Ships off Liverpool in the Great Storm of 1839History

Awful Calamities: the Shipwrecks of December, 1839

Featured image: Ships off Liverpool in the Great Storm of 1839, painted by Samuel Walters.

From: “Awful calamities: or, The shipwrecks of December 1839: “It has probably never fallen to the lot of the citizens of New England to witness or record so many terrible disasters by sea in the short period of fourteen days as have transpired within that length of time the present month.

only_survivorThree gales of unequalled fury and destructiveness have swept along our coast carrying desolation and death in their stormy pathway and overwhelming many families in the deepest mourning.

Many who entered upon the month of December with a fair prospect of enjoying a happy new year and perhaps a long life now sleep in the bosom of the great deep with the seaweed wrapped around them or have been tossed on shore by the bellowing surges and all bruised and mangled have been followed perhaps by strangers to an untimely grave.

Often as we have been called to weep with those who have wept over the sad wreck of human hope we have seldom met with any thing so well calculated to excite the sympathy of all the friends of humanity as the melancholy events which we have recorded below.

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THE FIRST GALE

On the night of Saturday, December 14 at about midnight a violent snow storm commenced along the coast and continued to rage until late on Monday. During a part of the time the snow gave place to a freezing rain. About 2 PM on Sunday the rain commenced and the wind at the same time rose to a gale, but it was not until 11 PM that the unprecedented and devastating hurricane broke upon the ill-fated shipping. From that time until 2 or 3 o’clock AM of Monday it continued a perfect tornado. It blew hard all Monday and Monday night but the most damage was done on Sunday night. The following is a list of the vessels wrecked or damaged as far as has been learned.

LYNN AND MARBLEHEAD

  • At Lynn the schooner Catharine Nickols Woodward went ashore on Nahant at about 4 PM. The vessel was washed into a mere mass of splinters. Three men were lost
  • At Marblehead, the schooner Minerva Rollins from Pittstown for Plymouth lost both masts and bowsprit threw over her deck load of hay
  • Schooner Paul Jones high and dry on the rocks bilged
  • Schooner Sea Flower with corn and flour on the beach, a total loss of the vessel and part of the cargo.
  • Schooner Brilliant lost her main boom stern ripped down.
  • Schooner Tasso slightly damaged.
  • The schooners Mary Swazey, JQ Adams, Plutus, Two Brothers and Burlington ran ashore on River Head Beach.
  • The stern of a small craft was found on this beach, probably wrecked on one of the Islands at the mouth of the harbor.

GLOUCESTER

The greatest destruction took place here. The gale was truly terrific and the devastation unprecedented and terrible. The following is a list of the vessels that were most severely injured, all of which ran ashore unless otherwise stated:

