CAPTAIN "ST. PETER" From "Des Islas" to Stonington:
The Story of Manuel Madeira and His Wife "Connie"
By Mary Madeira
(From Historical Footnotes, August 1973)
This story is almost as Mrs. Madeira wrote it, though it has been thought wise to condense the account of the first few years as she was too young to remember. As she says, -- "This story thus far is beyond my memory being four years of age. I, Connie's sister, Mamie, wrote it as was told me by our, dear mother. The next episodes that follow, I have written as I have lived it."
In Vila Franca do Campo on the Island of San Miguel in the Azores, in the year 1902, a young man named Manuel Madeira, a fisherman's son, was dreaming of going to America. His older sister Stella had gone the year before, was living in Stonington, Connecticut with her Aunt Gloria, and had married Marion Pont. Manuel was in love with Connie Costa, then fifteen years old. Her father was also a fisherman. Manuel and Connie and her parents made the dream come true.
The remainder is largely in her words but it has been necessary to shorten it. The title she gives to it follows:
THIS IS A STORY OF YOUNG LOVE AND MARRIAGE; BABIES AND BILLS; HEARTBREAK AND HAPPINESS; THE STORY OF A FISHERMAN'S INCREDIBLE COURAGE IN TIMES OF DISASTER
That same year Manuel, then seventeen, sailed for America with the hope that he could soon send for Connie, to join him and marry him. When he got to Stonington he moved in with his Aunt Gloria, and her husband got him a job with the Freight Steamboat Company which operated from the Steamboat Dock, later Longo's Dock, and now the Town Dock. He wrote to his girl, "Connie, this beautiful America is heaven on earth compared to the old country."
Two years later he wrote to Connie's parents,* "Glad to say that I am all paid up with my mother for my trip expenses, and I have saved enough money for Connie and I to get married. All I ask of you both is your consent to your daughter's coming to America and to marry me."
*Connie's father's name was Joseph Bolerinho Costa. Her mother's name was Agnes.
In another letter he sent Connie thirty dollars and told her that he had some money saved up and that Aunt Gloria had two extra rooms which they could have.
Connie's parents, however, would not agree to her coming alone, and finally decided to come with her. They sailed in March 1904, and on arrival went to Aunt Gloria's house; but not long after, the Costas and Manuel moved to two apartments on Cross Street. Manuel and Connie were married January 1, 1905. She was then 18.
Manuel continued to work at the Freight Steamboat Dock, and Mr. Costa got a job fishing with Fred Ostman, who owned a boat, and also a fish market. It was the only one in town. Connie's mother took in boarders and they were all able to get along. On November 2, 1906, Connie's first child was born and christened Manuel Madeira, Jr.
The Blizzard of 1908 and a Tragedy in the Madeira Family
Now Mary Madeira tells the story.
"In early December of 1907, a very cold Sunday morning, I was running home from Sunday school, when I saw outside of our front door, Dr. Brayton's horse and buggy. I ran up the back stairs very excited and said, "Dad, who's sick? Where's Ma?"
"Your mother is downstairs," he said, "Connie isn't feeling very well, but she will be all right."
It was two o'clock in the afternoon when mother came up and told us that Connie had given birth to another boy. On Christmas day the new baby was christened and named Joseph.
Manuel and Connie's apartment was on the first floor. Being near the water, it was very cold and damp. The room they slept in was on the north side of the house. During the winter months, she would hang newspapers on the walls and windows to absorb the moisture. The large kitchen stove burned wood during the day, and coal at night.
When the weather got really cold, bricks were put in the oven during the day, and before bed time they were wrapped in flannel and put between the covers at the foot of the beds. Manuel, Jr. slept between his mother and father, and baby Joe in his rocking cradle.
