Macheca Fleet

Sailing and steam ships owned / leased by
J.P. Macheca, Macheca Line, Belize Royal Mail

Artist William Challoner's oil painting of the 1880s (above) shows three Macheca Line steamers - Breakwater, Clearwater and Wanderer - meeting in the harbor at Belize.

New Orleans of the late 19th Century hosted several Macheca shipping and importing businesses. The first was started by Maltese immigrant Giuseppe Macheca. His stepson, Joseph P. Macheca, was an early partner in the business. Giuseppe's other two sons, John and Michael, joined later.

Joseph P. Macheca went on to start his own business, J.P. Macheca & Co., using leased and owned vessels. Early in 1874, J.P. Macheca & Co., headquartered at the intersection of Camp and Canal Streets, entered into a partnership with fruit importer Santo Oteri, business locations at Fulton Street and Front Street, forming the M & O Line for transport of freight and passengers between New Orleans and ports at Belize, Honduras, Jamaica and other Caribbean destinations.

John and Michael Macheca later formed the Macheca Brothers firm, which subsequently gave birth to the New Orleans-Belize Royal Mail and Central American Steamship Company.

As family relationships changed, so did the relationships of the apparently rival companies. Assets appear to have been shifted around, particularly when J.P. Macheca & Co. failed in 1883. Macheca Brothers ships were leased by the U.S. government for use during the Spanish-American War of 1898. The Macheca Brothers firm eventually sold its shipping assets to United Fruit.

Known details of the ships of the Macheca Lines are shown below. Sections with a yellow background relate to ships sailing for J.P. Macheca & Co. Those with a blue background relate to Macheca Brothers. A green background indicates a possible overlap. A gray background indicates ships leased by or partially owned by the Macheca family.

At the page bottom is a collection of newspaper articles relating to Macheca Line shipping.

