On Wednesday afternoon, November 30, 1842, a snow storm began, which turned to rain about nine o'clock in the evening. The wind had blown moderately through the day, but when night came on it increased until it blew with great violence from the east-southeast, shifting to the east-northeast at two o'clock in the morning, when it quickly subsided.
In some parts, a great deal of snow fell, and travel on the railroads was greatly obstructed, fifteen inches of snow being on the ground the next day at Dover, NH. The storm began early in the morning as far south as Washington and Baltimore, and much snow fell there. The temperature was also low, being at Belfast, Maine, on the day before only six degrees above zero, the coldest November day that had been known there for several years.
At Boston, the storm was much more severe than at any other port in that vicinity. Many vessels were anchored in the harbor when the storm came on, and they were driven from their moorings, being either jammed against each other or the wharves. They were badly chafed and broken, and several of them were sunk. In the very heart of the city the sound of falling masts and of vessels crashing together was heard from time to time above the noise of the storm. It was deemed dangerous to go to the end of the wharves lest some large craft might dash against them, carrying them away. In the night, several sailors were drowned.
Among the many wrecks caused by the storm in the few short hours it continued were two or three that made it memorable. One of them was that of the bark Isadore, a new and beautiful vessel of four hundred tons burden, commanded and owned by Capt. Leander Foss. This was its first trip, and it sailed on the morning of the storm from Kennebunk, Maine, for New Orleans. In the blinding snow and the tempest of that night the craft was driven on a point of rocks near Cape Neddock, ME, called Bald head, and wrecked. The entire crew of fifteen belonged in Kennebunkport, and all perished. Five were fathers of families, and left in all twenty children. Two were young men, the only sons of widows.
The schooner Napoleon, commanded by Capt. James York, sailed from Calais, ME for New York, with a cargo of lumber, on the twenty-eighth of the month. The gale struck the vessel out in the ocean on the night of the storm and carried away both masts. She capsized and righted, but was filled with water. The cook, a Scotch lad, was probably lost when the vessel went over, as he was not seen again. The others of the crew remained on deck, in the cold and darkness and tempest, and one after another they lay down and died.
The craft was driven about by the mighty wind, but where no one knew or cared. The next day and another night passed away. Death was what they desired, and all but one of them found it. When the wreck had reached a point about forty miles south of Monhegan, it fell in with the schooner Echo of Thomaston, ME. Captain York had survived until within and hour or two of their meeting with the Echo, and when the captain of that vessel came on board the wreck only the mate was found alive, he being badly frozen. The other six had all died, and their bodies had been washed away except that of one man, which was jammed in among the lumber in such a manner that it could not be extricated without great danger.
The saddest wreck caused by the storm was that of the schooner James Clark, of sixty tons burden, belonging in St. John, N. B., commanded and owned by Captain Beck. It was on a trip from St. John to Boston, and there were twenty persons on board. They left Portland on the morning of the storm, and late that afternoon were driven ashore at Rye beach, the vessel becoming a total wreck. At six o'clock in the evening, which was soon after the vessel struck, the cabin was stove in, and the people were compelled to remain on deck. The heavy sea dashed over them, and they were washed from one side of the vessel to the other, their clothing being torn off from them. They suffered intensely from the exposure to cold and water, and some died, the first being Mrs. Margaret Stewart's six month's old baby boy, named Willie, who expired in her arms. She had wrapped him so closely for protection from exposure that his death was probably hastened thereby. The mother became insensible and when rescued was found among some lumber almost covered with water. Her arms were stiffened in the position in which she had held her child, and remained so for some time after arriving at the land. She was saved, however, to mourn the loss of her boy.
Mrs. Mary Hebersen, a widow of about fifty, accompanied by her daughter Hannah, who was twelve years old, was on her way to an aunt's in Holden, Mass. For hours they kept together in their hopeless condition as well as the waves would permit. At length the daughter, becoming benumbed with cold, lay down upon the deck at her mother's feet and died. While she lay there, her life fast ebbing away, her mother watched over her, and raising her eyes to heaven commended her daughter's spirit to her Maker. This excellent mother was no sooner apprehensive of the death of her daughter than she forgot the tempest and laid herself down by the side of her child. In fifteen minutes her spirit also had fled.
As soon as it was possible, one of the sailors took a long rope, fastened one end of it on the deck, and jumped into the raging surf with the other end tied to him. He fought his way to the shore, and by means of the rope the captain and crew and ten of the passengers, five women, two men, a girl and a boy, and a child sixteen months old, were saved. Only one person, Dennis Mahaney, perished while attempting to reach the shore on the rope. Mrs. Hebersen and Mr. Mahaney were the only adults lost, the rest being children. Five bodies were recovered.
Those most instrumental in saving these people were a Mr. Yeaton and his son, who unweariedly, and at imminent peril of their lives, assisted in getting them on shore. But for their efforts many more would have perished. Mr. Yeaton's family generously placed everything they had at the disposal of the sufferers. They gave them the use of the whole house and freely distributed their extra clothing among them, both mariners and passengers having lost theirs, except what they wore when rescued, some of them being nearly naked.