Thursday, December 22, 2005


1900 shipwreck was a close call


Ocean County Observer
December 19, 2005

It may have been the season to be jolly, but Ocean County was still a dangerous place as Christmas approached in 1900.

Over on the beach, in Lavallette, lifesaving crews braved a winter storm and a surf filled with lumber to haul a crew of six off the three-masted schooner Oliver Schofield.

At least it was a three-masted schooner when it first ran aground about 3 p.m. on Dec. 4.A severe gale demasted the schooner and she was waterlogged.

Gone were the main and mizzen masts when the crew of the Chadwick Lifesaving Station arrived. They left their station three minutes after the ship went aground, hauling their rescue gear over the beach to reach the ship.

The schooner was filled with lumber, bound from Norfolk, Va., to New York.J. W. Petit, keeper of the Chadwick Station, said a line was fired to the ship, which was 200 yards offshore.

The crew of the schooner tried to make the line fast to the foremast just as it too was washed overboard.

Instead they tied the line to lumber and two men were taken off before the line operating the breeches buoy broke the first time.It was mended and the fourth man was taken off just as it broke again.

The captain and mate were left aboard.

Unable to reassemble the gear, and with darkness approaching, the two seamen worked their way from the ship toward the beach hand-over-hand on the hawser, dropping into the sea filled with lumber when they were close enough for members of the lifesaving crew to reach them.

"It was hard and dangerous work," Petit said. His crew was aided by the one from Mantoloking and fishermen from Lavallette.

"Each man staid at his post and there was no shirking," Petit said of the Lifesavers. "We saw from the start that we must take our lives in our hands if we hoped to save our fellow man," he added.

The crew was rescued, the ship left a hopeless wreck on the beach, its cargo in piles nearby.

The ship was built in 1867, was 136-feet long, 31-feet wide, and weighed 376 tons. Her homeport was New London, Conn.

If Ocean County surfmen had saved passing seamen in Lavallette, two from Tuckerton were just as glad for the work of those at Rocky Point, Long Island, N.Y.George W. Jones and Walter C. Stiles were part of the crew of the yacht Rosina, owned by Harry T. Malpass of Philadelphia, when it went to pieces at Rocky Point. They were among the crew members rescued by the Lifesaving crew there, and were back in Tuckerton in time to celebrate their good fortune and Christmas.


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