Many ships and lives were lost in the Great Colonial Hurricane, including 21 passengers who had set out from Ipswich on August 21, 1635 on a small bark named “Watch and Wait.” As they rounded Cape Ann they were suddenly met by the force of the winds. Reverend John Avery, his wife and six children and his cousin Antony Thacher, his wife and their six children were on board, bound for Marblehead where Rev. Avery was to become pastor of that church.

Thatcher's Island off of Cape Ann
Thatcher’s Island off of Cape Ann

On entering the bay, the wind blew with such force that no advance could be made, even by tacking. By midnight on the evening of Friday the 24th their sails were rent, the anchors dragged, and the ship was driven or the angry waves. The boat was dashed to pieces off Rockport on what is known as Crackwood’s Ledge. Mr. Avery and his eldest son and Mr. Thacher and his daughter were thrown into the sea, and were carried by the waves on the rocky island now known as Thatcher’s Island. No sooner had this happened than a second wave hurled Mr. Avery and his child back into the sea, never to be seen again. Shattered pieces of the boat’s frame crashed onto the rock, and holding on to one timber was Thatcher’s wife, who extricated herself to safety. Mr. and Mrs. Thatcher were the only survivors of the awful night, and he later recorded their terror:

“And as my cousin, his wife, and my tender babes sat comforting and cheering one the other in the Lord against ghastly death, which every moment stared us in the face, and sat triumphing upon each others’ forehead, we were by the violence of the waves and the fury of the winds (by the Lord’s permission), lifted up upon a rock between two high rocks, yet all was one rock, but it raged with the stroke which came into the pinnace. The waves came furiously and violently over and against us.”“Now look with me upon my distress and consider my misery… my goods and provisions swimming in the seas, my friends almost drowned, and mine own poor children so untimely… before mine eyes drowned and ready to be swallowed up, and dashed to pieces against the rocks by the merciless waves, and myself ready to accompany them.”

Read about the ship, the Angel Gabriel, and more about the Great Colonial Hurricane

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