1885 “Timely rescue by hardy men of Gloucester” Boston Globe interviews Captains from schooners Clytie and Alaska about the terrible hurricane at Christmas time

On this day, a rescue at sea, December 29, 1885. Boston Globe story presented accounts from both crews and was published January 2, 1886, (author possibly Tom Herbert)

DRIVEN TO THE SEA: In the terrible gale at Christmas Time. Facing Starvation and Cold on the Schooner Alaska. Timely Rescue by Hardy Men of Gloucester.

Still another is added to the long list of stories of terrible sufferings at sea and gallant rescues that will long make memorable the month of December, 1885. The schooner Clytie of Gloucester arrived in port Thursday night, with the schooner Alaska in tow, the latter vessel showing evidence of the trying ordeal through which she had passed. The story of the recue as told by Captain Courant of the Clytie, is one of thrilling interest.

“Tuesday morning,” said he, in his bluff, hearty manner, “just at daybreak, we sighted a vessel way off on the horizon. We could not make out shwa she was, or what she was doing. We couldn’t really make out whether there was anything the matter with her or not, she was so far away. I went up on the house with the glass. It looked then as if she was an anchor, but we knew that could not be so, as there was no bank there. By and by, as it grew lighter, and we worked up nearer, we saw the signals of distress flying. We were then under two reefed foresail, with bonnet off the jib. When we saw she was in distress we put two reefs in the mainsail and stood up for her. Remember all this time it was a howling hurricane. It was a different thing out there 150 miles at sea, with the great waves threatening to send us to Davy Jones’ locker every minute than what it is to tell of it here in comfortable quarters. When we got near the vessel we saw at once that it would be impossible to board her. So we laid by the rest of the day and all night, and the next morning, though it was still dangerous work,

We Got Out One of the Dories

and got aboard. I tell you it was a hard sight, and the story of terrible suffering from hunger and exposure was a pitiful one. The schooner was the Alaska from , N.B. She sailed Friday, with a crew of six besides the captain, but was met by a fearful gale when outside, and forced to drop anchor. The gale, however increased to such an extent that both cables parted, and the schooner drifted helplessly out to sea. From that time until Tuesday morning, when we discovered her in latitude 42 50 north, longitude 67 21’ west, she was driven about at the mercy of the wind and waves. Their provisions gave out, and death by starvation stared them in the face. They grew weaker and weaker, but still were obliged to do what they could to keep the vessel afloat. Their sails were gone, their decks swept with the waves, and they were drenched to the skin. The cold increased, and with it, their sufferings. Death must soon have ended all if we had not sighted them just as we did. But even under those circumstances the captain didn’t want to desert his schooner; he said she was all he owned in the world, and he had almost rather go down with her than lose her. There was, however, no water, no kerosene and nothing to eat on board, and the vessel was in a dangerous position. She had been loaded with hay and wood, but her deep load of wood had long ago been washed overboard. As I stepped on board the craft, which seemed just

Ready to Take Its Final Plunge,

the Captain stepped forward and said:

“Can you give me some men to help me work my vessel?”

“No, sir,” said I, as I glanced about the wreck; “in the first place, there isn’t a man aboard my vessel would take the risk of going with you.”

“And you won’t let me have even one man” said he in despair, as he began to see his last chance of saving his vessel disappearing.

“No,” said I, “I wouldn’t leave one of my men aboard this craft to take his chances with you if she was loaded with gold.”

He then offered me $100 for a man, but of course, I refused.

“I will,” said I, “do one of two things: I will take your crew aboard my boat, or I will put a crew aboard your vessel and try to work her in.” This last offer I made on condition that I should receive $1000 if I got the vessel in port safely. I was off on a fishing trip, and of course I couldn’t lose my voyage for nothing. It might pay me $1000, and it might not, but that was about fair for the loss of my voyage. He offered me $500 and then $700, but I told him I wouldn’t take $999; that $1000 was only the fair thing. He finally consented and signed the following agreement:

December 29, 1885

I hereby agree to pay the schooner Clytie the sum of one thousand dollars ($1000) to help save my vessel and crew. JOSEPH BISHOP.

Of course in doing even this I had to take my chances of losing my voyage, for we were in a dangerous position, and the chances of saving the vessel were poor. I told him I would take him into the first port I could. The wind was fair for the Nova Scotia coast, but it is a bad place there, and I told him I would try to get him into either Boston or Gloucester. I put six men aboard. The wind favored us, and here we are safe and sound.

“The names of my crew who ran down in the Alaska? Oh, they were Pat Foley, Dick Welch, King Silva, Frank Tijer, John Shea and John McNulty—a good set of boys they are, too.”

“How are the crew of the Alaska getting along?”

“Well, they suffered terribly, but will be all right in a few days. The mate is the worst off, his feet and fingers being frozen. It was a close call for them all, but you know we seafaring men have to take our chances.”

