The Passenger List of the Brigantine Packet P.E.I. to California, 1849


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Submitted by Edward A. Cooper - tarantularun@msn.com with minor additions by Dave Hunter - dhunter@islandregister.com

Captain William Cooper brought his family and others in the ship "Packet" from Prince Edward Island to California in 1849. Because of the large amount of information about this voyage in public and private hands, it is possible to do a very accurate reconstruction of a passenger list for the voyage. If only that were true for the many other voyages to, and from P.E.I. without extant lists. Much of the information for this list is taken from the document, "A Pioneer family from Prince Edward's Island to California in 1849 & 50" which you may view from a link at the bottom of the page!


The Passenger List of the Brigantine Packet P.E.I. to California, 1849

The Packet was built near the mouth of Grand River, and sailed from that port to California on the 9th of December, 1849. The vessel arrived at San Francisco on July 23, 1850. She had a very mixed cargo on board, intended for the use of the family in their new home, as well as for the voyage. There were two years provisions, building material for new homes, machinery, farming implements and seed, a variety of lumber, the remnants of store and numerous household goods and other things; also some sheep, hogs and a cow, with a quantity of vegetables and hay.

The Vessel Registry shows the following for the vessel:

Registration Number: 1849086 Length (ft): 82
Builder Surname: Cooper Width (ft): 20
Builder First Name: William Depth (ft): 13
Vessel Name: Packet Gross Tonnage: 183
Place Constructed: Grand River, P.E.I. Year Registered: 1849
Year Constructed: 1849 Official Closure Year: 1851
No. of Decks: 1 Reason for Closure: 3 (Vessel sold or transferred)*
No. of Masts: 2 Place of Closure: Adelaide, Australia
Type of Vessel: Brigantine Actual Closure Date: 1851

*Note: The vessel was sold to a New Zealand Company for $7000.00, about one third her cost.

The Above Vessel Statistics from Registration information for the Packet contained in the "Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada" CD from the Memorial University of Newfoundland Maritime History Archive, and excellent resource for Prince Edward Island vessel registrations.


The family, consisting of the Captain, his wife (Sarah), six sons, three having died in infancy, and three daughters left for California. The order in age of the children was; John W., William, Malvina, Adolphus, Oscar, George, David, Rowena and Caroline. Johns wife (Margaret), and her sister Mary, daughters of Captain Davidson, Malvina’s husband, James Morrow, the builder of the vessel, and their son; and Miss Sarah Glover, a niece of the Captain, were all taken on board the Packet there were also, William Morrow, a brother of James, William Baker, and a Captain Mitchel taken as part of the crew, who were to work their passage. Two cabin passengers, Mr. Nelson and Mr. Brown, and steerage passengers, a total of 26.

The crew and passengers on board during the crossing were as follows:

Total: 26.

* A child was born to Mrs. James Morrow (Malvina), her second son, on board Packet while en route to San Francisco (prob. off the west coast of South America). Child born to Mrs. John W. Cooper (Margaret) on the Packet while in S.F. Harbor This child is not counted in the list above.

Ship's Articles:

The original ship's articles show; Packet, of 182 tons burden "An agreement made pursuant to the directions of an Act ot the General Assembly of this Island, passed in the Ninth year of the Reign of Her present Majesty Queen Victoria, between William Cooper, the Master of the Ship Packet of the Port of Prince Edward Island of the burden of 182 tons, and the several persons who's names are subscribed thereto. It is agreed, by and on the part of the said persons, and they hereby engage to serve on board the said Ship, in the several capacities against their respective names expressed, on a voyage from the Port of Prince Edward Island to the Port of San Francisco in California and untill she is moored in an approved place of safety within that Port and the crew further engage to conduct themselves in an orderly, faithful, honest, careful, and sober manner, and be at all times diligent in their respective duties and stations, and to be obedient to the lawful commands of the Master in everything relating to the said ship, and the Materials, Stores, and Cargo thereof, whether on board said Ship, in boats, or on shore, for the benefit of the owner or owners of said ship in consideration of which services to be duly, honestly, carefully, and faithfully performed' the said Master doth hereby promise and agree to pay to the said crew, by way of compensation or damages, the amount against their names respectively expressed. N.B. a passage to California is the principal Consideration. In witness thereof the said parties have hereunto subscribed their names, on the days against their respective signatures mentioned"


The Brigantine Success [sic], 1849, as printed in the Daily Examiner, Dec.4, 1896.

