Thursday, July 24, 2014

Annie & Jennie, Bay Fisheries, St. Andrews, Florida

At least in their beginnings there was rivalry of sorts between St. Andrews and Panama City (Harrison as it originally was called), physical separation with rivalry. I might visualize it like the sense of rivalry we had in sporting events between Cove School and Millville School in the 1940s, or between Panama Grammar and St. Andrews Elementary, when all the schools went through eighth grade, before the early 1950s when the junior high schools (grades 7, 8, 9) were established and Bay High changed from grades 9-12 to 10-12. That started Fall 1950 actually, my Bay High class of 1953 having two consecutive years as the lowest grade. That break may have been what stopped the tradition of the “frosh cap” when freshman had to wear the little red and white beanie cap and were subjected to some mild degree of hazing, taunting. 

The school system has been changed again since then to the middle school system (6, 7, 8) and the high schools back to grades 9-12, and there is strong rivalry of all kinds including academics and sports between the high schools. That’s the kind of inter-city rivalry there was before the merger of St. Andrews and Panama City. My grandfather always carried a sense of the tension, and I remember Pop telling me that Panama City should have merged to become part of St. Andrews instead of vice versa. Going from St. Andrews to Panama City was “going up to Panama” not unlike “going across the bridge” is today for the drive between Panama City and Panama City Beach.

A better local history buff than I will know, but seems to me the divide between St. Andrews and Panama City was Balboa Avenue. Or it may have been Lake Caroline. Regardless, the division was both physical and emotional, even a bit testy. The house where I live now, dating from 1912, was solid in St. Andrews, as was my grandfather’s seafood business, Bay Fisheries just across the street and a block to the east, just west of Frankford Avenue where Landmark Condominiums is today. 

Exactly at the SW corner foot of Frankford Avenue in my early growing up years stood a large tin building, which was the old ice plant, by then abandoned and a haven to drunks. I remember a Sunday afternoon in the 1940s going to the jetty there to go swimming, the ice plant office door was standing open, seeing a man lying under a cot. I pointed him out to my father, who said "leave him alone, he's sleeping off his drunk." In the PCNH the next day was an article saying that he was found there dead.

I remember the stone jetty jutting out into the Bay at the foot of Frankford: we used to swim there, but on the west side only for some reason. It was deep enough for a shallow dive off the jetty. In earlier days there was the pier that stretched out there, pictured below, with Bay Fisheries at the end of it and a railway spur going out to it. Bay Fisheries began as Pop’s business about 1908, but my father told me maybe seventy years ago, that he had learned his lesson about control of a private enterprise when, to raise capital, Pop had sold partial ownership shares of Bay Fisheries and inadvertently lost control.

Where am I going with this? To wrap up my Alfred Story, actually. Dr. McKenzie sent me four pictures that show the pier and Bay Fisheries, and the Annie & Jennie. I had seen at least one of them in local area history publications, but all together they complete the story for me, and my mental image, and with gratitude to Mike, I’m posting the four pictures here this morning.

Bay Fisheries with the fishing smacks at pier. I can't read the name on stern of the boat.

A 1920 shot of Bay Fisheries and the pier showing the railway spur

A portside view of the Annie & Jennie

Annie & Jennie under full sail, 1912

Thank you, Mike.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

For Love Of

Not Bubba, not Tom, not Carroll Junior

It’s difficult to take anything seriously in life, myself especially; how could I read the news and still take myself seriously. A long-retired Episcopal priest with a Lutheran education, I have no idea WTH I’m talking about, nor does anybody else have any idea what I’m talking about, including sometimes I climb into the pulpit figuring nobody will get it, self included. My idea of a good time anymore is not to paint the town red but a glass and a box of red wine facetiously marked “shiraz” and “Australia” and a package of delicioso cheddar cheese that my Belovedy brought me from Trader Joe’s. Oh, and a clock that says it’s five o’clock somewhere, anywhere. Speak, clock, ve haf vays to make you tock, say "five," say it. Night out on the town? Couldn’t care less about it. Why? When you live in paradise, why --- what I've got in mind ...

One glass, one only. Preferable to a box of it would be an unopened bottle of Australian shiraz, aged, maybe Wolf Blass, or a Durif, darker than dark, bring out the ladder, climb up, it's that one in the corner, pick it from the top shelf of the open-air pub in Adelaide, whoof the dust off because it’s been up there for years, and where’s the corkscrew -- but I’m good. Sniff: so's the cork. Darker than any plum. Forty years ago, BTDT, a Biblical long time, but I’m good. 