Captain Courant, sch. Clytie

A “Sully Miracle on the” Sea story! Now from the sch. Alaska point of view:

LASHED TO THE WHEEL: Experience of the Crew of the Alaska Given by Captain Bishop—Their Miraculous Escape

Captain Bishop of the schooner Alaska was found aboard his vessel, which is lying on the north side of Union wharf. When asked about his trip, he said it was the roughest weather he had seen for over thirty years.

“We started,” said he, “from Harvey, N.S., Christmas afternoon, with a deckload of cordwood and hay in the hold for James Stevenson of this port. It was blowing pretty hard at the time, but we supposed it would soon moderate. After running about two miles, and when off Grindstone Island, we decided to anchor, as the wind appeared to be increasing. We placed two anchors ahead and let out 210 fathoms of chain. At 2 o’clock the next afternoon the chains parted, and the vessel drifted into the Bay of Fundy. It was then snowing hard, the sea was tremendously high, and it was blowing a terrific gale from the northeast by east. It was impossible to carry any canvas, so we rode along under bare poles. At midnight the storm was fearful. The high seas washed continually over the decks, and the two men at the wheel had to be lashed, otherwise it would have been impossible for them to remain on deck. At 3 o’clock Monday morning we hove the vessel too by a peak in the mainsail. At 7 o’clock we were to north-northwest, with part of the three-reefed foresail and peak of the mainsail, the rest of the mainsail and two jibs having been blown away. At 3 o’clock that afternoon we found ourselves near the breakers, on the southern point of Grand Manan. In the meantime it changed from snow to hail and were then able to see ahead for the first time since Saturday. The first thing we saw was that we were going ashore inside of Gannet rock.

Our stern was close into the breakers when the keeper of the light motioned to us to steer to the south, which we did, and the vessel passed out safely. All this time the sea was mountains high and washing clear over the lighthouse.

Cpt. Bishop, sch. Alaska
Gannet Rock lighthouse – photograph Canadian Coast Guard collection shared on Lighhousefriends.com

The mate and two seamen had their hands and feet badly frostbitten, while my limbs were partially paralyzed Monday evening the wind veered around to north-northwest. At 10 o’clock Tuesday morning, when 130 miles east by south of Cape Ann, we met the fishing schooner Clytie, which towed us to this port. The Alaska had her boat and deckload carried away.

Boston Globe report published Jan 2, 1886

The vessels:

Itemized on List of vessels district of Gloucester August 1878, Gloucester archives 

 Gloucester Harbor. Alaska. 63.87 tonnage.
 Master’s name M.M. Murray Number 455 
 Built in Gloucester in 1867 by George Norwood & Sons
  
 Gloucester Harbor. Clytie. 72.17 tonnage.
 Master’s name A.C. Browell #125,125
 Built in Gloucester 1873 Rowe & Jordan 

2019 article about the history of the (now deteriorating) Gannet lighthouse (yes, for the birds that were there) with interview of former lighthouse keeper: “The Gannet Rock lighthouse soars above a rocky islet off Grand Manan, an old beacon of light for fisherman. But the tower, built in 1831, is battered from years of neglect. It was abandoned in the early 2000s and stopped being maintained by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2010. “


Winslow Homer, Ship building Gloucester Harbor, 1873

Same year as Clytie was built


Scenes of vessels/fishing industry in Gloucester harbor and accounts of winter storms

1876

Ten years earlier, “The December Gales of 1876” chapter from The Fishermen’s Own Book comprising The List of Men and Vessels Lost from Gloucester, Mass., from 1874 – April 1, 1882 AND a Table of Losses From 1830, together with Valuable Statistics of the Fisheries, ALSO Notable Fares, Narrow Escapes, Startling Adventures, Fishermen’s Off-Hand Sketches, Ballads, Descriptions of Fishing Trips, AND Other Interesting Facts and Incidents Connected with This Branch of Maritime Industry, Entered according to Act of Congress, 1882, Procter Bros., Lib of Congress

1902

Clarence Manning Falt

1920s & 1930s

Leslie Jones, others

131 years ago today, speedy fishing schooner Sarah H. Prior was in the news Dec. 26, 1889

Portrait of a Boston schooner with Gloucester owners, legal travails, competition, and excerpts from an eventful timeline replete with adrift dories, rescues and collisions.

“Yes,” said Capt. Tom McLaughlin of the fishing schooner Sara H. Prior. “We are home for Christmas, but it was a case of swimming at first and crawling at the tail end of the passage.”

“Your vessel seems to be pretty well torn up, captain?”

“Oh, nothing unusual for her: why, she has a record second to none: in fact, if other craft passed through one-quarter of her trials their names would be ribs by this time. You see it is just like this. The Prior, or the Horse, as the crew call her, was launched on a breezy day about seven years ago, and I am sure she has escaped all the calms that have come since then and experienced all the bad weather.”

