Posts Tagged ‘Shipwreck’

A Brave Woman on the Ship

September 1, 2011

Image posted by H20man on the Cruisers Forum

Fearful Sufferings of Sailors In a Storm
Helped Man the Pumps and Steered to Give the Helmsman Relief — She and the Captain Kept Up the Hopes of the Despairing Seamen.

PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 14. — A most thrilling tale of sailors’ hardships from shipwreck and starvation is told by Captain Joseph J. James of the Philadelphia schooner Kate E. Rich, whose vessel foundered near Fire Island. After six days’ drifting around at the mercy of wind and sea, shorn of all sails, decks burst open, topmasts gone and lower masts sprung, Captain James and his crew and one passenger, Mrs. Maggie Crossman, were rescued by the New York pilot boat E.F. Williams and landed at Staten island, whence Captain James took passage for this city. Captain James says that words fail him in attempting to describe their experiences. They were all battered and bruised and their limbs were swollen to twice their normal size through exposure to the salt water, which constantly swept over the vessel fore and aft.

Mrs. Crossman, the mate’s wife, worked with the sailors, helping to man the pumps and even steered while the helmsman got relief. Terrific snowstorms, rain and hail added to the horrors and the sailors became so completely exhausted from the battle with the elements that they prayed that death might come as a relief. Their every hope had vanished. All this time but one vessel was seen. She was a large steamship, apparently one of the National line. She came almost within hailing distance, but paid no attention to the distress signals and held her course. With her disappearance faded out the last ray of hope of the unfortunates, but through the courage of Captain James and Mrs. Crossman they were persuaded not to abandon their efforts.

Captain James, when he arrived in this city, was a pitiable sight. He is badly crippled and his face and hands are severely frost bitten. For nearly 20 years he has followed the sea and this is the second experience of shipwreck through which he has gone.

The Indiana Democrat (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Nov 15, 1894

Image from Terry Elkins Posters and Original Artwork



7b the Governor and Legislature of the State of New York:

The Board of Commissioners of Pilots respectfully report that daring the year just ended they have continued to administer the pilotage laws of this port, as also the several laws for the preservation of the harbor of New York.

The pilotage service is in excellent condition, both as to the pilots themselves and the boats needed to prosecute the business.

There are 22 boats (schooners) in service, two new ones, the “Herman Oelrichs,” No. 1 and “Joseph Pulitzer,” No. 20, having been admitted during the year…

…On the 10th of November, pilot boat No. 14 fell in with the schooner “Kate E. Rich” off Fire Island. The crew were worn out with their exertions to keep her afloat, and she was then in a sinking condition.

Although the risk was great, the pilots succeeded in rescuing all hands, and the schooner goon after went down. Suitable recognition of this praiseworthy act was made by the Board.


Title: Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 12
Author: New York (State). Legislature. Assembly
Published: 1895
Page 5

Extraordinary Case of Shipwreck

August 30, 2011

Image of the Rob Roy Schooner (1832) from the Old News from Southern Maine website (Couldn’t find an picture of the Thornton)


We are indebted to Capt. William H. Hopper, of the central road, for the following particulars, which we relate.

Captain Hopkins, of the steamer J.D. Morton, while on her passage from Chicago to New Buffalo, on Friday last, discovered what he supposed to be a raft with some one upon it, some five miles in the lake. He immediately turned his boat and went for the object. He found the raft made of spars, with Capt. Davidson, of the schooner Thornton, upon it. It appears he was wrecked on the 31st ult., having been seven days and nights without food. Two of the crew, whose names he did not learn, with the captain, made the raft of the mainmast, main boom and main gaft. The two men dropped off on the third night after, having become exhausted for want of food. Captain Hopkins describes the scene as most pitiful. Captain Davison had commenced eating his left hand the last night! Several steamers and vessels have been in sight, and one vessel hailed him, but made no attempt to get him off. Of course the captain is exceedingly weak, but in a fair way for recovery.

Capt. Hopkins, of the J.D. Morton, has shown himself a humane man and the public should recollect it.

