Roland Whittom's Story:
Upon the return of the Coronet to Casco Bay and Portland harbor in that fall of 1911, Mr.
Sandford was first arrested for the outstanding warrant Mrs. Whittaker had filed 15 months
earlier for forcible detention. He was released on bail that same evening, but
it didn't take long for the federal authorities to re-arrest him for manslaughter
on the high seas. Capt. Tim Murray in Coronet, Conquering and to Conquer,
evidently believes it must have either been a slow news day for the press to take such an
immediate interest in the return of Coronet and Frank Sandford, or else they had
some axe to grind. It would be preposterous to think that the death of six people at
sea while evading the long arm of the law had anything to do with a reporter's curiosity.
In any case, the Lewiston Journal secured an
interview with Roland Whittom, as the article explains, former sailing master of the
Coronet on the return trip from Africa in 1911. Below is the reprint of that
SANDFORD PRAYED GOD TO SLAY
FAITHLESS, HE DECLARES
Death Evidence of Heaven's
Wrath --- Food Low, He Orders Fast
BRUNSWICK. Me, Oct 22, 1911 - Roland Whittom. who for five
years and seven months served on the yachts Kingdom and Coronet of the
Holy Ghost and Us Society's fleet, has deserted the faith, and is now living with his
parents, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Whittom at 99 Pleasant St.
His parents are former Shilohites. His brother and sister are still on board the Coronet.
Today Whittom with Arthur Kent of Boston, went to Portland and endeavored without success
to persuade them to leave Sandford and return to their parents.
Upon his return to Brunswick this evening Mr. Whittom told a graphic story of the fateful
voyage of the Coronet. Mr. Whittom began service on the Coronet as an
ordinary seaman, but was steadily advanced until he became sailing master, which office be
held on the recent voyage.
He was serving on the Kingdom at the time that vessel was wrecked off the west
coast of Africa in April and was one of the five men to remain on board until taken off by
the Coronet. When the crew and passengers of the Kingdom had all been
picked up by the Coronet there were found to be 80 gallons of water on board that
vessel for the 60 people.
Sandford Orders Fast
The majority favored putting into the Cape Verde Islands for water and provisions, but Mr.
Sandford declared that be had received a message from God directing him to continue south.
The vessel accordingly continued on her course until the people were reduced to three
swallows of water a day, and that under a tropical sun, beneath which the sailors had to
pump for fully 30 minutes out of every hour to keep the vessel afloat.
The people wished to put into Sierra Leone for water, but Mr. Sandford saw differently.
Finally 500 gallons were secured from the steamer Dover Castle.
Later provisions and water again began to grow short and a start was made for the Cape
Verde Islands. The ship ran into contrary winds, and Mr. Sandford announced that it was
the will of God that they should sail for the West Indies, and later he announced that he
had received a revelation that they should fast for 30 days.
So for a month the vessel slowly made her way westward with the crew having only one meal
a day with occasionally a little gruel at night. All this time the crew were sweltering at
the pumps under the broiling sun of the tropics.
Asked God to Slay Faithless
After a time the men began to grumble, and each time they expressed dissatisfaction it was
reported to Mr. Sandford. Mr. Sandford brought the people together for frequent meetings
and discussed the situation. He stated that he had prayed that God would make a
slaughter pen of the decks of the Coronet unless the people continued their faith
in him. Under such, circumstances the people who did not pump favored keeping the fast,
and it was done.
Arriving off Haiti the vessel was becalmed about 10 miles offshore. Mr. Sandford with his
picked crew, landed. They were at once surrounded by about 30 Haitian soldiers who put
them in prison where they remained over night, but were released in the morning through
the efforts of a French resident.
When a Mr. McKay had a sunstroke on board the vessel, Mr. Sanford. made the people believe
that, he was suffering with cholera as a judgment of God. Later Mr. Sellick was taken with
a high fever. Mr. Sandford called Mrs. Sellick to him and said that the illness was
because the family was not right.
He ordered the entire family, including a teething baby of two years, to fast for a day.
In the evening the baby had convulsions and died the next morning. Mr. Sandford told the
mother that that was also a judgment of God on the family.
Ordered to Prepare to Die
Mr. Curtis, a man of 74, broke a rule of the ship regarding opening his porthole while at
sea . Mr. Sandford as a punishment ordered Mr. Curtis to sleep on deck and when Mr. Day
died of dropsy he ordered Mr. Curtis to take "the vacant berth and prepare for
Short of provisions the vessel made San Salvador. Mr. Sandford, made a strong protest
about filling out the port papers and when threatened with arrest unless he did, gave in,
but refused to purchase any provisions there, saying that he preferred to go north and
trust to Providence rather than to bow to man.
Mr. Sandford prayed that Gad, would drive the vessel north. They sailed north until off
Cape Henry, when they struck a northeaster and the vessel's sails were so old they could
not beat against it and hove to under storm try sails
"Keep to Sea," God's Message
The people met and they favored putting in to Chesapeake Bay. Mr. Sandford called Mr.
Whittom to his room and said: "Roland, what do you feel like doing?" Mr.
Whittom urged him to sail for Chesapeake Bay. Mr. Sandford replied: "How can we
with all these traitors on board?" referring to some whom he had put out of the
church for acts of disobedience. Sandford then went on deck and said that God had given
him a message not to go to the States or Canada, but to go "out around."
He then decided to send four men ashore for provisions, and although the vessel was 120
miles out to sea, ordered Capt. A. K. Perry, L. S. McKenzie, P. C. Dustin, and Mr. Whittom
to take the launch and yawl and go to the shore for provisions.
The men declared that they would be unable to return to the vessel, but Mr. Sandford told
them that when God wanted a thing done that they should simply follow out his instructions
and God would do the rest.
Cutter Goes After Coronet
They were instructed not to give the officials any information and if the officials took
an interest in them not to attempt to return to the vessel. As two revenue cutters
started out after the Coronet, the men, with the exception of Capt. Perry, took the launch
and sailed up the coast to Boston. Later they joined the steam yacht Alsatia, with Capt.
Perry in charge.
Mr. Whittom was obliged to fire steadily for 18 hours.[on the
Alsatia, later renamed Barracouta, Ed.] When he demurred he was told that he could
fire for 6 hours and then come right on deck and take the wheel. He said that he preferred
the hold and he was given a severe talking to, after which he promised not to growl any
more. When the vessel reached Halifax he deserted and came to Brunswick, where he has
Leader has Plenty to Eat
In speaking of the leaving of the Coronet, Mr. Whittom said that when they left the vessel
on Sunday night Mrs. Sandford urged them to get provisions as they only had enough food on
board to last until Tuesday. Mr. Sandford turned to her and told her to shut up and then
told the people not to think of such things.
Throughout the voyage Mr. Sandford had his own private cook and lived on the best to be
had. When provisions were short, Mr. Sandford continued to eat two hearty meals a day in
spite of the fact that everybody else on board was getting along with one.