Summer Storms
Barbara Smith at the bridge, 2003. Source: Walter

Unnamed Hurricane, 1933

Hurricane Hazel, 1954

Hurricane Connie, 1955

Hurricane Agnes, 1972

Unnamed Storms, 1970s

Hurricane David, 1979

Hurricane Isabel, 2003

Unnamed Hurricane, August 1933

Paul McDonald: My first recollection of Fairhaven is during the hurricane of 1933. My mother was away visiting relatives in western Maryland and normally my brother who was 14 would have been in charge but dad had been suspicious of the weather and had stayed home from work.

Our cottage sat back almost a block from the water but the wind was tearing at everything and water was coming in under the windows and if you opened the door you had trouble getting it closed.

The wind was fierce. We could look out our front window towards where Sherman’s cottage was later built and the road to the pier was under deep water. The waves were roaring in to meet the wash of the last wave and when they met, the boards from the pier would squirt up into the air the wind then blew them toward the Wallace house. Those boards were 12’x 12”x 4” cypress so they packed a wallop. Anything they hit was destroyed. We couldn’t see them knocking down the seawall. The pier was new that summer and was not insured. That’s why it was never replaced. The nuns from St. Gabriel’s were vacationing in Barrett’s house and they were praying the skies down for all of us.

When the wind stopped all the paint had been blasted off the bay side of our house and both the porches (screened then) had nearly three feet of sand on them. Dad was afraid they might collapse from the weight. The problem for everyone was food. There was no ice because Mr. Revel’s ice house had been under water. There was no bread or other stuff because no vendors could get to that area. The South River Bridge had been opened during the storm and the span twisted so it stayed open for weeks.

Dad had a new Model A Ford so he could get through pretty high water so we went off exploring how to get back to Washington. Everywhere we went the bridges were under water and presumed unsafe.

When we were at Waysons’ Corner there was a line of cars down to the bridge to Upper Marlboro. The bridge was under about six feet of water but the Firemen were bringing a lady over on a breeches’ buoy. Dad said we should wait because we might be able to help her get where she was so bravely trying to go. It was my aunt Kaddy. She was trying to get to us kids. Being mom’s sister she knew mom was away. The telephones were out so she couldn’t get dad. She didn’t drive so she got on a bus and came as far as she could. She had talked the firemen into using their equipment to get her over the river. We took her back to Fairhaven and let her get together with the neighbors and the nuns to feed the community until the roads opened.

Only these vivid things stay in my memory because I was only 3+ years old. Other things were told to me like the loss of all the boats and I remember what I was told but these things I experienced and I remember (12/30/10)

Lloyd Tibbott. By 1933, we seemed to have things at Arkhaven pretty much as we wanted them; life was indeed serene and smooth. Then, on August 23, 1933, a tropical hurricane moved up the Bay with devastating force. In no time the pier went and then the ever mounting waters attacked the shore. The cliffs, running more or less straight up and down from the beach, crumbled and huge chunks disappeared. By the time the storm had abated, the shoreline was a shambles. My own cottage was less than ten feet from the edge of a wrecked bank. The future of Arkhaven looked dark.

Then Frank Dunnington, our President, Lew Keiser, Warren Offutt and Taylor Chewning rallied forces and started to talk about rebuilding. It was decided to run out some jetties to hold the sand, to build a retaining wall at the base of what had been the bank, and to angle the bank as a terrace down to the seawall and to plant grass in hope that this would hold against further storm action. Lew not only directed the construction but performed much of the labor himself. Eventually these were replaced by our present wall and jetties built by Crandall Co. of Galesville with creosoted timbers. At least three major hurricanes have since taken place but Arkhaven’s grass covered banks have remained intact…..

The hurricane of 1933 marked a change in life at Arkhaven. Before we had been building and developing; thereafter the emphasis was transferred to saving and keeping what we had. (July 22, 1972).

Hurricane Hazel 1954

see mention under Cove Club\Gingell.

Hurricane Connie 1955

Chesapeake Memories: August 12, 1955
The Last Hours of the Levin J. Marvel
by Vernon R. Gingell and Bruce Bauer

Published in the Bay Weekly, Copyright 2002. Permission pending :-)

An Eye Witness Account The morning of Friday, August 12, 1955, was pretty much the same as any other August morning — except that Hurricane Connie was approaching Chesapeake Bay just east of Herring Bay. This meant that certain storm-necessitated precautions must be taken on shore, including making sure that all small boats were beached.

Since sea nettles mysteriously disappear when these types of phenomena occur, several other hardy young men and I decided to swim in the storm-ravaged waters of Herring Bay one-quarter mile off the beach at Owings Cliffs. The wind was building from the east-northeast, and it was exciting to play dolphin-like in the two- to three-foot waves.

