Countless vessels have been lost along our shores for hundreds of years, each one a fingerprint: similar in concept, original in design.
Today's tragedy involves the fishing smack Red Dragon, sailing out of Atlantic City and lost in a nor'easter off Long Beach Island, as recounted by Toms River weekly newspaper, the New Jersey Courier. Times and tides may be renewed daily, but the dangers faced by shore fishermen remain ever the same.
5 FISHERMEN LOST AT SEA
OFF BEACH HAVEN IN BIG GALE
Sept. 24th, 1903
Five lives were lost off Long Beach on Wednesday of last week by the terrible gale. The fishing smack Red Dragon of Atlantic City, went down with all on board.
Thursday, the hull of the smack was swept ashore at Harvey Cedars. Lashed fast was the body of her captain, DeWitt Clark. Frank DuCasse, mate, and Danial Murdock, sailor, came ashore not far distant. Two other seamen, John Elms and Louis Swanson, were also drowned.
The Red Dragon was owned by Captain John Young and John Tallman. She was about sixty feet keel, schooner rigged and a well equipped fishing smack.
She left Atlantic City Tuesday for the fishing grounds off Beach Haven. She was weighted down with tons of ice, used for keeping the fish fresh.
It is supposed that the schooner was anchored to ride out the gale; but the storm was much fiercer than her crew had expected. They cut away the mast and rigging, but still she was submerged by the seas. All except the captain seem to have washed overboard, and he came ashore with the wreck when the cable parted.
On the other hand, the surfmen on Long Beach, as reported by David S. White of Harvey Cedars, have a theory that the schooner was headed for Delaware Breakwater or else for Little Egg Harbor Inlet, when struck by the fiercest of the northeast blow. They say the mast was broken off at the partners, and not chopped away, and that the sails had been first three-reefed, and then tied down. The clock in the cabin and a watch on one of the bodies both stopped at 24 minutes past seven. They hold that the smack put for harbor, and was scudding under bare poles when her mast went by the board and overturned her. After that the shift of wind brought her up the coast and beached her and the crew at Long Beach.
Three of the drowned men, Clark, Ducasse and Swanson, left widows and families, Clark having five children surviving him.
Murdock's body was taken to North Long Branch and buried from the home of his adopted parents, John S. West and wife.
Saturday, surfman Abe Dothaday of Love Ladies Island station, found another body in the surf. It was that of John Elms of 318 Beech street, Philadelphia. Coroner J. Clarence Cranmer of West Creek, took charge of all the bodies found and gave a burial permit.
In the same edition of the New Jersey Courier was a report on the storm itself and its effect along Ocean County's shore communities, highlighting boats damaged and lost, built and owned by names familiar to our maritime history.
RAVAGES OF LAST WEEK'S FIERCE GALE
Reports of the damage wrought by last Wednesday's gale are still coming in, and mark it as the most destructive gale along this coast in a half century.
At Bay Head, pieces of the board walk were picked up bodily and hurled against the nearby cottages, in some instances as high as the roof. The Verplanck, Hawley, Barker and Cameron cottages were injured in this way. Nearly every cottage there bears some mark of the gale. Only three yachts were left at their moorings in the protected basin, but only a few were badly injured, including Hazard's launch Curlew, J.M. Chadwick's Minerva, and Mr. Wells' Rex.
Verandas were blown off at the Bluffs and the Ocean View hotels, windows were blown in and chimneys torn down.
At Point Pleasant, the beach board walk was blown about the beach, trees were torn up, electric wires went down, and chimneys were blown over. The frames for the new Episcopal rectory and for VanNote's new barn went down.
At Mantoloking, in addition to other damage, the yacht Whisper, owned by Louis deF. Downer, went into the bridge and was damaged.
All along the beach, board walks, houses and outbuildings, as well as boats at anchor, suffered much.
The sloop in the draw at Barnegat Pier, that blocked the P.R.R. Trains on Wednesday, was the Arthur L. Fling, built a few years ago at Atlantic City for Eugene Longstreet. She was sailed this summer by a Norfolk, Va., man, and had just reached the Pier a day or two before. The most of the fleet broke loose while the gale was still northeast, and landed on the meadows, but the Fling held till the wind shifted and then went back into the draw.
The power yacht Mattie, one of the larger craft at Sea Side Park, owned by Mr. Schibe, the Philadelphia base ball man, went onto the bridge and is a total loss. Others of the Sea Side Park fleet are being straightened up, having been brought back from different points along the upper bay where they stranded or sunk. Few were badly hurt.
At Island Heights, the hull of Guy Luburg's launch is a total loss, only the engine being saved. The Maraquita, built by W.L. Force of Keyport, for W.A. Burnett, now owned by Messrs. Merrihew and Scott, has her sides and deck smashed, cabin gone, and looks a wreck.
Webster's auxiliary yacht Myra, the Schoettle brothers' Hobo and Scat, W.K. Smith's Ruby, are among the worst damaged. Nearly every craft in the fleet was dismasted, and the total damage is estimated now at $15,000 [$446, 033 in 2021 dollars]. The sneakbox racers and other small craft did not escape, Carpenter's box Rose being a total loss, and others damaged.
At Tuckerton, thirty big trees went down, the telephone service was crippled, boat houses and barns collapsed, and a new house being built for Nicholas Shepherd, is racked and twisted.
The yacht Merry Thought, owned by John P. Crozer at Beach Haven, was blown five miles across the bay, going ashore at Jesse's Point, near Parkertown.
The large schooner yacht Mattie W. porter also went ashore below Tuckerton.
The sloop Vigilant of Tuckerton, was blown ashore near edge cove.
Two weeks later, the October 8th edition of the New Jersey Courier, reported a sad epilogue to the Red Dragon tragedy.
One of the men drowned in the wreck of the Atlantic City fishing smack Red Dragon off Long Beach on September 16th, was Louis Swanson, a Swede, and his body was the only one not recovered. Last week his sister, who had left her home in Sweden to join him in Atlantic City, reached this country and was greeted with the sad news of his death.
One month later, the Courier reported that his widow received $1,000 compensation in life insurance [$39,735 in 2021 dollars] for his death.
Enjoyed this article? Please consider making a one-time or recurring donation today!
Your donations support preserving and restoring our shared maritime heritage on the waters of Toms River and Barnegat Bay, through our boat workshop, educational programs and special events. Thank you.