The Fanny, owned by the Kelsons of Trinity, arrived in Catalina to discharge freight. Accounts tell that while the Fanny was unloading, a Mr. Bayly, sub-collector of H.M. Customs, being a passenger, objected to proceeding further by water and left the sloop at Catalina walking overland to Trinity.
It so happened that the wind became more favorable and the sloop, in company with a schooner owned by Mr. Stoneman, set sail for their home port of Trinity. After a short time at sea, weather conditions deteriorated with a blinding snow storm, freezing temperatures and gale force northerly winds occurring, resulting in the vessels being driven off course. Mr. Stonemanís schooner was lost near Heart's Content but the crew were saved. Another boat which had left Trinity for New Perlican was overtaken by the same gale but got into a Harbour near Turkís Cove, the crew just having time to save themselves before the boat went to pieces. Also, a boat hired by a Mr. Ollerhead, was stranded in like manner. Other vessels were also caught in this December gale of 1835.
But one of the greatest tragedies was the loss of the Fanny, which went ashore near Capelin Cove, Hantís Harbour, at a place commonly known as the Arches (near Kingís Head Cove) with the loss of all seven people aboard.
In referring to this tragedy, William Kelson Sr. (Uncle of William Kelson Jr.) wrote in his diary, ďIt is a painful task to record the melancholy catastrophe that occurred in a tremendous gale.Ē He goes on to list the names of the crewmen lost on the Fanny: Skipper Ben Breddy, William Kelson Jr. (owner), John Stevenson, and James Swyers.
Other accounts of this disaster reveal that the next morning, after the storm, the people of Capelin Cove were surprised to see a lot of packages floating around the beach. Fearing that a vessel had been driven ashore, a search of the area was made and wreckage of the Fanny was spotted below a very high rugged cliff. Also bodies were seen in the crevices of the rocks but the high seas at the time made it impossible to use a boat to recover them. To scale the high cliff would be very dangerous, so one of the men, Richard Pelley, came up with the idea to get a side of leather and ropes and he volunteered to be wrapped in this leather and lowered over the cliff to the shoreline. On reaching the ledges, Mr. Pelley released himself from the leather casing and then wrapped the bodies one by one into the leather case and the men pulled them to the top of the cliff. This task completed, Mr. Pelley wrapped himself into the leather casing and by his orders was pulled to the top of the cliff.
The bodies where taken down to Capelin Cove on small slides where seven caskets were made in which the bodies were placed and taken to the Fishermanís Lodge in Hantís Harbour for burial the next day. Mr. Pelley was unable to attend the funeral as he was sick for many days after.
Papers found in William
Kelson Jr.ís pockets revealed that the sloop was from Trinity.
Communication, in those days, between Hantís Harbour and Trinity was limited
to boat, and as weather conditions at that time of year did not allow
sending news via this means, so another method had to be used. The men of
Capelin Cove and Hantís Harbour lit seven fires on the top of the hill at
Capelin Cove to let the people of Trinity, which is directly across the bay
from Hantís Harbour, know about the sloop. The men of Trinity signaled back
by fires that they had received the message. This was common practice in
those days to communicate in time when there was no other way to relay this
type of message. Mr. Kelson and his six shipmates are buried in one of the
early cemeteries of Hantís Harbour. In the spring of 1837, Mr. Kelsonís
wife Elizabeth Kelson (Ash), arranged for a willow tree to be sent from
Trinity and planted on the graves, where its offshoots still stands today.
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