The Snow Niagara in 1913

The Wreck of the Snow Catherine

Searching for historical information in newspapers and magazines section of the database for the settlement of Nutfield, part of which is now Derry, New Hampshire, yielded some interesting results. One was a rather sad article about a shipwreck of the snow Catherine off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1737. Although the original settlement of Nutfield began about eighteen years prior, emigrants were still leaving Ireland to come to the New World for a chance at a better life.

The account from The Pennsylvania Gazette tells the tale of those Scotch-Irish emigrants who lost their lives on a snow from County Antrim, Ireland bound for Boston. Ninety-eight people died in the wreck and four more died of their injuries after they made land. Obviously, not everyone who left survived the trip. Unfortunately, the account tells of the dead being buried where the Catherine washed up just north of Canso, Nova Scotia. Since this land was largely uninhabited by European settlers, it is unlikely that a burial ground is extant. No further information about whether they were re-interred elsewhere or remained buried where they died was available in the article.

But, like any great mystery, the article brings up many questions and possibilities for further research. For example, what exactly is a snow?

According to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic: “Catherine was a type of sailing ship called a ‘snow‘. This was similar to a brig, but use a small spar rigged behind the main mast to make it easier to handle the spanker sail.”

A Naval Snow

A Naval Snow

The website included the fact that the Catherine was coming from Portrush, Antrim, Ireland. This is a great piece of information to start the search for Irish ancestors in Ireland.

Although it is a port city, one could search out the patterns of travel to that port and find those townships that commonly traveled to that particular port to sail to the New World.

Whether you are searching for information about a particular area or person, newspapers are a great launching pad for research. I’m adding this one to my list of anecdotes for the history of Nutfield celebration in 2018. It’s early, but there is so much to learn!

Inside Accessible Archives:

We have the following melancholy Account of the Shipwreck of a Vessel, from Ireland, which lately happen’d at the Isle of Sable, as related to us by one of the Freighters, whose Life was saved.

ON the 4th Day of June last past, the Snow Catherine of Workington, in Ireland, burthen about 110 Tons, Robert Walker, Commander, Messrs. Adam McNeal and David Thompson, Freighters, sail’d from North Rush in Ireland, bound to Boston in New England, having on board Two Hundred and Two Persons, Men, Women, and Children: They had the prospect of a good Passage, till they came near the Isle of Sable, when on the Lord’s Day the 17th of July past, they had very thick hasy Weather, the Wind blowing very hard at S.S.E. and a very high Sea beating over them; their Tiller being lash’d close down was broke in two by the force of the Sea, against the Rudder, and by Distresses of Weather in the Night, the Vessel was drove upon a Reef of Sand, about a Mile distant from the High Land at the East End of the said Island; but beating over that, the Wind and strong Current setting against her, drove her directly ashore, where all the Sea with a vast force beat against her and broke over, and first carrying away her Main Mast, in a few Minutes after stove her in Pieces, and left the whole Company to the Mercy of the Waves and the broken pieces of the Wreck.

Very pityful were the Cries of the poor People for Mercy, in that distressing Moment. Ninety-eight Persons perish’d in the mighty Waters; among those of Note were Messrs. Archibald and Charles McNeal and their Wives, Mrs. Margaret Snell, and two wealthy Cloth Merchants, who were coming hither to set up the Manufacture of Diaper.

The remaining Hundred and Four Persons were wasted ashore by the Surff of the Sea, some being much bruis’d by the Waves and Pieces of the Vessel and others being much spent by the Fatigue: Three or Four of them dyed soon after. After Day-light appear’d, they all got together on the Lee side of an Hill, and having taking up the Main-Sail, which happen’d to be cast ashore, they made a sort of a Tent, to shelter them from the Inclemencies of the Weather, and cut open a great Number of Feather Beds that were also drove ashore, and with the Tick covered themselves. Most of the dead Bodies were wash’d on the Shore and buried by the spared Company.

The Long-Boat being rendered very leaky and unfit for Service, on Monday they went to Work upon her (having sundry Tools providentially drove ashore in the Carpenter’s Chest) and with the Pieces of Boards and Staves, with some Canvas, so patch’d her up, as that on Wednesday the 20th of July, the Master, Mate, Freighters, and Five more of this sorrowful Company, ventur’d in her to Canso, which is about Thirty two Leagues Distance, where they arriv’d on Friday the 22d about Five o’Clock in the Afternoon, and waiting on Governor Cosby and some other Gentlemen there, and relating to them the Circumstances of their late Disaster, they compassionately received them, and very readily administered to their Relief, presently fitting out Capt. Richards in a Scooner, to bring off these distressed People from that desolate Island; they sail’d on Lord’s Day the 24th, and the next Day they got there, to the great Joy of those poor Creatures, and having took them all aboard brought them safe to Canso, tho’ some remaining weak, and others much wounded, were put under the Doctor’s Care.

About half of the Number that were saved, came in a Scooner to Piscataqua on Friday last, most of whom went from thence to Londonderry or Nutfield , and three or four of them are come hither by Land. The Loss of so many Lives in such an instantaneous and awful manner must needs be very affecting to every tenderhearted Christian, but will certainly be more so the near Friends and Relations of the deceased.

We are also inform’d, That the Substance was very great which was lost by this Disaster, most if not all, of the Estates of several Persons and Families being on board, with themselves; and ’tis thought, by a moderate Computation, that only the Silver and Gold on board, in Plate and Specie, amounted to above 3000 l. Sterling; she being accounted the richest Vessel that ever sail’d from the North of Ireland.

Boston, Aug. 22. Schick Sidi the Christian from Barut near Mount Libanus, in Syria, whose Arrival here from Bristol, we gave an Account of a few Weeks past, set out from this Town for Newport last Tuesday, with his Attendants, from whence we are told he purposes to go to New York and Philadelphia, and from thence take his Passage to Jamaica, and after that to return back to London.


Collection: The Pennsylvania Gazette
Publication: The Pennsylvania Gazette
Date: September 8, 1737
Title: BOSTON, August 18. We have the following melancholy Account

Follow along with me on our research travels at

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

Related Posts

Tags: , , ,

Stay Connected

Connect with Accessible Archives on Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin to stay up to date on news and blog posts or get our latest blog posts by email.

Positive SSL