Dec. 14, 1897: Six sailors drown when the schooner Susan P. Thurlow, built in the Washington County coastal town of Harrington, strikes a reef on a wretchedly stormy night off Cushing Island, near Portland.

The ship and its cargo are torn to pieces within an hour. One crew member, Charles Reimann, a German, survives the wreck by clinging to a broken spar and reaching safety on an island beach. Bodies of other crewmates are washed up on the same island during the night.

The next morning, Reimann rows a dory to Cape Elizabeth, where wreckage from the schooner litters the beach for a mile, and he takes a trolley into Portland to report the disaster. He tells the mayor, who asks the city manager to take the soggy, battered Reimann to a store for a new set of clothes.

A recovery crew sent to the island is able to find the bodies of five of the drowned crew members, and they are taken to a Portland mortician.

The ship is traveling from Hillsboro, New Brunswick, to New York when the sinking occurs.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

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