SHIPWRECKS AT BURGEO AND NEARBY PLACES
This now covers the History of the Churches, Clergymen, Doctors, Customs Officials and Agents of the different business and I shall now take up with a short chapter, "The Wrecks" of ships lost here or nearby places. I cannot give the exact dates as there are no records or any person living at this time who can.
The ship Jane King was lost at Rencontre Island in or about the year 1850; the crew was all saved. Her cargo consisted of sugar, rum and hides and most of it was saved by the fishermen and sold to two business firms, Newman & Company and Nicolle & Company.
There was an English ship, Douglas, which came in here on fire and was taken in to King's Harbour. She burnt to the water's edge and sank. The cargo was coal, stores, and possibly other goods. This vessel was bound for Canada. This was in or about the year 1853. There were three passengers on board, a lady and her daughter, and a gentleman named Simpson. Before leaving Burgeo a [marriage] ceremony was performed by the Rector. Mr. Cunningham.
Another wreck was a ship called The Miser. She was lost at Wreck Island, however, the crew was saved. This was many years ago, long before any of my old friends can remember. The ship was bound for Canada, no doubt, with a cargo. The only thing I have heard about this wreck was that the fishermen went to her and got their punts full of bags of nuts and some tea and leather.
There was a French vessel that went into Bay de Vieux in or about the year 1825, on fire and burnt to the water's edge. Old Mr. Hayman of Fox Island, who died in 1888, was living there at that time and this story comes from him. Only in 1918 was the stem of this vessel taken up from the bottom and sawn into boards and the writer has a piece of this date, 1924, on the mantelpiece in the Magistrate's Office.
A large vessel was lost at Otter's Point over eighty years ago. I have no particulars of this ship. Austin Martin of Channel was wrecking a few years ago and went down and put a blast under her and sent up pieces and the wood was a sound as the day she was built. I have a piece of this ship.
In 1862, a large vessel named The Dumbarton of St. John's, with a cargo of coal was lost at First Brook, near Wreck Island. The crew was saved. To this date. coal washes ashore there and burns very well. A large ship was lost in or about the year 1840 at the Horses Ears, New Harbour. There were no passengers and the crew was saved. This information was given me by old Joseph James, a then-resident and later years a servant to the writer and to Nicolle & Company, then to De Gruchy, Renouf, Clement & Company. A great character was old Joey James and well known to the old inhabitants for his songs and quaint sayings.
In the sixties there were two large vessels in ballast lost at or near Grand Bruit. These vessels were bound for Canada. They became total wrecks and the sails, spars, anchors, and chains were saved by the fishermen there and the writer's father bought much of this material.
In the year 1887, in the month of August, there was lost from this port the schooner, Grace Hall, belonging to Messrs. Clement & Company. This vessel was engaged in the Banks Fishery and commanded by Captain John Anderson, an old friend. When we started business at Burnt Islands in 1870, he fished for us in his boat, The Flirt. I have been able, through my friend George R. Moulton of Thomas Moulton Son's, to get full particulars of the loss of the above vessel. As I said above, Captain John Anderson was master, James Wilcox, an Englishman and a brother-in-law, was cook. The other members of the crew were as follows: James Porter, Philip Crewe, Robert Crewe, Thomas Strickland, John Greene, James Simms, Charles Clothier, George Meade, Meschec Meade, and William Anderson. The last named was in the employment of the writer from his boyhood to within a few years of this disaster. On August 20th, a gale was on and it has always been supposed this vessel was lost then.
Another Banksing vessel of only 25 tons, owned and commanded by Captain John Vatcher, was lost on the Bankss in a gale of August 1900. His crew comprised the following men: Hugh Domine, Charles Hann, Henry Parsons, George V. Rose, Henry Dicks, Joseph Gunnery, and one Simms from Hunt's. Captain Vatcher was one of the finest citizens and one of our very smartest of men ever to live in Burgeo. He was a great loss to this place. I do not think of him but with a smile. He was a chip from the old block. His father, Stephen, was one of the foremost men of this place, first in everything and I am sorry to record that such a fine man could come to such an untimely end. He was drowned in the Long Reach late one evening in the month of October in the year 1891, returning from his trapping which he kept up to the last. His body was not recovered until next spring having floated and driven ashore under Richard's Head. Needless to say, the whole parish attended the funeral. He was also a loss to this Parish being Church Warden for years and the first always and the last for all Church work.
In the year 1905, Thomas Moulton lost a new vessel of 100 tons. She was engaged in the fish exporting business and was returning from Oporto in command of Nathan Poole of Burnt Islands, a very young man. His crew was as follows: Charles Le Roux, mate, John Le Roux, William Hann, cook, William Timberly, and John Newal. Only two of the above were married. This vessel loaded at Harbour Breton and was on her way back in late April with a cargo of salt and has not been heard of since. Icebergs were very numerous that spring out over the Bankss and it was thought one might have been struck in the night.
