Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Schooner Anna R. Heidritter ~ 3 March 1942

The Heidritter was the last of the great 20th century sailing ships to wreck on North Carolina’s coast.
Built in Bath, ME, the Cohasset burned to the waterline on January 22, 1907 while in Baltimore Harbor. She was rebuilt in Maryland as the Anna R. Heidritter and launched in 1910. She had survived a U-boat attack in WWI and carried bullets in her masts from the encounter. Captain Bennett Coleman commanded her since 1919.
Tracking the Anna R. Heidritter
An article appearing in the New York Times on November 15, 1928 indicated that the schooner had sent out an S.O.S on Tuesday night. However, owner Edward L. Swan (of 26 De Koven Court, Brooklyn) reported it was in no danger. A communication from the Navy station at Norfolk, VA forwarded a message from the steamship K.R. Kingsbury reporting, "Passed four-masted schooner Anna R. Heidritter at 5:45 p.m. Schooner flying signals of distress. Boats gone, also provisions. Request one boat and provisions from revenue cutter. Position: latitude 31:58 north, longitude 75:08 west. Holding under easy canvas." The Kingsbury said that the schooner resumed course after relaying the message. This position would have put the schooner about 30 miles off Fernandina, FL, indicating she had blown off course during a storm.
The New York Times reported on February 12, 1936 that the Heidritter, which had left New York for Charleston, SC 32 days prior with 1,200 tons of coal, was in tow the evening of February 11 and on her way to St. John's Light, FL after having been battered by storms. At the time of her rescue she was 300 miles S.E. of Charleston and about 300 miles off course. Mr. Swan reported that the ship had most likely been blown by a northeast wind across the Gulf Stream and required an easterly wind to get her back. Earlier weather reports told of gales in the Southern waters. The Coast Guard reported that the ships plight had been observed and reported by the passing steamship Raleigh Warner at Jacksonville, which then sent out the Coast Guard cutter Yamacraw to take her in tow. The New York offices of the Coast Guard reported that the schooner had lost her sails and her supply of water was gone. Otherwise, she was in good condition.
On November 28, 1937 the Coast Guard reported the cutter Champlain had taken in tow for New York the Anna R. Heidritter. Apparently the night before she had collided with the Red Star liner Pennland about 40 miles east of Sandy Hook. The schooner suffered damage to the bowsprit and fore-rigging.
While carrying log wood from Charleston to Pennsylvania she hit a storm off Ocracoke and was washed up on a bar on May 2, 1942. After seeking refuge near Hatteras Inlet her anchors parted and she was driven ashore. With her back broken, the crew lashed themselves to the masts.  All 8 on board were eventually saved.
Nine days after being rescued, Captain Coleman died in an auto accident in New Jersey. He was 63 and the youngest of his 8 crewmen. “He was one of the most able shipmasters I ever knew and a gentleman at all times,” wrote Mr. Swan. “None of us carried insurance. Captain Coleman was our insurance policy.”


  1. I am so happy to find the ship and your article....Captain Bennett Dottridge Coleman is my great uncle...brother to my grandpa John A. Coleman, born in Marstons Mills (Cape Cod) MA.....I have just started to research on the family and the story of his death (which was a story many years ago in the Readers Digest)was always told and I just discovered articles about his death in many newspapers at March 12, 1942...I was told this was a schooner run by sails only??? so any information you may also have would be appreciated...
    Thank you
    Dotty Fahey, Milton MA....

  2. Thank you for the information about the schooner Anna R. Heidritter that sank March 1942
    Captain Bennett Dottridge Coleman was my great grand uncle, my great grandpa John Coleman's brother from Marstons Mills, (Cape Cod) MA...I always heard the stories about how he died in a taxi accident after being rescued at sea...I did find articles in several newspapers 3/12/1942 about his death and his sea rescue. So of course I wanted to see his ship because I have several pictures of schooners also...but this brings it into reality with the actual ship picture...This is something I will pass on to my grandchildren as history and not just a story that had been told for years.
    Thank you send comments to dottyfahey@comcast.net thanks