On our first trip we came very near shortening her spars, for it blew a stiff breeze from the northwest. When we sailed on our first fishing trip we went to Brown’s Bank, near Nova Scotia. There we got caught in a gale and had to run for Shelburne. It turned out a bad night. Snow and sleet prevented us from seeing the land, and after getting in on shore soundings we were forced to haul off and face the gale. That night our headsails, which were brand new blew out of the ropes, so we set a double reefed main and foresail with strong hopes that she would work off a lee shore.

“Talk about a vessel going windward; why,

She Almost Talked,

and it was then and there that she got the name that she still bears, and it means much to a great vessel under any canvas.

“Well, we got out of that scrape all right, went into Shelburn, repaired sails and came home with a good trip. Georges time came about as usual, and about Feb. 20 fish struck solid. ‘Twas then we showed the Cape Anners what the Prior was built for, and we thought nothing of beating them 20 hours on the homeward passage. During the first six months the repairs on the vessel cost $2500, yet we paid 33 per cent on first cost, clear of bills. Oh, those were good times.”

“Is your vessel a good sailor?”

“Well, she has never been beaten yet when there was any wind. Of course, I don’t expect to sail as fast as moderate weather as some of the new flyers, but give me wind and new duck and old Sarah will hold her own.

“Well, we have outsailed so many that I almost forget the names and times. Yet there are one or two instances which I will relate. You see the Gloucester owners and skippers used to blow about beating the Boston schooners, and for years we had no peace when we happened to meet ashore. Well, I concluded to go salt fishing one spring, and after a quick and good catch on the Western Banks we took the first of a northeaster for the homeward run. The next morning two sails were reported dead ahead, and at that time we had all lower sails set, forcing the old girl along at her best.

“Two hours later we were close enough to make them out as fresh halibut catchers from the Grand banks; their names I believed were M.A. Boston and G. Whitten. When we got close to them they were shortening sail, and one of them let go an anchor, preferring to ride the gale out than scud before it. Shortly afterwards the other vessel hove to under a single reefed foresail.

We went Along at a Lively Clip

under our lower sails, well knowing that the chances were good to slat them to pieces should we stop to reef, for they were played out at the time. However, we ran the gale out and made the quickest passage ever sailed from the Western banks to Boston light.

“That sent the Prior stock away up in Gloucester, for when they arrived, three days later, both crews seemed satisfied that our vessel was a pocket edition of the notorious Flying Dutchman.”

“What speed has your vessel attained?”

“Fourteen knots an hour for six hours; after that the rough sea brought us down to 12.”

“Ever been dismasted?”

“Yes,” said the skipper with a laugh, “too often to suit the owners. There was one time we were coming up around Cape Cod with a smoky southwester and by the breaking of a small shackle iron under the nose of the flying jibboom the whole business came down quicker than you could fire a gun. First went the jibboom, followed by enough of the fore and maintopmasts, followed by enough of the foremast to build a respectable sized raft; in fact she was as much of a wreck as though Wiggins had given special orders for a cyclone to hit us.”

“And how about this trip?”

“It was a nasty one, friend; winter weather outside while ashore you have had it very good.”

Plenty of Snow, Sleet and Rain

with us all the time. We tried Georges banks this time and found fish pretty scarce, not over 20,000 for two days’ fishing.”

“We left there Sunday with a strong southerly wind, which carried us 60 miles. Then it came northwest, and blew very hard. Our barometer indicated bad weather, and the sudden changes it made in a short space of time showed me that we were in the vicinity of heavy gales. I suppose those steamers that arrived in port lately must have caught it pretty rough for they were further eastward.

“Canvas could not stand the heavy northwester that struck us, and after wagging duck for a couple of hours the old Sarah looked like a second-class junk shop, so we took in the rags and weathered the gale the best we could.

“Next morning we repaired sails and stood to the westward and with the assistance of favorable winds we got here, but I don’t know where the other vessels went.

“They couldn’t suffer any canvas, and of course went adrift somewhere; probably we will meet them coming home when we are outward bound.

“But I forgot to tell you how this old girl showed her heels to a Canadian cruiser. We were seining a year ago last summer, and as mackerel were scarce on this course I thought we ought to try the Nova Scotia shore. One day the lookout sighted a school of fish between our vessel and the shore, and we squared away in hot haste, lest the prize escape. When we were close by I knew they were large fish, and the way the boys hopped into our boat and set that seine, did me good: they were around the fish in a jiffy and began to purse up. I kept a sharp look out for cutters and lucky I did for away in the close to the land what should I see but one of them sailing out toward us. I called to the boys to whoop her up, and they did, I sailed the vessel up to them and we took from the seine 40 barrels of beauties.

“There was a good breeze blowing at the time and the cutter was only a mile away coming along

With a Bone in Her teeth,

crowded with sail. As he might say we were inside the three-mile limit, I concluded to give him a run before a capture, so we let go the seine and squared away, setting our kites at the same time.

