William Tapscott

Ship: 1525 tons: 195' x 41' x 21'
Built: 1852 by William Drummond at Bath, Maine

In three voyages the square-rigger William Tapscott transported 2262 Mormon emigrants-the greatest number of any sailing craft. Captain James B. Bell was master during these passages. The first began at Liverpool on 11 April 1859. Under the presidency of Elder Robert F. Neslen and his counselors, Henry H. Harris and George Rowley, the 725 Saints were organized into five English and Swiss wards occupying one side of the ship and five Scandinavian wards the other side. Each ward had a presiding elder responsible for cleanliness and good order. Despite the fact that nine languages were spoken, there were harmonious feelings and unity among the Saints. It was a pleasant and successful voyage. Morning and evening prayers were held, as well as regular religious services. Entertainment consisted of singing, instrumental music, games, and dancing. There was only one death, but two births and nineteen weddings were recorded. After a thirty-three-day passage the emigrants landed at New York on 14 May.

The following year---11 May 1860 the William Tapscott sailed from Liverpool with 730 Saints from Britain, Scandinavia, and Switzerland on board. Elder Asa Calkin presided over the company. His counselors were Elders William Budge and Carl Widerborg. The voyage was stormy and unpleasant, and adding to the distress smallpox broke out among the Scandinavian Saints. During the thirty-five-day passage there were ten deaths, four births, and nine marriages. When the vessel arrived at the quarantine point in the New York harbor on 15 June, physicians came aboard and vaccinated most of the passengers and crew. It was not until 20 June that the emigrants were permitted ashore.

The third and largest company of 807 Saints sailed from Liverpool on 14 May 1862. Prior to the vessel's departure Apostles Amasa M. Lyman, Charles C. Rich, and George Q. Cannon came aboard and organized the company. Elder William Gibson was appointed president, and his counselors were Elders John Clark and Francis M. Lyman. The Saints were then divided into nineteen wards, and during the voyage prayers were held morning and evening. After a successful forty-two-day passage the ship reached New York on 25 June.

The William Tapscott was one of the largest full-rigged ships built in Maine during the 1850s. She was a typical "Down Easter"-sturdy, moneymaking, moderately sparred, and designed for carrying capacity. She was a three- decker with a square stem and billethead. Among her owners, including her namesake, were such well-known mariners as William Drummond, Gilbert C. Trufant, and George B. Cornish. She hailed from New York. After plying the oceans for about forty years the William Tapscott was lost in the English Channel in the early 1890s.



The following excerpt is taken from the journal of another traveller on
an 1859 voyage of the William Tapscott and is recorded to give an idea
of the type of circumstances surrounding a voyage of this type. From the
Journal of Samuel Savior.... The William Tapscott is a 1525 ton, 195 foot
long vessel built in 1852. After boarding the ship, the saints spent most
of the next day on the ship, although some of them went ashore to do some
shopping. Instructions were given to the company to be bed by 9:00 or 10:00pm
and a guard was appointed to watch the sailors to see that they did not
infringe on the rights of the passengers. They were not to go on the poop
deck or bother the sailors while on duty. Prayers were to be said at 8
o'clock in the morning and again at 8 o'clock in the evening. The ship
was divided into ten wards. The saints were promised that, if they were
obedient to the brethren, they would be blessed and prosper in their journey.
Each passenger was allotted the following provisions for the 5 week journey:
1 pound of pork per adult - 1 pound of flour - 5 1/2 pounds of biscuits
and oatmeal - 1 pound of baly (barley?) - 1/2 pounds of rice - 1/2 pounds
of peas - 2 pounds of potatoes - 1/2 ounce of mustard - 1 pound of sugar
- 1/2 ounce of pepper - 2 ounces of sugar - 1 gill of vinegar - 2 ounces
of tea - 2 ounces of salt - 3 quarts of water daily, received in the morning
The ship was towed out to sea and many of the saints became sick after
leaving port. Once out to sea, the ocean was a new problem. Samuel reports,
"This morning I am sitting on the poop deck and am struck with awe and
admiration at the sublime scene which is before me to see the furious waves
of the ocean rolling up into mountains and then lashing themselves at one
another. The scenery is truly grand and is worthy of all the praise we
can bestow...It has the appearance of hills covered with snow and the wind
drifting it about from one place to another." He added that he didn't know
whether to pray for wind to get there faster or for calm so they wouldn't
be so sick.
On their arrival to New York , they were checked for isease, and spent
a full day looking for their luggage. It was then typical to take a steamer
up the Hudson River to Albany. During the next few days, they saw Niagara
Falls, after crossing a suspension bridge into Canada. They then went to
Windsor and crossed over to Detroit, They left by railway for Chicago,
arriving the next morning. From Chicago they boarded a first class carriage
to Quincy and then took another steamer and moved up the Mississippi to
Hannibal, Missouri. From there left went by rail to St. Joseph, Missouri.
>From St. Joseph they took another steamer to Florence, Nebraska. On board
the steamer a guard was posted due to the rough customers. Many were sick
due to spoiled food and warm weather. Landing in Florence, it began to
rain, so they pitched tents for the women. When the rain turned to hail,
all were soaked.
The next day all those going by handcarts met and a fee was levied for
their provisions. They spent the next few days fixing up their handcars.
They put screws into the sides of the carts to hook the bows on and made
covers for them. About 10 days later they were ready to travel. About one
month had passed since they landed in New York City.
Two pounds of bacon and one pound of sugar were dealt out for each two
persons for one week. Although the water was excellent, they had to walk
a long way to obtain fuel since they were traversing grasslands. In the
evening they danced and then slept under their handcarts. The next day
they climbed some steep hills and one of the provision wagons stuck in
the mud. The mosquitos were very numerous and all were bitten severely.
They bathed in the river. Several Indians left when they saw that the men
were armed. They traveled fifteen or sixteen miles a day. When it stormed,
the handcarts were very hard to draw due to the muddy earth. Occasionally
they caught fish for food. Lots of buffalo were seen along the trail. Rivers
were crossed on ferries. After nearly three months of walking, they arrived
in Salt Lake City.
[More information on this family is found in the biography of William's
wife, Elizabeth Simms Thorpe]