John and Ann Janney: A desperate West Indies journey in 1823

old quaker lady with bonnet
Elizabeth Hopkins Janney’s father John Janney, and his wife, Ann Shoemaker Janney went on an ocean voyage in 1823, during which Ann kept a diary. The diary passed down through Elizabeth Janney’s family. Picture of Elizabeth Hopkins Janney courtesy of Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College, PA

John Janney of Alexandria, Virginia was Elizabeth Hopkins Janney’s father. Elizabeth Hopkins Janney (1802-1893) married her cousin, Samuel McPherson Janney, in 1826 and they eventually moved to Loudoun County; the couple have been written of extensively on this website. Elizabeth’s mother, also named Elizabeth, had married Elizabeth’s father, John Janney, in 1795 at the Indian Spring, Maryland meeting house. Indian Spring meeting minutes record the marriage.

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Indian Spring, Maryland meeting records for the year 1795 mention the marriage of John Janney and Elizabeth Hopkins: “The friends appointed to attend the marriage of John Janney & Elizabeth Hopkins report they attended, it was orderly accomplished, returned the marriage Certificate, which is directed to be recorded.”

John and his young wife Elizabeth lived in Alexandria, Virginia, where John Janney was a merchant. According to William Wade Hinshaw’s Index to Quaker Meeting Records, John was the first treasurer of Alexandria monthly meeting, appointed December 1802. Janney served the meeting for many years, having been a charter member.

John and Elizabeth Janney had four children: Joseph, Elizabeth (pictured above and who would grow up to marry cousin Samuel McPherson Janney), Samuel, and John. Tragically, wife and mother Elizabeth died in 1809 at the age of 38, leaving her husband John with four young children.

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Alexandria meeting records with the far left column naming John Janney’s wife Elizabeth Hopkins, and writing in the next column his second wife, Ann Shoemaker, whom he married in 1817.

John Janney married a second wife, 45-year-old Ann Shoemaker, in 1817. The couple lived in Alexandria, where both were active in Quaker meeting, and John continued worked as a prominent merchant.

John Janney must have developed a lingering illness, causing his wife, Ann, and his grown children to make a desperate effort to turn his health around. Arrangements were made for John and Ann to travel to the Carribean island of St. Thomas, in March of 1823. Perhaps a doctor had recommended the warmer climate, sea breezes, and rest. If so, nothing could have gone so against plans as the actual experiences of this trip.

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A two masted, square rigged Brig, similar to the “Resolution” on which the Janney group sailed from Alexandria to the Carribean island of St. Thomas.

John and Ann Janney boarded the Brig “Resolution,” leaving from Alexandria on March 22, 1823. Traveling with them was Ann’s sister, Abigail, and friend and – possibly – fellow merchant, Caleb Stabler. Ann kept a journal of the voyage, revealing not only the perils of ship travel, but also early 19th century life on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix. Ann visited the islands’ sugar plantations, open air markets, and plantation houses. She observed and wrote about the enslaved population of the islands, noting the islands’ lifestyles and economies running off slave labor. Ann Shoemaker Janney’s original 1823 trip journal is at the Library of Virginia, in Richmond. That hand-written journal can be seen here. A transcription of Ann Janney’s journal, with her original spelling and grammar, is below.

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Image of old Alexandria, Virginia, with harbor from which the Janney’s sailed March 22, 1823 Courtesy Library of Congress


Alex[andria] 22nd of 3rd Mo 1823

22nd     7th day aftn [Saturday afternoon]

                        Took a solemn leave of our dear family & friends & embarked on board the Brig Resolution, Captn [captain] Lucketts bound to St. Thomas, our dear Sons accompanying us to the Vessel which lay out in the Stream, & she soon getting under way, the dear Lads reluctantly left us, and with a head wind  we beat down to Mount Vernon & anchored  –

            Sitting down to supper in a confined cabbin reminded us that we had indeed left our comfortable home – the water was rough, & our plates roll’d off the Table giving us an intimation of what might be expected

23rd      The wind continuing ahead remained all day at anchor – had much time for reading and reflection – my dear Husband not having taken cold from yesterday’s exposure

24th      The wind changing fair at dawn of day – weigh’d anchor & ran upwards of 100 Miles, came to at Piney Point.

