Sunday, March 18, 2012

Schooner George M. Adams ~ 1 May 1897

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1897:

Stranded about 4 a.m. 1 mile SSE. Of the station and 75 yards offshore, the casualty being discovered a few moments later by the patrolman as he returned along his beat, whereupon he discharged his night signal and hastened forward to give the alarm. The keeper, having first telephoned the Bodie Island crew for assistance, to which call they promptly responded, set out with his men and the beach apparatus, drawn by the Government team, for the scene, where they arrived at 5.45 a.m., and at the first shot laid a line across the vessel and landed the master in the breeches buoy. The latter did not desire to have his crew taken off at that time, but while discussing the situation the vessel came in close to the beach, broadside on, forming a lee, and her hands, 8 in number, launched their yawl, and, making fast to the whip line of the buoy, were hauled ashore in safety, with their effects, by the two life saving crews, three trips being thus made. All the shipwrecked sailors were now taken to the Nags Head Station, whence 6 of them left on the 3d inst. By steamer for Norfolk; but the captain and two men remained until the 14th instant, saving what they could from the schooner, with the assistance of the surfmen, and finally disposing of her at public auction.

Steamer Glanayron ~ 22 May 1896

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1896:

Stranded at 7.45 p.m. in heavy weather on the outer Diamond Shoals, about 9 miles SSE. Of this station (Cape Hatteras), her master attributing the casualty to the fact that the light on the cape seemed to show indistinctly. A rocket sent up from the vessel was answered by the patrolman with his Coston light, and when the keeper was notified, a few moments later, he in turn displayed a signal which, being responded to, confirmed his fears that a wreck had occurred. Cooperation was requested by telephone from the Big Kinnakeet and Creeds Hill Life Sating stations, the station team being sent to the latter point to haul their boat to the north shore of the cape, the southwest wind making it too rough to launch from the southern beach. On the arrival of these crews, at 10.55 and 11.30 p.m., respectively, a consultation was held by the three keepers and it was decided, as the night was very dark and the breakers heavy, to wait until early morning before going off to the vessel. A little before daylight two of the surfboats were manned and set out for the scene, arriving alongside the ship at 6 a.m., the third crew being left on shore as a reserve in case of accident. The steamer’s two lifeboats were lowered, laden with her crew’s personal effects, and taken in tow, the men themselves, 23 all told, being distributed among the several boats, and the return trip safely accomplished by 11.45 a.m. On May 24 Cape Hatteras surfmen again boarded the vessel and towed her small boat ashore, also bringing several articles for her master. The shipwrecked crew were maintained at the station until the 26th instant, when they left for Norfolk, VA. The vessel proved a total loss. (See letter of acknowledgement.)


DEAR SIR: We, the undersigned, are under deep obligations to yourself and to keeper P.H. Etheridge and his crew, as also to the keepers and crews of Big Kinnakeet and Creeds Hill life-saving stations for magnificent services rendered us when our steamship Glayron, of Aberystwith, stranded on Diamond Shoals, off Cape Hatteras, on Friday, the 22d of May, at 7.55 p.m. On sending up rockets they were immediately answered by the patrol from the beach, a red Coston signal being burned, and ten minutes later a red rocket was sent up from the life-saving station. At daybreak the noble keepers and their crews came off to our assistance, which was a very difficult task, owing to the state of the sea and the breakers which prevailed at the time. However, they were successful in their work, rescuing all hands on board with their personal effects, and we wish to express to yourself and the keepers and crews of the above life-saving stations our appreciation of these services and our sincere thanks. EVAN FLLOYD, Master ; E.M. LEWIS, First Mate ; E. MURPHY, First Engineer ; WILLIAM F. HAWKES, Third Engineer ; DAVID HUGHES, Second Mate ; EVAN DAVIES, Steward

Schooner George L. Fessenden ~ 27 April 1898

Annual Report of he Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1898:

Wrecked about a mile NE. of the station, and four men were lost; three men rescued by the life saving crews. (For detailed account see caption “Loss of Life.”)

