Marietta Guertler's grandfather, Maja Mathis, taught school in the one room Mathistown School House and had a farm on the West bank of Job's Creek. He eventually became Superintendent of Schools in Florence, N.J. His interest in history saved the treasure trove of documents I now have the pleasure of looking through. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Mathis Guertler, Maja's daughter and Marietta's mother.)
Seems, the following note was found
Octr 13th 1874
O Pittying friends – here we are sinking beyond the deep off Little Egg Harbour trying to make the Inlet to save our schr and crew. We are steering for Hatfields light where our hopes was to get in. I report our Schr [schooner] Julia A of
Mate, Levi Nelson . . .
Capt John Curtas of
Samuel Downs was shown the note shortly after it was found. He copied the message and sent it to the Postmaster of Baltimore with the following compassionate note of his own:
The original letter was copied by Miss Hatfield and then sent to Wm. P. Haywood of West Creek,
Saml S. Downs
Samuel’s letter was quickly returned to him by A.W. Denison, the Baltimore Postmaster, with the following short note written at the bottom of the original letter.
Respectfully returned – No such vessel registered from this port.
Next to Postmaster Denison’s terse comment, Samuel Downs wrote . . . “Appears to be a hoax, Nov. 1874.” He must have placed it in his files, where it remained, packed away, until I began looking through Marietta's cardboard boxes. It's almost as if that event, which happened 115 years ago, suddenly reappeared into my life, today. Can anyone say "Twilight Zone"?
As a history buff, I'm also a romantic when it comes to the past. Something inside me believes that desperate note from so long ago is, in fact, authentic. I can't help thinking that the Baltimore Postmaster had more important things to do and didn't look into the matter too thoroughly. I'm not an expert on nautical history, but there must be some way that we can check the authenticity of that note. Any suggestions out there?
By the way, am I the only historical romantic. Any Blog readers believe that the note may be genuine?
PS- Ship wrecks were a part of life in our area in the 1800's. Click below, and go to page 8, to read about one of the most tragic when a New Gretna father, Burrows M. French, and his son, Winfield, died in 1878.