25        head wind again – Caleb & the Capt’n went on shore & procured some provisions rain coming on in the evening The vessel beat down 6 miles, with some difficulty & danger, into St. Mary’s harbor –

26        The rain still continuing, we remained in the harbor at Anchor – my dear J [John] felt oppressed with the confined air of the cabbin, & the smoke from the stove annoying us much. –    

27th      Verry Cold – high wind, with squalls of rain – water rough – but the vessel was got under way about 3 in the morn pass’d Smith’s Point on which are two Light-houses – Porpoises playing round us – Ganats flying – with various other Sea-birds, indicating our near approach to the Ocean, saild all night – the first time – my dread of being run down in the dark, kept me waking – I always had apprehended that would be my most predominant fear in going to Sea. –

28        found ourselves quite in the bay – the weather more pleasant, tho still cool – went on deck to see the Shipping outward bound – 15 sail in sight – one large Merchant Man, just ahead, with all her canvass spread, & from her course bound to Europe – about noon pass’d Cape Henry, & fairly got to Sea – what an awful feeling to know that only a few inches of plank separates us from Eternity,& to be constantly reminded that unless the Lord keepeth “the Ship, the watchman waketh in vain.” She glides over the waters majestically & we find her a dry Sea boat – but suffer much from smoke – our dear invalid obliged to confine himself to bed –

29th      The wind E&NE – clouds gathering – our Captn predicting a storm and preparing all things in order to meet it as far as possible from land – about 8 oclock in the ev’ning it began to blow; we were immediately sent to bed, sick with the motion, – the Gale increased, & with it the move of the waves beyond description awful – The vessel kept her course, but a lea shore, on Cape Hatteras made our situation truly perilous – at day light ship’d a heavy Sea, which broke over with a terrifying sound – my heart sunk within me, fearing that some of our Crew, had in a moment found a watry grave – my dear J. lay very quiet – not being sensible of the cause of the increasing uproar, till the joyful sound, from the hands, “all are Safe” – met our ears –

30th      first day – & oh! What a tedious one the gale still increasing  –  a lea shore dreaded but early in the morning the wind changed, and the Captn – thru mercy was ennabled to change his course – we were confined to bed, & impossible to procure any warm nourishment for our dear suffering invalid – so greatly the vessel work’d & pitched, that we were continually rocked about in our berths, as in a very rough Cradle – in the ev’ning, the Storm increased to quite a hurricane, & about 11 at night we entered the Gulph Stream which coming impetuously from SW and meeting the stormy billows from the NE made our bark tremble, and almost overwhelmed it – our Capt’n left not the helm a moment during 14 hours, & afterward informed us that most of the night, the waves seemd to be mounting mast high and the sails illuminated with a fiery appearance reflected light sufficient to discern objects on deck.

31st      at day light we Ship’d the l[?]- and heaviest Sea, which took all the bulwark on one side – most of our livestock – and nearly swept the deck – by great exertion the water casks were saved – Oh when an appalling moment – the vessel crack’d and trembled with the stroke, from stem to stern but thro’ adorable mercy we were preserved in safety – soon after the wind abated, & the Captn came to get some refreshment – a high Sea continued rolling, kept us in our berths once C. [Caleb] Stabler attempted to leave his berth but was pitched with such violence across the Cabbin, that he retreated back to his berth immediately – the uneasy motion – rolling & pitching continuing all night prevented me obtaining rest, which added to the want of suitable nourishment, almost exhausted our beloved JJ [John Janney]

1st of the 4th mo          The weather having cleared up mild, & the mighty billows subsiding gladly we left our beds – with a grateful sense of the great Mercy of a Holy hand manifested in our preservation, were helped up on deck, in a feeble state to inhale the pure sea breeze, which soon revived us all, & especially our dear invalid.

2nd           had a comfortable nights sleep & arose much refreshed went on deck and saw at a middle distance a Sail gleaming  in the Sunshine & dancing on the waves – dear J took cold from want of fire, & was poorly in the evening, & we retired to our comfortless berth, but my solicitude was too keen to allow of sleep –

3rd        a pleasant day with a fair wind sending us finally on our way – my dear J a little revived, and we recovering our strength & appetites & getting the cabbin cleared up, which had been put in much disorder by the Storm.