‘Twas then the Prior showed the speed that she was designed to have, and the stern chase was witnessed by many a captain and crew who knew us. For the first hour there was no gain by either vessel. After that we altered our trim with barrels of water, then we gradually drew away, not very fast, but just fast enough to keep out of gunshot. By nightfall he was well astern, yet in the chase. After dark we tacked and stood in shore with the hopes of finding our seine. But it was not our luck, for a coaster had run afoul of it and taken it to Halifax. The case is in court now, and we hope to recover damages.”

The Horse’s Heels. She Delights to Show Them to Other Vessels—Stormy Record of Fishing Schooner Sarah H. Prior, Boston Globe, Dec. 26, 1889. (author could be Tom Herbert)

1886

The sch. Sarah H. Prior had placed 3rd in the 1886 Fishermen’s Race in Gloucester.

1886 December

Affidavit of the captain and crew of the schooner Sarah H. Prior.

On this 28th day of December, A. D. 1886, personally appeared before me Captain Thomas McLaughlin, master, and George F. Little and Charles Finnegan, two of the crow of the schooner Sarah H. Prior, of Boston, and being duly sworn, signed and made oath to the following statement of facts:

On September 10, 1886, the schooner Sarah H. Prior, while running for Malpeque, Prince Edward Island, and about seven miles from that port, lost her large seine. [Page 502]Four days afterwardsthe schooner John Ingalls, of Halifax, N. S., Captain Wolfe, came into Malpeque and had the seine on board, which she had picked np at sea, Captain Wolfe offered to deliver the seine to Captain McLaughlin in consideration of twenty-five dollars, which offer the latter accepted and paid him the money. The Canadian revenue cutter Critic, Captain McLearn, was lying at Malpeque at the time, and Captain McLaughlin went to see him, to ascertain if there would be any trouble in delivering the seine. Captain McLearn would not allow the captain of the John Ingalls to give up the seine, so the latter returned the twenty-five dollars to Captain McLaughlin.

The schooner Sarah H. Prior had two seines, one large and one small size. It was the large one which she lost and the schooner John Ingalls picked up. She had to leave Malpeque without it, and consequently came home with a broken voyage and in debt.

Thos. McLaughlin.

George F. Little.

Charles Finnegan.

Suffolkss: Boston

December 28, 1886.

1886

Mr. Prior to Mr. Bayard.

BostonDecember 28, 1886.

Dear Sir: I wrote to Senator W. P. Frye, setting forth in my letter the facts contained in the affidavit inclosed. He wrote me to have it sworn to and to send it to you, which I have done. Will you please let me know what course is best to pursue in regard to it, whether to enter a claim or not? I think it is a clear, strong case, and the claim would be a just one, and will be pleased to receive your advice in the matter.

Yours, very truly,

P. H. Prior.

1888 June

The 1889 account in the Globe records a continued legal state of limbo. Tangle over seine was brought forward as a federal case vs. Great Britain (Canada) three years prior. The lawsuit is featured here digitized through the US Gov. Office of the historian

Department of State

PAPERS RELATING TO THE FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, FOR THE YEAR 1887, TRANSMITTED TO CONGRESS, WITH A MESSAGE OF THE PRESIDENT, JUNE 26, 1888

No. 330.
Mr. Bayard to Sir L. S. Sackville West.

Department of State,
WashingtonJanuary 27, 1887.

Sir: I have the honor to inclose a copy of an affidavit of the captain and two members of the crew of the schooner Sarah H. Prior, of Boston, stating the refusal of the captain of the Canadian revenue cutter Critic to permit the restoration to the former vessel, in the port of Malpeque, Prince Edward Island, of her large seine, which she had lost at sea, and-which had been found by the captain of a Canadian vessel, who offered to return the seine to the Prior, but was prevented from doing so by the captain of the Critic.

This act of prevention, the reason for which is not disclosed, practically disabled the Prior, and she was compelled to return home without having completed her voyage, and in debt.

I have the honor to ask that Her Majesty’s Government cause investigation of this case to be made.

I have, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.

1888 July

The Fisheries Treaty: Speech of George F. Hoar of Massachusetts, in the United States Senate, Tuesday, July 10, 1888 (sch. Prior seeking reimbursement of seine boat)

1890

Sarah H. Prior, reported lost, returned yesterday to port.

Local Lines. Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922); Boston, Mass. [Boston, Mass]14 Jan 1890: 2.

Winslow Homer dating 1885 and 1886 collections Art Inst. Chicago, MFA and private collection (Gates)

1895 two fishermen LOST

The fishing schooner Sarah H. Prior of Boston, Capt. Frank Raymond, arrived at T Wharf yesterday afternoon from Western banks with a fare of 30,000 pounds of mixed fish. Her colors were flying at half mast for the straying away from the vessel of a dory containing Manueal Zumeira and Manuel Palheiro. They were lost last Monday on the fishing grounds during a dense fog. The eight other dories which had started out managed to reach the vessel. The lost fishermen have probably been picked up by another vessel, and Capt. Raymond thinks they will be heard from shortly.