A collection was taken up for the unfortunate man, on the Morton, and some $10 was raised, mostly by the crew, headed by the captain.

Detroit Tribune.

The Daily Sanduskian (Sandusky, Ohio) Sep 10, 1850


The Chicago Tribune of the 16th, announces the arrival there of George Davis, Captain of the schooner Thornton, taken up by the steamer Julius Morton, four miles out from Michigan City, floating upon a spar. His vessel was capsized six miles east of Chicago, and two of the hands were lost. The Tribune says:

At the time of the disaster, the schooner Thornton, in charge of Capt. Davis, assisted by two hands, was on her passage from Muskegon, freighted with lumber, belonging to Mr. Parks, of the former place. The vessel was driven out of her course by the violence of the storm, and on Friday afternoon, when about six miles northeast of this port, she became unmanageable and capsized, precipitating the captain and crew into the angry flood. Fortunately, a spar, which had been lying loose upon the deck, floated near them, and all three grasped it, supposing the vessel had sunk, though she afterwards floated ashore.

For the next twenty-four hours, the three shipwrecked men were driven about at the mercy of the wind and waves, they knew not whither; at the end of which time, (Saturday afternoon), the two companions of Capt. Davis, exhausted by cold, hunger and fatigue, relinquished their hold upon the spar, nearly at the same time, and sunk to rise no more. Capt. D. supposes that at this time, they were some where near the middle of the Lake.

After the loss of his companions, Capt. Davis was driven about, he knew not whither; the only incidents occurring to break the dreary monotony being the sight of two or three vessels. Only one of them came within hailing distance; and this he thinks was on Monday or Tuesday, he is not certain which. The vessel was near enough for him to read her name (which we think not best to give at present,) and a man whom he supposes was the captain, seemed to see him in the distance, and afterwards several of the crew joined him and looked in the same direction. Capt. D. thinks they must have seen him, but the vessel held on her course, and the hope of rescue, which he had indulged a moment before, gave place to black despair. He cannot tell where he was at the time. From that time till he was picked up by the crew of the steamer Morton, between 9 and 10 o’clock A.M. on Friday, there was nothing to relieve the horrible monotony of this lone, aimless, voyage, except that at one time he drifted within about a mile of the eastern shore of the Lake; but he was then too much exhausted — too weakened and benumbed in body, and paralyzed in mind, to make the attempt to swim ashore.

The pangs of hunger became so pressing, towards the last, that the poor sufferer attempted to reach a dead body that floated near him, with the dreadful thought of satisfying it by eating a portion of a fellow-creature, but it eluded his grasp. After this, he does not know when, he gnawed one of his hands to relieve the pain of famine, and afterwards he gnawed the other in the same manner.

It is impossible for the imagination to conceive of the horrible realities of such a voyage — during which, for seven days, the poor wayfarer upon the deep, without a morsel of food, benumbed with cold, and with the prospect of death every moment — where day brought no relief and hardly hope, and the long dreary night added to the horror of his situation — was drifted at the mercy of the elements. Happily, however, by the operations of a beautiful law, by which the intensity of human suffering after a time deadens the capacity to feel it, Capt. Davis has but an indistinct remembrance of the trial through which he has passed. For most of the time he was in a state of semi-consciousness, and at times he must have slept, though the strong instinct of self-preservation enabled him, through all, to maintain a firm grip upon the spar.

On being picked up by the Morton, every attention was paid to his wants which humanity could suggest, and a physician (whose name we were not able to learn) was taken on board at Michigan city, who bound up his wounded hands and otherwise ministered to his relief. — This morning he was quite cheerful, though much emaciated from his long famine, and the prospect is that he will shortly recover. It will be some time, however, before he will have the use of his hands, as they are very much cramped and benumbed by his long continued grasp upon the spar, and the gnawing to which they were subjected. His whole body, with the exception of his head and hands, being immersed in the water, he did not suffer much with cold until the last night of the exposure. He is of the opinion that he could not have survived another night.