4th        clear morning, but perfectly calm made no progress on our voyage – our Captn had a Cot slung on deck for my husband, which was very pleasant, affording some exercise (when the vessel was moving) without fatigue – rain coming on in the evening sent us below, to our confined bed room which is almost intolerable, since coming into the warm latitude from the disagreeable smell from the hold of the vessel, occasioned by the remains of the Cargo of Hides, not removed since her preceeding voyage. –

5th        going on deck this morning, found the sea smooth as a mirror. The canvass all flapping, & scarcely a breath of wind – but while sitting at breakfast, the sky became suddenly overcast – wind came out from NE, & immediately all became hurrey & bustle among the Sailors, preparing for a Storm – in a short time it blew a Gale – the dead lights were put in – and we, unable to move about, or help ourselves – soon retreated to bed, Abigail & myself very sick. –

6th            1st day   The gale continuing – everything around us uncomfortable  – my dear Husband verry feeble – all wishing ourselves at home –  myself sick, but with assistance crawled up to the companion door to view the mighty Ocean, foaming & dashing in monnstrous billows, across the bow and forecastle – it caught, & wet me to the Skin ‘ere I could retreat – in our confined situation, the night was warm and tedious. –

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Illustration of a Brig with sails, deck and cabins identified, Public Domain illustration

7th        The gale subsiding, but the Sea rough & rolling – dear J sitting with his chair lashed fast – fever continuing, & appetite lessening – my own strength very much exhausted – no food remaining on my stomach for many preceeding hours, so that I became apprehensive my usefulness as a Nurse would be quite lost, but our kind Captn ordering me to be carried to the deck, and lashed fast to the hen-coop, I soon revived with the fresh breezes, although mounting & sinking with the waves, which seemed momentarily about to swallow us up, made me dizzey, & broke in while foam at my feet – a Spanish Schooner pass’d us of suspicious Piratical appearance – but the Sea was running too high for them to board us – saw a tropical bird, and flying fish in great numbers – Mother Carey’s chickens, a bird resembling the land Swallow, have attended us daily having had the Cot swung in the Cabbin rendered our dear invalid more comfortable than in the berth. – at the midnight watch Caleb took the Captn‘s place, & myself the formers, & both obtained some sleep –

8th        a pleasant morning but our dear sufferer verry feeble – fever thro the night – profuse night sweat, & swell’d ancles – Oh for the comforts of home – under such discouraging prospects. –

9th        a Sultry morning – no wind – but a rolling Sea, so that with great difficulty we kept the breakfast things on the table – in a careless moment Caleb was thrown, chair & all, to the opposite side of the cabbin – & we had to be watchful to prevent the same accident to us – spent the day reading & working by the side of my dear J’s cot – suffered much with heat at night –

10th      our dear J more comfortable today not much fever, a fair wind & vessel gliding steadily on her voyage.

11th      pleasant morning dear J continuing better – no chill – & slight fever – spent all day on deck – at midnight were suddenly startled with the Captn’s voice “all hands on deck” – a squall of wind & rain coming on – but soon pass’d over & a calm succeeded – a rolling Sea, with out wind to fill the Sails, is extremely trying – keeping us continually sick.

12th      exceedingly warm – we rose early & breakfasted on deck – all hands looking out for Land, but made progress not one mile an hour – a termination of our voyage is verry desirable – my dear Husband’s strength evidently declining – almost suffocated with the heat and smell of the cabbin at night – obliging me to give him the state room, & make my bed on the chair.

13th      Another Sultry morning my dear J carried on deck in his armchair Land was announced from the mast. I could only discern what appeared a bump in the horizon – Caleb call’d me to the bow, to see three Dolphins, that were playing before it – no art could paint such vivid tints of blue, as gleamed from their sides, as they sported in the water – how wonderful the world of Creation – “how passing wonder He is made them such” – a species of shark call the Dog-fish next appeared, Caleb through a line & it seized the hook voraciously.

