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  • Virginia M. Wright

Shipwrecked brothers laid to rest side by side

Updated: May 31, 2021

I’ve been fascinated with old cemeteries ever since I visited the Old Burying Ground in Lexington, Massachusetts, as a child. Recently I stopped at lush, green Seaside Cemetery in Tenants Harbor, St. George, Maine. The resting place of ship captains, sailors, and their families, the cemetery is a testament to the flinty spirit and hardships of 19th-century life in a small seafaring town. Here lie the Murphy brothers, 18-year old Hiram, who drowned in Vienna, Maryland, on July 2, 1883, and 24-year-old Lermon, who drowned in Boston Bay on January 9, 1886.

On the day Lermon died, several ships went down off the New England coast in a ferocious nor'easter, but only one sank in Boston Harbor—the Ellsworth-based schoonerJuliet, which was bound for New York with a load of stone. Her distress was witnessed by convicts at the prison on Deer Isle, and some of them volunteered to crew the steamer Samuel Little and rescue the Juliet's crew. As the rescuers drew near to the wreck, they saw the lifeless body of a young man tied to an icy timber, and two other men, encased in ice, clinging to the debris. I believe Lermon was one of those men. The prisoners found the Juliet's other three crew members alive. They pulled them onto the Samuel Little and brought them to shore. I haven't found any news reports that might explain Hiram’s death, so the title of this post is, I admit, making an assumption. July 23, 1883, was a tragic day in Maryland: Sixty-three people drowned when the Tivoli Pier, on the Patapsco River near Baltimore, collapsed. But Vienna, where Hiram died, is on the Nanticoke River. The day was clear and warm, according the Baltimore Sun's report on the Tivoli disaster. The brothers were two of Captain William and Hannah Murphy’s 16 children.

Here are a few more images from Seaside Cemetery.

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