Lost Two of her Crew: Schooner Sarah H. Prior in Port with colors at half-mast, Boston Globe May 20, 1895

1895 found

They make it! Follow up story published ten days later:

Provincetown, May 28—The missing men of the schooner Sarah H. Prior’s crew are safe, having arrived here last night on a fishing craft from Boston. These men, Manuel Souza Palha and Manuel Souza Shuma, went adrift in the fog Monday, May 13, while fishing on the Western banks during a heavy fog. Neither of the men can converse freely in the English tongue.

Their sufferings were great and they met with at least on inhuman skipper, while lost in the dory. Shuma, the spokesman, related the following:

“On Monday we went from the Prior to draw our trawls, and rowed a course that should have taken us to our outer buoy or end farthest from the vessel. A thick fog shut down soon after we left the craft’s side, and this caused us to miss the buoy.

“After awhile, finding that we had missed our way, we turned and rowed back on what we thought to be our track, and after a long pull came across one of our dories, the men in which were pulling trawl. This dory, by the way, was the other dory lost from the Prior that day, which was picked up one or two days later.

“We hailed the men, asking the direction of the Prior, and they pointed to leeward. As they had left the craft after us, we supposed they were right and pulled that way. They had given us a course directly opposite to the right one. After a long pull we found that we were lost.

“We were without anchor, sail, compass, food or water, the fog was very thick, the sea was rough, and we did not know in what direction to row, but trusting to luck, pulled here and there, hoping to strike some vessel. After a pull of four hours, we desisted and tried to devise some plan that would help to bring us out safely.

“Night shut down and we drifted about in a heavy sea without sighting anything, and so on through the days and nights that followed. We became hungry and thirsty, but there was nothing with which we could allay our pangs.

“Finally, we managed to gather a quantity of floating seaweed and devoured it, but it increased the thirst that now drove us wild.

“The fog still held thick, but we had rowed on steadily while we could, hoping to make land ere we perished, but as we could not determine accurately the course to steer we made sad mistakes.

Finally, having been two days and nights adrift, we espied a fishing craft coming our way, but a little distance off. As she swept past we shouted for help. I hailed the man whom I took to be the captain and asked him to save my partner who was in a bad way. The man replied, “Go to h—l,” and away went the craft into the fog and out of sight.

“A little later the fog lifted a trifle, giving us a glimpse of a craft getting under way not far off. Toward this craft, we pulled as hard as we could, but, although we knew her men saw us, the vessel kept off, ran away and left us.

“Then we felt as if God and man had deserted us, but, weakened as we were, we pulled on, hoping to have better luck. Then followed a third night of suffering, with fog as dense as ever and heavy winds and sea. ON the following day we fell in with the British coaster Sophia, bound from cape Niger to St. John, NB, and got on board. Her crew treated us kindly and the craft landed us at St. John nine days later, on May 23.

“We had been adrift three days and nights, and had pulled and drifted from the Western banks to the western edge of the Lahave bank. At St. John the American consul cared for us and sent us on to Boston by train.

“We could not read, so could not tell the name of the vessel that refused to save us. I have seen the man who replied to my request several times in Boston and Provincetown. When in the latter place he was on a vessel in after bait. The vessel, however, did not look like an American craft. We judged her to be a Nova Scotian fisherman, but we don’t know.”

These men had been given up as lost by people here, and their arrival was a surprise to all.

Bitter Experiences of Two Men Lost in Fog. Drifted About for Three Days Without Food or Water. Long Ago Given Up for Lost by Their Friends in Provincetown. Boston Globe, May 29, 1895

1899

Provincetown, June 14- Schooner Nellie G. Adams and Sarah H. Prior were in collision off Long Point early this morning during a dense fog and heavy southerly wind. As a result the Prior is minus all headgear, and the Adams will require a new cathead and anchor stock. The Adams’ loss will not exceed $50, but the sum required to repair the Prior’s damages will amount to considerable.

These vessels were from Boston, bound into Provincetown harbor.

The violence of the collision is demonstrated by the anchor stock broken on the bow of the Adams which was of iron, and which received the full force of the blow. Had the blow fallen a foot or two farther aft the Prior would likely have crashed into the Adams’ forecastle killing the sleeping men and sinking the schooner offhand.

COLLISION OFF LONG POINT: Schooners Nellie G. Adams and Sarah H. Prior Came Together, Boston Globe June 15 1899

1900

Another day – Another crash

A collision occurred in the harbor early yesterday morning between the fishing schooners Joseph Warren and the Sarah H. Prior, resulting in considerable damage to the latter vessel.

Both were returning from the fishing grounds, and their skippers were anxious to reach T Wharf quickly. The Warren attempted to cross the Prior’s bow, but the distance was misjudged, and the vessels came together.

The Prior’s bowspirit and most of her forerigging were carried away, and she sustained other slight damage, while the Warren escaped injury. The Warren left the pier in the afternoon after disposing of her fare. The damaged vessel will have to undergo repairs before she can make another trip.