Wreck of the Schooner George L. Fessenden

The three-masted schooner George L.Fessenden was wrecked in the forenoon of April 27, 1898, about 1 mile northeast of the Chicamacomico Station, coast of North Carolina, and four of her crew, whose names, except one, could not be ascertained, were lost.
     The vessel was 24 years old, of 414 tons measurement, hailing from Bridgeton, NJ, and manned by 7 men, including the master, C.B. Norton, who was one of the drowned. She was loaded to her full capacity with crushed stone in Philadelphia, PA, whence she sailed for Southport, at the mouth of Cape Fear River, NC, on March 30. For some reason which does not appear, but was probably stress of weather, she put into Hampton Roads, VA, where it is likely she remained for some time, not having been again heard from until the morning of Tuesday, April 26, when she was discovered by Surfman E.S. Midgett, of the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station, which is some 20 miles north of Cape Hatteras, heading toward New Inlet in a partially disabled condition. Her foremast was broken off about one-third of its length below the crosstrees, and her main topmast was also gone, while it was clear that she had lost most of her sails from the fact that the only canvas spread was a double-reefed spanker, a topsail set as a mainsail, a storm trysail as a foresail, and a flying jib. These damages, as was subsequently ascertained, had occurred some days previous to the wreck in a furious southeast gale which struck the Fessenden in the vicinity of Cape Lookout, not far from her destination, and compelled her to put about and run northward of Cape Hatteras to the vicinity where she appeared on the morning above mentioned.
     When first observed she was about 8 miles east-northeast of the Chicamacomico Station, and after standing toward the shore for a while she tacked off, and finally came to anchor about 4 miles distant, to the northeast. The wind was moderate and the weather clear and fine, but the condition of the vessel and the danger of her position, should a storm arise, caused her to be scrutinized with much care for signs of a signal for assistance; and as the day advanced and none was made, keeper L.B. Midgett, from the lookout of his station, set his code flags to inquire whether she wanted aid. No notice whatever was taken of them, and when the sun went down the schooner still lay comfortably at her anchor.
     During the evening the wind began to freshen, and continued to increase to such an extent that strong fears for her safety were entertained, and all preparations were therefore made at the station for instant action. No alarm occurred, however, during the night, and at daylight Wednesday, the 27th, the vessel was still holding her own, but the sea was very rough, with the wind blowing a stiff northeast gale, and she was riding so heavily that it seemed as though her cables might at any moment give way. She still showed no signal of distress, but incessant watch was kept upon her, and between 8 and 9 o’clock it became evident that the cables had parted and she was drifting toward the beach. At 8.50 she struck on the outer bar about a mile north of the station, and finally fetched up, a few minutes later, some 250 yards from the beach, head on.
     The Chicamacomico crew started out with their apparatus as soon as they saw that the vessel was going ashore, and reached the place of stranding within 20 minutes after she struck. The crews of the New Inlet and Gull Shoal stations had been requested by telephone to cooperate, and both promptly responded, the former reaching the scene almost simultaneously with the Chicamacomico crew, and that from Gull Shoal arriving a few moments later.
Lyle Gun
     When the schooner stranded her crew were gathered on the forecastle deck, but the heavy waves at once began to sweep the whole hull, and the men were therefore compelled to seek refuge on the jib-boom. Even there they were constantly beaten by the crests of the great waves and their position was extremely precarious. The Lyle gun was instantly placed in position and a moment later sent out its first friendly shot, which was so well aimed that it laid its line fairly across the jib-boom, almost at the very hands of the shipwrecked men, who seized it at once and began, as well as they could, to haul it out in order to get the whip line and block aboard. Situated where they were, this task would have been hard under almost any conditions, but was now extremely so because of the swift longshore current which caught the line and swept he bight of it far to the southward. At times the men would almost fall from the boom, but nevertheless they were doing fairly well and would probably have succeeded had the hull of the vessel been sufficiently sound to stand the shocks of the sea for even a good half hour. One of the witnesses describes her as “rotten as a pear.” Her dead weight cargo of 521 tons of stone fixed her as firmly in the sand as a breakwater, and under such circumstances her weakness made it impossible for her to hold together. While the poor sailors were desperately struggling to get the life saving lines on board, and within not more than 20 minutes after stranding, she broke into a thousand pieces and the entire crew, still clinging to the jib-boom, were precipitated into the surf. Two of them, it was stated by some of those present, were struck by pieces of wreckage and killed outright. The captain was said to have been washed overboard and drowned when the schooner struck and while all hands were still on deck. At all events, fur of the seven were alive just after the hull broke up and these manfully breasted the waves in a desperate and almost forlorn attempt to save their lives.
Lyle Gun Projectile
      The life saving men were properly equipped with heaving lines, and the moment the crash came they scattered along the shore to the southward, in which direction the current carried the swimmers, and pushed out into the surf as far as they could go without losing foothold and being themselves swept seaward, so that whenever a man came within possible reach they either caught him in their arms or threw him a line, by which they drew him within grasping distance. In this way three were rescued, but the fourth, who was also the fourth member of the ship’s company to perish, drifted beyond reach and drowned. The last man saved was taken from the water fully a mile south of the wreck, and all three were nearly exhausted—one to every outward appearance being beyond possibility of resuscitation. The most vigorous efforts, however, were made to restore him to consciousness, and by the intelligent and persistent application of the Directions for Restoring the Apparently drowned, in which all the crews are thoroughly drilled, his life was saved.
Faking Box
     The work of rescue involved peril to the life of every man engaged in it, and it is, therefore, only a matter of justice to state that the life savers were bravely assisted by two volunteers of the neighborhood, C.P. and A.F. Midgett, who were under no obligations to participate save that imposed upon noble minds by the highest sense of humanity, and who well performed their voluntary part.
     Strange as it may appear, none of the rescued men knew the names of their lost shipmates, although they had been in daily association with them for at least a month within the narrow limits of a vessel’s forecastle.
     The survivors, who remained at the station for several days, were provided with proper clothing from the stores of the Women’s National Relief Association, and when they were ready to depart were supplied with the month necessary to secure transportation by contributions from the crews of the Chicamacomico, New Inlet, Gull Shoal, Little Kinnakeet and Cape Hatteras stations.
     The incidents of this wreck were much like those of the Edward W. Schmidt, recorded in previous pages, and there is room for scarcely a doubt that I both instances the lives of all on board would have been saved had the masters signaled for, or even in case of the Fessenden, shown a willingness to accept aid or advice from the keepers of the life saving stations before it was too late.
     The following letter from the shipwrecked men was sent to the General Superintendent:


