|Darling Lake (Y) : Six Kilometers North of Yarmouth. This
community was named in the 1790s by a member of the garrison at Annapolis,
Colonel Michael Ashley Darling. On an inspection trip to Yarmouth,
he camped at this location, liked the scenery and called it Darling Lake.
*from the book "Place Names of Atlantic Canada" Ref 917.16 HAM in the Western Counties Regional Library*
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Research: Olga Neal
(This story is included in full in the 1988 Pottersfield Press book, At the Harbour Mouth, by Archibald MacMechan (1862-1933). This true account was first published in Old Province Tales in 1924 by McClelland & Stewart. We are grateful to Lesley Choyce, Editor and Publisher of Pottersfield Press, for permission to abridge and quote from the story.)
Lovitts, Canns and Killams, Hatfields, Cooks and Churchills have sailed out of Yarmouth in command of ships since the 1760s. One such Master Mariner was George "Rudder" Churchill who, at age 29, was captain of the 1459-ton full-rigged ship Research.
Research was built in Yarmouth in 1861 by Thomas Killam, merchant, and our story begins on November 10th, 1866, when she sailed from Quebec with a cargo of timber bound for Glasgow, Scotland. Besides the timber in her hold, her decks were laden with deals (boards sawn from fir and pine), lashed and wedged together into an immovable mass.
Capt. Churchill's nephew, Aaron Flint Churchill, age 16, was first mate and - as MacMechan describes him - "he had already been two years at sea, and he was second in command by virtue of his ability, and not by any Board of Trade certificate." George Marshall, another Yarmouthian, and "every inch a sailor", was boatswain. These, then, were the officers in charge of the crew of the Killam ship, Research.
Safe out of the St. Lawrence River, past the Straits of Belle Isle, by November 26th the vessel was well into the Atlantic Ocean when the barometer fell to 28 , sure sign of a pending storm. The captain ordered sail reduced to close-reefed topsails and the ship made ready to present least resistance to wind. It wasn't until the next day that the "tempest broke. Out of the northwest it came, a typical winter storm from the frozen Pole.
"It ripped the three topsails from the yards and flung them on the waves, leaving only streamers of canvas whipping from the bolt-ropes. A tremendous sea struck the rudder and broke the rudder- stock . . . and the same deadly blow snapped the half-inch links of the rudder-chains." The ship was now out of control. "Without a sail, without a rudder, the Research drove helplessly before the winter storm."
Attempts were made to hobble the rudder, to no avail. Next, the order was given to lighten the ship aft and some of the deal masses were undone and the wooden planks cast overboard. This put the stern higher than the bow and it was, by the morning of the 26th, "sufficiently elevated to permit tackles being fastened to the ring-bolt on the back of the rudder." The young first mate was the man called to do the job. Aaron Churchill stripped to the buff, on a deck covered with frozen spray, and went over the side in a double bowline. This meant having "one loop round the thighs, the second under one armpit, and over the opposite shoulder. Each loop draws against the other, and the knot is just over the heart, leaving both hands free."
The youth was lowered into water with a temperature near freezing-point. "With one hand he held the tackle, a hooked block, or pulley, through which ropes ran. The hook must be slipped through the ring" with one hand, while the other hand was needed "to save himself from being battered to death against the side . . . of the vessel.
"After an hour and a half of incredible labour, he succeeded in hooking one tackle into the ring- bolt. He was hauled up on board insensible and laid out on the deck to recover. Half a pint of brandy was poured down his throat. Slowly he revived, slowly his strength returned; and then — he went down over the side . . . with a second tackle."
One hundred and five minutes later he was hauled up again, his mission accomplished. Once again, "more dead than alive", he recovered.
For a day the ship was now able to sail on course, but on the 29th of November the rudder was torn from its hooks and swept away. There was nothing for it but to jury-rig a replacement rudder. Again, Aaron Churchill was credited with doing most of this work, though all officers and men were involved, labouring on the endlessly reeling deck, with the winds unabated. By December 2nd the jury- rudder was completed, but "it was being lowered over the stern, when a wicked cross-sea caught it, and snapped the hawser like a thread. Away floated the rudder."
Undaunted, Capt. Churchill had what remained of the storm-battered wheel-house torn down to clear the field for his next attempt. The ship "carried spare spars . . . lashed to the bulwark stanchions. Churchill took a spare topmast about sixty feet long, and to one end he bolted a huge square of the deck-load deals. This would be secured to the rail by strong lashings, which still would permit of its being moved to and fro. Other stout ropes would hold the inboard end in place."