In February, two months after baby Joe was born, a blizzard* dumped at least two feet of snow and paralyzed our town. It started to snow early in the morning. By noon it was very cold and a gale of wind blew the snow in all directions. Manuel and Dad were preparing for the worst. They went to the market and bought extra food and kerosene. When they came back they said it was the worst storm they had ever seen. Night came, still snowing, the windows were blinded with snow. At nine o'clock in the evening, Dad set the alarm clock at 4:00 a.m. and went to bed. I remember so well, Connie putting a woolen cap and mittens on baby Joe and an extra blanket over him in the cradle. It was 9:45 p.m. We bade good-night, came upstairs and went to bed. At 4:00 in the morning Dad's alarm clock rang. I awoke, I could hear them shaking the ashes in the stove and tapping on the water pipes which were frozen. There was no water for coffee, but Dad managed to make a little with the water in the kettle. Suddenly we heard Connie screaming hysterically from downstairs. Dad ran down and Mother got up and ran. after him. I was in a daze, thinking it was a fire, and followed them. There was Connie with baby Joe dead in her arms. Manuel was crying with Manuel, Jr. on his lap.
*The blizzard of 1908 is still remembered.
Manuel had set the alarm on midnight to take care of the fire in the stove, Connie awoke, picked up baby Joe, changed and nursed him and then put him back in his cradle. When Connie awoke she noticed baby Joe wasn't breathing, and was blue in the face. When she picked him up he was stiff. Mother took the baby away from Connie and laid him on the bed and said, "How on earth are we going to get a doctor with no telephone and the blizzard outside?"
"Dear God," she said, "help us get through this ordeal."
At day-break, Manuel got dressed in his fishing clothes and started out to the back door. The wind had drifted a bank of snow outside the doorway and he couldn't make his way through. He came in and got two shovels.
Dad and Manuel made a path to the gate. By now it had stopped snowing, but the snow had drifted and it was freezing cold. They came in and started figuring out how they were going to get water to start breakfast.
They went down the cellar and made torches with kerosene and rags and in a short while we had some water, so mother started the coffee.
After breakfast Manuel and Dad went out and shoveled some more. At 7:00 a.m. Manuel left for the doctor.
An hour later, Manuel and Dr. Brayton came in exhausted. The doctor, went to the sink to wash his hands. When he saw the faucet just dripping he turned around and said, "What happened here?" We explained, including the torches.
He then went into the bedroom where the baby lay and examined him. He told us that the baby had died of exposure. He looked around and noticed the windows and walls covered with newspapers and said, "It's a wonder you people haven't died of pneumonia with this dampness."
Connie, heartbroken, was trying to explain in broken English what had happened during the night. The doctor patted Connie on the shoulder and said, "don't cry, my dear, God will give you more babies, just make sure you move out of this house before the next baby comes."
The doctor signed the baby's death certificate and said, "When I get home I'll call the undertaker and let him take over from here. I doubt if a funeral can take place at once. Usually, I make my calls by horse and buggy but the way it looks, I'll have to make them on foot for some time."
There was no funeral and it was some time before the baby was buried.
A Fisherman's Life
Manuel and Dad had decided to fish together, and bought a lobster boat,* and in the summer they would go out for lobsters. The winters were severe but when the weather permitted they fished with hand lines and trawls. Most of their spare time was spent building lobster pots and making twine funnels and other equipment for the pots. This sort of fishing went on for several years.
*An open boat with a gas engine -- probably a Lathrop.
I remember one cold and windy day, when Manuel and Dad were returning from fishing, they had had a rough time coming ashore. Dad came in half frozen, rubbing his ears and face. His feet were stiff and cold. Mother helped him remove his newspaper-lined boots, when suddenly I heard mother say, "Oh, my God. What has happened to your fur?" She was referring to his icicled mustache. Dad replied, "Well, you see, my southwester sprung a leak and it froze!"
In the late fall (1908) we moved to another two-apartment house on Cross Street. Connie was pregnant again.
With the winter coming, the hazards that Manuel and Dad had experienced the year before had taught them a lesson. They tried to figure out ways of better living through the hard winter months. Just before Thanksgiving they took a walk to the country, looked up a farmer, and bought a pig, and left it there to fatten up.
A week before Christmas the pig was butchered. Connie and Mother made sausages with the hams; we had salt pork for baked beans and lard for homemade breads.
