Yesterday I wrote about the ill-fated barkentine, Vera Cruz VII
, which wrecked on Portsmouth Island in 1903. The Vera Cruz
crew members and 399 black Portuguese passengers from the Cape Verde Islands. A reader left a comment, including this observation: "It is any anyone's guess as to where they were headed."
Actually, the passengers were on their way to New Bedford, Massachusetts. The following information is gleaned from Shipwrecks of Ocracoke Island
by Sonny Williamson:
Although Captain Julius M. Fernandez, "a notorious smuggler, not only of dutiable goods but of men whom the laws of this country would prevent from landing," claimed he was seeking fresh water, "many believe he was trying to land his passengers in a secluded area, in an attempt to avoid customs and immigration officials."
Captain Fernandez reportedly "left the country, without being caught, in a sperm oil barrel aboard a New Bedford whaler."
The passengers had left the Cape Verde Islands because of famine and hunger. The New Bern Weekly Journal
of August 4, 1903 reported that "the situation on the island of St. Thiago is particularly distressing. Old and decrepit people drop dead in the street and babies die of starvation...."
The passengers were transported first to New Bern, North Carolina, and from there to New Bedford.
On October 23, 1903, the New Bern Daily Journal
reported that, "A.B. Dawson, who went to New Bedford, Mass last week to secure Portuguese laborers for persons here returned with them yesterday on the steamer Ocracoke
. There were 106 in the number, 12 or 15 of them being women. It will be remembered that these Portuguese are the same who were brought here last spring from the wreck of the Barkentine Vera Cruz VII
near Ocracoke and later taken to New Bedford for which place they were bound when the wreck occurred." The workers were praised for being "industrious, honest and faithful."
In 2011, Penny Akahloun, a retired American diplomat who served in the U.S. Foreign Service for forty-three years, (see http://adst.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Akahloun-Penny2.pdf
) contacted me after reading about the wreck of the Vera Cruz VII.
|Penny Akahloun & Philip Howard, 2011|
Penny's grandfather was one of the Portuguese
passengers from the Cape Verde Islands, bound for New Bedford, Massachusetts. Penny was so impressed with the hospitality of the
Portsmouth Islanders (who fed and sheltered the survivors) that she made
the trip to Ocracoke for the 2011 spring meeting of Friends of Portsmouth
Island, where she spoke about her research and emotional connection with
Portsmouth. She wanted to visit the village whose people, in 1903, went
out of their way to care for her grandfather and other shipwreck
victims from a foreign country.
Penny has written a book about her personal and professional journey, The Magic of Dreams: An American Diplomat's Journey.
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is about Old Christmas in Rodanthe. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/old-christmas-rodanthe/