By Angeljean Chiaramida
---- — SALISBURY BEACH — On April 13, 1894, local residents rose to find the schooner Jennie M. Carter smashed on the sands of Salisbury Beach, its crew gone while its cat remained curled up on the captain’s chair.
Sunk as the result of one of the worst storms of the 19th century, the broken bones of the 130-foot, three-masted vessel are now more visible, further exposed through the sand after the sea ravaged Salisbury’s shoreline during the weekend blizzard.
“You can usually see it when there’s a low, low tide, but after this storm it would be more visible,” said Cassie Adams, the hostess at Salisbury Beach’s Seaglass Restaurant. “The beach lost a lot of sand in this storm.”
Playing on Salisbury Beach as a child, Adams hadn’t been aware that the wooden stubble peeking up in the sand during very low tides was a 139-year-old sunken ship. Forming a remote oval in the shape of a ship, its remains look like wooden stubble sticking up in the sand, she said, its inner realm filled with what looks like driftwood.
“I never knew it was a shipwreck until someone told me about it,” Adams said. “Our patrons at the restaurant comment on it when it’s visible.”
Other local history buffs in Salisbury know of the famed shipwreck and its lore, according to Salisbury Historical Society secretary Beverly Gulazian. When the Jennie Carter went down due to foul weather, she was carrying granite, Gulazian said, and after the ship was lost, its cargo was salvaged.
“The granite was off-loaded,” Gulazian said. “And it was used in a number of places around the area.”
The tale of the Jennie Carter and Salisbury’s other shipwrecks are also well chronicled by Salisbury historian Carolyn Sargent in her book, “Salisbury History.”
Built in Newton, Md., in 1874, the ill-fated, three-masted schooner was a 296-ton vessel with a 33-foot beam, drawing 9.8 feet of water, according to Sargent. But in April 1894, loaded with a cargo of stone, the Jennie Carter, her crew and Captain Wesley T. Ober ran into trouble 40 miles southwest of Highland Light on Cape Cod in the midst of “one of the worst storms in 30 years,” Sargent wrote.
As the ship struggled at sea, George Courant, the captain of the Gloucester schooner Smuggler, pulled up alongside of her upon learning the Jennie Carter’s rudder and foremast were gone and the bowsprit damaged.
“The Jennie’s captain, Wesley T. Ober, told Captain Courant that he would stay with his ship and could bring her into port,” Sargent wrote. “After lingering nearby for several hours, the Smuggler sailed on.”
But with snow blinding her crew, the storm’s gales tossed the ship for a hundred miles around the Cape and into dangerous waters between Portsmouth and Salisbury, Sargent wrote.
The final blow was dealt the Jennie Carter when it smashed into one of the jetties, Gulazian said; then the battered boat came to its final resting place on the sands of Salisbury Beach, remaining there through time and tide to this day.
“Abel Souther and William L. Fowler rowed out to investigate and found Captain and crew gone,” Sargent wrote. “Had they remained on board, they might have been saved, for in the captain’s cabin a low fire still burned in the stove and the ship’s cat curled in a cushion on the captain’s chair.”