MLP, My Laughing Place, what about it? My haven against the warps of life. Has been and is. Of the women in my early life, before age fifteen let’s say, deeply beloved was Mom, my paternal grandmother Mom. Does anyone but me know how much little boys love their grandmother! At last the story can be told. She had my heart, and I always felt I was the most special to her. Mom with her dress and apron, always the apron. One of her movements was drying her hands on the apron. Did that house have running water, or wasn't there a hand pump in the kitchen and always there beside it a pitcher of water to prime it --

From what has been going on this past week or so, with the developing Story of Alfred, I think I had Mom’s heart too. I wonder this morning how she might feel had she known that ninety-six years on, the Story of Alfred would still bring heartache to a boy who loved her? She told me the story over and over again, at my insistence as a small boy. I was loving the stories, how was Mom feeling, constantly reminded, "Mom! tell me about Alfred!" and she would. I never thought about how she was feeling, small boys are like that. It was less than twenty years after, how was she feeling? As if it was ever far from her mind. I hope she loved telling about as much as I loved hearing about. 

Reading the story again now, and remembering, and writing about, has sent me to MLP many times in the past few days, mentally and physically, because it's not possible to tell a story and stay out of it, to tell a story you have to go there, be there. Be inside, you can't remember and tell a story from the outside. Like those cars in the garage of my mind, peering in the window isn't enough, now and then, from time to time I have to go sit in one, start it up, take a ride across the heavens. MLP, what’s that? My Laughing Place, as Brer Rabbit said, everybody's got one. It’s not really for laughing though, although like Brer Rabbit I suppose one could laugh there, maybe so someday. But I haven’t, not yet. An open-air cave beside the sea, in shock, I spent hours there the excruciating evening Norman died until God showed up. Or until I realized who/what had been standing beside all along. July 12, 2012 the evening Bill died, I was so enraged at God that it yet abides like a rumbling volcano, fury barely beneath the surface. My refuge, MLP. Who knows what anger lurks in the heart of a priest? De Shadow do.  

For storms, in life and at sea, and the incompetence of human bravado, I leave the anger to my grandfather, Pop, A. D. Weller, the boy’s father. No one deserves to see their son’s casket carried to the train for transport to the grave beside a sister he never knew. Pop can be angry at Captain Caton for incompetence: only a fool tries to bluff an angry sea. My feelings are not anger but other, sadness a century on. Caton also died that night, and MLP is the place again. If Mom had known that in 2014 minus 1918 = 96 years the grandson who loved her so dearly would be reading and rehearsing again the Story of Alfred and seeking refuge at MLP would she have been comforted? I remember Mom. She might have looked at me and thought I should have been given another name in honor. I think so too.

Here’s what I remember. I am maybe three years old, maybe four no older than four, but I could be two years old, I reckon. It’s 1938, maybe 1939, eh? 1937, maybe, I don’t know. Regardless, it’s wee hours. My father has brought me, only me, with him from Pensacola where we left my mother and maybe my sister with my Gentry grandparents, my mother’s parents. If Gina was there, it was 1938 or early 1939. We drive through the night from 1317 E. Strong Street, East Hill to St. Andrews, Florida. Along the coast. There is no burning glow over the horizon from German U-boats torpedoing ships, because the war is still two or three years away and those dead people are still alive. My name is Bubba, I doze in the car, a 1935 Chevrolet coach. I knew the car would show up in the memory, there's always a car.  Yep, that's it

except ours had WSW tires and yellow spoke wheels. We do not go to our house but to Mom’s house, to Mom and Pop’s house on Baker Court because my father has to go to work in the morning. It’s not 2308, not this house that was Alfred’s house, but the house where Mom and Pop lived ten years later when they moved back to St. Andrews after all. Why did they move back, and why after all? Because you cannot run away from your heart, or walk away. 

My father opens the front door and we go inside. Even at this age I notice that the door isn’t locked, why, why isn’t the front door locked? Because they didn’t do that, this is not now, this is then, before. My mother, and in her family, they lock the door, but not here in old time St. Andrews, just as Donald and Sybil Totman never locked the door in old Apalachicola which held on another half century. 

