Powhattan: Wrecked at Absecon

New York Daily Times, April 21, 1854

New York, New York

The Wrecks at Absecon
Total Loss of the Powhattan.
The Humboldt Safe.

Further accounts were received in the City yesterday from the wrecks on the Absecom coast. Much doubt and confusion prevailed during the three previous days, in regard to the names and destination of the wrecked vessels.

Absecon, New Jersey
Absecon, New Jersey - Panoramic Map

It now appears that the packet-ship Humboldt is safe. She arrived in port yesterday, having sustained no material damage from the gale. The reports that the emigrant ship Powhattan of Baltimore, from Havre to this port, was ashore, proves, however, to be correct, and there is every reason to fear that the vessel and all on board were totally lost.

If this melancholy rumor proves true, the loss of life will undoubtedly be in the close vicinity of two hundred persons -- that number of emigrants being known to have sailed with the Powhattan. Bodies are constantly washed ashore along the coast of New Jersey, from Long Beach down to Absecom, and it is as yet impossible to ascertain with accuracy the number of the lost, or the circumstances of the wreck.

Buy at
Absecon Lighthouse,
Atlantic City, New Jersey

The Powhattan was owned in Baltimore, by WILLIAM GRAHAM, Esq., one of the heaviest shipping merchants of that city. She was built in 1837, was near 600 tons register, and valued at about $20,000. Her cargo consisted of French and German goods, and left Havre about the 1st of March, bound to New-York.

The following dispatch from Tom's River, (New-Jersey,) was received in this city yesterday, by Ellwood Walton, Esq., Secretary of the Board of Underwriters

TOM'S RIVER, N. J., Tuesday, April 18.

I arrived at Long Beach at 8 A. M., to-day, and found the wreck to be the ship Powhattan, of Baltimore, Capt. Myers, from Havre for New-York. She is a total loss, and every soul that was on board perished. She went on on Saturday night, and broke up at 5 P. M., on Sunday.

About 75 or 80 packages of passengers' baggage are in charge of Mr. Jennings, wreckmaster.

The bodies of twenty-seven passengers and two seamen have come ashore; and from the fragments of passengers' luggage, I estimate there were two hundred and fifty on board.

About forth feet of the starboard side, amidships, and thirty of the larboard side, aft, are high and dry, fifty feet apart. Not a vestige of anything indicating what her Cargo consisted of.

The schooner Manhattan, of Bangor, from Philadelphia for Bangor is a total wreck one and a half miles below the Powhattan, and fifteen miles south of Barnegat. An hands lost except one seaman, named George Griffith.

J. D. Bowne

The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin of yesterday reached as at 11 o'clock, with fuller details of the wreck at Absecom. We copy the dispatch from the Bulletin, from which it appears that upwards of one hundred and twenty bodies have already been cast upon the beach. The tide will probably continue to bring in the remains of the victims for several days to come.

First Dispatch: Absecom, New Jersey, April 20 - 4 A.M.

We reached this place at 1-1/2 o'clock this morning, and leave at 5 o'clock for Absecom Beach, which is 7 miles distant.

We have examined the clothing of one of the drowned persons washed ashore at the Beach. The stockings, apparently of Holland manufacture, seemed to have belonged to a boy of 11 or 12 years old. His linen was marked in bold red letters, "O. J." Judging from the clothing of the victims, they were either Scotch or German, and they appear to have belonged to the more respectable class of emigrants. Between fifty and sixty bodies have seen washed ashore. The impression is that they are from the ship Stafford from Liverpool, bound to New York.

Mr. Collins of Leeds Point, which is on Little Egg Harbor Bay, west of Tucker's Beach and Long Beach, says that a German floated ashore at that place last evening, alive, but insensible. Hopes were entertained, however, of his recovery. He is supposed to have been from the Powhattan.

Second Dispatch. ABSECOM, April 20 1 P. M.

Prom the best information that we can gather from persons on the beach, about thirty bodies have been washed ashore on Absecom, fifty or sixty on Brigantine, and forty on Long Beach in all about one hundred and thirty. Four were washed ashore this morning on Brigantine Beach. All the bodies appear to be those of the better class of German emigrants. The younger persons were in their night-clothes.

Benjamin Turner, a resident of Brigantine Beach, generally attended to the requirements of the dead bodies. One man was found, who, from his dress, was Captain - .

