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Article Published Feb. 20, 1998

Sandra Devlin EAST COAST KIN (Canada)
By: Sandra Devlin, Biography & Archived Articles

Atlantic Shipwrecks

The blockbuster movie Titanic reminds Maritime genealogists how inextricably our heritage is tied to the whims of a capricious sea. As one fellow-researcher observes, shipwrecks were as common a headline in yesteryear newspapers as highway accidents are today. Here is a story that would make a great movie.

Liverpool, England, Jan 31, 1860: “I almost dread coming home in the month of Feb. but feel anxious to get home to my family after running such a narrow escape from a watery grave,” William Boultenhouse wrote to his family in Sackville, New Brunswick shortly before boarding the SS Hungarian.

A fiction writer could never invent a more forcible foreshadowing . Less than three weeks later, on Feb. 19, Boultenhouse was drowned when the 298-foot, iron-hulled steamship Hungarian was wrecked off the Cape Sable leges in a foggy gale. No survivors, 45 cabin, 80 steerage, 80 crew lost.

Subsequent newspaper accounts of Boultenhouse’s ill fate were published in the Sackville Borderer. The son of prominent shipowner Christopher Boultenhouse had narrowly escaped death en route to England on the ship Xiphias, mere months earlier. “Scarcely had his friends rejoiced over his narrow escape...than tidings of his loss reached them.”

Extant accounts of the Hungarian shipwreck describe gruesome horrors and reveal the greed of bounty hunters intent to recover bodies for which rewards were offered.

Clark’s Harbor via Barrington, Aug. 9, 1860: “The body of Mr. Boltenhouse (sic) has been taken from the wreck of the Hungarian. On it, gold watch, ten pounds ten shillings in gold with papers.” Surnames of some of the Hungarian victims (origins from many places): Allen, Bartlett, Barrett, Cameron, Crocker, Evans, Leslie, Madden, Martin, Morrison, Nash, Richardson, Stewart, Talbot, Wilson, Woods, Wright. The Public Archives of Nova Scotia holds extensive records.

Resources to learn more about the SS Hungarian:

National Library of Canada (available through inter-library loan from you local branch): “The Wreck of the Steamship Hungarian on the Ledges of Cape Sable Nova Scotia.” by Arthur Thurston (1991) ISBN 0-921596-05-7; Dewey: NS 971.625 T54.

Public Archives of Nova Scotia:
Manuscript MG9 Vol. 43 p 389 and p 158.
Manuscript MG9 Vol. 43 p. 389 - Recollections of one who saw the wreck as a child.
Halifax Herald July 15, 1898, p. 2; July 18 p. 2
Atlantic Leader Feb. 11, 1923 - account by H. M. Nickerson who obtained information from eye witness.
Liverpool Transcript July 12, 1860 p. 240 in Smith’s extracts. Re: Stolen goods from Hungarian.
Correspondence of Earl of Mulgrave RG.1 Vol. 125 Feb. 23, 1860, March 6, 1860.
Acadian Recorder, Feb. 25, 1860 p. 3, col. 1

Resources to learn more about Maritime marine history:

Shipping records from the ports of Charlottetown, Miramichi, Richibucto, Saint John, Halifax, Windsor, Pictou and others in the 19th and 20th centuries are among those extensively documented at the Maritime History Archive, Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland. A1C 5S7; telephone: (709) 737-8428; web page:

More Atlantic Canada Resources...

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