We go inside, my father puts me in the large double bed in the front bedroom and off I go. Morning comes, I wake and my father is gone, to work. Perfectly at home, in a place where little boys are deeply loved, I get up and toddle into the kitchen. Mom is making -- what? I don’t remember, but there she is at the kerosene stove. Simultaneously she sees me and I hug her tight around the legs. She says, “I thought I heard someone come in the front door last night.”

Pop has gone to work too. His 1937 Chevrolet in the garage out back, as usual, because that's his "Sunday car," he's gone in his work car, the Plymouth. With the huge circular speedometer in the center of the dashboard --

Boys remember strangely. I am a boy, with a boyhood ahead of me, yet to be lived: how did I get here, older than Pop?


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thanks, Mike!

What a happy thing to have been working down in the lower part of my front yard the day Dr. & Mrs. Michael McKenzie happened to drive by, and we exchanged our family histories with this old house! It’s long distance yet, but I feel I’ve found a new friend -- or a new friend has found me! Mike has corresponded by mail and email, sending me parts of the St. Andrews Bay News, the local newspaper here in the early part of the twentieth century, with its news about the loss of my father’s brother Alfred in the wreck of the fishing smack, a twin-masted schooner, the Annie & Jennie. More news arrived yesterday, which is published below. We look forward to having Dr. & Mrs. McKenzie visit us their next trip to Panama City, so he can look around this old house that his family owned and where he lived for awhile as a boy.

At church Sunday morning a friend commented to me that my blog has been sad lately. I can see that, but it has not been meant so, as I’ve gratefully received and eagerly published bits of my family history that are so dear to me. Things have come out that I did not know, adding to what I did know that was told me by my grandparents, my father, and my aunts in my growing up years, and correcting some things. Here in the house at the time, besides Mom and Pop were my father, age 6 1/2, his older sisters Evalyn Godfrey (whom we called E.G., who I think was twelve at the time) and Ruth, and his baby sister Marguerite. All but my father are buried in the same plot in St. John’s Cemetery and I will look at their tombstones when in Pensacola for a day next month, to remind myself how old each one was at the time.

St. Andrews Bay News
Vol. 3 St. Andrews, Florida, February 5, 1918 No. 36


Mrs. Acker,of Nova Scotia, in a
letter to Mrs. A. D. Weller, received
last night, asked that her gratitude
be expressed to the good people here
for their kindness and the Christian
spirit manifested by them in the
search for and care of the remains of 
her son, Charles, who was lost on the
ill-fated Annie & Jennie.
The search yet continues for the
body of Leonard Stephens, nor will it
be abandoned while there exists the
slightest chance to recover the re-


Remains of Alfred Weller, Jr. Re-
covered. Burial in Pensacola

On Wednesday afternoon last the
new spread quickly thruout the town
that the Nancy Lee was again com
ing up the Bay with her flag at half-
mast, and those who gathered at the 
ice plant wharf learned upon her ar’
rival, that the body of Alfred Weller,
Jr., had been recovered, having been
found on the shore of Crooked Island
by Odom Melvin, one of the survivirs
of the wreck in which Alfred was lost.
As it was desired that interment
be made in Pensacola, services were
held at the Weller home, conducted
by Rev. James Lapsley, after which
the casket was borne to the railway
by friends of the deeply-mourned
young man.

The services at the home were at’
tended by many of Alfred’s friends,
and those of the family, who came
to pay a last tribute to the lovable
lad who had claimed so large a share
of the friendship of them all.
Mr. and Mrs. Weller and the child-
ren and Bert Ware accompanied the 
remains to Pensacola, where the bur-
ial service was conducted by an Epis-
copal clergyman the following after-

It has previously been recorded here in my blog that one evening a couple of years after Alfred’s death, my grandparents loaded up their two automobiles, a Model T Ford and a Hudson touring car, and moved away from the sea, trying to escape from their desolating grief by starting life anew in another place. Pop drove the Hudson, in which he, Mom and Marguerite rode, and E.G. drove the Model T. Both cars were loaded with belongings, cages with Mom’s chickens strapped to the running boards. They headed north on winding dirt roads, two ruts through the woods, some only marked with signs nailed to trees. It was the first of several futile relocations over the next few years, futile because you cannot walk or run away from your heart. That first stop was Ocilla, Georgia, where my grandfather was a Ford dealer for a few years.

In other news from that edition of February 5, 1918,

The W.C.T.U will meet at the
Baptist church on Tuesday, the 12th
instant, at 2:30 o’clock p.m.  All inter-
ested in the work are earnestly in-
vited to be present and help the work
along. A special message from the
State President will be laid before
the meeting. 

