Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Past is a Curious Place...

Patchogue - October 5, 2009

Shipwrecks were fairly common off the south shore of Long Island during the nineteenth century, so it's not unusual to come across several headstones of victims of the same event.

The three-masted schooner Louis V. Place was wrecked off the Great South Bay during a horrific nor'easter in February of 1895. It took two days for the Life Saving Service (the forerunner to the Coast Guard) to reach the men clinging to the rigging, by that time all but two were dead. One of them, Soren Nelson, the man in the middle above, died of tetanus less than a month later.

Go back for a minute, enlarge the picture and reread the words carved in the stone. "Taken from the rigging" "Died in the rigging". Eight crewmen crawled up the ropes of the sails, in the face of a howling storm. For those of you unaware, a nor'easter is basically a hurricane that comes from the northeast in the middle of winter. They spent two days with the wind, the surf, the rain and the ice, with their woolen garments saturating and freezing, waiting for rescue.

There's an old joke that's told to see how well your audience is paying attention to you. The joke goes like this: If an airplane crashed on the exact border of New York and Pennsylvania, where would they bury the survivors?

The account of the shipwreck that I read on longislandgenealogy.com says the lone survivor of this disaster, Claus Stuvens, eventually went back to sea. Which would explain, I suppose, why the stone bearing his name (on the left, above) has no date of passing. It doesn't explain why there's a stone bearing his name here at all, however. He survived, right?. There's a gravestone for the ship's captain here as well, though that same account says Capt. Squires is buried in a family plot in Southhold. The past is a curious place, indeed...


July 15, 1991
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7 comments:

Sherry said...

Cool. Would you like me to create a headstone for you and put it in the backyard? Why wait for death?

Gene said...

Interesting! With family plots it was pretty common to have markers before someone died, but interesting to see one for a survivor of a shipwreck.

A California politician, March Fong Eu, is having her monument built before she passes, but it seems much less common these days.

Julie said...

That is something that would tickle me: to carve my own headstone. Love Sherry's original comment! Did you take both images? The 1991 could be 100 years old. My how time ages, eh?

As I noted last week: luv yer writing style, kid. More please.

I will go off now and research Patchogue and the cemeteries and shipwrecks of Long Island. Just scratch the surface, morelike ...

We've had dramatic shipwrecks in and around Sydney Harbour through the years of European settlement. I need to flesh out a few more images and craft me a yarn.

Annie said...

What a dramatic story, Neil. I'm thinking they didn't expect Stuven to survive and he surprised them all. The headstone now is a querky joke at death but we all know that death eventually did catch up with him someplace.

tapirgal said...

Wonderful post! Great history, and the stories these tell, the images they conjure. I also live in a place that has many multiple lives lost to shipwrecks and boat tragedies. Excellent post.

diane b said...

Great historical story connected to these gravestones. That is weird having a gravestone before one is dead.

Joan Elizabeth said...

Drama can often be found in cemeteries. It was fun to read this particular drama today.