West Point (1847)

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For other uses, see West Point (disambiguation).
Career (US)
Name: West Point
Owner: Robert Kermit, Kermit & Carow, Charles Carow Cie.
Route: New York – Liverpool
Builder: Westervelt & MacKay, New York
Launched: 1847
In service: 1847–1863
Refit: November 1857
Homeport: New York City
Fate: unknown
General characteristics
Class & type: A, 1½
Type: Full rigged vessel
Tonnage: 1,046 tons
Length: 166.5 ft (50.7 m)
Beam: 37.1 ft (11.3 m)
Height: 21 ft (6.4 m)
Draft: 19 ft (5.8 m)
Decks: 3 (initially 2)
Notes: [1] wooden ship (made out of southern live oak)

The West Point (sometimes Westpoint[1]) was a full rigged vessel built in the 1840s and used for the transportation of goods, passengers and mail to and from Liverpool and New York. It was one of a few ocean-going packet-ships operated by the Robert Kermit Red Star Line company,[2] not to be confused with the Belgian/US-American shipping company Red Star Line, whose main ports of call were New York City and Philadelphia in the United States and Antwerp in Belgium.

In 1846, Robert Kermit commissioned the shipbuilders Westervelt & MacKay from New York to build the West Point.[1] Kermit's West Point was not the only ship to bear that name: it was overshadowed by the widely known steamship SS America, which was acquired by the US Navy on June 1, 1941, renamed to USS West Point[3] and used as a troop transport during World War II.


West Point was built in 1847[1] by Westervelt & MacKay, a company that acquired renown by constructing streamlined clipper ships and fast steamships.[4] The shipyard also produced United States Navy ships such as the screw sloop USS  Brooklyn.[4][5] Westervelt & MacKay co-owner Jacob Aaron Westervelt reached prominence as a Mayor of New York 1853–1855.[6]

The West Point was built of southern live oak[1] despite the fact that the use of iron had started to catch on in the building of ships – especially in the United Kingdom.[7][8] In the following years the advantages of building iron ships became more obvious and the value of ships purely made of wood decreased perceptibly. The owners of wooden ships therefore began to fasten their vessels with iron and copper. In case of West Point, this happened in November 1857.[1]

Property situation[edit]

Robert Kermit: The early years (1794–1834)[edit]

It was Robert Kermit (born in New York September 4, 1794), son of Captain Henry Kermit and Elizabeth Ferguson, who placed the order for the construction of the full rigged sailing vessel West Point. His father had been master of the brig Morning Star[9] (which traded to the West Indies) for many years. He died August 6, 1812, in his house at 86 Greenwich Street,[9] New York – two years before his old ship sunk on its way from Sydney to Batavia (Jakarta).[10]

Robert Kermit gained a mercantile training in the shipping house of William Codman. With his brother Henry – a skilled bookkeeper – he went into business in 1817 at 84 Greenwich Street. They purchased the ship Aurora of which Captain Taubman was master, in order to run in the Liverpool trade. In 1827 Henry Jr. died and Robert carried on business as an agent for packet ships to and from Liverpool. Within a few years he rapidly increased the number of his vessels and soon became one of the largest ship-owners in the country.[9]

On December 4, 1832, Robert Kermit married Ann Eliza Carow, eldest daughter of his business partner[11] Isaac Quentin Carow and Eliza Mowatt.[12] The ancestors of the family Carow – actually Huguenots named Quereau – originally came from France. They fled to the United States, soon after Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes (1598) and declared Protestantism to be illegal in the Edict of Fontainebleau (1685).[11] Isaac Quentin Quereau anglicised the family name to Carow in 1797.[11]

Kermit & Carow (1834–1855)[edit]

By 1834, Robert Kermit already owned the ship St. George and then persuaded Stephen Whitney and Nathaniel Prime to become owners in a new ship named St. Andrew.[2][13] This was the birth of the Saint Line. Even though the old heads Kermit, Prime and Whitney (and two or three younger ones) once had exclusive news about a cotton-deal and intended to make the most of it (the profits were enormous), it didn’t help Captain Robert Kermit particularly. So the Saint Line went down.[13] At that time Robert moved his company to 74 South Street while his home was at 24 Cortlandt Street.[9]

