Horace Poole was born on December 18, 1837 in Peabody, Massachusetts, the son of Fitch and Mary Poor Poole.  Of English ancestry, the first of the family came to Massachusetts in the 1630's. Horace spent his boyhood in the area of the world famous Boston Harbor, where he watched the arrival and departure of great sailing ships.  Upon graduating from high school, he decided he would like to join the crew of a clipper ship and work his way to the China coast.  He was very determined in his wish to make this adventure, so his father decided to help him locate a good ship with a reputable captain.  By this year of 1855, flogging was illegal, but was still practiced by many unprincipled captains, along with other cruelties to the crews.  So it was important that Horace should sail with a good captain. 


Fitch Poole was able to find a place for his son, Horace, aboard the clipper ship, N. B. Palmer, whose captain, Charles P. Low, had a fine reputation and was known to be a capable navigator.  So, on August 27, 1855, Horace Poole (age 17) boarded the N. B. Palmer as a crewman, on her voyage from New York harbor, across the Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope, through the Indian Ocean, past Malaysia, up to Hong Kong and the China coast.  Here he remained for about three months.  The ship left Shanghai on March 9,1856, sailing for New York and following approximately the same route as the outward voyage.  Horace writes in his diary that he arrived in New York on June 29th just 108 days from Shanghai.


[More on the N. B. Palmer]

[A book “Some recollections” by Captain Charles P. Low is available as an ebook for free.  Google Some Recollections by Captain Charles P. Low.  He recounts Horace’s voyage starting on page 140, but Horace is not mentioned and his version is very brief. ]

Horace Poole


Ship N. B. Palmer


Hong Kong, China

Front Cover

Inside Front Cover

Horace Poole ship


Monday Aug 27th 1855

Eight o'clock A. M. left New York in the fine clipper ship ¨N. B. Palmer for China in tow of the steam tug Levithian. The tug left us off Sandy Hook when we loosed our sails and proceeded on our course, with the wind blowing fresh from N. N. E.


Sunday Sept 2nd /55

Weather very rainy and squally. Sailed under reefed topsails most of the day, thought a great deal of home.


Friday Sept 28th 1855

Crossed  the equator at four o'clock A. M. Thirty one  days from New York.



Monday Oct 1st 1855

At five bells in the evening all hands were called on the deck by the cry of "man overboard". We immediately backed the main yards and got a boat over which occupied about twenty minutes. The boat was absent about half an hour but it was to late, he had gone down as the sea was running quite high at the time. He was in the missen chains getting in a stage when he lost his footing and fell. That night was a sad one to me.


Sunday Sept 30th 1855 [This is out of order in the handwritten copy]

Within one hundred and ninety miles of the coast of Brasil and forty miles from the island of Fernando N[oronha?], which land we expected to make but the wind hauled round and we kept on our course.


Friday Oct 5th 1855

Made the island of Trinidad off our lee bow at half past nine o'clock in the evening and lost sight of it at two o'clock Saturday morning.


Sunday Oct 7th 1855

Fair wind. Set royal top-gallant, Top mast and lower studding sails, at work most of the watch on deck.


Friday Oct 12th /55

Sent down the skysail yards and royal studding sail booms.


Monday Oct 15th 1855

Wind blowing fresh from the N. W.  At noon it increased to a perfect gale.  All hands called on deck to reef topsails.  Shipped some very heavy seas.  Made 355 miles the last 24 hours.


Tuesday Oct 16th 1855

Wind blowing a hurricane.  Furled the foresails and mizzen topsail.  Sailing under close reefed fore and main top sails and fore top mast stay sail.  At work most of the day pumping ship.  The waves running as high as the top mast head.  In the afternoon the gale moderated.  Set the fore sail and mizzen club-topsail.


Sunday Oct 21st 1855

Off Cape Good Hope.  54 Days from N. Y. Sailing at the rate of 16 knots an hour.


Tuesday Oct 23rd 1855

In the afternoon captain gave orders to secure everything on deck and prepare for a gale.  At ten o'clock began to shorten sail, close reefed top-sails and furled the cross jack and main sail. The wind blowing a hurricane.  Half past eleven all hands called on deck. Furled the fore sail, carried away the jib and jib guy, the ship laboring very heavy.  At one time capt thought she would not live in it much longer.  Was thrown across the deck with great violence which hurt me considerable.  The mate sent me below.  In the morning the gale moderated, began to make sail, at night had royals set.


Sunday Oct 28th 1855

Very pleasant day, scarcely any work to do.  The steward caught a large albatross which measured twelve feet from tip to tip.