In 1911, the schooner, Heroine, of 40 tones, owned by John Rose of Burgeo, was making a passage from Sydney to Burnt Islands with a cargo of coal for Robert Moulton. On the 20th day of November, or the l9th night, she was lost with all hands at the western part of Isle-aux-Morte. Wreckage being discovered, it was at once known who and what vessel it was. Captain Rose was an old friend of the writer and was known to have been a successful man. He had as crew the following men: George Ingram, widower, ___________.
In 1900, October, a gale of wind came up from the northeast at or about 11 A.M. The fishermen were all on the fishing grounds and very few boats reached the harbour that night. This was the result from Muddy Hole to Burgeo. All the boats east made for harbour. To the west, most of our boats reached the islands. One or two got in at Ramea and here. One boat containing two men, Joby Strickland, a cripple living with his mother, Jane Thomas, a widow; the other, James Hayward, married son-in-law to the above widow. They were swamped when trying to beat in just west of the islands. They had a very small, poor boat. One other boat, a large fishing punt, worked west holding on to the land and got inside the islands of Wreck Island, but there they came to grief. William Collier, Master and owner of the boat and his brother-in-law, John Anderson of West Point, met a watery grave. William had a large family of girls. Anderson was a single man. Another boat from Hunt's, my old friend, Benjamin Simms, and a small boy, kept at it with a piece of sail and got as far west as Grand Bruit late in the P.M. They were seen by the people and one of the best skiffs, well manned, put out, took the boat in tow, and got her in just before night. Had no person at Grand Bruit been on the lookout for such incidents, Grand Bruit Islands might have been reached and there these two would have perished, undoubtedly. The rescue was detailed to the writer by the well know, the late John P. Chetwynd.
On February 4th, 1868, the schooner, Quito, belonging to Nicolle & Company, of this place and LaPoile, started for LaPoile. The wind was easterly and the weather clear. Samuel Poole was the master and the agent, Mr. Gruchy, and the Reverend George Chamberlain of LaPoile and his wife were passengers. These persons had been paying a visit to the parsonage at Burgeo; the agent, to the Jersey Room where Mr. Middleton was agent. By some mismanagement, the skipper overran LaPoile and the wind flew around to the northwest and they ran back again. Possibly it came on to snow and they picked themselves up in the Bight between Otter's Point and Cinq Cerf and anchored near Cutto (Couteau) Point. The vessel was close to the shore and at low water, one of the rocks was above water. Mr. Chamberlain got on this rock and jumped to the land. Mr. Gruchy with Mrs. Chamberlain got onto this rock and waited their chance [Reverend Chamberlain successfully jumped to shore. Mr. Gruchy, at Reverend Chamberlain's behest, acquired a piece of rope from the schooner to tie around Mrs. Chamberlain. The plan, apparently, was to somehow get one end of the rope to Reverend Chamberlain, who would then pull his wife to safety. Unfortunately, before the plan could be carried out, a receding wave carried Mrs. Chamberlain from the rock and she was drowned.]
Mr. Gruchy could not get on board again, although he had a rope around his waist and a boy, the cook, tried to help him. Mr. Gruchy was also drowned. The skipper and crew were always supposed to be drunk. Had these people all remained on board, they would have been saved, as the vessel came to no harm and later got to LaPoile. Mr. Chamberlain got to Otter's Point. The body of Mr. Gruchy was found on the bottom months after by a fisherman of Otter's Point and was taken to LaPoile and buried. Mr. Gruchy left a wife and family who returned to Jersey that summer.
In the spring of 1896, Captain Lewis Colley, owner of the schooner, Annie, went to the ice as he had done before in other years. His crew comprised the following men: Robert Billard and son Lambert, Morgan Buffett, quite an old man for this kind of sea faring, Robert Forward and John Caroll. The vessel got in the ice and was driven out of the gulf by strong northwest winds. The ice packed close to the land from Cape Anguille and the vessel was pushed close along the shore and struck bottom at Codroy. There was a high wall of ice there. The vessel touched it for a mile or so and the crew could all have saved their lives by jumping onto it. Robert Billard and his son did just that. Captain Colley called the men to stay by the vessel. Billard followed the vessel along as it was carried by the ice and told the Captain and others to jump, never mind her, but they did not do it in time. Therefore, the remainder were all drowned. Three of the men tried to jump but failed. Captain Colley stayed to the last. His body and Robert Forward's were picked up later. The others were not found. Robert Forward's body was brought here for burial. Captain Colley was buried at Codroy where his grave is marked with a stone erected by his widow who died only a few years later.
