On November 30, 1842 in a blinding snowstorm, a spectacular shipwreck occurred at Bald Head Cliffs in Cape Neddick, Maine. It was to be the worst maritime disaster in Maine’s long seafaring history, and all 16 local men on board perished in the frigid waters. Due to the eerie circumstances of the wreck, the powerful story of the crew’s premonitions of disaster, and lingering reports to this day by local fishermen of a ghost ship, it was said to be the most widely told tale in Maine a century ago.
Built on the shore of the Kennebunk River at the Landing in Kennebunk, the Isidore was set to launch from Kennebunkport wharf at 10 a.m. on Nov. 30, 1842 on its trip to New Orleans, according to Harvey Reid, in his book, The Wreck of the Isidore. But somewhere between when it was built and its actual sail date, bad omens began to crop up around the ship and its voyage.
Perhaps most disturbing were the dreams some of the seamen had. One of the stories that has survived is that one sailor had a dream in the days before the Isidore set sail. In the dream, he saw seven coffins lined up on shore. When he asked who they were for, a voice told him one was for him.
The Isidore left the wharf at 10 a.m. on November 30 under warnings of dire weather to come. For hours, Reid's book recounts, the ship stayed within sight of shore, sails limp, unable to catch a breeze. But that would soon change.
Overnight, a great nor-easter would howl its way along the New England coastline, dumping more than a foot of snow on the ground and bringing with it raging winds and destruction.
By morning, the wreckage of the Isidore was spotted around the cliffs at Cape Neddick. Seven bodies were found. None of the 15 men on board survived. The crew ranged in age from a 15 year-old cabin boy to the 53-year old cook.
Historical records indicate that the ship's carpenter, Thomas King, was so scared of the dreams and premonitions he had about the voyage that he hid in the woods until the ship left. He was the only crew member to survive.
Local legends claim that the Isidore is still seen out to sea on stormy nights near the York cliffs.
Harvey Reid and Kennebunkport historian Barbara Barwise will lecture about the Isidore, with music provided by Joyce Andersen, on November 30 at the Wells and Ogunquit (Maine) Historical Society. The date will mark the 168th anniversary of the loss of the Isidore. Some of the descendants of the Isidore's 15 lost crew members will be on hand for that trip back through time.
People who believe they are descendants of the Isidore crew or who have information to share can contact Russ Markgren at 207-216-2541 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read more at http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20101111-NEWS-11110347
You can read more about Harvey Reid's book, "The Wreck of the Isidore," at http://www.woodpecker.com/isidore/