The Wreck of the Glenesslin: Insurance Fraud or Intoxication?

In October of 1913, on a clear day without a trace of bad weather, a large clipper ship called the Glenesslin ran straight into the base of Neahkahnie Mountain on the Oregon Coast. This stretch of coastline had long had a reputation as being a graveyard for ships (and their crews) because it is so rugged. So, it was no surprise that the wreck occurred here. What was strange was the fact that the mountain could have easily been avoided, given the weather conditions. In addition, all 21 men onboard managed to safely escape.

The valuable ship was a total loss, though, and people soon began demanding answers.

s3.amazonaws.com

At first, people began to point the finger at the leaders of the crew. The captain and second mate were accused of being drunk on the job. Nowadays, this is a crime that would result in jail time and monetary penalties. While punishments for such behavior were somewhat lighter back then, many were still shocked that the accused men only received temporary job suspensions.

Some began to wonder if the Glenesslin had been intentionally wrecked, possibly to collect insurance. There were several reasons for this. First of all, there were eyewitnesses to the shipwreck. Some who watched the entire incident wondered why, if the crew had to ground the ship in an emergency, they did not head for the sandy beaches that were nearby and easily reachable on such a nice day. Many eyewitnesses could swear to the fact that it looked as though the ship was steered directly into the rocks, with no attempt to veer away and avoid them.

Though most of the witnesses later testified in hearings and interviews that the men were indeed drunk when they appeared onshore, there were some evidence inconsistent with that fact. For example, all the men escaped without injury and with all their personal belongings carefully collected. All the men were also fully dressed, which seems odd for a group of drunken sailors. It looked as though they had been fully prepared for impact when the wreck occurred.

Also suspect was the fact that this supposed cargo ship was carrying no cargo at the time of the wreck. In cases of insurance fraud, it would be common to make sure no valuable cargo was onboard. The fact that sailing vessels were becoming obsolete by this time would have been a good reason to wreck it on purpose, since the owner would get more money from an insurance settlement than they would by selling it.

Legal hearings were held to determine the cause of the accident, and it was officially determined that intoxication caused the shipwreck. The insurance company paid out $30,000, which was a lot of money in 1913, and the case did not return to court. But questions still remain today as to whether or not this was a massive case of insurance fraud.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Weird Food of the Middle Ages

    People often like to romanticize the Middle Ages, imagining it as a time of knights and princesses, all dressed in elaborate medieval garb. Some even dream about going back in time to experience life during that time, and renaissance fairs and a popular dinner show have capitalized quite well on this obsession. But many people...

    Read More
  • Witches and Alewives: The Historical Connection

    From The Wizard of Oz to Halloween costumes, the archetypal image of a scary witch typically includes a tall, pointy hat, a cauldron, and a broom, among other accessories. But where did this popular conception arise? Many would be surprised to learn that our idea of what a witch looks like is based on the...

    Read More
  • America’s Secret Female President

    Edith Bolling Galt Wilson seemed an unlikely prospect for running one of the most powerful countries in the world. The second wife of President Woodrow Wilson was born in 1872 to a very poor family from the mountains of Virginia. Though she was given a chance to go to college, she dropped out because her...

    Read More
  • The Reality Behind the Legend of the Golden Fleece

    If you are familiar at all with Greek mythology, you have probably heard about the legend of the Golden Fleece. In this story, Jason (a Greek mythological hero) gathered a group of fellow-heroes together. This group became known as the Argonauts because their ship was named Argo, and Jason was their leader. The purpose of...

    Read More
  • Aaron Burr: Would-Be King

    Aaron Burr, one of the United States’ founding fathers and its one-time Vice President, has generally gone down in history as a bad guy because of the duel in which he killed Alexander Hamilton, America’s first Secretary of the Treasury. But for some reason, most people don’t know anything about another chapter in his life...

    Read More
  • Ancient Crocodile Species Identified

    A research team made up of paleontologists from Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Texas has identified a previously unknown species of prehistoric crocodile. The ancient reptile fossils were found in Arlington, Texas, a busy city located right in the middle of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area. The massive crocodile, which could reach lengths of up to 20...

    Read More
  • The Murder and Lynching that Changed America

    April 26, 1913 was supposed to have been a good day for 13-year-old Mary Phagan. It was Confederate Memorial Day in Atlanta, Georgia, where she lived. She was off for the day from her job at the National Pencil Company. Her plans included stopping by work to pick up her pay and then joining family...

    Read More
  • Female Viking Warrior Grave Identified

    In the 1880s, a Viking grave was excavated in the town of Birka in Sweden. It was obviously the grave of a warrior because it was filled with grave goods signifying as much. Along with weapons, like an axe, arrows, shields, a battle knife, a spear, and a sword, two war horses were also found...

    Read More