Diary of an 1852 Voyage from India to Boston

This is the 1852 diary of Minerva Sears who was born in 1819 and was in her early thirties at the time of writing.

Minerva is accompanying her husband, Captain Joshua Sears, on a voyage from Boston to the Isle de France, then to Calcutta, and back to Boston. They are on board the ship Orissa during one of Captain Sears’ nineteen voyages to the East Indies.

The diary opens in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean en route to the Isle de France in February 1852. It stops and then picks up again in September 1852 as the ship in en route from Calcutta to Boston.

The back of this diary also contains later writings from Minerva’s daughter, Louisa. Louisa was the 1873 Valedictorian of Dean Academy in Franklin, MA (now known as Dean College). Her 1873 Valedictory Address, discovered in the back of this diary, can be read here: 1873 Dean Academy Valedictory Address. Three undated essays by Louisa can be read here: The Essays of Louisa M. Sears.

Selected Passages

September 1, 1852 – In part:

This passage I have become quite domesticated. I have a goat and a little Kid. The goat gives 3 pints of milk a day which a great luxury us on Board of the ship to put in our Tea and coffee. In good weather I take all the care of her myself. I have likewise 2 Minas that are just beginning to talk, one of them is a little sick and this morning I have been giving him a bath, which I think will do him good. I should like to take them home very much. I have likewise 2 dozen of Moonies Sparrows. When we left I had five dozen. They were sent for by a gentleman in Boston. They have all died but 2 dozen and I think doubtful whether I get them home or not, but I shall try my best to so. I have likewise a little Poodle Dog that was given me in Mauritins and requires some part keep her clean and decent. The Captain has likewise a little dog he calls Jenny Lind that was given in Mauritins as you very well know we lost our little dog Satan. There the people were trying to make up our loss and trying to console us by giving us a large quantity of dogs.


October 3, 1852 – In part:


At 9pm we were struck by a heavy sea which split the topmost stay sail all to pieces. It was a most dreadful night for me. I didn’t sleep for all night and there was much anxiety felt by all on board and with all the rest she was constantly leaking up the wheel blocks. That night she threw two men from her wheel and they are now laid up from the effects of the fall and many many times during that strong night did I think that she had smashed her whole stern in and we should all go to the destruction. I was up and dressed and looking around to see if there was any water coming in and every lurch of the ship would throw me quite off of my feet. You can well imagine the anxiety that felt most of the time all above in the cabin and not a person to speak to, when the captain had to look after the ship.


October 10, 1852 – In part:


Yesterday we were in company with the English bark Catherine Steuart from Bencooly bound to London. We talked with him with Maryate’s signals which the Capt. purchased in Calcutta and we find them very useful when we want to ask a question at sea and it is always natural when we see a ship at sea to be anxious to know where she cane from and where she is bound and how many days out. She is not in sight today. Had she been in sight and near enough, we should have asked the on board to take dinner with us as it is a fine day and we are to have pig and goose. I am very sorry we can’t have company as it is a good day for it and it would break the monotony and I could have a chance to put on my my new gown.


Selected Images

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Preview of Journal of the Captain’s Wife: An 1852 Voyage from Calcutta to Boston

This preview of Journal of the Captain’s Wife: An 1852 Voyage from Calcutta to Boston contains the entries for February 1852 as the ship is sailing in the Atlantic Ocean towards the Indian Ocean.

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