Aboard the Steamship Niagara

On the morning of April 16, 1862, Eliza Baylies Wheaton, her husband Laban Morey Wheaton, and his cousin David Emory Holman took a carriage to East Boston, where they boarded the steamship Niagara. Family members came on board the ship to say goodbye—including Eliza’s Wheaton’ s cousin William Chapin and her brothers Samuel and Judson Chapin, as well as the pastor of Norton Trinitarian Congregational Church Samuel Beane and his wife Eliza Knight Beane, who was a close friend of Eliza Wheaton and had been the first principal of Wheaton Female Seminary. Other neighbors from Norton, including the Wheatons’ sometime agent George Wild, were also in Boston to bid them farewell.

Wheaton again expressed her sense of the danger of an Atlantic crossing, writing, “with deep emotion I parted with them—God only knows whether ever to look on their faces again or no on Earth.”

The ship left the wharf at eleven o’clock, firing a salute as the friends waved their handkerchiefs back on shore. Once they were no longer visible, Eliza Wheaton went to her cabin to change into the traveling clothes she would wear while they were at sea.

The travelers took their lunch on an upper deck, watching as the ship dropped off the harbor pilot and took on the one who would take them to Halifax. They saw three whales along the way and met their fellow passengers, dining at four o’clock.

Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

Paine, Harriet E. The life of Eliza Baylies Wheaton: A Chapter in the History of the Higher Education of Women. Cambridge, Mass.: Printed at the Riverside Press, 1907.


Filed under Eliza Baylies Wheaton

3 Responses to Aboard the Steamship Niagara

  1. zephstickney

    Eliza Knight Beane, while one of Eliza Wheaton’s dearest friends (after the death of both their husbands in 1865, Eliza Beane became Eliza Wheaton’s live-in companion, although Wheaton always referred to her as “Mrs. Beane” in her diaries), was the THIRD principal of Wheaton Female Seminary, 1838-1840. She left the Seminary to marry the then minister at the Norton, MA, Trinitarian Congregational Church.

    Looking forward to your next post, Kathryn!

    • Thanks for the correction, Zeph. I of course misread the Paine biography, eliding “early principal” with “first regular course of study” on the next line (p. 138).

  2. Apryl Berney

    Really interesting! Can’t wait for the next installment.