Captain Oliver

March 1, 2022

Excerpt from interview with Paul St. John by Paul A Fiori author of On Grampus Ledge The Wreck of the Brig St. John on October 7, 1849.

“What about Captain Oliver?

“That asshole!” He blurted out. “Whatever happened to the captain going down with his ship! He was the first into the lifeboat … and poof! … he was gone! He was a coward! He said angrily.”

In Chapter Seventeen of the same book many questions are asked though few answers given;

Of primary import here is this query: Was Capt. Oliver and his crew drunk? Perhaps drunk is too harsh a term to use, under the circumstances. Instead, I’ll rephrase the question and ask; were they hung over? …”

On the final night of their 30 day voyage, Captain Oliver had “… a treat of ‘ardent spirits’ given to the passengers, crew, and himself, in celebration. …Perhaps the crew enjoyed themselves a bit too much. If they were hung over or even worse, intoxicated, it would have affected their actions, slowing them, thus making Grampus Ledge an unavoidable obstacle.”

From the History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts by D.H. Hurd: “In contrast to the kindness and heroism shown that day, was the heartlessness of the captain of the St. John, who, with his crew, left the vessel in a boat only half-full, and who in his cruel cowardice, neglected to inform the crew of the life-boat that his wrecked vessel was filled with perishing men, women, and children…”

How, one might ask, did the Captain’s desk survive the shipwreck? That story, too, is interesting in itself and reprinted in Fiori’s book with permission of the Cohasset Historical Society:

“On the morning after the British brig St John, loaded with Irish immigrants from Galway, Ireland, had been driven by a northeast gale upon Grampus Ledge off Cohasset, my father (Nathaniel Treat) was cruising the beaches in the Sandy Cove area. As he rounded Lyman’s Point, he saw a neighbor pull a chest up in the bushes and hide it.

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