Natalie Nelson

It was one of the most appalling loss of lives in the history of the Provincetown fishery, and as grim a reminder as possible of the great hazards faced by dorymen, crew members who would range far from their mother ship in small boats, setting out trawls. In a mid-August storm in 1917, a total of 19 men perished from the Mary C. Santos and the Natalie Nelson, even though both schooners managed to limp back to Boston. All the victims lived in Provincetown, which then had a population of 4,370. (To understand that magnitude, an equivalent proportional loss in modern-day Boston would be 2,645 lives.) The Nelson, under Capt. Antone Almeida White, a native of São Miguel, with about 18 men out in dories when a heavy sea “arose as if by magic,” The Advocate said, separating the schooner from the little boats. Ultimately, the Nelson was able to recover more men than it lost, but six perished all the same: Frank Albert, 44; Manuel Bottello, 36; Manuel Caraport, 46; Antone Marshall, 46; Carlo Reke, 34; and Joseph Milyard Vincent, 30. (Names and ages from “Fishermen Went to Sea and Provincetown Families Waited,” by Grace Gouveia Collinson, available as a PDF file from the Provincetown History Preservation Project.) Captain White, who lived at 18 Franklin Street, owned the Reliance and also skippered the William A. Morse and the Horizon, out of New York. In his obituary, no mention was made of the awful day in 1917. (“Capt. White Dies, Funeral Tomorrow,” The Advocate, 28 October 1943.)

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