Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lillie F. Schmidt

The schooner Lillie F. Schmidt stranded on Ocracoke beach at 6 a.m., March 9, 1893, about 10 miles from the Life Saving Station at Hatteras Inlet. According to the official report, "The  ship was reported to the keeper at 11 a.m. by two citizens of Ocracoke. The weather was smoky with strong winds, flood tide, sea very high."

Excerpts from Keeper James W. Howard's report:

"...keeper called out crew and also employed [Wheeler Howard and Mathias Ballance, the two citizens who had reported the wreck] to help as the distance was so long and laborious."

"...left station fifteen minutes to eleven with mules, two sets of gear [weighing more than 1000 pounds, in a two-wheeled cart] and arrived to schooner 2:30 p.m."

" the gear in working order bringing them all [seven sailors] ashore in buoy [the "breeches buoy" was a pair of canvas pants attached to a life ring that was conveyed to the ship by pulleys and ropes shot to the stranded vessel from a brass cannon] by 4 trips the men of wrecked schr [schooner] were so worn out could not get them to station -- sent them up to the settlement and had them cared for the distance was so great that they could not travel."

"...left wreck at 5:30 p.m. arriving at station 8:30 p.m."

" patrol that night up til 12 [midnight] men was so tired and worn out after walking over twenty miles I thought theys ought to rest."

P.C. Vaneilder, Captain of the Lillie F. Schmidt, wrote to "Mr. Kimble, Supr. of LSS":  "I desire to express my thanks to Capt. J.W. Howard and crew for their prompt service in landing myself and crew safely from vessel and attending our needs."

It was all in a day's work for the members of the United States Life Saving Service!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of windmills on Ocracoke. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous9:15 AM

    Wow. What a terrific tale, and admirable devotion to duty.

  2. Anonymous10:17 AM

    Indeed. Who paid for all this?? did a shipping concern pay into a fund to off set the costs ??did was a ship fined if ran around due to the ineptitude of the captain?? if the ship wrecks havoc due to negligence i.e. BP someone should pay not just JOHN Q Public

    1. The United States Life Saving Service was a governmental agency (they merged with the Revenue Cutter Service in 1917 to form the United States Coast Guard). In their 44 year history the men of the USLSS responded to 28,121 ships in distress that were carrying 178,741 crew members and passengers. They saved the lives of 177,286 people, a success rate of more than 99%! It is a remarkable story.

  3. Anonymous10:24 AM

    It's really kind of unbelievable really-thanks P Sue M

  4. Anonymous12:56 PM

    Wow...3 hours and 45 minutes of hiking through the sand dragging a 1000Lb cart...even with the help of mules... And then upon arriving at the scene, more hard work to rescue folks, then presumably a similar length of time to haul it all back to the station! Amazing. I'm guessing the comment about folks being tired was quite an understatement! I can't imagine...those are true heroes in my book!

    These days we would probably have folks striking and saying they weren't paid enough...OSHA would be stopping the dangerous work, and PETA would be protesting the cruel treatment of the mules. Of course thanks to SELC, Audobon, etc, the beaches would all be shut down because of turtles and birds, so they wouldn't be able to haul their apparatus down the beach to begin with...

  5. Check out Fire on the Beach. Its a book about the first all black US Life Saving Station on Pea Island. Some of the men were civil war veterans.

    1. An excellent book. Highly recommended.

  6. Anonymous11:57 PM

    Speaking of books...

    You seem to be a bit of a reader, Philip. And there's certainly a solid correlation between reading and the beach. Close enough of a link to justify a blog entry re. some favorite reads of yours? (Of all time; re. Ocracoke; re. the OBX; within the past year--plenty of qualifiers to be applied, and to warrant follow-on entries, perhaps.)

    I think I previously recommended here "The Shipping News" by Annie Proulx, a fine book and one, because of its maritime setting, that kept putting me in mind of Ocracoke.

    Another one I'm reading now, which is also very fine, is called "The Long Ships" by Frans G. Bengtsson. Published in Sweden in 1954, the book is a fictionalized account of life circa 980-1010 (per the translator's note) among Viking coastal raiders.

    Again, since occasional vacationing on Ocracoke is my closest touchstone to coastal living, I can't help envisioning the island as I read of the adventures (absent, of course, the frigid northern seas, the prospect of being shackled for years as a galley slave, and the threat of decapitation by sword in battle; otherwise, just like Ocracoke). ;-)


    1. I will address books in a future blog post. Thanks for the suggestion.