In the Wake of the Fanny.

An Interesting Anniversary with Reminiscences of the Olden Time.

" Forty-seven years ago, tomorrow, the 5th of December, the brigantine Success [sic], owned and commanded by Capt. Cooper, sailed from Grand River, P.E. Island for California. Capt. Cooper took with him his wife, seven sons and three daughters, Miss Sarah Glover, Eliza Davison, also Capt. Mitchel, Thomas Playfair, Charles Brown, Horatio Nelson, William Baker, William Bertram, two brothers by the name of Murray (sic. - Morrow 1), Stephen Maloney and William Riggs, senr. They were two hundred and thirty days going out. They scattered in different directions, Mr. Riggs going into the mines in the Table Mountains, and when he came back he was informed that Mr. Cooper had sold his vessel and left for home leaving his wife and family in San Francisco. Three of Mr Cooper's sons were killed by the Indians. Mrs. Cooper and her daughters and two sons died of cholera. Capt Mitchel lost his life during the fire in San Francisco, and since that time, Thomas Playfair and Charles Brown died on the Island. Mr. Riggs knows not if any survive that voyage but himself, but thinks that he is the only one." [This article transcribed for us by Christine Gorman]

Note: One will see that there are some historical inaccuracies in the Daily Examiner article. First of all, the ship's name is incorrect as verified by the ship's articles and registration record above, and by many other documents. Secondly, the "Murray brothers" 1 noted in the article were most likely the Morrow brothers referred to in the "A Pioneer family from Prince Edward's Island to California" article linked below.

Edward also points out further information on deaths and survivors:

Three sons died by Indians: Adolphus, David, and George (as well as a son in law). From cholera at San Francisco: Sarah, the Captains wife; her daughter Malvina and her youngest son; John W.'s wife Margaret and her only child; and Oscar Cooper, and Mary Eliza Davidson (sister of Margaret, above).

Fortunately, Mr. Riggs, who thought himself alone, had these survivors from the voyage: John Woodcock Cooper (1906), Rowena Cooper (Van Dyke, 1925), Caroline Cooper (Beckwith , 19??), Sarah Glover (McKinnon), and William Cooper (Morrow - grandson).

Obviously there were some glitches in Riggs' memory 49 years later ( the "Success" may be another ship he served or travelled upon at one time or another). However, as pointed out by Edward Cooper, the article still adds to what we know about the voyage, by including the names of the steerage passengers. Though flawed, it is an interesting postscript to the story.


Disposition of the Compliment of the “Packet”

Transcribed by Ed Cooper (gr.grandson of Captain Cooper) May 2004
tarantularun@msn.com

The Packet was built specifically to transport the whole family, plus some friends, relatives & paying passengers from Prince Edward Island (PEI) to San Francisco, California. The family wanted to leave PEI for two main reasons – first, the weather made farming crops very unreliable, because of the short growing season, and all too common hard frosts. The second reason was the disenchantment of Captain Wm. Cooper with the unfair political climate in the PEI House of Assembly and British Parliament towards the farm tenants.

The vessel was built particularly strong. George Chaffey, a local blacksmith that worked on the construction, recalled some years later in California, that the Packet had two Keels (bilge keels) and was copper sheeted all over (and copper fastened).

“The family loaded on board the Packet two years provisions, building material for their new home, machinery, farming implements & seed, a variety of lumber, the remnants of (a,the?) store and numerous household goods; also some sheep, hogs and a cow, with a quantity of vegetables and hay” (from “ A Pioneer Family from Prince Edwards Island to California in 1849-50” by John W. Cooper. Much of this family information is from the above). Later in the narrative, the extra cargo is sold in S.F., including “40 tons of coal @ $42.00 per ton, 75 chickens (worth $5 each), eggs @ $6.00/dozen, ducks @ $25.00/pair, and a young sow pig @ $100.00.”

Packet departed on its’ voyage to California on 5 December, 1849 from Bay Fortune (near Howe Bay), even though not quite ready for sea, as a heavy NW snow storm raised the possibility of being frozen in the harbor until spring. The storm lasted many days, and took the vessel nearly to the trade winds. There was considerable seasickness, leaving few to work the ship. As a consequence, the milk cow was severely injured, and had to eventually be thrown overboard.