SIR: We, the three survivors of the schooner George L. Fessenden, wrecked near this station April 27, 1898, wish to state that everything was done by the crews of the three stations, Chicamacomico, New Inlet, and Gull Shoal, to save us, and that the loss of the four other men was in no way the fault of the surfmen, as the vessel went to pieces in twenty minutes after we got the shot line. We all had to take to the jib boom, and it was impossible for us to haul off the whip line from there; the vessel was as rotten as a pear, and was a wreck before we ran ashore. We also wish to heartily commend the work of the Life-Saving Service along this dreadful coast; the men are experts in the heroic performance of saving life and property. In conclusion we wish to express our thanks for the kind treatment given us by your men while we were with them. Respectfully yours, JOHN F. JONES, Steward ; GEORGE RAASCH, Seaman, LOUIS BURNS, Seaman, of the wrecked schooner George L. Fessenden

Newspaper Article:
New York Times, May 1, 1898

Schooner G.A. Kohler ~ 23 August 1933

Schooner G.A. Kohler
The American-owned G.A. Kohler was built in 1919 and was one of the last of the large sailing vessels. She sailed from the pier of the Redman-Vane company of Baltimore, MD on August 20, 1933. 
     A huge four-masted schooner, she was reported as “wallowing helplessly in the breakers a mile south of Gull Shoal Station,” when the full fury of a storm struck the Carolina banks the morning of August 23, 1933. Throughout the day and night, she remained there, showing distress signals, while the coastguardsmen stood helplessly by waiting for a break in the storm. The following morning, after hurricane winds started to subside, crews from Gull Shoal and Chicamacomico, led by Coast Guard Capt. John Allen Midgett, rescued the crew, which consisted of Captain George H. Hopkins, his wife, 8 crewmen and a dog. All were brought to shore safely using the Lyle gun and the Breeches buoy.
     After the hurricane tide subsided, the ship was left high and dry on the beach, far beyond the reach of all but the highest tides. The Kohler remained there for 10 years, until burned during WWII for her iron fittings. The captain had earlier sold the wreck to a local Avon resident for $150.
     Over time the remains of the wreck have been covered and uncovered by shifting sands. Her charred remnants remain—often obscured by shifting sand.

Photo made sometime between her wreckage and 1945.

Schooner George W. Truitt Jr. ~ 20 February 1928

On February 23 The Beaufort News reported a vessel lost near Ocracoke. It proved to be the 700-ton four-masted schooner George W. Truitt, Jr. under the command of Captain E.G. Bennett, she was en route to New York City from New River, SC with 645,000 feet of lumber.

A very strong gale from the southwest was blowing at 40 mph that day, causing the G.W. Truitt Jr. to drift onto a sand bar close to shore. All persons on board were rescued by using the breeches buoy, as performed by the Coast Guardsmen of the Ocracoke, Hatters Inlet and Creed's Hill Stations. 

The Beaufort reporter could not get in touch with the Ocracoke Station and was furnished a wreck report by Captain H.D. Goodwin of the Fort Macon Station, "... vessel went ashore Monday in a 40 mile an hour gale from the southwest." The Ocracoke Station was the first to observe the vessel in distress. According to Captain Goodwin, "They were saved by the heroic efforts of the coast guardsmen from the Ocracoke, Hatteras Inlet and Creed's Hill stations of the U.S. Coast Guard. The crewmen who were brought ashore in the breeches buoy were: Captain Bennet; W.D. Bennett, mate; George W. Brown, cook; George Liryel, E. Baustod, E.D. Olsen and T. Neilson, seamen.

