CAROLINE SHIPWRECK REVISITED (October 22/99)

Calling him a super sleuth may be an overstatement on my part,  but there’s little doubt that Kentville railroad/marine  buff Leon Barron has a knack for research.  For several years, for example, Barron has been digging into Acadia University’s archives for references to sailing ships, wharves, lighthouses and the marine history of Kings County.  Some of the information he amassed through tedious reading will help with a current pet project, a scale model duplication of the Kingsport wharf and a history of this port.

When I devoted a couple of columns (column 1, column 2) to the 1831 Caroline tragedy last July and August, to give another example of Barron’s penchant for research, he suggested it might be worthwhile to contact the Digby Historical Society.  The schooner Caroline sailed from Digby before foundering in the Bay of Fundy and washing ashore near Baxter’s Harbor.  I didn’t act on his suggestion but typically Barron followed up and discovered additional information on the Caroline.  Barron also uncovered a long poem on the disaster which was published in the History and Geography of Digby County.

This book tells us that before finally coming to rest on a Bay of Fundy beach near Baxter’s Harbor, the Caroline was temporarily stranded on “Isleaux Haute.”  How this is known is not revealed in the history/geography.  John Bigelow, the gentleman responsible for the plaque that marks the site where the Caroline washed ashore and where the frozen bodies were buried, didn’t refer to Isle Haute in his inscription.  Bigelow makes no mention of messages being left by the crew and passengers, and since he was known to be a thorough researcher, we must assume that none was found.  Therefore the Isle Haute reference is a mystery.

There is also another mystery, a discrepancy in the crew and passenger list as given in the history/geography and the inscription on the Caroline plaque.  The history/geography and the plaque number the crew and passengers at 14 with no survivors, but they differ on whom was aboard.

I suppose that over a century and  a half later the details on the Caroline shipwreck really don’t matter.  The Caroline ran into a terrible winter storm on the Bay of Fundy and all aboard perished.  The local connection is that the Caroline drifted ashore in Kings County with five frozen bodies on board, which were buried near the beach.  A plaque, courtesy of the late John Bigelow, marks the site.

Aside from the plaque and a brief report in this newspaper several years ago, little local publicity has been given the Caroline tragedy.  Besides the plaque, the main source of information for future historians who may be interested in shipwrecks and local lore will be this column.  For this reason I must point out what is given in the Digby County history/geography and the plaque.

As mentioned, there is a difference in the names on the plaque and the names given in the history/geography.  The plaque gives the crew as James Bryant, John Hayes, Henry Carty and John Calligan.  The Digby book shows the crew as James Bryant, John Hayes.  George Eldridge, Richard Day and John O’Callaghan.

On the plaque the passengers list is David Cossaboom, Solomon Marshall, Mr. Eldridge, Mr. Carter, James Harris, Henry Kennedy, Patrick Connolly, his wife and two children.  The Digby book gives Thomas Harris, Elijah Carty, Solomon Marshall, David Cosseboom, Ebenezer Washburn, Mrs. John O’Callaghan and three children.

A final point.  While John Bigelow doesn’t mention it, the poem in the Digby book has details on the Caroline’s plight  that suggest a passenger  or one of the crew left a written message.

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