After Christmas, the codfish and hake were coming in. Dad and Manuel went clamming. They opened them and saved a gallon for chowder and the rest was for bait. When the catch was too small to ship, they brought the fish home, cleaned and salted them down. In a few days the fish was tied by the tails and hung up to dry in the sun.
We enjoyed many dinners of codfish cakes and red beans. Farmers came around and sold potatoes very cheap, so we always had enough. We never had any trouble storing food for the winter because the cellar was below freezing.
Connie and Mother each bought a 150-lb. barrel of flour which they kept in the pantry. Homemade bread and jams were a favorite the year round in our house. Mid-February Connie gave birth to her third son, Joseph, named for the second one that died. The ocean had frozen about 18 inches deep from the dock to the inner breakwater and to Sandy Point.* The fishermen walked on the ice, broke holes with spears, and fished for eels. The kids had a grand time sliding for many weeks. The weather kept the boats tied up, and the skippers had lots of sawing and chopping to do to keep the fires burning.
*This must have been 1909 (Editor).
December 8, 1910, Connie gave birth to her first daughter, baptized on Christmas day. She was named Mary. Next spring Manuel's boat had become weather beaten and needed a big repair job. With three children to support, he and his wife took jobs at the Atwood Machine Company, and he decided to go fishing only in-between and weekends. Dad made a few dollars making hoop nets for different fishermen, and mother kept busy with her boarders.
Manuel was a healthy young man but the indoor work did not suit him, and the doctor advised him to go back to outdoor work. He had saved a few dollars and made arrangements for the repairs on his boat. In June he quit his job and went back to fishing. Dad had built the lobster pots and funnels during the winter months. Winter came, hardships, same as ever.
It was a windy, freezing cold Valentine's Day. The tide was very low and Manuel and Dad, had gone clamming. On my way home from school, I had Junior by the hand, and we were hurrying to show off our valentines. As I opened the door, Connie stopped me short, "Mamie," she said, "don't take your coat off. Go quickly and call Dr. Thurber, Manuel has a very bad earache." He was walking the floor with his hands over his ears. I went as fast as I could. Dr. Thurber came in, took one look at Manuel and said, "you haven't got an earache, but something much more painful. Your ears are frost-bitten and I'm afraid it will be a few hours before you will get any relief. The doctor gave Manuel a sedative which quieted him for a while, but late at night, Manuel was walking the floor and infection had set in in one of his ears. It took much pain and many calls to the doctor before he was able to resume his work. Dad, always a gracious helping hand, took over the chores and kept the fires going.
One Saturday afternoon I was helping Dad pile wood outside and we both came in the house with an armful of wood. Dad looked very tired and sat in a chair near the table, rolling a cigarette and said to mother, "Agnes, has it ever occurred to you that the Old Country was our America? All the way."
Mother, pouring Dad's coffee with a sad grin, said, "Yes, it was but the good Lord has given us the strength, love and devotion of a united family, for our sacrifice."
On April 18, 1912 Dad passed away very suddenly of a heart attack. During the eight years of life in America, he took the strain of his hardships with much grace. He was a kind and most loving father in every respect. His sudden death meant great shock and grief to our whole family. Manuel lost a reliable, honest and a loyal partner.
The funeral was by horse and carriage. Connie, near the end of another pregnancy, insisted on attending the funeral. Being the first I had experienced, the sad ordeal still lives in my memory.
Besides the work that mother had with her boarders, she also carried the extra load of the housekeeping, washing, cooking, and nursing during Connie's confinements.
The only time mother had to herself was when we both would walk a mile to the Cemetery on Sundays, and when the flowers were in bloom, we would carry beautiful bouquets to decorate Dad's grave.
In May, a few weeka after Dad passed on, the repair job on Manuel's boat was finished, and he took the chance of lobster fishing by himself through the summer months, but in the fall he decided to haul the boat for the winter, and a week before Thanksgiving got a job on a large fishing boat owned by Captain Con. Smith. In the spring of 1913 he sold his lobster boat and put the cash he received aside with the hopes that some day he would build himself a good sized boat.
