The History of Long and Brier Islands

Princess Louise /S.S. Newfield

by | Aug 29, 2021 | Brier Island, Lighthouses, Long Island, Lost at Sea, shipwrecks | 2 comments

Princess Louise 1883

Digby just like the Islands has an attraction on the shore. The Islands have Balancing Rock, Digby has a monument placed on the shoreline to remind people of what happened there one hundred and thirty eight or so years ago.

 People have been making the track down the shore the 2.2 km. from Point Prim Lighthouse since the monument had been erected. Not everyone knows the story about the monument. I am going to tell you the story of how on Dec. 3rd 1883 the ” Princess Louise” wrecked and the eight lives lost, and the two that were saved. I will tell you how my great-grandfather helped the survivors and how the last survivor came back to Digby to thank my great-grandfather (Christopher Stark) but he had passed away in the year 1893. So he met with my grandfather (Luther Stark) and they went to the site of the wreck where the monument is.

This monument was erected by the Capt. and Officers of the “S.S. Newfield” the ship that was towing the just built “Princess Louise”. It reads; Erected by Capt. Guildford and Officers of the Govt. S.S. Newfield to the memory of Michael Dadey, 1st Officer M. McKenzie, Seamen and Alfred Hiltz cook, of the S.S. Princess Louise Wrecked at this Place Dec. 3, 1883.

 My grandfather took a picture of the only survivor living of the “Princess Louise”. This is the only picture that is known of Richard C. Soy.

Seventeen years after the “Princess Louise” wreck the “S.S. Newfield” became a wreck only 17 miles from the first wreck. In 1900 the “S.S. Newfield” a government light house supply ship arrived here and dropped equipment and supplies to our Light Houses. It left Westport in thick fog and became a wreck at Whites Cove on Digby Neck. At the site where a rock Quarry was once started a few years ago.

To start this story off, the 1883 edition of the Digby Courier is not available. The year of the wreck of the “Princess Louise”. I have relied on the 1929 edition of the Digby Courier to tell the story.

This is the story from

“The History of Digby County and Early Settlers”

by Rev. Allan Hassie Hill

The wreck of the ill fated Government Steamship Princess Louise ” near Digby Gut on the night of December 3rd , 1883 , is still remembered . . The “ Princess Louise ” was being towed by the Steam ship “ Newfield ” from Canning where she had recently been launched . When near Christopher’s Bluff her line parted , and she was driven on the rocks . Of the crew , consisting of ten men , all were drowned save two . The body of Captain Brown was found hanging on a sharp rock , while that of one of the other officers was discovered jammed in the crevices of a huge boulder . A monument , erected by the Dominion Government , marks the scene of this sad catastrophe . A short distance from this spot , the S. S. “ Newfield ” now lies herself a total wreck , with the waves of the ocean washing over her .

Digby Courier Dec. 13, 1929

Sixteenth Annual Report

Of the

Department

Of

Marine and Fisheries

Fiscal Year Ended 30th June

1883

The new Government Steamship” Princess Louise,” 364 ton~ registered, was totally wrecked on the 3rd December last near Point Prim, Digby County, in the Bay of Fundy, while the “Princess Louise'” being towed to Halifax by the Government steamer Newfield , whence it was intended she should sail to Glasgow, where she was to receive her engines.

The vessel was built at Maccan and had only recently been launched. She was taken in tow on the morning of the 2nd of December, off Harvey Point, in the Cumberland Basin, and proceed down the Bay, with the wind from the southward and eastward. The weather continued fine until noon, but between noon and 2 p.m., the barometer commenced falling, with a dark and threatening sky, and as that aspect of the weather continued, the course of the ship was shaped for Digby, as it had been arranged between Captain Guilford, of the” Newfield,” and Captain D. M. Browne,. who was in command of the” Princess Louise ” that they would go into Digby should the weather become threatening.

At 6 p. m. the vessels were within one mile of Digby Gut, the wind, light bearing S. S. W., the weather being misty, with drizzling rain. and a light breeze from the south-east, but as the ships were under a weather watch with a light breeze, Captain GuiIdford considered their position a safe one and stood off and on expecting the weather would clear up. At 10 PM the wind suddenly shifted to the east and rapidly backed into the north-east, with a blinding snow storm. The· Newfield’s” head was then put off shore by Captain Guildford, the engines going full speed. At midnight the wind backed to the north, blowing hard with a heavy sea, rolling the” Newfield’s” lifeboats under water, and as the wind increased after midnight the vessels made but little headway. At 3:30 on the morning of the 3rd, the steel hawser with which the “Princess Louise” was being towed, parted, and that ill-fated vessel drifted on the rocks near Point Prim, becoming a total wreck. There were ten persons on board, of which two were saved. Amongst the lost was Captain D. M. Brown, who was in charge of the vessel. The vessel was valued at $30,OOO. The” Newfield “ found it impossible to render the” Princess Louise” any assistance after the hawser parted, as owing to the violence of wind and sea, she had as much as she couId do to save herself.

Richard C. Soy November 1922

In November 1922 Richard C. Soy came back to Digby to thank my Grandfather and others for being so kind to him in 1883. My Great Grandfather (Christopher Stark ) had passed away in 1892 but my Grandfather living in my Great Grandfather’s house met with him and they went to the site where the “Princess Louise” wrecked. The Capt. and Officers of the S.S. Newfield had placed a monument at the site shortly after the wreck and so my grandfather took a photo of Richard C. Soy standing by the monument. This Photo taken November 1922 at Christopher’s Bluff is the only one taken of this event and has stayed in our family ever since.

This Map is from the Church Map 1861. This shows where my Great grandfather’s house was. Christophers Bluff is the shore line behind the house and where the monument is.

Source: Digby Courier Nov. 10, 1922

This is Richard C. Soy’s Interview about the Wreck of the “Princess Louise”


Wreck of “S.S. Newfield” 1900

Thirty Third Annual Report

of the

Department

of

Marine and Fisheries

Fiscal Year Ended 30th June

1900

Digby Courier; Sept. 29, 1900

Bad Luck or What

Digby Courier; Oct. 5, 1900

2 Comments

  1. Mitchell Bell

    Thank you for sharing! (From great-great-grandchild of R.C. Soy)

    Reply
  2. Susan (Webber) Fraser

    What an interesting read. You are doing important research about the history of the islands. Have you ever found anything about a ship from Westport being run aground somewhere on Brier island because it was no longer seaworthy? The Captain was Capt. Thomas Webber. The year would have been 1869. I have relatives in BC who say that they were told this and they believe that it is true. Capt. Webber is said to have told his son, Clarence, to go to the shore and wait. Clarence is said to have told his son Reginald (my grandfather, Charlie Webber’s half brother) this story.

    Reply

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