Re­mem­ber­ing vic­tims of The Fanny

A com­mem­o­ra­tive plaque to be un­veiled in Hant’s Har­bour for seven dead crew­men


Tak­ing a walk along the main road of Hant’s Har­bour, Trin­ity Bay, can be a re­minder to some of old New­found­land, when fish­er­man were plenty and the smell of salt wa­ter was al­ways in the air.

The road twists and turns along the coast­line, where the Wil­low Tree Mu­seum has be­come a pop­u­lar tourism des­ti­na­tion to those who visit.

Con­tin­u­ing down the road, the United Church is on the left hand side. A small lane runs be­side it, and it is a steep climb.

Half way up the hill is a clear­ing, slightly over­grown, with rocks placed strate­gi­cally through­out. They are grave mark­ers.

Those who have climbed through the tall grass and weeds and ma­neu­vered around the rocks have no­ticed an old, large wil­low tree, still flour­ish­ing.

Be­hind the tree are sev­eral tomb­stones, the only ones in the ceme­tery. And among the stones are more grave mark­ers. It is here the bod­ies of seven men who died at sea were buried.

Many in the town know the story of how those men, who were from a town called Trin­ity across the bay, were ship­wrecked, and their bod­ies re­cov­ered from an un­for­giv­ing sea.

It’s a story that has been told for gen­er­a­tions, and one the towns­folk of Hant’s Har­bour, Trin­ity Bay hold close.

Keep­ing mem­o­ries alive

A schooner called The Fanny was was caught in a win­ter storm in 1835, and rem­nants of the wreck washed up along the shores of Hant’s Har­bour.

The skip­per was Ben Breddy, the owner Wil­liam Kel­son Ju­nior, and crewmem­bers were John Heyter, Jonathon Miller, John Shep­pard, John Steven­son and James Swyers. All lost their lives in the dis­as­ter.

In 1994, the Wil­low Tree His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety was formed. It has since cre­ated and main­tained the mu­seum and en­sured the ceme­tery re­mained pre­sentable.

The name comes from a gift re­ceived by the town from El­iz­a­beth Kel­son, wife of the late Wil­liam Kel­son Ju­nior, in 1937. Records show it is the same tree that is found to­day in the ceme­tery.

The group has kept the mem­ory of those on board alive and en­sured the story of the ship­wreck was pre­served through the mu­seum. It hopes to con­tinue with the ad­di­tion of a plaque in mem­ory of the dead sea­men in the ceme­tery in front of the wil­low tree.

Call for rel­a­tives

The plaque un­veil­ing cer­e­mony, which will take place Satur­day, Aug. 16, was some­thing the so­ci­ety felt nec­es­sary.

“The plaque is to re­mem­ber the seven lives lost in the wreck of The Fanny,” so­ci­ety mem­ber Doris Short told The Com­pass.

The so­ci­ety would like to see fam­ily mem­bers of the de­ceased at­tend the event, but so far they have not found any.

“We know (Kel­son) had two daugh­ters, Fran­cis, who The Fanny was named af­ter, and Mary,” Short ex­plained.

There are, how­ever, de­scen­dants of an­other man con­nected to the wreck, Richard Pel­ley, who are still in Hant’s Har­bour.

Pel­ley vol­un­teered to be low­ered in a home­made leather wrap down the em­bank­ment where the bod­ies were found in 1835. He wrapped each body, and other vol­un­teers lifted them up.

Len Pel­ley, hus­band to mem­ber of the so­ci­ety, Ger­tie Pel­ley, is his de­scen­dant.

The so­ci­ety is still reach­ing out to those in the Trin­ity area, and be­yond, who have con­nec­tions to the wreck and want to be a part of the cer­e­mony next month.

Those who would like to be a part of this his­toric event, or be­lieve they are de­scen­dants of the crew­men, can con­tact the so­ci­ety at 5862335, or email wil­lowtreeso­ci­

For more on the tragedy, visit new­found­land­ship­

This sign lo­cated in the Wil­low Tree Her­itage Ceme­tery in Hant’s Har­bour, Trin­ity Bay will soon be re­placed with a plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing The Fanny, a schooner from 1835. All seven on board per­ished in a win­ter storm.

Pho­tos by Melissa Jenk­ins/The Com­pass

The bod­ies of the dead crew­man were buried at this site, where the wil­low tree now stands.

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