WATER FRONT ITEMS: Schooners Warren and Prior Come in Collision –Latter Considerably Damaged by the Accident in the Harbor, Boston Globe, April 27, 1900

1901

New York, Feb. 16 – The Allan line steamer Sardinian, which arrived today from Glasgow, reports that Feb 14 at 2pm in lat 40, long 68, a fishing schooner, the Sarah H. Prior of Boston, was sighted flying distress signals.

The Prior had been blown off shore in a northwest hurricane and had been since beating against the constant northwest gales. Some fish had been caught, but they rotted in the hold. The crew had suffered considerable privation from hunger and cold, having run short of provisions and coal. The Sardinian supplied their wants and proceeded. The schooner’s captain reported all well on board and that he would bear up for his home port.

SHORT OF PROVISIONS: Boston Fishing Schooner Sarah H. Prior Spoken at Sea by the Allan Liner Sardinian Boston Globe February 17, 1901

Christmas day Boston Globe 1890- A True Story of Gloucester Fisher Folk

This story was the first time I was acquainted with anything written by one, “Tom Herbert”, a reporter the Boston Globe featured regularly pre 1900.

This heartwarming read published on Christmas day in 1890 has enough convincing details to engage readers of all ages with a Christmas wish come true story. Is it fairytale or truth enchanted? The mention of a charming cottage in East Gloucester piqued my interest enough to research surnames, just in case, and the off chance I might locate a house story to boot while re-discovering work by this writer. One article was another in this vein I categorized ‘fairytale reporting’ which I shared yesterday ; and a third from a tuna fishing trip he covered for the Boston Globe (embellished with a fantastic headline).

Local details mentioned: Norman’s Woe, Proctor’s Store, ferryboat Little Giant, James (Jim) Lawson, Jeannette Olsen (children Andrew and Alfred), Eastern point, fisherman, Swedish immigrants, East Gloucester, Swedish consul, Court Square Boston, Grand banks, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, shipwreck, Cunningham & Thompson’s wharf, Boston’s salt fish dealers

Her Christmas Present, A True Story of Gloucester Fisher Folk

By Tom Herbert

“Shaw! Jeannette, don’t talk of Christmas presents: you should have dropped those childish notions when we were married. Here am I, a poor fisherman, with a few hundred dollars, and you know I want to build or buy a house in East Gloucester, so that we can have a home of our own next year, and now, the middle of October, I am almost forced to make a fresh halibut trip, or stay home and eat up my hard earned money; and we must be saving, for the owners have promised me a vessel next spring.”

The next day he was to sail, and with tears in her eyes, Jeannette hurriedly got together socks, mittens and the rest of his sea clothes, all of which were neatly patched and darned ready to be placed in the calico pillowslip and taken on board the vessel.

“You’ll buy me a present this year, won’t you, Jim?” said she the next morning.

“Well, I don’t know. It’s according to whether we make a good trip or not, and even so, you must not expect anything that will cost much.

So they parted with a kiss, at the door of the little house on a side street in Gloucester, and were it not for the cry, “Pa-pa-pa” of little Andrew in the crib up stairs, she might have lingered at the door and watched the passage of the vessel as her prow was turned towards Norman’s Woe.

“Jim will be home before Christmas,” mused she, “and if ‘twas only a cheap pocket-book he’d buy for me, I would cherish it so much.”

That night, after “baby” was sound asleep, she visited a friend, and as she passed Proctor’s Store and the post office on her way home she heard a fisherman say: “The ‘glass’ is down 2-10 below 29.”

This was news for her, as almost every Gloucester woman understands the working of a barometer, and surely a heavy westerly was coming that night.

It was 12 o’clock that night when the expected nor’wester burst, and she was awakened by the noise of a swinging blind.

‘Tis a fair wind for Jim, thought she, as she secured the shutter, and if it lasts a day or two he will make a quick run to the Grand banks. Little she knew at that time what misery the same gale brought to her husband.

The next day everything went wrong about the house, the fire went out, although there was a splendid draft to the chimney, things seemed to be strewn around the kitchen in all directions, the baby yelled like mad, and tried to get out of his crib alone for the first time, and in the afternoon she scalded her foot with hot water while making a pot of tea.

Jeannette was not superstitious, yet she could not help paying some attention to what seemed to be presentments of trouble, and were it not for a letter from a lawyer that she received asking her to come to Boston to transact important business she might have and had a good cry.

“I wonder what it can be,” said she, as she put on her best wraps,” surely it cannot be any news from home so soon, and now, come to think of it, I’m sorry I didn’t tell Jim that the property in Sweden was being settled up.”

The train seemed to move slower than usual that day, yet it arrived in Boston on scheduled time and soon she was seated in a law office in Court Square.

“I called,” said she, addressing a smooth faced man, “in response to your letter.”

“Oh, yes! You are Mrs. Lawson, are you not?” said he, showing the way to his private office, “And your maiden name was?”

“Jeannette Olsen, sir. I was born in Stockholm 23 years ago.”