On December 3rd it was hoisted into position but, to the consternation of all, it failed. The ship would not move before the wind. This time it was deemed necessary by the captain "to jettison part of the deck-load forward in order to restore her trim. So it was done."
After several unsuccessful attempts, the steering-oar, now fractured
but still working, was in place and "by deft management of such scanty
canvas as they dared to set in the living gale, they sent the Research
storming along eastward, and ever eastward . . . toward their destination."
On December 14th they shipped a third rudder, but "on the 15th, the violent seas smashed the stock, and the rudder was useless." The hurricane-force winds were such that no further work could be undertaken on a new rudder until December 21st, when Number Four was begun. It was put in place January 2nd, 1867, and it held!
"This rudder held, but it was not powerful enough to control the way of the vessel" and so Rudder Five was put "over the stern, like a steering-oar, worked with tackles from in-board." With two rudders now in place, all went relatively well until on January 5th "the stock [of Number Four] was carried away and the rudder lost." By this time the vessel had reached seas to the north of Ireland but was forced back by changing gales to the neighbourhood of the Azores. Some crew members - not surprisingly - wanted to abandon ship in the face of this new setback, but the three indomitable officers persuaded them "to remain at their duty".
On January 10th, Capt. Churchill made the drastic decision to sacrifice his main-yard to form the stock of a new rudder, in spite of the ramifications of such a move. This meant that "the operation of heaving-to, or stopping the ship's progress in the sea, would be well-nigh impossible." Rudder Number Six was in place on January 13th and lasted until the 25th, when they entered "the great traffic lanes between the old world and the new." At last their luck changed. They were spotted by three different ships and were able to obtain provisions. They were also invited to abandon their wreck and come aboard one of these ships. Not surprisingly, they declined the offer and opted to sail on. They were by now south of Ireland and at least one more rudder would be required if they were to make Port Glasgow at Greenock, to which their cargo was consigned. Rudder Seven was built, shipped, and "the last line was hardly held taut, the rudder-stock was hardly home in the rudder-casing, when the stock broke and left it disabled."
There was no choice to make. "Churchill built another rudder, and on the first day of February . . . it was shipped without mishap." Rudder Number Eight was a success!
MacMechan's saga is now drawing to a close. He writes:
"With this triumph in perseverance, the luck of the Research changed; the
wind became favourable, and urged her up the Irish Channel. At Ailsa
Craig, she fell in with a tug, and accepted a tow. It was no disgrace.
After a voyage of eighty- eight days, under her own sail, with the aid
of the eight improvised rudders, the Research had made port.
She was hauled to the Wooden Wharf at the Tail of the Bank. Next
day the Glasgow Daily Herald printed a brief item of shipping news: –
These valiant seamen were honoured with gifts and accolades for their amazing feat and the captain's achievement inevitably won him the famous nickname of "Rudder" Churchill from his "brother captains".
The first mate, Aaron Flint Churchill, had a remarkable career ahead of him. He moved to the United States, and "went into the stevedore business, invented several labour-saving devices, founded the Churchill line of steamers out of Savannah, and made his fortune", but he never forgot his native Yarmouth. For, on the shores of Lake Darling, he built himself a fine summer home which he named "The Anchorage", but which later became known as the Churchill Mansion and which stands to this day, a memorial to the young seaman's daring feats at sea. It has, in recent years, been handsomely restored and now has a new life as a tourist inn.
It is hoped that this brief account of the famous voyage of
the Research will whet the reader's appetite enough to beg, borrow or buy
a copy of Archibald MacMechan's At the Harbour Mouth.
In it you will be rewarded by the complete Saga of "Rudder" Churchill,
together with other tales of ships and sailors of Nova Scotia in the Nineteenth
Century, including several from the Villages of Yarmouth County.