As we arose from dinner a hard thunder-gust came on peal after peal of the loudest thunder accompanied by streams of lighting – made my heart and our little barque tremble – we appeared to be in the verry midst of the Cloud – our Captn standing on deck, tugging the main-chains, received a severe shock of electricity – tis of the awful variety. This wondrous deep presents to the mariners – In the last 48 hours, we have not gained in our voyage one mile an hour – “tedious nights are allotted to us” – dear J verry feeble –

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24 days after setting out from Alexandria, Virginia, the “Resolution” reaches St. Thomas island with its “chain of elevated rocks” – Photo courtesy of cia.gov

14th      with the dawn the tradewind sprang up – our destined Port fair in view – quite enlivened our spirits, even our dear invalid was animated with the prospect of land – we approached on the west side of St. Thomas, which at a distance, first presents to the eye as a chain of elevated rocks, some at least 200 feet above the water – two or 3 miles from the Island there is a white rock wearing a verry similar appearance of a Schooner, under sail, from which it bears the name of the Sail Rocks, between the Rock, and the Island the Harbour opens, resembling a spacious basin (sheltered from every wind but the north) in which were lying at anchor, Ships from almost every Nation.

The Town rises immediately from the margin of the water and is present at once to the Eye in its full extent – the houses chiefly wood – painted white or yellow, with red roofs, & all looking new as if just finished by the hand of the Mechanics * (* The old town had been burned a few years ago) The houses occupied by the Officers of Government, & some other public buildings are placed on rising knowls, surrounded by Gardens make a beautiful appearance – The cocoa tree and the mountain Cabbage trees, and various plants, not familiar, remind us that we are far from home.

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Charlotte Amalie, capital of St. Thomas, shown in this modern photograph with cruise ships in the harbor, but still looking similar to the description given by Ann Janney in her diary: “houses chiefly wood, painted white or yellow with red roofs…” Photo courtesy of cia.gov

In the aftn the Clouds gathering & resting on the summits behind the Town & frequently descending with squalls of wind confined us reluctantly to the Cabbin. – Thro the night it continued blowing hard and we were thankful for having obtained a save harbor, in still water. –     

15th      J M Louffront, a French Merchant to whom we had letters, came & invited us to spend the day at his house – my dear J was too feeble to accept it, but insisted on my going with the Captn & Caleb – at the appointed hour, – Brady a young man (a partner of J M L) came to conduct us – we met a polite reception from Madame Louffront who speaks broken English & exerted herself to entertain us – the weather continuing squally prevented our walking out to see the town, which I regretted, although my dress was so novel to the inhabitants, that I was regarded as a curiosity in the St [street] – we dined at 5 oclock – quite in French style there was a variety of fruits, but none agreeable to my taste, but Oranges – being  impatient of my absence from my beloved J – our host and his Lady accompanied me, back to the Brig, which was anchored a mile from shore and the water so rough, that it dash’d several times over our small boat, alarming the Lady exceedingly

16th      we left the Brig & were at an early hour, hurried on board the Kings Packet bound to S [St.] Croix, but were detained waiting for dispatches several hours – at last being ready – took leave of Caleb, & sail’d with a number of Passengers – a stiff breez, made Abigail & myself sick –

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Map of the Carribean islands visited and/or viewed by the Janneys on their 1823 trip. The Janneys stayed on the islands for two weeks, before starting their 24 day return voyage.

At 4 oclock found ourselfs at the Wharf of Christianstad [sic], the eastern Port of St. Croix – a young man, passenger, obligingly delivered our letter to J Brown who came immediately and conducted us to a lodging house, kept by a widow Gray – whom we found an agreeable woman of polite manners, receiving us with attentive kindness – She occupies a spacious house, near the water commanding from the front an unlimited view of the Ocean, which breaks in snowy wreaths on a chain of rocks, near the harbor where the shipping & busy scenes of commerce seem almost under the windows – The hall where we sit most of the day, is upwards of 50 feet in length, thro which the Sea breezes constantly passing, make it pleasantly cool – my beloved Husband being much fatigued, took some refreshment & retired to bed – once more we are domesticated on shore, with great cause of gratitude to our Heavenly Father, whose arm has been manifested in conducting us thro many perils in safety. –

17th      my dear J verry feeble difficulty in raising expectoration – labored breathing, & profuse perspiration thro the night – my mind restless & anxious – striving for resignation in the dreaded termination of all our solicitude – but to say in sincerity of heart “Thy will be done,” is a hard lesson for poor human nature & unattainable without divine assistance.

