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Saturday, March 15, 2014


The “Faithful Steward”

During the past 75 years many Irish half-pennies, dated between 1766 and 1783 have been found on “Coin Beach”, which is south of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, near Indian River inlet. These coins are believed to be washing ashore from the wreck of the “Faithful Steward”. Another theory is that they are from the wreck of the “Three Brothers”, which was carrying currency consigned to Philadelphia. There were many wrecks along that stretch of theAtlantic around that time and to put a coin to a certain vessel is pure conjecture.

The following is a brief account of the “Faithful Steward” which sailed from Londonderry, Ireland. On Thursday, September 1, 1785, she was bound for Philadelphia with 249 passengers when weather conditions worsened as she approached the Delaware shore. The sounding showed only four fathoms (24 ft.) even though they could not see land. An effort was made to head the ship out to sea but it became stuck, at which time they cut away the mast and anything else to lighten the ship.

On the morning of September 2, they found themselves off Moboboe Bank, near Indian River, about four leagues (12 mi.) south of CapeHenlopen. Every effort was made to save the passengers, who had remained on board during the night, even though they were only about 100 yards from shore. That evening she broke to pieces, the sea running very high. The lifeboats were disengaged from the wreck, but before anyone could get in them they drifted ashore. Therefore all relief was cut off except by swimming ashore or getting ashore on pieces of the wreck. Of all the persons on board, only 68 made it to land safely. Among the survivors were the Master, his mates and ten seamen. This was probably due to their strong physical conditions and possible prowess at swimming.

Every effort to save those remaining on board was thwarted by the rough seas and the locals could just stand on the beach and watch almost 200 people perish a scant 100 yards from shore.

The 1783 half-penny pictured above was found on this very beach about 50 years ago. Though all of the British Empire coins pictured King George III on the obverse, the Irish version is distinguishable by the harp on the reverse. England had Britannia on the reverse of the coins destined to remain within England.


Anonymous said...

My dad and I used to walk that beach in the late 50's and early 60's.He found several copper coins app 1.25" in diameter,but the dates were not discernible.The face on all 3 appeared to be female,but that also was anyones guess because of extreme wear.Great post.

Anonymous said...

It's sad those people were so weak they couldn't swim 100 yards when their life depended on it. Do you think you could have made the swim, George? I bet if there was a muscle car with nice pipes full of old baseball cards for you sitting outside a pool hall you might have had a chance.

Anonymous said...

None of us can imagine how weak we would be if we had been at sea for months.Swimming in potentially rough surf would have been difficult even for a good swimmer.

Anonymous said...

dittos 10:06 and thanks again for a wonderful piece of our history. love it...

Anonymous said...

The Zwannendale museum in Lewes has several gold coins from the same stretch of beach.