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Fifty Rescued at Green Run Inlet, 1883
Green Run, Maryland
by George and Suzanne Hurley
photo
Green Run, Maryland
The Green Run Life-Saving Station
on Assateague Island was commissioned
in 1875. It was the first life-saving
station to be built on the Maryland
coast. This station responded to
fourteen major shipwrecks.
Photograph collection of Richard Tittermary, LCDR, USCG.
On January 8, 1883, an eerie arctic atmosphere prevailed in the little fishing village near Green Run Inlet on Assateague Island. The falling snow had tapered off, leaving drifts as high as a man's shoulder. The blizzard had been relentless during the past two days, yet the northeasterly winds had not diminished, and a gale of some magnitude was still lashing the coast.

It was well past dawn when the surfman on the north patrol of the Green Run Inlet Life-Saving Station reached the five-mile limit of his beat. The way had been long and hard through the drifting snow. Scanning the far distant reaches of the patrol boundary, he sighted the outline of a ship near the shore. Three hours later, having fought the gale force winds all the way, he arrived back at the station house with the news that a ship was ashore.

Keeper George C. Birch and his crew of surfmen immediately started along the surf bank toward the wreck, pulling the 3,000-pound surfboat mounted on its carriage. The snow and sleet drove directly into the men's faces as they dragged their heavy burden through twelve inches of snow and slush over a beach of mushy sand. The sand was thickly knobbed with stumps and wadded with tree roots. They pulled for two miles until Keeper Birch could see that his men were beginning to fatigue under the strain of such a chore. He ordered the surfboat launched from that spot, and they then rowed the remaining three and one-quarter miles through the gale to the wrecked ship.

Upon reaching the scene, the surfmen found that there were six men aboard the stranded Wyoming, a three-masted schooner that had been enroute from San Domingo to New York. She was loaded with sugar and lignum vitae. The crewmen were badly frightened but coping with the situation as well as they could.

Two trips were made through the turbulent surf to land the Wyoming's crewmen and their baggage. Because of the great distance to the station house, the captain declined the keeper's offer to be housed there, as he wanted to be near his ship. Keeper Birch found families in the small village of North Beach to accommodate them. It was dark when the surfmen finally arrived back at the station with their equipment. Within hours another low-pressure system converged on the Delmarva Peninsula, and the Wyoming and her cargo became a total loss.

On January 12, the snow was still falling and the sea continued rough, with the wind and currents reflecting the near blizzard conditions. The three masted schooner Elizabeth M. Buebler was bound from Baltimore to New York with a cargo of coal and a crew of eight men when she stranded on Assateague in the middle of the night. She was aground three and one-half miles to the north of Green Run Inlet. The Buebler was soon discovered by the north patrolman and notified by Coston flare that help would soon be on the way. The sea was too treacherous to row to the scene, so the men again pulled the 3,000-pound surfboat there. Superhuman strength had to be used to convey the equipment because of the arduous conditions. The sailors aboard the Buebler were in a hysterical state, as the schooner had bilged and was filled with more than nine feet of water. The surf was too wild to land the crew all at once so two trips were made, bringing four men ashore each time.

While the crew of the Buebler was being rescued, another stranded vessel was sighted a mile away to the north. She was the three-masted schooner Julia Grace, bound from the West Indies to New York, carrying a cargo of salt and a crew of seven men. The surfmen went to this wreck as soon as all of the Buebler's men were safely ashore. Twice they launched through the terrible surf and brought the crew of the Julia Grace safely to shore. The rescue boat was then mounted on its carriage and the lifesavers returned to the station house with the fifteen rescued sailors from both ships. The frozen condition of the bay and the deep snow on the beach prevented the sailors from leaving the island, so they were housed at the station for six days.

On January 20, a little after midnight, the Spanish steamship Alpin grounded three miles to the north of Green Run. She had been bound from the Bahamas to New York, carrying a crew of twenty-six and three passengers.

The weather was thick. The wind still blew from the northeast and the sea was running very high. This time, Keeper Birch borrowed a team of oxen from a neighbor, as it was now physically impossible for the lifesavers to haul the carriage over the wet and flooded surf bank. It was found upon arrival that nothing could be done until daybreak because the darkness was so thick and the torrents of surf and sea were so prodigious. By the light of day, the lifesavers launched through the surf and managed to take a lady and the purser off the vessel. The sea was so violent that they could not maneuver close enough to the Alpin's hull to affect a rescue of the others on board, and they were forced to return to shore. Men were sent back to the station to get the beach apparatus cart with its Lyle gun. It was many hours before this heavy equipment finally arrived over the storm-torn beach. Once the apparatus was set up, a single shot was fired across the steamer's bow and a lifesaving connection was made. The breeches buoy was rigged onto the lines, and twenty-seven times it was sent out, rescuing all those left aboard. It was late that night when the surfmen returned to the station house with the gear and the shipwrecked people. The lifesavers were broken with fatigue. For two weeks, during the worst weather known in many years, they had been patrolling the beach day and night and had rescued a total of fifty persons during the storm.

? Copyright 1984 Shipwrecks and Rescues: Along the Barrier Islands of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia by George M. and Suzanne B. Hurley. All Rights Reserved.

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