Here’s an old letter that was written March 21, 1898 and postmarked April 4, 1898 that was donated to us by Judi Kearney. This letter was sent and signed by Canadian lighthouse keeper Charles F. Seely of Machias Seal Island Lighthouse, which is a lighthouse that can be seen in the distance from Little River Lighthouse in Cutler, Maine.
The letter was sent to Homer N. Skinner in Fall River, Massachusetts who was looking for information on the schooner Julia A Warr, a vessel that was owned by 27 investors from Calais, Maine and Fall River, MA. In the days before phones and radio, mail was the only resource in trying to find out what happened to a vessel when it was overdue.
On its maiden voyage in 1891, the Julia A Warr out of Calais, Maine was involved in a collision with the brig Alice off Cape Lookout Lighthouse, North Carolina. The brig Alice was destroyed, but the Julia A. Warr survived.
In December of 1897 the vessel left Calais Maine on her way to Fall River, Massachusetts and was never seen again. The purpose of the letter to the lighthouse keeper at Machias Seal Island Lighthouse was sent in hopes of finding out if the vessel had been seen or damaged somewhere. The lighthouse keeper reported he had not seen the vessel.
Over the next several months there were numerous sightings by ships traversing the waters between New York and Calais and Eastport, Maine of a shipwreck floating down the east coast.
On March 29, 1898 the remains of the Julia A Warr, bottom up, washed ashore at the Shinnecock Life Saving Station on Long Island, New York. The Life Saving Station reported that it appeared that the vessel had been floating upside down for many weeks as it drifted down the coast. The vessel had a crew of five men, one of whom was Capt. George Warr, who left a wife and six children.
Shortly after the Julia A. Warr left Calais in December of 1897, a winter storm struck the area and the ship likely sank during that storm.
Coincidently, it was in December of 1897 that two bodies washed up on the rocks at Little River Island in Cutler, Maine and they were buried on the island by Little River Lighthouse keeper Roscoe Johnson.
The burial site, near the boat house, was later confirmed by the late Neil Corbett who grew up on the island and was the grandson of keeper Roscoe Johnson and son of Willie W. Corbett, both of whom were lighthouse keepers at Little River Lighthouse.
A few years ago, Boy Scouts on their annual camping and work trip to the island re-marked the gravesite with stones.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2012 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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