Shipwrecks Off Our Town

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"Our Town" By James W. Tucker

Hampton Union

Thursday, September 29, 1951

Week before last, this column contained a story about the tornado of July 4, 1898 which caused the death of nine people, five of these nine by drowning when Captain Frank Nudd's sloop was wrecked. In commenting on this phase of the disaster, we wrote: "It probably was a direct result of this tragedy at sea that work on the Hampton Beach Coast Guard station was begun immediately." This assumption was an error. While the work on the Coast Guard station did begin during July 1898, the idea of establishing such a government facility was born in the mind of a well known man of that era on the occasion of the wreck of the Glendon.

Note From Miss Cole

For this information, we are indebted to one of our town's most respected senior citizens, Miss Anna May Cole. Miss Cole writes an interesting note, reading in part as follows: "On January 18, 1896, the Glendon loaded with coal, was wrecked on the rocks opposite Cutler's Seaview Hotel. Mr. Cutler said he never wished to experience a similar night and he would work politically for the government to establish a life-saving station at Hampton [Beach]. This was done several years later." Knowing of the great political influence which was wielded by the proprietor of this justly famous hostelry and having read about the harrowing incidents connected with the rescue of the Glendon's crew, the oversigned is perfectly willing, with Miss Cole, to accord full credit to Mr. Cutler for having made possible the establishment of the Coast Guard station at Hampton (North) Beach. And it is quite possible that our town has had occasion to be grateful on many occasions for various civic betterments which were brought about through the keen mind and unusual ability of this popular boniface of a previous generation. Col. George Ashworth possesses many of the same attributes which made Mine Host Cutler an outstanding citizen of our town in the nineties. And we must not forget some day to obtain from Miss Cole an account of Daniel Webster's life in Hampton. But let's get back to shipwrecks.

The Portland Disaster

The older residents of our town still talk about that terrific northeaster of November 26, 1898, the same year of our town's terrible tornado. During that driving snowstorm of fifty-three years ago last Monday, 151 ships foundered between Eastport and Block Island and one of these was the steamer Portland outbound from Boston to Portland, Maine. The ill-fated steamer cast her moorings, on orders from Capt. Hollis Blanchard, and left India wharf at seven o'clock on a Saturday evening with a crew numbering 68 and 108 passengers.

The stockholder's captain thought he could make Portland before the worst part of the storm broke, but by midnight the full force of a howling northeaster was piling mountainous waves off Cape Ann. At this point, the eighty mile wind drove the Portland back on her course so that by daylight on Sunday, watchers sighted her over Peaked Hill Bar off Cape Cod. Before midnight, 33 bodies and a welter of wreckage containing trunks, barrels and steamship fittings and furniture were strewn by the spume capped breakers all over the beach at that section of Cape Cod -- mute evidence of the fate of the Portland. But in the 53 years which have elapsed the reason for the wreck has never been ascertained. Was there a collision? Did she strike the Peaked Hill Bar or was she broken up by the terrible gale and the great waves? Many residents of our town will have vivid recollections of the Portland disaster, during this, the anniversary week of her loss.

Wreck At The Rivermouth

Because of John Greenleaf Whittier's poem, "Wreck of Rivermouth," many thousands of people have read about the group of eight settlers who sailed out of Hampton River for a trip to Boston and who were wrecked on the same type of treacherous bar at the rivermouth which even now bothers our fishermen. Whittier's poem about the first great sea tragedy which saddened our town in the earliest days of its history is much less factual than the following account taken from old town records:
"The sad hand of God upon eight psons goeing in a vessell by sea from Hampton to boston who were all swallowed up in the ocean."

Two British Cargo Ships Lost

On November 30, 1764, one of the English mast ships, the St. George, came ashore on "the Hampton ledges." This vessel was on its way from Boston to Portsmouth where it was intended to pick up a cargo of masts cut in our New Hampshire forests and marked with the King's arrow. The shipment was never made for the vessel, one of the largest in His Majesty's service, was a complete loss and its crew of seven men were drowned. Tradition tells us that the first rat was brought to America on the St. George. Although there probably were many wrecks off our town's shore during the next century. The first one of which we have a definite account occurred in February 1873, when the Sir Francis, a British steamer laden with a cargo of tin plate, iron and steel, foundered off the south side of the tip of Great Boar's Head and was lost together with its cargo and crew.

The Wreck Of The Glendon

Almost everyone among the older residents of our town remembers something about the wreck of the three masted schooner, Glendon. If it happens that their personal recollections are dim, they may have keenly in mind the stories which were told to them of this disaster by parents or other relatives. We have gathered our facts from many sources and will not guarantee them to be accurate in every detail. But from the accounts we have read and the stories we have heard, we believe the schooner, Glendon was driven ashore in the cove nearly in front of the old Cutler's Seaview Hotel, now the Allen Hotel, on Sunday, February 9, 1896.

The three-master was laden with coal and carried a crew of seven. We can well imagine the horror and consternation in the minds of the good people of Hampton Beach, and there could have been no more than a handful, as the stricken ship was driven shorewards by the gale and heavy seas. It probably was from Cutler's Hotel that a message was sent to the Coast Guard Station at Straw's Point and Wallis Sands, both in Rye.

Help Comes Overland From Rye

Mrs. Eugene Nudd tells us that Captain Remick, probably from the Straw's Point Station, because that is much nearer, arrived first. He came overland, his life-boat and crew drawn to the scene by horses. And the Glendon's crew of seven was rescued, probably by means of the breeches-buoy, for undoubtedly the stricken schooner with its cargo of coal, had been driven practically ashore by the time the coast guardsmen had arrived. And we gather from Miss Cole's post card that the last man was not taken ashore until far into the night. After such a harrowing experience, it is not difficult to imagine why landlord Cutler used all of his wide influence to secure the Coast Guard Station for Hampton which was built two years later.

Wreck To Restaurant

The coal cargo of the Glendon was later sold at auction to Frank Nudd for $90. We have no records as to who purchased the hulk, but we do know that for a short time admission was charged to those who were curious enough to want to go aboard the beached ship. Then the hull was made into a restaurant and for several seasons Bert Hall of Exeter sold chowders and saltwater taffy aboard the wreck. Eventually the stranded hull was broken up by wind and wave.

The "Mary Brown" and the "Frank"

On December 18, 1900, the Mary Brown, a small fishing schooner, was driven onto the beach in front of the Casino during another heavy northeast storm. The captain and five crewmen were lost in this disaster. We remember of seeing the ribs of this stricken hull when another severe northeaster uncovered them in the early 1930s. And Kenneth Ross has told us about the Frank, a two masted schooner, driven ashore sometime around 1900 by a severe storm and beached in front of the Ashworth. However, during a following low tide, she was hauled off by a tug.

Sometime around 1940, we took pictures in a snow storm of the crew of a fishing vessel as they were rowed ashore in three boats on the north (?south) side of Great Boar's Head after their fishing vessel, out of Gloucester, had been wrecked off the Isles of Shoals. The proprietor of this pillar would be happy to receive information concerning any shipwrecks along our town's coast, including those alluded to above or any other shipwrecks we have not mentioned.

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