Tom+ in +Time 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Thunderstorm

Interesting weather we’re having these few days, predawn storms announcing themselves with thunder. Hearing from the family room in the back of the house, I head out to get Linda’s PCNH before it’s soaked, greeted by broad, intimidating flashes of lightning out over the Gulf of Mexico and covering half of the southern horizon, and already raining lightly. We don’t get a choice, but I like these better than the summer afternoon thunderstorms, which generally pass to the north of us, blessing Lynn Haven, North Bay and Southport but not St. Andrews. Sometimes even Lowe’s or as slightly north as Sam’s but still doesn’t rain on Beach Drive. 

This too pleasant to miss, I’m on the downstairs front screen porch. Light rain here and increasing as I enjoy, lightning and thunder beyond Shell Island south of me. From my chair, navigation lights: I can see one green flashing. For some reason, the green lights are easier to see than the red.

Suddenly it’s not all that far south. Incoming. And stirring from dead still to a cool breeze. This is good, really fine. And following the flashes that are closing in on me, are no longer rumbles, but sharp claps. A good morning, very good indeed; so good I’m switching from Helvetica to Wunderlich just for the excitement of it.

As well as current events and political slant, people like newspapers for intellectual enjoyment, sometimes to learn things. The New York Times is especially good for that, all week long but particularly Sunday. And Saturday, Saturday too, Linda handed me a couple of articles from the Saturday NYT, from the religion section I think, second below is a link to one of them, if it opens. 

The first link below is to a short NYT piece that caught my eye on the cellphone yesterday while relaxing between services in Battin Hall at church. It’s about happiness and unhappiness,  which has been bumping me lately, one stirred by activity in the right cerebral cortex, the other in the left, I didn’t know that. Left and right, the sheep and the goats again -- which for some of us will stir up Jesus and his parables; for others of us, Bill Weeks and the wonder of him as our teacher at Bay High eons ago. Further, for the longterm, according to the NYT piece, happiness responding more to intrinsic values in life, like relationships; unhappiness to extrinsic things, hopes, wants, disappointments of wealth, fame, position not satisfying. But it goes back and forth, doesn’t it: looking back and longing for a past relationship, or a deeper one, or one that has outgrown you and moved on with its own life, also can stir either happiness or deep melancholy, or back and forth: is that extrinsic or intrinsic, left or right? As in peering in the window of the garage out back, there’s a car there that I wish I hadn’t traded away, or the saying “a child is someone who moves through your life on the way to becoming an adult” -- you just have to agonize your way through it. Nobody belongs to you but yourself, and we can keep stirring the pot or turn off that light and move on.   

Less than one second between that flash and its clap, close. But both sight and sound are more to the east than a few minutes ago, so easy to tell which way the storm is moving. And the rain, which had gone heavy, suddenly lightens, lessens. I’m glad I came out here to enjoy. 

The second NYT link is to an article about SBNR, which is becoming a religious category of its own, its own church. Not to castigate, but my early experience of “spiritual but not religious” was folks who would rather be up the river fishing than in church on Sunday morning, telling me they find God better there. Or walking on the beach. Or on the golf course. God at the Bridge Table? I used to be skeptical, but I’m no longer so, although my spirituality is more likely to stir in a room full of people and where every now an then a child lets out a loud, happy shriek. Church is for crowded and noisy, but whoever or whatever God is also shows up here in the darkness of my porch, and moving in the fiery storm. It’s all good.

Rain has stopped. Tops of my pine and cedar trees are moving. Distant rumble to the east: wake up PSJ and Apalach. 

TW+ in +Time 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Uttermost Parts of the Sea

For the moment I'm done reminiscing about Alfred. But the photocopies of St. Andrews Bay News that Dr. McKenzie sent me have fascinating old news clips and bits. The four editions are January 8, 22, 29 and February 5, 1918. World War I was in progress, the Germans were the bad guys. And there was local news, a few tidbits below from January 8, 1918:

The grading on Bay View avenue is complete. Now, for a good, wide coat of clay on top of it.” (Bay View Avenue was later renamed Beach Drive. I don’t know when the street was paved, obviously after 1918, but it was already concrete paved from my earliest memories in the nineteen-thirties. 

So were a few streets in The Cove, concrete paved, from Cherry Street north a few blocks and from E. Beach Drive east a couple of blocks. 12th Street in St. Andrews, on which our fishhouse was located, was wonderfully deep, thick sand, and
 where the Shrimp Boat is now was wide white beach swarming with millions of fiddler crabs).

