Robert Yeo and the wreck of the barque Josepha

Robert Yeo was born at Barnstaple about 1833. He became a mariner and was a member of the crew of the merchant ship Josepha.

The Josepha had been built in the Yeo shipbuilding yards on Prince Edward Island for the transatlantic trade. It left Bristol on 19 March 1852 under the captaincy of John Cawsey, with a crew of 16 men and two female passengers. They were bound for Boston, and reached the Massachusetts coast on 20 April. A combination of fog and easterly gale-force winds led to the heavy, fully laden ship striking rocks near the Highland lighthouse on Cape Cod.

The coastguard was alerted, but the weather and sea conditions were so bad that it was not feasible to rescue anyone from the Josepha, which was completely wrecked. Two members of the crew were washed ashore – of whom only one survived – and six bodies were recovered. Two local men also died while attempting a rescue.

We have not found a baptism record for Robert Yeo – might he have been the eldest son of Robert Yeo and Jane Paddon? Please use the Contact Us page if you can identify him, or if you can add anything to the information shown above.

We are grateful to Alan Jones ( and Clive Essery (Essery One-name Study) for their help with this story.