The Phoenix

Bernhard Zentmeyer and his family sailed to Philadelphia aboard a British merchantman called the Phoenix.  Inquiries were made regarding this vessel to maritime museums in England, Holland, and Nova Scotia, as well as over a score of maritime sources here in the United States, but no information has emerged. The volume Pennsylvania German Pioneers, Vol. III, by Strassburger and Hinke, records eight arrivals of a Phoenix in Philadelphia between the years 1743 and 1754. But because of the timing of the arrivals, it is clear there were actually two different ships called the Phoenix; and to make matters worse, an English slave-trader called the Phoenix operated between the coast of Africa and the Caribbean during this same period. The timing of the slave-trader's voyages demands a third distinct vessel.

Here is the announcement of the Phoenix' arrival in the Philadelphia Gazette dated 30 November 1752.  The Passenger List from the Phoenix, which actually docked on 22 November 1752, is recorded on pages 507, 508, and 509 of Pennsylvania German Pioneers, Vol. I.  Talk about six degrees of separation . . . I have worked with a John McCoy on this project, and he turns out to be a descendant of Johann Georg Bachhofen, from the same Phoenix voyage as our Zentmeyers.  Another passenger, Martin Zehenbauer, spelled his name Zehntbauer here in America.  Among Martin Zehntbauer's descendants is John Zehntbauer, who co-founded Jantzen Swimwear in 1910 and endowed the college my daughter attended.  A quick check of the message boards at reveals messages from descendants of Conrad Strader,  Johann Heinrich Schaff,  Peter Antle,  George Christopher Bauman, Peter Dick, Joseph Infeld, John Peter Frambes, and John Andreas Weiler, all co-passengers with our Zentmeyer family.  A small world indeed.

The passenger lists reflected only the names of adult males.  Strassburger and Hinke calculated that on average, the total number of passengers on a given voyage was 2.5 times the number recorded on the lists.  This means the Phoenix carried approximately 375 immigrants, plus crew.   I asked the Mariners Museum in Newport News Virginia, the preeminant authority, what a ship of that capacity and time period might have looked like, and they sent me this image, a square-rigged three masted English merchantman 'Ship.'  (in period renderings, a vessel was often portrayed from two different angles in the same image)  Another source provided this image, remarkably similar.  'Ship' is actually a technical term, like Brig or Schooner, which Wikipedia defines as "a three-masted vessel square-rigged on all three masts," also sometimes referred to as 'full-rigged.'  And most merchantmen of this era featured multiple cannon ports, to protect from threats of pirates or privateers.

A number of replicas of seventeenth and eighteenth century sailing ships have been built over the years, but the one which in our opinion most closely resembles our Phoenix is a replica of the Götheborg, a merchant ship employed by the Swedish East India Company until it sank in 1745.  This replica can be seen at Pier 4 in Gothenburg, Sweden, the address is Mimergatan 6, Gothenburg.  This Götheborg replica actually sailed to southeast Asia and China in 2005 - 2007, retracing the routes of the original Götheborg.  It also sailed to the Netherlands for Sail Amsterdam 2010 and Sail Amsterdam 2015. Sail Amsterdam 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022-23 the ship wintered in Barcelona Spain, where your webmaster and his grandchildren paid it a visit.

What fate befell the various Phoenix?  Again, the record is far from clear, as ships were sometimes re-named if ownership was transferred, but the book Shipwrecks in America by Robert Marx provides some clues.