The Ernest Anderson Story

Ernest Mariner Anderson, born 1888, son of Lizette (Daley) of Clark's Harbour and Capt Charles Anderson who immigrated to Clark's Harbour from Sweden as a young man. They also had a daughter Elizabeth, son Albert (bank clerk), and David and Ralph who were sea Captains.

Captain Ernest M. Anderson

Ernest married Elizabeth (Dahlgren), born 1898, of Weymouth, widow of his brother Ralph and they raised a family of nine including a daughter with her marriage to Ralph. They were Lizette, Permilla, Nellie, Charlie, Mary, Ernestine, Mabel, Alan, and Albert. They lived in the house in Clark 's Harbour until 1939, now owned by Donald Messenger.

Over the years Capt. Charles Anderson became owner of several vessels, one of these was the Palmento, her Captain was Ernest Anderson. On Nov 4th, 1908 , the Palmento was found lying on a ledge of rocks called Sluice Point Reef. The tide flowed through the vessel in about 2 ft. 6 ins. of water, and her cargo was 150 tons of structural iron, of which 100 tons was lying on deck. Due to the weight and list of the vessel it could not be moved and as far as is known is still lying at Sluice Point. It was to be used for a bridge there.

Empress on fire November 1915.

Capt. Ernest Anderson was in command of the Empress at the time it was lost. During the trip from Bridgewater to New York , on November 1915, the Empress was lying at anchor in Barrington Passage with a load of lumber. The cook had hung a dishcloth over the stove where there was a hot fire. It is believed the dishcloth fell on the stove and with no one around to do anything about it, the result was the fire that destroyed the schooner.

Capt. Anderson was ill in his bunk from typhoid. He was taken off by a small boat, and brought ashore. The crew had gone ashore earlier and the fire gained such headway before it was discovered that it could not be put out. The men who went out found her lumber floating away from her deck, and it came ashore the next day in Centerville. Some of the older citizens remember the spectacular blaze as it burned to the water level.

Rescue boats arrive at the Empress.

It addition to ships mentioned above, Captain Charles Anderson also owned the Flora and Emma D. The 90 ton Alcaea was caught in a gale 24 miles from Cape Sable, while on a voyage from New York to Halifax with a load of hard coal. In the wind she became dismasted and the crew had to abandon her. This was in Dec. 1918 and she was captained by Ralph Anderson, Ernest's brother. Ralph died on Dec. 27 with pneumonia, resulting from exposure and the flu epidemic of the time. A local fisherman, Freddie Smith, found the coal in his traps while fishing the area where the Alcaea went down and he gave it to Albert Anderson.

Captain Ernest Anderson had his most eventful voyage and difficult experience in 1932 while he was in command of the Clemencia, owned by Maurice Nickerson of Clark 's Harbour. The Clemencia sailed from Weymouth, Monday 28th November 1932, bound for Clark 's Harbour, a distance of eighty miles. Under normal conditions it required ten hours of sailing. A terrific storm came up, and a warning from the barometer set the crew to work, lashing everything down and close reefing the sails. The storm was worse than expected, they hove to for the night, and at dawn the next morning, the peak halyards parted and all sails fell to the deck. With no canvas the ship was unmanageable, and it was an impossible task for the crew to keep her headed into the waves. The lashings that held the wood on deck gave way under the mountainous seas pouring over it. This made it extremely dangerous for the crew to come above deck. A wave knocked Captain Anderson down and a piece of firewood struck him on the head causing him to become almost unconscious. While down another wave almost washed him overboard. As he was being carried away he managed to get hold of a line just in time to save himself. Douglas Kenney the cook had not been so fortunate, being washed overboard and not seen again. The anxious crew was not able to do anything to save him.

The Clemencia drifting and awash in the Atlantic, photographed from the Degrasse.

Sixteen year old Burton Nickerson took over duties of cook. By Wednesday the storm was still battling the ship. Burton, on his way to the Captain with a plate of food, was suddenly knocked off his feet with the sudden plunge of the schooner and hurled into the spar. He suffered a cut face and the loss of three teeth. In spite of constant pumping, the vessel kept sinking lower into the water. During the night any dry wood that could be found below deck was brought up and burned on top of the cabin. In hope some ship would see their signal of distress. There was little hope of them being seen that day with overcast skies and poor visibility.

Clemencia being approached by the DeGrasse as passengers look on.

At 1:30 Friday morning, the French liner DeGrasse sighted them just after the last flare had been lit. Burton was in charge of the flare at that time, he had been told to use his discretion about lighting it. Thinking he saw the light of the vessel he lit the flare, but after it went off there was no vessel to be seen. However he was lucky the
De DeGrasse appeared from another direction. For about two hours the liner cruised the area, hindered by heavy seas from getting close to the Clemencia. About seven AM the lifeboats of the De DeGrasse were able to get near enough to rescue the crew. The seas were smoothed by oil poured by the De DeGrasse At the time of the rescue Captain Ernest Anderson, Mate Kenneth Lowe, Burton Nickerson, and Barak McGray were desperately clinging to the after end of the schooner.

The SS DeGrasse of the French Line.


Crew members of the DeGrasse lower a lifeboat to rescue the crew of the Clemencia.


The crew of the Clemencia in the lifeboat on their way to the DeGrasse.


The crew of the Clemencia on board the DeGrasse from left to right are Capt. Ernest Anderson, an officer
of the DeGrasse (possibly the captain), Kenneth Lowe and Barak McGray.

