A Young Quaker’s Voyage to Philadelphia

7/27/1682, London

We are now at the point of no return. Everything we own and everything we will need in the New World has been loaded onto our ship, the Welcome. Everything is behind us, and everything is before us.

It was my Grande Mama who asked me to keep this journal of our voyage. We have been living with her and Grande Papa while Father sold our home; his business; and anything we will not take with us, including Ashes, my beautiful, little dog.

7/30/1682, London

Living with Grande Mama and Papa has been difficult for my parents as my grandparents believe Father is being foolish by taking us to the New World to “tame a forest and live with savages.” They believe that Jesus will return and become the King of England. I don’t care what they believe; they don’t seem to understand that we are leaving forever, and I wish it were a more peaceful departure. I love my Grande Mama and Papa, and I will miss them with all my heart. I cannot imagine my life without them, and I know they will feel pain as they grieve for us. We are the reason they have been happy.

8/30/1682, London

On the average night, I would be sleeping and not writing in my journal, but tomorrow is our day of departure, and I do not think I will sleep at all. My mind spins because I have shed many tears with the friends I will leave behind, and at the same time, I share a sense of excitement with my friends who will come with us. Almost all of us are from Sussex, and most of us go to the same meeting and school.

8/31/1682, Day 1

This morning, the commander gave the order “all aboard” and then “cast off,” which to me meant cast off our old life: all that we love, including Ashes and Grande Mama and Papa.

All that we own and all that we will need for our new life (including a barrel full of nails that we will use as money in Philadelphia) is on this ship. Father, my brother George, and I will sleep on the top deck. Mother, Josiah, and Mary will sleep on a straw mat on the floor below deck.

9/6/1682, Day 7

Progress has been very slow: there are times that we don’t move at all. We have been on board for two weeks, and we can still see England in the distance. When we set our sails, we were joined by two other ships in Friend Penn’s fleet: the Hester and Hannah and the Society. I had thought we would travel together as some of my friends are on those ships. Sadly, as I write today, we have lost sight of the rest of them.

9/8/1682, Day 9

I had a dream that I would see England slowly fade out of sight, and I would remember that moment forever. When the wind finally blessed us, we lost sight of land after dark. When I awoke the birds were gone, and there was nothing to be seen but the ocean: miles and miles of ocean. I had missed my last opportunity to say goodbye.

9/12/1682, Day 13

Finally, the wind is with us. We have been at sea for just two weeks, and there is not an inch of this ship that I have not explored, a passenger or crew member I have not met, or a book I have not read. The only entertainment is when the crew decides to sing. Even the adults, who usually shun such things as music, welcome the break in the monotony. This ship is just not large enough for its 118 passengers and crew of 36. That is enough souls to fill two ships. According to our commander, this floating prison is 128 feet long, 24 feet wide, and weighs 300 tons. I am told a voyage can take anywhere from 49 to 128 days. I don’t know how I will do it, but I must for my family; I must.

9/20/1682, Day 21

Several of the passengers have become ill with ship fever, sometimes called “smallpox.” One of these is my sister, Mary, who is only four years old; another is my brother Josiah, who is only six. My mother is below deck caring for them, and I fear she will become ill as well. Some ships lose as many as half their passengers to the fever. I will pray for them as long as I can tonight, and every night until I am in their presence once again.

9/25/1682, Day 26

Brother George and I are no longer permitted to go below deck to visit with our mother, brother, and sister. News of their sickness is brought to us by my father’s faithful servant, John Ottey, who is not a member of the Society but is a very kind man. Many lifeless bodies are being removed from below deck and hastily—almost without any last words—put overboard. I have witnessed several draped in white cloth that appear to be children of the same age and size as Josiah and little Mary, but I have seen none. George and I spend much of our time in worship. Father, grieving over the loss of many Friends, especially his close Friend William Wade, now spends more and more time in Friend Penn’s cabin making plans for the new colony. George and I spend much of that time alone, pacing the deck of the ship, reading, and in prayer.

9/27/1682, Day 28 

Friend Ottey came from below deck to tell us the news. Before he spoke a word, I could see in his tear-filled eyes what the news was to be: Mother; Josiah; and precious little Mary all passed within minutes of each other. Little Mary died in our mother’s arms; Josiah shortly later; and finally, my dear mother. I will never know if they suffered or died peacefully. When I asked Friend Ottey, he just turned away and would not answer. A few minutes later, Friend Ottey came up from below carrying first little Mary; then Josiah; and finally, my mother. Each of their bodies were draped in blankets that reminded me of home. He would hand the bodies to my father who shook slightly as he gently held them over the side and dropped them into the sea. In the end, 31 passengers died. As I write these words—God forgive me—I hate this journey; I hate William Penn; and I hate my father’s decision to bring us to this. George feels the same.

