It Happened Here
by Larry S. Chowning
During the days of the sailing schooners, Captain Harvey Conway of Cambridge, Maryland was well known around the Chesapeake Bay. He owned a fleet of sailing schooners and named the boats after his family members.
In the 1920s Conway sailed to Urbanna to meet up with his old friend Joseph W. (J.W.) Hurley to buy oyster shells to be crushed and made into lime. Hurley moved to Urbanna from Hurlock, Md., in the 1880s and had known Conway when they were growing up.
On this trip, Hurley told his shucking house foreman Woodland Rowe to take his old friend in the company truck around to the local shucking houses to see if he couldn find oyster shells for him to buy.
On that truck ride, Captain Harvey shared this story about himself with Woodland. The winter of 1917-18 was one of the worst on record. It is a fact that year the Chesapeake Bay was frozen solid for 52 days and very little commerce came or went on the bay. Right after the freeze the bay region also had one of its worst and longest lasting snowstorms in history.
A week or two after ice melted from the freeze, the bay opened up and boats started moving. When the snowstorm came Captain Harvey had boats all over the bay trying to catch up from what he had lost over the 52-day freeze.
Captain Harvey sent his son in the schooner Ida B. Conway to the Severn River to get a load of lumber to carry to Baltimore, but the day he loaded, the snowstorm hit, and as far as his son was concerned he was stuck right there for a while.
Over that same time, Captain Harvey hauled a load of fertilizer from Cambridge to Delaware in the Ruth Conway, and still there was no Ida B. “Where the hell is that boy,” he grumbled. Then he got word his son was still snowed in on the Severn.
This irritated Captain Harvey to no end and he called his mate Jack to get the Ruth Conway ready to sail. They sailed her over in a blinding snow.
His son could hardly believe his eyes when he saw the Ruth Conway rafted up against his boat. When the old captain set his feet down on the deck of the Ida B. Conway, he yelled to his son, “Get the hell off the boat, I’m taking her to Baltimore!”
Woodland said Captain Harvey sailed her up the Patapsco River and landed her right to the dock. The stevedores hadn’t seen a boat in days.
One of the men asked the old captain why he would take a chance sailing in such bad weather. He said “I knew damn well I was going to be the only boat out there on the whole bay, so who was I going to run into? And over the past 50 years of sailing the bay, I’ve run into every sand bar on the Bay and by God I know where everyone of ’em is.”
It happened right here in Rivah country!