Mon 5 Mar 2012
Last fall I was sailing on the Maine-built schooner Heritage (many thanks to Captains Doug and Linda Lee!) among the islands of Merchant Row, south of Deer Isle. We sailed past one of the larger islands, McGlathery, and it made me think, as it always does, of the wreck of the three-mast Rockland schooner Wawenock. McGlathery supported a number of families at one time, enough for the town of Deer Isle to establish a school there in the 1840s, and to fill a sad little graveyard with victims of the 1873 diphtheria epidemic. No one lives there now, most of the gravestones have been pilfered, and you won’t even be able to see much of the wreck unless you are there at low tide and know just where to look. But I find it an evocative place, and it reminded me that the Museum had recently received a batch of photographs of the wreck, taken by Captain Roswell F. Eaton.
The story of the wreck is well told in Bertram G. Snow’s The Main Beam, published in 2005 by the Rockland Historical Society with massive contributions of research and photographs by Doug and Linda Lee. The 325-ton Wawenock was loaded with granite curbing stone and was sailing from Sullivan, Maine, towards New York in December of 1928. After temporarily snagging on a ledge in Jericho Bay on the 30th, Capt. Anders Anderson stayed in the area, waiting for better weather. The morning of January 10th, anchored east of Isle au Haut, the crew woke to a southeast snow storm, blowing hard. Capt. Anderson decided to raise the anchor and sailed up the Bay in extremely poor visibility. The schooner struck the ledges on the west side of Fog Island and the men could hear water pouring into the vessel. Not waiting for the captain’s orders, the crew lowered the yawl boat and left the schooner. Soon after, the vessel (still under full sail) freed herself from the ledge and continued on her way, with the yawl boat following. Eventually the crew could see that the schooner had run on the rocks on McGlathery Island, and they continued on to Stonington to report. The next day Captain John I. Snow, representing owners I.L. Snow & Co., arrived to survey the situation with the tug Sommers R. Smith, coming to the conclusion that the schooner (uninsured) was a total loss. Soon after, the Rockland steam lighter Sophia, a small powerhouse of the midcoast region, came to McGlathery to salvage the cargo (insured) of granite curb stones, the Wawenock’s masts and other gear.
Captain Roswell (Ross) F. Eaton is a man I associate with steamers and tugs, although he did command the Rockland schooner Lucy R. in the 1920s, and during World War I he was a naval reserve lieutenant in command of the USS Satilla, a George Lawley-built steam yacht purchased by the Navy and used as a mid-coast Maine patrol vessel. Born in Brooklin, Maine, in 1887, he married Sadie Burns at Brooklin in 1908, and died in Rockland in 1976. His scrapbooks and photograph albums are filled with images of his travels all over North and South America, and into the Pacific islands. He took many of the pictures himself, documenting vessels he served on and men he served with, as well as the places he visited. Whether he is connected with the Eatons who were the largest family on McGlathery, I do not know. No one lived on McGlathery at the time of the wreck, in any case.
Captain Eaton may have worked aboard Sophia in some capacity, for his pictures show that he was aboard her when she was working on the Wawenock. However, he obviously had the freedom to be taking pictures instead of working, including pictures taken from ashore on the island.
Capt. Eaton’s view of the wrecked Wawenock with the wooded shore of McGlathery behind. Curbstones can be seen scattered about the deck, and unfurled sails droop. You can see the unusual forward house built into the raised forecastle deck, combining space for steam hoisting engine, galley, crew’s quarters, windlass and other functions all in one. You can see the boiler uptake and stack for the donkey engine to the right of the foremast, and the open hatch over the galley stove to the left. The door to the left of the house probably goes forward to the crew’s forecastle.
Capt. Eaton’s view of the Wawenock’s stern. The main and spanker sails and their spars were removed by the storm. The little coach house to starboard of the mizzen is still there, but the afterhouse to which it used to provide access is gone.
The curbstones on deck are now removed, and men are working at clearing the sails out of the way, to provide better access to the forward hatch. To port of the foremast you can see the galley hatch and stack clearly.
Capt. Eaton took this shot showing the Sophia near the Wawenock. The sails have been removed and the decks cleared, but from the attitudes of the men on deck, we deduce that the Sophia is arriving for another day’s work, rather than leaving after the first day.
One of the joys of our collection is its depth – Ross Eaton was not the only one to record the history of the Wawenock. In the photograph collection of Capt. W. J. Lewis Parker, bequeathed to MMM in 2006, we find many pictures of the schooner, including this one of the steam lighter Sophia alongside. Lew obtained it from Florence Snow.
And finally, a much more joyous picture of Wawenock, doing what she was designed to do. This is from a glass negative taken by Captain Frank A. Wilson, also in the Museum’s collection.