Tracking Amos and Sam on the Ship Electra

In my search for stories about Indian Mariners, I decided that I would focus on the decade between 1830 and 1840 give or take a couple of years.   I did, however, allow for some exceptions.  This particular exception falls about twenty years later and involves lots of sheer luck (on my part). As I reviewed thousands of customs records, one in particular caught my eye.  It was a Surrendered Crew List for the Ship Electra that had been collected by the customs official at the Port of New London on August 4, 1862.  Included among the crew were two Mashantucket Pequot whalemen, Amos W. George and Samuel Fagins (sometimes called Sampson or Sanford). They were bound to the Pacific Ocean on a whaling voyage.

Since my goal was to begin mapping voyages of traveling Pequots, my assistant Debra Jones (a Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Elder) and I began looking for the logbook of the Electra.  Conveniently, it was located at the New London County Historical Society where, at the invitation of Executive Director Edward Baker, we were able to view – and later – digitize it. What we didn’t know until we viewed the logbook though was that it was actually the last voyage of the Electra.

Image

Debra Jones with the logbook of the Ship Electra at the New London County Historical Society. August 12, 2012.

The last entry from the logbook of the Ship Electra reads:

Remarks on Board July

Saturday 11th               Begins this day with fresh winds from NW
[1863]                          With clear weather by the wind at 4PM on the
East Side of the Straits with light wind at
6PM com on hevy Squals took in all Sail and
put the Ship of befour the wind Stearing ESE with
dense fogg at 9PM com too the wind under an dubble
reeft main top Sail heading SW at 10PM Ship Struck
on a rock in (wa?) Ship latter part all hands Employed
at the Pumps and hoisting water with tubs from the
main hatch when we left the Electra the (?fol) was
ful of water

this Island the Electra struck on
SE part is the Latt of 54 15 N and in the
Long of 164.40 W

One tends to think horrible things about shipwrecks. The curious thing about all of this was that we were holding the logbook in our hands. It survived…and so did the crew of the Electra!  But how?

Curiously, for the prior six weeks, when the Electra first arrived to the coast of Alaska, she had been within sight and frequently “speaking to” the Bark Nile of New London, also whaling in the area.  I thought it would be a long shot to find the log of the Nile, but I searched at New London County Historical Society and Mystic Seaport. No luck. I had been in contact with the staff of the archives at the New Bedford Whaling Museum (NBWM) and to assist my research, they sent their complete and very detailed database of all the logbooks in their collections.  I scoured it. Bark Nile? Yes! Even more interesting was that the logbook began on July 12, 1863 – the day after the Electra wrecked.

Today, I received from NBWM the microfilm roll that includes the logbook of the Bark Nile. Its first entry reads:

Remarks on Board July
Saturday 12th                       Begins this day with Strong winds from NW
with clear weather the Nile Boats taking cloase
and provisions from the Ship Electra at 5PM
Left the Electra with the Lasehole ful of water
middle part light winds & latter part Enterd the Shols
So ends this day

Note: The handwriting for the log of the Nile is identical to that of the Electra.

The final entry for this voyage of the Bark Nile reads:

Remarks on Board October
Sunday 11th                              Begins this day with light trads winds
Stearing WSW at one PM saw Oahu [Hawaiian Islands] baring
west 44 miles distance

Bark NILE

Bark Nile – © Mystic Seaport, #1939.1284; the Nile is known to have logged the longest recorded whaling voyage at 11 years).

Here’s an account from a Honolulu newspaper:

Electra wreck news - AACP

So the travels of Amos and Sam continued to Hawaii. On my recent trip to the Hawaii State Archives, I located both men as “Discharged Foreign Seamen” in the subsequent five years on different whaling vessels. Since the center of gravity of the whalefishery had now shifted from New England to the Pacific ports of San Francisco and the Hawaiian Islands, my suspicion is that the two Pequots remained there for at least five years. They had returned to Mashantucket by 1870. In that year, both were recorded by Federal census officials as living in the same house – one that Sam had grown up in.

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