9/28/1682, Day 29

With William Wade now diseased, his servant, James Portiff, was now serving William Penn. This morning he came and told George and me that Friend Penn wanted to meet with us in his cabin, and he was to escort us there.

We were very nervous but were put at ease as Friend William Penn met us in his doorway and put his hands on George’s and my shoulders while warmly welcoming us into his cabin.

Entering Friend William Penn’s cabin was like stepping into another world. Unlike where George and I sleep on deck, the cabin was warm, elegantly decorated, and smelled of food. George and I were humbled when Friend William Penn settled into a silence that seemed to last forever. When he finally spoke, he looked at George and me directly with very kind eyes and told us that our father, as a Quaker minister, was very important to the success of what he called his “Holy Experiment,” and we should understand why he spends so much time away from us. He said the loneliness we feel is our gift to the New World. He said that with our dear mother gone from this life, we needed to love God and become men before our time. He told us that in the future, our lives should be spent honoring her and the gift of life she has given us. He then took both of our hands, and we spent the next few minutes standing with heads bowed in silence. Strangely when we did, I felt the presence of my dear mother. May God rest her soul.

10/6/1682, Day 37

Very suddenly this morning, the wind from the north began to blow cold. Winter is on its way, and we still have miles to go. Luck is with us, however, as the ship has noticeably increased its speed. I will pray that the wind continues and delivers us soon. The food has become infested with bugs; the biscuits have gotten too hard to eat; the cheese is moldy; the butter is rancid; and even the beer, which is the only thing you can drink that will not make you ill, has gone sour. George and I are wearing the same clothes that we wore when we departed England, and we have not had a bath in six weeks. I don’t know how we will endure.

10/15/1682, Day 46

The day began as a beautiful autumn day, but by midafternoon the sky had darkened. Just before dark, the seas began to swell, and the waves were washing over the deck. Our situation was quickly becoming dangerous. Brother George had begun to cry from fear. We had no time to comfort him. All we could do was tie him to the ship and pray he would not be drowned.

The captain ordered that the ship be lightened, and I stood with Father as all of our possessions, including the nails, were joined with Mother, Josiah, and little Mary at the bottom of this endless sea.

10/20/1682, Day 51

The wind we had with us has now become a breeze, and there are still miles to go. Brother George and I argue with each other constantly. Without Mother to control us, I fear that we will arrive in America no longer as friends.

10/25/1682, Day 5,

This morning, as George and I lay beneath our well-worn canvas, I sensed something strange in the air. As I awoke, I realized that I was smelling the sweet smells of land. I woke up George, and we saw seagulls flying in the air. My eyes have never seen a more beautiful site. We started running up and down the deck, waking everyone and yelling, “Land, land, there is land!” We were to arrive in America just as I was certain I couldn’t bear another day aboard this ship. The New World, my New World, was in sight. When we saw our father, he embraced us both for the longest time. I shall tell no one, but I saw him shed a tear. Our journey, or rather our ordeal, was coming to an end.

10/26/1682, Day 57

This morning Friend Penn approached George and me and said he wanted to discuss the work he and father had been doing. He said they had produced what they call a “Frame of Government.” He said in this government everyone would enjoy religious freedom, and every man would have a say in the government, even if he didn’t own any land. George, who was still grieving the loss of our mother, said loudly, and with some impertinence, “We have lost our mother, brother, sister, and all of our possessions in following your promises. How can you make such a promise?”

He answered by saying that he could because it was not his promise alone, it was the promise of the New World. He looked us square in the eye and could see we were respectfully skeptical, and then, after a thoughtful moment, he smiled broadly and said, “Let us see what love can do.”

8/4/1699, Fitzwatertown, Pennsylvania

At my father’s memorial service, my grandson found this dusty, old diary among my things. I thought I would make a final entry.

Two years after we arrived in Philadelphia, my father remarried. She left him almost immediately because he never stopped loving my mother. Soon after that, he discovered limestone on our property. Prior to his discovery, bricks for building homes were all imported from England. It is said that the bricks that built the Independence Hall included lime from his quarry. He was so successful that William Penn ordered a road to be built between his lime mine and the city port. He also built several limekilns and the road was called “The Limekiln Pike.” He also built a tavern and a hotel. My father died on the Fourth Day of Eighth Month in 1699.

He was a great man.

Herb Haigh

Herb Haigh is a retired health insurance executive and member of St. Petersburg (Fla.) Meeting. He’s a board member for Pendle Hill study center, a member of Friends General Conference’s Finance Committee, and a member of Friends Meetinghouse Fund. He loves to ride his motorcycle with his dog, Gracie, in the sidecar. Contact: herbhaigh@gmail.com.

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