Fort Macon Life Saving Crew

Schooner George Weems ~ 20 May 1908

At about 12.05 p.m., as she was steaming from Charleston and Georgetown for Baltimore, fire was reported in the after part of the engine room on bulkhead of steamer George Weems, Captain L.G. Hudgins. Fire apparatus was immediately manned, and three streams of water obtained in 10 to 15 seconds. Excellent discipline was maintained. Both officers and crew working valorously to extinguish the fire until about 1.30 p.m., when, on account of the great rapidity with which the fire was gaining, and the captain seeing that by remaining longer he was jeopardizing the lives of the officers and crew, he gave the order to abandon ship, which was done in a seamanlike manner. After seeing all hands safely in the lifeboat, the captain left the ship and laid his course for Frying Pan light-vessel, from the desk of which he saw the steamer George Weems disappear about 8 p.m. Steamer valued at $25,000.

Schooner Genevieve ~ 29 November 1893

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1894:

Three-masted schooner, supposed to be the Genevieve, sunk 12 miles from Cape Fear station. Saved two gaff topsails and some blocks. Searched in the vicinity for the crew, but found no one.

Steamer Glasbolt ~ May 25, 1884


On May 25, 1884 the Scotish steamer Glasbolt with a crew of 16 and one passenger, on its way to Philadelphia with a load of fruit, wrecked on the South Point of Ocracoke because the captain misidentified the Ocracoke lighthouse. The weather was fair and the ship was in no immediate danger. The Life Saving crew "stayed [sic] by them" until the wrecking steamer from Norfolk "come to her relief."

Steamer Gulf City ~ 11 June 1869

Schooner General Banks ~ 10 April 1885

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1885:

At about noon, shortly after the return of the crew of the Ocracoke Station (Sixth District) coast of North Carolina, from the Sadie, the lookout reported a schooner heading for the beach, about a mile to the southward and westward of the station. The wind was blowing a gale from the northward, with thick, rainy weather. By the time the boat be got out of the house the schooner struck. The life-saving crew reached her in half an hour, and found she was the schooner General Banks, of Boston, Massachusetts, with a crew of four men, bound from Providence, Rhode Island, to Norfolk, Virginia, in ballast. She had encountered heavy gales on the passage and lost nearly all her sails. In this crippled condition she had been blown far to the leeward of her course, and the captain, finding it impossible to beat back to Cape Henry, determined to beach her. The station-crew made two trips to the vessel in saving the people, with their personal effects and all movable articles possible, and behaved with great gallantry. On the following day (11th) a messenger was dispatched on horseback a distance of eight miles, to telegraph for the assistance of the Baker Salvage company, of Norfolk, and on the 15th the schooner was hauled afloat by the wrecking steamer Resolute and towed to her destination. While the vessel lay ashore her men were cared for at the station, the life-saving crew aiding them in every possible way until they took their departure for Norfolk.

The captain of the General Banks was very grateful for the assistance given him, and sent the following letter to the General Superintendent:


“SIR: I desire to express to you my sincere appreciation of the services rendered this morning to me and my crew on board the stranded schooner General Banks by the keeper and crew of the life-saving station on Ocracoke Island. The schooner General Banks struck on the shoals off Ocracoke Island at 12 M. this day, and, although the weather was densely stormy, in a half hours’ time the surfboat from Ocracoke Island was alongside and offered assistance. I and crew availed ourselves of this timely aid, and we were safely conveyed to the station and everything possible done for our comfort. The station-men have been working all this day in a driving rain-storm and fierce gale of wind, endeavoring to save everything possible from the wreck. I cannot express to you and the public the great benefit I have derived from their assistance, to say nothing of the saving of our lives and the splendid manner in which the life-saving crew have acted. Respectfully, E.E. Norton, Master Schooner General Banks.

Schooner Governor Ames ~ 13 December 1909

Sacramento Union / December 13, 1909 


CHARLESTON (S.C.), Dec, 15. That the five-masted schooner Governor Ames, bound from Brunswick, Ga., to New York, foundered and went to pieces near Cape Hatteras Monday afternoon, and the captain, his wife and the crew of twelve men all perished, is the story of Josiah Spearing, sole survivor. Spearing was picked up yesterday morning, half dead from cold and shock. He said that the schooner struck rocks about midday Monday in a high wind and a heavy fog. All attempts to launch rafts failed. The captain’s wife was lashed first to one part of the ship and then to another, a mast finally falling upon her and killing her. Spearing was thrown into the sea, but crawled up on some of the cross ties and held on until rescued.

The Wreck of the Governor Ames
By Steven Ujifusa (Philly History Blog)

On December 9, 1909, the lumber schooner Governor Ames set sail from Brunswick, Georgia on a routine coasting voyage to New York. On board were 14 souls, including Captain King and his wife. Lashed onto her upper deck was a cargo of freshly cut railroad ties, most likely headed for the New York Central Railroad’s supply yard.

