The 1770 wreck of the Industry at Kennebunk Beach
- On 27/05/2010
- In Parks & Protected Sites
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From Seacost Online
The leonine month of March lived up to its reputation in 1960. Nearly a foot and a half of snow fell on coastal York County on March 4.
The following week, gale winds blowing from a southeasterly direction scoured Kennebunk Beach in an unusual way, exposing the remains of a shipwreck that few remembered.
Bill Calder and Charles Robinson were the first to see crudely constructed ribs projecting 18 inches out of the sand on March 11, and they called George Stevens, photographer for the Kennebunk Star.
Some of the ribs were 2 feet wide and a foot thick, giving the wreck an ancient appearance. A 6-inch trenail (a wood fastening peg) removed from the planking had an unusual, diamond-shaped wedge hammered into the end of it.
Sandy Brook, editor of the Star, contacted marine expert and author Edward Rowe Snow at his home in Marshfield, Mass., and invited him up to examine the unusual wreck.
By the time Snow arrived with marine architect Bror Tamm, the timbers were almost entirely covered again by the shifting sand. Kennebunk Fire Chief Harrison Coleman was persuaded to dispatch a fire truck from the Washington Hose Company and volunteers removed enough sand with a high pressure fire hose to give the experts a good look at the 65-foot wreck, where she lay some 70 feet from the seawall on Mother's Beach.
Snow, who was perhaps best known as "The Flying Santa Claus" for his annual delivery of Christmas presents to the families of New England lighthouse keepers, returned to Massachusetts to write an article for the Patriot Ledger.
In his column, Snow theorized that the Kennebunk Beach wreck was the remains of a coasting packet, called the Industry, built in 1770 by Irish shipbuilders in St. George, Maine.
"A colony of ship builders from Northern Ireland settled in St. George. They were the only ones to use a diamond-shaped wedge at a convex angle in the end of their trenails," explained the maritime historian. Wreckage of the Industry superstructure had also been found in this area after she was lost on her maiden voyage.
Fascinated by the story, Dick Bedard, who now lives in Columbia Falls, Maine, and three of his friends, dug down 4 feet in an effort to reach the keel of the vessel.
"I have a trenail that I carefully removed from one of the rib stumps, and often show it to people," Bedard said recently. The young men also found some broken pottery, pieces of leather punched with small triangular holes,
unidentifiable chunks of a heavy, hard, black substance and half a pulley carved from lignum vitae — a wood species only found in South America and the West Indies. Remains of an old leather boot, a bone and a china plate were also uncovered and turned over to the Kennebunkport Historical Society.