Miss Dorothy Ware left yesterday morning for Tallahassee to resume her studies at the Florida State College for Women.

The breeze early Sunday morning did no damage here but at Panama City the three big iron stacks at the A. E. Turner Co. plant and also the one at Powers’ mill were keeled over by the wind. Repairs are now in progress.

Mr. George Cummings, of Bayhead, came down the last of the week to get his fine launch which has been undergoing repairs necessitated by injuries receive in the hurricane last summer. ...” (I did not realize a hurricane came through here summer 1917, but here’s a report of it

Friends invite me to join them on LinkedIn and Google+. I accept although I have no idea what either one is or does or is for. Don't be disappointed that I'm "in" but nothing comes of it. 

We have good Bible lessons for this morning. The OT Sunday school story of Jacob's ladder. A passage from Paul's theological treatis that is Romans 8. In Matthew's gospel Jesus tells another seed parable. Best of all, at least to my liking, is Psalm 139 extolling the omnipresence of God. Just before the end of his psalm the poet slips in three rather nasty verses that we shall leave out, otherwise a lovely hymn. My favorite part of it, as a naval officer, or as a priest who has often said it to consecrate the act of scattering ashes, or just simply as a son of the earth whose lifelong love is St. Andrews Bay, is "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me." 

A perfect Florida predawn. Damp, a Gulf breeze coming in off the Bay, half-moon high and slightly to the east of meridian, and that green navigation light to lead me home.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Alfred, Pop, Dick McCaskill

Slightest drizzle of a Saturday morning. Slept until nearly walking time... It’s beyond me how I can think or write about anything else. Unspeakable is a word that has been used, shooting down MH-17, a passenger liner. Remember USS Vincennes (CG49) mistakenly downing an Iranian civilian passenger jetliner, Iran Air Flight 655, over the Persian Gulf on 3 July 1988, killing all 290 civilians on board (including 38 non-Iranians and 66 children). Today the scene on the ground is unbearable, especially when the eye lights on a child’s toy or book. The individual stories will be coming out now, Karlijn Keijzer the Indiana University student from the Netherlands, and Laurens van der Graaff, her sweetheart. 296 stories to go, I can’t stand it. And Israel’s morally rationalized actions in Gaza, the Palestinian children murdered. My answer, my solution: I won’t go there. Why not muse and blog about that: because there’s nothing to do but weep.

The dehumidifier wants emptying twice every 24 hours, morning and bedtime. It holds the humidity at 45%, which is astonishing. We should have bought it years ago.

We have two enormous fig trees. The lower one produced not even nubbins this summer, the one up by the front porch is full of nubbins that will not grow and ripen, we got two figs from it. Why? I cut them too far back, their green growth is lush but no fruit. We have picked some fruit from the fig tree in the back yard of the church office building, my supper last night was four figs and a glass of Australian shiraz, the box. Speaking of which I learned this lesson at G Foley’s on Linda’s birthday. Delicious, including soft shell crab and superlative crab cake; but I did stupid with the wine. Recognizing an old favorite, I ordered a glass of the Australian Wolf Blass shiraz. I thought to have them bring out the bottle from which my wine would be poured so I could taste it, but didn’t. Big mistake: it had been opened days. Or weeks. Nasty. To order by the glass, view and taste it first, eh?

Linda and I walked Friday morning, down to St. Andrews, park and marina. At the marina I bought shrimp from the, I suppose, Vietnamese woman. Fresh. Delicious. We boiled them, easy to peel, totally unlike the previously frozen shrimp I’ve given up buying at Gandy’s. Which brings me here: St. Andrews, place of my heart and heritage.

More from the newspapers Dr. McKenzie sent me. St. Andrews Bay News, January and February 1918.

January 29, 1918. 
The above reward will be
paid for the recovery of the
body of my son, Alfred Well-
er Jr., who was drowned on 
the morning of January 7th,
at the entrance of St. An-
drews Bay.
A.D. Weller
St. Andrews, Fla., Jan. 24th,

I calculated the present value of $500 dollars in 1918, about $9,000. For comparison, in 1918, this American Four-Square house that I’m living in, Alfred’s house, was available on order from Sears Roebuck for about $2,500, delivered and finished.