As this small group of men frolicked in the surf, we noticed, to our surprise, a three-masted ship appear out of the misty haze just east off Holland Point. She seemed to be under sail, a small sail on her bow quarter, and moved ever so slowly northward parallel to the shore. Each of us swimmers gazed in awe and puzzlement at the sight. We rationalized that this large sailing craft must have been trying to make port in Deale or, failing that, to anchor in the shallows of Long Bar, about one mile off the entrance to Rockhold Creek, and ride out the storm.

The winds were building, and our mystery boat was plodding northward in heavy seas. We judged by then that the waves where she was were perhaps five to eight feet crest to trough, whereas the waves we were swimming in must have been by then three to six feet.As she moved ever so slowly northward, she stopped her forward progress and appeared to lower her sails. By this time, approximately 2pm, we judged, for we had no timepiece, the heavy winds were driving rain, which had become downpours at times, to such an extent that the ship vanished from our vision.

Plummeted by the heavy rains, our small swimming party decided to go ashore. As we gathered on the beach, there was much discussion about what ship we had seen and, above everything else, its fate.

An Ill-Timed Voyage Gingell’s mystery ship was the Levin J. Marvel, a 64-year-old, 125-foot-long, three-masted ram schooner refitted as a Bay passenger-cruiser. Twenty-four passengers had boarded that Monday, sailing around Tilghman Island to Oxford, then up the Choptank to Cambridge. When Connie struck the Bay earlier than anticipated, the ship had turned up the Bay for Annapolis. Rather than return to the Choptank, Captain John H. Meckling turned southwest across the open Bay.

For the rest of the story, we turn to Bruce Bauer, a sea captain, who wrote the story of the sinking of the Levin J. Marvel for Bay Weekly’s (then New Bay Times) first volume, August 12, 1993.At 2:30pm, Marvel lay on her starboard side less than a mile off a heavily populated shore.“She just split open like a watermelon,” remembers Ned Crandall, an eyewitness from what is now Town Point Marina on the south shore of Rockhold Creek.About 5pm, the first survivor washed ashore near North Beach, a remarkable four miles south, and reported the sinking. Billy McWilliams and George ‘Buck’ Kellam commandeered a 14-foot boat and made perilous runs into the surf to save six people, including the captain, John H. Meckling. Fourteen people drowned.

Editor’s note: Vern Gingell, who died at 82 on July 2 this year, wrote his eye-witness account in reply to Bauer. Part of both narratives combine for this Chesapeake Memory.

December 13, 2012 Bay Weekly story on disovery of artifacts from Marvel shipwreck

See Also: "May-Day, May Day" Link to 2003 Article on Wreck of the Levin J. Marvel in Washingtonian Magazine:

Unnamed Storms, 1970

Pat Keegan Grigsby. An unnamed storm came in without much warning in 1970. Mr. Koerner should have moved his boat, to the little beach at least, but he didn’t. The waves were about 4 foot in front of the rock seawall. It had to be June, I do not remember sea nettles. I got in the water to help Mr. Koerner save his boat. I held up the stern as he bailed water but the waves poured in as fast as he bailed. We were exhausted! Mr. Koerner finally admitted our efforts were futile. My four little kids were watching from the hill. The 14 foot fiberglass boat broke up on the rocks.

Also, that decade, a two-masted sailboat was pushed into the rocky sea wall, bow first. I don’t think it was a named hurricane. People drove into Fairview to see it! I guess the insurance company settled with the owner but the sailboat stayed until Bruce Bodine came along and took it over. His engineering skills and strength were amazing! He used an electric cord from the Austin’s house for power. I think he even slept in their house on cold nights. With pulleys, 4-inch steel rollers, and metal plates, he winched the heavy wood boat away from the rocks into deeper water. He then sailed the boats to “the Islands” and ran a charter service.

If the name, Bodine, sounds familiar, his uncle was A. Aubrey Bodine, a long-time photographer from Baltimore Sun’s newspaper from the 1930s. (notes, August 2016)

Hurricane Agnes 1972

Michael Fincham, MD Sea Grant. Agnes was a "backdoor hurricane" that came ashore along the Gulf of Mexico, then weakened to a tropical depression as it traveled north overland. Just south of the Chesapeake, the storm passed offshore and began regathering strength as a tropical storm. When it curved ashore again north of the Bay, it combined with another low pressure storm to pour heavy rains into the Chesapeake watershed. The massive flooding and resulting runoff brought surges of sediment flowing down the bay, covering seagrasses, burying oyster beds, and lowering salinity levels dramatically. Agnes, though less dramatic, may have done more damage to the Bay's ecology than any other storm in recent history. (2010, See

Source: NOAA

Hurricane David-- September 5-6, 1979

Martha Ross. Probably the biggest event in the life of the cottage was the wedding reception on Saturday, September 8, 1979 when Martha Ross married Paul Olejar in a family ceremony at Friendship Church. The Stewarts--- Donald, Anne, Ginger, and Andrew---catered a delightful luncheon for the 58 guests who gathered on the hillside at the cottage after the ceremony.

