Wreck of the Deposit in Ipswich BayShipwrecks

Wreck of the Deposit, December 23, 1839

by Susan Howard Boice:

I would like to tell you a story that I read in the Lighthouses of New England which happened in the 1800’s. The lighthouse keeper in Ipswich at the time was T.S. Greenwood, who owned land at Manning’s Neck (Newmarch Street) and also inherited land on Jeffreys Neck Road. Three hurricanes swept the New England coast in 1839, two days before Christmas.

The second of these storms caught the schooner “Deposit” unaware on her passage out of Belfast, Maine. Aboard the “Deposit” on Dec. 23, 1839, was Capt. Cotterall, with his wife and crew. At the lighthouse was keeper Greenwood. Neither one had ever seen each other until the ship ran aground. Daybreak found the ship beached where she had been caught since midnight. The winter winds had beaten the shore through out the night, while large breakers had tortured the hull.

The sea was much too heavy for the life boat to be launched. The wailing pleas of Capt. Cotterall’s wife could be heard over the overpowering undertow that lurked along the shoreline. Tying a line to his waist, Keeper Greenwood passed the end to his assistant, Marshall, who held on fast. Greenwood fought his way through the foam to the “Deposit.” Once he arrived, the 200-foot line was secured to the ship. He then proceeded to haul a dory and life boat to the ship. Capt. Cotterall and Marshall were helped into the smaller boat, just before the sea overturned them. Marshall grabbed hold of Greenwood’s hand and was saved, but the Captain was never seen again.

As the storm subsided and the seas became less violent, they found there were only two crew members left, who drifted ashore on the wreckage. The captain’s wife, Marshall and Keeper Greenwood jumped off the stern of the Deposit and floated safely to shore. Many of these storms that have battered the New England coastline have had many sad endings.

Susan Howard Boice, from Historic Ipswich, Volume 1

Sidney Perley wrote about the tragedy in Storms of New England

Historic storms of New England by Sidney PerleyAt Ipswich, another sad shipwreck was added to the list, which is already much too long. The storm was as violent in Ipswich bay as at Gloucester, and the schooner Deposit from Belfast, Maine, commanded by Captain Cotterell, was hurried before it through the foaming breakers on the sandy beach near the light-house at midnight on Sunday, Although the vessel was on the beach the heavy surf in which no boat could exist was between it and safety. The waves washed over the wreck continually from midnight till dawn, and the seven persons in the rigging and elsewhere about the wreck managed to prevent themselves from being swept off by the wind and waves, in several instances, however, only to survive that they might die from the cold and exposure.

Before daylight came, the strength of a boy had failed, and he was lying in the scuppers dead, and a negro, becoming exhausted, had lain down and died. At daybreak, only five were alive. The storm was still raging with unabated fury, and threatened every moment to dash the remaining persons from their hold. Their feelings cannot be described. Was there no one on the shore to aid them ? They screamed for help.

And ever the fitful gusts between
A sound came from the land
It was the sound of the trampling surf
Upon the hard sea-sand

A man named Marshall was at the beach on that Monday morning, and discovered the wreck. He gave an alarm, and then he and Mr. Greenwood, the keeper of the light-house, went as near as they possibly could to the vessel. It was apparent that no boat could pass in safety through the surf. But the piteous cries for help from the sufferers, among whom was the captain’s wife, nerved them to desperate action. Mr. Greenwood dashed into the water, and after an almost overpowering struggle with the waves arrived at the vessel. With a rope he hauled Mr. Marshall and a boat to the wreck. The captain who was completely exhausted and almost senseless, was first lowered into the boat which Marshall was keeping close to the vessel. But a wave instantly upset it, and threw them both into the surging water. Marshall went under the wreck, but on rising to the surface caught hold of a rope and saved himself, but the captain was so exhausted that he was drowned. His wife saw him as he was buried beneath the billows and her shrieks rose high above the thunders of the storm.

Two of the crew were helped to the shore, one of them by floating on a boom. Mrs. Cotterell, wife of the captain, was lowered from the stem of the vessel by ropes, and the two rescuers standing in the surf received her in their arms as she came down to the surface of the water. They then waited until a mighty wave came, which they allowed to carry them all on shore. On the beach was a farmhouse, then owned and occupied by Humphrey Lakeman, a retired sea-captain, to which the three survivors were conveyed, and medical aid procured.

The two men that were saved were George Emery and Chandler Mahoney. The bodies of the lost were taken to the village and properly buried on the Wednesday following. The funeral was held at the South church, and was attended by a great number of people, who followed the remains to the cemetery. Sixteen sea captains acted as pallbearers. The people of Ipswich had never before been so affected by any incident. The sadness of the wreck, the dead, the saved, and the actions of the two noble self-sacrificing men touched sympathetic chords in every breast. The crew were all young, and that fact added to the general sorrow. The expression upon the faces of the deceased, and especially that of one named Dunham, was peculiarly sweet, as if they were enjoying a most refreshing and peaceful sleep of the body rather than that from which they would never again awake. The survivors remained in the town until they were sufficiently restored to travel, receiving every comfort and attention.

Further sources:

Howland, Southworth Allen: Steamboat Disasters and Railroad Accidents in the United States

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