I was in my last year of grammar school and often went to Manuel's sister Stella's. I babysat, did errands, and helped her with ironing. One day she read me a letter she had received from her brother Joseph, fifteen years old, who lived back home in the Azores. The more I saw Stella, the more I learned about Joseph. Then Manuel received a letter from Joseph, asking his advice about coming to America. He wrote back and told him he thought it was a good idea, and that he would try and get him a job in the factory.
It was near Christmas and I was running errands for Connie and Stella. One afternoon while I was helping Stella put up some curtains, she said, "Mamie, I like you very much, and someday, I think you would make a very good wife for my brother Joe. I expect him very soon and when you meet him I'm sure you will like him."
Mother and Connie carried on the old tradition of celebrating Christmas with an altar with the infant Jesus decorated with green wheat plants and lit candles. Connie had five children and mother worked very hard to make Christmas a happy one for the children's sake and as a memorial of Dad.
On New Year's Eve Stella told Connie that she was expecting Joseph, and was getting a room ready for him. In the meantime, Manuel's mother wrote Manuel and said that Joseph was leaving the Azores on the 15th of January for America in the company of Mr. Curt, a neighbor from Stonington, who had gone to the Azores for a visit.
On January 21, 1913, Connie heard a knock at her back door and who should walk in but Joseph and Mr. Curt. Many happy greetings were exchanged.
Two weeks after Joe arrived in America he started to work at the Atwood Machine Company. He was living with his sister Stella. He enjoyed his job, but had high hopes of being a fisherman, like his brother Manuel.
Manuel was known as a hard and honest worker throughout his community, and with his good credit didn't have much trouble in having his fishing boat built, to be paid on time. He and Joseph discussed the fishing until Joseph decided to quit his job at the factory. Manuel's boat was ready for fishing in the spring of 1914, and he named it "Mamie" after his first daughter.
Joseph was a strong and reliable young man and enjoyed fishing very much. He got along well with his brother. I was working in the American Velvet Mill Company and Joseph was living with his sister Stella.
Mother worked hard for her boarders and many times I heard them praise her cooking and baking. She taught me how to mix bread, until I was able to mix it for Connie.
One evening I went downstairs to mix bread with my dust cap on and rolled sleeves. I had mixed the flour and the ingredients in a large pan when Joseph popped in. I was pounding and kneading. He stood watching me and said, "My, you're working awfully hard. Can I help you? My Dad always helped my Mother pound her bread." I gave him no answer but that was the quickest mixing I ever did, and blushing besides.
We are sorry that we cannot continue Mamie's account of Joe's courtship, which was long and persistent. The second time that he proposed he was accepted, and they were married in 1916.
"After our marriage mother got rid of her boarders and we lived with her. It was a double marriage relationship (two daughters married to two brothers). We lived as a whole happy family. Now that Joseph was living on the second floor, Manuel made a habit of tapping the ceiling with the broomstick under our bed when it was time to go fishing.
Mr. Sylvia, another crew member, was called by a knock on his bedroom window a few houses away. They dragged for flat fish and flounder until late fall.
Christmas came and our whole family enjoyed a happy holiday. After the holidays codfish were starting to come in, so Manuel decided to get his trawl fishing gear ready. He went to the mill and bought twine and fish hooks. They bought four sugar barrels which were sawed in half to make eight tubs of trawls. Each tub consisted of a half-mile length of twine and every nine feet a three-foot snoot,* was tied to the main line with a No. 9 hook at its end.
*A snoot was the short drop line from the main trawl line. That was the word commonly used here. It is interesting to find that the Oxford Dictionary contains an old English word SNOOD for this line.
The tubs were painted green and each trawl had a signal flag. The trawls were set a half a mile apart. After the trawls were hauled they went to Newport and then dragged for mussel bait which they brought home and put in a floating bait car.
Each day after the fishermen came in, fresh bait was opened. It took many hours of work before they finished. I remember some nights Joe got to bed after midnight and was up at 4:00 a.m. next morning for fishing. Help was hired many nights to bait the trawls.
During Lent market prices were good and the fishermen put in many long hours and made a fair living.
The weather was judged by the fishermen and when not too promising they would wait around sipping cups of coffee until the wind shifted or calmed down. When the weather permitted the men went out at once.