Submitted by the great grand-son of:
Aaron Flint Churchill
(1850 - 1920)
Research: Aaron Flint Churchill (IV)
Aaron Flint Churchill was born in May, 1850, in Brooklyn, Yarmouth County, to Rufus and Emily Churchill. It is believed that he did not receive much of an education, since he first went to sea at the age of fourteen. Captain Churchill comes from a family whose history is of intense interest. It was founded in England by Roger de Courcil, eldest son of Wandril de Leon, Lord of Courcil, in France. Roger de Courcil, followed William the Conqueror, to England in 1066, and among the rewards for his services was the Lordship of Churchill, in Somersetshire, anciently known Curichil, Cheuchill, or Chirchil. The children of this Roger took their family name from this estate, spelling it Curichil. In the next generation, they adopted the spelling of Chirchil. In a brief history of the Dukedom of Marlborough, published many years ago, the line is brought down generation by generation, to the present day. As far back as 1620, we find in the line, the name of Sir Winston Churchill.
The saga of Captain Aaron Flint "Rudder" Churchill, began on November 10, 1866. The story begins, when at the age of sixteen, he was on the ship "Research", a large full rigged ship of 1459 tons burden, built in Yarmouth. Her Captain was George W. Churchill, and Aaron was his mate.
While sailing from Quebec to Glasgow Scotland, with a cargo of timber, the Research ran into a fierce winter storm. The rudder and the rudder chains were broken. Determined not to abandon his ship, he made, on board, a new rudder. But the rudder of a loaded vessel, is practically all under water, and there was but one way to fasten the new rubber. A man must go down into the water, and attach it. On that bitter November day, Aaron Churchill went over the side of the ship to secure the wildly, swinging rudder, by hooking the tackle to the ring bolt. He was pulled back aboard the vessel, almost unconscious. That day Aaron Churchill was fighting not only for his own life, but for the lives of all on board. The very next day, the rudder broke and Aaron Churchill once again proceeded to attach another rudder which had been built on board the ship. This happened over and over again, until rudder number 8 was a success. After a voyage of 88 days, under her own sail, and the aid of eight different rudders, The Research had made port. As a testimony to his courage, Aaron Churchill, was awarded a sextant, by The Union Marine Insurance Company, of Liverpool England. He also received a solid silver chronometer watch, and $2000 cash.
At the age of 21, he was a Captain, but retired at the age of 24. He Left Yarmouth, and moved to Savannah, Georgia, which presumably was one of his original ports of call. On September 1, 1874, he started a stevedoring business, on the Savannah docks, and within a year became very successful. Four years later, in 1878, using the profits as seed money, he moved to near by Brunswick, Georgia, and established The Churchill Steamship Line. On September 1, 1899, he returned to Savannah, and used it as a base for "The Churchill Line".
One of the main cargoes of his steamers, was cotton, which was produced in the south, and sent to England, to the hundreds of textile mills. Over the years, Churchill became a principle shareholder, in a number of cotton plantations throughout the south. So, he not only had the ships, he was also growing the cargo. But cotton was a bulky cargo, and as a result, Churchill became an inventor, and developed an improved press, which allowed cotton to be compressed, into small bales, more suitable for shipping. He started The Churchill Compress Company, with its headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee.
Capt. Churchill received public recognition from the authorities for his great assistance rendered to victims of the 1917 Halifax Explosion. Three years later, Aaron Flint Churchill, was to die in Savannah, and appropriately, his body, accompanied by his widow and his niece, Miss Lotta Churchill, aged 35, was shipped on The Prince Arthur from Boston to his home in Yarmouth, for its final anchorage.
The house in Savannah, to which Aaron returned, from Canada, if the exaggeration of newspaper accounts is to be trusted, was even more grand than the "Ball-Roomed" and "Widow-walked", Anchorage, outside Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, later to be known as "Churchill Mansion". In fact after its purchase, its steamship owner, had it rebuilt as a larger replica of his Yarmouth property: "Mr. Churchill purchased one of the handsomest residential properties in Savannah, erected by on of its wealthiest residents, to which he has added befitting a shipping scion reported to be among the wealthiest Nova Scotians, resident in the United States."
The Churchill Line had offered its services and its fleet of steamships, that carried cotton, both to The United Kingdom, and Germany, to the United States Government, to be used in any capacity, or manner, which the government desired. In addition, its employees were advised that as a state of war existed, they were at liberty, indeed urged, to enlist, without detriment to their jobs. Every man who enlisted in the army or navy, was to have a position reserved for him, upon his return, at the same rate of pay, and where employees had dependents, they were to receive half salary, during the wage earners absence. Officials of The Churchill Line stated they had done no mare than every firm should do; "We have no desire to place any obstacle in the way of any man who wishes to serve his country. On the Contrary, we stand ready to aid him".
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