Beardsley on the Phantom Ship

I presume very few of the more intelligent people now residing in New Haven are ignorant of the sequel. The story as told is like romance. The colonists finding their commercial enterprises threatened with disaster, and their estates melting away, attempted to retrieve their fortunes by a great effort; and, “gathering together,” so the record runs, “almost all the strength which was left them, they built one ship more, which they freighted for England with the best part of their tradable estates; and sundry of their eminent persons embarked in her for the voyage.” In the month of January, 1646, when the harbor was completely frozen over, “a passage was cut through the ice with saws, for three miles,” and the “great ship,” with George Lamberton for the master, and Thomas Gregson as a commissioner “to procure a patent from the Parliament for these parts,” floated out amid the prayers and benedictions of the people, assembled to witness the departure of their friends. That ship, with “the divers godly persons, men and women,” who embarked in it, was never heard of again. Month after month elapsed, and finally a year, and still no tidings were received of their fate. It was a painful suspense, relieved by no hope. The legend of the Phantom Ship is doubtless familiar to you all. This was nothing less than “the mould” of Lamberton’s vessel coming up the mouth of the harbor after a great thunder storm in June, long subsequent to the sailing, first appearing with “her main-top blown off—but left hanging in the shrouds,” then with “all her masting” gone, and finally with the keel only, which quickly “careened,” and vanished out of sight. And so the “afflicted spirits” of the Colonists were quieted, because they superstitiously believed that God had in this way condescended to give an account of His disposal of those for whom so many prayers had been offered.

All expectation of seeing them again having ceased, their estates were settled according to law.

[Eben Edwards Beardsley], “Address of the President,” Papers of the New Haven Colony Historical Society, Volume 2 (New Haven: Printed for the Society, 1877), p. xx.

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