Sunday, June 8, 2008

Grandma's lifesaving story

My Grandmother, Edith Wilson Fulford had two events in her life that involved water tragedy but were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Both are not clear on the all facts but she was a major part of both stories.

When she was she was four and a half years old she was walking with her two year old brother Freddie when he somehow slipped and fell into a canal near their farm in Oneco, Florida. She wasn't able to get him out and by the time adults came to help he had drowned. Today we would question the parents for letting a four year old watch a two year old but on a farm in 1910 rural Florida children were expected and did do many chores that today would be unheard of.

Thirty years later, on March 8, 1940 (her husband Tink's birthday) it was Edith who along with several others from Cortez travelled across the bay from Cortez to Anna Maria Island when they heard about a shipwreck. They found an old steamer which had converted to a molasses barge, The Regina run aground 100 yards off the beach and it was in danger of breaking apart in the surf. The waves were too rough for the 8 sailors to swim to shore and the men and women from Cortez were faced with the prospect of men losing their life in their sight. After one of the sailors panicked and tried to swim to shore and was lost in the surf the other men stayed on the ship.

Throughout the night the men and women from Cortez stood by, lighting fires on the beach to let the crew know they were still there.

The next morning the Coast Guard Cutter USS Nemesis arrived to rescue the men. Each time it approached the waves were too high and kept the Nemesis from getting close to the Regina. They finally gave up and left. Then two Coast Guard Bi-planes flew over and tried to drop life preservers on the ship but they were washed away. It was at that point the men on board and on shore had to have felt completely helpless.

It was Edith who no doubt remembered the drowning death of her brother who came up with the idea that they could take a rope out to the ship, using a row boat and it would allow the men to safely get across the rough sea.

Henry Clayton Adams a cousin from Cortez along with two others were able to row the boat out with the rope and used it to ferry the crew to safety. The only life lost was the one crew member who tried to swim to shore on his own. If you look closely at this photo you can see the row boat going out to rescue the crew.

Grandma lived on the water but I don't think she ever got over these experiences. She was always telling us to be careful when we played on the docks in front of her house. She liked the beach and I can remember her wading in the surf, in a bathing suit that could have covered a car, but she never went too far into the water.

The State of Florida designated the Regina shipwreck an Underwater Archaeological Preserve in 2005.

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