Captain King was in command of a unique vessel. When launched in 1888, the Governor Ames (named after Massachusetts governor Oliver Ames) was the only five masted schooner in the world, and one of the largest cargo vessels afloat, grossing 1,600 tons and stretching 252 feet in length. She was also an expensive ship, costing $75,000. Her owners, the Atlantic Shipping Company of Somerset, Massachusetts, had built the Ames for short cargo runs up and down the Eastern Seaboard, as well as longer runs to South America. She was also swift, with a reputation of being “speedy and a good sea boat.”

Yet the Governor Ames got off to a bad start on her maiden voyage from Boston to Baltimore. In December 1888, she was dismasted off Cape Cod and ran aground on Georges Bank. As the wrecked ship groaned and wallowed in the Atlantic, the wet and shivering crew prayed for help before the Ames broke up. “Here we remained clearing up and waiting for assistance,” recounted J.F. Davis, the brother of the Ames’s captain. “Up to Sunday we saw but few vessels, and they passed at a distance.”  Sunday, the fishing schooner Ethel Maude of Gloucester ran up to us, and we made a bargain for a passage for myself and the two extra carpenters to Gloucester. The extent of the damage at the time I left the vessel was about $10,000 due to loss of spars.”

Miraculously, no lives were lost, and the maimed Ames did not break up. Help arrived, and she was re-floated and repaired by February of the following year. She departed New Haven, Connecticut for Buenos Aires, Argentina carrying 2,000,000 board feet of lumber, expected to sell for $15.50 per square foot. Three months later, she departed Portland, Maine, carrying a similar sized cargo of spruce, valued at nearly $30,000 and according to The New York Times, “the largest cargo, perhaps with one exception, ever taken by an American vessel.” Ill-luck continued to dog the Ames. She ran aground again in 1899, this time in the warm waters off Key West while en route from Philadelphia to Galveston. To re- float her, the crew had to throw 200 tons of coal overboard. This time, she suffered minimal damage.

After the Key West grounding, the curse on the Ames lifted. When Captain King guided his vessel up the stormy Atlantic Coast in December 1909, the Ames and been accident-free for almost a decade. She had even survived a few brutal trips around stormy Cape Horn, hauling New England lumber to Australia. Although the air was frigid and the iron seas menacing, this run to New York would be a routine trip by comparison to battling Cape Horn westerlies. The Governor Ames was a twenty-year-old veteran.

The sailing ship did not die out with the coming of the deep water steamer in the mid-19th century. Well into the 1900s, soaring masts were a common sight along the Delaware River. Big, steam-powered craft did wipe out the clipper ships and North Atlantic packets on the ocean routes, but the versatile schooner remained popular for hauling basic, low-cost bulk cargoes such as coal, timber, gravel, railroad ties, and ice, especially to and from smaller ports that did not have railroad access.

The name of this three-masted schooner depicted at Race Street and Delaware Avenue hasn't been lost to history. There was little concept of tall ship “romance” when this photograph was taken. People took these ships for granted. It was only after the schooners vanished — supplanted first by the railroad and the Mack truck — did people lament their disappearance. As singer-songwriter Stan Rogers said about the Nova Scotian schooner Bluenose, she “knew hard work in her time. Hard work in every line.”

For two centuries, the schooner was the served as the humble workhorse of the American mercantile marine, a common sight in big harbors and small ports all along the Eastern Seaboard. They were relatively cheap to build out of abundant native timber, especially in Maine. According to naval historian Howard Chappelle, “in spite of the fact that ships and square riggers have monopolized certain important trades, such as the packet and East Indian, and though they handled large and valued cargoes individually, the total tonnage and value of such cargoes were small compared to that carried by the schooners engaged in the coasting and foreign trades.”

On December 25, 1909, as Philadelphians gathered in warm, pine-festooned churches to celebrate Christmas, a battered, badly-shaken Joseph Speering arrived in Philadelphia on the steamship Shawmut. He was the sole survivor of the Governor Ames, which had sunk off North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras in a gale twelve days earlier. He told the press that everyone else on board had either been drowned or crushed to death by collapsing masts, including the captain’s wife, who the crew had lashed to the rigging in an attempt to protect her from the boiling seas crashing over the schooner’s bulwarks. As the Ames’s wooden keel bounced up and down against the rocky shoals, Speering jumped overboard and clung to a floating hatch cover. He then watched the Governor Ames break up and sink.

All alone, Speering clung to the hatch cover for over twelve hours before the crew of the passing Shawmut lowered a lifeboat and plucked him from the frigid seas.

This information found at

Schooner G.W. Carpenter ~ April 1867

The Charleston Daily News, May 20, 1867

Schooner George W. Wells ~ 3 September 1913

The George W. Wells was the first six-masted schooner ever built and
the largest sailing ship to wreck on the Outer Banks. The interior of her cargo
holds was compared to the interior of a cathedral.