Thursday, Nov. 1st, 1855

The wind blowing a stiff breeze all day.  In the evening the sky looked very threatening. All hands on deck to shorten sail. furled top gallant sails, top sails and the cross-jack.  made all preparations for a gale, but at twelve o'clock it cleared away, and we commenced making sail.  at eight bells in the morning the royals and top mast studding sails were set.  Our course bearing S. E. by E.


Sunday, Nov. 4th, 1855

Wind blowing fresh from the south, sailing at the rate of sixteen knots, altered our course to east.


Sunday, Nov. 18th, 1855

Pleasant and very warm, the thermometer at 90 deg.  in the shade. 


Saturday, Nov. 17th, 1855 [this is the order in the original]

All hands busy cleaning the guns and muskets as we expect to meet pirates, as the straits through which we pass are swarming with Malay pirates.


Tuesday, Nov. 20th, 1855

Very warm day, the thermometer at 92 deg. In the shade.  Seven o'clock P. M. The welcome sound of "land ho" was heard, it bearing N. W. but hardly visible with the naked eye.


Wednesday, Nov. 21st, 1855

Very light winds.  Warm day.  land about ten miles distant, bearing W.N.W. Which proved to be "Sandle Wood Island", inhabited only by natives.  smoke was plainly seen, rising from the island.  Lost sight of it at seven o'clock P.M. bearing E.S.E.


Thursday, Nov. 22nd, 1855

Light wind.  Land seen off the weather beam, supposed to be the "Vew" and "Sauvo" islands.  Bearing E.S.E.


Friday, Nov. 23rd, 1855

Warm day.  Made the Island of Timor off our weather bow.  Bearing N. E.  Warm day and light winds. Entered the straits of Timor.  The same day also made the islands of Omboy, Prilo, Cambing and Wetter Island.  Smoke was plainly visible rising from the island.  Timor is inhabited only by natives of the lowest class.


Saturday, Nov. 24th, 1855

Little or no wind, made no progress.  Very warm indeed, thermometer at 130°.


Sunday, Nov. 25, 1855

Warm day, still becalmed in the straits.  The boatswain caught a shark which measured six feet and weighed about 150 lbs.  Quite an excitement.  Fish of all kinds very numerous. Whales, Blk Fish, etc.


Monday, Nov. 26, 1855

Very warm, no signs of getting any farther, a dead calm, move only with the tide.


Tuesday, Nov. 27, 1855

Warm day, a very little breeze in the morning, but it soon died away, heat very oppressive.


Wednesday, Nov. 28, 1855

Warm as ever, a little breeze in the morning, made twenty or thirty miles this day.


Thursday, Nov. 29, 1855

A good little breeze blowing.  set all studding sails. fast leaving all the islands.  begin to feel a little encouraged.  At noon out of sight of land. Suppose it is Thanksgiving day at home.  imagine the folks thinking of me today as it is the first time I was ever away from home on that day.  wish I was with them.  Turkey and plum pudding would suit me better just now than salt beef and biscuit.  Began a letter to L---v

So. Latitude 7° 25’

Ea. Longitude 114° 20’


Monday, Dec. 3rd, 1855

Made the Island of Bouro and several smaller islands, the names of which I could not ascertain.  Very light winds.


Tuesday, Dec. 4th, 1855

Off Bouro island saw a steam vessel supposed to be a Dutch War Steamer.


Friday, Dec. 7th, 1855

Very warm and pleasant.  In the afternoon launched the "gig" and Capt. was rowed around the ship. 


Monday, Dec. 10th, 1855

Warm and pleasant.  Becalmed off Gibolo islands.  in the afternoon we were visited by two boats containing some of the natives for the purpose of trading away their cocoa nuts, Bananas, Pine Apples, Mangos etc. for clothing.  for an old sheath knife I obtained a hat such as is worn by the king of the island, besides fruit of all kinds.  Crossed the line this day.  Entered the N. Pacific Ocean.


Tuesday, Nov. 11th, 1855

A good breeze blowing.  fast leaving the land we have been in sight of the last week.


Saturday, Dec. 15th, 1855

The second mate caught a shark about five feet long and weighed about 130 lbs.


Tuesday, Dec. 18th, 1855

My 19th birthday.  Very squally with much rain.  Sailed under top sails in the courses for most of the day, but at night it settled down to a steady to 'gallant breeze.  Suppose it is the N. E. monsoon.


Saturday, Dec. 22nd, 1855

Light winds, set all stun'sails.  At four oclock P.M. the breeze freshened, and at eight o'clock we were sailing under close reefed topsails, fore sails reefed spanker and jib.  at eleven o'clock made the "Bashee Island" off the lee bow.  Sailing at the rate of fourteen knots.


