Reported On This Day 280 Years Ago (May 15 1739): Horror befalls a ship off the coast of America

The front page of the Belfast News Letter of May 4 1739 (which is May 15 in the modern calendar)
The front page of the Belfast News Letter of May 4 1739 (which is May 15 in the modern calendar)
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From the Belfast News Letter of May 4 1739 (which is May 15 in the modern calendar):


New-York, Jan. 30.

On the tenth instant Captain Clark, in the Scooner Judith and Rebecca, arrived here from Virginia, who gives the following melancholy account, viz.

That on the third instant he met with a ship at the capes of Virginia, with the Palatines from Rotterdam, who were in great distress for want of provisions, and knew not the bay; that they dropp’d their anchor and fired several guns for a pilot to come off to them; but the weather being bad, and much ice floating, no pilot came: whereupon a great gentleman that was on board, took his son and daughter, and, several other passengers, (to the number of about thirty) in the long boat, and went on shore to see if they could get some provisions for their relief; but not finding a house, they made a fire in the woods, and sat by it all night; the weather being severe cold, there was but four of them alive next morning: several of them were gentlemen of good estates, and had gold watches in their pockets, and some more and some less pieces of gold.

The chief of them is said to be a great lord from Germany, and had much riches on board; and so had several of the other gentlemen.

It’s said this was the richest ship that has come into Virginia for these twenty years past.

The wind blowing very hard that night the ship dragg’d her anchor, and struck so much that she sunk till the water came to her upper deck: a great number of the passengers that were in their cabbins between decks, were so sick and weak that they were not able to get upon deck to save themselves, but were drown’d, and were found floating in the ship like so many logs of timber.

The master and mate died at sea, and the boatswain had the command of the ship.

When they came out from Rotterdam there was three hundred passengers on board, of which there is but four left alive, besides four or five of the Sailors.

This ship was bound to James River in Virginia, there being a German lord which came there last year and obtained a grant for a large tract of land in Virginia, and was to bring over from Germany about three thousand people to settle it, and this ship’s company was the first of them.

It’s said they have been about twenty weeks in their passage from Rotterdam, in which time most of them died, and the few that were left perished when they came on short, except four of them as abovementioned.