Special to The Washington Post

Norfolk, Va., Sept. 4 -- Life-savers of Hatteras, Ocracoke, and Durants Neck stations established a new record for bravery when they rescued 20 men, 2 women, and 2 children from the six-masted schooner George W. Wells, which went ashore yesterday 3 miles north of Hatteras Inlet, during the terrific storm which swept the Virginia and North Carolina coast. The schooner, which was one of the largest afloat, is a total wreck.
     The vessel was bound from New York to Fernandina light. When discovered by life-savers the men and women were clinging to the vessel's riggings.
     The wind was blowing 70 miles an hour, and the rain fell in torrents. After several unsuccessful attempts the life-savers finally succeeded in reaching the schooner and all were taken off.
     An unknown schooner, with only one mast standing and no signs of life on board, is ashore 3 miles north of Ocracoke. The revenue cutter Seminole has gone to her assistance. Two miles farther south an oil steamer flying the British flag is also ashore. Life-savers have been unable to learn her name, but are making strenuous efforts to reach her.

The Lowell Sun, Massachusetts

NORFOLK, Va., Sept. 5 -- With the telegraph wires still down it was impossible today to get detailed information of the havoc wrought by Wednesday's storm on the North Carolina coast between Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke on the lower coast. The six-masted schooner George W. Wells, which went ashore short of Hatteras, has gone to pieces.

The twenty men, two women and two infants rescued from the schooner are being temporarily cared for in the vicinity of the Ocracoke Inlet and Durant lifesaving stations.
The schooner reported ashore three miles north of Ocracoke turns out to be a four-master sighted in distress 12 miles off shore with her main top-mast and bowsprit gone. This vessel is believed to have been the schooner Annie R. Heidritter, heretofore reported drifting helplessly eight miles southwest of Diamond Shoals.

Unless the Ocracoke disaster is confirmed, the loss of life appears to have been very small.

Information found at Photos courtesy of Capt. York's great great grandson, Jean-Pierre Fortin

As the George W. Wells approached the shore, Capt. Joseph H. York ordered her anchors lowered, but the chains parted, and the Wells was driven onto the beach near the present day pony pen.
     Surfman Roscoe Burrus at the Hatteras Inlet station had spied the Wells. Well aware of the difficulty of attempting a rescue in hurricane force winds, Keeper Barnett requested assistance from Durant’s Station on Hatteras Island. Crews from all three stations arrived at the wreck between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Reports indicate that they participated in one of the most daring and courageous rescue operations ever recorded.
     Surfmen from the Hatteras Inlet station had harnessed ponies to their beach apparatus cart which was heavily loaded with breeches buoy, pulleys, sand anchor, various sizes of hemp line, brass Lyle gun and other equipment. The sea tide was rushing over the beach, inundating the cart as every wave passed by. After two miles the ponies balked and refused to continue. Without hesitation the surfmen hitched themselves to the cart and pulled their equipment the remaining six miles, often in water up their waists and through quicksand, to the site of the wreck.  
     Keeper Barnett’s first two shots from the Lyle gun fell short of the Wells. He fired five more shots, but none succeeded in getting the breeches buoy to the schooner. The last line parted as it was being hauled to the vessel.  
     Finally Capt. York tied a line to an empty oil barrel and sent it adrift. After an hour the life savers were able to reach the barrel by wading into the sea up to their necks. Soon afterwards they were successful in sending the breeches buoy out to the stranded schooner. Captain York secured the hawser high up on one of the masts, and signaled that he and his crew and passengers were ready to abandon ship.
     By 11 o’clock that night all 26 people (20 crew members, three women, and three children) and a large Saint Bernard dog were brought safely to shore. One of the passengers was barely able to keep his two year old child’s head above water as they were pulled to safety. Capt. York was the last to leave his crippled ship. He carried the Saint Bernard and a red lantern, the latter of which he dropped into the ocean just before landing on shore.

Steamer Cragside ~ 21 February 1881

Report of Keeper James W. Howard:

"Feb. 21st 1881: Steam Ship Cragside, -- Home port -- London England. 4 years old, 2 masts, Master, W.L. Sinclair, traveling from Galveston, Texas to Liverpool, England -- Crew 23 -- cargo, cotton.... wrecked near Ocracoke LSS, 7 pm at night, moderate winds, thick fog, high water, sea moderate.... Arrived at wreck at 11:30 pm, returned to station 5 am.... 2 trips with surf boat... Breeches Buoy used -- 15 trips of breeches buoy to wreck.... 22 lives saved, English and Japanese. (1 life lost -- Ipswich,  England) attempted to leave in ship's Boat and was capsized...."

