‘Ship Faithful Steward’ upcoming historical novel about local shipwreck

A story of Scots-Irish, English and Irish migration to Pennsylvania
September 6, 2020

Sept. 1, 2020 marks the 235th anniversary of the day the Faithful Steward wrecked and foundered off the Delaware coast north of Indian River Inlet.

In 2017, Pennsylvania author Harry A. Wenzel decided his next historical fiction work was to research and write a story of the famous shipwreck. He said, “It’s a story that has never been written, and it is an amazing story that needs to be told.”

The following extract is highlighted in the Author’s Notes. “I remain awestruck as I remember the day I plucked a name of a ship from a map of shipwrecks along the Mid-Atlantic Coast. There wasn’t an inkling of what words would form the thoughts for the pages to follow. Archibald Stewart, originally from Ballintoy, Ireland, and later a Rhode Island merchant, had a sailship of 300 tons built in British America.”

As Wenzel’s research began, noted genealogist, author, and historian Brian Mitchell of the Derry District Council, Northern Ireland, offered invaluable assistance with details of the storyline. After a time, Roots Ireland, an Irish historical website, published news to its readers of the upcoming historical work. At the Derry Quay (dock), there is a bench commemorating the tragic loss of life on the Faithful Steward.

Kevin Mullan of the Derry Journal published original and follow-up articles, informing his readers about the upcoming novel. Today, many Irish are very interested in tracing their roots to America. 

Capt. Conolly McCausland, with a fine reputation as a sea captain, gained much experience piloting his ship Jane as a victualer, supplying food and munitions for the British Army during the American Revolution. At one point, as a prisoner, McCausland wrote a letter to Benjamin Franklin in France, asking for assistance to obtain his release for a prisoner exchange. But later, one fateful night after the captain and his first mate retired to their cabins. the Faithful Steward, with the second mate at the helm, struck bottom, and a valuable slice of history along the Delaware shore was created. 

The State of Delaware placed a historical marker commemorating the event along Route 1 on the north side of the inlet, denoting the area as Coin Beach. A London archivist assisted with research, finding an official transcript of the minting of copper half-pence in the Tower of London for the Kingdom of Ireland, and the dates for each minting may serve to confirm the authenticity of some of the coins that still wash ashore at Coin Beach.

As news of the book spread, descendants of the McEntire, Colhoun, Lee, Elliott, and Espey families have contacted the author, confirming their lineage to survivors of the shipwreck, and providing information from family records. The descendants are spread throughout the United States, and one, a four-times great-grandson to Hugh Colhoun, brother to wreck survivors Gustavus and Thomas Colhoun, resides in British Columbia. Hugh migrated to Philadelphia and together with his merchant brother, Gustavus, became closely connected to Stephen Girard, a Frenchman residing in Philadelphia at the time, and one of the wealthiest men in America. 

Genealogist Brian Mitchell estimates nearly 70 percent of those on board the ship were Scots-Irish, aka Ulster Irish, and the balance of the 249 passengers were either of English descent or native Irish.

A wealth of historical research is included in the storyline. By 1785, only two years after the end of the Revolutionary War, those on the Faithful Steward were either familiar with or personally knew some of the Scots-Irish who left Ireland before the start of the war, joining the militias and navies. Some of them had relatives who migrated years earlier and fought for the colonies. 

The narrative covers nearly 250 pages, and there is a substantial amount of additional research and information included in the Historical Extracts and Author’s Notes sections. Wenzel is initiating contact with prospective literary agents to secure a publisher for his work.   

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