Wreck of the Edward S. Eveleth, October 1922

Featured image: the Edward S. Eveleth from Bill Varrell’s book, “Ipswich.”

The Schooner Edward S. Eveleth was built in Essex in 1883 with its home port in was Boston. Dr Edward S Eveleth was a graduate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York in 1866, and settled in Gloucester after graduating. He died in his home in East Gloucester in 1916 at the age of seventy. He was undoubtedly a descendant of the early Gloucester settler Sylvester Eveleth.

In October 1922, the aging and outdated Edward S. Eveleth was being used as a sand schooner, and rolled over when a wave rushed over her deck and pushed her onto the edge of Steep Hill Beach.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.

Sand being hauled to a schooner at Crane Beach. Photo by Townsend, Charles Wendell, 1859
Sand being hauled to a schooner at Crane Beach. Photo by Townsend, Charles Wendell, 1859

From Beach Grass by Charles Wendell Townsend, written in 1923:

Schooner photo by Dr. Charles Townsend
Schooner photo by Dr. Charles Townsend

“On a pleasant summer day when the wind and tide are fair, one may be so fortunate as to see an old high-floating schooner sailing up the mouth of the Ipswich River between the long bar and the beach, or a similar craft negotiating the more dangerous passage into the Essex River. The destination in the former case is the southern end of Plum Island facing the sound, in the latter the southern end of Ipswich beach and dunes on the inner side.

A week or so later the same schooners, taking advantage of the ebb tide, are departing, but now sunk almost to the level of their decks. With a fresh northwest wind they push a great wave before their broad bows and disappear from sight around the end of Cape Ann, south-bound for Boston. They are sand schooners and their captains and crew are spoken of as Sanders.

Captain Charley commands the schooner Edward S. Eveleth, “built with copper fastenings,” for the Gloucester fisheries forty years ago. The captain has been a sander for over fifty years — he began the year Lincoln was shot — and his father for fifty years had followed the same profession. His father said before he died that, in spite of all his labors, there was more sand at Ipswich beach than there was when he began, which confirms my own studies and observations that the beach is extending southward. The remains of an iron spindle on a rock now exposed on the beach at low tide, was, when Captain Charley began, separated from the beach by a good channel.


The sand schooner selects a steep part of a protected beach, comes up to it broadside at high tide and makes fast by means of hawsers and kedges both bow and stern. A long gangplank is run out and extended to the slot from which the sand is dug. Men fill broad and capacious wheelbarrows and run them up to the deck of the vessel, where they dump the loose sand into the hold. ”It is the heaviest cargo there is,” said Captain Charley, “and very dead; bricks are live in comparison.”

Sanders ply their vocation in winter as well as summer. With a fair wind they can make Boston in seven hours. Captain Charley left Boston on Christmas in 1917 and did not get back until the middle of March. For most of the time he was frozen up. ”Why anybody wants to visit the beach and sand hills I can’t see,” said the Captain. “If I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t stay there longer than one minute.”

Alas ! The Edward S. Eveleth has found a grave in the sand and the flowing sea. On an October day in 1922, after she had been filled with sand, a heavy sea, rolling around the point of the dunes, rushed over her decks, and she turned on her beam ends at the edge of the beach. Each tide sucked her deeper into the sand. But it is far better that she ended her days thus than that she sank at sea with loss of life.”

A section of the ship, probably the bow, now lies on Steep Hill Beach. the remainder of the ship lies just offshore and is marked by navigation buoys. You can see just the edge of its skeleton by wading out in low tide.
A section of the ship, apparently the broken-off bow stem lies on Steep Hill Beach at the water’s edge. The remainder of the ship is just offshore and its skeleton is occasionally visible underwater at very low tides.
Anatomy of a schooner bow
Anatomy of a schooner bow showing the stem

Read: Annual List of Merchant Vessels of the United States


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Categories: Shipwrecks, Stories

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