Schooner Grace G. Bennett ~ 1913

The three-masted Bennett, under the command of Captain S.H. Larmore, was sunk to her hatches 1-1/2 miles west of southwest point. Built in Bethel, DE in 1893, she was en route to Baltimore, MD from Washington with a cargo of lumber. Captain Larmore was traveling with his wife, four daughters and crew who, according to the wreck report, was mate George Bennett, cook Richard Ford "colard" and sailors Drennen Larmore and John Smith "colard."

Schooner Georgia A. Gaskins ~ Summer 1919

The Independent, Elizabeth City, NC, 11 July 1919

Schooner Gracie D. Chambers ~ February 13, 1919

Schooner George S. Marts ~ 16 April 1887

New York Times, April 19, 1887

Steamer Governor Safford ~ 24 July 1908

Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
S.J. Doughan, Photographer
The steamer Governor Safford went down during rough weather, four miles from Bogue Inlet in 40 ft. of water. At the time she was under tow by the steamer Katahdin. All 10 crew members were able to row a life boat safely to the Katahdin, which carried them to Baltimore, MD.

The Safford was a wooden hulled side-wheel ship, built in 1884 at Camden, NJ. This ship was a 307 gross, 261 net ton. She was 129.6 feet in length, 26 feet in beam and 7.5 feet in depth of hold, and had a single cylinder steam engine with a 28 inch bore and a 72 inch stroke. In 1900 she was in passenger service based out of Cedar Key, FL but in 1908 her home port changed to New York. 

Schooner George N. Reed, January 20, 1915

New Berne Weekly Journal, NC, Jan. 26, 1915

Schooner General S.E. Merwin ~ 4 March 1901

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1901:

Stranded ½ mile SSE. of station at 3:15 a.m. Station crew hauled the surfboat to the beach abreast the wreck, launched it, and boarded the wreck at 4:30 a.m., the crews from the Little Kinnakeet and Chicamacomico stations assisting. The schooner’s crew of 7 men were safely landed in the surfboat, and afterwards their personal property and the schooner’s boat were taken ashore. The master was succored at the station for 5 days, in order that he might look after the wreck which became a total loss. (See letter of acknowledgement.)


DEAR SIR: I wish, through you, to extend the thanks of my crew and myself to the brave keeper and crew of this station for their prompt and valuable services in rescuing us through the heavy surf with surfboat, as the schooner lay too far from shore to use the beach apparatus, and she was fast filling up. Keeper D.M. Pugh would have come to our assistance sooner if he had not had to wait for two men from the crew of one of the adjacent stations to help man his boat. We also wish to thank them, one and all, for their generous treatment while we stayed at their station; and I personally wish to thank Captain Pugh for the personal aid which he rendered me while I remained there. I remain yours, very respectfully, J.F. RUTLEDGE, Master of the Schooner Gen’l S.E. Merwin

Schooner George R. Congdon ~ 31 January 1901

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1901:

About 3 a.m. this schooner stranded at the point on the beach about 3 miles NNE. from Cape Hatteras Life Saving Station, the master having mistaken Cape Hatteras light for the lightship. It was a dark and foggy night with a strong N. by W. wind and a rough surf. The station patrolman discovered the wreck at 4 a.m. and quickly returned to the station and gave the alarm. Keeper notified the keepers of the adjacent life saving stations of the casualty, and then hastened to the scene with the beach apparatus, arriving there at 5 a.m. The Big Kinnakeet and Creeds Hill crews arrived soon afterward, the former bringing their surfboat on a boat wagon drawn by horses. The first shot of the Lyle gun placed a line across the wreck. The beach apparatus was set up and before sunrise the crew of 7 men and their personal effects were safely landed in the breeches buoy. They were taken to the Cape Hatteras Station, where it was necessary to succor them for 15 days, owing to stress of weather. The schooner became a total loss. (See letter of acknowledgement.)


SIR: I wish to thank the Cape Hatteras, Creeds Hill, and Big Kinnakeet life-saving crews for rescuing the captain and crew of the schooner George R. Congdon, which stranded about 3 a.m. on January 31, 1901. Before sunrise the entire crew was landed on the beach in the breeches buoy. A heavy sea was running at the time of the rescue, and the vessel was about 250 yards from the beach. I also wish to express my thanks for the kindness showed me by the keeper of the Cape Hatteras Life-Saving station. E.E. BAYLES, Master of the schooner George R. Congdon

Newspaper Article:
New York Times, February 1, 1901

Steamer Glenrath ~ 30 September 1890

Beaufort, NC

On this day in 1890 at roughly 4:45 p.m. the British steamship Glenrath, enroute from Pensacola, FL for Antwerp via Norfolk, Va, hit the remains of the British steamer Aberlady Bay off of Cape Lookout. The Glenrath eventually sank along with it's cargo of lumber. Around 9 p.m. the chief mate and 12 crew members manned a lifeboat and left to summon help. They made it to shore safely in the ships boats after rowing for eleven hours and were cared for at the Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station. The master and remaining crew departed the sinking vessel the next morning and were met by a life boat around 2 p.m. and towed to Beaufort. 

