The Loss of the Steamship Portland, 1898

[Source: The New York Times, 30 Nov. 1898, page 1]

Steamer from Boston Wrecked Sunday Off Cape Cod.


Thirty-four Bodies of Passengers So Far Recovered. News Taken to Boston by a Special Courier, Telegraphic Communication Being Impossible.

BOSTON, Mass., Nov. 29.—The steamer Portland, bound from Boston to Portland, went down off Truro, on the outside of Cape Cod, Sunday morning. Every man, woman, and child on board at the time of the disaster was drowned, in all 118.

The list of passengers was on board the vessel. The following list, however, has been compiled as accurately as possible by the officers of the company:

Allen, Mrs. Theodore,

Allen, Miss,

Burns, Miss,

Carroll, Mrs. J. A., Lowell, Mass.

Chase, W. M., Worcester, Mass.

Chase, Master Philip,

Chickering, Mrs. George O., Weymouth.

Cole, Miss, Springfield, Mass.

Cole, G. W.

Coy, Mrs. Kate, East Boston.

Dennis, Mrs. Ezekiel.

Edmunds, Miss Jennie, East Boston.

Freeman, the Hon. F. Dudley,

Frye, Isaiah.

Frye, Miss Ruth.

Getchell, D. O., Boston.

Heerson, Mrs., Chelsea.

Heerson, Arthur F., Chelsea, Mass.

Hooper, H. True

Hooper, Oren.

Holmes, Miss Sophie.

Hoyt, Miss Jennie C.

Hutchinson, Miss.

Hutchinson, M. C.

Jackson, Perry, wife, and child of South Portland, Me.

Kennison, George B., Jr., Booth Bay Harbor, Me.

Langthorne, Miss Helen.

McCrillis, Miss Edna.

Mitchell, Mrs. Cornelia N., North Easton.

Pierce, Mr., Portland.

Plympton, Miss Emma L., of Charles River, Mass.

Rounds, Mrs. Daniel

Rounds, Mrs. Anna, Portland.

Ross, Miss.

Sewell, M. L., of Portland.

Sherwood, Fred, of Portland.

Sherwood, Fred.

Smith, Harry, 21 Marion Street, Boston.

Stevens, Fred, Portland.

Swift, Mrs. Alice, Portland.

Sykes, Miss Maud.

Thompson, Mrs., and child, Woodfords, Me.

Thompson, Charles H.

Wiggin, Charles.

Wilson, C. F., Bethel, Me.

Wheeler, Mrs., South Weymouth, Me.

The crew of the Portland, as far as can be ascertained, was as follows: Captain, Hollis H. Blanchard; first pilot, Lewis Strout: second pilot, Lewis Nelson; purser, F. A. Ingraham; clerk, Horace Moore; mate, Edward Deering; second mate, John McKay; quartermasters, Ansel Dyer, F. Petersen; watchmen, R. Blake, T. Sewell, J. Whitton, — Williams; first engineer, Thomas Merrill; second engineer, John Walton; third engineer. C. Verrill; steward, A. V. Matthews; second steward, Eben Houston.

Deck crew—John Daly, George McGilvary, Arthur Sloan, James Davidson, Peter Collins, Morris Graham, Cornelius O'Brien, D. Bruce, Matthew Baron, Richard Hartley, George C. Ropley.

Electrician, F. W. Leighton; oilers, J. A. Dillon and J. McNeal; firemen, M. Merriman, T. E. Fennell, H. Carter, W. J. Doughty, H. Rollison, and J. E. Gately; baggage master, W. B. Robishaw.

Waiters—Lewis Johnson, Arthur Johnson, Lee Forman, George Graham, — Gatlin, Samuel Smith; head saloonman, — Latimer.


The Portland left Boston on Saturday evening and was last seen afloat by a fisherman in the vicinity of Thacher's Island, several hours later. Nobody knows what happened in the awful hours on the angry sea which followed, and the lips that might tell the tale are sealed in death.

The surmise is that with the wind blowing a gale at the rate of seventy miles an hour, a rate which has never been equaled except once before in the written history of weather along this coast, with the waves running to mighty heights, the steamer became disabled and was swept by the raging seas across the entrance to Massachusetts Bay and down upon the graveyard of Cape Cod. The Portland, with its side paddlewheels and large exposure of hull must have been smashed by the seas and rolled by the mad waves, and at last foundered in the height of the gale Sunday morning. The news of the disaster is meagre because of blockaded railroads and fallen telegraph wires. The only additional facts brought from Cape Cod by a courier, who was thirty-two hours making the journey, is that vast quantities of wreckage of the Portland and thirty-four bodies have been cast upon the beach at Truro.

The first discovery of the disaster was made by Surfman Bowley of the High Head Life Saving Station, who found on the beach the body of a negro encircled by a life belt of the steamer Portland. Soon after bodies were washed ashore and recovered by the life-saving crews of the three stations in the vicinity. Not a glimpse of the steamer was obtained by the life savers. The destruction of the vessel was complete, as hundreds of barrels, boxes, and other articles of freight attest. From just east of the Peaked Hill Bar Station to the High Head Station, three miles eastward, the shore is heaped with debris.

The office of the steamship company was besieged with excited and tearful inquirers for news to-day but the officials had no information, and the tugs dispatched to the scene had not returned to-night.

The Portland carried a miscellaneous cargo of 100 tons of merchandise.

The vessel was built in Bath in 1890, and was a side-wheel steamer of 1,517 tons net burden. Her length is 230 feet, beam 42, depth 15 feet. She was valued at $250,000, and is fully insured.


Dr. Maurice Richardson of Beacon Street, this city, has been at his Summer home at Wellfleet during the storm, and his story corroborates the early accounts of the loss of the Portland, for he saw two of the bodies washed ashore and on them were life preservers marked with the vessel's name. Dr. Richardson was on the first train from Cape Cod which arrived in this city late to-night. To take the train he was obliged to ride fifteen miles. "I saw two of the bodies picked up," said Dr. Richardson. "One was probably that of a deckhand, a man of about twenty. He had on a life preserver marked ‘Portland.' The other body was that of a stout woman. She, too, wore a life belt with the steamer's name on it. Wreckage is coming ashore for fifteen miles along the coast. I picked up three piano keys and a piano cage ashore, but, of course, I do not know that they were from the Portland. Among the wreckage was a large quantity of furniture upholstered in red plush. Then there were cases of lard directed to Portland.

"I was fifteen miles south of High Head. There is nothing in the fact that wreckage was found so far south to contradict the report that it was at High Head that the Portland struck, for the current runs south along the shore." Dr. Richardson said he had heard one theory advanced that the Portland had foundered far to the north, somewhere near Cape Ann, and that all the wreckage and bodies had drifted across the bay to Cape Cod. He said that at Orleans the body of a girl of about twenty was found. She had a gold watch and a ring marked "J. G. E." Her watch stopped at 9:17. The double wheel of the Portland came ashore at Orleans.

The insurance upon the hull of the Portland was placed in Boston, partly in the Boston Marine Insurance Company and partly through the Boston office of Johnson & Higgins. It was valued at about $200,000. The insurance upon the cargo of the steamer, which consisted of dry goods, boots and shoes, flour, &c., was placed in New York and amounted to $45.000.

Views: 1001


You need to be a member of Maine Genealogy Network to add comments!

Join Maine Genealogy Network

© 2021   Created by Chris Dunham.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service