In 1918, the schooner, Elsie Burdett, of Burgeo, one of a fleet of fish carriers of John T. Moulton, commanded by Captain Albert Hann, better known as Bert, sailed from Oporto for this port in April. She had a cargo of salt and sailed in company with the Gordon Moulton, of the same owners. The vessels parted company one evening and all was well. The Gordon arrived in due time, making a good passage and met with no heavy weather, but the Elsie never turned up. From that time to this, nothing has ever been heard from her. How she was lost and just when will never be known. It has been thought that a German submarine may have sunk her. They were in all parts of the Atlantic. Bert was a smart fellow and knew how to handle a vessel, no doubt, but had no learning and carried a navigator, one Evans, of St. Jacques, a single man. The crew of this vessel had one Hatcher of Hunt's, one Strickland, of the same place and one Collier, a son of Charles Collier. The other man I do not remember. These were all young men, but Bert left a widow and two boys and a girl.
The schooner, Lizzie M. Stanley of Burgeo, belonged to J. T. Moulton and was commanded by John Collier, a single man. She had a crew of five as follows: Morgan Buffett, Joseph Ingraham (19 years), Thomas Buffett (20 Years), Harold Knott (22 years), and Simeon Billard. Ingraham, Buffett, and Billard were married and left young widows. This vessel sailed from St. Pierre for Catalina on December 6, 1917 to load fish but never reached there. She was in ballast and I fear had no shifting boards and met a gale east of Cape Race and no doubt was thrown over. Captain Collier was reported by a schooner from Grand Banks bound to St. John's, who said the two vessels were together late in the P.M. east of Cape Race and a gale was coming on. That's the last every heard of this vessel.
The Duchess of Cornwall returned to port from Bahia, South America, in charge of Leonard Hare, Mate, on the 2nd day of October 1914, and reported to me that the Captain, John Collier, had died at sea and was buried. The cause of death was supposed to be kidney complaint from which he had suffered. He made a full report, which is on file at the Court House. This vessel was one of J.T. Moulton's fish carriers and in 1916, loaded at St. John's and after being out only a day or two was met by a German submarine and was sunk. The crew was taken to Germany and remained there until the Armistice of 1918 was signed. Captain Thomas Gunnery was in command and his crew comprised the following men: George Grant [Crant], Alfred Anderson, Isaac Anderson, Arthur Barter, _______ .
The schooner, County Richmond, in command of Captain Leonard Hare of Burgeo, sailed from St. John's in company with the Gordon Moulton. Both vessels were bound for this port. On Sunday, the 13th of February 1921, Captain Collier of the Gordon came to port and reported both vessels together off Placentia Bay on the 12th. It was a mystery why the Richmond was not in. From that time up to the 19th, there was no sight of the overdue vessel but at midday, the Rector of Ramea came and reported that there was a large vessel near the Islands. She was full of water with her head down and had been sighted on Monday, but the weather had been so windy no one could get to the wreck until the 18th. From the description given, it was soon known it was the Richmond and that some bad steering was the cause of this disaster. As soon as the vessels passed St. Pierre, the wind was east and the course to be steered to keep clear of Ramea was undoubtedly not kept and someone was to blame. Captain Hare was a very cautious man and had long been master of large vessels and it was thought it was not his fault but that during the night while he was below, the course was altered to one that did not give a margin to clear Ramea's southern islands. This was a sad loss to us. There was one young married man on board, Charles Spencer. Other members of the crew were as follows: Wilson Spencer, James Hare, Norman Hare, and a man from St. John's, name unknown. Captain Hare had his young son with him, age 16. The agent of this vessel, J.T. Moulton, went over to Ramea to examine the wreck and also to visit the Penguin Islands to see if any of the crew had reached there; but none had. All, no doubt, went down with the vessel. There was a heavy sea Saturday night, the 12th, and they were, no doubt, all washed off the deck very quickly after she struck the bottom. It is thought that she struck one of the shoals just south of the Islands of Ramea.
The following vessels belonging to this part of the fleet of J.T. Moulton's agent were lost in different years. However, there was no loss of life except for the Glays M. Street, which had a full crew and a master from Catalina. She had sailed from that port with fish for Oporto. The schooner, Milneraine, a new vessel of 200 tons, Captain Joseph M. Vatcher, was lost on a voyage from Portugal, with a cargo of salt for this port. She simply went to pieces in heavy weather. The schooner sank shortly after the crew left her.
I think on the pages preceding this that I have covered the "Wrecks" and lost vessels of this port with their crews. These losses have all caused many tears and heartaches for our friends and neighbours and all have been personally known to me.