CCNS-RP Annie Spindler Boxell 10-133 Stiff.jpg

(Circa 1935)

Wreck of Annie L. Spindler.

The tellers of the tale of Annie L. Spindler seem agreed on two key points: she was carrying liquor. A lot of it. Perhaps as many as 800 cases, or nearly 10,000 bottles. And Provincetown was thirsty. It was late December 1922, and Prohibition had been in force for nearly three years. So it’s easy to imagine the excitement in town when word came from the Back Shore that a two-masted schooner laden with booze was slowly wrecking near the Race Point Coast Guard Station. Other details of the colorful event vary from account to account. The New York Times reported on 30 December 1922 that she was bound from St. Pierre and Miquelon, off the southern coast of Newfoundland, to Nassau, in the Bahamas, with 600 cases of whisky. It said Annie L. Spindler had been built 1910 at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, as a fishing vessel.

A contemporary newspaper account found in the Cora Fuller scrapbook on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website (Page 4663), with the headline “Guard Liquor on Wrecked Vessel,” speaks of “600 cases of the finest liquors” being aboard and successfully guarded by Capt. H. I. Collins of the Race Point station. “The wreck has been the centre of interest all day,” this newspaper reported, “many remaining near the scene, they said, in the hope that the craft might break up and the cargo be washed ashore.”

A 1973 account by Edward Rowe Snow in The Barnstable Patriot, also found in the Provincetown History Preservation Project (Page 4395), said that Annie L. Spindler carried 600 cases of liquor and was nominally bound from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, to Jamaica, but that her actual destination was near Plymouth — in other words, she was a rum runner. Snow’s account includes the delicious detail of a Nova Scotia craft arriving the next week to claim the liquor and being accommodated by trucks and men “actually taken off their patrol against rum-runners” to transport the cases from Race Point to Railroad Wharf, where the Canadian vessel was tied up. Snow said further that his anonymous source told him that the liquor was landed that night at a port nearer by that is also “mentioned in connection with the landing of the Pilgrims.”

In his Provincetown Banner column of 20 February 1997, Clive Driver described the cargo as “800 cases of bootleg Haig & Haig,” 100 cases of which were thrown overboard by the crew, 500 cases of which “disappeared” somewhere between Race Point and Railroad Wharf, and 50 cases of which were delivered to the second Canadian vessel.

In any case, the wreck of Annie L. Spindler held together for many years, and was a popular tourist and sunbathing destination. In fact, it is almost certainly on her decks that aspiring young actors can be seen sunbathing in a half-page photograph in the Life magazine of 23 August 1937. It would be nice to know some of her is still under the sand; maybe even with a bottle or two of extremely aged Haig & Haig nearby.

¶ Last updated on 16 April 2017. ¶ Image courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Dowd Collection, Page 4506. (Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 10, Page 133.)



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