Alfred’s body missing was an agony for Pop, my grandfather. He told me that if he had not found his son’s body and brought him home, he would never again have been able to look the boy’s mother in the eye. My aunt told me that Mom blamed herself for waking Alfred to make the voyage, but especially blamed Pop as Pop blamed himself for sending him on the boat. My aunt, my father's older sister, said the tension of blame and remorse never left them the rest of their lives. Alfred's body was not found until into February, as I recall my father and aunts telling me. Pop told me he found it on the barrier island. Exactly forty-five years later, January 1963 as my father and I worked on this house, my father pointed to the space in front of the livingroom fireplace, "was where my brother’s casket stood.” My father was six years old at the time, six and a half. 

There’s more.

St. Andrews Bay News
February 5, 1918

During the terrible anguish and
suspense of the past weeks, much
comfort has come to us through the
many kindnesses and sincere sym-
pathy of our friends. Words fail us
in the effort to express our apprecia-
tion, but we wish to assure all of you
that we are deeply grateful for all
that has been done for us.

A. D. Weller and family

And just below that, same paper


Colored Employees and Friends
of Alfred Weller Pass Re-
solutions of Condolences

    Indicative of the high esteem in which Alfred Weller was held by all who knew him, is the following resolution passed by his colored friends through a committee consisting of Willie Walker, at one time employed by Alfred, and Richard McCaskill, an employe of the Bay Fisheries Co.”
    WHEREAS, The Great and Supreme Ruler of the Universe has in His infinite wisdom removed from among us one of our worthy and esteemd friends, A. D. Weller, Jr., it is eminently befitting that we, the colored citizens, record our appreciation of him;
    That the sudden removal of such a life from our midst leaves a vacancy and a shadow that will be deeply realized by us;
    And, that with deep sympathy for the bereaved relatives, we express our hope that even so great a loss to us all may be overruled for good by Him who doeth all things well.

A. R. Walker,
Richard McCaskill.

To the best of my recollection, I never knew Willie Walker. But I did know Dick McCaskill, and I'll bet my brother Walt remembers him too. Dick McCaskill worked for my grandfather for years before and for years to come, as long as Pop was in the seafood business here in St. Andrews. After Pop’s retirement, Dick worked for my father in our fish house on 12th Street in St. Andrews in the middle to late 1940s. I remember Dick, and Crab Long (Naaman Long, he later had a grocery store on 15th Street) scaling enormous red snapper, and skinning huge grouper, and cutting them up into seafood steaks, then packing them in large tins for our trucks to carry up to grocery stories and fish markets in Alabama and Georgia. I remember Dick well, a tall, strong, dark mahogany man of infinite kindness and patience with me as a little boy playing around the fish house as a child. I grew up knowing him.

Especially do I remember a couple of things. Dick and Annie McCaskill lived in a little house on The Hill at the southwest corner of 15th Street and Frankford Avenue. It’s a vacant, wooded lot today, the house has long years been gone. With my father, I visited Dick about, maybe 1949 or 1950, at his home as he was on his death bed. That was the last time I saw him, a beloved and faithful family friend of many, many years.

I remember this too. One Christmas during the depression of the late Thirties, it would have been 1937 because we were living in a rented house belonging to J.Will Brown at the corner of Frankford and 11th Street, my parents were very poor, practically destitute. My father was making $7 a week working at the ice plant that many long years ago was on the Bay at the foot of Mercer Avenue, down beyond the post office behind where Paul Brent Gallery is now. I've looked there and can find no trace of it, but I claim to be the only Panama City resident who remembers it. That Christmas there was no money for a special Christmas dinner. Dick and Annie McCaskill came to our house with a feast of roast chicken, stuffing, carrots, potatoes, rice and gravy. Dick had killed and cleaned the chicken, Annie had cooked our Christmas dinner for us.

Oh, one other thing. Years later, probably December 1962 or January 1963 when my father and I were working on the inside of this house while Linda, Malinda, Joe and I were home from the University of Michigan on Christmas vacation, probably as my father was telling me about Alfred’s casket. I told him what Pop had said about never being able look Mom in the eye unless he brought Alfred's body home. My father corrected the story. He said, “Pop may remember it that way, but that’s not what happened." My father said Dick McCaskill searched the barrier island, walked and walked, searching until he found Alfred’s body, and Dick brought it home. 