Wednesday, March 24, 1917
(A Fateful Day)
The weather was still and calm, the fishermen, Manuel, Joe and Mr. Sylvia got up at 4:00 a.m. as usual. They got to the fishing grounds, eight miles southwest of Watch Hill at 7:00 a.m. Four tubs were set from the boat by Mr. Sylvia, and four tubs from the dory by Manuel and Joe. After the gear was set, Mr. Sylvia picked up Manuel and Joe from the dory. After a wait of one and one-half hours Manuel went out again in the dory to haul the trawls.
By mid-morning the weather became gray. The low clouds raced through an overcast of haze. Towards noon it started to snow with fog patches. Visibility was poor and the fog horns blew steadily. At three o'clock in the afternoon the snow and fog were very thick; Mother and I went downstairs to Connie's. She had a worried look and said, "These foghorns are driving me crazy; I hope the boys are in from fishing."
"Don't worry," mother said, "The good Lord is with them."
Connie was busy doing some cooking when Stella came in and sat down quietly. Connie felt that something was wrong, and she and Mother went down to the dock.
Stella told me that her husband had come home very worried, and explained that due to the heavy fog and snow, Mr. Sylvia and Joe could not find Manuel when they went to pick him up from the dory. They were low on gas and decided to come in and fill extra gasoline containers, wait until the fog lifted a little, and then leave to search for Manuel some more.
Mother and Connie didn't get to the dock. Stella's husband met them halfway and said he was going with Mr. Sylvia and Joe on the boat to look for Manuel. The news had leaked out somehow. When Connie's oldest son came home from school he caught his mother crying and said, "I know Daddy is lost in the dory. Don't cry Ma. I'm going on the boat and help find my father."
We had a good view of the ocean from our back porch. At 5 p.m. the fog had lifted somewhat. It had stopped snowing and visibility had improved.
Mother went upstairs and came down with the statue of the Blessed Virgin and placed it on a bureau in Connie's bedroom. She left a lighted holy candle and said, "Connie, you have got to get a hold of yourself, crying isn't going to find Manuel, but praying will." She got the four oldest children together, Connie and I and on our knees mother told the children to repeat after her.
"Dear Mother of God; We love you very much, just like we love our Daddy. Please protect him and bring him back safe to us. Amen."
Night came upon us -- the skies were clear and beautiful. The moon shone on the still blue seas; a sign of hope of finding a loved one for a wife and six children. By seven o'clock good neighbors and friends, merchants, storekeepers, and fishermen came to the house and offered to help in any way they could. The gathering of people got to be a congregation of sorrow, waiting for a lost one to return.
Shortly after 10 p.m. the men came back, and Joe said he and the fishermen had searched for hours unsuccessfully.
The crowd left at midnight. I was heating some milk for Joe when suddenly he said, "Mamie, don't tell Connie my brother forgot the oars and left them on the boat. The only thing I can think of that would help him paddle along is a bailer that he carries in the dory. It could be possible that my brother was picked up by a steamer."
Two other captains had volunteered to go in their boats to search for Manuel the following morning, so Joe set the clock at 4 a.m. and we went to bed. Mother had stayed overnight with Connie and the children.
CAPT. MANUEL MADEIRA LOST AT SEA EIGHT MILES SOUTHEAST OF WATCH HILL, IN A DORY, WHILE HAULING HIS TRAWLS IN THICK FOG AND SNOW.
It was a bright and beautiful morning when Joe left with the other two boats. Mid-morning, friends and neighbors came and brought food and tried to console Connie. Reporters came for information. By late afternoon a crowd had gathered to wait for the boats to come in.
Eight o'clock in the evening Joe walked in exhausted, slumped in a chair and broke down again. "God only knows," he said, "I've tried so hard to find my brother, but I still have hopes that he either landed or was picked up."
Connie had given up hopes of ever seeing her husband alive again. It was now nearly two days and two nights with no word or even a clue from anyone, anywhere.
