio, p.436B, dwelling 97, family 98, Nicholas Geisler; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7163/ : viewed 17 Feb 2020).

[5] 1880 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 154, p.446C, family 56, N. Gaesler; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/6742/ : viewed 17 Feb 2020).

[6] “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” Willshire Township, Van Wert, Deaths, Vol. 3, p.85, Elizabeth Giessler, 12 May 1905; (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F6L3-N97 : viewed 17 Feb 2020).

[7] 1910 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 114, p.3B, dwelling & family 65, Nicholas Geisler; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7884/ : viewed 17 Feb 2020).

[8] “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” Willshire Township, Van Wert, Nicholas Geissler, 15 Feb 1912; (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89ZY-T21G?i=88&cc=2128172&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AF6CF-L2Y : viewed 17 Feb 2020).

[9] Note from kmb: From the documents researched it appears that Nicholas Geisler and Anna (Geisler) Baals were brother and sister. Anna (Geisler) was married to Conrad Baals and their daughter Margaret (Baals) Heim was Nicholas’ niece, as mentioned in his obituary. Margaret was the wife of August Heim.  

Mar 13

Nimrod Headington Journal, 1852, part 7

Trip to California, Nimrod Headington’s journal, details his 1852 journey by ship, sailing from New York to San Francisco, where would join the California gold rush. [1] [2]

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts, the transcription of Nimrod Headington’s 1852 journal.

Ship

Today’s installment begins on 15 May 1852, as they sail near Chile. They had been at sea nearly 95 days.

CHILE

May 15th. Fair winds and pleasant weather. Sailing 10 knots an hour. We headed east by north, and at 4 o’clock we came in sight of the coast of Chile, but it was a great distance off. Now in latitude 40°00’, longitude 64°03’.

May 16th. We had head winds all day so we could not make any headway. We tacked ship several times during the day and thereby held our own.  

May 17th. Still having headwinds, and we continued to tack ship. At daylight this morning a ship was in sight and seemed to be heading toward us. The wind being fair for her, she soon came up in plain sight. Two men could be seen in her fore-top mast and two in her maintop mast, which told us plainly that she was a whale ship, and the men in the masts were watching for whale. They soon came up within speaking distance. They inquired where we were from, how long we had been out, and whether we had any sick on board. Our captain answered from New York, 96 days out, and all well.    

Our captain asked the whaler where he was from, how long out, etc., and the answer was from Newfoundland, 165 days out, and had got 220 barrels of oil and that all was well. We were soon out of sight of the whaler, and soon after leaving her, we saw several whales.    

May 18th. It rained all day. We were afraid of running ashore, for they could not take the sun’s altitude and could not tell just where we were. So we had to run west to make sure of not running on shore. We saw great schools of whale that afternoon.  

May 19th. More head winds, and we had to run first east and then west to keep from running back. We are in latitude 36°10’.  

May 20th. Still having head winds. We began to get very much discouraged, for we were within one day’s sailing from the port of Valparaiso, Chile, if we could only get a fair wind to carry us in that direction. We saw more whales and the largest school of porpoises that I saw during the voyage. They came from every direction. The sea was black with them. 

May 21st. Wind continued the same and about 9 o’clock that night when all of a sudden in the twinkling of an eye the wind changed and sent our ship astern, and we came very near sinking. This is the most dangerous thing that can happen to a ship at sea.    

May 22d. Bad storm all day. Between 10 and 11 o’clock that night, something appeared on the ends of the fore-topmast guard arms that looked exactly like balls of fire. The sailors called it [compizan] and said it was a sure sign of hard storms. In a few minutes, we saw a large water spout coming right toward us. We immediately changed our course, and it passed by us but quite close to us. It was a beautiful sight. The worst roaring noise that could possibly be imagined. Some of our passengers were almost frightened to death, while others slept. As for myself, I could not sleep when there was a storm or a prospect of one. I always wanted to see what was going on, and I watched the sailors, and as long as they did not seem scared, I felt all right. The sailors are all believers in witches, ghosts, and hobgoblins.    

May 23d. We came in sight of the harbor, but on account of head winds had to lay out until the next morning.

May 24th. The wind shifted, and we ran in to port at 8 o’clock. Our anchor was dropped, and the captain of the port came on board, examined the shipping papers, and inquired as to the health of the passengers, crew, and how long we had been out. We had been out 94 days from New York and had lost 13 passengers, 10 men and three women, 12 of which had died since we left Rio de Janeiro. Eleven died of yellow fever, and one of consumption. There being but one sick on board, and he is getting better, we were given permission to land. As soon as the captain of the port left, the natives in small boats began to gather around our ship to carry us on shore for pay. All the English they could speak was “go shore.” Some of them had baskets of apples and grapes, some pears to sell. The fruit was very fine. All of it grew on the island of [Juan Fernandez], where Robinson Crusoe, his man Friday, and the goat had such a nice time. The island is only 60 miles from Valparaiso, and a steamer goes over every day, and one leaves the island every day. [3]

To be continued…

This makes me think of the virus situation going on today; how it is affecting travel and how some ships have been quarantined recently. Even ports 170 years ago asked about the health of the travelers who were on-board the incoming ships. They likely knew from past experience how easily visitors could spread new diseases.

