June 14, 1890

The SS Portland undertakes her maiden voyage to Boston.

 

November 26, 1898 | 10:30 a.m.

The Weather Bureau orders red flags raised as storm signals along the eastern seaboard from Norfolk, Virginia to Eastport, Maine as a storm develops off of Cape Hatteras North Carolina.

November 26, 1898 | 12:00 p.m.

The Weather Bureau releases their forecast for the day.

 

November 26, 1898 | 5:30 p.m.

The Portland Steam Packet Co. general manager, John F. Liscomb, telephones from Portland and speaks with Boston agent of the line C.F. Williams. Captain Blanchard cannot be found at the time. Liscomb allegedly tells Williams to instruct Captain Blanchard to hold the Portland at its dock until nine p.m. and to not sail if the weather gets worse.

November 27, 1898 | 11:00 p.m.

Large quantities of wreckage from the Portland begin to wash ashore including doors, mattresses, light bulbs, chairs, and wooden panels. The wreckage is concentrated on the beach between the Race Point and Peaked Hill Bars Life Saving Stations.

 

November 29, 1898

The news of Portland’s fate is still unknown to the outside world. Officials at the Portland Steam Packet offices and the press still hold out hope that the ship may be found.

November 29, 1898 | 11:00 a.m.

Charles Ward arrives in Boston and makes his way through the snow bound streets to the office of the Boston Herald. He is physically exhausted from his strenuous and lengthy trip. He manages to tell the editor of the Herald that the Portland has been wrecked on Peaked Hill Bars and that all aboard are thought to have perished before he loses consciousness.

 

December 8, 1898

The Boston Globe sponsors an expedition headed by Navy Lieutenant Nicholas J. Halpine to attempt to ascertain the resting place of the SS Portland. A heavy chain is dragged between two tugboats where the ship is thought to have sunk, a sandbar named Peaked Hill Bar. After several days of searching, the Globe concludes that the Portland did not sink on Peaked Hill Bar. Over the years fishing trawlers bring a number of objects attributed to the Portland to the surface of Massachusetts Bay.

December 23, 1898

The first suit against the Portland Steam Packet Co. is filed. It claims that the company was negligent in allowing the Portland to proceed to sea despite the forecast of inclement weather. It also claims that the Portland’s safety equipment, life boats and life preservers, were insufficient. The suit is filed on behalf of Nathan Cohen whose son, Samuel, perished aboard the steamer. In the following months an additional 54 claims, totaling $494,626 in damages, will be filed against the company.

 

December 26, 1898

The Portland Steamship Co. denies all liability for the Portland tragedy and requests that the U.S. District Court in Portland recognize the company’s lack of liability in the disaster. District court judge Nathan B. Webb declines the plea.

May 16, 1899

The company’s limited liability suit begins in earnest. The company calls upon a long list of witnesses to testify to the Portland’s construction, her adequate safety equipment, and the ferocity of the gale in which she sank. After two days of testimony Judge Webb declares the loss of the Portland an, “act of God.” He orders the company to pay for some of their court costs and declares the case closed.

 

June 1945

New England’s greatest maritime historian, Edward R. Snow, launches his own expedition to find the gravesite of the lost steamer. He has been inspired by the recent discovery of items attributed to the Portland and found by fishermen while dragging in Massachusetts Bay. Snow believes that the wreck of the Portland sits on Peaked Hill Bar. Snow hires diver Al George to dive on what Snow believes to be the location of the doomed steamer. George discovers a wreck in the approximate location the Portland is believed to have sunk in. Snow is convinced that this wreckage is that of the Portland but others remain unconvinced.