History of the Ship Patience

Early customs documents show that a sloop named Patience and a brig named Patience both operated along America’s east coast and the Caribbean in the 1730s, but the earliest mention of a ship named Patience was its arrival in New York from London in November 1740 and its departure three weeks later for Europe.1  In July 1747 it was ferrying rice and stores from South Carolina to London when it was attacked and boarded by a Spanish privateer a few days out of Charleston.2 The crew of 14 was unharmed but the captain, Robert Brown, was fatally wounded and his first mate and brother John Brown lost his left hand. The Patience was later recovered, towed to Newport, and put back in service with John Brown commanding for its first Palatine voyage the following summer.   Hugh Steel became commander the following year and made the next five annual Rotterdam-Philadelphia-Charleston round trips.

The Patience made annual voyages from Rotterdam to Philadelphia in 1748, 1749, 1750, 1751, and 1753, substituting an arrival in Annapolis in 1752.   It continued to sail after 1753 but abandoned the stop in Rotterdam. In 1751, when the Trarbach family was aboard, it sailed from Rotterdam as part of a flotilla of at least seven ships, arriving a few days before the others.3 As usual, it made a brief stop in Cowes on the Isle of Wight to provision before beginning the transatlantic journey that typically took eight to twelve weeks depending on weather. After discharging its passengers and cargo in Philadelphia, the Patience usually booked passengers and freight for Charleston before returning to England.4 After discharging its passengers in Philadelphia in 1751 it embarked passengers and cargo and in late October 1751 sailed as usual for South Carolina.5 The commander for the 1751 voyage was Hugh Steel, who captained the Patience from 1749 through 1753 and a ship called the Glascow in 1754.

The Patience was consistently called a “ship” in the customs records, a term that referred to a specific type of rig in the 18th century – originally a three-master with a course, topsail, and topgallant sail on the fore and mainmasts and a lateen sail and square topsail on the mizzenmast. The Patience was a relatively small ship of 200 tons (though described in one record as 300 tons) but with a capacity of 260 to 270 passengers with a crew of 15 or 16 in what must have been severely cramped quarters. One source says it also sported eight guns.6

The Patience abandoned the transport of passengers from Holland after 1753. And it changed masters the same year.   In early November 1753 the Patience made a round trip to South Carolina under Hugh Steel several weeks later was under the command of Joseph Brown when it left Philadelphia for Jamaica.7  In April 1754 it left Philadelphia under the command of Joseph Brown bound for the West Indies and London.8   It returned to Philadelphia in late July 1754 and in early August returned to London.9

New York records show the ship with a captain named John Pitcarne in December 1754.10  The ship Patience is mentioned in Philadelphia records in 1761 with a captain named William Baines and in 1764 with a captain named Edward Belford. Whether this was the same ship is unclear, but it was no longer making round trips to Philadelphia. Whether the ship was lost, abandoned, renamed, or moved elsewhere is unknown.






  1. New-York Weekly Journal issue of 24 November 1740, page 4, and 15 December 1740, page 4. The captain was listed merely as “F. Brown”. []
  2. New York Gazette (New York, NY) issue of 24 August 1741, page 3 and issue of 2 November 1751, page 1. []
  3. Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) issue of 12 September 1751, page 2. This reports that seven captains “from Holland with Palatines, sailed with Capt. Steel for this place and are daily expected.” []
  4. Advertisements in Philadelphia newspapers in 1749, 1750, 1751, and 1753 announcing departure for Charleston. []
  5. Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) issue of 24 October 1751, page 2. []
  6. “Immigrant Ships” by Paul A. Darrel in The Palatine Immigrant, Volume VII No. 1 (Summer 1981), pp31-32. []
  7. Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) issues of 3 November 1753, page 2 and 29 November 1753, page 3 []
  8. Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) issue of 11 April 1754, page 2. []
  9. Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) issues of 25 July 1754, page 2 and 1 August 1754, page 2. Also see advertisement in Pennsylvania Journal issue of 1 August 1754, page 3. []
  10. New York Mercury issue of 4 December 1754, page 4. []