WRECK of the barque WAPELLA, of BATH, Maine, U.S.A.
24 - 25 January 1868
This barque had been built at Bath in the American state of Maine in 1865 and was of 728 tons register.
The vessel sailed from New Orleans on 19 December 1867 bound for Liverpool with a cargo of up to two thousand bales of cotton, wooden staves and oil cake. She had a crew of 12 and 3 passengers - two women and a young boy.
It was not unusual for vessels sailing up the Irish Sea to end up in Cardigan Bay.
The Wapella may have struck St Patrick's Causeway on the evening of Friday 24 January 1868. A north west gale was blowing and her master had no idea where they were. At about 10 p.m. the barque ran aground about a mile from Dyffryn which is about five miles north of Barmouth. At eight on Saturday morning the crew launched her three lifeboats and all got aboard and lay near the stern of the boat to await daylight. At about 9 a.m. the craft left the ship and made their way ashore but all three were capsized by the surf. Three men from Dyffryn went into the surf and saved four people - two were members of the crew and the others were a woman passenger and the young boy.
Captain Isaac Lincoln Orr, the master of the Wapella, the mate, Edward A. Johnson, and eight members of the crew were drowned. One woman passenger, named as Eleanor Watkins a native of Beaumaris, was also lost.
Recently Dr Glen Jenkins was conducting family history research in the Burial Register of St Dwywe church at Llanddwywe which in 1868 was in the county of Merionethshire. He found the following which Rev William Jones, Rector of the parish had written, and very kindly sent it to me:
"On the night of 24th January 1868 a large barque called Wapella, of Bath in America, having missed her course struck on the causeway, and came on shore about 12 o'clock at night. She would have been nearly dry at 2 or 3 o'clock; but at 9 a.m. the crew of 15 in number attempted to land in the boats, but they were upset at once. Eleven in all were drowned and four were saved. The vessel held out a full week before she broke up and all might have been saved had they remained on board. The ship had come from New Orleans loaded with cotton.
Bodies were found on shore 2nd February and buried on 5 February 1868. Capt was Isaac Lincoln Orr. The body of the Capt was disinterred and sent to America on 25 January 1870."
When the woman passenger was brought ashore she was in a very poor condition. John Jones and Robert James of Dyffryn spent two hours with her by which time she had recovered.
The RNLI at its meeting held in London on 2 April 1868 voted £4 to the three men who went into the sea to rescue the four survivors.
The ship was sold by auction held on the beach at Dyffryn on 11 February and a number of sales of those bales of cotton which had been recovered were held at Liverpool in March.