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

[1] 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. He married Mary Ann McDonald (1829-1855) in Delaware County, Ohio, in 1849. Nimrod moved to Portland, Jay County, Indiana, by 1860 and a couple years later served in the 34th Indiana Infantry during the Civil War 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).

[2] 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.

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

Mar 10

Tombstone Tuesday- Elisabeth (Coffitz) Geisler

Elisabeth (Coffitz) Geisler, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Van Wert County, Ohio. (2012 photo by Karen)

This is the tombstone of Elisabeth (Coffitz) Geisler, located in row 9 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Van Wert County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

Hier ruhet in Gott
Elisabeth
Ehefrau von
Nicolaus Geissler
Gest
Den 12 Mai 1905
Alter 76 J. 3 M.
GEISSLER

Here rests in God Elisabeth, wife of Nicolaus Geissler, died 12 May 1905.

Katharina “Elisabeth” Coffitz was born 12 February 1829 in Steinwenden by Kaiserslautern, Bavaria, according to the records of Zion Lutheran Church, Schumm, Ohio.

It has been assumed that Elisabeth’s maiden name was Stemling [Stemler], but I believe her maiden name was Coffitz.

Elisabeth married Nicholas Geisler in 1862 and Zion Schumm’s records indicate that she was a widow when they married. She was widow Elisabeth Stemler. Stemler [Stemling] would not have been her maiden name.

Elizabeth’s maiden name is actually recorded on several records. It is mentioned one time in Zion Schumm’s records. The 1870 birth/baptism record of their daughter Anna states the mother Elisabeth was born Kofitz. That same daughter, Anna Geisler’s 1934 death certificate gives her mother Elisabeth’s maiden name as Coffet. [1] Elisabeth’s son John’s 1916 death certificate indicates her maiden name was Coffee. [2]

In 1860 Elisabeth was living with Daniel Coffitz in Willshire Township. She was enumerated as Elizabeth Semles. [3] I have not been able to locate a Stemling [Stemler]/Coffitz marriage record, but it appears Mr. Stemling/Stemler probably died before 1860.

I wonder if Daniel Coffitz was Elisabeth’s brother. Daniel Coffitz was born in Germany about 1818 and resided in Willshire Township until he died in 1883. He is buried near 5 Coffitz children in Hileman (aka Smith/Hartzog/Alspaugh) Cemetery, Willshire, Township. [4] That cemetery is just a couple miles south of Schumm.

Elisabeth in the 1860 census, enumerated in the household with Daniel and Sarah Coffitz: Daniel Coffizt, 42, Bavaria; Sarah, 40, Ohio; Elizabeth Semles, 30, Bavaria. [3]

Nicholas Geissler married widow Elisabeth Stemling/Stemler 3 Jul 1862, according to Zion Schumm’s records.

The Nicholas Geisler family in 1870, living on their farm in Willshire Township: Nicholas, 38; Elisabeth, 41; George, 6; and John 4. [5] A daughter, Anna, was born into the family in the fall of 1870.

The Nicholas Geisler household in 1880, residing in Willshire Township: Nicholas, 49; Elisabeth, 50; George, 16; John, 13; and Anna J, 9. [6]

The Nicholas Geisler family in 1900: Nicholas, 66; Elisabeth, 72; George, 34; John, 32; and Anna, 30. Nicholas was a farmer and none of their 3 children were married. This enumeration indicates that Nicholas and Elisabeth had been married 38 years and that Elisabeth had given birth to 3 children, all of whom were still living and that Nicholas was a farmer. It also indicates that Nicholas immigrated in 1849 and Elisabeth in 1853. [7]  

Elisabeth died of old age in Willshire Township on 12 May 1905. She was 76 years and 3 months old and was buried on the 14th. Zion Schumm’s death/burial records give her first name as Katharina. She was married; a farmer’s wife. [8] She was survived by her husband and 3 children.

I was surprised to see that my maternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth (Schinnerer) Scaer, wife of John Scaer, was the informant for the information on Anna’s death certificate. Anna and Elizabeth must have been close friends and neighbors.

Elisabeth’s widowed husband Nicholas Geisler died 16 February 1912. They have separate tombstones but are buried next to each other.

Nicholas and Elisabeth Geisler had the following children, according to Zion Schumm’s records:

George Johann Conrad (1864-1943)
Johann George Conrad (1866-1916)
Christoph (1869-1869)
Anna Johanna (1870-1934)

[1] “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” Willshire Township, Van Wert, Anna J Geisler, 11 Jun 1934; (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-68NH-CK?i=1852&cc=1307272&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AX67H-LRV : viewed 22 Feb 2020).