18        employed myself this morning in writing home – much discouraged about our dear invalid – greatly regretting that we had left home & fearing that his strength (which is ebbing daily) will not be sufficient to enable him to meet his dear family again, in a state of mutability –

J Brown came and took him out to ride in his Gig – they rode too far, & he returned with a chill – a restless night following, and increasing debility –

19        The thermometer 80 This morning, with sea breezes, made the weather delightful to us – but the Inhabitants complaining of cold, & say it was winter – Our kind hostess, in the aftn insisted on my walking out for air & exercise, while she sat with my dear Husband – Abigail accompany’d me to a Garden, on the East side of the town – The owner, a Jew, was standing at the entrance & politely invited us in – It contained many of the culinary vegetables of America! Tho’ not in perfection, & fruits & plants peculiar to warm climates verry flourishing, and arranged with taste & neatness – The Garden is call’d, “Rachel’s retreat” –

20th  1st day     disappointed in not seeing C. Stabler with the Packet from St. Thomas, this morning – whom we had been hourly expecting – my dear J exceedingly feeble – lying on the Sofa in the Hall, not able to sit up, much of the day. Abigail attended church & afterward went with me to a market in the neighbourhood which is chiefly held on the sabbath by Slaves, coming in from the country with their own earnings – the fruits & vegetables were spread upon the ground in wooden trays on one side, and on the other side of the Street – dry goods of every description suitable for Slaves – crowds of coloured people passing, of every grade of colour from black to the lightest shade – all talking in loud tones of voice in various languages, but chiefly Danish – not a white face among them, except a few Strangers like ourselves, drawn thither by curiosity – many Jews  reside on the Island, who, not prohibited by Law, from displaying their merchandise on the Sabbath (as in America) were at the recipt of Custom – in the evening dear J lay sleeping sweetly tranquil left me to pensively muse alone – dear absent friends, & family, often mentally near in those solitary movements –

21st      a heavy shower falling in the night the wind changed to E & cleared up pleasant I arose early, & accompany’d by Abigail rambled to the south side of the town,

which has a verry  ancient appearance built chiefly of light coloured stone & brick the best houses have Galleries, running round the second story, occupied as Parlours, Halls, &c &c – they look’d novel to us without chimneys, and glass sashes on the windows, but are pleasant and convenient for the Climate – venitian shutters answering every purpose.

There were no flies nor spiders weaving their webs at every window – but a little Lizard out of doors, verry numerous, and perfectly harmless –

The fort on the land side has a verry handsome appearance, like a large public building, in the Gothic Stile. The barracks near, in which were stationed about 300 troops – near us in the same St. is an Old Danish Church with a clock in the steeple, which strikes the hour, & guarters, separately, at 8 oclock in the morning, the troops pass with the band, serenading us while at breakfast and at eight in the evening a Cannon is fired as a signal for all slaves to be at home, & if found abroad afterward without a passport, are sent to the guard house and are kept eight days at labour – The Guards at the fort – at the barracks – & on board a Danish Brig of War in the harbour, at every hour, & each quarter, thro out the night, cry out in the Danish tongue, “Guards beware” – all of which being in the neighborhood of our lodging was exceedingly disturbing, at first, & continually awakening us from sleep.

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Christiansted Fort, flying Danish flags, Public domain illustration

The harbour exhibited a lively appearance today – so many Sails in motion outward bound, that had been kept in port by a N wind prevailing several days – the Islands of St. Thomas – St. John and Tortola are all visible from here in clear weather – and are so at this moment from  the window where I am now seated – J Brown & his Wife came to tea – with us this evening, She is a young & pleasant looking Woman but no so frank in her manners as her Husband, making me at once feel acquainted – Our dear invalid, less fever than usual, & more comfortable today but his hearing dull, & quickness of apprehension greatly diminished.  –

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“Cutting the sugar cane” painted in 1823, Carribean sugar production by artist William Clark, Courtesy of British Library

22nd     In the aftn, our friend J. Brown came in his Gig, & invited me to ride which my beloved J insisted on my accepting – we rode 7 miles westward and then taking a circle round the Sugar Estates, returned by another road to town – never before had I seen so smooth a road, resembling the beaten sand on a Sea beach, and in many places, lined on each side with Cocoa, and the beautiful mountain Cabbage trees – The Sugar Estates are generally of about 2 or 3 hundred acres extent, inclosed , & divided, by hedges, made of the prickly Pear, & a species of wild date. – In some places the Sugar Cane was cut – in many half grown and in others they were preparing the ground to receive it – it is nine months in growing to perfection – so great a drouth has prevailed the last three years, that not more than one third of a crop, has been made each year so that the Planters, are almost in a state of bankruptancy – scarcly able to import corn for their Slaves –

