Capt. Mariner S. Crosby. Given his Christian name, it was inevitable that he would take to the sea. That’s what struck me the first time I wandered through Hillside Cemetery.
The second time I went to the graveyard, I was looking for that marker but couldn’t find it. Back home and at my computer, Find-a-Grave led me to the rest of the inscription, which is admittedly rather worn away, as well as some additional facts.
What I found was this:
“Lost at sea with his family and the Brig Sarah B. Crosby,” named for his wife. She and the four children, one of them an unnamed infant, are then listed on the white memorial – Jacob W., Mary B., and Lucy B.
The date of their demise is uncertain, “around Oct. 25, 1867” – in season for a hurricane or some other vicious storm, although a fire in a wooden ship can’t be ruled out.
I trotted back to the cemetery for a closer look. Here it is:
The Chamber of Commerce website reveals more:
“Mariner Crosby was the master of the brig ‘Maria White’ in 1852 and the schooner ‘Mary Jane’ in 1855. From 1861-1863 Mariner was the master of the barque ‘Charles Heddle,’ also built by C.S. Huston,” in Eastport. Around the corner from me, actually. “Mariner’s last command was the brig ‘Sarah B. Crosby,’ named for his wife, which was built in Pembroke. He commanded this vessel from 1863 to 1867 when the vessel was reported overdue. Mariner, his wife Sarah and four children, as well as the crew and passengers, were lost at sea without a trace.”
We’re not even told where the ship was bound, much less about its cargo, passengers, or crew. And a brig did require significant manpower to manage the massive square sails.
The two-masted 316-ton “Sarah B. Crosby” was built in Pembroke by George Russell in 1863 and then based out of Portland, bound for ports such as New York and St. John, New Brunswick.
I started to investigate and found a bit more.
She knew the travails of the sea, having wrecked at treacherous Sandy Hook, New Jersey, on March 1, 1865, with the passengers and crew safely removed. And then, after being abandoned, she was reclaimed and repaired, with shipments of coal from Halifax, Nova Scotia, later in the year.
On March 19, 1867, the New York Herald carried this notice: “Brig Sarah B Crosby (of Portland), Crosby, Measina, Jan 27, with fruit to Lawrence, Giles & Co, passed Gibraltar Feb 16; has had heavy westerly gales, with snow and hail, and split sails. Mar 13, latitude 41 30, longitude 65, spoke ship Michigan, from Liverpool for London.” (Measina, a mystery unto himself, was first mate. They would have been just off England at the time this information was relayed.)
I would like to know more in general about wives and children traveling with captains. It turns out to have been common, with a significant number of the children being born at sea or spending a large part of their childhood there. Wives were partners with shares in the business, whether they went abroad or stayed ashore. They even learned navigation, but did not interfere with the cook aboard ship. There were strict lines of authority. Beyond that, what were Sarah’s views and experiences? Was she even related to the 1841 Robert Bates house a few doors up the street from me? She was only 33 or so at the end; there’s no age for Jacob, though Mary would have been around 11 and Lucy, only seven.
While Mariner grew up in Eastport, the son of a Nova Scotia immigrant, Sarah was the daughter of a hotelier in Calais, Maine, best I can tell. Her father came from Massachusetts; her mother, New Hampshire. Mariner Crosby and Sarah E. Bates were married in Eastport February 12, 1855, by the Baptist minister Nathaniel Butler, of note himself. We have no idea how they met.
Mariner came to the sea naturally. At least two of his four brothers were also sea captains. Not just sailors or first masters but skippers.
Capt. Jerry died in Havana in 1879.
And Christopher Crosby led the racing yacht “Coronet” that defeated the “Dauntless” in a famed trans-Atlantic race in 1897. He went to sea at age 17 and was skipper by the time he turned 19. Yes, born to the sea.
And that’s as much of their story as I’m able to find, all prompted by one name in stone.