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.

The Thomas H. Lawrence

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

The Thomas H. Lawrence

The Thomas H. Lawrence stranded in 1939 near the sandbar at Crane Beach, courtesy of Maisie Crowther.


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.”


More shipwrecks from Plum Island: The Way It Was by Nancy V. Weare

Other sources:

Ada K. Damon, Ipswich MA 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.
Wreck of the Watch and Wait Wreck of the Watch and Wait, August 24, 1635 - Many ships and lives were lost in the Great Colonial Hurricane, including 21 passengers who had set out from Ipswich on August 21, 1635 on a small bark named "Watch and Wait." As they rounded Cape Ann they were suddenly met by the force of the winds.
steamer ship Wreck of the steamer Laura Marion, December 23, 1899 - This is the story of the tragic fate of the Laura Marion and her crew, swept under by one fell stroke of the sea, bringing sudden anguish to the hearts of the families who on Christmas eve.
Wreck of the Lucy M. Collins, August 19, 1891 - When you’re walking on Crane Beach near Steep Hill  Coal, you might be surprised to see lumps of coal lying on the sand. This would be quite a mystery were it not for the tragic history of brigs and schooners transporting coal in the 19th century. Wreck of the Lucy […]
Wreck of the Hesperus, January 6, 1839 - It was the schooner Hesperus, That sailed the wintry sea; And the skipper had taken his little daughtèr, To bear him company.
Tombstone at the Old North Burying Ground in Ipswich from the wreck of the Falconer in Ipswich Bay Wreck of the Falconer, December 17, 1847 - On December 17, 1847 the brig Falconer, loaded with bituminous coal, wrecked at Crane Beach during a fierce winter storm. A dozen of the crew and passengers are buried in a common grave at the Old North Burying Ground.
Wreck of the Edward S. Eveleth, October 1922 - In October 1922, the sand schooner Edward S. Eveleth rolled over when a wave rushed over her deck and pushed her onto the edge of Steep Hill Beach. Filled with sand, each tide buried her deeper. Her remains were visible for several years. The skeleton of the hull is just off-shore a short distance from the wreck of the Ada K. Damon.
Wreck of the Deposit in Ipswich Bay Wreck of the Deposit, December 23, 1839 - Dec. 23, 1839 two days before Christmas a storm caught the schooner "Deposit" on her passage out of Belfast, Maine. Capt. Cotterall was lost, and several of the crew were buried at the Old South Cemetery.
The Ada K. Damon, April 2020 Wreck of the Ada K. Damon - Christmas, 1909 witnessed the heaviest storm in many years. The ship was wrecked during the captain's first trip for a load of sand from the plentiful supply on Plum Island.
The Spectre Ship of Salem - On the fourth day after the ship left port, the sun came out and in the distance could be seen the same ship sailing effortlessly back into port directly into the wind. As the Noah’s Dove approached, its passengers including the young couple were visible but ghost-like.
The shipwrecks at Ipswich Bar - The Ipswich Bar has a long history of tragic shipwrecks. Its swift currents and shallow waters are especially dangerous during storms, and many ships have gone aground. The hull of the Ada K. Damon sits on Steep Hill Beach.
Benjamin Ellsworth at the Ipswich Lighthouse The Ipswich lighthouse - In 1881, a 45-foot cast iron lighthouse was erected at Crane Beach, replacing an earlier structure. By 1913, the sand had shifted so much that the lighthouse was 1,090 feet from the high water mark. Use of the light was discontinued in 1932 and in 1939 the Coast Guard floated the entire lighthouse to Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard.
The Great Colonial Hurricane and the wreck of the Angel Gabriel - In August 1635, the 240-ton Angel Gabriel sank in Pemaquid Bay after sailing into the most intense hurricane in New England history. Among the survivors were members of the Cogswell, Burnham and Andrews families, who settled in an area of Ipswich known as Chebacco.
Pigeon Cove The ”October Gale” of 1841 - In the latter part of September, 1841, was a long, unbroken spell of uncomfortable weather, which culminated in a violent and cold storm of wind, snow and rain on the night of October 2, continuing four days.
Hurricane Carol Union Street Ipswich MA Hurricanes and winter storms - Massachusetts has the highest probability of all of the states to be hit by an ocean storm, which includes hurricanes and nor'easters.
Ships off Liverpool in the Great Storm of 1839 Awful Calamities: the Shipwrecks of December, 1839 - Three gales of unequaled fury and destructiveness swept along our coast carrying desolation and death in their stormy pathway, and overwhelming many families in the deepest mourning.

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