Ada K. Damon, Ipswich MAShipwrecks

Wrecks of the schooners

These are photos of two and three-masted schooners, several of which wrecked at Steep Hill Beach, Crane Beach and Plum Island.

Featured image: Wreckage on Steep Hill Beach believed to be the Ada K. Damon is frequently exposed by the changing tide and sands. Photo by Bruce Lord.sand_schooner

Sand schooners delivered sand from local beaches to Boston to be used in concrete for the construction industry. The captains would bring the schooners broadside to a beach at high tide and anchor the bow and stern. A long gangplank would be extended from the ship for men to roll wheelbarrows full of sand, which would be dumped into the hold.

In January 1894 the sand schooner A. Baker was lying sunk and abandoned in Plum Island Sound near the southerly end of Plum Island in Ipswich, and was an obstruction to navigation. Upon investigation it was found that the owner had no means of removing her. The matter rested for a while until Mr. Anton Graf of Georgetown removed the wreck for $195 on May 29, 1894. (from the Annual Report of the Board of Harbor and Land Commissioners of Massachusetts). In October 1922 the Edward S. Evelyth rolled over when a wave rushed over her deck and pushed her onto the edge of the beach. Filled with sand, each tide buried her deeper. Her remains were visible for several years.

In 1909 Capt. A. K Brewster sold his farm in York, Maine and invested everything in the sand schooner Ada K. Damon. The ship was wrecked during the “Great Christmas Snowstorm” on his first trip for a load of sand from the plentiful supply on Plum Island. On the 26th of December she stranded 3.5 miles south-southwest of the Plum Island Coast Guard station. The gale swept down from the northeast thick with snow, the anchors dragged and parted, and the ship wrecked at Steep Hill Beach at high tide.


Wreck of the Edward S. Evelyth. Photo from Bill Varrell’s book Ipswich. A section of the bow or stern could be seen at the edge of the beach a few years ago, and the skeleton of the ship was visible nearby in 2′ of water. It has disappeared again.

Wreck of the Ada K. Damon

The Ada K. Damon was stranded not far from where the Edward S. Evelyth went down a couple of decades later.


Laborers ran wheelbarrows loaded with sand from the beaches up long gangplanks to be loaded in sand schooners.

The Appleton family on an outing at Steep Hill Beach, exploring the wreck of the Ada K. Damon, early 1900’s

M. L. Wetherell

Photo of the wrecked M. L. Wetherell at the northern end of Plum Island by Ipswich photographer George Dexter

The 66-ton schooner M. L. Wetherell was built in Essex, MA in 1865, owned or fitted by Henry Hardy and is among the 1887 Gloucester MA List of VesselsM. L. Wetherell was a Gloucester MA pharmacist, and I assume that the ship was named after him.In the early years it fished in the Gulf of St Lawrence with hand lines along with the William W. Hutchins of Gloucester.

In the book Down to the Sea, we read that in October, 1870, Albert Faulk was lost overboard from the M. L. Wetherell. The following year, Finley McFadden, Michael Key and Thomas Mackay were lost as well. On April 11, 1872, George T. Sanford, of Deer Isle, Maine, and Alex McDonald, of Prince Edward Island were lost on Grand Bank from the schooner M. L. Wetherell.

There is an odd report by the Rye Beach Life Saving Service of a man who was adrift in a boat belonging to the schooner M.L. Wetherell, rescued near the Rye Beach Station on the coast of New Hampshire. “While going from Newburyport to Plum Island, the boatman broke an oar and was carried out to sea on the ebb tide, and drifted all night before a southwest wind. In the morning he was seen and rescued by the Rye Beach life-saving crew who gave him breakfast, provided spare oars, and replenished his supply of clothing. When he was sufficiently refreshed (the wind having hauled meanwhile and moderated) he left the station to pull down the coast to his vessel, the schooner M. L. Wetherell, 13 miles distant.”

In the History of Newburyport, John J. Currier wrote that on the sixth of December 6, 1891, the schooner M. L. Wetherell, loaded with sand, was stranded near Lighthouse Point at the northern end of Plum Island, MA. The vessel was a total loss.

Coal schooners were generally larger with three masts. The 374-ton Thomas Lawrence stranded at Crane’s Beach on September 4, 1939. A channel was dug and the ship was refloated.


In 1939, crowds went to Crane’s Beach to view the bleached schooner Thomas H. Lawrence, 374 tons, high and dry on the Ipswich sands, after it drifted from anchorage during a wild storm. Photo by Wilbur Trask, shared by Charlotte Lindgren


The Thomas H. Lawrence, photo courtesy of Dottie Dupray Greenleaf


Photo courtesy of Dottie Dupray Greenleaf


The Thomas H. Lawrence


Photo by Wilbur Trask, in Bill Varrell’s book, “Ipswich.”

Other sources:

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