SV Minnie Gordon, Barquentine owned by Silvanus Bethel of Nassau c.50 years, rescued cannibals

MAILBOAT NAME: Bark Minnie Gordon
PAST NAMES: not known
DIMENSIONS: 322 tons, Official # 36914
YEAR BUILT: 1861 in Pictou, on the River John, Nova Scotia, Canada, for Peter Crerar

EARLY CAREER: from 23 March, 1865 to at least 1915 owned by Silvanus Bethel of Nassau
BAHAMAS CAREER: owned by Bahamian Silvanus Bethel for over 50 years…
OWNERS: Silvanus Bethel, owner of a number of sailing ships, based Nassau
CAPTAINS: Thomas Archibald MacKenzie (pre-1870), Capt. Miligorm (Meligerm?) in 1882 
FATE: listed in the 1870, 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, and 1915 Mercantile Navy Lists
NOTES: It would appear the Silvanus Bethel along with other investors from Bahamas, including
Mordecai Bethel, Robert H. Sawyer, and Ramos A. Menendez, were involved in blockade running from the Bahamas and other ports as far away as Europe, into the Southern states of the Confederacy during the American Civil War 1860 – 1865. This from a law case on a schooner vessel owned in part by Bethel, named the Flash, which was captured running the blockade. The Captain at the time was John Smith (of the schooner Flash).


In 1868, which would be the 7th year of hear career, either the same Minnie Gordon or another ship of the same name, rescued starving cannibals west of Gibraltar, according to the Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 34, Number 5259, 5 February 1868

“The Captain and two sailors of the schooner Moses Warling, which foundered at sea, were rescued on the 18th, by the bark Minnie Gordon, and brought to this port. They had been seven days without food to sustain life, and were obliged to resort to the flesh of the mate, who died from exhaustion.  When picked up the men were hardly able to move or speak. They are now recovering.”


According to the Galveston Texas “Daily News,” under the heading “Maritime Disaster” the Minnie Gordon, bark, also came across the wreck of the Norwegian bark “Mardoll” abandoned and drifting on 17 Jan. 1882. The condition was described as “loaded, dismasted, waterlogged and abandoned.” The Norwegian ship had been on a voyage from Quebec to London in November 1881. It was later seen on Feb. 12th with all but 15 feet of one of the masts missing, its rudder gone, and hull largely awash.

Source: Galveston Daily News March 17, 1882,

One of her early skippers, when the bark was still registered to Pictou, NS, Canada, was “Thomas Archibald [MacKenzie], Alexander’s second son, was first given the command of a brig at the age of 18. He sailed the barque “Minnie Gordon” (built in River John for Peter Crerar) before taking command of the “David Cannon,” launched from the MacLennan yard. In 1870 Captain Thomas offered his services to a steamship company, and never again sailed a wooden vessel.”


Also registry details from Canadian archives at

The above notes on builder and captain are corroborated in the following biographic entry:

“G. Capt. PETER CRERAR (b.10 July 1828 Pictou – d.4 May 1868 Cardiff, Wales) Peter Crerar had a varied career, but all his jobs centred on the sea and its mercantile possibilities. For a while he “kept store in Pictou, but had a farm at Roger’s Hill,” [10 km southwest of Pictou; Pictou Advocate, 16 March 1939]. He was one of the builders of James Kitchin’s shipyard at River John and seems to have been a close friend of Duncan [Johnson], Kitchin’s leading shipbuilder, as Johnson named both a ship and a son for him [Johnson file, Hector Trust Centre]. Until 1860 he built ships in partnership with his brother John (these ships included the 1851 Ellen Oliver, the 1851 Pathfinder (with John and W.G.), the1852 Polynesian , the 1853 Atholl , the 1854 Susan , the 1854 Glen Tilt , the 1854 Cluny Castle, the 1855 Wolfe (2) , the 1856 Jane, and the 1858 Ewan Crerar: see John’s notes for details). On 20 January 1860 Peter and John dissolved their partnership [Deed with family]. In 1860, he built his first ship independently, the Wolfe of 337 tonnes, the third boat of his to bear the lucky name. His other ships included:  1861 Minnie Gordon Barque built by Peter at River John 16 July 1861; 322 tons and captained by famed captain Thomas Archibald MacKenzie (son of Contin-Pictou shipbuilder Alexander MacKenzie; b.1843);