New Berne Weekly Journal, October 9, 1890

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Schooner Harry Prescott ~ 18 January 1912

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscall year ending June 30, 1912:

On the night of this date occurred one of the most serious and important wrecks of the year when the 433-ton schooner Harry Prescott, from New York for Wilmington, NC, with a cargo of salt, mistook Hatteras Light for the Diamond Shoals Lightship, got off her course, and stranded in the vicinity of the Inner Diamond Shoals.
     The vessel struck 2 miles south of the Cape Hatteras Life Saving Station and a mile from the shore. Her lights were discovered about 9.30 p.m. by the beach patrol from the station named. As there was a strong southwest wind blowing and a high sea, the crews of three stations—Cape Hatteras, Big Kinnakeet, and Creeds Hill—assembled on the north side of the cape in the hope that a boat might be launched under the protection of the land. After a conference of the station keepers on the beach it was decided that there should be small chance of going alongside the vessel in the darkness, even if a rescuing boat’s crew should succeed in making the trip to her. They therefore concluded to wait for daylight.
     At 5.30 a.m. of the 19th, although dawn brought no improvement in wind and sea, the power surfboat from the Cape Hatteras station, which had been hauled to the beach during the night, put off from the shore.
     The life saving crew found the schooner hard and fast on the windward side of the shoals, her hull practically under water, and the seas breaking high over such portions as were still exposed. Three of her crew of 7 men were in the mizzen rigging and four were astride the flying jib boom. Finding, after several attempts, that it would be impossible to get nearer to the vessel than 50 yards, the boat’s crew dropped anchor to windward and drifted down toward her, using engine and oars to keep in proper position and avoid being swamped. When they had come as close to her as they dared venture a heaving stick, thrown by a surfman, carried a line within reach of the sailors aloft. Each of the three, in turn, as the line was thrown, tied it about his body, cast himself into the sea, and was hauled into the surfboat.
     The life savers next turned their attention to the men on the jib boom, and for fully 6 hours maneuvered to get near enough to repeat the line-throwing performance. Finally, becoming convinced that the rescue could not be concluded until wind and sea should moderate, and their boat, moreover, having been seriously damaged by contact with floating wreckage, the rescuers put back to the shore.
     In the evening the wind shifted to the northeast, cutting down the sea appreciably and checking the current. To have ventured in the darkness near a submerged wreck lying in the broken waters of the shoals would have been little short of madness, however. The life saving crews therefore passed the night on the beach. At dawn of the 20th the Cape Hatteras crew again launched their boat. Arriving at the vessel, they found the crew of the Creeds Hill station standing by watching for a favorable opportunity to take the sailors off, all four of whom were still on the jib-boom. The chance soon came, and the boat from Cape Hatteras, being under power, ran in near the wreck and completed the work undertaken the day before, using heaving stick and line as in the first instance.
     In his official report of this rescue the commanding officer of the revenue cutter Itasca, Capt. John G. Berry, who arrived on the scene on the night of the 19th, says:
     "The rescue was accomplished with thoroughness and as rapidly as the terribly adverse conditions would permit. It is almost incredible that those four men could have remained for 24 hours on that wreck, washed in the breakers and clinging to a spar, but they did it and do not appear to have suffered any material injury."

Newspaper Article:
New York Times, January 21, 1912

Barkentine Henry Norwell ~ 7 July 1896

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30 1897:

Stranded at 2 a.m. 2-1/2 miles NNE. of the station, having failed to wear ship in a heavy squall. Information of the disaster was brought to the keeper two hours later by a local resident. A crew of 8 men was employed (inactive seamen), and with the assistance of the keeper of the Chicamacomico Station the life savers proceeded to her aid in the surfboat. Finding that the vessel had worked over the outer bar, close inshore, it was decided not to use the boat. A line was sent from the wreck and a hawser set up by the life savers; a boat-swain’s chair was then rigged on a traveler, and all hands (10 in number, including the master’s wife) were safely landed, together with their effects and a portion of the ship’s stores, which were hauled to the station by the service team from Chicamacomico. By ordered of the owners the vessel was turned over to the wreck commissioner on July 10, and the material saved was sold on the 14th, the barkentine proving a total loss. The shipwrecked people were sheltered at the station, the crew leaving for Elizabeth City on the fourth day, but the master remaining until the final disposition was made of the wreck.

Schooner Hattie L. Fuller ~ April 13, 1877

The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 24, 1877