No vestige of the ship has yet been washed ashore, and all is yet conjecture. Some suppose she is the Powhattan, but the following inscription on a mattress may afford a clue:

Amerikanlsche Line four packet Schiffahrt Vaientine, Torrense, Meyers, Hamburg & Steinhoft; Liverpool, Regent Road, facing Barmleymoore Dock, New York, 99 West street.

About fifty bodies have been taken to Smithville for interment. Miss Bass, of Absecom, prepared a number of bodies for burial. The people generally were afraid to touch them.

It is reported that several bodies have been robbed by some villains on the Beach. The Government have no provision here to prevent such depredations.

There are no other important items worth telegraphing.

*Note: Newspapers of the day spelled this as Absecom.

Defiance Democrat, May 6, 1854
Defiance, Ohio


THE wreck of the ship Powhattan, which we mentioned yesterday, is one of the most lamentable disasters that has occurred on our coast for many years. Capt. Meyer was among the persons drowned. The Herald of this morning gives an account of the unfortunate event, from which we make the following extracts;

"The ship Powhattan, Capt. Meyer, with two hundred passengers on board, of Baltimore bound from Havre to New York, was cast ashore on Saturday night oh the outside bar about midway between Barnegat and Egg Harbor inlets.

When first discovered by Capt. Jennings, of Long Beach, which was on Sunday morning she lay with her head to the south, the decks were crowded with passengers, and the sea was making a clean breach over her. The wind blowing a perfect gale from the northeast the waves ran mountain high, twisting the ship about in the sand as if she was merely a cork boat. Seeing the condition of the vessel, Capt. Jennings, who is stationed as a wreck master on the beach, sent all the men at his command through the snow storm was raging violently, to the Government House, in order to bring down the life car and other wrecking apparatus and stood on shore himself watching the effects of the billows upon the ill-fated vessel. Hours slipped by, but the men did not return with the life car. The vessel became uneasier, and many unfortunate people were swept off by the heavy surf. About 5 o'clock A. M., one immense wave washed fully one hundred persons overboard, who were carried away down the beach by the undertow. Some of them came ashore and were picked up lifeless by Mr. Jennings, who searched in vain amongst the number for a survivor, but all had breathed their last before they reached the shore, being awfully mangled by the force of the waves pushing them against the hull of the vessel and throwing them with violent force against the beach.

At this time, Capt. Meyer, who was on the deck of the Powhattan all this while, called out in a loud voice to Mr. Jennings, entreating him to try and save some of those who might be washed ashore. Capt. Jennings replied that all those who came ashore were dead and that it was no use looking after them as they are all killed before they got out of the water.

About seven o'clock, the ship's masts went by the board, and almost immediately afterwards the hull bursted in two, and every soul on board was launched into eternity. The sea presented a black mass of human heads and floating pieces of the wreck, but in a few moments all had sunk to rise alive no more. The beach was strewn with the dead bodies of women and children, pieces of the wreck, the baggage of the passengers and empty casks. Nothing remained to mark the spot where the ill-fated ship had went ashore, except surging waves beating upon a fragment of the hull which lay upon the beach.

The crying of the drowning men and the shrieking of the women and children was hushed--all lay in the deep, numbered with the dead, while the wind wailed loud and mournfully, adding still more horror to the awful catastrophe. All had sunk--captain, officers, crew and passengers--of two hundred and fifty persons not a soul was left to tell the tale. No aid came from the Government House that night, Capt. Jennings was compelled to remain there by himself, a lonely watcher of the dead.

On Monday morning four men arrived from the station house, but their help came too late. The storm, it seems, was so severe, that while on their way back to the wreck on Sunday with the life-car and mortar, two of them fell down exhausted, and the whole party were obliged to return nearly frozen to death. This party of men under command of Capt. Jennings set immediately about finding and gathering together those bodies that had been washed ashore. In the short space of an hour nearly twenty women and children were found almost naked, scattered along the beach, some of them dreadfully bruised and cut.

One man was found about fifty yards from the beach, upon the sand hills, with a child in his arms; and from his condition it is supposed that he alone, of all on board, reached the shore alive, and crawling out of reach of the waves, in order to save his own life, and that of the infant in his arms, fell down exhausted on the sand, and was frozen to death during the night. The child was firmly locked in his arms, quite dead, and appeared as if it had also died on the shore from exposure.