While the crew were on their way safely to New York, the Clemencia was taken in tow first by the cutter Conyngham, then by the Mojave but because of it's waterlogged condition it could not be towed to shore. Mines were placed aboard the doomed vessel, and she was destroyed to prevent her from being a menace to navigation.

Capt. Anderson continued to earn his living from the sea, in 1934 the headline in the paper, "good catch of fish" was followed by this item "Captain Ernest Anderson and crew had 28 halibut one night this week. The crew shared $27.00 each".

During the years of World War II, Ernest was Captain of a duty boat that carried soldiers and supplies from Halifax to fortify McNabb's Island. When he enlisted he was over the acceptable age, but he was highly recommended and special permission was granted. He received three medals for his years of service including the silver cross.

During the war the family moved to Little River, Digby Co. The younger children were glad to see their father home on visit, and he always brought his suitcase full of candy and goodies, that he had saved for them. Ernest had the lung condition, emphysema from exposure to being on the water all those years.

After the war the family moved to Round Bay until 1953, and then moved back to Cape Island. He spent his last years in Newellton, where he lived near the head of the road leading to the Orion wharf. He passed away in 1968 and his wife passed away in 1987. The house they lived in was torn down in 1989.

Deloris Anderson 2003

This story of the seafaring days of Capt Ernest Anderson was put together by his daughter-in-law Deloris (Nickerson) Anderson, June 30th 2003 to share with the people of the area. Please note that some of the information contained herein was taken from the book, "Our Island Reminisces", by Margaret Messenger.
Capt Charles Anderson, father of Capt Ernest Anderson was an immigrant from Sweden (1857-1943), and is buried in Yarmouth 's historic Mountain Cemetery West.

Captain Ernest M. Anderson's Masters Certificate.

(All photos provided by Deloris Anderson)


Note from the author:

Captain Ernest Anderson was my father in law and from all accounts he was a good Captain, he had spent a lifetime on the ocean and was retired by the time I met him.

I often visited with him and Mrs. Anderson for tea when I was dating their son. He was a wonderful man, very kind to me, I liked him right away, he had a gentle way about him that it seemed as if you always knew him. He had more patience than anyone I have ever known. Just the word Captain and you think of someone of authority, in charge, I didn't know that side of him but he must have had to be in charge out in the Atlantic ocean with only a compass and sails to be in command during all the storms, the water is beautiful when it is calm, but he had to deal with waves that were mountain high when they came crashing over his ship, all hands had to be on high alert, with endurance to the stay the course, to do whatever it took to bring your crew safely home.

The war years must have also been hard and lonely times, taking the supplies and soldiers out to McNabb`s Island where they lived doing their job to keep the enemy out of Halifax Harbour, he stayed in a boarding house, away from his family for long periods of time but whenever possible Mrs. Anderson would visit him. Although he was not overseas doing battle, his contribution was just as important, besides by then he was in his fifties, and must have been getting tired, he had to be at the wheel, to do his part.

A few months after my husband and I began dating, we got engaged, his father had told him, you have a nice girl, you better hold on to her, or someone else will get her. He thought it was very good advise, and he certainly trusted his father's judgment from his years of experience and in his personal life.

After we married for awhile we lived with my husband's parents, and during this time he became like another father to me. I was very lucky, he did not have to say anything, I knew how much he cared about me. He also loved the children and was wonderful around them, when our daughter was born she brought joy in his life, he often held her on his lap while he played solitaire, he must have given her the cards, quite often we heard him say "get the dishpan" my daughter had dropped all the cards on the floor. I would pick them up and he started playing again.

My mother in law told me he sometimes went down to the barn to have a drink with his friends, she would go for him and he would not come, but she knew how to get him to come home, she would tell him one of the children wanted to see him and he came right away.

I used to sit in the evening and listen to his experiences at sea, about being found and picked up from being awash for days when he had to abandon his ship. At times he got emotional, I think it still bothered him that a crew member was lost overboard. Feeling helpless and not able to do anything about it, for he almost went over the sides himself had he not got hold of a rope in time. It must have taken a lot of courage to tell his family the sad news.

He loved to watch wrestling, he got so excited, his arms were moving and he would say "hit him or give it to him". It was fun just to watch him, he really enjoyed it. He made the best molasses cookies, he would put in ingredients and do the stirring , while his wife did the baking. He loved a lot of salt on his food no mater how much you put on in preparing it, he would load it down with salt, maybe it had something to do with all the salt water he must of tasted. They raised a large family it was hard especially during the depression years. They did well to take care of them it was by good management, making the children's clothes and having a cow for their milk and butter, making bread every day, and having a garden too.

My husband told me when they came from school they left their jacket on the floor, one morning they got up to go to school and they could not pick up their jacket, their father had nailed them to the floor. In later years his health began to fail, he had emphysema from all those years from the wet and cold on the ocean. I believed he enjoyed his life in the years that I knew him, they went in the summers to visit with their daughter and family on Digby Neck, he loved it up there, and he loved to travel around with them.

Through all the dangers he faced on the ocean, the worry of raising a family in those hard years, he did well to live to eighty three. I will forever remember him for his spirit of love and kindness. There were no navigational aids like radar and all electronics that are available today, they had so many factors to deal with, each voyage a new challenge, it took a lot of courage and common sense to leave the dock, somewhere in the back of your mind knowing you may never return.

I was proud of him for those were the days of wooden ships and iron men.

Deloris Anderson