Maritime Monday/Capt. David Smith

Capt. David C. Smith

Captain of the HMS Athens

Capt David C. Smith was christened on 8 May 1832 Dundee, Angus, Scotland to Alexander and Jean Nicholl Smith.

I know very little of his early life, the few pieces that I do have come from a letter written by his cousin, my second great -grandmother. Ellen said that he was a much-loved cousin whom she had spent her childhood with as her parents had died when she was young of the small pox. She also notes in her letter that David was a Godly man, and that he had addressed  the Sabbath school children on the previous Sunday the 13 of May. May 17 fell on a Wednesday that year. He attended the Scottish Presbyterian Church. Ellen also notes that David was going to help her and her 6 children out financially as her husband Byron had perished on March 6 of that same year.

I was given a letter that David wrote. His grandson shared it with me. I believe that he was a well seasoned sailor and to have been a Captain at 33 must have been a testimony to that. The letter tells of his many travels and ports that he visited. He was quite thrilled when visiting Rio de Janeiro but he did comment about how lavish the city was and how not far from the center that destitution was rampant. Something sadly you will find still to this day.

David married Jane Elliot Nicholson in which year I am not curtain at this writing I have not posted this information to my data base and I need to retrieve it from my hard drive. Always work to do, grin.

The Gale of “65′ is a well know disaster that took place at the Cape of Good Hope, as this port is one ravaged by many storms this must mean this storm was above the standard fare for that port. The RMS Athens was his ship and he had just acquired commission of this ship two days earlier. She was a mail ship. The great gale came roaring in with such force that 22 ship suffered damage that day.  The Athens anchors were parted and David asked for birthing at an unfinished dock and was denied the birthing by the harbor master. He then set out for open seas. Sadly they ship made it only past the mouth of the bay before a huge wave took out her boilers and left her to the mercies of the seas. All hand were lost, except for the Second and Third mates as they were on shore when the weather went bad and they could not join their ship.

Here is a short piece from the  ‘The Illustrated London News’, July 29th, 1865.


From ‘The Illustrated London News’, July 29th, 1865.
On May 17th, a fierce storm swept Table Bay and, in endeavouring to steam out of the bay after her anchors had parted, the ‘Athens’ was carried broadside upon rocks at Green Point, between the lighthouses. Signals of distress were
made but it was impossible to give assistance, there being no lines or rescue equipment at the lighthouses. She struck at seven o’clock p.m., and screams for help were clearly heard by those on shore. Her back broke and at about ten o’clock all cries for help ceased. Nothing remained of the ship by daybreak except her engines and boilers. There were no passengers, just Captain D. Smith, Dr. J. Heath Curtis, the Medical Officer, C. Downer, T. Brown and Baker, engineers and 25 other crew members.

I have include the below link as  it is the most well put together piece on the gale and the wreck of the RMS Athens that I have found.

R.M.S. Athens 

How interesting to note how one mans life touched so many. He was not able to attend to Ellen and her family and she had to part up the family to friends and family so that they would be able to survive and in time she left Canada for Chicago to run a boarding house there.  My great grandparents met there and from there the rest is history and here I sit writing of the trials of one family that became blessings for many.

Happy Hunting!

Julie Hogston - Visit Website

About Julia Hogston

Christian, Family Historian, Wife, Mom, Grandma
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  1. Pamela

    This is absolutely fascinating! Thank you for sharing!

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