The whole of this day was spent in searching for the bodies of the unfortunate people. But one man was found among the number, all the rest were women and children. They appeared to have been in excellent health, with rosy cheeks and smiling faces, looking as if they were asleep rather than dead. They were all laid side by side, until a boat could be got to carry them to the shore.

On Tuesday twenty-two bodies were removed from the beach to the village of Manahakin. These consisted of one man and twenty-one children, all apparently, by their features, appearing to be Germans, the women who had any clothes on being dressed in coarse materials, with heavy shoes, some of them wooden ones. All the dead were conveyed to an outhouse of Squire Peckworth's where they remained until coffins could be made for them. The melancholy tasks of making receptacles for the dead occupied the attention of the men of the village, while the women were busily employed in washing the bodies and laying them out, preparatory to their being placed in the coffins. Too much praise cannot be afforded to the inhabitants of Manshawkin for their zeal and industry in giving a decent burial to the dead . . .

All along the shore for ten miles were scattered the remnants of the chests and trunks of the passengers, many of them having names inscribed on the lids and sides. Feather beds, cooking utensils, empty casks and pieces of the vessel were to be seen on every side. Letters of the dead were scattered here and there, and Bibles and prayer books lay glistening in the sun, the whole desolation presenting a melancholy and heart-rending scene.

The latest accounts from the wreck, received at Philadelphia on the 20th, state that the total number of bodies recovered was one hundred and twenty.

Stevens Point Wisconsin Pinery, June 20, 1854

Stevens Point, Wisconsin

THE ROLL OF THE DEAD. The N.Y. Tribune of Saturday contains and entire list of passengers by the ill-fated Powhattan, which ship it will be recollected was wrecked on the coast of New Jersey in April last--the number of passengers and crew were three hundred and twenty six, and no one left alive. Of these, 29 were from Prussia -- 105 from Baden -- 108 from Wortemberg -- 21 from France -- 51 from Bavaria and 3 from Hesse. -- Necs.

Editor's Note: Estimated casualty figures for this disaster range from 250 to 311. A full list was to have been printed in the New York Tribune on or about Saturday, June 20, 1854 but we have not located that list.


Capt. JAMES MEYERS, Baltimore.
A. R. ROGERS, 25, mate, New York.
WM. HORVON, 24, second mate, Maryland.
BENJAMIN HAINES, 30, steward, New York.
JOHN POWELL, 38, seaman, Maryland.
FRANCIS POWELL, 45, seaman, Maryland.
MARTIN EFFIN, 28, seaman, New York
WM. WALTON, 25, seaman, New York.
NICHOLAS MORRIS, 30, seaman, New York.
WASH. SEVILLE, 20, seaman, New York.
FOSTER BRANLON, 24, seaman.
JOHN FONCHELL, 23, seaman.
WM. JAMES, 25, seaman, New York.
A. JOHNSON, 30, seaman, Pennsylvania.
JOHN JOHNSON, 24, seaman, Pennsylvania.


From marks upon the baggage, the following names of passengers have been gathered:
JOHN MULLER, via Havre.
SEBASTIAN KULBACH, of Berlichingen.
JACOB BURKHARD, Gondelsherin.
KAROLINA TOCEJNER, Havre, on his way to Philadelphia.
MR. BOST'S sons.
CHRISTOPHEL DECK, 28 years of age born in Gondesheum, Baden.
WILHELMINE SCHNEIDER, born in Gros Coltmar, in Wuttemberg, the 4th day of January, 1832.
CHRISTOF BAUER, Kleinbottwann, Wurtemberg, born the 3d day of June, 1827.
MISS JOHANN SCHROEDER, (a ticket for six persons for the Erie Railroad, order of Messrs. Weed & Co. corner of Reade and West Streets -
five above 12 years and one under three.)
S. LIFF, marked on a money belt which contained two twenty-franc pieces, twelve five francs, one American eagle, and three gold dollars.
A letter addressed by M. DAVID KORNAR, from Afforterboch, in Wurtemberg, to Mr. Buk, New York.
Direction of GEORGE ABERLE, 117 Hammond Street, New York.
A hair trunk, with the following directions: "Ce coffre appartient a GEORG MITZ, qui voyage pour l'Amerique."

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, Wisconsin 1854-04-27

Editor's Note: Estimated casualty figures for this disaster range from 250 to 311. A full list was to have been printed in the New York Tribune on or about Saturday, June 20, 1854 but we have not located that list.

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