Houseflag of the Robert Kermit Red Star Line as well as from Kermit & Carow

On September 11, 1835 Robert Kermit purchased the old and popular line of Liverpool packets – the Red Star Line – which had been established in 1818 by Byrnes, Trimble & Co,[14] not to be confused with the shipping company of the same name founded in 1872. In 1837 Robert Kermit became director of the Mutual Insurance Company and in 1847 director of the Knickerbocker Fire Insurance Company.[9] In this period, he commissioned the construction of a few new ships, including West Point, that finally sailed under the flag of the Red Star Line,[15] as well as John R. Skeddy (1845), Constellation (1849), Underwriter (1850) and Waterloo.[16] Other ships of the Robert Kermit Red Star Line were: John Jay, England, Virginian, Samuel Hicks, Stephen Whitney, United States[17] as well as Sheffield.[18]

In the year 1850 Robert's father-in-law Isaac Quentin Carow died.[19] Robert Kermit never had children of his own (the only Kermit-descendant was the daughter of Robert's deceased brother Henry).[9] That is why Robert developed an almost paternal relationship with his brother-in-law Charles Carow, who was 21 years younger than his sister Ann Eliza, and he took him into partnership as Kermit & Carow to carry on the business of general ship-owning, commission and commercial trading.[9] Captain Kermit died at his residence, 50 East 14th Street, March 13, 1855, in his sixty-first year. The New York Post wrote in Robert Kermit's obituary: "He was a man of very warm feelings, of incorruptible integrity, and perfectly unforgiving of any impeachment of his honour. His attachments were absorbing. He never saw any faults in a friend, nor was he content that others should see any. He loved his ships and captains as if they had been his children and never forgave an imputation upon the character of either."[20]

Charles Carow & Co. (1855–1867/68)[edit]

After Robert Kermit's death, Charles Carow continued the business and West Point entered into his possession. The ships from then on sailed under his name.[1] In 1859 Charles married Gertrude Elisabeth Tyler[21] and became the father of a son. In remembrance of his brother-in-law he called him Robert Kermit Carow. But the boy died[22] one year before the birth of Charles and Gertrude's first daughter. That’s why they called her Edith Kermit Carow.

Ships like West Point mostly carried a high quantity of goods on their way to Liverpool and returned with a variety of passengers. In the 19th century over 50 million people left Europe for the United States, many of them during the California Gold Rush in the 1840s and 50s. In these years Charles Carow made his fortune. But in 1861 everything changed when the American Civil War began, which caused a drastic reduction in the number of emigrants.[23] The American merchant fleet generally was badly affected by this war, that ended in 1865: in 1860 two-thirds of all US export and import tonnage was carried on American ships, in 1866 only 30% and nine years later 27%.[24] A ruinous rise in prices enhanced Charles Carow's business worries and he began to drink. This had increased in ratio to a disastrous drop in income[25] and immense losses. There is not much known about the whereabouts of West Point and the other ships of Charles Carow.

His daughter Edith became popular, as she married the young widower and future US-president Theodore Roosevelt.[26] Their son Kermit Roosevelt was one of the founders of the United States Lines.[27]

Captains of the vessel West Point[edit]

Based on the remaining passenger lists,[28] it was possible to determine that, within the 16 years the full-rigged sailing vessel West Point was in service, at least seven captains were the ship's masters. Listed below is a summary of all verifiable passages from Liverpool, with the arrival dates in New York City (assigned to the relative captains):

Number Shipmaster Liverpool-New York passages made under the command of the captain
William Henry Allen October 25, 1847[29] – March 7, 1848 – July 3, 1848 – October 30, 1848 – Mai 26, 1849 – September 22, 1849 – February 13, 1850 – Mai 20, 1850 – September 2, 1850 – November 6, 1858[30] – August 8, 1859[31]
Francis P. Allen March 29, 1851[32] – July 26, 1851 – November 4, 1851[33] – February 12, 1852 – June 19, 1852 – September 24, 1852
William R. Mullins March 6, 1849 – February 15, 1853 – August 15, 1853 – December 19, 1853 – Mai 19, 1854 – April 17, 1855 – August 11, 1855
William H. Harding June 7, 1856 – October 30, 1856 – Mai 6, 1857 – December 7, 1857
J.E. Ryan July 12, 1858[34]
L.W. Spencer September 17, 1860
J.H. Childs March 16, 1861[35] – August 7, 1862 – September 23, 1863


