Monday, February 15, 2010

The Telegram

Just when we thought our Mary Poppins-like box had run out of surprises, one last dive into the unknown unearthed a folded, yellowed piece of paper.

See image:

It was a telegram! - a telegram sent from my forth-great grandfather, James Monroe Frazer, to his wife in Brooklyn, New York!

“Ship foundered at sea…”???

What did THAT mean? The telegram was sent September 18, 1857, just six days after the sinking of the SS Central America!

Was my grandfather a part of that historic event?!
WHY was he on the ship?
did he survive?

Little did my mother and I realize that the search for answers to these questions would occupy us for the next several months -- even years. We searched and analyzed every possible resource: newspapers, books, websites, forums, historical societies, and even traveled to New York City - all in our quest to discover more.

Of course, we first assumed that James was one of the passengers on the Central America. But shiver me timbers! Imagine our surprise when we discovered that he was actually an OFFICER! but not any officer! he was the captain’s 2nd mate! and not only 2nd mate, but the highest ranking officer to survive the sinking!

Because of this, his official deposition of the incident was recorded in all the country’s major newspapers. His survival story was also recorded.

After a fierce three-day battle with a foundering (sinking) ship in the middle of a tremendous hurricane, the captain, Lt. William Lewis Herndon, directed the transfer of all one hundred women and children to the brig Marine, another vessel five miles off. Once all of the women and children were safely on board the Marine (a heroic feat for the Captain, his officers, and crew), Captain Herndon turned to my grandfather and asked: “Would you like to go down with me?”

And my grandfather answered...

To be continued…

1 comment:

David Slagowski said...

You have a nice way of describing different events in your blog. I wish I could write like you do. Keep up the good work.