The History of Long and Brier Islands

Some Terrible Experiences of Islanders

by | Sep 19, 2021 | Brier Island, Long Island, shipwrecks | 2 comments

The following is three short stories of true experiences of Islanders. They are about ” Almost Freezing to Death, Saving Others from the Sea, and Death in Petit Passage”.

Source: Digby Courier; Feb 24, 1893

Terrible Experience of a Freeport Captain

Barque Low Wood

Buffeting Last Week’s Gales off Halifax Harbor-  Dismasted at the Cape-Crew Disabled-But Cargo Increasing in Value all the Time.

  While the temperature was going down last week sugar was going up, but Capt. Thurber, of Freeport, in command of the bark Low Wood, wasn’t aware of that, or he might have taken his terrible trip more easily.

          The barque Low Wood, of St. John N. B., Captain Thurber, from Iloilo with a cargo of sugar, where she left August 30th via Delaware Breakwater, where she put in for orders and left February 7th, arriving in Halifax Sunday afternoon in tow of the tug Goliah. The vessel has had a very hard passage. When off Cape of Good Hope she was partially dismasted, losing her fortopgallantmast, maintopmasthead, and part of mizzen topmast, with all yards, sail, etc., above, and almost a number of sails. The barque made slow progress and arrived at the Delaware Breakwater on the 2nd  inst., leaving their 5 days later. Desperate weather, with strong N. N. W. gales and extreme cold, were then encountered to this port. The vessel got badly iced up several times and was blown off. The crew were all frost-bitten and with his ship partially disabled, and his crew in this state, Captain Thurber made off the port of destination, got a pilot and the barque anchored between Portugese and Never Fail shoals, off the harbor-on Saturday morning at two o’clock. It blew a howling N.E. snow storm all day Saturday, and it was too late to send a tug on Saturday evening as the storm continued. The barque was in bad position, but, her anchors held her, and she was rolling very heavily. The Goliah went down Sunday morning, got to the Low Wood, and a number of fishermen from the Western Shore were employed to heave up the anchors, as the ship’s crew were unable to work, being so badly used up being and frostbitten. The fluke of one of the anchors was broken while getting it off bottom. Yesterday afternoon, after their arrival of the barque, five of the crew (three white and two colored seamen) were conveyed to the Victoria General Hospital. Their hands and feet are frozen and one man will lose a portion of his foot. The remainder of the crew, who did not suffer so badly, were sent to the sailor’s home.

          The Low Wood has a cargo of 1,800 tons of sugar for the Halifax refinery, and she is 1,091 tons register, owned by Troop and Sons, St. John. Black Bros. & Co. are her Halifax agents. The barques cargo has increased 25 per cent, in value since she left Iloilo, as a price of sugar has advanced that much sense.

Source: Digby Courier; March 17th 1893

Freeport Notes


Source: Digby Courier April 7th 1893

Freeport Flashes

Source: Digby Courier; May 5th 1893

Freeport Flashes

Digby Courier; Jan. 5, 1906

A Thrilling Story From The Sea.

Heroic and Successful Attempt to Saving Life During Saturday Night’s Storm

How Daniel Stanton and his son Guy were saved from drowning in the Bay of Fundy- George Merritt and Albert Gidney deserve medals for bravery.

A telephone message to the Courier Friday night stated that a fishing boat, manned by the Messrs. Albert Gidney and George Merritt, of Mink Cove, had just arrived at Tiverton with the bodies of Daniel Stanton, of Tiddville, and his 16-year-old son Guy on board, that the people were doing everything possible to restore life to the unfortunate fisherman, but it was feared their efforts would prove unsuccessful.

 The following information about the sad affair which the Courier was able to obtain Saturday morning through the kindness of Mr. Byron Blackford, Tiverton’s popular ferryman, reads like a miracle and tells a story of great bravery and thrilling escape of four deaths instead of two as reported Friday night.

 When the south-east gale began to pick up a sea Saturday afternoon in which apparently no boat could live, the entire fishing fleet along the coast attempted to beat to windward and seek shelter in the few coves on the Bay of Fundy side of Digby Neck Shore. The boat containing George Merritt and Albert Gidney of Mink Cove, was laboring hard in the big breeze but was making good progress to the windward. As darkness grew near with the wind and sea constantly increasing the men discerned what they took to be a keg buoy floating away to the leeward. with men clinging to it. Although they knew to put their boats head off shore in such a breeze with darkness coming on meant almost their own death, they attempted it and succeeded in placing on board their boat at 5:30 Saturday night what almost appeared like the dead bodies of Daniel Stanton, of Tiddville and his 16-year-old son Guy.