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "American Lloyd's Register" of American and Foreign Shipping 1859. Accessed March 16, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Western Ocean Packets by Basil Lubbock, page 26
  3. ^ Webseite dedicated to the USS Wespoint: "USS Westpoint Reunion Association". Accessed 16 march 2009.
  4. ^ a b Genealogy of the Westervelt family, by Walter Tallman Westervelt, page 72/73
  5. ^ Steamboat Days by Fred Erving Dayton, chapter 19
  6. ^ "Mayors of New York City". Official website of the Departement of Citywide Administrative Services – The Green Book. Accessed March 14, 2009.
  7. ^ Industrializing American Shipbuilding: The Transformation of Ship Design and Construction by William H. Thiesen, chapter 5, ISBN 0-8130-2940-6
  8. ^ It was the English ironmaster and inventor John Wilkinson, who built the first iron boat. And in 1843 the first large ocean-going iron ship with a screw propeller was launched in Bristol: the Great Britain.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Biographical register of Saint Andrew's society of the state of New York (1922) by William M. MacBean, page 169/170
  10. ^ Australian Shipwrecks – vol 1 1622–1850 by Charles Bateson, AH and AW Reed, Sydney, 1972, page 50, ISBN 0-589-07112-2
  11. ^ a b c Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt: Portrait of a First Lady by Sylvia J. Morris, page 10
  12. ^ New York, Marriage Newspaper Extracts, 1801–1880 (Barber Collection): New York Evening Post, December 6, 1832
  13. ^ a b The old merchants of New York City (1863) by Joseph Alfred Scoville, page 26/27
  14. ^ Portrait gallery of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York: catalogue and biographical sketches (1890), by George Wilson, pages 206–208.
  15. ^ The flag can be found on the "Flags of the world" website. Accessed 16 march 2009. The source is a chart in Private Signals of the Merchants of New York. A reprint of this chart can be found in the book The Clipper Ships from A.B. Whipple
  16. ^ Article Days of the Old Packet in the "New York Daily Times" from December 13, 1891. A transcribed version of this article can be found on "theshipslist.com". Both websites accessed March 28, 2009.
  17. ^ Across the Oceans by Seija-Riitta Laakso, page 50/356/357
  18. ^ The old merchants of New York City (1863) by Joseph Alfred Scoville, page 358
  19. ^ New York, Death Newspaper Extracts, 1801–1890 (Barber Collection): New York Evening Post, September 1, 1850
  20. ^ William M. MacBean mentioned this obituary of Robert Kermit on page 170 of the Biographical register of Saint Andrew's society of the state of New York (1922)
  21. ^ Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt: Portrait of a First Lady by Sylvia J. Morris, page 12
  22. ^ Index to Marriages and Deaths in the New York Herald 1856–1863 Vol 2, page 305
  23. ^ Across the Oceans by Seija-Riitta Laakso, page 117
  24. ^ Across the Oceans by Seija-Riitta Laakso, page 116
  25. ^ Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt: Portrait of a First Lady by Sylvia J. Morris, page 20
  26. ^ Biography of the First Lady Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt on the official website of the "White House" in Washington. Accessed 16 march 2009.
  27. ^ Article United States Line Name Selected by Shipping Board Agents in the "New York Times" from August 30, 1921. Accessed 16 march 2009.
  28. ^ Lists of passenger arrivals for the port of New York (1789–1957) are available on microfilm at the "National Archives" in New York. Accessed 16 march 2009.
  29. ^ Passenger list of "October 25, 1847". Accessed March 16, 2009
  30. ^ Passenger list of "November 6, 1858". Accessed March 16, 2009
  31. ^ Passenger list of "August 8, 1859". Accessed March 16, 2009
  32. ^ Passenger list of "March 29, 1851". Accessed March 16, 2009
  33. ^ Passenger list of "November 4, 1851". Accessed March 16, 2009
  34. ^ Passenger list of "July 12, 1858". Accessed March 16, 2009
  35. ^ Passenger list of "March 16, 1861". Accessed March 16, 2009


External links[edit]

  • mysticseaport.org Information about the Kermit family
  • immigrantships.net Website with a couple of passenger lists of this ship
  • theshipslist.com Website with lots of information about ships and shipping lines (ship descriptions, passenger lists, fleet lists, ship pictures etc.)