Tom Weller, in Alfred's bedroom

looking out across St. Andrews Bay

Population of St. Andrews. 1910: 675. 1920: 1361.,+Florida+1910&source=bl&ots=BosK3ZihLq&sig=d2PiELgf7l7n_wchJ8131zE9K00&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WsTJU8TMJYuXyASX6IGQBg&ved=0CFAQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=population%20St.%20Andrews%2C%20Florida%201910&f=false

St. John's Cemetery, Pensacola, Florida

I regretted in the 1980s when my father's sisters replaced the original tombstone with this new one. Behind Alfred is the grave of his sister Carrie, who died in 1898, age 11 months.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Gripping Account of the Wreck

Pleasant this morning, more humid than yesterday, but no breeze or I would be on the downstairs front screen porch. Judging by the lights on her, a sizable vessel gliding silently westward as I went down for Linda's PCNH, but too dark to tell for sure, and so dark I couldn't even tell whether she was in the near channel heading in to port or in the far channel headed out to sea. 

This morning I'm going to publish the second, more detailed, account that Dr. McKenzie so kindly sent me. There are a couple more for another day, to which I will add my own personal family remembrances.    

From his earliest childhood my son Joe has been gifted at building scale models, airplanes, boats, cars. Three years ago he built a model of the Annie & Jennie. The sails are remotely controlled, and Joe and I have sailed her here in front of the house when the Bay was calm. I'm a cautious person, afraid something will happen to it, and haven't sailed her again. She's the centerpiece of our livingroom, on the mantle over the fireplace. My friend and neighbor Bill Lee, who grew up right here, says it's a good likeness of the twin-masted schooners called fishing smacks. 

Here's the newspaper article from January 22, 1918, two weeks after the wreck. TW

St. Andrews Bay News
VOL. 3. St. Andrews, Florida, January 22, 1918 NO. 34


(Ed. Note - Owing to the great demand for an authentic account of the disaster of January 5th (sic), the following story of the wreck is republished from the Panama City Pilot, of January 10, corrected, and with such additional facts as have come to hand.)

The saddest blow that has ever fallen upon St. Andrews came Tuesday morning, January 8th, when news reached the city of the loss, early the preceding day, of the smack Annie & Jennie, with four of her crew, including two young men of St. Andrews, Alfred Weller, Jr., son of the owner of the vessel, and Leonard Stephens, son of Mr. Henry Stephens of West End.

Just before Christmas the smack lost her rudder in the Gulf and was brought to port by her master, Emanuel Caton, using a dory as a jury-rudder. Facilities for repairs not being immediately available in St. Andrews, her owners decided to send her to Carabelle to have the rudder replaced, and at one o’clock Monday morning, January 7th, she left the Ice Plant dock, bound for that place.

Arrived at the bar, they found a high sea running, and Odom Melvin, as they neared the east end of Hurricane Island, noticed that the front light on the off-shore range was extinguished and reported the fact to the Captain, who replied, “Well, I will get my course.” All went well until she reached a point just inshore from the sea buoy, when Melvin, Bishop and possibly others, saw breakers dead ahead and told Captain Caton. In answer, Caton called to Dewey Bishop, one of the survivors, “Never mind, boy, never mind.” Almost immediately, Caton ordered Melvin to luff her up. This he attempted to do, but she would not answer to the rudder, and a few moments later she struck on the sand spit that has built out from the east side of the dredged channel.

Caton shouted to his men to take in the flying jib and put the mainsail on her, but almost as he spoke a sea took her head on and covered her up. All of the men then took to the rigging, while the breakers crashed over her and quickly filled her up. Melvin states that the second time she bumped the keel burst up thru her bottom.

The men remained in the rigging until the battered hull began to go to pieces and the masts toppled over into the water. As the masts fell, Captain Caton was heard to shout, “Well, boys, we’re gone now.” As they dropped into the water, a large piece of the forward deck tore away and Capt. Caton, Alfred Weller and Dewey Bishop managed to cling to it. Bishop saw Odom Melvin in the water and called to him to come to them on the raft, but before Odom reached them, all three were swept away by a sea. He reached the raft and saw Bishop struggling to get back to it; the others were never seen again. Bishop made the piece of wreckage, and then another sea covered it, sweeping Melvin off. He fought his way back, and just as he reached it, it was torn free of the hull, and with the two survivors was swept away thru the breakers to the eastward.

Bishop states that before Alfred Weller was swept away he had become only partly conscious. Bishop tried to keep Alfred’s head up out of the water, and asked him if he had been hurt, but Alfred was unable to speak. He may have been struck by some of wreckage, and too, it was bitter cold and he was only thinly clad, and barefooted.

