1907: The S.S. Brunswick Mystery

1907: The S.S. Brunswick Mystery

March 9, 1907:  Mabel Potter’s father, Daniel Charles Potter, is on the way to join his daughter and the Hobby and Gibbs cousins at Camp Columbia near Havana, Cuba.  Ellen is his wife.

The letter is written on ship stationery, headed:


There’s the mystery.  I’ve found many ships, with their ownership history, construction data, and eventual demise at www.theshipslist.com/ but neither the Brunswick company, nor the ship itself, are listed on that site.  They do not claim to be complete.  My search turned up the Brunswick Shipping Company  This thread noted “the Five ships owned by Brunswick S.S.Co Inc, Brunswick [Georgia].”   These ships, named after Georgia rivers, were the Ogeechee, the Ocmulgee, the Satilla, the Ossabaw, and the Altamaha.  They were built “between 1905 and 1907.”

So how did Daniel Charles Potter happen to be on a ship from New York to Cuba which had official stationery, but of which there appears to be no record?

I have no answer and would be delighted to hear from someone whose research techniques are better than mine!

Daniel Charles Potter, unknown year.

The letter, lightly edited, begins:

My dear Ellen

Isnt this a gorgeous heading?

Well it accords with surroundings inside and out.  I am writing in the “social hall” which is small but luxuriously fitted with upright piano &c. The day is hazy with brisk N.E. wind but the sun shines dimly and out through the open door to landward the rolling sea shows a deep intense blue with numerous crests of brilliant white and the leaden gray horizon slightly tinged with pink sunset not far away.

Appearance seems to indicate a N.W. storm, but thus far the storms flee before me.  The waters don’t ever seem to await the command to be still.

When we drew out of  [New York] at 1:30 on the 4th a storm seemed imminent, dense haze showed in west, and the wind lulled and puffed from every quarter and the weather was cold and disagreeable enough.  I would remain outside as long as I could endure it then go into state room to warm up.  Had a steam radiator there which kept temperature up to near eighty I should think.  Saw much of interest going out but won’t take time to write of it.  I kept sort of a log which you can look over if you like.  Yesterday morning when we must have been off the Delaware capes we had a little rain without much wind, then the wind hawed to the west and cleared.  So we ran out of the storm which I think you very likely had more of as it was probably central in the St. Lawrence Valley region.

I didn’t put on my overcoat or underclothes after the first day.  They would have been comfortable if I had to remain on deck long, though the temperature had much improved, but I was much of the time in my state room.  You know I was troubled with headache before I left home and I have been troubled with it considerably since.  I determined to get clear of it if possible especially as I realized it was just the condition to induce sea sickness.  Consequently I forbore to partake of the numerous temptations at the dining tables and slept all I could day and night.  Today I feel much better and have been down to a light breakfast—but wish I had fasted till night as my headache is not quite gone yet.

We have about 40 passengers with very few of whom I have yet become acquainted.  Some of them have been seasick though I should have hardly supposed there had been motion enough to cause it. All the way down the wind has been off shore till this morning and the water comparatively smooth.

During a.m. we lay quiet at anchor waiting for fog to clear, it wasn’t thick but a white horizon apparently about a mile away seemed to limit our view.  The fog thinned above and sun came out making it very pleasant, passengers all on deck visiting and enjoying themselves …  The low haze on the water did not clear though the wind raised and some swell set in.  At 11:00 the engines were slowly started, we were headed towards where the land ought to be, and with an officer at the bow heaving the lead we crawled slowly in.  The water shelved to fall from 50 to 35 feet, the engines were [reversed] and we backed hastily away, and again headed south, still nothing in view around us but the encircling fog.

Again we turned toward the shore and again not finding the bottom expected, have again headed S.S.E. and going ahead at good speed, the ship swaying quietly with the low swell as the wind sits in from the south.  Weather by no means settled, but the storm threatened yesterday doesn’t seem to materialize.

While I think of it you better enclose a few of my business cards in your next letter.

Later—To continue my narration:  The haze thinned away and land was discovered dim in the distance.  With a pilot boat, a big figure 2 painted on her mainsail, swinging at her anchor and apparently waiting for us, the water grew muddy, indicating the mouth of quite a [river], and the pilot boat appeared to be anchored at the extremity of a bar at its mouth.  A boat put off from her, manned by three men, and came along side.  Our [crew]  threw them a rope whereby one man climbed aboard, the others returning to their own craft.

Now we headed for an opening in the low shore where a tall light house showed and entered a really wide expanse of water between two islands, some of the famous “Sea Islands” which lie along so much of this coast, entirely of alluvium sill …and very fertile, where in the old slavery days was raised the famous long staple Sea Island Cotton…  

NEXT:  Mr. Potter recommends a book.

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