The mansion houses are of Wood, in the same stile of those in town with piazzas or Gallerys round – not much finished inside – the kitchens never adjoining – the Slaves dwellings, at some hundred yards distance on a slope, place’d in rows, & covered with Cane stalks & leaves – resembling Straw thaching. After boiling the cane, they stack the stalks, for fewel to boil the succeeding crop – the wood all having been long consumed on the Island –

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“Inside a boiler house” painted in 1823, Carribean sugar production by artist William Clark, Courtesy of British Library

The beauty of this evening  could scarcly be exceeded – a distant view of the calm dark blue Ocean – the Horison bounded by the neighbouring Isles, what appeared unusually near – large Clouds “incessant roll’d into romantic shapes “ Illuminated by the setting Sun, and gilding the peaks of the distant mountains on other Isles, with his last rays – seemed to elevate my thoughts, beyond this changing scene – The full Moon just rising in “Cloudless Majesty” lighted us home, where we arrived as the family were seating themselves at the tea table. –

23rd      my dear J suffering great debility, we spent this day, chiefly alone in his Chamber – in the evening I walk’d out for exercise & fresh air –

24th      after a restless sleep night having been much annoy’d with mosquitoes looking from the window saw C Stabler, just landing from the Packet from St. Thomas, which gave us much pleasure – dear J feeling a little revived, after breakfast, our kind JB proposed his taking a short ride with Caleb, & invited us all to spend the day at his house, which was agreed to.

I soon went there – they had returned from riding – dear J extremely fatigued – profuse perspiration coming on soon after, accompany’d with such extreme debility, that I thought life would ebb away – about noon he began to revive took some nourishment – and attended to conversation cheerfully, which gave opportunity to attend to the company having my mind previously, too much engaged to notice anything about us.

J Brown resides in a handsome house pleasantly situated, near the water furnished quite in American stile, and kept perfectly neat & clean – the universal practice, is not to Dine till the Merchants business for the day is completed, which is seldom before 5 oclock, & continue at the table till twilight – their fish, and mutton, cannot be excelled.

25th      Jane Brown call’d early for me to ride with her – we went 5 miles in an eastern direction, to Conklin Bay, the residence of Hans Carden whose wife is related to Jane B – the house stands near the centre of the bay a few yards from the water, which affords fine fish – Crabs & c, in abundance at a small distance to the right is buck Island, of several acres extent, on which is fed some Stock, and a few slaves reside on it, rear poultry for the family – the black children pick up shells, which are thrown up by storms on the west side – we found James Carden’s wife, selecting the most beautiful, & curious, for Shell-work which is offered to strangers for sale. –

At this place is a Cocoa nut grove so planted, as to appear in rows, which ever way the eye is turned, & continue upwards of 200 of the largest trees on the Island – with difficulty we were permitted to leave this hospitable family without staying to dine – but I was anxious to return to our beloved invalid –

26        dear J awoke with great labored respiration & nerves all sweating so as scarcly to be able to hold his cup at table – but his mind preserved in quiet resignation, suffering without a murmur or complaint – Thomas Battell (to whom we had letters) accompany’d by his Wife, call’d & spent an hour with us – she was beautiful in Person and elegant in her manners – and had almost daily been sending us fruit altho’ this was the first interview between us – they are both Natives of N York, but long resident in the W Indias –

C L and myself left the dinner table to indulge in a ramble – we assended behind the Town, to one of the highest peaks on the Island, where the British while in possession of it, erected a signal staff – the assent commences on the North side, & by a zig-zag path, in some places verry steep – in an hour we gained the Summit – which commanded a prospect of nearly the whole Island. This ridge runs the whole length from E to West – on the S side, the land near the Ocean is level, and the divisions on the Estates, look’d like the sections of one vast Garden – each Estate is furnished with a wind mill to grind the Cane, & we counted eighty six in view – looking down on the fort, before which the Troops were parading – they resembled children at play and the cannon sounded like musketry.

