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Denbigh's Cabin Boy: Robert Horlock

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Shortly after the Denbigh Project was publicly announced, the investigators were contacted by a gentleman whose great-grandfather, Robert Horlock, had served as cabin boy aboard the blockade runner during its last months of service.  Young master Horlock went on to become one of the leading citizens of Navasota, Texas, where his former home (left) is now preserved as a museum.
Robert Augustus Horlock (right, around 1910) was born in 1849 to John and Lucetta Horlock.  The elder Horlock is variously described as a chandler (a supplier of ship's equipment) or a baker; perhaps he supplied provisions to merchant vessels calling at Mobile.  John Horlock later relocated to Galveston, where he operated a chandlery.  Sometime after Denbigh began running between Galveston and Havana in August 1864, Robert Horlock, who was about 15 years old at the time, signed on the blockade runner as a cabin boy.

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sword.jpg (26865 bytes) How Horlock came to serve aboard Denbigh is not yet known with certainty, although it is most probable that it was through the efforts of the blockade runner's first master, Abner M. Godfrey of Mobile.  It was common practice for merchant captains to take aboard their vessels sons, nephews or the sons of friends to serve as "cabin boys" at sea; the young men did not act as servants, as the term suggests, but were in fact more like naval midshipmen, learning their trade through hands-on experience.  Godfrey, who is listed in antebellum Mobile directories as a stevedore, undoubtedly had known John Horlock, and was willing to take his son Robert aboard.

On of the more unusual aspects of research on Horlock's life was the discovery of a ceremonial sword (left; click on image for detailed close-ups) belonging to the old Denbigh crew member, currently owned by another of his descendants.  The sword is past of the regalia of the Knights of Pythias, a secular fraternal society with lodges in many Texas cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The sword, produced by the Ames Sword Co. of Chicago, carries among its decorations the letters FCB, corresponding to the Pythians' founding principles of Friendship, Charity and Benevolence.   The Order of the Knights of Pythias was founded in Washington, D.C. on February 19, 1864; on that same day, Denbigh was anchored at Havana, Cuba, taking on cargo for her second run into Mobile.

Robert Horlock died in 1926.

Special thanks to Mr. John Erskine of Aurora, Colorado and Ms. Patricia Demler
of Port Arthur, Texas, for their assistance in researching their ancestor, Robert Horlock.


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What's New?

new.gif (977 bytes) John Newland Maffitt and the Galveston Blockade | Chasing a Fox new.gif (977 bytes)
new.gif (977 bytes) 2001 Field Crew | In-Kind Contributions  | How Much Coal? new.gif (977 bytes)
new.gif (977 bytes) Denbigh Wallpaper new.gif (977 bytes)


"An Extremely Fast Boat" | The "Mobile Packet" | A "Bold Rascal" | Denbigh Today
Denbigh's Crew | The Erlanger Loan | Birkenhead-Built: An Unrivaled Legacy
Denbigh Primary Source Documents | Galveston During the Civil War | Denbigh, Clwyd, Wales
The U.S. Coast Survey and the Blockade, 1861 | The Ship's Library: Recommended Reading
Running the Blockade Into Galveston: A Personal Narrative | Denbigh Day-by-Day
Denbigh Portrait | Official Number 28,647 | Valve Chest Animation (300kb) | Investors
Links of Interest | Denbigh F.A.Q. | Denbigh's Engines | Denbigh's Boiler
Feathering Sidewheel


April 27-28 Side Scan Survey | May 7-10 Site Mapping
June 16-17 Sub-Bottom Profiling | Site Mapping, July 9-12, 1998 | Dive Trip, October 18-30, 1998
Underwater Images | 1999 Summer Field Season | Denbigh Site Plan
Jerry Williams Speaking Tour | Denbigh Project Benefit Dinner |
Denbigh Artifacts | 2000 Field Crew | 2000 Field Crew Photo Album |
The Denbigh Wreck Site: A Quicktime VR Panaorama
Connecting Rod Recovery, July 22-24, 2000 | Modeling a Shipwreck
Credits & Thank-Yous

J. Barto Arnold et al. 1998-2000, The Denbigh Project, World Wide Web,
Institute of Nautical Archaeology, Texas A&M University, E-mail: (  
Sunday, July 16, 2000 Revision.

Questions, comments or suggestions about this website? Send them here.

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