Cecelia Schooner 1868 No    
Swift Schooner 1869 No    
J.P. Macheca
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"Clipper" Schooner. 102 ft length, 25 ft beam, 125 tons. Raced at Southern Yacht Club. Made regular banana runs to Jamaica in 1880s. Capt. Rawley drowns returning to ship in 1890. 1877-1890 No Captain S.A. Woodbury 1877. William Lindsey Challoner 1880s? Capt Charles Rawley 1890. Built at Bath near Portland, Me, under Macheca supervision 1877. Purchased by Joseph P. Macheca and a group of investors.
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Steamer. 157.2 ft length, 28.2 ft beam, 531 tons, two decks, two cylinder 20-24" engine. Depth 16.2 ft. Likely transferred from J.P. to Macheca Bros. 1883. 1879-1894 Yes Capt. Peter W. Evans 1881. Capt. Charles W. Clark 1884. Charles A. Hardie 1891. Capt. Brown 1894. J.M. Raymond ? Built 1879 Birely, Hillman & Streaker, Philadelphia. Engines made by Neafie & Levy, Kensington, Pa. May have been purchased NYC 1881.
Kate Carroll
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Steamer, iron screw, 200 ft length, 34 ft beam, 610 tons. Sold to T. Egenton Hogg, Nov. 1886. 1884-1886   Capt. J. McIntosh 1886 Built by Hanlan & Hollingsworth of Wilmington for D.T. Sullivan of Pensacola, FL, 1883.
Foxhall Steamer, 843 tons. Sold to United Fruit 1901. Later to New York & Puerto Rico Steamship Co. renamed Ramos. 1885-1906    Capt. Carroll 1887.  Built in 1885. Owned by Costa Rica and Honduras Steamship Company in 1892. 
City of Dallas
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Steamer, 915 tons. Owned by Morgan Line 1890. Operating in Macheca Line in 1892. Sank April 10, 1896, 80 mi. from port of Colon, carrying passengers. All but 3 crewmen rescued. View map Location #1. 1884-1894 Yes Reed 1884. Capt. Raymond 1894.  From Morgan Line sometime between 1890 and 1892.
Marmion Steamer. Known to be part of Macheca Line's Belize Royal Mail in 1892. 1892 Yes     
Steamer, steel screw, 210 ft length, 35 ft beam, 1020 tons. Also known as Stroma. Used as military transport in Spanish-American War 1898. Sold to United Fruit 1899. Later to Cuba, renamed Nuevitas. 1883-1900 Yes J.H. MacFarlane 1891. Capt. Galt 1894. Belize Royal mail contracts with Gorringe's Shipbuilding Co., Pa., for Sept. 1883 construction.
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Steamer, 1065 tons. Carried half-brothers Joseph P. and Michael Macheca, along with Detective Robert A. Pinkerton and three businessmen, from Belize to New Orleans in March 1890. Used as military transport in Spanish-American War 1898. Sold to United Fruit 1899. By 1905 to Spreckels Line of San Francisco. 1880-1900 Yes Charles W. Clark 1891. Capt. Rivera 1894.  Built in 1880.
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Steamer, 1467 tons. Brought insurgents out of Cuba 1896. Sold to United Fruit 1899. 1884-1898 Yes Capt. MacFarlane 1894. Built in 1884.
Franklin Steamer, 2200+ tons. Long ran fruit between Bluefields, Nicaragua, and NYC. Wrecked Aug. 25, 1891, on St. Andrews Island off Nicaragua coast on first trip taking fruit to New Orleans. View map Location #2. ?-1891       
Macgregor Steamer, 315 ft length, 32 ft beam. English ship chartered by Macheca Bros. Manufactured with steel hull. Wrecked. Struck a reef south side of Ascension Bay on Dec. 30, 1889. Crew, passengers and mail were saved, taken to Cornwell Island (this was likely a misspelling of Cozumel), transported back to New Orleans aboard Wanderer. Cargo thrown overboard in vain effort to lighten the ship and free her from reef. Valued at $125,000 to $130,000, the ship was reportedly insured for $40,000. View map Location #3. 1889 Yes Capt. Miller 1889 Built in spring 1888 in Belfast, Ireland.
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Steamer, iron screw, 1562 tons. Sold to United Fruit 1901. To Belize Mail and Transport Co. 1903. Wrecked, Feb. 6, 1908, on reef off Spanish Honduras. View map Location #4. 1883-1903     Built 1883 for Booth Line. Sold to Macheca Bros. 1898.
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Steamer. 1881 arctic expedition. JP Macheca and Mueller have some legal responsibility for Gulnare expenses 1884, according to Louisiana Circuit Court documents. Owned by Timothy Moroney 1887. Sank, May 5, 1887, 12 mi. from Ruatan. Est. loss $16,000 hull, $5,000 full cargo of bananas. View map Location #5. 1867-1887 No Capt. Snow 1883. DWC Kells 1884. Capt. Ottisen 1887. Built in Glasgow, Scotland, 1867.
Elia Knight Steamer. Possibly joint venture bwn J.P. Macheca and Leonard Mueller. 1884-1885 No    