Sunday, Dec. 23rd, 1855

A stiff breeze blowing.  saw a large bark off our weather beam, but we passed her as though she was standing still.  Set to 'gallant sails, running fourteen knots.  expect to see Hong Kong tomorrow.


Monday, Dec. 24th, 1855

Made Hong Kong Island at four o’clock P.M.  Received a pilot at six o'clock and dropped anchor in Hong Kong bay at half past seven o'clock. furled sails, cleared decks, etc. and then retired.


Tuesday, Dec. 25th, /55

Christmas Day.  No work going on. was not allowed to go ashore. at night ten of the crew ran away.


[ Here the diary skips from Dec. 25, 1855 To March 22nd, 1856.  In his summary of the voyage at the end of this diary, Horace  mentioned briefly the dates and movements of the ship.  So at this point these dates are entered in correct sequence.]


Wednesday, Jan. 3rd, 1856

sailed for Whampoa.


Friday, Jan. 5th, 1856

Arrived Whampoa.


Wednesday, Jan. 15th, 1856

Sailed for Hong Kong.


Thursday, Jan. 16th, 1856

Arrived Hong Kong.


Friday, Jan 17th, 1856

Sailed for Shanghai.


Monday, Jan. 27th, 1856

Arrived Gutslaff Island (being one of the shortest passages on record at this season of the year.)


Saturday, Feb. 8th, 1856

At Shanghai.


Sunday, Mar. 9th, 1856

Sailed for New York.


Wednesday, Mar. 12th, 1856

Discharged our pilot (being the day from which we count our passage.)


[Here resumes the original diary]


Saturday, March 22, 1856

Very warm and pleasant, but little breeze.  In the morning the babe of Dr. Kelly (one of the passengers) died.  a very interesting little girl, aged eight months.  at half past six o'clock P.M. The ship was "hove to" and Capt. Called all hands aft to bury the dead.  the funeral service was performed by Rev. H. V. Franklin, and at seven o'clock the body was committed to the deep.  a burial at sea is a sad and mournful sight.


Sunday, March 23, 1856

Had religious services on the quarter deck.


Thursday, April 3rd, 1856

A beautiful day.  In the morning Mrs. Dearborn's boy Augustus died, aged eight years.  his body was enclosed in a coffin to be buried at "Angier Point" Java.  the second death aboard the ship within ten days.


Friday, April 4th, 1856

Anchored off the island of "Java".  it is a most beautiful island.


Monday, April 7th, /56

Dropped anchor at Angier Point, for fruit and water.  here I bought fifty "Java Sparrows" to carry home.  fruit of all kinds is very plentiful and cheap.

[More on Java Sparrow]


Tuesday, April 8th, 1856

Weighed anchor and got under weigh for home.


Thursday April 10th 1856

            Alfy's 4th birthday. [Don’t know who this is]



Tuesday, April 22nd, 1856

Spoke English Ship Staffordshire from “Hong Kong”.


Wednesday, April 23rd, 1856

Sent down skysail yards and Royal Stun'sail booms. preparatory to doubling the cape.


Monday, April 28th, 1856

Signalized English Ship "Barlow" from Hong Kong, bound for England.  soon left her astern.


Saturday, May 3rd, 1856

Overhauled, spoke and passed the American Ship "Greyfeather" (New York), 41 days out from Bombay and bound for “Falmouth” English Channel for orders.


Tuesday, May 6th, 1856

One of the Chinamen (No. 6) Committed suicide by jumping overboard from the Main Chains at 12 o'clock p.m., gross business.


Monday, April 28th, 1856

Signalized English Ship "Barlow" from Hong Kong, bound to ------

[This entry has the word Null printed over it and is a repeat of April 28 above]


Friday, May 16th, 1856

Signalized English Ship "Persia" from Bombay bound for the Eng. Channel.


Wednesday, May 21st, 1856

Signalized Breman Bark "India" from Arracan, (E. I.) bound for Falmouth, Eng.


Tuesday, May 27th, 1856

5 o'clock P.M. made the island of "St. Helena" off our lee bow. Bearing N.W. by W.  seven o'clock p.m. Began to shorten sail.  Ten o'clock hove to under close reefed topsails. 


Wednesday, May 28th. 1856

Six o'clock A.M.  all hands called to make sail.  half past 7 o'clock we hove to off the town of  "Jamestown", St. Helena”.  Captain with some of the passengers went ashore to purchase provisions.  Five o'clock P.M. Capt. and provisions came aboard. immediately made sail and proceeded on our way home.


