Jeremiah Beebe (AM0417)

Precious little information could be found about Jeremiah. The crew list for AMAZON that he commanded states that he was born in New London. As described more fully below, he died on April 29, 1840 off the coast of New Zealand while commanding AMAZON. Jeremiah Beebe was not an uncommon name in the mid-1800’s, but he could not be distinguished from others with the same name living in the greater New London area at about the same time period. There are several who “could have been” this Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was master for one voyage of a ship with a home port of New London.

AMAZON (AS0856): (schooner, 71 tons, built in Lyme CT in 1817, sold in 1840). Departed on November 2, 1839 for the Indian Ocean to act as tender to CHELSEA (see below). Jeremiah was master with a crew of seven. (AV00766).Sailing a few days later from New London as an additional tender to CHELSEA was PACIFIC (AS2779, schooner, 96 tons, built in Stonington CT in 1832) under the command of John L. Harris (AM2457). Havens & Smith was agent for both voyages.

The log book of CHELSEA for her 1839 voyage (held at Mystic Seaport  Museum) provides additional information about AMAZON’s voyage. She rendezvoused with CHELSEA on April 5, 1840 off of Auckland Island, NZ, and PACIFIC joined them on April 14. Thereafter they sailed together in search of whales. On April 29, while sailingthrough a passage of breaking water, Jeremiah’s boat capsized and he, the mate and three other crew members drowned. Starbuck provides the following information about this voyage: “Captain Beebe and boat’s crew lost at the Aucklands 1840; tender to the Chelsea; no report of return.” Dennis Wood Abstracts (1-026) adds to this story: “Sailed November 2,1839 on an Exploratory Expedition to Ship Chelsea bound to Indian Ocean” and, continuing in different handwriting, “Out of the business don’t know as her ever came home”. From the Sydney (NZ) Gazette (August 8, 1840): “[T]he American tender schooner Pacific reports the loss of a boat crew, consisting of five men, belonging to the tender schooner Amazon in the surf.” The New London Gazette and Advertiser (February 10, 1841) reports the loss and adds the name of those lost. The log entry on August 18, 1840 records that AMAZON left for the Bluff to sale [sell?] her Capt. Smith [CHELSEA’s master] being on board thinks it will be best for all [concerned]as the master and mate are both dead.” The Sydney Morning Herald (September 4,1840) records that AMAZON “lost the master, mate, and one boat’s crew, and not having sufficient hands to proceed on her voyage…was put up for sale, and purchased…She has been sent on a trading trip.”

CHELSEA (AS1097): (home port New London, ship, 396 tons, built Norwich CT in 1827, lost Chatham Islands in 1845). With Franklin Smith (AM4484) as master she departed for the South Atlantic on November 28, 1839 (four weeks after AMAZON) and returned August 21, 1840 (Starbuck). Dennis Wood Abstract (1-125) describes this voyage of CHELSEA but no mention is made of AMAZON as her tender.

CHELSEA’s log book records that Capt. Smith took his wife, Mary Caroline, on this voyage (AV02798). The entry for August 17 (1840) reads “…we have had an addisshion to Capt Smiths family In the Course of this 24 hours of a Daughter and I Call her Chelsea Smith So Ends Well.” Druett’s Petticoat Whalers (p. 96-7) continues the story: the day before little Chelsea Smith was born [Jeremiah] of the schooner had drowned, along with five of his men when their boat tipped over in the icy surf. It was an old maritime tradition to call a baby after the ship, but surely few infants have been born into such a bleak scene.” CHELSEA’s log book shows that Chelsea was not born the day before Jeremiah’s death (April 29) but several months later, on August 17.

​​Sources: see the sidebar and the sources cited in the text.

George Shaw (Mystic Seaport Museum) September 2023