“Yes, the very same,” said the lawyer; “and now, Mrs. Lawson, I have some good news for you. The Swedish consul has a check for you at his office, payable in gold, to the amount of $3800; small, but not so bad. I believe your husband is –“

“A fisherman, sir,” said she, helping him answer his query.

“Now all that remains,” continued the man of law, “is for you to be identified and the check is yours; are you acquainted in Boston?”

Yes; she had relatives there, and half an hour later the office boy brought in two persons that knew her when at home and also her family.

Without much delay the check was received by her from the consul and cashed at a neighboring bank, and with that—never had so much money before feeling—she wended her way towards the depot.

Once on the cars her thoughts went out to sea and she wondered how Jim’s vessel had weathered the gale, and what he would think if he only knew their good fortune, and how sorry she felt for having kept secret her letters from home, but the next moment her thoughts were in another channel. She had resolved to buy Jim a Christmas present that would cost “something.”

The day following was one of excitement to her. She visited the bank, crossed the ferry a number of times in company with real estate men, all of which set the neighbors a wondering, and for two weeks she was busy every day.

When she had time to read, she studied the Boston papers, and from the reports of incoming vessels she knew that it had been rough weather at sea.

Soon the name of the vessel that her husband sailed on was becoming talked of in the town, no news had been heard of her, and she became sad-eye, and the bloom of youth left her cheeks.

The neighbors called and sympathized, and one old lady, who had a son on the same vessel, said, “that if the schooner was not in by tomorrow the owners were going to give her up as lost with all on board.”

Tomorrow!

Why, tomorrow was Christmas day!

Vessel and all hands lost at sea!

What a cup of bitterness there was in store for her when she had planned for a day of happiness!

“But it must not be,” she cried; “surely God will not send us such terrible news on the birthday of His son!”

That night she knelt by the baby’s crib and prayed that the father of the little one might be returned to him and her.

Morning dawned and she arose after having passed a sleepless night; baby’s breakfast must be gotten ready, and as she rolled the crackers, the crumbs were moistened with her tears.

Noon came and the dreaded news had not arrived, and seating the chubby little chap in the high chair near the window, they ate their Christmas dinner.

An hour later she was ready to swoon, so weak was she from loss of rest and nourishment, and with arms on the table and head bowed down she cried herself to sleep.

How long she remained in that doze she could never tell, but she awoke with a start; little Alfred was tapping on the window pane with his spoon, and calling “pap-pa! pap-pa,” at the top of his voice.

“Be quiet, child,” said she, hysterically; “you have no pa—“ She never finished that sentence, for there, outside the window, was Jim, with a full beard, and looking very pale.

Was she dreaming?

No! for he has moved towards the door, and is now rapping; she notices as he passes his arm into a sling; he has been hurt.

The bolt shot back, the door swung on its hinges and she would have fallen to the floor, but he caught her with his uninjured arm and in a cheery voice said:

“Jeannette, cheer up; is this the way to welcome your Jim? Why, I’ve brought you a Christmas present: ‘tis myself.”

The joy of the wife at the deliverance of her husband no pen can describe, and when she could speak she told him of the long and weary hours she had waited, and listened intently to his tale of suffering while she put new bandages over the splints of his shattered arm.

He told her that after they sailed out by the light on Eastern point everything went wrong on board the vessel, as though a warning to them, and that night, as they scudded before the gale, one of the crew was knocked overboard by the main boom while returning the mainsail, and was rescued with much difficulty.

The next day the gale increased and the weather was intensely cold.

That afternoon they carried away the foremast head while jibing the foresail, and before it could be prevented the mainmast went by the board and injured five men.

They were then 200 miles at sea and almost a total wreck.

Under short sail they headed for Nova Scotia, and then within 20 miles of the shore a heavy snowstorm set in and they were driven off the coast.

The ice that formed on the vessel in large quantities made her unmanageable, and for four weeks they drifted about the ocean without seeing any craft.

Another heavily westerly gale sprung up, which drove them farther out to sea, the schooner had sprung a leak, the pumps were frozen solid, and the decks were washed continually by the heavy seas.

That night the wind shifted, and the captain, judging himself in the vicinity of Newfoundland, heaved the vessel towards the shore, and under a close-reefed foresail they made fair progress, and got ready the only two dories that had not been smashed.

Towards morning they made the land dead ahead, and all the men that were able stood ready, and the injured and frozen men were placed in the dories which were ready to launch.

The suspense was fearful, but for a moment only, for she struck a reef of rocks with a crash, and when the next sea carried her over the ledge she sank in 15 fathoms of water.

That was all he remembered for one week and when he came to his senses his head was bandaged and his arm was in a splint.

Kindly the wife of a fisherman cared for him, and eased his mind when he asked for “Jeannette,” saying, “She’ll soon be here.”

When able to be about he was sent to Fortune bay and took passage on a herring vessel bound for Gloucester.

The rest of the crew had been badly frostbitten, and when all well would follow by steamer.

