March 29 - 1984: 473-foot cargo ship Eldia comes ashore on Nauset Beach

1929: Katharine Lee Bates dies
Immortalized in bronze, Katharine Lee Bates watches over Falmouth's Main Street. Photo by John Fitts.

1929: Katharine Lee Bates, "America the Beautiful" author, dies

Falmouth's famous daughter dead at 69

On this day in 1929, Falmouth native Katharine Lee Bates, author of "America the Beautiful," died in Wellesley at the age of 69.

The daughter of a Congregational minister, Bates graduated from Wellesley College in 1880 and taught English literature there for many years.

Her first draft of "America the Beautiful" was written in the summer of 1893 when Bates was teaching English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Years later she described her inspiration for the verse:

"One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse."

Bates is said to have written the first words to the poem upon returning to her hotel room after venturing to the summit of Pike's Peak. "America the Beautiful" was first published two years later in the weekly journal The Congregationalist for Independence Day in 1895. A revised version was printed in the Boston Evening Transcript in November 1904 and Bates wrote her final version in 1913.

Kate Smith introduced this version of "God Bless America" during World Ar II.

Several pieces of music were adapted to the poem over the years, but the version best known today, the one sung so memorably by Ray Charles, was composed in 1882 by Samuel A. Ward.

Bates was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

1984: Storm drives Eldia ashore

Stays three months on Nauset Beach

On this day in 1984, a powerful storm drove the cargo carrier Eldia ashore in East Orleans, inadvertently creating an off-season tourist attraction for the next several weeks.

The 9,807-ton steel vessel was passing the Cape en route from St. John, New Brunswick after dropping off a load of sugar when an early spring tempest bearing winds up to 80 mph blew the ship onto Nauset Beach, site of the Cape's first recorded shipwreck in 1626. A Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod hoisted all 23 crew members of the Eldia to safety.

The Eldia remained on Nauset Beach for the next two months, drawing as many as 150,000 spring tourists to the Cape by its presence. The salvage company Donjon Marine was able to refloat the 473-foot ship in May 1984 and received title as compensation. The Eldia was reportedly scrapped a year later.

The same fierce storm that snared the Eldia also knocked a tractor trailer onto one of the suicide barriers lining the Bourne Bridge, possibly preventing the truck from plunging off the bridge. Photos courtesy of Bill Quinn.


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