1912 John Harvey

On January 9th and 10th 1912, the worst winter storm since the great Saxby gale of 1863 swept across the Maritime Provinces. The wind blew between fifty and eighty miles per hour (approx. eighty to one hundred thirty kilometres per hour), and at Point Lepreau, it was recorded to be blowing at the rate of eighty-four miles an hour (approx. one hundred thirty-five kilometres per hour).

It was in this weather on January 9th that the schooner John Harvey found itself caught off the coast of eastern Nova Scotia. The ship carried five men, all from Newfoundland, and was headed from Gloucester, Massachusetts to St. Pierre, St. Pierre et Miquelon with a general cargo. Despite the efforts of the crew, the John Harvey was driven into shore at Winging Point, about four miles (6.5 kilometres) from Gabarus.

Bashing repeatedly on the rocks by the wind and waves, the John Harvey was quickly becoming a total wreck. In a heroic attempt to escape the ship and save the others, two of the crew, John Foote and John Keeping, took a rope, swam to shore and managed to secure it. Tragically, both Foote and Keeping died of exposure shortly after reaching land, but their lifeline facilitated the escape of Captain John Kearley, his two sons Manuel and William George, and Henry Carter, the cook.

The survivors managed to find fishing camps along the shore, in which they stayed the night. In the morning they walked to Gabarus. Upon hearing of the tragedy, crews were sent to the site of the wreck. They found that what remained of the ship had been driven up on the beach and that the vessel could easily be boarded at low tide, but continued to break up during half and full tide. They also managed to salvage almost all of the ship’s cargo.

On January 17, 1912, the survivors departed from North Sydney for Newfoundland. The two bodies were also sent on the Glencoe, to be interred at Belloeram, where both Foote and Keeping were from.


Unknown. 1912. “Salving Cargo of The John Harvey.” The Morning Chronicle (Halifax), January 13.

Unknown. 1912. “Schr. Wreck At Gabaruse [sic].” The Sydney Record (Sydney, Cape Breton) January 10.

Unknown. 1912. “Seamen Perish Near Gabarus.” The Sydney Record (Sydney, Cape Breton), January 11.

Unknown. 1912. “Shipwrecked Crew For Newfoundland.” The Sydney Record (Sydney, Cape Breton), January 17.

Unknown. 1912. “Two of the Crew Perished From Cold.” The Morning Chronicle (Halifax) January 11.

Unknown. 1912. “Worst Storm Since The Saxby Gale” The Morning Chronicle (Halifax), January 10.

Unknown. 1912. “Worst Storm Since Saxby Gale” The Morning Chronicle (Halifax), January 10.


Two Heroes Die Saving Others

6 responses to “1912 John Harvey”

  1. Robert Ross says:

    I am the great grandson of Cp John Kearley and my grandmother (his daughter ) is still alive at age 103, if anybody may have any more information or pictures, anything at all on the John Harvey we would be extremely interested and very appreciative.
    Thank you,

    • Catherine Mochrie says:

      I have a photo from someone else who says it’s the John Harvey being built. My gr grandfather, William Henry Rose built the John Harvey.

  2. Heather Sparling says:

    Thanks for writing, Rob. I hope someone is able to provide you with additional information.

  3. I always thought It was Captain George Kearely on the Harvey and the Keeping man was from Lally Cove

    • Heather Sparling says:

      You could well be right. I think I read that both men were from Belleoram in the newspaper, although I don’t have copies of the newspapers to hand. Can anyone else say where Cpt Kearley and Keeping were from?

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