I left the crowd and went upstairs with Joe to get him some supper. Connie came in crying, "Mamie," she said, "Where does mother keep her clothes?" I found her a loose-fitting black skirt and a black blouse and a black kerchief for her head. She and I went downstairs and sat down on the couch and she said, "I consider myself a widow, and this is the only way I can express the feeling and respect I have for my dear husband."
The crowd left at 11 o'clock, Joe and I at midnight. We were getting ready for bed and I looked at Joe and said, "Tonight when mother and I and the children were praying to the Virgin I noticed the candle flame was so bright and tall, I have a feeling that your brother is alive."
"Only God can perform miracles," Joe said.
CAPT. MADEIRA STILL MISSING AFTER SEARCHING OFF SHORE FROM WATCH HILL TO MONTAUK AND LONG ISLAND.
It was a beautiful sunny morning. After breakfast, Joe left for the dock and I went downstairs.
In a short while, Connie came into the kitchen in a cheerful way and said, "Ma, I had a dream of Manuel coming home. Looking up to the skies she said, "Oh, dear God, have mercy on us and protect Manuel, wherever he is."
Mother, busy at the stove preparing dinner, said, "Connie, you better have something to eat before the crowd starts gathering."
"Mother," she said, "those children are out there playing so happily as though nothing has happened."
"Well," Mother said, "that is a good omen. Innocent angels have premonitions. They believe their daddy is coming home to them."
It was 4 p.m. Mother had made a large kettle of coffee, and asked me to serve it. I was getting the cups ready, when a knock came at the kitchen door and William Clay walked in excited and overjoyed. "Mannie has been found!" He handed me a telegram which read: Capt. Madeira landed safe at Fort Pond Bay, Long Island. Come with boat and warm clothing Saturday noon March 27.
Connie fainted with shock and was revived with smelling salts. The news had spread outside and in no time people from everywhere came in laughing, singing, and dancing, a scene like the end of the war.
We couldn't wait to get up in the morning to clear up the mess of the jamboree, but Connie was already back at the stove, cooking chicken rice soup, Manuel's favorite dish. We made beds, scrubbed floors and got the house all dolled up ready for the groom to meet the bride. At 10 o'clock Joe came in and told us he had built a new fire in the stove on the boat, and came for warm clothing and blankets; then he left with Mr. Sylvia and Marion Pont to pick up Manuel at Fort Pond Bay, a two-hour trip. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon a crowd had gathered at the dock waiting for Manuel's homecoming.
Father Lynch, the pastor of the St. Mary's Church, came with a large bag of groceries. He thought that Manuel was home. He chatted with us for a while and when he left he said he would drop in again. At three o'clock someone hollered from outside, "THE BOAT IS COMING IN!" Some of the people who had gathered in the house ran to the dock. The boat docked and Manuel came home assisted by his brother and Marion Pont. He was wrapped in blankets and his legs were bandaged. He was put to bed. Connie embraced him and both broke down hysterically. "Oh, dear God!" he said, "I can't believe its true, I'm finally home with my family." The children surrounded him, kissing him. He was tired and exhausted. Dr. Thurber was called and after he examined him he said, "Mannie, you need a lot of rest in bed, at least a week, and lots of fresh eggs and milk." I walked with Dr. Thurber to the front door and he told me that he was sure that Manuel's legs had been frost bitten. He said he would come and remove the bandages in a few days. Mr. West, the milkman brought in 4 quarts of milk and fresh eggs daily for two weeks without charge. Mr. Perry, a nearby farmer, donated potatoes, turnips and vegetables. Neighbors and friends brought in what little they had or what they could spare. Mr. Seidner, a merchant, fitted the children with shoes and clothing.
Connie, very happy, was congratulated with embraces and kisses by all who came in. They brought their own drinks and made a merry and jolly time of the good news.
Mother said to Connie, "You are no longer a widow! Let's go upstairs and change." When she came back, she looked so refreshed and pretty with her blonde wavy hair combed in a bob. Weak but very happy, Connie was the picture of the dream she had the night before. This open house and reception lasted until midnight. When the crowd finally left and we were by ourselves, we joined together in prayer to the Blessed Virgin and thanked humbly the miracle that the good Lord had brought us.
