Saturday, October 12, 2013

37870. Joseph William McGrath

I hopped over to the Mt. Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, Massachusetts, to check in with the people of the city's lost shipbuilding and granite industries. I figured that, if nothing else, I would find some fantastic gravestone designs, as the best artisans in the northeast worked there in the 19th century.

But, of course, the first words I read were "Lost at sea."

Joseph William McGrath was a "Graduate of the Massachusetts Nautical Training School," (now the Massachusetts Maritime Academy); a "Member of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey," (now a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration); and "Served with the U.S. Naval Forces during the War with Spain" (the Navy will always be the Navy; Semper Fortis!). He obviously had quite the career, considering he died around 26 years old.

As far as history can discern, he was "Lost at sea with all the ships company some time after November 2, 1903 while in command of the steamer Discovery on passage from Yakutat, Alaska to Seattle, Washington." The President of the Discovery Transportation Company, the entity that owned the vessel, filed a wreck report with these details:

"Supposed to have foundered.  Heavy gale from ENE with southeast & southwest cross sea running. Wind 60 mi.; dark night.”

“Revenue Cutter Rush was sent from Sitka after some weeks, but found no tidings. Since then report comes of Indians finding hull of vessel. This has not been confirmed. Parties coming from Cape Yakataga to Kayak, in November report finding doors, windows, and broken parts of steamers house on beach, also life preservers marked Str Discovery. This is same way the Discovery life preservers were marked.”

“We are convinced the Discovery is lost with all hands on board.  The exact time and how the accident occurred will never be known.”

So ended the life of Joseph William McGrath in company with about 29 others. Rumors say that several people stayed on land, claiming the ship was not seaworthy. That fear may have saved their lives.

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