Loyalist Ships: The Two Sisters
A synopsis of the saga, as written in the diary of Sarah Scofield Frost, adds life to our record of the journey. Mrs. Frost was a passenger on the ship, “Two Sisters” during the voyage from Long Island to New Brunswick in the Spring of 1783:
May 1783 — I left Lloyd’s Neck with my family and went aboard the Two Sisters, commanded by Capt. Brown, for a voyage to Nova Scotia (New Brunswick) with the rest of the Loyalist sufferers . . . we expect to sail soon as the wind shall favor . . . there are two hundred and fifty passengers on board.
Monday, May 26 — . . . We lie at anchor in Oyster Bay the whole day, not having got all our passengers on board.
Tuesday, May 27 — At 8 o’clock we weighed anchor at Oyster Bay, with a fair wind, for New York . . . We went on with a fair breeze through Hell Gate; but as we got through, the wind and tide headed us, and we had like to have gone ashore, which put us all in great surprise. They tried twice to go on, but at length were obliged to anchor at the mouth of Harlem Creek (2 miles east of Rikers Island where highway 278 crosses the East River between the boroughs of Bronx and Queens), where we lay that night.
Wednesday, May 28 — We weighed anchor at Harlem Creek at a quarter after six in the morning, with a fair breeze, but the tide being low we struck a rock. We soon got off, but in a few minutes struck again. At half past seven we got off and went clear, and at ten we anchored at the lower end of the City of New York, the tide not serving to go round into the North River as we had intended. An hour later I went on shore . . .
Thursday, May 29 — . . . went on shore . . .
Friday, May 30 — went on shore . . .
Saturday, May 31 — . . . went out amongst the shops to trade . . .
Monday, June 2 — We are still lying at anchor in the North River, not having any orders for sailing, and I don’t know when we shall sail but hope soon. Nothing happens worth mentioning.
Wednesday, June 4 — I staid on board all day. It being the King’s (George III) birthday there was such a firing of cannons and noise amongst the ships it was enough to astound anyone . . .
Friday, June 6 — We are still lying at anchor waiting for other vessels of our fleet . . . We have had a very bad storm this evening. Our ship tossed very much, and some of the people are quite sick . . .
Sunday, June 8 — We are still lying at anchor in the North (Hudson) River. We expected to sail tomorrow for Nova Scotia, but I believe we shall remain at Staten Island or Sandy Hook (within 1 mile of Ellis Island in the Upper Bay between the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean) for some days or until our fleet is all got together.
Wednesday, June 11 — We weighed anchor in the North River about six o’clock this morning, and sailed as far as Staten Island, where we came to anchor . . . went ashore . . .
Friday, June 13 — It is now about half after three in the morning. I have got up, not being able to sleep for the heat . . . It storms so I cannot go on deck . . .
Saturday, June 14 — . . . We are still lying at Staten Island. We expected to sail this morning.
Sunday, June 15 — Our people seem cross and quarrelsome today, but I will not differ with any one, if I can help it. At half-past twelve our ship is getting under way – I suppose for Nova Scotia. I hope for a good passage. About five o’clock we come to anchor within six miles of the lighthouse at Sandy Hook. How long we shall lie here I don’t know, but I hope not long. About six o’clock this evening we had a terrible thunder storm, and hail stones fell as big as ounce balls. About sunset there came another shower, and it hailed faster than before. Mr. Frost went out and gathered up a mugful of hail stones. Such an instance I never saw before on the 15th of June.
Monday, June 16 — Off at last! We weighed anchor about half after five in the morning, with the wind north-nor’west, and it blows very fresh. We passed the lighthouse about half after seven. We have twelve ships belonging to our fleet besides our commodore’s. Two hours later a signal was fired for the ships all to lie to for the Bridgewater, which seems to lag behind, I believe on account of some misfortune which happened to her yesterday. At 9 a.m. we have a signal fired to crowd sail. Again we are ordered to lie to. I don’t know what it is for, as the Bridgewater has come up. It is now two o’clock, and we have again got under way. The mate tells me they have been waiting for a ship to come from New York, and she has overhauled us. We have now got all our fleet together; we have thirteen ships, two brigs, (brigantine) one frigate. The frigate is our commodore’s.
The wind dies away. It is now three o’clock, and the men are fishing for mackerel. Mr. Mills has caught the first one. I never saw a live one before. It is the handsomest fish I ever beheld.
Tuesday, June 17 — The wind began to blow very fresh last night, about eleven o’clock. About half after five we are sixty miles from the lighthouse at Sandy Hook, the wind southwest. They say that is a fair wind for us. At half-past nine we are out of sight of land.
Wednesday, June 18 — Feel very well this morning and go to work, but soon the wind blows fresh, and I have to go back to my berth. At noon we are an hundred and ten miles from Sandy Hook, with the wind very fair, at southwest. At half after five we saw something floating on the water. Some thought it a wreck; others said it was a dead whale. One of our ships put about to see what it was. At sunset we are one hundred and fifty miles on our way.