After a few days of bed rest, though his legs were bandaged, Manuel was up and around again.
THIS IS THE STORY I HEARD FROM MANUEL HIMSELF
"Wednesday between 7 and 8 a.m. with mild overcast skies, my brother Joe and Antone Sylvia left me off the boat in the dory at the fishing grounds about 8 miles southwest of Watch Hill. There were three tubs of trawls aboard and Joe and Sylvia left for the other fishing grounds to set the remaining tubs.
I set all my gear and by the time I had finished the wind had picked up and changed to easterly, bringing in fog. I decided to hand the gear earlier than usual. I was on my last trawl when I heard the fog horn blowing; the wind had increased with heavy fog and snow flurries. Visibility was poor and I had lost sight of the boat. As the time passed things grew worse.
I knew my brother was searching for me because I could hear the sound of the engine circling around me. I kept hollering out to them, but it was impossible for them to hear me between the noise from the engine and the fog horn.
It was mid-afternoon and I lost sound of the engine so I figured the gas had run low and the boat had left for port to refuel. At this point, adrift in heavy fog and snow I needed much faith and courage. I clutched a scapular that I always wore around my neck, and kissing the crucifix I prayed for strength to fight for my life for the sake of my dear wife and six loved children.
I had hauled two bushels of heavy codfish from the trawls which helped to keep the dory in trim. I had no oars, my only equipment was a bailer.
When it got dark I became panicky and rolled one cigarette after another until I noticed I was getting short on matches. With God as my only companion, I had one thought in mind and that was to try to get to an island. I took the bailer and paddled the dory towards the west. It must have been about midnight when I finally landed. I got out of the dory and pulled it into shore as far as I could. I took walks along the snow covered sand to keep from freezing and then came back to the dory to wait for daybreak with a prayer in my heart. When daybreak came my spirits lifted. It had stopped snowing, the winds had diminished and the visibility was good.
I had landed on Gardiners Island, New York. I walked along the shore and lit a cigarette with my last match. Looking across to Long Island I could see Fort Pond Bay about 8 to 10 miles distant. I thought my only chance of being rescued was to try to reach it. I went back to the dory and pulled her along the shore towards the west, which gave me a fair wind towards Fort Pond Bay. This was Thursday.
During this trip I made many stops to rest and sucked snowballs to quench my thirst. Tired and exhausted, I decided to stay ashore for the night.
I took walks around the snow covered island to keep the circulation in my legs.
At one time I fell asleep, but by some miracle I was awakened by noises of deer running in the woods. Other than for them I would have frozen to death.
Friday at daybreak, with beautiful clear skies, my weakness was becoming extreme and I felt as though I couldn't survive another long cold dreary night on this deserted island.
Throughout my mind was the picture of my dearly beloved ones back home suffering through this terrible experience. Determined to fight, I prayed, kissing the crucifix.
"Dear Jesus, give me strength; direct and guide me."
With this prayer in my heart I regained some of my courage. God had performed a miracle within me.
I could feel my legs swelling, but managed to walk slowly to the snow-covered woods. I found a long stick and dragged both it and me back to the dory. Here I rested, while with my jack-knife I cut some twine from the trawls. I tied the sleeves of my oil coat to the stick and made a sail with the body of the coat. With fair winds, the bailer to paddle with, and a prayer, I left Gardiner's Island on my way to Fort Pond Bay.
Around noon, I spotted a shack on the shore from quite a distance and decided to land the dory there. At this point my legs had become weak and when I started to walk towards the shack they couldn't carry me. I stumbled and fell on my knees.
I was trying to pick myself up when I saw two people running towards me. When they reached me I cried with relief. They lifted me by the arms and practically carried me through the snow to their shack. The good gentleman removed my heavy clothing, boots and socks, while his wife was getting a bed ready. I was put to bed with a hot water bottle and given some brandy.
Manuel continues at some length about his rescue, but we fear that it is necessary to cut it down. When he told the people his story, he found that they had seen the dory approaching with a very peculiar sail and thought that there must be something wrong. They then had sent for a doctor. That was at 2:30 p.m. on Friday.
