Accession Number



ELLIOTT, Subgroup Rumrunners (suspected)


On Tuesday, November 7, 1922 Robert Elliott along with chums Arthur Burnham* and the Mr. and Mrs. NH Bearse had an excursion planned to Martha’s Vineyard**. They set off for Wood’s Hole where they would catch the ferry over to the island but, due to an unforeseen change in schedule, they arrived late and missed the boat. Remarkably, the captain of the steamer, Skipper Manuel King Sylvia***, Sankaty somehow learned of the tardy passengers and returned to the dock to allow them to board. The group was most grateful.
The Sankaty, a propeller-driven ferry, carried passengers between New Bedford, Woods Hole, and Martha’s Vineyard from 1911 until she was partially destroyed by a fire in 1924. Poor Captain Sylvia had to jump overboard to escape the flames that also did considerable damage to Steamboat Pier in New Bedford, where she was docked at the time. The vessel managed a second life, however, when she was resurrected and taken to Maine to serve as a car ferry. In 1964, she was lost in a storm off Nova Scotia.

*The grieving Arthur Burnham likely needed the curative sea breezes after losing his father two months earlier. His father, also named Arthur Burnham, was a very busy man. He had been a member of 21 organizations, chairman of the fine arts group of the “Boston 1915 Movement” and, apparently most notably (this being the first line in his obituary), was the coxswain of the Harvard crew that rowed Oxford in 1869.
**ICS believes Robert Elliott quite possibly met his wife or was visiting his future wife on this outing. We know that he married Catherine Marie Danaher the very next year. Catherine (b 1902) emigrated to the US from Ireland in 1919 to work as a domestic in North Billerica, MA. It is not a stretch to imagine her work would have brought her to the Vineyard. This theory is further evidenced by Robert’s line of business; as a farmer, Robert would not have had much leisure time to frolic.
***Sylvia, a native of St. George (the Azores), started as a laborer at the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamboat Co. in 1893. He retired in 1937 after presumably tiring of listening to the one-long-two-short whistle blasts sounded to alert the ferry’s approach into Woods Hole. He only enjoyed 7 years of peace and quiet before passing away in 1944.



Verification Reference

Barnstable Patriot.




“Sankaty,” Institute for Clew Studies, accessed March 24, 2019,