Thursday, June 4th, 1856

Signalized English Ship "Alma".  no questions asked.


Saturday, June 7th, 1856

Latitude So. 1°-20 Long. W. 31°-20. Spoke new Am. bark "J. Godfrey".  24 days from New York.  All well.


Sunday, June 8th, 1856

Very pleasant day.  Crossed the line in long. 33°-16 W. At 12 o'clock  M. Course N.W.  Finished "Beechers Lectures to Young men" today.


[Here, again, the final entry appears only in his final summary of the voyage. The following is taken from this summary.]


Sunday, June 29th, 1856

Arrived at New York Sunday, 8 o'clock A.M.  21 Days from the line.




Summary of Voyage


Sailed from New York in the fine clipper ship "N. B. Palmer" (Chas. P. Low, master), for Hong Kong, Aug. 28th, 1855.  Arrived at Hong Kong Monday, Dec. 24th,1855.  Passage 118 days.  Sailed for Whampoa Wednesday, Jan. 3rd, 1856. Arrived Friday Jan. 5th. . Sailed for Hong Kong Wednesday, Jan 15th.  Arrived Thurs, Jan. 16th. Sailed for Shanghai Friday, Jan. 17th.  Arrived at ¨"Gutslaff Island" Jan. 27th (being one of the shortest passages ¨on record at this season of the year).  At Shanghai Griday, Feb. ¨8th. Passage from Hong Kong 21 days.  Sailed for New York Sunday, ¨Mar. 9Th.  Discharged our pilot Wednesday morning Mar. 12Th ¨(being the day from which we count our passage).  Arrived at ¨"Angier point", Java, Monday, April 7th.  Sailed Tuesday, April ¨8th.  Made the coast of "Africa" dead ahead, Sunday May 4th.  Off the Cape of "Good Hope" Sunday, May 11th.  Arrived at the island ¨of "St. Helena" Wednesday, May 28th at 7 o'clock A.M.   Left for New York at five o'clock p.m.  Crossed the line sunday, June 8th, ¨1856, homeward bound in long. 33-16 W.  Arrived at New York, ¨Sunday, June 29, 1856, 8 o'clock A.M.   21 Days from the line.


List of American Ships in China

Whampoa, China Jan. 10th/56

Steamer Antelope------------------         Boston

Ship Fleet Wing--------------------           

Ship Courser --------------------           

Ship Indiman    --------------------           

Ship Challenger--------------------            

Ship Climax --------------------           

Ship Rapid --------------------         New York

Ship Gannymede--------------------       Newburyport

Schooner Spray--------------------          San Francisco

Ship N.B.Palmer-------------------         New York

  Hong Kong. China Jan. 1856


Ship Nightengale--------------------       New York

Ship Lookout --------------------                

Ship Race Hound ----------------               

Ship ---------------- -----------------

Barque ----------------   -----------------

Ship of War. Macedonian-------------- Brooklyn

Ship Stephen Baldwin--------------       Philidelphia


Shanghae, China Feb. 1856


Ship Nightengale--------------------       New York

Ship N.B.Palmer-------------------                 

Bark Reindeer -------------------                 

Schooner Willmington--------------       New London, Conn.

Steamer Antelope------------------         Boston

Schooner Maury  --------------             New York


From Shanghae

To Angier                    28 days

    Good Hope           65   

   St. Helena               77   

   the Seine                 88   

   St. Helena               77   

   New York              108  


Drawing 1

Drawing 2

Drawing 3  (Bark Arrow. Salem)

Crew on ship

More Crew on ship

Drawing 4

Drawing 5

Drawing 6


[It appears that Horace started recording cargo at the back and worked forward to assure he had maximum space for the diary instead of guessing the amount of cargo.]


Monday Jan 14,1856 [Cargo Loaded in Hong Kong?]

Cargo 2

Cargo 3

Cargo 4

Friday Jan. 11th, 1856

More Cargo Jan. 11th

Thursday, Jan. 10th/56 [Cargo]

Thursday, Jan. 10th/56 More Cargo

Tuesday, Jan. 8th/56 [Cargo]

Tuesday, Jan. 8th/56 [More Cargo]

Tuesday, Jan. 8th/56 [Still more Cargo]

Whampoa Cargo

More Whampoa [Cargo]

Monday Dec. 31st/55 [Cargo]

Saturday Dec 29th/55 [Cargo]

Saturday Dec 29th/55 [More Cargo]

Saturday Dec 29th/55 [More Cargo]




Wednesday May 28th 1856 [drawing and estimate of schooner transit time]

More math [Back Cover page of diary]

Back of diary