November 26 - 1898: Killer gale sinks SS Portland, 100 die

1970: First National Day of Mourning by Wampanoags
Portrait of the SS Portland was built in 1889 by an unknown artist.

1898: SS Portland sinks in killer gale

Wreckage and bodies washed ashore along the entire backside of Cape Cod

The recorded maritime history of the East Coast details many storms with high incidences of vessels and people lost. Killer gales were recorded in 1839, 1851, 1873 and 1886.

But none was to compare with the great hurricane of November 26 to 28, 1898. This storm is commonly referred to as the Portland Gale, after the steamer Portland, which was lost at sea with all hands.

The Portland was a side-wheel wooden passenger vessel of 2,283 gross tons. She was 280-feet long, 42-feet in beam and 15-feet in depth. She was built at Bath, Maine, in 1890.

Portland sank off of Cape Ann with all hands, the exact number of which cannot be determined, as the only known passenger list went down with the ship. Initial newspaper accounts at the time estimated the loss as from 99 to 118 persons.

Last photograph of the SS PortlandThe storm wrecked more ships than any other in the history of New England. It is estimated that over 150 vessels were lost, both in the harbors and at sea. Many were never heard from after sailing.

Miles of coastline from Buzzards Bay to Cape Ann were strewn with wreckage. A Boston pilot vessel was smashed against a house in Quincy. The physical appearance of the shoreline was altered by the wind and waves. The snowfall was very deep. Telephone and telegraph lines were down everywhere the storm had hit. Wreckage and bodies from the ill-fated steamer washed ashore along the entire backside of Cape Cod.

Because the storm interrupted all communications, there was difficulty in getting the news to Boston. It was decided to send a wire to France over the trans-Atlantic French cable from the station in Orleans. From there the news was wired back to New York over another cable. The storm was then telegraphed to Boston.

Below: A portrait of the SS Portland, artist unknown.

1970: One nation's "Thanksgiving" is another's "Day of Mourning"

During a Thanksgiving feast in Plymouth in 1970, the Native Americans in attendance walked out in protest, according to Mass Moments.

On right is the demonstration in Plymouth (called by the protestors  the Occupied Wampanoag territory) during the 41st Annual National Day of Mourning on Nov. 25, 2010.

The protesters spoke about their long struggle to preserve their land and culture. The fourth Thursday in November was not a day for thanksgiving and feasting, they declared, but for grieving and fasting. As most Americans continued to observe the holiday in what had become the customary way — with football, parades, and family gatherings — the native people of Massachusetts began a new tradition: a "National Day of Mourning," held in lieu of Thanksgiving celebrations.

Read more at Mass Moments here.


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