Tag Archives: Lushman

A Tale of the Sea etc.

Amazon link for Lone Voyager
Amazon link for Lone Voyager

In January 1883, a dory was lost at sea off the south coast of Newfoundland.  On it were Howard Blackburn and Tommy Welsh.  They became separated from their schooner in a sudden storm.  The Captain and crew reluctantly had to give them up for dead.

Sixteen-year old Tommy Welsh did die, but Howard Blackburn managed to put in at the tiny village of Little River (now Grey River) near Burgeo on the south coast of Newfoundland.  There, through the skill of Jenny Lushman and Susie Bushney, he was brought back to health, minus his fingers and toes.

An incredible story, made more incredible by Blackburn’s continued adventures sailing Howard Blackburn Great Republic sailboatsolo across the Atlantic and north on the Pacific.  His rowing abilities are commemorated in The Blackburn Challenge, a rowing event in Glouchester Mass.

But the story doesn’t end with him.  Publicity around his survival led to the reunification of a family after fifty years and the discovery of branches of the family totally unknown to each other.

Lushmans of Little River and USA

Blackburn had lived with the Lushman, or Lishman, family of Little River.  The story  of his rescue came across the desk of a Massachusetts newspaper editor named Litchman Howard Blackburn's tavern, now a museum, Glouchester Mass.who showed it to his father.  The senior Mr. Litchman, as a boy, had left Newfoundland with his father in search of work.  The father then left Massachusetts and the son stayed, later changing the spelling of his name from Lishman to Litchman.

Hmm, the Litchmans thought, worth a letter to Little River.   So the Lishmans of Little River found their brother who had left for the United States 50 years earlier.  Siblings were reunited, but what had happened to the father who had left Newfoundland and then Massachusetts?

Publicity about this led to another man making a connection.  A letter he’d found in his late father’s possessions explained the missing father.  He had gone to Louisiana and indeed had tried to find his son in Massachusetts.

The trail went cold until a woman from Minneapolis contacted the Litchmans.  She had been born a Lishman in Louisiana.  Her late father had come from Newfoundland.  She knew nothing more about his family. Yes, she was a half-sister.

Nfld. Quarterly Dec 1912 H Blackburn on Newfoundland south coastHere’s my transcription of the story from the Dec. 1912 Newfoundland Quarterly by Sir Edward Morris, Prime Minister of Newfoundland.  The only point that confuses me is that Francis Lishman says his mother’s name was Susannah née McDonald and in Earl Pilgrim’s book* she is called Jenny.  But that’s a small mystery compared to those with which these people lived.  Family vanished – abandoned or lost, a daughter orphaned.  Loss and grief, betrayal, survival, reconciliation and renewal.  As Morris says, it’s the stuff of novels.  I say movies too.

*Earl Pilgrim’s Drifting Into Doom led me into this incredible tale. I wrote about it here.

Drifting into Doom: Book

link to DRC Pub for Drifting into Doom by Earl B. Pilgrim
Click to see on DRC Publishing

It was a dark and stormy night when I began reading Earl Pilgrim’s Drifting into Doom: Tragedy at Sea. Winter rain blew at the windows and tree branches hit the house. Reading about two men drifting in a dory during a January 1883 storm on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, I got chilled and thought “I knows how you feel!” Then I recollected myself, realized I was in a warm house, on a couch, with the wind and rain outside. No, I had no inkling of how Howard Blackburn and Tommy Welsh felt.

The story of the Banker schooner Grace L. Fears and the loss of one of her dories is itself a harrowing one. Trawling cod from tiny two-man boats set off the side of a schooner was a hard way to fish, especially for the dorymen. Many lives were lost on the Grand Bank fishery. This is the story of the loss of Tommy Welsh, a 16 year old 1890 painting, G. F. Gregory, Storm King at seafrom Grand Bank on the south coast of Newfoundland. It is also the story of the saving of the life of his dory mate, Howard Blackburn, an experienced fisherman originally from Nova Scotia who worked out of Glouchester, Mass.

Blackburn got the dory to shore near the tiny settlement of Little River (later called Grey River) on Newfoundland’s south coast. His frozen fingers and toes could not be saved but his hands and feet were by the skill of a local woman called Aunt Jenny Lushman. She was helped by a Mi’kmaq woman named Susie Bushney. Experienced healers and midwives that they were, neither woman had ever dealt with frostbite so severe. But Mrs. Bushney’s advice and Mrs. Lushman’s steely nerves kept Blackburn alive.

Howard Blackburn in later life sailingBlackburn went on to become a well-known businessman in Glouchester and a world adventurer. His dorymate Tommy Welsh was buried in Little River. The story of these men was not lost on the Grand Banks. Accounts were published at the time and Pilgrim uses these to tell a tale that lets you get to know them, the Blackburn family, the fishing company personnel and the people of Little River and Burgeo. As the cover blurb says, it keeps you “spellbound”.

The Lushman Family

Another story came from this one. Aunt Jenny Lushman lives on her own with her grown children. There is no Mr. Lushman.  That’s the other story. As a photo of Grey River by Holloway 1933result of publicity over Blackburn’s rescue, the story of what happened to Mr. Lushman came to light. It is also one of unbelievable happenstance and hardship. Probably it too is not an isolated case of people lost and believed gone, but it is one that became known and loose ends could be tied up. It is as epic as is the story of Howard Blackburn.

Jenny Lushman’s husband and one son left Little River for the United States in search of work. I found the story of what happened to them in a December 1912 Newfoundland Quarterly article by Sir Edward Morris.* You’ll want to be tucked up in your Snuggly while reading it too. Thank you, dear reader Jim F., for this book. And Newfoundland filmmakers? Movie here!

*See my transcription of Morris’ NQ article at A Tale of the Sea and  my post A Tale of the Sea, etc. for more. The entire Dec. 1912 NQ can be seen at the MUN digital archives (link in previous paragraph). For books on Amazon by Earl B. Pilgrim, click his name.