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The tragic story of the Frank N. Thayer

Capt. Robert K. Clarke, of the ship Frank N. Thayer, on which two Manila seamen mutinied on Jan. 2, and after killing several of the crew set fire to the vessel, arrived here yesterday on the Cunard steamship Servia. Capt. Clarke is a middle-aged man of strong build. He has a full black beard and a dark face, which seems to express great determination. The Captain has not yet recovered entirely from the effects of the wounds which he received at the hands of two murderous Manila seamen. He still wears a bandage, which, after winding around his forehead, partly obscures his left eye and covers his left ear.
     While the Captain was relating yesterday to his friends the story of his terrible experiences on the Thayer he became at times very much excited. His wife would try to quiet him by telling him that he would injure himself by giving way to his feelings. This brave woman, who stood by her wounded husband during the long and terrible hours they were imprisoned in the cabin of the Thayer, is below the usual height and has a very mild, patient face. No one would select her as a heroine. Capt. Clarke said that all went well on his ship until the night of Jan. 2. The vessel was then in the southeast trade winds, sailing along rapidly in a smooth sea. It was a beautiful starlight night, and before retiring Capt. Clarke had a chat with Mr. Holmes, the mate, whom he informed that they would not have to put into St. Helena, which was then some 700 miles distant.
    About midnight Capt. Clarke heard someone calling him. He thought that the mate had had some ordinary trouble with one or two of the seamen, and he arose slowly and, still in his nightdress, started up the forward companionway. When near the top be felt a knife slash across his forehead while a hand seized him by the throat. Then he observed his assailant, who he now saw was one of the Manila seamen. He struck the man a blow in the face. Then they grappled and the man gave him a stab in the arm, as struggling together they slipped gradually down the companionway. The Captain felt his assailant’s knife penetrate his left side and then turn partly round. Then the Captain slipped in his own blood, which covered the steps, and fell back headlong into the cabin. His assailant hurried on deck, evidently having given him up for dead.
     Capt. Clarke rose and staggered into the after cabin. He immediately locked the door opening into the forward cabin. Mrs. Clarke, who had heard the struggle, was now on her feet. In the dim light of the cabin, she saw her husband stagger in completely covered with blood. She ran to him and putting her arms around him led him to the sofa. Then she rushed to the berth, and hurriedly taking one of the sheets, tore this into bandages, with which she quickly dressed his wounds. The Captain rose, and, taking a revolver, went to the after companionway and called out to the man at the wheel to close the outside companionway door. The latter replied that someone was in the way and that he dared not obey the order.
    The Captain then locked the lower door of the companionway. A moment later he heard a man floundering down the steps of the after companionway. He opened the door and covered the man with his revolver. "Oh. hide me." cried a terrified voice. The Captain feared treachery and locked the door on the man, who proved to be a white seaman named Hendricsen. The latter was then heard to enter the bathroom, where he locked himself in. The exhausted Captain soon heard one of the cabin windows smashed in, and looking up he saw the treacherous faces of the two Manila seamen glaring down wickedly at him. He fired two shots, and the coolies disappeared. Capt. Clarke and his wife were not then aware that the two Manila sailors were the only mutineers. These two men, it seems, approached Mate Holmes and Second Mate Davis at midnight, when the latter was about to change the watches, and stabbed the two officers, killing them instantly. One of them then went and called to the Captain, and after he, as he imagined, had dispatched the latter, rejoined his comrade on deck. the two mutineers then barricaded the forecastle door on the outside, after which they murdered Maloney, the sailor at the wheel; Carpenter Booth, and A. Serian, a coolie sailor, all of whom happened to be on deck. Ah Say, the Chinese cook, was the only other man on deck. The two murderers pressed the Chinaman into their service and forced him to cook for them. One sailor had hidden himself aloft. Four of the seamen who were barricaded in the forecastle had been wounded by the murderers, whom they had at first attempted to resist. But neither they nor the six able-bodied men who were locked up with them dared to sally forth.
    The murderers remained in possession of the vessel all day Sunday. In the meantime Capt. Clarke, with his devoted wife and his little child by his side, lay apparently at the point of death. On Monday morning the Captain felt much stronger. He went to the bathroom, where he found Hendricsen, who said that the coolies were the only mutineers. The Captain then decided to make a sally. He had two revolvers and a horse pistol. He took a revolver himself and gave the pistol to Hendricsen. Then he handed the other revolver to his wife. “Leave two shots in that," he said to her, “and if I am killed you give one of them to our child and put the other in yourself.”
    The two murderers, with long poles to which they had lashed knives, stood on deck ready to harpoon anyone who came up from the cabin. The Captain saw one of the villains and fired, wounding him. The fellow immediately ran forward. Capt. Clarke then burst through the forward cabin door, and at the same time the imprisoned men in the forecastle broke through the barricade, and the man who had been hiding aloft came on deck. the wounded murderer then gave a wild yell, and, running to the side, plunged overboard. The other villain jumped down the ventilating hatch. While the Captain and several of the sailors were approaching this hatch smoke began to pour up from it. The wretch had fired the hemp in the cargo. In a moment he appeared springing out of the smoke. Then he glared wildly about him, and, giving a fiendish yell, ran to the side and plunged overboard.
    All attempts to quell the flames proved futile. The fire was soon in complete control of the Thayer. A small quantity of provisions were stowed in the largest boat, and after the wounded men had been placed in the bottom Mrs. Clarke and her child and the uninjured men got in. The boat with its 17 occupants lay by the burning ship until the following morning. Then they steered for St. Helena, which they reached on the following Sunday.
Capt. Clarke says that he cannot account for the mutiny. The Manila seamen were not ill-treated in any way by himself, nor were they to his knowledge tyrannized over by either of the mates whom they murdered. Capt. Clarke left the members of his crew, several of whom were suffering from wounds, at St. Helena.
    During the passage of the Servia an entertainment in aid of Capt. Clarke and his family was given in the saloon, by William Ludwig, the baritone singer; R. J. de Cordova, the lecturer: S. H. G. Stewart, Mr. and Mrs. Soliague, and others, and £60 was realized. Capt. Clarke will go at once to some relatives on Long Island, where he will remain until he entirely recovers from his wounds. The Frank N. Thayer measured 1,647 tons. She was built at Newburyport in 1878 and was owned by Thayer & Lincoln, of Boston.
Published: February 23,1886
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