American History Told by Contemporaries

Author: Jaspar Dankers  | Date: 1867

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U.S. History

A Godless Emigrant Ship (1679)



ALTHOUGH this is such a miserable subject, that I deliberated long whether it were worth while to take any nonce of it, yet since one does not know when a matter can be serviceable, I will nevertheless say something.

The persons who belonged to the ship were:

The captain, Thomas Singleton, an Englishman, and a quaker, from London, I believe. He had his wife with him, who was quite young, about 24 or 26 years old, and he was a person of 40 or 45. He was not the best or most experienced seaman by a long distance. He was proud and very assiduous or officious to please men, especially Margaret and her man; yet he had some amiable qualities, he was affable. He was stingy; for when many mackerel were caught, he would not give one to the poor sailors. He was even displeased if the sailors came with their fish lines to fish near the place, where he was, because the fish might come to their lines instead of his. His wife was a young, worldly creature, who had not the least appearance of quakerism, but entirely resembled an English lady fashioned somewhat upon the Dutch model. She was proud, and wore much silver and gold; and when Margaret once spoke to him about it, he said, "I did not give it to her." Whereupon Margaret asked, "Why did you give her money to buy them?" To which he replied, "She wanted it."

The English mate, who afterwards became captain, was a passionate person, inwardly still more than he showed outwardly, a great man-pleaser where his interest was to be promoted. He was very close, but was compelled to be much closer in order to please Margaret.

The Dutch mate, Evert, was a wicked, impious fellow, who also drank freely. He was very proud of his knowledge and experience, which were none of the greatest.

The boatswain, Abram, of Plymouth, was rough and wicked in his orders, but he was a strong and able seaman. Robyn was the best.

I cannot permit myself to go further; it is too unpleasant a subject.

The passengers and crew were a wretched set. There was no rest, night or day, especially among the wives—a rabble I cannot describe. It was as if they were in the fish market or apple market, night and day, without cessation; where, indeed, some of them had obtained their living, and even in worse places. There were nine or ten of them always together. Among the men there were some persons who drank like beasts, yes, drank themselves dead drunk, as you may judge from the fact that two or three of them drank thirty-five gallons of brandy, besides wine from the time we left England or Holland. It is not to be told what miserable people Margaret and Jan were, and especially their excessive covetousness. In fine, it was a Babel. I have never in my life heard of such a disorderly ship. It was confusion without end. I have never been in a ship where there was so much vermin, which were communicated to us, and especially not a few to me, because being in the cordage at night I particularly received them. There were some bunks and clothes as full as if they had been sown. But I must forbear.

When we first came on board the ship we eat where we were, and with those we found there, but afterwards the messes were regulated, and we were placed on deck with five or six uncouth youngsters; where, nevertheless, we continued. This so exercised the other passengers, seeing us submit so willingly, that they themselves could no longer endure it, and desired us to come with them, and make a mess of eight. We had been compelled to buy our stores in England, as what we had were spoiled, or not sufficient. There was not a bit of butter or vinegar on the food during the whole voyage, except what we had purchased at Falmouth. I do not know how long it was we had nothing to eat except heads of salt fish, and those spoiled for the most part. We had to eat them till they were thrown overboard. Most of the time we had white peas, which our cook was too lazy to clean, or were boiled in stinking water, and when they were brought on the table we had to throw them away. The meat was old and tainted; the pork passable, but enormously thick, as much as six inches; and the bread was mouldy or wormy. We had a ration of beer three times a day to drink at table. The water smelt very bad, which was the fault of the captain. When we left England they called us to eat in the cabin, but it was only a change of place and nothing more. Each meal was dished up three times in the cabin, first for the eight passengers, then for the captain, mate, and wife, who sometimes did not have as good as we had, and lastly for Margaret and Mr. Jan who had prepared for them hardly any thing else except poultry and the like. But this is enough.

After we left England, I took upon myself, out of love of the thing, and because there were so few persons to work the ship, namely, ten in all, including the captain, to watch and attend the rudder, as well as to make observations in navigation; but when I perceived the sailors, on this account, became lazy and depended upon me, I left the rudder-gang. Nevertheless, when an English ship came near running us down in the watch off Cape Cod, causing thereby much uproar and confusion in our ship, I did my best to unfasten a rope which they could not make loose, at which the mate raved and swore, and for which he would have almost struck or killed me. When my comrade heard of it he wished me not to do any thing more, and that was my opinion. I could not, however, refrain from helping to the last, but I abandoned the watch, and so caused the mate to feel that we were not insensible, for there was nothing else to be done to him. He, nevertheless, invited us daily more than any one else. Finally, when the voyage was completed, there was no one, either captain, or mate, or sailor, or Margaret, who said "We thank you," except our poor Robyn. We had a little package put in the ship at Falmouth, about a foot and a half square, on which the captain charged us four guilders freight, in the money of Holland. We represented to Margaret how we had managed with only one chest between us, although each passenger was entitled to have one of his own, but it was all to no purpose. Four guilders it must be. It was not that we had any difficulty in giving it, but it was only to be convinced of her unblushing avarice. The mate’s wife was the least evil-inclined, and listened most to what was said to her, which we hope will bear fruit. We have truly conducted ourselves towards all in general and each one in particular, so that not only has every one reason to be edified and convinced, but, by the grace of God, every one renders us testimony that we have edified and convinced them as well by our lives as our conversation. Let him alone who is the author of all grace, receive therefor all the glory, to all eternity. Amen.

Journal of a Voyage to New York, in Long Island Historical Society, Memoirs (Brooklyn, 1867), I, 102–106.


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Chicago: Jaspar Dankers, "A Godless Emigrant Ship (1679)," American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Long Island Historical Society and trans. Henry C. Murphy in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1897), 197–199. Original Sources, accessed September 23, 2023,

MLA: Dankers, Jaspar. "A Godless Emigrant Ship (1679)." American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Long Island Historical Society, and translated by Henry C. Murphy, Vol. I, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 1, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1897, pp. 197–199. Original Sources. 23 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Dankers, J, 'A Godless Emigrant Ship (1679)' in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. and trans. . cited in 1897, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.197–199. Original Sources, retrieved 23 September 2023, from