Silver medal winner - 2008 IPPY book awards

Deep Water book

Newspaper items mentioning Macheca Lines

Nov. 24, 1877 Daily Kennebec (Maine) Journal Marine Notes: "The new clipper schooner Joseph P. Macheca, which arrived at Portland the 22d inst., was built by the Jewell Brothers of Bath, and is one of the strongest and best built vessels that has yet come from a Maine shipyard. She is designed for the West India fruit business, and the best material has been used in her construction. The cabin is neatly finished in walnut and ash, and her appearance throughout is very fine. She is one hundred and seventy tons carpenter's measure, about one hundred and twenty five tons register, and will spread twenty five hundred yards of canvass, breadth of beam twenty five feet, hold eight feet and eight inches, keel eighty eight and one half feet, and one hundred and two feet over all. She is owned by Amos Cushing, Capt. S.A. Woodbury (who commands her, Jordan & Blake, J. Conley & Co., and Thomas Laughlin & Son of Portland, and Joseph P. Macheca of New Orleans for whom she is named."
Jan. 16, 1879 Kingston (Jamaica) Daily Gleaner L.C. Mansfield, mate of the schooner Macheca, of Portland, Me., was accidentally kicked overboard, near Turk's Island, and drowned."
Oct. 9, 1882 New York Times, p. 1 The Wrecked Steamer Mallard: Capt. Peter W. Evans of the Macheca Line steamer Wanderer docks at Calliope Street, New Orleans, with a portion of the officers and crew of the Mallard. The Mallard struck a reef 85 miles from Belize. All aboard were saved and transported to Belize, where some embarked on the Wanderer for the trip back to New Orleans.
Sept. 13, 1883 Chester (PA) Times, p. 3 Gorringe's New Contract: New Orleans and Belize Royal Mail Steamship Co. contracts for construction of iron steamship, 1000 tons, 210 ft long, 35 ft abeam and 20 ft depth of hold. To be used in passenger and mail service between New Orleans and Honduras. Is to be provided with inverted cylinder high-pressure engines, steam steering, electric bells, double-bottom and water-tight compartments.
May 24, 1885 New York Times The Kidnaped Boys: Leonard Mueller, one of the owners of the Elia Knight, commented on accusations that his ship transported kidnaped boys from New Orleans to Poerto Barrios, Honduras, to work on construction projects there. The passengers were said to have been poorly fed and uncared for on their involuntary voyage. Mueller said passenger conditions were the responsibility of the contracting company, Chaff & Co., which failed before paying Mueller. Mueller also noted that three gangs of men were transported by Elia Knight, with the rest carried on the Macheca Line. Macheca also was unpaid for the service.
May 25, 1885 Kingston (Jamaica) Daily Gleaner "Where that new steamer is that Messrs. Macheca Bros. were going to put on between here and New Orleans as soon a quarantine was removed?"
Aug. 15, 1885 New York Times, p. 2 War Material for Honduras: Steamer Kate Carroll departed New Orleans for Belize with a shipment of 100 cases of Remington rifles and 100 cases of cartridges for the government of Honduras.
Dec. 6, 1886 The Morning Oregonian Shipping Intelligence: On Nov. 18, John Macheca and others of New Orleans sold the iron steamship Kate Carroll to T. Egenton Hogg. Kate Carroll built in Wilmington in 1883 by Hanlan & Hollingsworth Co. for D.T. Sullivan of Pensacola, FL. She was 200 ft. long, 34 ft abeam with 17ft depth of hold. The 610.67 ton ship had four bulkheads, water ballast compartments and compound engines. After sale, she was fitted with additional passenger accommodations. Mastered by Capt. J. McIntosh of Ward's Cuban Line.
May 13, 1887 New York Times, p. 1 The Steamer Gulnare Sunk: Wrecked with full load of bananas 12 miles from Ruatan on May 5. Built in Glasgow, Gulnare had been used on arctic expedition. No lives lost, but loss of hull valued at $16,000 and cargo valued at $5,000.
June 29, 1887 New York Times, p. 5 A Steamship's Mishaps: Capt. Carroll of Foxhall reported that his ship had repeated difficulties on its last voyage. The steamer ran aground on Colorado Reef off San Antonio on June 13. After remaining there for 40 hours, the cargo - sacks of grain, other foodstuffs - was jettisoned and the ship was floated. On the return voyage with a cargo of fruit, the ship struck Morrison's Key near Cape Gracias. Half the cargo needed to be ejected to get Foxhall floated again.
