On April 13, 1894, the schooner Jennie M. Carter wrecked on Salisbury Beach during a storm.
The ship was a 130-foot-long, 296 pound, three-masted schooner built in Newton, Maryland in 1874. The ship’s home port was Providence, Rhode Island.
In April of 1894, the Jennie M. Carter, captained by Wesley T. Ober, was en route from Maine to New York loaded with a cargo of brick and granite when it got caught in a nor’easter near Cape Cod.
On Tuesday, April 10, 1894, George Courant, captain of the schooner Smuggler out of Gloucester, Mass, spotted the ship and sensed it was in trouble.
When the Smuggler came alongside the Jennie M. Carter to offer assistance, Courant learned that the ship’s rudder and foremast were gone and the bowsprit was damaged.
Captain Ober declined assistance though and told Courant he could still bring the ship into port. The Smuggler lingered for a couple of hours to keep watch but eventually moved on.
The storm soon worsened with heavy, blinding snow and strong winds which pushed the Jennie M. Carter nearly 100 miles north somewhere between Salisbury, Mass and Portsmouth, NH.
The ship was finally done in when it is believed to have either smashed into one of the nearby jetties or on Breaking Ledge off the coast of Salisbury Beach.
At around 5 AM on Friday, April 13, the ship was spotted by Hampton resident Mr. Fowler drifting along Salisbury Beach with no one on board.
An hour later, the lifesavers at Plum Island Lifesaving Station sighted the ship just as she went aground on the sands of Salisbury Beach, near what is now Salisbury Beach center.
Two local men, Abel Souther and William L. Fowler rowed out to see if there were any survivors on board but found the ship deserted except for the ship’s cat curled up on the captain’s chair and a low fire burning in the stove.
By that afternoon, a large crowd of people had gathered on Salisbury Beach to watch as the waves pounded the ship and broke it into pieces.
The ship’s lifeboat was later discovered on the beach with some personal belongings in it, according to the 1894 annual report of the United States Live-Saving Service.
The discovery of the lifeboat led some to believe that the crew had fled in the lifeboat, yet, the keeper Elliot of the Plum Island Lifesaving Station believed instead that the crew had gathered at the back of the ship to lower the lifeboat into the water when a large wave came over the side and washed them overboard.
The first body to wash ashore was that of crew member Sven Sigfred Petersson, a 25-year-old Swedish seamen on the ship.
On April 19, Captain Ober’s body washed ashore near Knobb’s Station, Plum Island and his remains were sent to his family in Sedgwick, Maine.
On April 23, crew mate J.W. Pebble’s body washed ashore.
Also on April 23, the ship’s cargo was salvaged and sold at auction and was used in a number of construction projects in the area.
The shipwreck remained visible well into the 20th century and it became a bit of a tourist attraction for swimmers who often climbed on the wreckage and posed for photos with it.
Even today, although most of the wreck has been destroyed by the waves, a small section of the ship’s ribs are still visible in the surf during extremely low tides.
In January of 2016, some wreckage of a schooner washed up on Salisbury Beach, near the beach center, and some speculated it was part of the Jennie M. Carter shipwreck while others thought it might be from another 19th century shipwreck, the Florida, or one of the many other shipwrecks that occurred in Salisbury Beach’s history.
According to an article on the Mass.gov website, the immediate area around the shipwreck is believed to be haunted due to numerous reports of mysterious activity on the beach and in the nearby buildings, such as shadows, strange lights and mysterious voices late at night.
Snow, Edward Rowe. Pirates, shipwrecks, and historic chronicles. Dodd, Mead and Company, 1981.
Sargent, Carolyn. Salisbury History. Salisbury Historical Society 1991.
Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1894. Government Printing Office, 1895.
“CZ-Tip – Delve into the Mysteries of Maritime Massachusetts.” Mass.gov, mass.gov/service-details/cz-tip-delve-into-the-mysteries-of-maritime-massachusetts
“History of the Jennie M. Carter.” Wreck of the Jennie M. Carter, 14 Nov. 2010, jenniecarterwreck.blogspot.com/
Chiaramida, Angeljean. “Blizzard of 2013 unearths shipwreck of 1894.” The Newburyport Daily News, 12 Feb. 2013, newburyportnews.com/news/local_news/blizzard-of-2013-unearths-shipwreck-of-1894/article_8a6d0b92-2a3d-5c73-8e34-7602e4fb7bbc.html
Chiaramida, Angeljean. “Shipwreck reveals precious few of its mysteries.” 24 April. 2015, eagletribune.com/news/shipwreck-reveals-precious-few-of-its-mysteries/article_5a5ee854-83c5-5527-bfb0-eb0846c16645.html
Chiaramida, Angeljean. “A Mystery from the Sea.” Newburyport Daily News, 27 Jan. 2016, newburyportnews.com/news/local_news/a-mystery-from-the-sea/article_af9fd3a4-8d96-57a4-8666-c9c76712f656.html