Saturday, January 7, 2017

Loss of Walter McGee, Crisfield Pungy

Poplar Island wreck, the loss of the pungy Walter McGee of Crisfield and three bay sailors, and three who saved themselves in a small deck boat, as the schooner is pounded to pieces on Kilton's Point, near Eastern Bay, Poplar Island.
Louis Somers, one of the survivors of the crew of the Walter McGee, which went ashore at Poplar Island yesterday, arrived in Crisfield today , said there were six on board the vessel at the time of the disaster, all who were from Crisfield. Three were lost and three were saved. Lost were Frank T. Maddrix, Fred Ford and the colored cook, George Heath. The survivors are Captain Alfred Justis, Louis Somers and Charles Maddrix.
The lifeless body of Frank T. Maddrix was taken from the rigging by Captain Howeth and Robert Harrison, of Poplar Island, and taken to Mr. George Ustlton for care, and conveyed to Crisfield by brothers of the deceased. Mr. Maddrix was a blacksmith by trade, a respected citizen of Crisfield. 55 years of age and had a family. He had just received a patent for an improved oyster rake and had on board the iron and hardware necessary to begin manufacture.
Frederick Ford was a prominent young man of town, a nephew of Senator A. Lincoln Dryden, who is now at the wreck , hoping to recover the body from the shore.
George Heath, the colored cook, is as far as anyone knows, still lies in his berth on the McGee.
Louis Somers, a survivor, gives the account of the disaster. Tuesday morning the McGee started from Baltimore with nineteen tons of coal and some iron and hardware on board. However, from the time last week when we left Crisfield for Baltimore, with scrap iron, we met with nothing but a succession of misfortunes. The vessel was leaking and we were obliged to man the pumps continually. The wind picked up, we lost the jib carrier, and had to scud the wind twice. Tuesday night we anchored under Poplar Island, at daylight the wind was at its height, we were dragging anchor and manning the pumps. We were exhausted but were able to warm ourselves in the cabin as long are she stayed afloat. The sea spray was making ice on the rigging. Very shortly after sunup the vessel struck 400 yards from shore and the seas began pounding us apart. There were people on shore but with the strong wind and heavy sea no one could render any assistance. Although it was not bitter cold, we were still almost stiff with ice and we managed to launch the yawl, which quickly filled with water from the high sea, the men praying all the time through this ordeal.
Frank Maddrix was first to succumb, he had wrapped himself in the main sail and from there never arose. Fred Ford, helping to bail the yawl, passed next from exhaustion, Captain Justice carried his body back aboard and lashed it to the main mast. Heath, the cook, never came on deck, and perished in his bunk below.
At a length of time we managed to get the yawl free and reach shore where Maddrix and Somer passed out and were carried to near by houses and revived. The Walter McGee is a total wreck.
William Sheriff, son of the Rev. Sheriff, of Crisfield Baptist Church, went with the McGee to Baltimore from Crisfield but missed the vessels return trip, luckily.

Special Dispatch to the Baltimore Sun, Friday, March 31, 1899

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