Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Richard Litson Jr. Emigration Account, Part 2 of 7

Dolphins, or "sea pigs" as Richard called them.
(He may have also meant porpoises.)

Glade Family Line

Saturday, May 12 — We are going on very good this morning; we got a head wind. The sea is rougher again today than it was last night. Tonight we are going on well. 

Sunday, May 13 — It is very wet, and nasty this morning, and it was so all day. 

Monday, May 14 — A wet morning, but it was pretty fine about 11 o'clock but windy. Just after dinner it began to rain again until 4 o'clock, and then afterward it was mild, but a little windy.

Tuesday, May 15 — It is a fine, dry morning. Father is keeping the people in order at the door of the cooking galley. We had to come up on deck, all without having our dinners, for the sailors to smoke out the decks. We had a very fine day, and just so in the evening. It was a very level and smooth sea.

Wednesday, May 16 — A very fine morning and a smooth sea. We saw one ship and a steamer. The ship passed within a half mile on the right hand side of us, sailing for Liverpool, but the steamer was sailing for New York about 4-1/2 miles distance from  us. We had a rough sea from 11 a.m. all day and about 6 p.m. there was a concert held but because of the rain they could not finish it.

Thursday, May 17 — A rough morning and middling all day and night the same.

Friday, May 18 — A stormy day, fine day after and a very mild night.

Sunday, May 20 — A very nice morning. We had a little rain about the middle of the day but it didn't last long. It was a foggy day, and evening.

Monday, May 21 — It's not so foggy this morning. We saw a ship at our right hand side. This is a very rough sea. The ship rocks to the left. It was a fine day, but a rough sea, and it was a rough night.

Tuesday, May 22 — A fine morning. We saw a ship at the right of us. The sea here is smooth. We are going on very forward. That ship appears just to pass us now, on account of its being further off, because anything that is on the ocean looks very small at a far distance. We saw Screw Packet about 4 p.m. at our right side. It was going for Liverpool. We are drawing to our destination now, New York. We had a very quiet night.

Wednesday, May 23 — We saw a steamer about 3 miles from us going the same direction as us. It is about opposite us in the evening about 8. I t appears to be a long boat and it gains on us now and then. It is nearly time we was out of this stage of position. But thank the Lord for His mercy and good luck to us thus far. That steamer went out of sight again at 10 o'clock a.m. This evening we got to come up on deck for the decks to get smoked out. We saw a ship over across at our left hand side. Saw several sea pigs just now, upwards of 20 or more jumping up on the face of the water. We had a very mild night.

Thursday, May 24 — This is a very fine day again, but it is very foggy all around. The sailors are at the front of the ship in turns blowing a trumpet. They blow it four times at a certain time. One of the sailors did all day. We had an excellent, agreeable night.

Friday, May 25 — A very beautiful nice morning, no fog to be seen. The sea is rough today. They are very late giving out water because of the pump being broke. It is rather windy. We are going on nicely today. All for the same purpose as before. It is very wet this evening. Tonight the sea is rough also.

Saturday, May 26 — A very fine morning. We saw a screw packet at our right hand going downwards. We saw a ship at our left hand going down at 9 a.m. We had a very fine day. We saw a steamer at our right side going down at 5:15 p.m. We had a very mild night.

Sunday, May 27 — 'Tis a very foggy day, the ship is hardly going at all this morning. The sailors are obliged to blow the trumpet. The sea is smooth and quiet and there is hardly any wind at all, neither all this last week. Mother has not been out of bed once. The sea is very calm when ‘tis foggy, so it is today. 'Tis not this evening. The sea is very smooth and it glitters all around. We are guided by very little wind today. The night was rather restless also, by the ship rocking a little too much. Sleep and slumber.

Monday, May 28 — A rather wet morning, a little foggy now and then. The sailors are blowing the trumpet on front of the ship. This is a very rough sea. The ship is going beautiful today, dashing along like an ice boat. It is a miserable, nasty morning. We cannot go around on deck without going under some shelter because it is so nasty about the open places on the deck. It is a little fairer this evening and we are slipping on first rate again. It is a middling fair night.

Tuesday, May 29 — God has again opened another fine sunny morning causing the hearts of the Saints here to rejoice. We saw two fishing boats on our right hand, and on our left hand we saw one on this great waving sea. We indeed enjoyed a rather rough night.

Book of Account of Voyage and Training and Overland Travels (Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5—Part 6Part 7)

Picture of the dolphins from Flickr, courtesy of lowjumpingfrog, available under a Creative Commons license.


  1. And after making my comment on the previous post in this series I saw that you clarified his use of "sea pig." I still like the term.

  2. I think these descriptions are interesting. They aren't long but you get a sense of what it was like to sail over the ocean (not easy).

    He writes about seeing a screw packet a few times - this should be close to what that ship might have looked like ( - I don't know anything else about them.

    Also, did the sailors smoke the decks to get rid of rats or is he talking about something else?

    Also, here's what I could find about the ship they were on (information unverified at this point): "This American three-decker [the John Bright], one of the largest square-riggers used by the Saints, was chartered by the church for this voyage from Williams & Guion. She had an elliptic stern, a round tuck, and a billethead. In 1874 she was wrecked off the coast of Brazil." (Source: Sorry for the lack of primary sources.

  3. Okay, one more comment. More about the trip & ship, assuming accuracy of the source: "The second voyage originated at Liverpool on 30 April 1866. Captain W. L. Dawson was master of the ship. Aboard were some 747 Mormon emigrants led by Elder Collins M. Gillet, a returning missionary from England, who died that August crossing the plains west of Fort Kearney. He was assisted by Benjamin J. Stringham and Stephen W. Alley. Among the emigrants was a young boy, Brigham Henry Roberts, who was to become a prominent writer and leader in the LDS Church. During a 'pleasant' passage of thirty-seven days there were no deaths and only one storm." (Source:

    So B.H. Roberts was also on the ship.

    Also, here's a better secondary source about the ship John Bright: "John Bright Williams & Guion [owner] Packet [type] 1444 [tons] 1854 [built] Struck a reef at Capo de Sao Roque, Brazil on December 10 1874; abandoned." (source:

    Packet ships were built to transport people and cargo over the oceans. Ships like the John Bright were built to weather the stormy seas of the North Atlantic and were not built for speed.

  4. Thanks for the comments! Lots of interesting things going on on this voyage. I like this story about the trip: