Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Faithful Steward Shipwreck September 1785

Two of Samuel Hepburn's sons came to America first, then later Samuel decided to join them.  He brought his wife and daughter along, but the ship wrecked and both his wife and daughter drowned.  These are the accounts of the shipwreck that I have pulled together:


From The Hepburn Journal
by Harriet Wilkins


Their reports to their father in Donegal were sufficiently optimistic to induce Samuel Hepburn to set sail for America with his two younger sons. Mrs. Hepburn and her daughter Janet remained in Donegal waiting a final adjustment of affairs. The older Hepburn fully concurred in his sons' plans and decided to make his future home in this country.  The younger son was sent to Donegal to wind up affairs and return with his mother and sister.

Here occurred a tragedy.  The ship bearing the Hepburn party was wrecked off the Jersey Coast.  Mother and daughter were drowned.  John Hepburn, an athlete and strong swimmer, managed to reach the mainland in an exhausted condition.  By the irony of fate, another vessel, on which were stowed the personal belongings of the family, arrived safely in Philadelphia.  Many of the relics of this ancient migration, a few of which are in the writer's possession, indicate a graceful home life in the old Donegal homestead. 



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Historical Marker
SHIPWRECK OF “THE FAITHFUL STEWARD”
September 2, 1785
Bound from Londonderry, Ireland to Philadelphia with 249 immigrants, “The Faithful Steward” ran aground on a shoal where she was destroyed by stormy seas with heavy loss of life.

SC-73
LOCATION: inactive/removed. Delaware Seashore State Park. On Haven road, first road on right, north of the Indian River Inlet Bridge.

The Delaware Public Archives operates a historical markers program as part of its mandate. Markers are placed at historically significant locations and sites across the state.

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The Faithful Steward

Departed: Londonderry Ireland, July 9 1785
53 days later, crashed off the shore of Delaware.

The Faithful Steward was a new ship, insured for more than its real value, Somewhere in the Bay, the captain ran the ship upon a rock and wrecked her to pieces. (The vessel was wrecked on the Delaware coast, thirty miles south of Delaware Bay, September 1, 1785.) The passengers alarmed, pleaded with the Captain to shun the roack, but he swore he would drive the ship through or "sink her to hell," and such was the terrible result.  The Captain, his officers and sailors, manned their boats, left for shore, and left the passengers to perish.

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I will here recount the voyage as described perhaps by Capt. McCausland (paraphrased,): 

After an uneventful voyage the cr
ew sensed, about sundown, the nearness of the land. At 10:00 pm it was decided to take soundings. The depth of water was 4 fathoms (24 feet - I estimate the vessel's draft to have been perhaps 20 feet at most). They were almost aground.

The captain (or mate on watch) then decided to turn immediately back out to sea (wearing or tacking) in order to ride out a storm that had come up suddenly, in deeper waters until daylight. But before the maneuver could be performed, they were hard aground on Mohoba Bank, about 100 to 150 yards from the beach.


As the winds drove the vessel deeper into the bank, the mainmast was cut away and cast overboard (to remove the driving force of the winds and to lighten the ship in hopes that she might free herself from the bank as the result of the action of the waves.) One account asserts that the Faithful Steward did briefly break loose from the bank, but shortly thereafter was driven aground again. Would-be rescuers reported that they could hear the cries of the doomed passengers, but there was no way they could help.


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"For the information and satisfaction of the relations and friends of the passengers who were on board the ship Faithful Steward, capt. Con. M'Causland from Londonderry, bound to this place, with 249 people on board, when he was cast away in September last, near the Capes of Delaware. The Subscribers think it necessary to give a list of the passengers, which is as correct as they have been able to make it out; some others may also have been saved of which they have not yet had any account."
Ship's Crew 
Capt. Con. M'CauslandSamuel Irwin, (sailor)
Mr. Standfield, (1st mate)John Quigly, sailor
Mr. Given (Gwyn), (2nd mate)Pat (rick). Mourn, (sailor)
Mr. (William) Lin (Linn), boatswainEdward M'Caffry (Caffrey), (sailor)
John Brown, (sailor)Pelick Hudson, (sailor)
Wm. Dalrample (Dalrymple), sailorOwen Phillips, (sailor)
Robert Kelly, sailor


Cabin PassengersThomas Calhoun (Colhoun)Gustavus Calhoun (Colhoun)
John O'Neill (O'Neil)James DoughertyJames Marshall
Thomas BlairJohn M'Calister (McCallister)Robert Laurence
John YorkSamuel Heburn

Passengers
Samuel MooreJames BeatyJames Devin
Sarah CampbellThomas Moore (More)Alexander Moore
Arthur HigginbottomCharles M'WilliamsSamuel Wright
George MunroAndrew WattJames Watt
James Smyth (Smith)Robert Dinmore (Dinsmore)Wm. M'Clintock
John M'Illheney (McIlheney)John M'NabJohn Brocket
Neill M'KinonSarah M'KinonJohn Aspill
James AspillThomas Ranolles (Ranolls)John M'Mullen (McMullan)
Mary BurnsJames M'Intire, seniorJames M'Intire, junior
Rebecca M'IntireJohn ScottJohn Spires
James Stunkard (Stankard)James LeeMary Lee
Thos. BaskinMargaret KincadeDoctor M'Dougle (McDougal)
Mary Maginniss (Maginnis)Matthew CaldwellHugh M'Clean
John ShawMatthew (Mathew) M'ManesSimon Ellist (Ellit)
James Ellist (Ellit)John DavisGeorge Richford

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STORY OF A SHIPWRECK.
by John Meginnes


When he became settled he determined to bring his wife and daughter to this country. The tradition, as related to the writer by a descendant (now deceased), is that he despatched his son John to Ireland for the purpose of settling up their affairs and then accompany them to America. His mission accomplished, they sailed from Londonderry on the ship Faithful Steward. The voyage proved uneventful until the coast of New Jersey was reached, when a storm arose and the vessel was driven on the sands and wrecked. An attempt was made to land a boat load of passengers, but it was swamped by the breakers, and Mrs. Hepburn and her daughter were drowned. Tradition says, further-

more, that the ladies might have been saved but for the additional weight of gold which they had belted around their persons.

There is a conflict of opinion, however, as to the time and place this calamity occurred. By some it is asserted that the wreck occurred off New Foundland; others maintain that it was on Absecom Beach, New Jersey, and about the year 1775. An officer of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania was recently informed from Atlantic City that the vessel was wrecked at Absecom in 1765. One boat load of passengers, in trying to get ashore, was swamped. They had with them a quantity of stamp act paper which the officers were anxious to get ashore, and it overloaded the boat. Much of this paper was afterwards picked up on the beach. From the wreck two sets of English china ware were saved, one of which is now at Atlantic City.


The time given (1765) is probably an error. Doubtless 1775 was the year meant, as it is so easy to make errors in dates. This would harmonize with other events — especially with the arrival of James and William Hepburn, which was in 1772 or 1773.


There is another tradition, preserved by the Dougal. family of Milton, Pa., which is that the vessel was lost off New Foundland. The father of the celebrated Dr. James Dougal was aboard the ship and was among the few saved. He reached land first, and succeeded in rescuing a young man who was in an exhausted condition. Edward Cooke and family-^brother of Col. William Cooke, of Revolutionary fame — were among the lost. Dougal and Hepburn, it is claimed, were the first to arrive and impart the sad views to relatives and friends. This report was confirmed by his grandson, Jacob Cooke, of Muncy, Pa., (b. 1797), who died in 1887, and the account has been preserved by his daughter. Mrs. M. J. Levan, in her scrap-book, who distinctly remembers hearing it related by her father when a child. Unfortunately the year of this occurrence has not been preserved.


Recorded In The Lee Family Genealogy



On July 9, 1785, forty four members of the LEE family were among the total of 249 passengers and crew who sailed from Londonderry, Ireland aboard the ship Faithful Steward.   The ship ran aground at Cape Henlopen, Delaware on Sept 1, 1785 and only 68 of the total aboard survived.  Among the survivors were  six  members of the LEE family;  James LEE, the wife of one of his brothers and four cousins who apparently didn't carry the LEE name.



According to Judge Robert Lee of Bucyrus, Ohio on his conversation with General Robert E. Lee in 1848 at Philadelphia the following transcribed:

 "I met General Lee in Philadelphia at the outbreak of the Mexican War.  He was a young officer.  I found his a very pleasant and intelligent gentleman, who had the genealoty of the Lee family to a marked degree.  He said that during some of the wars or revolutions in England a portion of the Lee Family left England and settled in Ireland and that many of their descendants, both from England and Ireland, emigrated to this country, but all were descendants of one original ancestry.  He told me of the loss of the Faithful Steward which I also heard from my grandfather.  A large number of the family engaged passage to this country on said ship; among the number was my grandfather, Thomas Lee, with all his family, but when they arrived at the port (Londonderry) the ship was so crowded they could not get passage and were compelled to wait for the next ship that sailed for  Philadelphia.
The Faithful Steward was a new ship, insured for more than its real value, Somewhere in the Bay, the captain ran the ship upon a rock and wrecked her to pieces. (The vessel was wrecked on the Delaware coast, thirty miles south of Delaware Bay, September 1, 1785.) The passengers alarmed, pleaded with the Captain to shun the roack, but he swore he would drive the ship through or "sink her to hell," and such was the terrible result.  The Captain, his officers and sailors, manned their boats, left for shore, and left the passengers to parish.  Among the 200 lost were 48 of the Lee family.  Also lost was one young lady "Pretty Polly Lee" of wonderful Beauty and
accomplishment, called " the Irish Beauty".  She was actually the daughter of James Lee and Isabella Bascowen Lee and named Mary Lee.  There were many
poems written in praise of her beauty.  According to Capt. Albert W. Lee of Uniontown, Ohio on Feb. 4, 1895, his grandfather James Lee, b. January 14, 1759 died Dec. 21,1843 and who was the son of James Lee II and who survived the wreck of the Faithful Steward, used to listen to songs of Pretty Polly Lee by old Miss Polly Pollock.  Also the Elliott near Zanesville, Ohio are some of the descendants of the cousins saved from the wreck.

Ships Treasure:

"For 135 years, English half-pennies, struck with a bust of King George III, have been washing up on the beach about one-fourth mile north of Indian River Inlet. Most of the coins were stored in barrels, purportedly 400 of them, below deck. Those that didn’t break open eventually rotted and cast millions of coins across the sandy bottom. The wreck is close enough to shore--just beyond the surf line--that coins are still swept in by heavy seas and riptides. Storms, such as Hurricane Earl, are signals to grab your metal detector and head for Coin Beach. Fittingly named years ago, the area is even designated Coin Beach on some souvenir maps. "

"The voyage lasted 53 days, but the news accounts do not mention that the Faithful Steward stopped at Newcastle, on the Irish Sea, to take on 400 barrels of coins, mostly pennies and half-pennies, as well as some gold and silver ones. These United States were then governed by the Articles of Confederation , and there was no mint, so coinage had to be imported."



“Faithful” Coins Wash Ashore From Delaware Shipwreck 

by Ellsworth Boyd Wreckmaster

A penny for your thoughts, or perhaps a half-penny would be more like it if you’re searching Delaware’s shores for long lost coins from the Faithful Steward. Most of them are English half-pennies, part of a general cargo aboard an English merchantman that left Londonderry, Ireland, in 1875 bound for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The 270 passengers and crew had an uneventful 53-day voyage until they were caught in a storm and the vessel ran aground at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. On captain’s orders, the crew cut down the mainmast and rigging, tossed them overboard and freed the 350-ton ship. But while heading for deeper waters, the vessel was driven towards shore by gale winds and grounded on still another shoal. This one was about nine miles south of Cape Henlopen, Delaware. It was only 200 to 300 yards from the beach, but there was no lifesaving service on that part of the coast until a year later. The Faithful Steward, its passengers and crew, were at the mercy of a storm that grew worse by the hour. A couple of longboats were launched, but capsized in heavy seas and drifted into the beach empty. Only 68 of those aboard ship survived, most of them drifting ashore while clinging to broken parts of the ship.
Rigging, decking and passengers’ belongings washed ashore, scattered among the dead bodies. Many of the victims were women and children. Good Samaritans helped the survivors, while scavengers looted pockets of the dead and carried off trunks that held their personal possessions.
For 135 years, English half-pennies, struck with a bust of King George III, have been washing up on the beach about one-fourth mile north of Indian River Inlet. Most of the coins were stored in barrels, purportedly 400 of them, below deck. Those that didn’t break open eventually rotted and cast millions of coins across the sandy bottom. The wreck is close enough to shore--just beyond the surf line--that coins are still swept in by heavy seas and riptides.
Shipping small denominations of British coins—in this case “coppers”—to America was common practice in those days. There was no mint in America and the British frequently over-minted coppers, which they palmed off on the Irish. But if the Irish rejected them, the next destination was America, where there always seemed to be a shortage of small denomination coins.
Storms, particularly the raging, howling kind that dump big waves on the beach and cause washouts, are signals to grab your metal detector and head for Coin Beach. Fittingly named years ago, the area is even designated Coin Beach on some souvenir maps. Actually, you don’t even need a metal detector. Sometimes coins are exposed in the wet sand where seaweed and seashells accumulate. Beachcombers have even discovered coppers while searching for shells and driftwood.
In 1985, Delaware maritime attorney Peter Hess, then a Deputy Attorney General for the state’s Department of Natural Resources, drafted a resolution commemorating the loss of the Faithful Steward. It passed in the Delaware General Assembly and a ceremony was held on the beach, September 2, the bicentennial of the disaster. A memorial plaque marks the spot where survivors were rescued, a time-honored reminder of the Scottish, Irish and English immigrants who never experienced an opportunity to find a new life in the New World. 
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After heavy easterly storms many coins have been found -- and are still being found -- along the Delaware Coast near the Indian River Coast Guard Station. These coins are mostly Irish halfpence coppers of the period 1780-1783, although a few gold and silver coins have been found.
It is supposed that the coins came from the strongbox of a vessel wrecked off the coast, and some believe the vessel to be the "Faithful Steward" which foundered in 1785 while bound for Philadelphia. Her cargo consisted of barrels of English and Irish half-pence copper coins dated from 1740 to 1783. Local residents forgot about the vessel until 1930 when the Indian River Inlet was dredged. This changed the offshore currents and coins began washing up on the beach. Literally hundreds have been found since.
Recent information says that the "Faithful Steward" went down at about 38 degrees, 44 minutes and 40 seconds Latitude. It now lies at about 38 degrees, 39 minutes, and 30 seconds Latitude. The depth at the original sinking was 19 feet at low tide. At the present location it would be about 50 feet deep. 

More Sources:
"The Daily Universal Register" of London, UK 23 Nov 1785

"Maryland Gazette, Encyclopedia of American ship wreck" by Bruce D Berman, 1972 (# of errors noted)

"Notebook of Shipwrecks, Maryland & Delaware Coast" by Richard Moale, 1990

"Ship wrecks in the Americas" by Robert F Max 1971/75/87

Crawford Journal 1881 that quotes an earlier article from the Meadville Courier of 1831. It is the story of the Faithful Steward shipwreck as told by James

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