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Murray's Ship Wrecked on Devil's Island

























































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THE LOSS OF THE MURRAYS AT DEVILS ISLAND IN 1859

In doing family research about our Walter and Christian Murray family that came to Nova Scotia on the "Hector and settled at Barneys River I came across the following documents.

H.H. Bruce wrote an article in 1886 called the History of Barneys River Early Days in East Pictou. It was published in the Eastern Chronicle of 18 Sept. 1886. (The "Willie" Murray mentioned below is Walter and Christians son William Murray.)

In the article Mr. Bruce tells of some of the early settlers.

"Walter, the eldest son of "Willie" Murray is now residing at Port Hawksbury, and must be nearly 90 years of age. About twenty-five years ago, he was called upon to bear a sad bereavement, the severity of which it is not often the lot of man to endure. His four sons owned a schooner and traded between Cape Breton ports and Halifax. Proceeding to the later place in late Autumn, they were overtaken by a storm, and driven upon the rock-bound coast of Devils Island in Halifax Harbor, and all four brothers were lost."

Another version of the story comes from a short local history written by H.W. Hewitt for the 13 July 1901 edition of Dartmouth Patriot, History of Devils Island, Brave Crew of Rescuers Deserve More Recognition --- Many Shipwrecks (No. 11).



"...About the year 1860 four vessels left Prince Edward Island with

produce, etc. Having left about the same time they kept rather close

together, so that a calm day about the last of October found all four off

Jeddore, so near one another that the skippers spoke to one another asking

the opinions of the other as to the advisability of making the port of

Jeddore before night. They decided to keep on for Halifax. A light

breeze sprung up towards evening which increased till at 8 o'clock in the

evening it had attained the velocity of a great gale. The wind was

accompanied by a blinding snowstorm.



Meanwhile the vessels had reached the mouth of Halifax Harbour where, in

the snow storm they lost sight of one another. One of the vessels in

coming about too soon, ran ashore on the south west of Devil's Island.

She was loaded with hides, tallow, etc. All hands were lost. Three

brothers drifted over to the shore os s.e. Passage [South East Passage]

where their bodies were recovered.

The second vessel struck on the eastern side of Lawlors Island on the beach near the wharf. No lives were lost and she was afterwards taken off.

A third vessel struck at Herring Cove. The wreck occurred under a cliff. Ropes were let down and the crew was saved.

The fourth vessel struck on Thrum Cap. Two lives were lost from this vessel. Two men reached the Island. One of the men got the other in the shelter of some trees. He then went across the island to Mr. Hugonins. Hugonin returned with a wagon and took the other man to his house. One poor fellow had come ashore alive and was found above high water mark. His hands were on his knees. He probably died from exposure.



The next morning a brother of the three washed ashore at s.e. Passage,

one who had been on the vessel wrecked at Herring Cove went down to the

beach at that place.

There he found a name board from the vessel wrecked at Devil's Island and

knew then that she must have been also wrecked. He went over to McNabs

Island and was put across to Eastern Passage where the bodies of his three

brothers were found. The clergyman of the parish being absent, the burial

service was read over the bodies of the brothers by Mr. Nelson Negus.

They were buried in one grave in the church yard of St. Peter's Episcopal

Church. The surviving brother gave their names and ages for recordance.

The surname was Murray."

Later in Mr. Hewitts articles he related, "The last cemetery I shall mention is that which surrounds the parish church of St. Peters. The busy reaper is fast filling this quiet corner. In this churchyard lie side by side the three Murray brothers, whose sad fate I mentioned in my last paper on Devils Island. ..."

The Nova Scotian of December 26, 1859 has in the SHIPPING NEWS Marine Memoranda - " The schr Rival, wrecked on McNabs Island in the gale on Wednesday night, was from Port Hood, with produce. Michael Meagher, master; James ONeil; mate; and Donald McDonald, seaman, were drowned. Their bodies were recovered on Friday and brought up to the city for interment. Patrick Delhanty, a passenger, and John McDonald, a seaman, were saved. The schr lost, with all hands, on Devils Island, is supposed to be the Sarah Elizabeth, from PE Island, with produce."

The Islander of December 30, 1859 carried the following article-

"A Violent Storm passed over this city on the night of Wednesday last. It set in, shortly after night fall, with a thick snow storm, the wind blowing a gale from South East. During the night the snow changed to rain and the wind veered round to the South West, but continued to blow violently. Much damage to shipping must have been done by this storm. At Bennets Wharf in this city, a vessel loaded with fish, was sunk and other damage was done at those wharves which were exposed to the South East gale. Among the disasters about this bay alone, we hear of the Ocean Belle, of Grand River, P. E. I., wrecked at Herring Cove; another vessel, name unknown, lost at the same place; and a vessel of about 35 tons, supposed to be the Sarah, of P.E. Island, wrecked on Devils Island, and all hands supposed to be lost, as several dead bodies have been washed ashore in that vicinity; schooner Rival, Meagher, master, from Port Hood, with produce, struck spot Thruin Cap, eastern side McNabs Island--and was totally wrecked........Hx, Recorder, Dec 17."

Last fall David N. Barron of Northern Maritime Research of Bedford, N. S. furnished the following- "According to Christ Church (Dartmouth) Archives (page 66/Volume 3) --The Murray brothers were David (age 29), Charles (24) and Frances (18). Fourth body not found or named. Brothers lived at Canso, N.S."

In summary, it appears that the three Murray brothers, David, Charles and Frances were on the Schooner Sarah Elizabeth, (45.5 ft long, 13.2 ft breadth, 6.5 ft draft, 2 masts) that wrecked on Devils Island, Wednesday night, December 14, 1859. They are buried in the Church Yard at Eastern Passage. Whether a fourth brother was lost we dont know. A younger brother, Walter, was later a sea captain from Port Hawksbury, but we dont know if he might have been the identifier of his brothers bodies as mentioned by Mr. Hewett.