Welcome! I really enjoy exchanging information with people and hope this blog will help with that. I am not an expert and I consider most of my research as a work in progress. Some of the surnames I'm researching:

Many old Cape families including Kelley, Eldredge/idge, Howes, Baker, Mayo, Bangs, Snow, Chase, Ryder/Rider, Freeman, Cole, Sears, Wixon, Nickerson.
Many old Plymouth County families including Washburn, Bumpus, Lucas, Cobb, Benson.
Johnson (England to MA)
Corey (Correia?) (Azores to MA)
Booth, Jones, Taylor, Heatherington (N. Ireland to Quebec)
O'Connor (Ireland to MA)
My Mayflower Ancestors (only first two have been submitted/approved by the Mayflower Society):
Francis Cooke, William Brewster, George Soule, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, Richard Warren, Peter Browne, Francis Eaton, Samuel Fuller, James Chilton, John Tilley, Stephen Hopkins, John Howland.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Lost Hero of Cape Cod

I'm veering away from my typical blog entry today to talk about a book I just read, The Lost Hero of Cape Cod: Captain Asa Eldridge and the Maritime Trade that Shaped America, by Vincent Miles, published by the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth in 2015. I saw the book mentioned in a recent issue of the Dennis Historical Society newsletter and purchased a copy through Amazon. Having many mariners from Cape Cod in my ancestry, I'm always interested in learning more about what their lives were like. Although to be honest I'm never able to remember the difference between a bark and a schooner (my sister would cringe at this since the history of shipbuilding was a passion of hers!).
The Lost Hero of Cape Cod Book Review
Miles' book is about Asa Eldridge who was born 24 July 1809 in Yarmouth, Mass. He became a master mariner, as did his brothers Oliver and John. The book is also about the importance of the maritime trade industry in the history of our nation. Miles' knowledge of this history is impressive and very interesting to read. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in this subject matter.

Asa Eldridge holds the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a sailing ship, which is quite remarkable.

Having Eldridge/Eldredge/Eldred ancestors, I was interested to see how Asa fit in with my folks. Does everyone interested in genealogy do whacky things like this?! Miles mentions he was the son of John, grandson of Barnabas and that he descended from William 1 Eldred, an early Yarmouth settler. From there I was able to dig up Asa's line to William 1 Eldred/Eldredge: Asa>John>Barnabas>John>John>Samuel>William. This makes Asa a distant relation of mine (5th cousin 3 times removed).

Asa married Eliza Hallet in January 1835. She was a distant cousin of his from Roxbury, Mass. They did not have any children. Since Asa didn't have direct descendants, it makes me all the more appreciative that Vincent Miles told his story.

After an illustrious career, on 23 January 1856 Asa left Liverpool as commander of the steamship Pacific and was never heard from again. Miles gives examples of how treacherous the North Atlantic was that winter because of ice much further south than usual. It seems that a collision with a mass of ice is how the Pacific and its 45 passengers and crew of  141 met their end on or about January 28. A week after that the crew of the Edinburgh reported seeing floating debris in the area that would have come from a passenger vessel. A captain of another vessel that left Liverpool three days after Asa reported his vessel was damaged by heavy ice fields.

Steamship Pacific
The Pacific      Source: Wikipedia
In 1861 a message in a bottle was found from crew member Wm Graham, saying the Pacific left Liverpool and hit ice and was going down and there was no hope for his survival. Miles writes that these types of messages were sometimes hoaxes. The crew member was Robert Graham on the manifest but errors like that weren't uncommon. A London newspaper examined the note and found it was genuine.

In 1992 divers off the coast of North Wales, 60 miles from Liverpool, found a wooden wreck they believe is that of the Pacific, although Miles believes more information is needed to confirm the wreck's identity.

As I was writing this, I quickly looked up Eliza Eldridge's death. She died in Boston on 15 August 1895 at the age of 87 years, 6 months. She is recorded as Eliza Eldridge, maiden name Hallet, widow of Asa Eldridge, daughter of George Hallet and Eliza Gordon. Strange that I just mentioned my late sister in this post and as I was scrolling down the page looking for Eliza's name, I came across the name Mary B. Rollins who died the same day. That is also my sister's name.

Also tying in with mariner ancestors, I watched the 1939 movie Captains Courageous with Spencer Tracey. A great old movie about Gloucester fishermen that featured the Canadian schooner Bluenose, a vessel my sister was very interested in. It also has a scene at the famous Fisherman's Memorial in Gloucester where sadly one of my ancestors' name is inscribed on the cenotaph. It amazes me how studying my family history makes me see so many connections I would otherwise just pass by.

2 comments:

  1. I just loved this. I'll have to read "The Lost Hero..." as I too love the tales of the old salts in the family (Nickersons, Sears, Knowles, Freemens, Eldridges, et alia). I have "The Wreck of the Wild Wave" by Edith Hurd - florid but rousing account of Josiah Knowles dramatic shipwreck with wonderful woodcuts by Frederick Chapman - and Josiah Knowles'own "Crusoes of Pitcairn Island", mainly selections from his shipwreck diary. Thanks for posting this and for your wonderful blog.

    My best,

    Noël

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Noel. I'll have to look for those books. I'm reading A Place Apart, A Cape Cod Reader, edited by Robert Finch. A collection of stories from old books about the Cape. Chris

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