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Saving Lives


Tuesday, December 23, 1903

The Storm of 1839
Particulars Told by One Who Took Part in Saving Life
Plucky Fishermen and Others Did Splendid Work

The recent publishing of an account of the terrible gale of December 13, 1839, in which so many lives were lost and large losses to vessel property, was read with intense interest and has led one of the number who did such noble work that day, Capt. John Parker, whom we believe also is the only survivor of the life-savers on that occasion, to furnish an account of the was in which they rescued about one hundred persons.

He gave an account of the storm, the terrible seas which rolled into the harbor, the vessels straining at their anchors, liable to go adrift at any moment, as viewed from the wharf of Mr. Samuel W. Brown, where a large crowd had gathered, it was proposed to go to the rescue. It was about nine o'clock in the morning and Mr. Brown said, "There's my schooner boar Van Buren which is decked over and is a good sea boat. Take her and see what you can do to rescue the poor fellows on board these vessels." The Van Buren was 27 tons burthen and when properly managed was indeed a fine sea boat.

Captains Harry Pew, Gorham Riggs, Fitz Riggs, Andrew Parker, Jr., John Parker and a Rockport captain whose name could not be recalled, at once volunteered their services, and they were indeed fine specimens of Cape Ann skippers.

After getting on board, the sails were double reefed, and Capt. Harry Pew, who was the oldest man on board, took the helm, and run out to the fleet of distressed vessels, coming to anchor a little ahead of them. They had a large boat in tow, and with a line paid the boat down to the vessels and then would haul them up alongside the Van Buren. In this was about one hundred people were rescued, the vessel making four trips. These vessels had come in in the night and had anchored off Ten Pound Island, which rendered their situation extremely dangerous in such a heavy sea.

The last vessel they went to had dragged down towards Master Moore's beach at Fresh Water Cove. They rescued all on board but a colored man, who wanted them to take his chest. They told him to take out what was the most valuable and come along, but he utterly refused to come unless they would take the chest. It was fearfully rough and the vessel was fast drifting out of the harbor, and probably foundered.

Capt. John Parker was the youngest man on board the Van Buren, being twenty years of age.

The vessels had cut away their masts and were taken in tow next day by the Van Buren to Jones & Daniels' spar yard where they received their new spars. One large vessel the North Carolina, of Calais, Me., was loaded with lumber and discharged at Samuel W. Brown's wharf.

The Custom House boat was an open boat, and also went to the rescue and did valiant service. She was commanded by Capt. William Carter, and he was accompanied by Capt. Charles P. Wood, Addison Winter, Gideon Lane and Daniel D. Heartly.

Among those who did most excellent service in rescuing those who came ashore on the beach, and many were saved in this way, was Mr. James Steele, brother of Mr. George Steele. He was mate of a Surinamer and died at that port.

Capt. Parker is a remarkably well preserved man of 84 years. His form is erect and his mental and physical abilities are vigorous. He takes much interest in local affairs and may be seen most any pleasant day walking the streets having the appearance of a man not over 60.


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