• Steve Gould

Captain Bishop and the Thames

The Sag Harbor Whaling Museum is currently posting on its website the logbook of the voyage of the whaling ship Thames II in 1843-46. On board was James R. Bishop of Southampton. At 31-years of age, James Bishop was already a seasoned whaler. His first voyage, at the age of 24, was on the ship Ann with his cousin, John Bishop, Jr., in 1836. That voyage was the first of three he made with John on the Ann, the last voyage completed in 1839. When James returned from sea, he courted and then married Phebe Corwith on May 15, 1841. Two years later, the whaling life called James back to the sea, this time on the ship rigged Thames II, under the command of Captain Jeremiah Hedges. Captain Hedges was also an experienced sailor, with six previous voyages, the last two as Captain of the Thames II.

“Sticking the Prey” By Hjalmar “Cappy” Amundsen - Image courtesy of the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum

The Thames II was the second ship named Thames to sail from Sag Harbor. The first Thames, built in Essex, Connecticut in 1818, had a long career and was captained by several Sag Harbor captains, including David Hand and Huntting Cooper. After at least twelve whaling expeditions, she was scuttled in Sag Harbor in 1838 and used as a breakwater. Her remains were discovered in 1968 and her keel timbers have been re-assembled at Mystic Seaport.

Captain James R. Bishop (1812 - 1890)

The Thames II (at 414 tons, slightly larger than the first Thames) was built in 1828. Her first two whaling voyages (in 1839 and 1841) were under the command of Jeremiah Hedges and her 1843-46 voyage was initially under the command of Captain Hedges. Early in the voyage, as the Thames II sailed south along the African coast, Captain Hedges became ill and had to be left behind in Simons Town, South Africa. As First Mate, James Bishop took command for the rest of the voyage. Unfortunately, this voyage proved to be the Thames’ least successful. Expecting better results, Captain Bishop took the Thames II out again, leaving Sag Harbor in 1846. During the voyage, Captain Bishop also became ill and First Mate William Payne took over command. Upon completion of her voyage, Captain Payne took the ship to San Francisco, where the ship’s cargo and the ship itself were sold. While tied-up in San Francisco, the Thames II probably became part of a “ghost fleet” that was sunk and buried under what is now the city’s financial district.

Captain William Payne (1809-1893)

After this last voyage Captain Bishop returned to his family in Southampton and took up farming. He and Phebe unfortunately had no children and sadly, Phebe died in 1851. He married again in 1853, this time to Theadosia French and they had two sons. James’ bad luck in marriage continued and the 37 year old Theoadosia died in April 1864. James found love a third time with Jane Howell and she became his third wife. James finally died in 1890 at age 77.


Follow the 1843-46 voyage of the Thames II on the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum website: https://www.sagharborwhalingmuseum.org.

Thames II Log from the Collection of the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum


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