March 29, 1875
There was much excitement in the town of St. Mary’s, St. Mary’s Bay on March 2, 1875, excitement that would by the end of the month turn into grieving.
The excitement was stirred by the sighting of a vessel 2 ½ miles from the shore of St. Mary’s, the vessel was stuck in the ice. The men of St. Mary’s looked on this as an opportunity to salvage the vessel. A party of thirty four men and one young boy, 14 year old John Grace was quickly gathered and they started out on the ice too the brig, spending the day on board.
Toward evening they started back to St. Mary’s, but had not proceeded far when they realized the terrible fact that the ice had parted between them and the shore, and the opening was increasing every moment.
The men would be marooned on a pan of ice for the best part of the month, many died, and some would be rescued from the pan of ice by a the schooner Georg S. Fogg on route to Bermuda. The survivors were later transferred to a larger passing steamship, the Nurnberg, on route to Baltimore, Maryland.
It was on arrival in Baltimore that a reporter with the Baltimore Sun learned off the plight of the men from St. Mary’s and interviewed the men writing this story.
Andrew Mooney of St. Mary’s interview with the Baltimore Sun
Andrew Mooney a man of thirty six years, with an intelligent and honest countenance, who is among those of the Nuremberg said yesterday (March 28, 1875) that all were neighbors to each other, and nearly all were born in St. Mary’s. He and a number of others have large families, which they supported by fishing in the summer.
Mooney told the Baltimore Sun that when they saw that the ice had parted they realized they were in trouble.
The Baltimore Sun reported:
Consternation seized upon them as they hastened forward, and each threw away his heavy outer clothing as he ran, to be encumbered as little as possible. When the brink of the ice was reached the space of water between them and the shore was half a mile wide, the ice haven broken one mile from the land, and the immense field upon which they stood floating steadily further out to sea.
It was now quite dark, the party was exhausted and half-clad and they prepared for the terrible cold which soon set in. At first it rained until they were all wet to the skin. The rain then turned to sleet and snow, the wind veered to the northward, and the cold became intense, the fierce blast of the wind cutting them to the bone.
Then began the effort for life, the men stamping their feet, running madly about, and the more sturdy encouraging the weak and faltering. The cold still increased, as Mooney says, it had reached a degree of intensity not equaled before in that latitude this winter.
“When morning dawned several corpses were counted …”
At midnight the cold and exhaustion began to tell upon the doomed ones in the little party. First one and then another of them would lie down saying he could not go any further. The others would pick them up and try to keep them on their feet but after reeling for a short distance like drunken men they would fall senseless upon the ice and die without a struggle. Those able to keep their feet had enough to keep themselves from falling into fatal lethargy and with sad hearts each victim was left to his fate. Father or son or brother saw each other fall and were powerless to help. When morning dawned several corpses were counted at intervals along the ice and of the remainder none could tell who was to be the next victim.
On that terrible night, March 2, the boy and other delicate ones were placed in the middle of the throng as they stood or moved about and thus secured some shelter.
A field of ice twenty feet square floated near the brink of the ice in the open water, upon which nine of them got, hoping that it would float toward the shore ice and they could thus save themselves. When it had floated three hundred yards from the ice, upon which their comrades stood it grounded, and the unfortunates remained upon it for three days and nights, during which time six of them died, the other three being picked up by the schooner Georg S. Fogg on the 6th March.
When it is remembered that seven died on that first night, it is wonderful that three of the nine on the small icefield escaped alive, they having endured hunger as well as the cold. All the food they had in all that time was a small white fish which was frozen in the ice. This they divided between them.
The eighteen men remaining after the nine floated off the small ice field made their way back to the abandoned brig, which was tightly jammed in the ice, and was carried with it. All expected to die in her and some of them had lost their senses before reaching her the second time. There were no stores on the brig and they subsisted on molasses a few oranges and edible scraps that could be found.
“… a schooner was seen four miles away…”
At length, one evening at sunset, a schooner was seen four miles away, which had been caught in the same field that imprisoned the brig. That night the half famished men held a council and determined to reach the schooner next day or die in the effort. Next morning at daylight they embarked in the brig’s small boat, which could scarcely hold them all, and after struggling through the ice nearly all day reached the schooner George S. Fogg and were saved. There they met the three survivors of their nine comrades who left them nearly two weeks before, the three singularly enough, having been saved by the same vessel that had rescued the other eighteen.
Captain Spence gave them plenty of food, and if the prayers of these grateful, honest, poor Irish fishermen can avail to make his future life prosperous, he will never want on this earth’s stores.
The twenty one fishermen and crew of seven over crowded the little schooner, but the Captain had food enough for all, and all the discomfort that they experienced was from their circumscribed quarters. Some of the more robust of the party perished, and some of the more frail escaped, among them the boy James Grace.
The survivors were later transferred to a larger passing steamship, the Nurnberg, on route to Baltimore, Maryland.
To a question as to how the news would be received in St. Mary’s, Mooney replied, as he brushed a tear away, there is now mourning in every household, for they do not know that any of us are saved. He said that he had six children, and that some of those who had died have families equally as large.
Names of those from St. Mary’s who perished:
The names of the men who perished on the ice were: John Poole, Michael Poole, James Vale, Michael Waile (Vale) , Thomas Boone, Patrick Dobbin, Gregory Rouser, (Rousell) John Rouser (Rousell) and Patrick Waile (Vale) . Michael and Patrick Waile (Vale) were father and son Gregory and John Rouser (Rousell) were father and son.
The unmarried men were Joseph Grace, Patrick Leatham, Michael Barre (Barry) , and William Boone.
Names of those from St. Mary’s brought to Baltimore:
Andrew Mooney and Thomas Mooney, brothers; William Ruben; Patrick and William Tobin, brothers; John Fuer (Furey), James Grace (aged 14) whose brother Joseph Grace perished, James Peddle, Thomas Barre (Barry) , perished, and Benjamin Sancrow (St. Croix).
The ten Newfoundlanders were taken in charge by the British Consul on (March 29,1875) and were sent home in the Caspian, which travelled between to Halifax and Baltimore.
Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives: GN 20/1 March 29, 1875, Baltimore Sun: Thrilling Story of the Sea. Adventure of thirty four men.