Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Faithful Steward

The Faithful Steward, bound from Londonderry, Ireland to Philadelphia with 249 passengers, ran aground near Indian River Inlet, Delaware on the night of September 1, 1785. When a sounding was taken, it was found the ship was only in 4 fathoms of water, though there was not the slightest appearance of land. Every exertion was used to run the vessel off shore but all failed.

On the morning of September 2, the ship was near Indian River, about four leagues to the southward of Cape Henlopen. Every effort was made to save the unhappy sufferers, who had remained on the deck during the night. The ship was only 100 yards from the shore. On the evening of Sept. 2, the ship broke to pieces. The long boats that had been put into the water drifted ashore before they could be manned. All relief was cut off. The only chance of survival for the remainder of the passengers was by swimming ashore, or using pieces of the wreck as life rafts. By dawn's light only 68 of the 249 passengers had survived. The inhabitants from Lewistown (present day Lewes, DE) came to the beach to plunder the bodies of their goods. Of the 100 women and children aboard, only 7 were saved. Among the cargo aboard the ship were 400 barrels of half pennies and gold rose guineas.

The State of Delaware had posted a historical marker in the general area where the Faithful Steward went down (SC-73), but I understand it has since been removed. It was located at Delaware Seashore State Park. On Haven road, first road on right, north of the Indian River Inlet Bridge.

For 135 years, English half-pennies, struck with a bust of King George III, have been washing up on the beach about one-fourth mile north of Indian River Inlet. Most of the coins were stored in barrels, purportedly 400 of them, below deck. Those that didn’t break open eventually rotted and cast millions of coins across the sandy bottom. The wreck is close enough to shore--just beyond the surf line--that coins are still swept in by heavy seas and riptides. Storms, such as Hurricane Earl, are signals to grab your metal detector and head for Coin Beach. Fittingly named years ago, the area is even designated Coin Beach on some souvenir maps. They say you don’t even need a metal detector, but I have never found anything there. Matter of fact due to the lack of markers on the beach front indicating where the parking lot is on one occasion I have walked past the parking lot entrance and had an extra hour wandering the beach wondering where the parking lot was.

There is an interesting genealogical story about the Faithful Steward located here and here. The stories remind us that the "Faithful Steward" is not just a Delaware tourist item but was a real life wreck in which some people died and some survived and those that survived have descendants that are in the USA today.

And as it happens speaking of shipwrecks, today in 1985 The wreckage of the British luxury liner 'Titanic' was located 73 years after it sank.

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