Story of Brigantine Spray and 'Yellow Jack'

This is an artist's conception of a standard two-masted brigantine much like the style of ship that sailed during the era of brigantine Spray in the mid to late 1800's.

Taken from Articles of the Yarmouth Herald, Dated:

  • Dec. 16, Dec. 26, 1844.
  • Feb. 4, Mar. 20, Apr. 10, Apr. 21, 1845.

The brigantine Spray of Yarmouth, commanded by Captain Allen Haley, sailed from Wilmington, North Carolina September 14th, 1844 bound for Antigua with a cargo of turpentine, beef, lumber and staves.

Fourteen days later the vessel was spoken at sea with the crew all sick with fever. For the next six weeks the Spray drifted aimlessly in the North Atlantic, the crew being took sick and unable to work the ship.

On November 1st, lat. 30.31N, lon. 63.54W, the Spray was fallen in waterlogged and sinking by the Spanish barque Tacio, Captain Pedro J. Smith, on the passage from Havana, Cuba to Barcelona, Spain. Four survivors were taken off the wreck on November 2nd, Captain Allen Haley, Israel Goudey, John Forbes and Amos Dennis, all of Yarmouth. The captain reported that the mate (his brother) Waitstill Haley and one seaman, William Symonds had died two days before.

Captain Haley, sick and exhausted from starvation and exposure, died on board the Tacio on November 8th and was buried at sea. The three survivors arrived at Barcelona on December 4th and Israel Goudey, seaman, could not recover and died in hospital at Barcelona a few days later. John Forbes and Amos Dennis, the only survivors, eventually made their way to London and returned home.

A Memorial service for Allen Haley and Waitstill Haley was held at the Presbyterian Church, Chebogue on Sunday April 13th, 1845.

A Memorial service for Israel Goudey was held in the Baptist Meeting House, Yarmouth on Sunday April 27th, 1845.

Yellow Jack and the Yarmouth Mariner
Taken from Articles of Various Yarmouth Newspapers Dated: 1831 to 1929.

A vessel fully-rigged with every sail set, is observed in the offing, which on nearer approach is seen to be in a strange state of disorder. Her skysails and topgallant-royals are torn and many of the other sails are rent or torn. She appears to be sailing in a most erratic course, aimlessly tacking from time to time, her wheel unattended, while signals offering helm are not answered.

But she is a charnel house, a floating sepulchre, a funeral ship of death. Livid angel of death had been hovering over the doomed ship ever since her departure from a plague stricken port, striking down each, one after the other of her crew. The survivors are throwing the corpses to the sharks, which are still swimming hungrily around the vessel in hopes of more. And at length the destroying angel has claimed them all and the ship is but a hopeless plague infected derelict.

Yellow Jack (ships flag of quarantine) was once called the Plague of the Americas, but just a little less hideous than the filth of the East (bubonic plague). Yellow fever, also known as Yellow Jack, The Black Vomit and Vomito was a disease that often swept across the West Indies, Central and South America and the Southern United States with devastating results.

The great yellow fever epidemics were in 1793, 1798, 1802, 1853, 1867, 1873 and 1878. The last claimed over 15,000 lives. The disease was first recorded in the History of Barbados as occurring in September 1647 and that before one month, the living were scarcely able to bury the dead. In 1793 it destroyed not less than 6000 of the Garrison at Port Royal, Jamaica.

Yellow Fever is transmitted to man through the bite of the infected mosquito. The disease begins with severe shivering and pains accompanied by a high temperature. The symptoms include fever, headache and backache. The face becomes flushed and the whites of the eyes turn red. Nausea and vomiting are common. Occasional hemorrhages may occur in the stomach and give rise to the dark vomit. Jaundice with yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes are generally apparent by the fourth or fifth day. Characteristically after three or four days the temperature may fall with an abatement of symptoms to be followed by a recurrence of fever for several more days.

In the nineteenth century, over three hundred Yarmouth County residents died of yellow fever at sea or on shore in a foreign port - the second leading cause of death next to drowning. In 1853, known as the Year of Pestilence was the highest number of casualties. Nineteen persons from Yarmouth County plus several other non-residents employed on Yarmouth vessels died. The next year eleven died and a decade and a half later in 1869, seventeen were carried off by Vomito. Death from yellow fever was most unpleasant and many mariners chose to drown themselves instead of suffering in agony for several days.

Often times nearly the entire crew is carried off by the disease, as in the case of the brig Ruby and brigantine Eliza Helen of Yarmouth at Santo Domingo in 1850. Newspaper accounts of the time report only one survivor from both vessels. In 1822, there was only one survivor from the crew of the schooner Ocean of Argyle. In 1870 nearly the entire crew of the barque A.W. Singleton of Yarmouth was swept off by the Black Vomit.

Dr. Domingo Friere, the head of the biological laboratory at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil devoted ten years to study the disease beginning in 1881 and published a pamphlet outlining his results of inoculation at Berlin in 1891. The same source was used by the British Medical Association at their symposium on Yellow Fever at Montreal in 1897.

In the summer of 1905, President Roosevelt of the Unites States ordered the Surgeon General of the Public and Marine Hospital Service, to take control of the yellow fever epidemic in Louisiana. The President directed the Surgeon General to take every step in his power to meet the situation. Only then did yellow fever begin its decline in the Americas.

The last known Yarmouth County Mariner to be a victim of yellow fever was Nelson Hammond, who died at Southport, North Carolina in 1906.