Family History


David Galbreath - Shipwrecked - 1810

New York Gazette

30 Jan 1810

Nassau, N.P. Jan, 1, 1810
Messrs. Lang & Turner

This will acquaint you with the loss of the beautiful new brig Orlando, Captain Stackhouse, belonging to Bower, Lippitt & Robins, of N. York, which I hope you will make known to the public. I left N. York Nov 25, 1809, as a passenger in the Orlando, bound for N. Orleans - nothing happened very extraordinary but bad weather, and the brig very leaky, till Dec 5, then being ten days out; at midnight the brig was cast away on Elbow Reef, near Abico, and immediately sank - moored the boat off a head of the brig, and all hands hung in the rigging till day light, then left the brig, and with great difficulty got over the reef, and got ashore on Man of War Key, distance from the brig four miles, without clothes or provisions. The brig is totally lost; a small part of the cargo will be save by the wreckers from the neighbouring Keys. The passengers, Mr. Pole, Galbreath and myself, came here in a smack John, of Harbour Island; left the Capt. and crew on the Key endeavouring to save what they could of the cargo and materials, drifting on shore from the brig.
Gentleman, I remain,
Respectively yours, &c.
James Lyall

Bishop Chase's Reminiscences: An Autobiography Vol. 1 Chase, Philander (1775-1852), 


The island of Abaco is covered principally with that sweet-scented and much valued plant called the geranium, in all its innumerable varieties. Of this the writer was informed by his valued friend Mr. Galbreath, a merchant from London, who had been cast away on its rocky shores. He said he had wandered from one end of it to the other, and found no inhabitant except one lone family, living between two prominent rocks, sheltered by an old tattered portion of a sail, and subsisting on sweet potatoes, and what the man could occasionally bring home from the avails of his occupation, which was that of a wrecker. The whole story of Mr. G. was most interesting, and it may not be amiss to record it here as a set-off for the fine-spun but deceptive theories of St. Pierre and others, who have tried to amuse the world with the idea that human nature, without education, is susceptible of refined enjoyments. Mr. Galbreath's account was, that he saw in the family above alluded to, a young female grown to maturity, who had never seen any of her sex but her mother. She was not wanting in natural proportion of person or comeliness of face, but seemed, from mere want of cultivation of intellect, a fool. She would, while sitting in the dirt, try to amuse the company and visitants with the writhings and distortions of her body, and in catching and tormenting a cat, and all this as regardless of modesty as the brute creation. "Never," said he, "shall I cease to shudder when calling to mind this disgusting spectacle, nor to be grateful for the blessings of Christian civilization, which has made the difference between this poor, degraded creature and the polished and pious ladies of Europe."


 I believe that this is my ancestor, David Galbreath a Merchant in London at this time (from 1791-1812). He had previously lived in New York until 1791, when he departed for London, England.1 However he continued to do business in America in partnership with Thomas Elmes of New York, and later of New Orleans. David regularly traveled over the seas and this is well documented. His arrivals and departures are mentioned several times in the New York newspapers, in his own advertisements, and also in the arrival & departure notices of prominent citizens.3 He is also documented as traveling from England to New Orleans, via New York, in early 1811.7 

But most importantly what identifies him as the Mr. Galbreath in the articles bove are the London Trade & PO Directories of the early 1800’s, in which my ancestor, David Galbreath, a merchant, is the only person of the Galbreath surname of any spelling listed in the London Directory. For example, in the 1808 London Post Office Annual Directory, pg.109,4 he is listed as :-Galbreath, David, Mercht. 17, Coleman-street.

 The Abaco Islands, in the Bahamas, are on the way to New Orleans. The Islands are in the shipping paths of ships to the Southern States of America, New Orleans being of interest in this case. The Northeast Providence Channel, passes to the south of the Islands, which fits the description above :- “The "Hole in the Wall," a great natural curiosity at the south-east end of the island of Abaco, attracts the attention of all young travellers on the ocean”.  By the time of the ship wreck, David Galbreath’s former business partner from New York, Thomas Elmes, was already resident in New Orleans, having opened a Dry Goods Emporium in 1805 at 339 Royal St.5  In 1810, David’s son Thomas was in New Orleans, receiving a Statutory Declaration from Thomas Elmes as to Thomas G.’s birth in New York (presumably as confirmation of his American Citizenship).6 The letter and Statutory Declaration still survive with descendants today.  Hence it is my ancestor David Galbreath, merchant of London, who was on his way to New Orleans on the Orlando when wrecked.  The connection with Philander Chase is not otherwise known, but presumably David knew him from his New York days, or visits to NY (and possibly New Orleans) during the 1790’s and early 1800’s.

Sources mentioned above :-  
1. New York Daily Gazette - 4 Jul 1791 
3. Royal Gazette (New York) - 25 Dec 1782 
    Independent Journal (New York) - 31 Aug 1785 
    The Daily Advertiser (New York) - 3 April 1789 
5. pg. 38 - 'Old New Orleans: A History of the Vieux Carré, Its Ancient and Historical Buildings' By Stanley Clisby Arthur.
6. Documents in the possession of Kay Clarke of Knebworth, England, widow of Derek Clarke, a fellow descendant of David Galbreath.
7. St Andrews Society biography. 


Copyright © Simon
Please acknowledge me if you use info from my web pages, or email me for permission to reproduce (normally given) :-