Lieutenant Grimke, his wife, their only child and the child’s nurse boarded the Harvest on November 17, 1825. They were accompanied by 5 other passengers and a crew of 6. The Harvest was bound from Norfolk to Charleston and carried a mixed cargo.
That afternoon, soon after passing Cape Henry, the schooner ran into a strong northwest gale, and at two o’clock the next morning she stranded. Both anchors were immediately let go and her stern swung around toward the distant beach, though not until her hatches had washed off and water had begun pouring into her hold. In the darkness the passengers were gathered onto the quarter deck, where the women and child were wrapped in the mainsail to protect them from the wind and waves which by then were sweeping all the way across the vessel.
At dawn the ship’s boat was launched, and the captain, mate, two crewmen and several passengers succeeded in reaching shore. Later some residents of the area (possibly Nags Head) attempted to row out to the wreck in a fishing dory, but they were overturned in the surf. Not until the sea subsided in mid-afternoon were they able to get through to the stranded vessel. By then, Lieutenant Grimke was stretched out on the deck, suffering from injuries and exhaustion. He was quickly lowered into the dory, followed by the remaining survivors. He died before reaching the breakers. Soon after the dory was swamped in the surf and four more people were drowned—Lieutenant Grimke’s child, the child’s nurse, the cabin boy and cook.
Mrs. Grimke reached shore safely, suffering from severe shock. A second passenger—an unnamed German—was so moved by the experience that he was reported in a deranged condition. While Mrs. Grimke and the German were escorted to Norfolk by a physician, the captain of the Harvest supervised the removal of the cargo and managed to save approximately two thirds of the material aboard the vessel. The bodies of Lieutenant Grimke, his child and nurse were never found.