Beverly, MA Steamer SURF CITY Sinking, July 1898





Beverly, Mass., July 5. - The small excursion steamer Surf City, with about 60 passengers on board, while half way over from Salem Willows to her wharf here, a distance of about two miles, was struck by a sudden, but terrible, squall last evening and capsized. Of those on board a large majority are believed to have been rescued by boats from both the Salem and Beverly shores, but no less than seven bodies had been recovered at dark, and as it is known that many rushed into the cabin before the squall, it is feared that twice as many are still confined there. As one or two of those taken ashore are in a critical condition, it appears likely that the list of dead may reach a score.
The following bodies were recovered from the wreck:
CATHERINE D. WEBER, 25 years old, of Beverly.
GRACE SNELL, 13 years old, daughter of Arthur Snell of Beverly.
3 year old son of John Kenney of Beverly.
MYRA FEGAN of Beverly, 16 years old.
LILLIAN CONANT of Danvers and her brother.
NELLIE CRESSEY, a Beverly teacher.
Of those rescued, BERTHA LOVETT of North Beverly; HAZEL HERSEY, 1 year old, of Beverly; MISS EMERSON of Danvers, and an unknown 2 year old girl are still in a critical condition. OTTO CARRIS, the fireman, was also badly scalded.
The Surf City is a screw steamer with two decks, and has been making short trips in Massachusetts Bay for a number of years. This year she was put on the Baker Island line, making half a dozen trips a day from this city, stopping on each one at Salem Willows. Captain Dalby, her commander, saw signs of a squall as the boat left the Willows, but thought he could make his wharf here before it struck. He had just reached the Beverly bar when the storm struck the boat, and at the same time a lightning bolt struck the beacon at the end of the bar. Amid the terrific din of the thunder which followed the lightning flash and the fearful whirlwind, the little steamer careened to the starboard and went down, all so suddenly that even the commander had the greatest difficulty in getting out of the pilot house. The boat sank in about 15 feet of water, her hurricane deck being loosened in the gale, while all those on board were either thrown into the wind-beaten waters of the bay, or struggled desperately to get from under the decks or out of the cabin of the boat.
The steamer was seen to go down by persons on both sides of the bay, and boats immediately put out to the wreck, reaching her in a few minutes. Those in the water were quickly hauled aboard, some being taken to the Beverly shore, while others were taken to Salem. This scattering of the survivors led to the greatest confusion, and for a long time it was difficult from the conflicting stories to ascertain just how many persons were on the boat. Notwithstanding the fact that the rescuers worked hard and well, there were those to whom aid came too late. With the living were drawn into the boat a number of dead, including the bodies of two children. The young yachtsman of the Jubilee Yacht club saved more than half, and every boat at the club float was utilized. Others from the wharves worked fully as hard, and every effort was made to get the mass of struggling humanity to land.
The scene, while the work of rescue was going on, was a fearful one, as over half of those on board were women, and their screams could be heard for miles. Many clung to the top of the hurricane deck and supported themselves until the boats came, while others grasped the flag staffs and even the smoke stack. The suspense before the first boat came was awful, for though the time was but a few minutes, it seemed eternity to those in the seething waters. Darkness closed down on the ill-fated boat, with the tide rapidly rising above the smoke stack.

The Fitchburg Sentinel Massachusetts 1898-07-05