Sept. 2, 1888 New York Times, p. 2 To Protect Themselves: Macheca Bros. firm moving into fruit trust with Phipps & Co., S. Oteri, Joseph Oteri and C.A. Fish Co. of New Orleans.
Jan. 10, 1889 New York Times, p. 2 A steamship overdue: Macgregor is missing. She sailed Dec. 27 for Puerto Cortez with a load of lumber and was due to return Jan. 7.
Jan. 12, 1889 New York Times, p. 1 The steamer Macgregor wrecked: Reports that the steamship struck a reef on the south side of Ascension Bay. Vessel and cargo lost, but crew, passengers, mails and valuables saved. "The Macgregor was an English steamer, under charter to Macheca Brothers. She had a steel hull and was well fitted, and was valued at about $130,000."
Jan. 16, 1889 New York Times, p. 1 The Macgregor crew safe: Macgregor crew returned to New Orleans aboard steamship Wanderer. Crew and passengers had been taken from the disabled Macgregor to Cornwell Island. Macgregor's cargo was thrown overboard in an effort to free her from the reef. "She was valued at $125,000 and insured for $40,000."
Aug. 6, 1890 Trenton (NJ) Times Five Were Drowned: Returning to the schooner J.P. Macheca on a small sailboat, Capt. Charles Rawley and six others were drowned when a storm capsized their boat. Two others aboard the boat were able to swim to shore. Rawley's body was recovered and buried at Livingston, Guatemala. The other bodies were not found. The news of Rawley's death was brought to New Orleans by the steamship City of Dallas.
Aug. 14, 1890 Waukesha (WI) Daily Freeman Five Drowned: Same story as above.
Dec. 3, 1890 New York Times, p. 5 The Honduras Rebellion: Steamship Stillwater carries news of revolt in Spanish Honduras to New Orleans.
Aug. 26, 1891 New York Times, p. 4 The Steamship Franklin Lost: Franklin is wrecked off coast of Nicaragua while en route to New Orleans with fruit cargo. First trip to New Orleans after spending "some time" running between New York City and Bluefields, Nicaragua.
Oct. 16, 1895 New York Times, p. 2 Nine Lost with the Freddie M.: Steamship Stillwater brings to new Orleans news of the loss of the steamship Freddie M. on a fruit/mail/passenger run to Belize.
April 26, 1896 Frederick (MD) News, p. 1 All Were Saved but Three: Steamship Foxhall brings to New Orleans the news of the wreck of the steamer City of Dallas of the Royal Mail line. City of Dallas went down 80 miles from port of Colon on April 10. Lost: Thomas Smith, oiler; Charles Valondeff, coal passer; Warren Jackson, steward.
Aug. 22, 1896 New York Times, p. 1 American Citizens Arrested: Americans involved in railroad construction are charged in Ponte Barrios, Guatemala, of smuggling in munitions of war. Contraband was said to have been shipped from Cincinnati over Louisville and Nashville Railroad and then from New Orleans on Macheca Line steamers. 82,000 cartridges and other ammunition found within 12 bales of hay within the last consignment.
June 17, 1898 Atlanta Constitution Fleet Moves on to Cuba: List of transport ships bound for Cuba includes New Orleans-Belize Royal Breakwater, 1065 tons; New Orleans-Belize Royal Stillwater, 1019 tons.
Nov. 20, 1900 New York Times, ad, p. 12 Bonds sold for construction of Costa Rica railway. United Fruit Company consolidates Boston Fruit Co., Banes Fruit Co. of Cuba, Minor C. Keith Cos. and New Orleans Belize Royal Mail and Central American Steamship Co., Ltd.
Nov. 12, 1915 Washington Post The Legal Record - United States Supreme Court: New Orleans Belize Royal Mail and Central American Steamship Company, Limited, appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nov. 30, 1915 Washington Post The Legal Record: Previous judgement affirmed. Opinion in case written by Justice Holmes. Justice McReynolds did not participate in discussion or judgement.
Lake Pontchartrain yacht race

Artist William Challoner's oil painting of a yacht race on Lake Pontchartrain.

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