Posted by: Karlee A. Turner | December 25, 2010

Christmas Day with Mary and Minnie Lawrence [1856 – 1859]

As you read through these entries, you may notice that Christmas on board ship seems little different from how Christmas might be celebrated on land. However, bear in mind Mary Lawrence and Minnie/courtesy Francis F. Jonesthat Mary, her daughter Minnie, her husband and the crew are thousands of miles from home and in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean headed for Cape Horn, the Pacific and numerous other whaling grounds in many different oceans.  Additionally, to get a true appreciation of preparing a proper Christmas dinner at sea, you need to be reminded of the extensive chores involved for the same while on land. Now, imagine making all those luscious courses while standing in a space measuring about 6′ x 6′, using a cast iron, wood-burning stove as the ship rocks and rolls over the ocean’s waves….get my drift? (Excuse the pun, LOL). In other words, making such a terrific Christmas dinner was a challenge indeed, especially when there were 32-36 (Captain, Mates, Mary, Minnie and the crew) hungry mouths anticipating tasty morsels very different from the usual fare.

[Thursday] DECEMBER 25 [1856]: “Christmas. It seems to me very much as if it had come in July, instead of December. We generally associate Christmas with cold weather. Minnie hung up her stocking last night. She was fearful that she would get nothing in it, as we could not go to the store, but she succeeded as well for eatables as if she had been home. We had quite a Christmas dinner: roast chickens, stuffed; potatoes, turnips, onions, stewed cranberries, pickled beets and cucumbers, and a plum duff. For tea I had a tin of preserved grape opened and cut a loaf of fruitcake. The twenty-fifth of November I went on deck before dark to take my last look at my native land (for the present) and tonight (just a month) went to take my first look at a foreign land. Cape St. Rogue is in sight, so we shall have to beat tonight.”

[Friday] DECEMBER 25 [1857]: “Christmas Day reminds us of home and friends. Minnie wished to hang up her stocking as usual, as I had a tin can of candies which her grandpa put up for her, Santa Claus managed to fill it very well. We sat down to a Christmas dinner of two roast turkeys, sweet and Irish potatoes, boiled onions, stewed pumpkin, and cranberries, pickles, and a nice Indian pudding made of milk and eggs. Had a goat killed for the benefit of those living in the forecastle, to which, I should think, they did ample justice, as there are but two legs remaining. In the afternoon we were cheered by the sight of a right whale; lowered the boats, but it was rough and a heavy sea so that their efforts were without success, as he kept under water most of the time. About sunset again we heard the welcome sound of ‘There blows!’ but it was too late to send the boat out in pursuit of them.”

[Saturday] DECEMBER 25 [1858]: “When I left port I congratulated myself that I had been in Honolulu for seven weeks and escaped the ‘boohoo’ or ‘Maui’ fever, to which all foreigners are subject. But my congratulations came too soon, for after being at sea several days, the boohoo seized me, and I was sick enough; was obliged to keep to my bed for a week. It is said to be a mild form of Panama fever. There is nothing dangerous about it, but it is the most uncomfortable fever one can have, such weariness and awful aches in the bones that it is impossible to describe. Minnie had a very bad cold….Minnie hung up her stocking as usual last night and was fortunate in finding it quite well filled with the usual supply of candies, nuts, oranges, also a book and transparent slate from me, and $2.50 gold piece from her papa. A few days ago Mr. Forsyth, our mate, gave her a very pretty little spyglass which she said she would call her Christmas present too.  We are now bound to the coast of California for mussel diggers, if we can find them, and for wood….and today the Island of Guadalupe is in sight at a distance.”

[Tuesday] DECEMBER 25 [1859]: “Minnie awoke bright and early this morning to examine the contents of her stocking. With Captain Willard’s presents she was very much pleased. Her father made her a pair of ivory candlesticks with little candles of the same material, which are very cunning, and I presented her with a book. Those with candies made up the supply. The captain made us a short visit in the afternoon.”



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