Capt. Davis is naturally a strong athletic man, as might be expected from the sufferings which he lived through, and we should judge, between 36 and 40 years of age. He is a Scotchman by birth, but has resided here for several years, where he has a wife and two young children, to whom he is happily restored. He has always borne the character of an industrious, honest man.

Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review (Alton, Illinois) Sep 27, 1850

Information on the schooner, Thornton from the Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping website:

Other names : also seen as just THORNTON
Official no. : none
Type at loss : schooner, wood,*2-mast
Build info : 1837, St Joseph’s Mich
Specs : 56x15x7, 49 t.
Date of loss : 1850, Aug 31
Place of loss : at Calumet, Ill.
Lake : Michigan
Type of loss : storm
Loss of life : 4
Carrying : ?
Detail : She went ashore bottom up and was wrecked, a total loss. Steamer J. D. MORTON found her skipper floating on a makeshift raft five miles offshore on her route Chicago-New Buffalo. The raft was found Sep 7, and the occupant had reportedly begun to eat his own hand to avoid starvation. Final enrollment document annotated “lost.”
Sources: rp,hgl,wl,bc

Shipwreck 1820

November 24, 2009
The Shipwreck (Image from

The Shipwreck (Image from

NOTE: Parts of this newspaper image were very hard to read,  especially the numbers, which I have marked with a – ?-  question mark.

Loss of the Ship Resource.

Mr. B. Wyman of this town, who arrived in the Jane, from Manilla, has communicated the following particulars respecting the loss of the ship Resource, Sowle. — “On the 20th of Nov. 1818, on the passage from Kamtschatka, being in about lat. 28, N  long. 80, E while under easy sail, at about 6 PM, she struck on an unknown reef of rocks, weather thick and squally — she remained about ten minutes, when she slid off, and on sounding the pumps found she had made considerable water — the pumps were immediately set at work, but the water gained on them fast. The foremast was then cut away, and all hands employed in clearing the wreck, and getting out the boats.

After providing provisions, water, &c. the officers and crew left the ship and she soon after sunk. The long boat, having on board most of the provisions and water saved from the ship, being very leaky soon filled and capsized, and the contents lost; some of the crew in her swam to the other boats, others clung to her till morning, and were then taken off, except one, who was drowned.

There were now the two whale boats left; Capt. Sowle and 12? men in one, and Mr. Joseph Harris, first mate, and 12 men in the other – each boat had about 30 lbs of bread, but no water — the men were on an allowance of half a biscuit per day. The boats kept company all the next day, but soon after dark the captain’s boat suddenly disappeared, and it was thought must have been upset, and all on board perished, as nothing was seen of her afterwards, the sea running very high. On the ?0th Dec., the surviving boat landed on the uninhabited island of Agrigon, the crew not having had any water for 2? days, except what they caught as it fell from the heavens, which gave them from one to three spoonfulls a man per day.

Mr. S. La Roach died Dec. 2?, Mr. Wm. S. Sp??hawk the ??th, Mr. Joseph Adams 15th; and Mr. Harris, the mate, fell from a rock, Jan. 17, 1819, while fishing and was drowned. Mr. Wyman and 7 others remained on the island subsisting on what it afforded, (it having been stocked with goats and hogs) till the 18th of Nov ’19, a period of eleven months, when they were discovered and taken off by a Spanish brig, bound to Manilla, at which place they were landed, Dec. 22. Two of the survivors went thence to Canton*, two remained at Manilla, and ? [3 ?] took passage for the U.S.

The Resource had no cargo but salt on board when lost.

Ohio Repository, The (Canton, Ohio) Jul 6, 1820

* China? Wales? Australia?

The latitude and longitude given in the article puts the ship somewhere in northern India, which doesn’t seem likely.  Kamtschatka, which is one location mentioned, appears to be on the lower part of the Russian peninsula near the Bering Sea. I was not able to locate Agrigon, or anything with a similar name, that would fit the general location, however, there are lots of islands in that area.