Tragedy at Sea

Editors Note: My great-grandfather Errold H. Scott (1906-1988) typed this story about the sinking of the schooner Portland in 1898. It is told through the eyes of his father Charles A. Scott who is my great-great-grandfather. I have transcribed the story exactly as it appears on the original typewritten page, with the exception of two or three typographical corrections. There is no date on the original document indicating when it was written, but I have been unable to find any indication that it was ever published before. As such the following story is being published as public domain material and may not be copyrighted.

In the year 1898 my dad, Charles A. Scott was a seaman, working on his father’s vessel and was 18 years of age at the time. They were delivering a load of stone from Stonington, Maine and would unload at Boston, Mass. It had been a long trip but finally they arrived a short distance approaching Boston harbor. A soft snow had started to flutter down and the flakes were thickening as my grandfather came midship and called to my dad who was checking the port light which had been giving trouble. The light would sometimes black out at the most unexpected times. My dad told him that the light was functioning perfectly. However as he looked to the port light again the light blacked out. He went forward immediately and relit the lamp and at thus minute a blast came out of the snow storm, in a second the schooner Portland appeared off their port bow. The ship kept bearing to the starboard side showing that she had sighted them through the snow. As she passed about 50 feet away, you could make out and see the young men on the stern of the boat waving and shouting to them.

Soon the Portland was blocked out by a blanket of snow. My dad mentioned that his father said “Where do you suppose he thinks he’s going in a storm like this”. Leaving the scene of the Portland they proceeded into Boston harbor, and although they dropped anchor the ship kept dragging anchor until my father gave the order to let the cage anchor go and this held fast. A number of ships were making for the harbor and by the time they had entered, the storm had increased so that some of them were having difficulty holding their ships by anchor and the storm carried them to the other end of the bay where they went ashore. About three o’clock in the morning the storm peaked right over the harbor and it was difficult to keep the waves from breaking over the aft cabin, water and snow running down the stairway and seeping right onto the stove in the galley. They were up at daylight and could see the ships that had gone ashore in the night before. The stove in the galley which had been covered with salt-water was in a terrible shape and was covered in rust.

A ship ready to leave the harbor slowed down and came on side and gave them the news that the Portland and two other ships were lost. She must have gone down somewhere near The Graves as bodies were washing ashore near this section. A large number of people that night and it was thought at first the captain would not leave Boston, but he had a call from Portland telling him it was clear in that area so he decided to leave for Portland. Among the passengers that were aboard that night was Oren Hooper and his grandson, the owner of Hooper and Son Furniture Store, which was located on middle near free street. They had been to Boston and he had taken his grandson along. Oren Hooper’s son was the father of the boy.

This tragic event will go down in history as one of the great sea-disasters of our time.