The doctor told Manuel that he was very weak from exposure and that he must stay in bed until Saturday noon. He helped write out the telegram to his family which was sent right away. Manuel offered to pay the doctor but he said, "Forget about the call, your brother will be here to pick you up tomorrow; call a doctor as soon as you get home and take good care of yourself."
"I thanked him and offered to give him some of the codfish I had aboard the dory. Laughing he told me he would appreciate it very much, and if I would leave them he would pick them up later.
I pulled through a hectic night with much pain in my legs, but finally got some sleep before daybreak and slept through until 9:30 that morning, Saturday, feeling much better.
After I got up, which was very painful on account of my badly swollen legs and hands, I had some light breakfast and rested until my friends saw the boat coming. I offered the man the codfish in my dory which he said they would be delighted to have.
I was lying on the couch when they came back from the boat with my brother Joe, Pont, my brother-in-law and Sylvia. Joe threw his arms around me, crying with joy. Sobbing I cried out "How are Connie and kids?" "Don't worry," my brother said, "everyone is all right."
The crew gave many thanks to my friends and carried me wrapped in blankets to the dory. I noticed that this dory had a pair of oars. As soon as we reached the boat I fell fast asleep on the bunk.
When I awoke, I felt as if I had been through a long nightmare. My brother-in-law came in the cabin with a glass of whiskey for me and said, "Mannie, welcome home and thank God!!! This is from the crew to you with best of luck."
Then the boat docked and with a sigh of relief I thought to myself, "Dear God, thank you for everything you have done for me."
I could never explain in words how excited and happy I was to see a crowd that looked to be the whole town of Stonington, waiting and rejoicing at my return. I was helped out of the boat, with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, and with the help of my brother and Pont was able to walk home.
At the house another group of people were rejoicing outside. At the door coming in I was embraced by my dear wife and children; a reunion that will live in my memory forever.
Mary Madeira Resumes the Story
"Sunday, mid-afternoon, while still sick in bed, Manuel was greeted with a welcome-home celebration from a large gathering of friends. They dragged the dory from the dock, with the sail and bailer, to the front of the house, a symbol of the miracle that had saved his life. A band had gathered outside and played some all-time favorites, such as; "I Had a Dream" and "It's a Long Way To Tipperary" and many others. It was getting dark so the crowd moved inside singing old folks' songs accompanied by guitar, mandolin, and banjo. The people danced a Portuguese Chamarita. Beer, wine, and sweet bread were served throughout the evening. Manuel, though tired, was awake and happy through the entire celebration and gave his thanks to these wonderful and goodhearted people when they left.
Two weeks later, in honor of Manuel, a seafood benefit supper was organized by the fishermen and their wives. Clam and fish chowder, sweet bread, and corn meal bread and drinks were served. The benefit ended in a jamboree and all proceeds were donated to Manuel. During the following three weeks, while under Dr. Thurber's care, Connie's nursing, and rest, he returned to normal. Joe, however, became timid from what had happened and refused to go fishing for a while.
CAPTAIN ST. PETER
In early spring of 1923 Manuel had his boat built at the Franklin Post Shipyard in Mystic and it was named ST. PETER.
Dragging involved heavy expenses and much difficulty in keeping the nets mended. This was one of the tedious jobs that kept Manuel busy on his days ashore. With this thought in mind, he prepared himself with an extra net aboard, in case he would hang up or lose the entire equipment, which happened quite often.
The ST. PETER, along with the rest of the Stonington Fleet, was docked at Bindloss's Dock on Water Street. On Fridays the fleet would come in to get ready for their next week's fishing, to share their week's catches, and restock their supplies for the following week.
Manuel, as the skipper, always made it his job to keep his nets in the best of shape. He gave the crew, (his sons), the sharing and restocking jobs, and tended to mending his nets, while making jolly wise cracks and giggling with jokes, under the sunny skies of these brisk and chilly days.
An interested magazine reporter, that happened to be on the dock, took pleasure in snapping a picture of Manuel mending his nets. Other fishermen watched in order to learn how to do it.