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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: New steamships begin regular trips from Savannah to NY
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Roger Allen

Note: The following is part of a series of columns about early shipping in Georgia and Bulloch County.

One of the first packet sailing lines, known as the Old Established Line, owned the sailing ships Agnes, Hartford and Newark and the brigs Celia, Sterling, Wilson Fuller, L. Baldwin, American and Filura.

Another of the earliest packet lines was the Brig Line, which sailed from both New York and Savannah every Monday. Its boats were the barques Exact and Vernon and the brigs Excel, Augusta, Halcyon, Tybee and Clinton.

Two more companies sailed to New York: the New Line's packet ships, the barques Isaac Mead and Peter Demill, and its brigs Macon and Selma; and the ships of the Dunham & Dimon lines, an Irish-owned company.

What was known as the Established Line of packet ships now also sailed to the city of Philadelphia. Those ships were the schooners H. Westcott, Julia Eliza, Emily Weaver and Virginia.

In addition, the Oglethorpe served as a towboat operating out of Savannah, and the Eliza served as a tender around Savannah's harbor.

John Morrison's book "The History of American Steam Navigation" (1903) states that the biggest steamship line sailing to Savannah was the New York and Savannah Steam Ship Company, formed in 1848 by Stephen Mitchill.

Known more commonly as the Mitchell Line, this company's first ship was the wooden-hulled side-wheel steamship the Cherokee. It and its sister ship the Tennessee were assigned to the Savannah run.

Mitchell sold the Tennessee to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company once it won the lucrative government mail contract to San Francisco after the Treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo added California to the territory of the United States.

He then sold the Cherokee one month later to the Pacific Line, which sold it almost immediately to the United States Mail Steamship Company to be put into service on its mail run from New York to Havana.

Mitchell then ordered two more sister ships for the Savannah run. These vessels, the Florida and the Alabama, were 214 feet long and were built as three-masted schooner-rigged ships capable of reaching 10 to 12 knots.

In time, the Mitchell Line added two more sister ships: the Augusta and the Knoxville. Cabin fares aboard the vessels cost $25 for the trip, with meals included. Eventually, Mitchill also added the steamship Star of the South to the Savannah run.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at


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