It was about three o’clock when the Annie & Jennie struck, and by four-thirty, or thereabout, Melvin and Bishop had drifted well out to sea. Their perilous voyage lasted all that morning and until about one o’clock in the afternoon, when they were cast up on the shore of Crooked Island by the breakers, some fifteen miles from the scene of the wreck.

“We tried to wade the Sound,” said Melvin, in telling of their escape from death, ‘but the water was too cold, as we went further up and waded across. We were trying to get to the mainland, which we finally did, and found a home where we hoped to get something to eat. However, there was no one at home, and from the way the place looked, it had been deserted for a year. I began looking for some matches over the doors, when Bishop spied one on the floor. I got some grass and paper and made a fire in the old kitchen -- one of those old-timey stick-in-dirt chimneys. We sure did have a good fire, and got warmed up. I left my overcoat at that house -- got so tired I had to leave it.

“We put out then to find something to eat. By and by we came to another house. Nobody was there, and it looked like they had been gone a good while. We went in and found some old sweet potatoes. They had been frost bitten, but we bit them again. They sure were good, and we ate about a dozen apiece.

“We then put out for Leonard Raffield’s place on Crooked Island, and made it about nine o’clock that night. We got supper there; they had to cook it, but it sure was good when they got it ready. We stayed there all night.  Leonard Raffield was working with his cousin, Cullen Raffield, over at Auburn on East Bay, about two miles away.

“Leonard Raffield, Bishop and I left his place Tuesday morning to go to Auburn. Bishop soon got so bad off that he could not walk, so Leonard Raffield left and went to tell Cullen Raffield about us. I carried Bishop on my back for a while, but when Cullen reached us we had a fire and were warming. We saw the Ford coming through the weeds presently, and soon we were eating breakfast at his place. After breakfast Cullen Raffield brought us down to St. Andrews, and I told Mr. Weller about the sad accident, and he and a large crowd put out to look for the others who were on the Annie & Jennie.

“Before I would take another wreck like that, I would fight the Germans all by myself.”

Charles Acker, a young Nova Scotian who was one of the lost, is believed to have been injured by flying wreckage, soon after the vessel grounded, and was one of the first to die. His body was found on Crooked Island on Sunday January 13, and was brought to St. Andrews, the funeral being held the following morning, with interement (sic) in St. Andrews cemetery. Little is known of Acker other than that his mother is living somewhere in Nova Scotia. He had been fishing out of St. Andrews for some months previous to his death, and was well liked. Efforts are being made to communicate with his mother.

The body of Captain Caton was also found on Crooked Island, on the 12th, both bodies having come ashore very close to where Melvin and Bishop made the land. Owing to the bad weather, and no boat being available at the time, the remains of Captain Caton were taken to Apalachicola for burial. Emanuel Caton is said to have been born in Portugal, and is survived by several daughters, living in Massachusetts. He was in his fifties, or possibly older, and was well known among the fishermen of this coast, bearing a reputation for fool-hardy courage at sea, to which, in part, must be attributed the late disaster.

While it was nothing short of criminal for Caton to attempt the trip with such a sea running, the fact stands out that the front (red) beacon of the off-shore range was not burning, and Caton could only guess whether he was in the channel, so his compass could not warn him of the drift cause by the strong cross-channel current setting to the eastward. Melvin and Bishop believe that he thought the breakers were in the channel, and that the smack would quickly drive thru them. It is customary for fishermen and others acquainted with the channel on the bar to “open the ranges,” using the lights not in line, but open.

While the loss of the men is a bitter blow to all concerned, the death of our two St. Andrews boys caused heart-ache and sorrow that will long dwell in the memory of our people. Leonard Stephens, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Stephens, of West End, was a quiet unassuming young man, attending strictly to his own affairs, and enjoying the high regard of his friends and acquaintances.

And the passing of Alfred Weller has left vacant a place in the life of his friends that cannot be filled. Clean, honest, always cheerful, always generous, he was loved by all who knew him in a way that it is given to but few to be loved. Altho young, he was a man among men, a “regular fellow.” He was making the trip not as a member of the crew, but to superintend the repairs on the vessel, and his most intimate friends, as though warned by some prescientient of impending disaster, begged him not to go on the vessel, but to make the trip by rail. However, he preferred to accompany the smack, and left them, laughing at their fears for his safety. His father, A. D. Weller, and others still continue the search for his remains and those of Leonard Stephens.