The Shipwreck: The Two John Kelleys, Part 7

Start from the beginning here or go back to Part 6.

In the 1880 census, I found Amelia Beardsley, daughter of Patrick and Tamer’s daughter, Amelia, living with her aunt Celia Kelley Collins. I know from a death record that Mother Amelia died in 1870 or 1871, but I wondered where her father, Homer Beardsley, was.

I don’t think it was uncommon for single fathers to place their children with family members at that time, especially when Homer’s occupation as a seaman is considered. His job required weeks, if not months, away at sea. I figured he was away during the 1880 census. Census searches after 1880 did not come up with any hits, so I googled him and found this:

Ships and Men of the Great Lakes

That is an excerpt of a list of people who were lost in shipwrecks mentioned in a book called Ships and Men of the Great Lakes. Homer Beardsley is also mentioned in another index of a book, Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast. Both indices say that Captain Beardsley died as a result of the wreck of the W. W. Arnold on 1 or 15 November 1869 off the coast of Two-Hearted River, Michigan. Following is an excerpt from the Traverse City Record-Eagle about Harborless, a book of poetry by Cindy Hunter Morgan.

Perhaps the strangest wreck was that of the wooden schooner W.W. Arnold in 1869. The ship met with a winter storm on Lake Superior only hours after departure from port and vanished.

One month later, a mail carrier whose route followed the shore reported he’d found a ship beached near the W.W. Arnold’s planned route, prompting men from the Masonic Order to search for the captain’s body.

They arrived to find the beach littered with debris. They found scraps of clothing and canvas, but were too late to recover the bodies before they decomposed.

And here is a newspaper clipping of the losses (although the site on which I found it gives no source):

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 9.52.15 AM.png

What a terrible way to go: listed as “ten in number” next to the monetary values of the vessel and its cargo.

Disclaimer: This may not be Amelia’s Homer Beardsley. There very well could have been more than one sailor named Homer Beardsley on ships in the Great Lakes. I have not been able to find a crew roster for the W. W. Arnold or an obituary for Homer Beardsley, despite looking in Google Newspaper Archive,, and But it seems reasonable that it is him, doesn’t it?

Amanda Kelly household 1870 census

The fact that keeps niggling at me is in Part 4 of this series Mother Amelia and Tamar are listed on the July 1870 census, even though I have death records stating that Mother Amelia died in childbirth in April 1870, and Tamar died of rheumatism in May 1870, making this census record virtually impossible. With the revelation of Homer’s possible death in November 1869, I now have 3 possible ghosts on this page.

Sources for this post can be found here. Read the next part.

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I am a writer for an e-Learning course vendor near Chicago.

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