The following contemporary account is to be contrasted with modern retelling of the story by Osborn Shaw and others, and the embellishments which have occurred over nearly two hundred years.
MELANCHOLY OCCURRENCE—Rarely, indeed, has it been our painful duty to record a more melancholy occurrence than one which recently took place in that part of Brooklin [sic, Brookhaven] called Fire Place. On the evening of Friday, the 5th instant, eleven men, belonging to that village, went to the South Shore with a seine for fishing, viz: William Rose, Isaac Woodruff, Lewis Parshall, Benjamin Brown, Nehemiah Hand, James Horner, Charles Ellison, James Prior, Daniel Parshall, Harry Horner and John Hulse. On Saturday morning the affecting discovery was made that they were all drowned. It is supposed the whole party embarked in one boat, and went out to the outer bar, a distance of two miles from the shore, and which at low water is in some places bare, but that by some accident the boat was stove or sunk, and the whole party left to perish by the rising of the tide, which, at high water, is eight or ten feet on the bar. The boat came on shore in pieces, and also eight bodies. The six first named have left families. Long will a whole neighborhood lament this overwhelming affliction, and the tears of the widow and orphan flow for their husband, father and friend.
From Long Island Star (Brooklyn, NY) 17 November 1813, as quoted in: Parshall, James Clark. The History of the Parshall Family from the Conquest of England by William of Normandy, A.D. 1066, to the Close of the 19th Century. Syracuse: Crist, Park and Parshall, Cooperstown, NY, 1903.
Osborne Shaw in his History of Fire Place
Of the terrible calamity that befell this community, there is not an old family in this section but knows about it. On Friday night, the 5th of November 1813, eleven men from this vicinity went as a fishing crew over to the South Beach. Just what happened will never be definitely known, but from what was printed in the “Long Island Star” of 10 Nov. 1813 and from what my late grandmother and father and the late Capt. Chas. E. Hulse have related to me, the men went through “Old Inlet” and hauled their boat on the “dry shoal” in the ocean opposite the inlet. The shoal was bare at low water but covered at high tide. While busily engaged in shaking out their net, they did not notice that the tide was rising under their boat and it being not properly secured, it floated away in the swift current running through the inlet. When the realized their predicament, they began calling for help, and set up such a howling that their cries were heard over here in Fire Place, it being a clam moon-light night. One woman here, went to a neighbor’s and remarked that something must be wrong over on the beach, as she was sure she recognized her husband’s voice. It is told that another rival crew was at the time, also on the Beach, and that they were fiddling and drinking and some of their members were drunk. Some one of them heard the cries of the imperiled men and suggested going to their aid. He was greeted with the remark: “Damn ’em, let ’em drownd” from another member and the eleven men were left on “dry shoal” with the tide gradually rising over them. Every man was drowned and there were six or seven women left as widows here the next morning. The names of the men were: William Rose, Isaac Woodruff, Lewis Parshall, Daniel Parshall, Benjamin Brown, Nehemiah Hand, James Homan, Henry Homan, Charles Ellison, James Prior and John Hulse. The boat came on shore in pieces and eight of the bodies were recovered. I have located the tombstones of some of them. William Rose was buried on the ground on which this building stands, but was removed some few years ago to the present village cemetery; Isaac Woodruff’s stone is in St. John’s Cemetery in Oakdale; the two Parshall boys have a stone in the old Patchogue Cemetery on Waverly Avenue; Benjamin Brown’s body and stone were removed to the Bellport Cemetery; Nehemiah Hand’s stone is in the Presbyterian Cemetery in South Haven. If the other five have stones, I have failed in finding them.
· … eleven men, namely, William Rose, Isaac Woodruff, Henry Homan, Charles Ellison, James Prior, John Hulse, Daniel and Lewis Parshall, Enjamin Brown, Nehemiah Hand, and James Homan went off South Beach in their small boat to fish. According to the tradition, the men landed on the sand bar several hundred yards off shore, which at low tide is above water, to shake the sea-weed out of their nets, and hauled their boat upon the sand. They carelessly failed to anchor it, with the result that in the darkness they did not see that the rising tide was washing around it and lifting it, until finally a wave carried it off the bar. When they made the discovery that their boat was gone, and felt the tide rising about their feet, they began to shout so loudly that they were heard across the Beach and Great South Bay by people on the mainland at Brookhaven. It was a beautiful, calm night. One woman went to her neighbor’s and remarked that she thought that something was wrong at the Beach as she was sure she had heard her husband’s voice. It has always been a mystery why a rival fishing crew, which that night was in a house on the Beach, did not hear the men’s cries and rescue them. One tradition declares that a man who had heard the shouting of the stranded fishermen, broke into the house to ask them to get the men. They evidently had been drinking, for one man drunkenly replied in answer to the intruder’s plea: “Damn’em, let ’em drown.” All eleven were drowned, and the next morning there were eight widows in the parish of South Haven.
Rev. George Borthwick.The Church at the South: A History of the South Haven Church. p. 180. Manuscript about 1938. Published 1989. Amereon Ltd., Mattituck, NY.
A major tragedy that affected the people of Fireplace occurred on Friday, November 5, 1813. A crew of eleven fishermen went through Smith’s Inlet [Old Inlet] to fish from a “dry shoal” several hundred yards out in the ocean. While busy with their nets they did not notice that their boat was insecure and had floated away. It had been caught in the current running through the inlet as the tide began to change. As the water deepened over the sandbar, the men called for help, but none heard or came, and all were drowned. Six widows were left. One had said she was sure she had recognized her husband’s voice shouting for help, but no one had believed her. The men were William Rose, Isaac Woodruff, Daniel and Lewis Pearshall (sic), Benjamin Brown, Nehemiah Hand, James and Henry Homan, Charles Ellison, James Prior and John Hulse.
Stephanie Bigelow. Bellport and Brookhaven: A Saga of the Sibling Hamlets of the Old Purchase South. Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society. 1968.