  • Schooner Eliza and Betsey of Mount Desert sunk at her anchors; Joseph Gott,Alpheus Gott (picked up),Peter Gott and Joseph Gott, her crew all lost
  • Schooner Boston Thomas of Belfast with wood and lumber for Salem, vessel and cargo totally lost, crew saved
  • Schooner Mary Jane of Portland cargo of molasses cut away, masts stove, deck load crew taken off
  • Schooner Columbia of Bremen Maine, Jacob L Kaler master, total wreck; William Wallace and Horses drowned
  • Schooner Neutrality of Portland, William Shays master, crew saved, vessel and cargo total loss
  • Schooner S.t Cloud Park from New York for Prospect, total wreck, crew saved
  • Schooner Favorite of Wiscasset, vessel and cargo total loss,Mrs Sally Hilton and Wm Mann drowned, former picked up
  • Schooner Sally of Wiscasset, Capt. Drake vessel and cargo total loss, Capt Drake and brother drowned
  • Schooner Fame, three-masted of Ellsworth, Capt Lord, vessel bilged, cargo may be saved, no lives lost
  • Schooner Delta of Augusta, Capt. Moor, vessel above high water mark no lives lost
  • Schooner Sarah of Portsmouth, owned by G Melcher, cargo corn and flour partly saved, no lives lost
  • Sloop Portland of Brunswick on shore, hands saved
  • Schooner Prudence of Prospect, vessel and cargo lost, crew saved
  • Schooner Sally and Mary of Bristol, vessel and cargo lost, crew saved
  • Schooner Industry of Prospect, vessel and cargo lost, crew saved
  • Mary Francis of Belfast, Warden. Just as the Custom House boat boarded her on Monday afternoon, her last cable parted and she went to sea. The boat took off the crew and two passengers.
  • Schooner Volant of wreck crew believed to be all saved
  • Schooner Mary Gould of wreck crew saved
  • Schooner Charlotte of wrecked crew saved
  • Schooner Walrus of Bucksport, wrecked at Pigeon Cove crew all perished, four bodies found. Cargo of corn flour.
  • Schooner Brilliant of Mount Desert, vessel, cargo, and three men lost, names unknown
  • Schooner Milo of Bristol, vessel and cargo lost, one man Samuel Sprawl drowned
  • Schooner Splendid of New Castle, vessel and cargo lost, crew saved
  • Schooner Sally of Wiscasset, vessel cargo and two men, Hartley and Isaac Decker lost
  • Schooner North Carolina of Calais. James Barter Jr. bound to Newport with lumber, cut away masts and rode out the gale, sustained injury by vessels drifting afoul of her
  • Schooner Cooper’s Fancy Bridges of Mount Desert, vessel sunk, crew saved
  • Schooner F. Severs lost on Norman’s Woe
  • Sloop Eagle of Bowdoinham, went to pieces, crew saved
  • Schooner Ariel Ellsworth from Boston for Frenchman’s Bay, dismasted,crew taken off
  • Schooner Eliza & Betsey of Mount Desert, driven ashore, crew saved.
  • Schooner Alert Dunten of Woolwich for Boston, dismasted, crew taken off
  • Schooner Henrietta Dunten of Westport for Norfolk, dismasted, crew saved
  • At Sandy Bay a schooner struck a reef while entering the harbor and went to pieces instantly. It is thought all on board were lost. Her name was unknown. Four bodies came ashore

IPSWICH AND VICINITY

  • At Ipswich , schooner Deposit of Belfast with lumber went ashore on Lakeman’s beach, four lost, two men and one woman saved.
  • At Essex a schooner went ashore on Patch’s beach, six persons lost, one saved

NEWBURYPORT

Fifteen or twenty vessels were injured, but we believe no lives lost. Among the vessels damaged were:

  • The Nancy, loss of mast and other damage
  • Ivy Mechanic and Harmony
  • Schooner Good Intent at one of the lower wharves got foul of the Hope and both were damaged
  • Schooner Glide loaded for New Orleans was badly chafed at the wharf
  • also the Margaret for Baltimore
  • Ship Huntress reported on Saturday to have sailed, did not get out but returned to the wharf where she lay with no other damage than rubbing her paint

Such is believed to be a very correct account of the destruction caused by the first storm, and who in looking over the extended list can fail to perceive that it was one wide scene of devastation along the whole eastern coast of Massachusetts.

Read more at “Awful calamities: or, The shipwrecks of December 1839

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Shipwrecks

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. 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 […]
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.
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.
Ada K. Damon at Steep Hill in Ipswich 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 - Featured image: Map from Plum Island: The Way It Was by Nancy V. Weare 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. In 1802 and again in 1852 the Merrimack Humane […]
Benjamin Ellsworth at the Ipswich Lighthouse The Ipswich lighthouse - Benjamin Ellsworth, born in 1813 in nearby Rowley, was appointed keeper of the Ipswich lighthouse by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. With his daughter Susan, he remained at the station until his death in 1902. In 1837 the U.S. government erected two 29′ towers for guidance to the mouth […]
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 - Featured image: Union Street in Ipswich after Hurricane Carol. Our friend Bill Sargent reminded me that Massachusetts has the highest probability of all of the states to be hit by an ocean storm, when you include hurricanes and nor’easters.  Here are a few stories…
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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