 The latter, however, showed some signs of life at first, but later grew cold and stiff. Now came their battle for land and with their sad cargo. To make matters worse their own boat pump became disabled and the seas were constantly breaking over her. One man was compelled to bail with a bucket while the other watched for squalls in their beat to windward. They finally made Bear Cove, Long Island, many miles from their homes, but they could not land in the surf. Putting their little half filled craft on the on the other tack they reached Boer’s Head Light and after battling the waters of Petit Passage for another hour or so they succeeded in arriving at Tiverton. The body of Daniel Stanton was taken to the home of Byron Blackford, the ferryman, and that of his son, Guy, to St. Clair Ruggles house. Here experienced fishermen work with them until the arrival of Dr. Bishop, Freeport’s skillful physician, who succeeded in restoring life to both men. Mr. Stanton was still in bed Saturday morning and unable to tell the sad story but will recover. His son who first showed signs of life, which was about nine o’clock Friday night, says it’s all a dream to him. He remembers their boat sinking and clinging to the trawl buoy. He also remembers the words of cheer from the rescuers as their boat approached but nothing further.

 Gidney and Merritt deserve medals for their bravery and the great risk in putting their boat off shore before such an angry sea. Both were nearly exhausted when they landed at Tiverton an the east side of Petit Passage, but they landed among Good Samaritans and the people did everything in their power to comfort them, and restore life to the unfortunate father and son.

  Mr. Stanton and his son are well-known residents of Tiddville, which is a few miles west of Little River, and have many friends who will be pleased to learn of their earlier recovery from the certainly narrow escape.

Daniel Stanton’s Story

          The Courier representatives at Tiverton sent us via Wednesday’s mail, full particulars of the sad affair which is covered in the above article. One of our correspondents writes: “The story of the accident can better be told by one of the unfortunate man who came so near to drowning. Mr. Daniel Stanton says: My son and I went fishing the afternoon of the 29th. The wind was south-east, and had the appearance of breezing up, but we went offshore on what is known by the fisherman as Whale Cove Ridge, and run our trawl. We only gave it about 20 min. set when we began to haul it back. We got about 20 lines of it when it parted. We then went to our buoy which we found but with a great deal less of success for we were only able to get half a shot of our trawl as yet had chaffed off on the bottom and, having got what was left in the boat we headed her for shore, but before we had gone a mile in that direction a squall upset our boat, which was not long in sinking from under us. The thought came to my son to take hold of the buoy as the only means to keep us afloat and which we were not long in carrying into effect. Then it was then we began to look around for the assistance but it seemed to me as if we were lost as no sail could be seen and we were about giving up all hopes of ever seeing our loved ones and friends again, when my son spied a sail standing towards us which proved to be Messrs. Albert Gidney and George Merritt, of Mink Cove, our rescuers. We held on with that strength which comes to a man in the condition that we were in. Presently the boat came up in the wind to tact then it was that my son’s voice rang out over the water and was fortunately heard by the men in the boat which picked us up in a semiconscious condition, losing all consciousness as soon as rescued.

“ After reaching here about two hours later, and being taken out by kind hands they were carried to the homes of Byron Blackford and St. Clair Ruggles, where they’re clothes were cut off and their bodies vigorously rubbed until consciousness returned which was four hours in the case of the father, he having had to be attended by Dr. Bishop. On the following day a paper was circulated among the people and the sum of $18 realized. After paying the doctor and fitting them both out with clothes they were able to return to their homes with tears of joy streaming down their faces for their timely deliverance from death and our thankfulness to so many kind friends.

“ With your kind permission, Mr. Editor, I would like to say a few words. This place of ours, has received a very hard name by some of the people in our sister towns, but those same people have never been cast away here. For the first question asked is not how much money has he or is he colored, but is what can we do to restore him to life. And you will have to go more than one day’s journey to find just another place as this to help people in need.

Digby Courier; Jan. 12, 1906

Daniel Stanton Sent in this Article

January 25th 1930

S.S. Grace Hankinson/S.S. Ruby L. ll

(The 1930 issue of the Digby Courier is missing from archives so I have relied on another source to tell the story. It comes from the book called “Shipwrecks of Nova Scotia” by Jack Zink.)

S.S. Grace Hankinson

-S.S. Ruby L. ll-

Situated in the small town of Margaretsville is a granite stone with the inscription:

“In Memory of Claire Baker, master of the Ruby L. ll who lost his life in a heroic effort to save his crew from the rack of this vessel, January 25, 1930.

