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The Pathfinder


The Pathfinder was built in Pictu, Nova Scotia by John Crerar, William Grant Crerar and Peter Crerar in 1851 and was first registered at Pictu on 16 August 1851.

She was sold to Bridgwater merchants Axford & Sons (Frederick Paul Axford & John Axford), the sale being recorded in Bridgwater port transactions dated 30 December 1851.

The port transactions describe the Pathfinder as having one deck, three masts, a standing bowsprit and female figure head. She measured 118 feet long, and at midships was 24 feet 2 tenths breadth, and 15 feet deep.

Squibs History of Somerset' makes special mention of the Pathfinder as follows.

In February [1852] a fine new ship, the Pathfinder, the property of Bridgwater merchants, was built in Bridgwater by Messrs. Axford & Sons, Bridgwater people were very proud of this vessel which was lying in the floating dock being prepared to convey passengers and goods direct from Bridgwater from New York.

It marked a new era in local history and was confidently felt to herald a new and better state of affairs for the port. The ship left Bridgwater on Sunday 8 March at about 7.00 a.m. for New York. She had on board a full complement of emigrants, about one hundred and thirty in number.

Upwards of five thousand people lined the banks of the river to witness her departure, and when she was towed by a steamer out of the outer basin, she was saluted with canon and the hearty 'hurrahs' of the spectators. For some weeks the Pathfinder had been a great attraction in Bridgwater and she had been visited by thousands, and her superior fittings elicited the marked and decided approval of all who had seen her.

On leaving the basin she proceeded to sea with the same tide, which, for a vessel of her size, and drawing as she did fifteen feet of water, was a feat not often accomplished from the port. The Pathfinder reached the Channel [Bristol Channel] at 9.00 a.m.; the steamer continued with her as far as Minehead, which she reached at 12 noon.

Messrs. Axford & Sons were congratulated for their spirit and received great credit for the undertaking. It was the most spirited enterprise which had ever been undertaken on behalf of the port, and they had the earnest good wishes of the townsmen for the success of the venture and the safety of the vessel.

The emigrants left in good spirit and received the generous farewell, not only of their friends, but the thousands of spectators who witnessed her departure. The Pathfinder was described as a fine, new, first class, fast sailing, clipper-built barque of 800 tons burden. The commander was William Lovelace and the voyage took thirty days.

Whilst Squibbs was inaccurate in his comments that the Pathfinder had been built in Bridgwater (I think she was fitted out / refitted in Bridgwater), his other comments are so detailed that he must have had access to an eye witness or contemporary newspaper article. Local newspapers of this period are available (extracts reproduced here), but have yet to reveal an event of the magnitude described by Squibbs. In 1851, 5,000 persons watching the Pathfinder leave the town, probably represented 30% - 50% of the towns population.

The vessel was surveyed and recorded in subsequent years as follows:


Pathfinder of Bridgwater, built 1851. Destined voyage Bridgwater to New York. Master Loveless and owners Axford & Sons. Black Birch and Spruce wood.

6 March -- Bridgwater

26 April -- New York

14 June -- Quebec

22 July -- Bridgwater

19 October -- New York

24 December -- Bridgwater


Same as above but destined for New York from Bristol. Comment felt, sheathed with Zync. Also, part iron bolts

14 February -- Bridgwater

10 April -- New York

2 / 12 September -- New York

6 December -- Bridgwater



Masters W Pine, owners unchanged and a destined voyage of Bristol


Masters Evans & Co, Liverpool. Owners T Law also of Liverpool. These records show that the Pathfinder was transferred to Liverpool, a document extracted from the Liverpool port transactions confirms this to be the case.


Masters Evans & Co, Liverpool. Owners T Law also of Liverpool


The entry for this year was overstamped with the word 'LOST'. She had been surveyed at London where her dimensions were recorded as 118ft x 24.2ft x 18ft. Michelson was the master and MI Wilson the owners. She was registered at Liverpool,