Trials of the S.S. William S. Halsted, Part I

Thank you, readers, for your patience! After a grueling month of moving, house closings, etc., I’m in and loving my new office space and am excited to be back at work! Now, the promised story on the trials of the SS William S. Halsted.

Robert Ebey

Robert Ebey on the William S. Halsted, November 1946. Photo credit: Ray Zook

Seagoing Cowboy Robert Ebey has left a gem of a record of this November 1946 journey in his mimeographed booklet “A Trip to Poland with Brethren Service Heifers.” Ebey begins with a summary of the trip, which I share with you now in three parts.

Part I

September – – – Granted six weeks leave of absence from the Woodland, Michigan, Church of the Brethren pastorate to go to Europe with one of the shipments of heifers for relief….None of the heifers we were to take had been purchased by UNRRA. All had been donated by the churches of America and by such groups as Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, etc. Because of this, we had a picked crew. The New Windsor, Maryland, Heifer Shipment Office sent word that the shipment was ready to go but was being delayed by a Maritime strike. We were to be ready to leave home on 24 hours notice.

October 10 (noon) – – – I received a telegram indicating that the strike was “just over” so I should leave at once.

October 11 – – – I got on the train and headed for Baltimore, Maryland.

October 12-30 – – – The Maritime strike continued. Each morning and evening the news reported, “We expect settlement within the next few hours.”

November 1 – – – The strike is over. We got on board the William S. Halsted and immediately began bedding down the stalls and distributing watering pails, brackets and garden hoses.

Loading heifers, 1946

Heifers are guided into the “flying stall” to be lifted aboard the William S. Halsted. Photo credit: Robert Ebey.

Flying stall lifts heifer on ship.

The “flying stall” lifts heifers onto the William S. Halsted. Photo credit: Robert Ebey.

November 2 – – – Cattle loading started early and was completed by 3:30 p.m. The anchor was raised at 8:20 p.m. And we were finally on our way.

 

 

 

Shortly after 11:00 p.m., we felt a terrific bump to our ship. We learned we had crashed into the Esso Camden, a Standard Oil tanker laden with aviation gasoline. Both ships were set on fire by the explosion. Our fire was very insignificant just a few scorched cows and a few bales of hay. The Esso Camden soon had the help of some fire boats, but still burned out of control for several hours.

Esso Camden catches fire

Courtesy of Robert Ebey.

November 3-5 – – – Our ship returned to the Baltimore Harbor, but we were not allowed to leave the ship until the insurance men completed their investigations.

Damage to William S. Halsted.

Seagoing cowboys survey the damage to their ship, the William S. Halsted, November 1946. Peggy Reiff Miller collection, courtesy of Ray Zook.

November 6 – – – The cattle were unloaded and placed in the Baltimore stockyards. We “sea-going cowboys” were given lodging in the Anchorage YMCA and $2.50 per day for meals….

November 7-15 – – – The William S. Halsted is in drydock while repairs are made.

November 16-18 – – – We are back on board the Halsted. Fuel oil, water are loaded. At 7:30 p.m., November 18, the cattle loading again begins.

Next post: The Trials of the William S. Halsted, Part II

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