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“Planting the sugar cane” painted in 1823, Carribean sugar production by artist William Clark, Courtesy of British Library

27th      first day [Sunday]          my dear Husband arose more comfortable than usual this morning, with an abatement of fever – myself having taken Cold with being over heated in my walk yesterday – suffered much with pain in my side stiff neck – & sore muscles – we kept in our chamber to read, from whence I was summoned at noon, to the drawing room, the kind family from Conklin bay, having call’d on their return from church, to see us –

28th      I walked out this morning & spent a few minutes with Jane B – from thence to T Battells – found his Wife surrounded with a beautiful young family – quite as fair as our Southern children – some Indian batter Cakes were brought in, hot, & handed with Oranges – banannas, & other fruits – Their Establishment was almost like a palace – furnished in American Stile and Their winning sociability ordered me to prolong my visit, far beyond the limits of a fashionable call, but happily am not shackled by the rules of modish life – In the evening John Brown & Wife came to tea with us the last time . We intending to return to St Thomas tomorrow – from Jane we have had much friendly attention, and from her esteemed husband, the warmth and kindness of a brother – the consciousness of the probability, of the parting being final in this world, threw a solemnity over the visit. –

29th      I had a restless – sleepless night – distress’d with a severe stitch in my side – prevented me from lying down – my dear J feverish and at times, a little delirious in his sleep – early in the morning, C. Stabler informe’d that the Packet was preparing Sail, we collected our baggage & took leave of our kind hostess C Gray & family, whose unremitted attentions to render us comfortable, will not be easily erased from our grateful remembrance – our friend J Brown taking my dear Husband to the wharf in his Gig prevented much suffering from fatigue – Truly may it be said of JB, “he is one of the excellent of the earth” – his kindness not assumed for the occasion, but a Christian principal, operating for the benefit of his fellow creatures, inducing him to feel, and know, “the heart, of a Stranger in a Strange land” – We parted -with a silent prayer in my heart, for his present – and everlasting happiness in a world to come – The vessel was under way – and thus ended our visit to the beautiful Island of Santa Cruse – from the last census in 1822 there were in the Island 1941 White inhabitants, & 22458 Slaves also near 2000 free, colored inhabitants – from my limited opportunities of observations, the slaves are generally well treated – perhaps better – and allowed more liberty – than in most of the slave holding States, of our boasted Land of Liberty – the manners and morrals, of the inhabitants are verry free, and hospitable, almost in the extreme, but although I found hearts as warm as their Climate, the sense of oppression – and wrong, of living in luxury and ease, on the labours of our fellow beings, attended every scene, and threw a dark shade over the brightest hours – a solitary Cottage with homely fare, and water from the spring would to my feelings, be far more grateful.

The wind being light, Sailed slowly and were 17 hours in making  the passage of 37 miles – my dear husband much oppress’d with Confined Cabbin which made me sick, & not being easy to leave him alone, kept me passing up & down, to and from the deck, thro’ a tedious night toward morning slept about an hour, on the deck in the rain, wrapt up in a blanket –

30th      with the dawn of day we entered the Port of St. Thomas – found Captn Lucket not prepared to sail, and not ready to recieve us – our friend – Brady procured a Palanquin [chair carried with poles], & had my dear J carried on Shore, to a boarding house kept by a Mistress Kelly – where he retired to his Chamber, and slept as sweet and tranquil as an infant.

What a favour to see him in such a still, resigned frame of mind – not expressing a wish except, to be permitted to meet again his beloved family – J M Louffront call’d to see us – politely offering to us every attention within their power.

5th Mo 1st        The population of St Thomas is rated at 20000 The Car of Commerce drives briskly, and the din of hundreds of discordant voices in various languages, resounds in the streets from morning till night – The Creols carrying on their heads, in large trays of fruit – vegetables, & even merchandise for sale – forcibly reminding us that we had indeed left our pleasant lodgings at St. Croix – in the evening several persons call’d to see us, but my dear J was too feeble to attend to conversations –

2nd       C Stabler came early from the Brig informed that the Captn was ready, & expecting us on board – I went, and took a hasty leave of the Louffront family – Our friend Brady evincing his kindness to the last moment again procured the Palanquin & conveyed dear J to *Capn Gotier’s boat, (* a young Man from whom we had received much kind attention, heretofore) which awaited our directions, and the young Men accompany’d us to the Brig – The  [sic] was soon got under way, & those polite & kind young men took a most affectionate leave of us – Abigail & myself, busied ourselves in putting our things in order, which we nearly accomplished, before the water became rough – The shades of ev’ning approaching, with mingled emotions of pain & pleasure, I took a last – lingering look of the West India Isles

Our vessel being now in ballast & the wind light kept us rolling and soon made Abil & myself sick & obliged us to spend the night on deck.

