Historical Notes 2 – Ben Nevis

Volume 5, Number 8, December 1992, Texas Wendish Heritage Society Newsletter

What is the name of:

  • the finest passenger sailing ship of the mid 19th century?
  • the ship which had a Scottish Highlander for the figure head?
  • the highest mountain in Scotland?

If you answered “Ben Nevis” to all three questions, you are right.

The three masted ship Ben Nevis is famous in Texas-Wendish history because it brought so many Wends to Texas at one time. The sparse accounts of that trip from Liverpool to Galveston in the fall of 1854 paint a picture of a voyage filled with hardship due to illness and bad weather. Otherwise, we might have accounts of a luxury trip as measured by the standards of those times.

From The London Illustrated News, September 4, 1852 we can read many details of the new ship built especially for the Australian passenger trade. She was 180 feet long and 38 ½ feet in breath, with a register of 1420 tons, and belonged to the White Star line. She was considered to be one of the finest ships of the time. The news article reports “commanding as a frigate…handsome…sits upon the water with ease and grace…immense strength…and nothing omitted, either in her build or fittings for the safety and convenience of the passengers.

As to the passenger’s accommodations—the height between decks was seven feet, and the berths as “commodious as those of any ship afloat.” She was noted for her excellent ventilation and lighting systems, making the between decks “cheerfully light and airy.” She was built to carry 650 passengers, and had cooking facilities for 800 built according to the standards adopted by the Government emigration officers. The ship had a fire-engine and force pump which also supplied water to the cisterns located around the deck.

The cooking and serving facilities, as well as crew compartments, were located in a house in the center of the upper deck. Part of this area was devoted to a ship’s hotel, a “beautiful little room fitted with stained glass windows.” Possibly this room was the separate accommodations used by Pastor Kilian and his family.

Through the efforts of Albert Blaha, we have in the library vertical file, and on exhibit, the drawing of the Ben Nevis and the complete article from The London Illustrated News. Read more about it!