Thursday, June 19 — We are still steering east by south, with a fine breeze. We sailed five miles an hour through the night, and today we sail seven miles an hour the chief part of the time, it is now about twelve o’clock. We have shifted our course, and are now steering north by east. At two o’clock, Captain Brown tells me, we are two hundred and fifty miles from Sandy Hook, on our passage to Nova Scotia, with the wind west-nor’-west. At six o’clock we saw a sail ahead. She crowded sail and put off from us, but our frigate knew how to speak to her, for at half-past seven she gave the stranger a shot, which caused her to shorten sail and lie to for the frigate to come up. Our captain looked out with his spy-glass. He told me she was a rebel Brig; he saw her thirteen stripes. She was steering to the westward. The wind blows so high this evening I am afraid to go to bed for fear of rolling out.
Friday, June 20 — At half after nine this morning our frigate fired to shift our course to north-north-east. We have still fine weather and fair wind. Mr. Emslie, the mate, tells me we are five in the afternoon, five hundred miles from Sandy Hook light. We now begin to see the fog come on, for that is natural to this place. At six our commodore fired for the ships ahead to lie to till those behind should come up with us. The fog comes on very thick this evening.
Saturday, June 21 — I rose at eight o’clock, and it was so foggy we could not see one ship belonging to our fleet. They rang their bells and fired guns all the morning to keep company with one another. About half after ten the fog went off, so that we saw the chief part of our fleet around us. At noon the fog came on again, so that we lost sight of them, but we could hear their bells all around us. This evening the captain showed us the map of the whole way we have come and the way we have still to go. He told us we were two hundred and forty miles from Nova Scotia at this time. It is so foggy we have lost all our company and are entirely alone.
Sunday, June 22 — This morning the fog is still dense. No ships in sight, nor any bells to be heard. Towards noon we heard some guns fired from our fleet, but could not tell in what quarter. The fog is so thick we cannot see ten rods [165 feet], and the wind so ahead we have not made ten miles since yesterday noon.
Monday, June 23 — It grows brighter towards noon, and the fog disappears rapidly. This afternoon we can see several of our fleet, and one of our ships came close alongside of us. Mr. Emslie says we are an hundred and forty miles from land now. The wind becomes more favorable, the fog seems to leave us and the sun looks very pleasant. Mr. Whitney and his wife, Mr. Frost and myself have been diverting ourselves with a few games of crib [cribbage].
Tuesday, June 24 — The sun appears very pleasant this morning. Ten ships are in sight. The fog comes on, and they all disappear. We have been nearly becalmed for three days. A light breeze enables us to sail this evening two miles and a half an hour.
Wednesday, June 25 — Still foggy; the wind is fair, but we are obliged to lie to for the rest of the fleet. The commodore fires once an hour. The frigate is near us, and judging by the bells, we are not far from some of the other ships, but we can’t see ten rods for the fog. We have measles very bad on board our ship.
Thursday, June 26 — This morning the sun appears very pleasant. The fog is gone to our great satisfaction. Ten of our ships are in sight. We are now nigh the banks of Cape Sable. At nine o’clock we begin to see land, at which we all rejoice. We have been nine days out of sight of land. At half after six we have twelve ships in sight. Our captain told me just now we should be in the Bay of Fundy before morning. He says it is about one day’s sail after we get into the bay to Saint John’s River. Oh, how I long to see that place, though a strange land. I am tired of being on board ship, though we have as kind a captain as ever need to live.
Friday, June 27 — I got up this morning very early to look out. I can see land on both sides of us. About ten o’clock we passed Annapolis [Annapolis Royal on the northwest coast of Nova Scotia, 40 miles south of St. John Harbour across the Bay of Fundy]; after that the wind all died away. Our people have got their lines out to catch codfish, and about half after five John Waterbury caught the first one for our ship.
Saturday, June 28 — Got up in the morning and found ourselves nigh to land on each side. It was up the river St. John’s. At half after nine our captain fired a gun for a pilot; an hour later a pilot came on board, and at quarter after one our ship anchored off Fort Howe in St. Johns River. Our people went on shore and brought on board spruce and gooseberries, and grass and pea vines with the blossoms on them, all of which grow wild here. They say this is to be our city. Our land is five and twenty miles up the river. We are to have here only a building place of forty feet in the front and a hundred feet back. Mr. Frost has now gone on shore in his whale boat to see how the place looks, and he says he will soon come back and take me on shore. I long to set my feet once more on land. He soon came on board and brought a fine salmon.
Sunday, June 29 — This morning it looks very pleasant on the shore. I am just going ashore with my children to see how I like it. Later – It is now afternoon and I have been ashore. It is, I think, the roughest land I ever saw. It beats Short Rocks, indeed, I think, that is nothing in comparison; but this is to be the city, they say! We are to settle here, but are to have our land sixty miles farther up the river. We are all ordered to land to-morrow, and not a shelter to go under.
Thus ends the 660-mile journey from Long Island to New Brunswick as recorded in the pages of the diary of Sarah Frost. The date was July 5, 1783.
[Submitted by James C. Fosdyck]
1. Walter Bates, Kingston and The Loyalists of The Spring Fleet of 1783, (Barnes & Company, 1889), (reprint, Woodstock, New Brunswick: Non-Entity Press, 1990), pp. 29-32.