3rd        our dear Invalid suffering much with labored respiration, & high fever myself sick, our Captn had a tent spread, and we again, all remained on deck thro’ the night. –

4th        a more comfortable day than the preceeding – in the evening a squall of wind & rain coming on, drove us into the Cabbin – dicing Shell-fish on the ballasts, and the ships hold foul, since the last voyage, makes the air in the Cabbin so offensive; that we can hardly endure it thro the night

5th        clear morning, with light winds my dear J, much fever, with great dibility – my mind  almost ready to sink with the prospect of a separation and ardently coveting for myself, the promise to one of old in the holy scriptures “As thy day, so shall thy strength be” – Strength – bodily & mentally, to enable me to fulfill the duties of my situation to a beloved Husband, far from our friends and family – rain coming on in the evening, sent us reluctantly to our sick evening Cabin –

6th        light winds still prevailing render the day tedious – They are chiefly spent beside my dear J’s Cott. –

7th        The Sun rose clear, the first time since our being at Sea, & a fine breeze coming up sent us rapidly along, although it was too cool for the comfort of our dear invalid, making his breathing more labored. –

8th        again calm – oh for the wings of the wind to waft us home – but patience and resignation must be my daily lessons – dear J too feeble to stand without support – our Seamen, kind & attentive, carry him in his chair, from the Cabbin to his Cott – a comfortable situation thro the day –

9th        our beloved Invalid increasingly feeble only able to sit up while taking his meals constant fever – his hearing – sight, & and most of his faculties impaired – but thro all, preserved in a resigned, quiet frame of mind, although exceedingly desirous of seeing our dear children once more – most keenly too, & I feel our situation – watching – alone – at night by his cott – aware that the last dreaded hour is fast approaching –

10th      latitude 29 at 8 oclock experienced a loss – indescribable –

17th      Truly can I say with Job, “that tedious days & wearisome nights are allotted unto me” – calm & light winds keep us lingering on the Ocean, although green sea porpoises playing & landweeds indicate land not very distant – spoke [sic] a Sail from Philada bound to Jamaica

18th calm in the morning, but toward night a fine breeze sent us rapidly along, and ere morning we entered Cape Henry –

19th      going on deck found the vessel moving rapidly on smooth water – many Sail in sight, outward bound  – the Ship Pioneer pass’d us with all her canvass abroad a beautiful sight – the Washington Steamboat passed us swiftly, at the mouth of the Potomac, by which our Captn sent intelligence to our family of our afflicting loss – the wind died away – & left us stationary about midnight –

20th      an extreme tedious day – lying becalmed in the River

21st      our Brothers, T & J Janney, came & met us in a small GeTown[Georgetown] Stm[steam] boat, in order to convey me home, where I arrived about midnight, and was cordially received by my dear sorrowful & bereaved family –


A sea burial of John Janney must have occurred at the May 10th, latitude 29, 8 o’clock time and location. There is much information in this diary to be studied. One area where Ann’s observations were far too conciliatory is her assessment of the enslaved sugar plantation workers having a comparatively acceptable life. Sugar plantation work was where enslaved men and women suffered under extreme danger and hardship, where they “went to die.” Threats of being sent to a West Indies – or Louisiana – sugar plantation were used to keep enslaved workers subdued, and being sent to one was punishment for non-compliant behavior.

Ann Janney had no children from her marriage to John Janney. Four years after John’s death, in 1827, Ann and her sister Abigail applied for membership in a Philadelphia Quaker meeting, and moved to that city. Ann Shoemaker Janney died at the age of 65 in 1837.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ann-shoemaker-janney-death-certificate-2.jpg
Philadelphia death certificate for Ann Shoemaker Janney, March 2, 1837

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