He was set ashore at Cunningham & Thompson’s wharf, and arriving at the house saw his baby Alfred at the window, and was answered by the little one.

After Jim Lawson had told his story, Jeannette threw her arms around his neck and said, “James, you know you promised me a Christmas present, but I don’t expect one now, and Jim, dear, don’t feel sad. I know you doted on a little home, so I bought a nice little cottage over on Eastern point.”

Should his dory have capsized in a calm, Jim could not have been more surprised than when his wife spoke of buying a house, and an hour later the ferryboat Little Giant brought the happy couple to their new home.

Jim Lawson quit going fishing, by request of his wife, and today is a salesman for one of Boston’s salt fish dealers.

This year it is said that a new piano will be moved in to the snug little cottage, just for a Christmas present.

“Her Christmas Present A True Story of Gloucester Fisher Folk”, Boston Globe, Dec. 25, 1890 by “Tom Herbert”

Who cares that the baby is alternately named Alfred and Andrew (perhaps there is more than one child?)! Husband and wife are both heroes! And there are helpful lawyer and realtors, unrelated to the shipwreck! (Wait. Was $4000 a small amount in 1890?)

Art, poetry, novels and news- fishing tales were popular no matter the media. Timeline comps: Longfellow’s Wreck of Hesperus was published in 1842; Winslow Homer first documented extended stay in Gloucester, 1873; Elizabeth Phelps residing here by 1890; Joshua Slocum’s Voyage of the Liberdade 1890; and Kipling’s Captain Courageous in 1897. For Christmas eve decades prior, The Night Before Christmas, attributed to Clement Moore, was penned in 1822.

“Lawson” in the 1882 Gloucester directory

Perhaps some families have heard versions of this same yarn. For fun, some cursory digging: there is no James “Jim” Lawson-Jeannette Olsen (olson)-Alfred trio; though the surnames are common. Some Lawsons resided downtown and East Gloucester: Charles Lawson, fisherman, house 10 Traverse St; Charles J. captain 21 Addison; William J Lawson 23 School Street, then 13 Summit St. In 1870 John Lawson arrived from Canada fisherman, bds Middle, corner Wash. (same as Edward Hopper). Child named Alfred or Andrew with a mother born in Stockholm, Sweden? Sure. What Eastern point cottage would fit the bill in your mind’s eye?

Harpooning Swords. Work that is all excitement and no fun–

Globe reporter on a Fishing Expedition to Cape Porpoise, by Tom Herbert, Boston Globe, August 25, 1890

“…and “Turned In.” In 15 minutes not a word could be heard, and the only noise–which was not music to my ears–was the creaking of blocks and booms and the rush of water along the sides of the schooner as she ploughed her way. I had a faint remembrance of the “watch” being changed and the hearing of the order to “haul down the staysail!” After that I fell asleep and dreamt that the managing editor had elongated my vacation from two to four weeks.”

1927 shipwreck reappears again on Nauset Beach photos from Janet Crary

The three-master SS Montclair from Nova Scotia “a cargo vessel and suspected rum runner” came ashore in pieces in 1927. There were 2 survivors. Thank you Janet Crary for sharing news and photos from your hike on Nauset Beach!

© CRARY 2017-11-25 14.26.jpg

“Walked 2 miles south of Nauset Beach in Orleans Saturday to see the 1927 wreck of 3 masted Schooner Montclair. Story and earlier images reported Capecodtimes.com  and Boston Globe*.” – Janet

 

 

Boston Globe 2010 article
Boston Globe 2010 article reprinted 1927 photos and article.

Read the original Boston Globe 1927 article about the ship accident

Boston Globe archives

*Back in 2010 a fifty foot cluster of remains appeared near Chatham and articles mentioned the Montclair 1927 wreck the likely contender.

A year ago and nearby, the 1939 Lutzen shipwreck was unearthed by shifting sands after Fall storms.

“So many ships have piled up on the hidden sand bars off the coast between Chatham and Provincetown that those fifty miles of sea have been called an “ocean graveyard.” Indeed, between Truro and Wellfleet alone, there have been more than 1,000 wrecks.”– National Park Service

45 Years Ago In The Yarmoth County (Nova Scotia) Vanguard…

Linn Parisi Submits-

Hi Joey,

I thought GMG readers would appreciate this blast from the past seen today in The Yarmouth County (Nova Scotia) Vanguard newspaper. 45 years later: We’re still waiting. Think it will ever happen?!

Linn

45 YEARS AGO

The latest on a proposed second ferry service between Nova Scotia and New England was that Gloucester, Massachusetts, still might be the American destination for the new ferry, although Portsmouth, New Hampshire, seemed a likelier candidate, the Vanguard reported in its Oct. 9, 1968 edition. The Nova Scotia port for the service had yet to be announced officially, the paper said, but it looked like Yarmouth would get it, given the terminal facilities already in place here and the town’s location vis-à-vis the highways to the valley and south shore. The new ship was being built in Sweden.