Historical Discoveries

history of back creek

Scuttled vessels in Back Creek

The Back Creek Conservancy launched the Schooner Mattie F. Dean Expedition to locate, and if possible, identify wooden sailing vessels abandoned in Back Creek. The scuttling of vessels occurred at the end of the sailing era, between 1933, as hurricanes blew open the mouth of Back Creek, to the early 1970s, when the boat shows began. The number, location, and the extent of the remains of these vessels is unknown.

The most famous vessel known to have been abandoned in Back Creek was the schooner Mattie F. Dean, built in Dorchester County in 1887 and abandoned at the age of 70, in 1954. The Mattie F. Dean was renowned as being the most beautiful and the fastest of the working schooners. An oyster schooner, the Ella F. Cripps, was also reported abandoned in Back Creek.

Copyright Notice: Baltimore Sun
Folder Description: MATTIE F DEAN (SCHOONER) 1930
Folder Extended Description: MATTIE F DEAN (SCHOONER) 1930
Title: MATTIE F DEAN (SCHOONER) 1930
Subject: MATTIE F DEAN (SCHOONER) 1930


The following was excerpted from Chesapeake Sailing Craft: Recollections of Robert H. Burgess, Edited by William A. Fox, Tidewater Publishers

© Robert H. Burgess, Chesapeake Sailing Craft

© Robert H. Burgess, Chesapeake Sailing Craft

Mattie F. Dean was one of the more popular schooners on the Bay during the last days of sail there. Perhaps this was because she had been owned in several different areas of the Chesapeake and many people became attached to her. Built by Joseph W. Brooks in 1884 at Madison, Maryland, she was decorated as nicely as any schooner, with eagle figurehead, finely carved tailboards, quarter boards, and even a spread-eagle stern decoration. Atop her foremast was a carved wooden female figure with upraised arms. On May 6, 1934, she sails out of Baltimore harbor, her deck but scant inches above the water. In September 1928, the Dean brought a cargo of tobacco to Baltimore from St. Mary’s County, Maryland, certainly one of the last such cargoes to move under sail on the Bay.

 

Eagle figurehead and port tailboard of the Mattie F. Dean tied up at Long Dock, Baltimore, with watermelons in September 1948. By this time she was owned at Chance, Maryland, and used as an oyster dredger. © Robert H. Burgess, Chesapeake Sailing Craft

Eagle figurehead and port tailboard of the Mattie F. Dean tied up at Long Dock, Baltimore, with watermelons in September 1948. By this time she was owned at Chance, Maryland, and used as an oyster dredger.
© Robert H. Burgess, Chesapeake Sailing Craft

© Robert H. Burgess, Chesapeake Sailing Craft

© Robert H. Burgess, Chesapeake Sailing Craft

About 1953 the Dean was sold once again to Harry Bureau of Annapolis, who continued to dredge oysters with her. The latter part of the next year she sank at his Spa Creek pier, as above. Stern of her is the Powerboat Ella F. Cripps, a former Bay schooner. The Dean was raised about 1956 and she and the Cripps were abandoned in Back Creek, Eastport. Note that the Dean’s eagle figurehead is missing. It was reported that it was placed on Burl Ive’s yacht. In the background is the dome of the U.S. naval Chapel.

© Robert H. Burgess, Chesapeake Sailing Craft

© Robert H. Burgess, Chesapeake Sailing Craft

Preparing for the opening of the oyster season, The Ella F. Cripps ties up at Montford Yeard, Baltimore, on Oct 27, 1935. She had been built in 1900 by Kirby & Sons act St. Michaels Maryland, and after conversion to power in the 1940s and sent north, se returned to the Bay about ten years later as her purchaser planned to re-rig her as a schooner for use in the “dud cruise” trade. . But after the tragic loss of the ram Levin J. Marvel in 1955 the idea was shelved. The Cripps was taken around to Back Creek, Eastport, Maryland and abandoned. Several years later a marina was built at the grave site and she was broken up.