The crew positions were as follows: Captain Wm. Cooper, master; John W. Cooper, steward; Wm. Cooper, Jr., 1st mate; Adolphus Cooper, 2nd mate; James Morrow, ships carpenter; Captain Mitchel, boatswain; Wm. Morrow, Wm. Baker, Oscar Cooper, George Cooper and David Cooper, seamen. Mr. Wm. Riggs, 28, was cook.

The ship proved to be a safe & comfortable sea boat. All aboard had plenty of good water, fresh meat twice a week, vegetables and other supplies. As all remained healthy, the captain did not enter any port. Twelve weeks brought them to Cape Horn, but it was some (6?) weeks before they were able to round the Cape, due to storms and head winds. Shortly after this (south coast of South America), Malvina Cooper Morrow gave birth to her second son. Mother & son did well. Calms and head winds caused the arrival at S. F. to be 23 July 1850.

All were glad to reach S.F. and drop anchor (after 8 months at sea), even though the voyage was pleasant, healthy and problem free. They had spoken other ships, spearing the active dolphin and the bonito and others, caught the Albatross and other gulls, and rowed out and caught sea turtles.

The situation at S.F. was very different than expected. The U.S. Maritime Laws would not allow the captain to turn the vessel into American property, as intended, nor could he move the vessel in American waters without a Customs House Officer on board at six dollars per diem, until her cargo was discharged.

Most of the family did not want to return to the Island, nor go back to sea again, as all could earn well on shore. The family did not want to separate, and all the good land was in Spanish Land Grants, and very expensive. They decided to discharge the cargo, sell the vessel, and divide up what property was left, and stay in S.F. They secured lots and built temporary homes and moved ashore, after 10 weeks on board in the harbor (about the first or second week of October). That autumn, 7 of the Packet compliment died of Cholera, as listed in the disposition (page 3).

The Packet was sold to a New Zealand Company (Messers Mitchell & Co.?) for $7,000, about 1/3 of her building cost. She was then registered in Adelaide, Australia, as Number 5 of 1851, without and official number. Packet was then registered in Sydney, Australia, as number 163 of 1854, with the Official Number 32508. The vessel is next listed as a “wreck event”. The original news source is: SMH 9/3 11-3-1857 Moreton Bay Courier 7-3-1857 p2ab RBS. The records came to me from Terry Arnott, Senior Maritime Heritage Officer, Heritage Branch, Natural and Cultural Heritage Directorate, Department for Environment and Heritage, GPO Box 1047, Adelaide, SA, 5001. The email address: arnott.terry@saugov.sa.gov.au and website of: www.heritage.sa.gov.au (11 May, 2004).

The particulars are: Packet, 183 tons, (registry info), lost 24 February, 1857 on Elizabeth Reef near Lord Howe Island, Coral Sea, New South Wales. Vessel wrecked in a gale – departed from Sydney, Australia, bound to (?). Master – Captain Davidson; owner- Messers Mitchell & Co.; crew – 26. No passengers listed, deaths unknown. Comment in article: Whaler. (cargo, whale oil – 150 barrels –listed under ship data). Paper records that ‘the crew is the most heterogeneous we have ever seen’ including Spanish, Portuguese, Malays, New Zealanders, Sandwich Islanders, Tahitians, etc. The chief mate was Tahitian & the second mate was from Hawaii (more? Not listed).

And so ends the story of the Packet, 1849-1857, or so it seems. There may be more information yet to be found. There are some very interesting coincidences that have cropped up as this story has unfolded. The Packet departed PEI in 1849 from Bay Fortune, which I believe is very near Howe Bay. The ship comes to an end on Elizabeth Reef, near Lord Howe Island. The Cooper family was considering making their immigration move to New South Wales, Australia when the news of a gold strike in California led them to believe the Indians would be controlled, leading to a safe farming situation. The ship ends up wrecked in New South Wales. Two of the ladies on the voyage, Margaret & Mary Eliza, were daughters of Captain Davidson of PEI. When the ship wrecked, the master of the ship was Captain Davidson. And last, but not least, as the saying goes, the Packet left PEI with 26 on board, and wrecked on Elizabeth Reef with 26 on board, even though a whaler, not a passenger vessel.

None of the above probably means a thing, but the stringing together of coincidences in that way does give pause. All of this is open to additions or revisions, as more information may become available.

Edward A. Cooper, Aztec, NM


For further information on this crossing and on the people aboard, please see: "A Pioneer family from Prince Edward's Island to California in 1849 & 50"


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Last Updated: 7/8/2004 4:17:14 PM
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