New Remains Of 1884 Shipwreck Discovered On South Shore

Jason Graziadei •

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One week after the shipwreck remains on the south shore were identified as (likely) the Warren Sawyer, the three-masted schooner that wrecked in 1884, a new, larger fragment of the doomed vessel was discovered on Thursday.

Island resident Jesse Ahern was walking her dog when she came across it, about 300 yards west of the original shipwreck site. After Egan Maritime's Evan Schwanfelder was contacted and documented the new fragment, he sent photos to Dave Robinson, the head of the state Board of Underwater Archeological Resources.

Robinson very quickly identified the large fragment, including the massive wooden beams and iron fastenings, as a portion of the stern of the Warren Sawyer.

"Mysteries in the sand, right beneath our feet," Schwanfelder said.

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The Warren Sawyer wrecked on Nantucket on the night of Dec. 22, 1884, around 11 p.m., loaded with a cargo of cotton and scrap iron. It had been bound for Boston from New Orleans, but was blown off course by gale force winds.

The following account of the shipwreck was printed in The Inquirer and Mirror newspaper in 1945, and recounts how the Nantucketers assigned to the Surfside lifesaving station jumped into action to save the crew of the Warren Sawyer:

“Patrolman Eugene Clisby sighted the schooner's lights of Miacomet Rip and hastened to the station to ‘call all hands.’ The surf was raging, completely enveloping the craft with only the swaying masts visible in the blackness of the night. Capt. Veeder shot a line over the jib-stay, putting it this far forward to avoid hitting anyone on board. But the sailors were too numbed with the cold to attempt going forward to secure it. Finally patrolman Williams, during a smooth sea, rushed down the beach and with a hand-line swung a line over her bow. The sailors made their way across the sea-washed decks and secured the line. A hawser was made fast and a breeches buoy rigged.

"With the schooner lurching under the impact of the seas, it was a difficult task to keep a steady strain on the hawser, but the experienced life savers worked unceasingly and with the coming of the morning of the 23rd, all hands had been safely landed on the beach. The rescued were: Captain Edwin L. Saunders, of Boston; Andrew F. Coffin, Addison, Me., mate; seamen, Thomas Coleman, Boston, Alexander McLeod, Boston, John O’Daniel, London, Daniel J. Kane, Yonkers, N.Y., George Sibley, London, and Antone Swazey, New Bedford.

"The Warren Sawyer was of 360 tons burthen, and was loaded with 1,115 bales of cotton and 28 tons of scrap iron. Captain Saunders stated he had been blown off-shore several times by severe gales and had been unable to get an observation for five days, consequently could not determine his position...

"The cargo was landed by means of skids into ox teams, and carted to the railroad track. The train carried the bales to the wharf, where they were shipped to Boston. About 700 bales of cotton were landed in this manner.

"A severe storm on January 6 caused the Sawyer to break up and the remainder of the cargo was scattered for miles along the shore. The ship was valued at $10,000. There was $4,000 insurance on her and $55,000 on her cargo.

"The wheel of the Warren Sawyer is now a very attractive chandelier at the Maddequet Admiralty Association’s Clubhouse at Madaket. Wallace Long has her quarterboard fastened to his barn on West Dover street.”

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