Lost at Sea
Sheevaun Nelson has compiled a Web site with names
of sailors who disappeared at sea
|Edwin and Abram Pitt were sons of David Pitt and Catherine Holder. They
disappeared on a trip from Cape Breton.
Photo courtesy Gordon Miller
There was no standing around and talking
after church this Sunday as we were taking an afternoon drive to town. As
soon as we ate and Mum finished the dishes, Dad donned his felt hat and headed
for the car. Cliff and I were right behind him. He usually took the route
through Rothesay but today he went down through French Village as he planned
to stop and visit Uncle Ern who had a farm on the Golden Grove Road near
the Nail Factory Hill. When we arrived at his place, we found the back door
unlocked but nobody was home.
So to complete the day we drove on into the city and on a suggestion from Mum took a walking tour of Lower Cove, the name often used for the south end of Saint John. This area had many large houses and they certainly impressed me, but the ones on Orange Street were really beautiful in my eyes.
When we stopped and looked at them, Mum wondered who had the task of cleaning the houses and washing the windows. Dad looked at the steep roofs and was pleased he didn't need to climb up there to sweep the chimney or patch the shingles. Cliff admired the large brass handles on the doors and the chandeliers that he could see hanging from the ceiling. I kept looking way up and I couldn't figure out why anyone would build a glassed-in verandah on the top of the roof. They had even put ornate iron railings around it.
Gram had a verandah but it was at ground level. We had a platform at the back door but it had no railing. Mum noticed my gazing skyward and said, "A penny for your thoughts?"
When I replied that I was wondering why anyone would build a sun porch on the roof, a smile spread across her face. She explained it was a widow's walk or sometimes called a widow's watch. The women of the house would go up there and with their spyglass watch for the return of the ships their husbands or sons had gone to sea on several weeks or even months before.
Mum's voice was filled with sadness as she mentioned that lots of people
were drowned at sea. She went on to tell how many a wife or mother spent hours
hoping the sailing vessel had only been delayed and was just late in returning
but finally would need to accept the truth that a loved one was not coming
Many tales of the heartbreak that families endured are recorded in old letters and diaries that have been saved through the years. One such diary is that of Emma Pitt of Saint John. She kept a diary only one year, 1873, the year she turned 16. This diary survived in the care of Emma's cousin Amelia (Holder) Henderson and her daughter Marjorie Bannister, now 102 years old, and the following excerpts were provided by Gordon Miller.
"May 17, Saturday Ed went out today. Abe went away last night. I didn't see Ed before he went away.
August 9, Saturday: Pa hear today that the boys are lost for certain.
Aug 22, Friday: Fine day. Pa went over to a fortune teller and she told him the boys were living and a whole lot of other things.
Oct 17, Friday: This is the day we will expect the boys home. But they dident come and I dont think they ever will."
In May Emma had flipped ahead to Oct 17 and recorded the date the boys
should have been home; she later added the second sentence.
The Pitt brothers referred to in this diary were sons of David Pitt and Catherine Holder. They disappeared on a trip from Cape Breton. Their father would not believe they were lost and as Emma stated in her diary, he sought the advise of a fortune teller. Finally one night he had a dream in which his two sons dragged themselves from the St. John River covered with sea-weed, crawled to the cemetery in Holderville and vanished into the earth. David then accepted that they were truly lost.
Information on the Pitt Boys, several of their Holder relatives, and fishermen and mariners from all parts of the Atlantic Provinces as well most sea-faring nations on the Atlantic Ocean can be found online at a website called Fishing? - It Was "A Way of Life" and Lost at Sea. The site began with a compilation of the names of seafarers who never returned from their voyages, but has expanded to cover many more topics. This website, http://www.lostatsea.ca/, is dedicated to these lost voyagers and their surviving families.
It is impossible to do justice to the scope of this website in the space available. An incredible amount of work has gone into it, and our thanks goes to the author, Sheevaun Nelson. Sheevaun is the grand-daughter of an extra master mariner from the sailing-ship era; she was born in Ireland, arrived in Montreal at a young age, married and raised a family in Central Canada, and moved to Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia (near Lunenburg) in 1992. The house she bought in Blue Rocks had belonged to a family who had lost 4 sons at sea. Shortly after arriving in Blue Rocks, a scallop dragger with her crew of 5 men was lost. It was with this background that she developed her website.
Some of the information and topics available at this website follow:
-Alphabetical lists of names of those Lost At Sea - listed by province, state or country
-August Gales of 1926-27 - twelve schooners, 186 men, from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Gloucester lost off Sable Island with names of crews lost.
-Memorials to Fishermen and Mariners in Atlantic Canada - with photographs, inscriptions, names of those lost, names matched to a number of vessels and the Blessings of the Fleets.
-A list of Nova Scotia names, 1846 - 1965 - which are engraved on the Gloucester Fishermen's Memorial Cenotaph.
-The Hungry Sea - Atlantic Canada sea tragedies and tragic mysteries 1850 to 2000.
-Home From The Sea - safe endings 1875 to 1950.
-Personal recollections, letters, diaries, accounts
of the sea as well as Rum Running.
The site at http://www.lostatsea.ca/ is a reminder of the toll taken by the sea.
* * *
Harrison- Finlay: There is a photograph in a family album taken in 1902 by my grandmother (Helen Evelyn Driscoll Finlay) in South Africa of a tombstone for Capt. Harrison. He died of enteric fever during the South African (Boer) War at Wynberg on June 10, 1900, age 35 years. He was with the Eighth Princess Louise Hussars, N.B. and a Transport Office in the 1st Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles. If anyone has any information, or would like a scan of the photograph, please contact:
- Sheevaun Nelson, RR#1, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, B0J 2C0, Canada. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tufts - Tuff: I am seeking any TUFTS, TUFT, TUFF (plus variations) family members for inclusion in a genealogy book, "Tufts Kinsmen", which will be published in 2002.
-Tufts Kinsmen Project, 2515 Trondheim Cres., Mississauga, ON L5N 1P3. E-mail email@example.com.
Ruby is a genealogy buff. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.
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