From the Jan. 17, 1924 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Recently the New Bedford column in the Boston Sunday Globe contained reference to a movement in that city to buy the old whaling bark Charles W. Morgan and establish a whaling museum upon her, on the waterfront of that city, and mention was also made of the time when the old bark Progress was sent to Chicago to the World’s Fair together with many other exhibits of the whaling industry. Continuing, the article in the Globe said:

“The old bark Progress was historic, inasmuch as this was the vessel which brought down hundreds of refugees from the vast whaling squadron, caught in the Arctic ice floes in 1871 and abandoned. The crews made their way in small boats to the Straits where the Progress received them and brought them home. Capt. James Dowden, who was the commander of the Progress, who extended hospitality to the bereft mariners, was master of the Progress and the showman at the fair. The venture was not much of a success financially. The vessel was left to mould and rust in the Chicago basin and finally burned.”

It might be stated that the Progress was not the only ship that brought down crews from the abandoned ships at the time of this greatest of whaling disasters. The Europa of Edgartown, Capt. Mellen, came out of the Arctic, his ship crowded with officers and seamen from the ice-crushed ships, and other vessels that also gave up their season’s work and brought down the thousand or more men were the Daniel Webster, Chance Midas, and, as we recall, one or two others.

Over thirty ships were crushed in the ice and wrecked in that summer of 1871, and of the whole Arctic fleet only seven ships escaped. Edgartown lost two, the Mary and Champion, the Europa being the only one of the Vineyard ships to escape the catastrophe.


The six-masted schooner Ruth E. Merrill of Portland, Me., which sank near the L’Hommedieu Shoal in Vineyard Sound early Saturday, together with her cargo of coal, will probably be a total loss. Her after-cabin was partly washed away and her decks are now under water.

A wrecking outfit left New London, Conn., Saturday, to salvage the schooner’s sails and rigging.

The schooner sank in six fathoms of water in Vineyard Sound after Capt. Johnson had driven her aground to prevent her sinking in deeper water. The vessel was bound from Norfolk for Boston with coal.

The captain and his crew of 12 men escaped without difficulty and went to Woods Hole in their power boat.

The gale and high seas Friday started the schooner’s seams. That night she was anchored in the sound and her powerful pumps were put to work to keep her free of water. After several hours’ work it was seen that the task was hopeless and Captain Johnston ordered the anchor up. Knowing that he could not work her much nearer shore either on the mainland or on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, he headed for L’Hommedieu Shoal. On the edge of the shoal the schooner sank.

The captain and crew had time to get together their personal effects and loaded them into the power boat in which they came to Vineyard Haven.

The Ruth E. Merrill was built at Bath, Me., in 1904, and hails from Portland. She registers 2359 tons net, and is one of the three survivors of a number of six-masters which ere in the coastwise trade some years ago, mostly as coal carriers. The others are the Wyoming and the Edward J. Lawrence, both built at Bath.


The Coast Guard cutter Acushnet arrived at the Appraisers’ Stores, Atlantic avenue, at 1 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 10, from Martha’s Vineyard with a load of liquor seized from two motorboats, which were driven ashore at Chilmark during recent storms. The lot included 155 cases pf Belgian alcohol and 78 cases of Kentucky and Scotch whiskey and St. Pierre rum.

Some of this liquor was washed from the motorboats and thrown on the beach during the storm. The alcohol it is said, was purchased in Belgium for 36 cents a gallon and was to be sold here at $8 a gallon. The price of alcohol over the ship’s side in American waters has advanced $3 a gallon during the past week. — Boston Herald.


In the Gazette of Jan. 30, 1874, we find the following advertisement: “There will be a sale of gin and brandy at the Custom House on Monday next at 10 a.m.”

Through the mist of the past we can almost see the then staid citizens of the town who undoubtedly attended this sale, bidding with becoming dignity, and wending their way homeward with their purchases with still added dignity.

But at the present time, if such a sale was possible, who could predict the consequences in the publication of such an advertisement and the sale following? No building surely in Edgartown could contain the crowd, and the sale would have to be held on the Great Plain, where there might be plenty of room for the eager bidders. We hesitate to proceed further in the contemplation of what might be the result of the publication of such an advertisement today.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox