Lynbrook in Nassau County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The Wreck of the Mexico - January 2, 1837
On December 31, 1836, after a long and difficult Atlantic Oceam crossing firom Liverpool, England, the 279-ton, three-masted, American-ownd barque Mesico finally arrived at the mouth of New York Harbor. The temperature in New York City was recorded at five degrees above zero that day and the Mexico's crew was suffering from frostbite. Because of the longer than expectrd journey, the ship's passengers had been on starvation rations for nine days. Yet the 111 people in steerage, most of them Irish immigrants and all of them poor, were filled with hope. They knew that they were about to reach the land of their dreams. After all, they could clearly see the shores and hills of Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Staten Island. Sadly their dreams were about to end ... frozen in ice.
As had happened five weeks earlier with the Bristol the New York Harbor Pilots were not at their posts to guide the ship through the treacherous shoals at the harbor's entrance. It was New Years Eve, and the pilots remained shore, celebrating at Riley's Tavern in Lower Manhattan. The Mexico's captain, Charles Winslow, fired his ship's gun and
A rising storm forced the barque out to sea, and at night drove it onto a sandbar just 200 yards off Long Beach. Icy sea water flooded the passenger areas, forcing the frightened immigrants to climb out onto the ice-covered main deck. They were in shouting distance of shore but it was an impossible distance to swim. The tenperature was now three degrees above zero.
With waves reported "as high as a house,” only one group of rescuers, led by Capt. Raynor Rock Snith of Freeport, dared to row out from shore. Smith managed to save the captain and seven crewmen. Capt. Winslow was one of the first to leave the ship. He grabbed his sword and the ship's strongbox and leaped into the rescue boat, leaving 115 men, women, and children behind to freeze to death on the deck of his ship. If he and his men had remained on board, they would have had the strength and the skill needed to pull Capt. Smith's rescue boat back out to the Mexico, once it reached shore. Winslow was never charged for his gross negligence, nor were the pilots.
One of America's greatest poets, Long Island's own Walt Whitman, was a 17-year-old at the time of the wrecks of the Bristol and the Mexico. He was so moved by the twin disasters that he included terrifyingly accurate details
Sidebar: "The Sleepers", Stanza Four, from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The beach is cut by the razory ice-wind—the wreck-guns sound,
The tempest lulls—the moon comes floundering through the drifts.
I look where the ship helplessly heads end on—I hear the burst as
she strikes—I hear the howls of dismay—they grow fainter and fainter.
I cannot aid with my wringing fingers,
I can but rush to the surf, and let it drench me and freeze upon me.
I search with the crowd—not one of the company is wash’d to us alive;
In the morning I help pick up the dead and lay them in rows in a barn.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Disasters • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical date for this entry is January 2, 1837.
Location. 40° 39.567′ N, 73° 39.512′ W. Marker is in Lynbrook, New York, in Nassau County. Marker can be reached from Merrick Road. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 45 Merrick Road, Lynbrook NY 11563, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Wreck of the Bristol - November 21, 1836 (here, next to this marker); The Sand Hole Church (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Rockville Cemetery and Bristol and Mexico Monument (about 600 feet away); The Church of the Ascension (approx. 0.6 miles away); Anvil (approx. 0.6 miles away); St. Agnes World War II Memorial (approx. 0.6 miles away); Saint Agnes (approx. 0.7 miles away); South Side (approx. 0.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lynbrook.
More about this marker. The marker is located in the middle of Rockville Cemetery, and is easy to find because it is next to the monument for the two shipwrecks - the tallest monument in the cemetery.
Also see . . . Remembering the shipwreck victims at Rockville Cemetery. LI Herald website entry (Submitted on December 14, 2019.)
Additional keywords. The Wreck of the Mexico - January 2, 1837
Credits. This page was last revised on December 5, 2021. It was originally submitted on December 14, 2019, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California. This page has been viewed 366 times since then and 221 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on December 14, 2019, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California.