Part Two: The New Era Lives…sort of

Today marks the 167th anniversary of the wrecking of the New Era on Deal Beach, Asbury Park, NJ on November 13, 1854.  

The interview with Mike Mazza and his team of paranormal investigators led to other stories of the New Era, and additional mysteries.  In 1854, Britton Fields was the “Wreck Master” of the New Era’s corpse.  The ship was dismantled, and Mr. Fields was tasked with holding an auction to sell off the lumber.  He purchased a large quantity of the lumber himself, for the purpose of expanding his barn.  Mr. Fields owned Chestnut Plains Farm at the intersection of Shafto and Wayside Roads in Eatontown.  

The farm remained in the Field’s family after Britton Fields died in 1857.  Parcels were sold over the years, and some of the farm was taken over by the US Navy.  Eventually, the last piece, on which stood the New Era Barn, was sold to developers in 1994.   The barn was torn down.

New Era Barn – Asbury Park Press 1948

This information, submitted by a reader and researched by Jo Ann Slocum Mazzucca, helps solve a few questions.  First, a local historian has postulated that the New Era came ashore on the beach where the Asbury Park Convention Center is located today.  Further, he believes that the Morro Castle, a cruise ship that caught fire at sea and beached at the Convention Center, ground the remains of the New Era into the mud and that is why no remains have been found.  The anchor on display at the church in Allenhurst, and attributed to the New Era, was found in the ocean off the Convention Center.

The problem with this hypothesis is that eyewitness accounts all state that the New Era came ashore at present-day Asbury Park’s 7th Avenue beach.  The original monument was erected at that site.  Secondly, the rationale that the wreck couldn’t have been at 7th Avenue because no remains can be found is dubious in light of the new information that the ship was stripped and its lumber sold off.  There would not be a lot of ship left to find, only that which remained well below the waterline. 167 years immersed in ocean water and subject to storms would take its toll.

In 1854, there were 40 known shipwrecks in the vicinity of Deal Beach. Since then, there have been many more.  Some of the other ships wrecked at Deal Beach are:  

A Field

Belle (1847A)

Belle (1868A)

Bowman

Columbia (1828)

Columbus (1855)

E H Atwood

Equator

Europe

Garrick

General Gadsden

Grace K Green

Harriet Neal

Harriet Newell

Harrison Jones

Helen Frazier

Henry R Congdon

Italia

James R Clements

John J Bailey

John T Neary

Joseph Long

Lizzie Maul (1875)

Mason Daus

Morning Star (1867)

New Era (1854)

Pamelia

Pliny

Rattlesnake

Rising States

Sacramento

Samuel P Lord

St Helena

Stella (1869)

Stetson

Windermere

Yale (1890)

Newport (1946)

John K Shaw

Sea Lady

Charles E Jackson

Maria Jewell

A H Bowman

 

The idea that the anchor found up the beach from New Era’s position was from that wreck and not from any number of wrecks in the area is a leap of faith.   Additionally, the anchor in question is of a type used for a long period of maritime history and, frankly, seems small for a ship of New Era’s size. 

New Era anchor

Then there is the issue of New Era’s multiple leaks during her crossing.  This was her maiden voyage.  For seven days, from shortly after she left Germany to the time when she drove up onto the sand bar off 7th Avenue, Asbury Park while under full sail, she required all hands and passengers to man the pumps as she was in danger of sinking from the leaks.  It is possible that H&R Hitchcock & Co. purchased an older ship and claimed she was the New Era in order to claim insurance payouts to keep their troubled business afloat. 

The key to answering this question would be the lumber from the barn.  Saltwater tends to permeate everything imaginable.  The longer the wood from a ship is in the water, the more salt is infused.  If we could find the final disposition of the lumber from the New Era Barn, it is possible that tests could be run to determine the salinity of the wood and get an idea of how long the wood was at sea. 

So, the investigation into the New Era shipwreck continues.    The next step is to find out where the wood from the barn was taken.  

 

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