Hurricane David had swept up the east coast on September 5 leaving a wake of severed electric wires and accompanying devastation. The all-electric house was immobilized. No pump…no lights…no toilet…no water…no stove…no refrigerator. Everything dead! With the help of family members (who brought water, coffee, and soft drinks in coolers), the church kitchen (made available to heat the goodies the Stewarts had carefully prepared), the use of the church “facilities” before going to the cottage, the patience of family members, and the trusty old community hand pump still working after 50 years…the affair was a delightful experience for all. Neighbors (who had loaned tables and chairs and white covers and beautiful food and flowers) along with the happy throng of relatives made it an event long to be remembered. As Paul and Martha left on their wedding trip at 3:30 p.m., the electric power was restored. (Adapted from Christmas 1981 letter, courtesy of Anne Ross Stewart)

Hurricane Isabel--September 18-19 2003

Eric Smith. The night before Isabel was wild, gusty with anticipation. My five best friends and I spent the day running up and down the beach in the driving rain, diving in the warm September waves that were uncommonly big for our part of the Bay. We locked hands on the bulkhead in front of the Brewer’s field, looking at each other and laughing into the onshore winds the storm was kicking up. The waves splashed at our feet.

The wind knocked out electricity for 93 % of Anne Arundel’s 211,000-odd power customers that night, including us. We spent the night at my house in the living room. Safe from the creaks and thuds and howling, we stayed up late, whispering under candles and listening to the wind.

We woke up early. The air was bright, the eastern shore almost sparkled. But all the violence of the night’s sky was seen afloat and choked the water. As the sun came up we arrived at the Fair Haven Cliffs beach to find no beach at all but water everywhere, clotted with logs, reeds, buoys, and debris.

Isabel was lapping at the bottom of the stairs. That part of the “big beach” was often covered with water after hurricanes, but this time the old willow tree, thrice struck by lightning, poked out from the calm water shorter than ever before. That guardian of the beach would now be forever buried in drifts of sand.

Scientists say that Isabel removed sand from some areas, and dumped it onto others. The beaches in the Cliffs gained lots of sand. The width of our beach doubled. Patches of grass in front of the Fair Haven Cliffs’ stairs and the infamous “volleyball courts” in front of the Veith and Gingell houses were covered by a new blanket of sand.
On the picnic table by Gingell's. Source: Brewer

The pier on the “little beach” was completely destroyed. A few of the posts were left, but not many. The next spring, many of the men gathered to re-build it, the last major physical project for that generation of baby-boomers to undertake together. The platform, as always, had lost most of its horizontal planks and the bench was somewhere on the little beach, I believe. Later that year, our tireless hero Ed Becke would rebuild it with Clancy, Manders and “freinds” (sic: see the platform).

Walking north, we found the field where we had stood hand-in-hand the day before completely submerged. Fairhaven Road had disappeared at the bottom of Revel Road. The bridge was totally underwater. Mike Brewer took some stunning pictures of the horizon at sunrise. Telephone poles are the only clue that that this was no normal scene.
Walking across the bridge. Source: Brewer

We waded onto the bridge through waist-deep water, avoiding rocks and chunks of road that rolled loose under our bare feet in the pull and ebb of the waves. We were intoxicated by our delightful, altered world. We sat on the ledge of the bridge so Mike could take pictures of the waves crashing over our backs.
Kayaking across the brige to the lake. Source: Brewer

My mother and father rode our kayaks over the field and then the road, crossing just south of the bridge. Then my mom and I paddled into the marsh. It was difficult to orient ourselves, since all the normal markers were deep underwater. We paddled far into the lake, farther, it seemed, than we had ever paddled before; eventually we were floating through the woods.

It was a strange and wonderful feeling to paddle between trees, the carpet of leaves more than four or five feet below us. The mid-morning sky was so clear and the water so still it seemed we paddled through two forests: the one above our heads and another beneath our paddles, a perfect reflection of the fluttering canopy. Around us the tips of the tallest tall bushes, laurel and beech trees, stuck out from the water. Each was an ark for dozens of insects, caterpillars, crickets, wooly buggers and lots of feasting spiders, all of whom crawled to the tips of these bushes to avoid drowning.

We paddled back to the bridge, which quickly became a make-shift diving board. We took turns trying to reach the bottom, not afraid of getting pulled under the bridge since the tide was pulling steadily out. We jumped for hours. Mike Brewer snapped more pictures. Eventually exhausted, the water lower, and afternoon turning over, we all went home to sleep. (December, 2007)