          Greater love hath no man.

In the same disaster perished Captain Byard Powell, Charles Kennedy and Frederick Hill.”

The story behind this commemoration is as follows:

 During the First World War the navy built a vessel for the coastal service which went under the name of Canadian Drifter. After the war was over, a man by the name of Clayton Collins purchased this particular vessel in 1922. For the next two years the naval boat lay at Granville Ferry, while Mr. Collins tried to find a way of making money for this vessel. It was not until Mr. Byard Powell returned to Digby County after completing his work with the Nova Scotia Steamship Company in Boston that both men concluded it would be feasible to form a steamship company between St. John and Weymouth. From this agreement the Weymouth Transportation Company was formed with Mr. Collins is president, George Hankinson as Secretary, and Mr. Powell as captain. The naval vessels name was then changed to the S.S. Grace Hankinson named after Mr. Hankinson’s youngest daughter. To other men, Gus Brooks a customs officer at Weymouth and E.C. Bowers of Westport, were investors in the company.

          By 1925 the company was in full swing, making regular trips to Saint John and St. Mary’s Bay. The Grace Hankinson continued to pay dividends to her owners until the spring of 1929, when the Eastern Canada Coastal Company of Saint John purchase her and transferred the management to Saint John. When business slackened, she was replaced for a short period by the Wanda, which connected with the S.S. Keith Cann at Freeport.

 Because of dissatisfaction among other patrons of the service, the Grace Hankinson was brought out of retirement on the morning of January 23, 1930. She left Saint John at seven o’clock in the morning, with a low barometer reading and with every indication of bad weather approaching. With the Ruby L. ll in tow, both vessels were bound for Lunenburg to have new diesel engines installed to replace their steam power.

 Mr. Baker was cleared as Captain and Mr. Powell was pilot. By mid-day the course was for Digby Gut was changed and they were now cruising near shore in order to avoid the full strength of the flood tide. Before they made Petit Passage, a snow squall hit them and at times visibility was almost nil. The waves grew stronger which each hour, by five o’clock, just before high tide, the Hankinson struck hard upon the reef. The Ruby L ll swung inside of the Hankinson to the leeward side of her. Within minutes Norman Thurber and the man with him on the Ruby L. ll tried to launch a lifeboat, but a large wave caught them and flung Thurber against the guard rail breaking his shoulder. Both men tried to reach the Hankinson but were forced too ashore. Thurber tried to warn the men of the Hankinson to get into their lifeboat. However, the high wind and crashing waves crashed out his voice. Captain Baker tied a rope to his waist and leaned over the side, in an attempt to get a rope on shore with the help of Mr. Boston the engineer. As he tried to do this, Captain Baker was thrust against the Hankinson, he slipped through the loop of the rope and was lost from sight.

 The engineer and another of the crew tied themselves to the mast in an effort to keep alive until a rope could be thrown from the shore. Meanwhile the heavy seas washed away everything from the upper deck and at high tide the pilothouse was carried away by a large wave. It was not until low tide the rope was finally secured to the ship and the two men were pulled safely to shore. By morning there was little left of the Hankinson and the Ruby L. ll after the vessels have been battered by the sea.

Specifications for the S.S. Grace Hankinson:

Displacement 175 t.

 Length 95′

 Beam 18′ 6″

 Draft 7′ 6″

 Speed 9 kts.

 Complement 23

Armament: One 3-pounder

Propulsion: One single ended boiler, one 225hp vertical compound steam engine, one shafted

Captain Byard Powell Death Certificate

Captain Byard Powell had a son that was born at Westport on May 24th, 1901. His name is Robert Baden Powell. Robert was our MLA for the Digby District for the years of 1963-1970. He was succeeded by Joe Casey.


  1. Tara S-H

    Thank you so much for this awesome research and story work! I actually just had a late 19th century painting of the “Low Wood” restored. Captain Thurber was my great-great-grand-uncle (my mother’s family comes from Freeport) and the painting has been passed down to me. I have been doing a bit of research to find out more history behind the ship and its captain — and was amazed to stumble on your blog post from September! I cannot wait to share this amazing story with my family 🙂

    • John D. Thurber

      Hi Tara, I have some research about Capt. George Alfred Thurber that may be of interest to you. I have been a Thurber researcher for most of my life, so can help you with information on your family if you need any help.

      A distant cousin, John D. Thurber.


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