Seamen’s Relief Society.
Among the deadliest but least known of Provincetown’s shipwrecks was a triple disaster on the night of 10 January 1911 when all three coal barges in tow of the tugboat Lykens smashed upon the Peaked Hill Bars during a tremendous gale. Every one of the 17 men aboard the barges perished. Eight of them — almost half the complement — are buried under a single gigantic monument erected by the Seamen’s Relief Society.
The barges, owned by the Philadelphia & Reading Coal Company, were transporting coal from Pennsylvania to New England. The 910-ton Pine Forest, with a crew of five, was on its way to Marblehead, Mass. The 954-ton Corbin, with five men, was to go on to Portsmouth, N.H., after Pine Forest was emptied in Marblehead. And the 1,763-ton Trevorton, crewed by seven men, was to continue to Portland, Me., after that.
Under lashing by the gale, the master of the Lykens decided to try rounding the Cape and making way across Cape Cod Bay to shelter in Plymouth. The steam-powered tug was running its engines at capacity when the vessel suddenly lurched forward. It did not take the crew long to discover that the hawser bridle had evidently worked itself loose from Trevorton, the foremost of the three-barge chain. All three barges, therefore, were adrift. Trevorton and Corbin seemed to have been smashed to smithereens. Pine Forest lasted a while after beaching, but was being pummeled by waves when the five crewmembers — against the signaled advice of the Life-Saving Service surfmen on shore — decided to set out by dory. It was no sooner launched than it capsized, taking another five souls. “Had the sailors remained by her, as instructed to do by the life-saving crews standing by on the beach, every man of them would eventually have been saved,” the Life-Saving Service concluded grimly in its annual report for 1911, in which year the coal barge shipwrecks were the most serious disaster faced by the service.
The victims buried here are Clarence B. Burnes, 26, a deckhand on Pine Forest; Fred Hansen, 25, a deckhand on Trevorton; John Henrickson, 24, a fireman on Corbin; Emai Hyerth, 22, a deckhand on Pine Forest; Alfred Olson, 21, a deckhand on Corbin; Anton Pederson, 32, a deckhand on Corbin; Alfred Sorensen, 29, a deckhand on Trevorton; and William Walham, 21, a deckhand on Trevorton. All were unmarried and living in Philadelphia at the time of their deaths.
The Seamen’s Relief Society was organized in 1882, having as its object “the temporary succor of shipwrecked seamen.” In the early 20th century, it turned briefly to burials, too, as mutual-aid societies often did. Besides the victims of the coal barge disaster, there are interred here Jose Viliareal, who died in 1912, and Cyrus W. Carver of the Navy, who died in 1913.
¶ Last updated on 16 October 2017.