Thursday, April 5, 2012

Schooner Thetis ~ 24 December 1811

American Schooner Thetis in 1794
A Royal Museum Art Print
Thanks to Kay Singer of the Historic Hillsborough Commission of Hillsborough, NC for leading me to another North Carolina shipwreck, the Schooner Thetis, commanded by Capt. William Pike. There were 10 passengers on board, four of whom were women. The Mate, Capt. Pike's brother, was lost at sea. Click HERE for the list of items that were saved.

The Commission's interest in this shipwreck is associated with a survivor of the incident, Sarah (Kollock) Harris, whose family was very important to their part of our state. Another letter describing the shipwreck, from Sarah to her sister Mary, can be found HERE.

The following letter was found at www.frommypenandpower.wordpress.com/tag/north-carolina. It was posted by Susan Stessin:

Since Julia will not be writing again until the 17th, I wanted to post an interesting article I found in the January 29, 1812 edition of the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper. (The article was kindly transcribed by Kathryn Marks.) The introduction to the article states the following:

"Extract of a letter from a gentleman in Newbern (North Carolina) to his father in this village (I assume Poughkeepsie, NY) giving an account of the shipwreck of his brother on Cape Hatteras shoals."

NEWBERN, Jan. 10, 1812.

DEAR FATHER,

Watrus has just arrived here after a most tedious passage — He left New York in the Schooner Thetis , Capt. Pike, on the first day of December. He had a number of fellow passengers, ten I believe, among whom was Mr. Edward Graham, jun., Judge Harris’s Lady and sister (Lydia), Miss Hervey, and Miss Haynes of N. York. They experienced six violent gales, were out of fire wood and provisions and nearly out of water—twenty three days they were thus buffeted about and on the night of the 24th just before day, they went on shore in a severe gale on Cape Hatteras shoals. A most dreadful scene of suffering and horror followed—the vessel immediately went to pieces when she struck, a moment before, they supposed themselves in the Gulf Stream and were all in bed. Watrus and some others hurried out upon the deck, every sea broke ten or fifteen feet over the vessel, he and the mate with much difficulty reached the main shrouds with a view to leap upon the beach in the absence of a wave and get ashore for assistance. The mate, after some debate which should go first, (each wishing to leave the other) sprung into the sea, and was in a moment swept from his sight forever. Before another opportunity offered, Watrus was so benumbed with cold (for the weather was intensely cold), that he was unable to make the attempt. He then sat down upon the chain plate and held on, every sea dashing far over his head, and then leaving him exposed to the piercing blast, bare headed, with coat and vest open to receive it. At this critical moment two men came in sight, on the shore—those who had their senses were cheered by the hope of relief—Watrus had become stiff, blind, almost deaf, and insensible to what was passing. Graham, who stood near, placed his head near his and called aloud, if he would let himself fall a man would catch him. He fell and knew no more till he found himself in a hut by the fire, where we will leave him a moment to thaw his frozen limbs, while we return again to the wreck. Those men seizing the moment when a sea receded, rowed to the vessel and relieved the other gentlemen passengers sailors, etc., carried them with much difficulty safe on shore. I ought to have mentioned that the gentlemen endeavored while they were able to save the ladies—but it was impossible. The main cabin the moment they left it, was filled with water—that and the hold in a moment became one, casks, boxes and trunks floating about through either, and at length out through the decks to sea. Thus they were obliged to abandon the ladies, believing them drowned, and take care of themselves. All hope of seeing the ladies again was lost—when as if directed by providence, a negro man rushed to the beach and resolutely declared he would have their bodies or lose his own. At this moment the stern of the wreck swung round toward the shore—the negro watching his opportunity. climbed upon it, jumped through the sky lights, opened the door of one of the after cabins, and to his astonishment, found them all alive, on a narrow birth just above the water—he instantly stove out the dead lights, and dropped them all out to those who ventured into the surf to receive them almost in a state of insensibility. They were carried to the same place where the gentleman had been previously sent. Their congratulations were mutual, as each party had believed the other lost. Thus we have them in a log cabin, without a dry suit to put on, almost starved and frozen. They were saved but nothing else—after a day or two Watrus’s trunk, hat, and bed spread came on shore—one other trunk followed it. Most of his things were stolen while hanging out to dry—he being unable to attend to them. After about a week they hired a small vessel to bring them to Newbern, but head winds detained them on their passage till they were again out of provisions—they fortunately fell in with an oyster boat at length, and received from the owner his hoecake, potatoes, and oysters, which lasted them till they arrived within twenty five miles of this place, where from fatigue, ill health, and head winds they were obliged to stop at the seat ofVail, Esq. where they were treated with great kindness and hospitality. As soon as we heard of their arrival, we got the United States Cutter and went after them. We found them much recovered and in good spirits—and in a few days brought them to town. Watrus’s fingers were considerably frostbitten, but are now nearly well.

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