Sunday, April 22, 2012

Schooner Cordelia E. Hayes ~ 15 January 1905

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Services for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1905:

At 5.30 a.m. the lookout on watch at the station, and also the patrol, reported a light in the direction of Diamond Shoals. The keeper upon observing it from the tower communicated by telephone with Big Kinnakeet and Creeds Hill stations, whose patrols had also sighted the strange light. The surfboat was launched and the crew pulled out in the direction of Diamond Shoal. A strong breeze was blowing from NNE. With a high sea running, and after a long hard pull to seaward a stranded vessel was sighted on the inner Diamond Shoal, 5 miles from shore with the heavy sea sweeping over her. They reached the wreck at 9 a.m., the crew from the Creeds Hill station arriving at the same time. The lifesaving crew from Big Kinnakeet station had also launched their boat and were ready to render assistance. The shipwrecked crew, consisting of 10 men and a woman, were taken from the wreck by the lifesavers and landed safely on shore, where they were furnished with clothing from the supply of the Women’s National Relief Association, and sheltered at the station until the 19th instant. In the meantime the vessel broke up and proved a total loss. (See letter of acknowledgment.)


SIR: I should feel very ungrateful if I failed to express my high appreciation of the services rendered by keepers E.H. Peel and P.H. Etheridge, and their crews, of the Creeds Hill and Cape Hatteras life-saving stations, in rescuing me and the crew of the schooner Cordelia E. Hays, of Portland, Me., on the 15th instant. At great risk we were taken from the schooner while the seas were breaking completely over her and she was showing signs of going to pieces, for which service I wish to publicly thank them. We all wish to express the opinion that keepers Peel and Etheridge are masters in handling a surfboat. We watched all their movements and never before saw such skill as they displayed time and again. We expected that their boats would be lost, but at the right time they always had them in position to ride the mountains of seas. They brought their boats alongside the vessel, a perilous feat, and took us in safety to the station on shore, where we received every attention and good treatment. Respectfully, A.J. BROWN, Master Schooner Cordelia E. Hayes


"I found your blog detailing various shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina while searching for information related to one of the schooners captained by my great grandfather, Elmer Ross. The ship was the Cordelia E. Hayes which ran aground off Diamond Shoals in January of 1905. I was recently visiting with my ailing father who was recounting to me some of the history about Captain Ross, who was his mother's father. He told me about the last voyage of the Cordelia Hayes

In January, 1905 the shipping company told Captain Ross  that the Hayes was loaded and ready to sail. Having promised his wife that he would be present for the birth of their children, and his wife due to give birth, he declined to take the ship out and begrudgingly allowed Captain Brown to take her. As we know, Captain Brown ran her aground off the NC coast.

A number of items were salvaged from the ship, I believe by a private salvage operation. The ship's colors and her clock were by default returned to Captain Ross, and my father still has those. In fact, the clock was chiming the hours and half hours as I sat and listened to my father's story. Other items were auctioned off by the salvage company, likely right on the beach. Captain Ross was not able to attend the auction as he was still in Portland with his wife for the birth, but he submitted maximum bids in absentia for several items he wanted to get back. One of those items was a spinet piano he had commissioned specifically so that it would fit down the gangway of the Hayes for his wife to play when she was aboard. Unfortunately, the piano sold for more than his maximum bid, so he did not get it.

As I read your blog post about the Hayes and the one comment at the end, I was flabbergasted to see that someone claimed to have the piano. The commenter gave no name, only an email address, and I have sent an email to that address but have not received any sort of reply. I would dearly love to be able to show my father an image of the piano before he dies, and I wonder if there's anything you might be able to do to help me get in touch with that commenter. I also submitted a comment to the post with some of this information as it does not seem to be showing on the page."

If the person who shared information about the piano is reading this post, please get in touch with Mr. Perkins at


  1. I have a piano that was supposed to have been salvaged from this boat, is there any information that would verify that? Thank you!

    1. The Cordelia E. Hayes went to pieces and was a total loss. I doubt the lifesavers would have risked lives to save a piano. Tthere's no record of them attempting to recover anything but people ... and it sounds like they had their hands full doing that. Perhaps your piano somehow swept to shore, though it would have been in pretty rough shape.

    2. Anonymous, I've sent you an email at the address you listed above, but thought I would post part of my message here as well.

      My great grandfather, Elmer Ross, was the captain of the Cordelia E. Hays. He had somewhat begrudgingly agreed to allow Captain Brown to take the ship out while he remained at home with his wife for the birth of a child, and it was on that voyage that Captain Brown ran her aground off Diamond Shoals. I was just revisiting this story with my father over the weekend, amidst the chiming of the ship’s clock from the Hays, and he got to talking about some of the items from the ship. The spinet piano was something that Captain Ross had commissioned specifically to fit down the gangway of the Hays so that his wife would have something to play. When the ship ran aground and broke up some of the items were salvaged, and the piano was one of the items Captain Ross was interested in, but as he was not able to attend the auction (held on the beach, most likely) he had submitted written maximum bids for it and other things, and it apparently sold for more than his maximum bid. If you have a decent photo of the piano, I would love to be able to share it with my father. As a lifelong organist, organ restorer, and piano player, and grandson of the man who commissioned it, I know he would be absolutely thrilled to see it.

      Douglas Perkins

    3. Mr. Perkins, Please confirm the above email address is correct. I (finally) have some pics to send you.