[2] “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” Van Wert, John J Geisler, 7 Jan 1916; FamilySearch.org  (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9PK3-3L9J?i=2455&cc=1307272&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AX8FY-N46 : viewed 3 Mar 2020).

[3] 1860 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, p,428, dwelling 1111, family 1105, Elizabeth Semles, in  the household of Coffit Daniel]; Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7667/ : viewed 7 Mar 2020). [They are indexed on Ancestry as Coffit Daniel and Sarah Daniel.]

[4] Daniel Coffitz, Hileman/Smith Cemetery, Van Wert County, Ohio; Find a Grave.com memorial no. 34159850.    

[5] 1870 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert Ohio, p.436B, dwelling 97, family 98, Nicholas Geisler; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7163/ : viewed 17 Feb 2020).

[6] 1880 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 154, p.446C, family 56, N. Gaesler; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/6742/ : viewed 17 Feb 2020).

[7] 1900 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED98, dwelling 198, family 203, Nicklos Giessler;  (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7602/ : viewed 17 Feb 2020).

[8] “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” Willshire Township, Van Wert, Vol. 3, p.85, Elizabeth Giessler, 12 May 1905; FamilySearch.org (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F6L3-N97 : viewed 17 Feb 2020).

Mar 06

Nimrod Headington Journal, 1852, part 6

Trip to California.

That is what Nimrod Headington [1] called his journal, which details his journey by ship, sailing from New York to the California gold fields in 1852. [2]

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts, the transcription of Headington’s 1852 journal.

Nimrod Headington (1827-1913)

Today’s installment begins on 5 May 1852. They had just sailed around  Cape Horn and were now sailing on the Pacific Ocean.

THE PACIFIC OCEAN

May 5th. This morning we ate breakfast on the Pacific, doubling the cape in the night. The weather was very cold and rough, and the snow fell 4 inches deep on the deck. The next morning a Mrs. Harper from New York, an elderly lady, died at 10 o’clock. She was a very weakly woman when she [died], and she lived far beyond our expectations. She was a widow and had a son in California, also a son and two daughters on board. We saw a number of whales that day, some of the quite close to us. The next day at 2 o’clock, we attended the funeral of Mrs. Harper. The service was read, a hymn sung, and the body was consigned to its watery grave.

The next day the wind blew powerful hard. We came in sight of the western coast of Patagonia and was drifting right toward it. Had it been in the night, we should have run ashore or on the rocks, for the coast along there is very rough and rocky. But we discovered it in time to tack ship and get away.

May 11th. Tremendous storm last night. Sea so rough, and the ship rocked so badly that we had to hold on to our bunks all night to keep from rolling out. Under such circumstances you can easily guess how much we slept. We ran under close-reefed topsails and mizzensails all night. The next night at 8 o’clock Miss Sarah Place died, a daughter of the old man spoken of a being in irons. The next morning we assembled in the cabin to attend the funeral of the deceased lady.  

May 12th. It rained all day and was very dark and foggy. We headed due north with very light winds. In rainy weather at sea, the sea is always smooth. Let the sea be ever so rough and then comes a hard rain, the sea will become calm in a very short time. 

May 13th. The rain continued to fall without ceasing all that day. A man named Alex Black died at 8 o’clock that night and was buried the same hour without any service. This man was from Connersville, Ohio. He was a very nice young man, always cheerful and jolly, going to seek his fortune before marrying the girl he left behind, as one of her comrades told me the sad story of his betrothed and the young lady’s parents objecting on account of his poverty. The death of this young man was mourned by all on board. A death or funeral at sea is always sad, but this was the saddest of all to me.

Before leaving New York, I wished for my wife and family to accompany me, but after I had been out to sea two weeks, I rejoiced that they were not with me. When I saw the wife of Mr. Beesley, a young woman who only a few hours before her death seemed the very picture of health and bid fair for as long life as any of us, buried in the deep blue waters of the great ocean. This was our first death and burial at sea and made us all no doubt all of us thought, “Shall this be my fate?” “Shall I be buried in the sea?” For we all knew that God was no respecter of persons. That when his call comes, we must obey. Sad, sad is a burial at sea.  

May 14th. The sun came out and the captain was able to take the sun’s altitude—the first for several days. This is the only certain means of telling just what latitude and longitude [you] are in. All other means is uncertain half guesswork.   [3]

To be continued…

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

[1] 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. He married Mary Ann McDonald (1829-1855) in Delaware County, Ohio, in 1849. Nimrod moved to Portland, Jay County, Indiana, by 1860 and a couple years later served in the 34th Indiana Infantry during the Civil War 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).

[2] 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.

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

 

 

 

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